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Schools Supporters Flood Council To Lobby For Support

Parents, students and schools advocates flooded City Council chambers this afternoon to lobby Council for schools funding.

"We do not have a library, an auditorium or a working gym," said Dei'Vion Wescott, 11, a sixth-grader at TM Peirce School at 23rd and West Cambria Streets. "Now we are losing four teachers. We are good strong students but we need a level playing field. We are the future."

Facing a $629 million deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1, the Philadelphia School District plans drastic cuts to teachers and programs. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman yesterday asked Council and the mayor to provide an additional $75 to $110 million in funds to help stave off some painful cuts, like slashing full-day kindergarten.

Elected officials have not yet announced how they plan to handle the problem. The city is already set to provide $815 million in tax revenues and grant funding to the schools next year – roughly 30 percent of the district's budget. A severe loss in state and federal funds opened up the funding gap.

Regardless of how the problem got started, parents yesterday begged Council to help fix it.

"We all know this is an assault on urban America and education by not just Pennsylvania, but state governments across America. I think that we can't allow Harrisburg or anybody else to play games with us. We need all the programs. We should have absolutely no cuts," said Emmanuel Bussie, 45 who brought his 6-year-old daughter, who attends Thomas Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls.