Last Friday, hundreds of Philadelphia public high school students walked out of class. This will mark the second time in the last year that students have walked out of class in protest of the current budget deficit crisis affecting the Philadelphia public school system.
Earlier this year, on Friday, May 17, thousands of teachers and students organized a protest at City Hall to demand help with funding programs that were cut, or schools were in jeopardy of losing because of the budget deficit. With signs in hand and chanting “save our schools”, this specific walkout had a message and and demand.
With this most recent walkout, however, of the purported 600 students that walked out of class, only 10 showed up at City Hall.
Jonathan McCrea, a junior at Mastbaum High school, one of the schools that participated in the walkout, admits to leaving school, but did not meet up at City Hall because he was uninformed of the reason for the walkout. There was no clear message behind the students walking out.
“I walked out, but I didn’t go downtown. I heard there were a lot of people down there though.” McCrea said. “I was completely unaware of the reason behind the walkout, I just heard people were going to downtown.
A message about the walkout was spread via Instagram, which read “School Wide Walkout” and stated the time and date of the walkout. Nothing on the post mentioned a reason, or the cause of the walkout.
McCrea found out about the walkout on Twitter and was also told by his peers.
“My friends told me and it was on Twitter. I just left because my friends did. I didn’t think it was anything major or serious.
Dr. Walter Gholson, an urban studies professor at Temple University, believes that the students were right in their walking out.
“The bottomline is they are frustrated because the grown-ups have not given them what they were promised to get. So what do you want them to do, just sit there everyday and get absolutely nothing. That’s not fair” said Gholson. “A protest has to have an audience. Back in the day when people would protest the whole idea for amassing a group of people together with signs and stuff was one simple mission, to get on the 6 o’ clock news.”
Gholson explained that the true intent was not to simply ditch school, but to show how the students feel. It was a symbolic movement that needed more direction.
“It was not organized for us to meet up anywhere, it was organized to show our disgust for the school system. Us 10 people have been representative of each one of the schools, we organized this, here’s what we have to say, here are our list of demands” Gholson remarked.
In this school year alone, with a $300 million dollar deficit, several essential faculty members, such as nurses and counselors, were fired, many activities and programs were cut, school supplies were at a major shortage, and many students were forced to transfer to new schools.
Darrius Lewis, a current senior at Academy at Palumbo, was informed by administrative staff at the beginning of his junior year that his former school, Charles Carroll High School, would be closing down. Lewis is one of the many displaced students that have been affected by the budget deficit in the Philadelphia public school system.
On the university forefront, Temple University students have also spoken out against situations that have affected them.
On Oct. 22, a professor was attacked and robbed on main campus. Temple University students expressed their thoughts and opinions and some of their concerns about their campus’s safety.
As for the upcoming fall 2014 school year, the district is faced with opening and operating schools with a $400 million budget deficit. What can we expect for the future of the Philadelphia public school system?
Gholson has little hope for the future of the school district.
“How do you think those kids feel when they come to a situation, and they know that nobody cares? They don’t care. I see it as being a major riot” said Gholson. “These are no longer schools. In the classic definition of what schools are supposed to do, they’re no longer schools. They’re just holding pens.”
As for future walkouts, Gholson does offers a bit of advice.
“The next time this stuff happens, organize it!”