A rally in front of the Liacouras Center on April 4 led protestors to march on Broad Street.
City unions and education professionals gathered yesterday, April 4 in front of the Liacouras Center to protest the proposed 2011-12 state education budget. In reaction to the estimated 54 percent cut to public higher education spending, city workers expressed their solidarity with students.
“We are one,” the crowd chanted.
Temple Association of University Professionals, which represents approximately 1,350 full-time faculty members, made the largest university representation at the rally organized by the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.
“A number of adjunct faculty have been told their contracts were not renewed,” TAUP President Art Hochner said prior to the rally. “Certain programs may be reduced. [Temple is] planning for the worst, but that doesn’t mean the worst is going to happen.”
Members of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, Jobs with Justice and the Sierra Club, among others, were also present.
“We are in the private sector. It’s important that we all stick together,” Al Sawyer, an organizer for UNITE HERE Philadelphia, said. The union represents hotel and restaurant workers nationwide.
Hochner emceed the event, which spread between Montgomery and Cecil B. Moore avenues. As a faculty member in the Fox School of Business’s Department of Human Resource Management for 33 years, Hochner spoke of Temple’s history as a university that caters to middle- and lower-class families.
“Increasing tuition is like raising taxes on our students,” Hochner said.
Speakers from the unions present, as well as student representatives, expressed anger over the budget cuts and repeatedly spoke out against the governor’s plan to simultaneously increase funding for state prisons and relieve drilling and mining industries of new taxes.
Among the student speakers was Azeem Hill, a senior at West Philadelphia High School and a member of the Philadelphia Student Union Campaign for Nonviolent Schools.
“Youth violence is one of the reactions to educational deprivation,” Hill said. “The more we send to jail, the more crime we can expect down the line.”
Hill applauded the march to the school district offices on March 30 and described the difficulty some of his family members faced when trying to find work with a criminal record, which he said was a result of a poor education.
“We need to make schools a place to end this cycle,” Hill said. “If we keep underfunding education, schools and prisons will only become factories for angry, violent youth with broken homes and broken identities.”
The guest of honor, AFT President Randi Weingarten, reminded rally attendees of the protests in states like Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio and asked supporters, “Are we ready to take back America?”
“It is about community, students, college students, high school students, teachers, workers, doctors, clergy, church members, walking hand-in-hand, sister and brother,” Weingarten said.
Organizers chose the day in honor of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and his efforts with sanitation workers.
To close the rally, Rev. Larry Patrick II of Redeem Baptist Church spoke of King’s legacy as a fellow Baptist preacher.
“We are valuable, and we are important,” Patrick said.
Following the speech, the crowd marched south on Broad Street.
“I’m very happy with how things went,” Hochner said. “I can’t imagine [who] would be against it. It’s senseless.”
Amelia Brust can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.