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State: Some Philly schools deficient

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has declared deficient curricula at four Philadelphia schools where parents complained to the state after budget cuts forced sharp program cuts.

It is a "significant victory" for parents, education activists said, a signal that the state Department of Education has acknowledged it has a legal responsibility to monitor city schools' curricula and take responsibility when necessary.

Parents from 75 Philadelphia School District schools filed 825 complaints detailing problems caused by budget cuts two years ago. They ranged from a lack of art, music, physical education and gifted programs. Initially, the state declined to act, saying it was a local matter. Some of the parents then filed a lawsuit to force an investigation.

The lawsuit continues, but the state's finding means that the district must create and implement corrective action plans at four schools - Bodine High, High School for Creative and Performing Arts, the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, and C.W. Henry Elementary.

Robin Roberts, a parent with children at Henry, lamented the district's elimination of all gifted programming, leaving her son and others with "inadequate academic classes," Roberts said in a statement.

"Our children were facing dire situations at schools, many of which persist today," Roberts said.

Amy Laura Cahn, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Center, said she was "delighted" the state has finally intervened.

"It is long past time for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to take an interest in the quality of education in Philadelphia," Cahn said in the statement.

City Councilwoman-elect Helen Gym, a founder of Parents United for Public Education, which organized parents to file the complaints, said the state acknowledge meant will have wide-ranging ramifications.

"By filing complaints and taking legal action, we have blazed a trail for all Pennsylvania parents to get results when their child's school isn't offering the curriculum required by state law," Gym said, "Parents across the commonwealth should continue to file complaints, knowing that PDE has now acknowledged its responsibility to take action."

The district now has until mid-January to create corrective action plans for the four schools.

A school-system spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.