If you've been watching the news during the past few weeks, you may have noticed that your neighbors in the Upper Darby School District have an enormous education crisis on their hands. Due to state budget cuts, the Upper Darby School Board has proposed that starting with the 2012-2013 school year, all arts, music, library, and gym classes will be removed from the elementary schools.
In the middle schools, foreign language and technology classes will also be eliminated. Sixty teachers will lose their jobs, and those who remain have the daunting task of integrating all of these "cut" classes into the existing curriculum.
This "academic realignment proposal" (the school board's term, not mine) has parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers shaking their heads. On my block, the average school tax bills taps out at around $8,000/year. How is that not enough to keep at least some of these six classes in the curriculum?
The school board claims that this proposal will help Upper Darby students succeed as citizens in the new global economy. But no one on the school board can adequately explain how graduates of Upper Darby schools will be able to compete in the global economy if they lack foundations in foreign languages and technology, the two cornerstones of the global economy.
On Tuesday, May 8th, the school board held a meeting to discuss their proposal. The Performing Arts Center at the Upper Darby High School (not too ironic, right?) was packed with parents, children, teachers, and taxpayers eager to address the board. When the floor was opened for public comment at 8:45 p.m., at least 70 speakers got up and waited patiently to give their time-allotted three-minute speeches extolling the virtues of the arts, asking the school board to reconsider their proposal, and offering alternative solutions.
Although some school board members listened, others found it perfectly acceptable to read and reply to text messages and excuse themselves to answer what I can only assume were phone calls from people who don't pay their salaries.
The meeting stretched until 2 a.m., at which point the proposed curriculum was tentatively passed by the board, with a 5-3 vote. They followed that up with an even gutsier 7-1 vote to approve a 3 percent tax increase. The board voted hastily and couldn't even be bothered to politely excuse themselves and pretend to deliberate for a few moments behind closed doors. Their vote clearly conveyed that the majority of the board has no interest in exploring any alternatives to this proposal.
But the parents, children, teachers, and taxpayers in Upper Darby do not consider this a done deal. The final vote to approve the budget is due in June, which means that there is still a few weeks left for people to raise their voices and demand that the school board and our elected officials find another way.
Are you ready to help? If so, your neighbors in Upper Darby would be grateful if you could do the following:
(2) Click "Sign the Petition", read and sign the petition that requests funding for these programs be restored; and
(3) Send the link to family or friends who are 18 years or age or older, support the arts, and live in Pennsylvania. Anyone in Pennsylvania (even if they don't live in Upper Darby or don't have kids in public school) can sign this petition.
The Upper Darby school district is the ninth largest school district in Pennsylvania, with a creative and performing arts program that has a long-standing tradition of nationwide excellence. If the state doesn't think twice about coming after a school district as large and diverse as Upper Darby, it is only a matter of time before smaller districts with less established arts programs will be sacrificed as well.
Please join with your neighbors who are fighting valiantly to educate the next generation of leaders, creators, and visionaries.