To students, it may seem like a dream come true to have the first day of school postponed. For parents in the Philadelphia School District, watching their kids board the bus to school is one rite of passage they are not taking for granted.
For the past few years, the district has been struggling to provide children with the education they deserve due to financial instability.
“It’s a really upsetting situation we’re dealing with right now,” Michele Daniels, a mother of two children attending school in the district, said. “I just want my kids to be able to get a good education for themselves. That’s all I want.”
The poor financial situation is a heartbreaking reality for many families living in Philadelphia. Though it is a devastating problem now, this has been a long-term issue plaguing the district for many years.
“All facets of education are changing,” Lisa Kay, an art education professor at Tyler, said. “It is an issue between the state, district and the city, but the current uncertainty of the district is disconcerting.”
While the school district continues to fight for funding from the state, members of the Tyler community are doing their part to ensure local children do not lack exposure to art.
Students and staff are all working with members of the community to attempt to provide solutions to a worsening situation.
“In this environment, all teachers are helping fund their school district’s programs,” Kay said. “Art teachers, like many teachers, buy supplies, art materials and write grants to support their programs.”
Fortunately, the Tyler community has had a longstanding bond with the community and are members said they’re utilizing these resources to the fullest to assist in any way they can.
“We are committed to art education and urban education,” Kay said. “[We] are fortunate enough to have relationships with many wonderful cooperating teachers and fine arts administrators. We support each other and prepare our students to work in urban environments.”
Tyler faculty have been applying significant energy to providing aid to local schools, but the call to action has not stopped there.
Temple students, from all areas of education, have recognized the need for change as well.
“It was super scary for me when the [Philadelphia School District] music education program went away last year,” Kristine Yang, a senior music education major, said. “I was interning for a program, the Philly String Project, which was also canceled temporarily, and it broke my heart.”
The canceling of programs involving the arts is not an uncommon occurrence across the board.
“These schools just don’t have the money to run these important programs and it’s just really, really sad,” Yang said.
“I came from a district that was always really involved in the arts,” Sarah Kenner, a senior violin performance major, said. “The arts are a great way for young kids to express themselves, and to take that away leaves kids without that essential way to express their creativity.”
Along with having long term effects on students, financial instability also creates a difficult environment for future educators, Kay said.
“We do not like the fact that job situations are unstable, but this is not peculiar to art education or Philadelphia,” Kay said. “What we are doing at Tyler is to prepare students to be art educators in this changing environment.”
The strong foundations that Tyler has made in the community are allowing graduates of the school to do something rare; not only for the city, but their field as a whole.
“We have an excellent relationship with the School District of Philadelphia and all of our students do work within the field,” Kay said. “They understand the challenges that they will face when entering the workforce.”
The reality is that until the district becomes more financially secure, the quality of the education Philadelphia school children receive will continue to be threatened.
“I just pray that it gets better so that I can send my kids off to school with no worries,” Daniels said. “There are so much problems with money around here, and I would just like for someone to see it and do something about it.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org