Students, faculty protest possible budget and staffing cuts at Philadelphia magnet schools

Hundreds of students and teachers from Philadelphia magnet schools gathered Thursday at the district headquarters to protest possible budget and staffing cuts. 

The protesters specifically refuted the enrollment policy for special admission schools that relies strictly on PSSA test scores to increase equity. They say the new testing cut-off has unintended consequences that has lead to lower enrollment, empty seats in classrooms and staffing cuts for highly coveted schools. 

"Taking away this opportunity for teachers  to do their jobs over an algorithm, over a number is unjust and frankly sickening," Connor McFarland, a senior at Franklin Learning Center said.

Students at Saul High School in Philadelphia's Upper Roxborough neighborhood organized a walk-out on Thursday to participate in the protests. 


"I love my school, I feel like the programs at my school are going to help people get jobs when they're finished," Kenya Woods, a Saul High School sophomore said. 

Heeyoung Yim, a teacher at Franklin Learning Center said in the past, the school was able to cut candidates some slack by speaking with qualified students who may have just missed the cut. He says the school hasn't been able to do that this year due to changes in the system that have lead to empty classroom seats. 

Superintendent Tony Watlington announced a plan to re-open enrollment at 12 schools and offer more than 310 qualified students a seat at schools that have vacancies. The district will also adjust allocations to new enrollment and reallocate $3M to maintain positions so no school is likely to lose more than 2 positions. 

The district's proposal was a far stretch from what the protesters would have liked to see happen, but they still made their voices heard on Thursday. 

"It shows they care about their community, they care about their schools, and I think the district should see that," Yim said.