Deionni Martinez, 16, says those cutting back arts programs don't understand that, without these programs, "The drop-out rate is going to go sky-high."
At age 17, Zach Kaufmann is used to fighting for his education. Last year, as a ninth-grader at Charles Carroll High School, he joined protests with Youth United for Change to keep his school open. It closed anyway. On Sunday night, outside Gov. Tom Corbett’s Philly office, he and YUC were protesting again — this time against the Philadelphia School District’s budget, which despite a summer of negotiations, is still beyond austere.
Kaufmann, who plays the guitar, transferred to Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School in the hope that he could learn to read music. Now, he says, “With the School District cutting back music, this basically defeated my whole purpose.”
Students from Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School say they’ve been told their dance program and art classes are gone, and that music education has been cut. “They cut all the things that make our school what it is and what it’s supposed to be,” says Deionni Martinez, 16, a 10th-grader at Kensington CAPA. Martinez plays the clarinet, and last year got in two hours of practice a day. “The whole point of going to school is to do the things you love to do, and now that’s being taken from us.” Martinez says other students told her they’d likely drop out if their arts and extracurriculars were cut; others transferred to charter schools over the summer. “The drop-out rate is gonna go sky high,” she says.
Benny Ramos, 17, is going into 10th grade at Kensington CAPA; he also transferred from Carroll. “I built a family at Charles Carroll,” he says. “I knew everyone. I could go to the janitor even and talk about what was going on at home. Now, I have to build a family again.” He says he’s an artist, but freshmen didn’t get to take art at Carroll. Now, he won’t get the class at CAPA either. “What is the point of a going to high school [without those classes] to learn a skill?” he wants to know. “How are you going to go to college?”
Kaufmann was incredulous that so many cuts remained in place by this week. “I thought it would be resolved by the end of the summer. I thought we would have to do less fighting, but now we have to do more,” he says.
“You shouldn’t have to protest to have your basic rights. You shouldn’t have to protest to learn to read music. You shouldn’t have to protest to get your counselor back, just so you can talk to them. You shouldn’t have to fight for these things. That stuff is not a privilege — that’s a right.”
A version of this story originally appeared on our blog, The Naked City.
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