The Philadelphia school system got some much-needed attention this weekend at the Made in America music festival.
Heather Marcus, a former Julia R. Masterman School faculty member who was laid off because of budget cuts, took to the stage during Public Enemy’s set on Saturday in an appeal for help. Masterman is a Philadelphia magnet school and alma mater of many Penn students.
“Last year I worked as a counselor at a school with 1,200 students and three counselors,” Marcus said, speaking to a crowd of thousands of people. “That school will have one counselor this year. It’s not enough.”
“Contact your elected officials, tell them to stop playing games and fund the Philadelphia public schools,” she said. “Even if you don’t know a student in Philadelphia, these students are our future. Stand up for the students in Philadelphia!”
Her appearance on stage came after she started a Twitter campaign to solicit Made in America artists to donate a portion of their profits to Philadelphia schools. Chuck D of Public Enemy was the first to respond and subsequently pledged to donate $2,000, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was joined on Twitter by Philadelphia schools activist and 1993 College graduate Helen Gym, who spoke to The Daily Pennsylvanian about her support for Marcus’ appeal.
“[Masterman] is a wonderful school, but it has a lot of needs,” Gym, who also has two graduate degrees from Penn, said. “We’ve never seen anything in the school district where we’ve seen this much disregard for young people.”
Gym, like Marcus, was critical of the state of Pennsylvania for its inaction on school funding. “It feels like the state is doing the absolute least that they can get away with,” she said. “I think the state is taking glee in not funding the school district.”
College junior Kyra Reumann-Moore, a Masterman graduate whose sister attends the school, also elaborated on the problems that the school is facing this year.
“This summer the school district has been threatening that it would only be able to support one principal and teachers in each school,” she said in an e-mail. “I’m pretty sure that the majority of the teachers and staff that were originally laid off [from Masterman] have not been rehired.”
Reumann-Moore added that even the slightest donation could help the system.
“I think Ms. Marcus had a great idea with this Twitter campaign,” she said. “I only hope that more powerful people and groups see the value in improving the school district’s situation.”
As of press time, the Twitter campaign was still contacting Made in America artists and organizers for donations.
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