Public schools in Philadelphia are going through a serious budget crisis. The government is cutting back on funding for schools and as a result, schools are eliminating jobs and programs. The schools are being forced to fire teachers and staff members to save money. The school district predicts more than $300 million dollars in deficits.
The city promised an additional $50 million to hire teachers and other staff. The PFT (Philadelphia Federation of Teachers) have bought TV, radio, newspaper, and online ads attacking Mayor Nutter. More than 140,000 students in Philadelphia go to public school. Those students are relying on the PFT, the city, and the state to determine how to to keep schools open and to have those schools excel. These students deserve great teachers, challenging classes, and wonderful art, music and sports programs. Students also deserve a fair chance at long-term success. Two of the top public schools in Philadelphia (Masterman and Central) closed their libraries at the beginning of the year. An action by the district last month allows schools to rehire laid-off staff based on the students needs and the teachers performance. Some think that teachers should be assigned to the schools by student needs and teacher merit. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania could enhance student achievement if it implemented a student-centered funding formula that ensures expenditures and the outcomes created. The students in one district may have very different needs from the students in another. So the districts need to be flexible. Most people agree that Philadelphia schools need a more stable funding program. Just putting more money into a bad system will not improve any student’s achievement.
Many agree that taking away art and music programs affects children in a negative way. An art teacher at Montgomery County Community College, MaryAnn Katowitz says “a lot of the students that I encounter lack the art and music so when they come to me they are at a sort of disadvantage.” David Katowitz, a teacher who teaches children with Autism agrees,“ We use music and art to learn about shapes, the alphabet, math and how to talk and treat each other.” Lisa Bierma, a clinical social worker who works with children with mental health diagnoses in an outpatient clinic, agrees that “Art and music are important tools that help children communicate their thoughts and feelings. These tools are also crucial to child development. I work with a lot of clients who love to use these things in therapy sessions and don’t have exposure or access to them outside of school.” For many underprivileged children who go to public schools not having art and music, learning it at school may be their only chance. According to a brief published by Americans for the Arts, “ A child’s education is not complete unless it includes the arts.” There are studies that say 8th graders from under-resourced environments who do the arts have better grades. They are more likely to go to college. “ The arts make a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child.” Researchers have discovered that continuous art and music education leads to better success in math and reading.
Many feel very strongly about the loss of art and music programs. When many others feel that it’s a necessary choice.