Bethlehem residents stand up for schools
Bethlehem residents believe in the power of a great education, and took to the streets on Sunday, August 23, to speak out for the future of their district. Hundreds of educators, community leaders, parents, students and labor leaders held a protest rally at Bethlehem’s City Hall to voice strong opposition to the school board’s drastic budget cuts.
At an August 17 school board meeting, Bethlehem School Board members voted to slash $2.8 million from the district budget, days before the beginning of the school year. The cuts eliminated 45 positions - including 34 teacher positions - and cut a number of programs and services that support disadvantaged and struggling students.
Attendees of the rally, organized by the Bethlehem Coalition for Quality Education, demanded that the school board reverse the cuts. Speakers included Bethlehem’s Mayor John Callahan, who spoke about the importance of Head Start for all students and how it made a difference in his own life. “I was not a kid who you would have thought he's gonna be a mayor or he's gonna run for Congress someday,” said Callahan. “I had a speech impediment.”
Many members of the Bethlehem Education Association, a member of the coalition, attended the rally. The local association strongly urged the school board to reconsider the cuts prior to the August 17 meeting, and continue to oppose the cuts. Teachers and education support professionals from across Eastern Region, including three region officers, attended and spoke at the rally. While most employees likely will not lose their jobs, the budget cuts will hurt kids, who won’t get essential support offered by these programs.
The state budget impasse has put the Bethlehem School District into significant financial difficulties. The district was counting on the state to continue the current year’s funding formula by passing the $418 million increase slated for next year.
Among the many programs cut from the budget are Head Start and the Regional Academic Standards Academy, started nearly a decade ago with support from PSEA and PDE.
During the school board meetings, there was no mention by the school board or administration of eliminating non-core mission programs, and no discussion of eliminating non-essential administrative positions.
Print and television media provided extensive coverage of the rally:
For more information on the state budget impasse and to voice your opinion, visit www.savepaschools.org.