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Philanthropists stress importance of arts education on region’s economy

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Philanthropists Carole Haas Gravagno and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, in calling for more school funding yesterday, emphasized the far-reaching effects that massive school budget cuts would have on the economy of Philadelphia and the surrounding region. Gutting school music and arts programs, they argue, would only hamstring students’ ability to join and sustain a vibrant intellectual and cultural scene that’s of vital importance to the city’s economic activity.

From a written statement by Haas Gravagno:

And let’s remember, Philadelphia’s cultural institutions, schools and workforce fuel the engines of the entire five-county region.
We cannot allow the destruction of an entire school system and so many of our children’s futures, especially when the fall-out will take down four other counties along with it. This is setting fire to the social fabric of this historic city. It is tantamount to removing support beams from the walls. It is risking a cultural and economic catastrophe and everything possible must be done to stop that from happening.

While it’s easy to reduce this problem to a simple story of heroes and villains, a full understanding is what’s most important. The budget challenges that face our schools are the result of many actors making poor decisions over many years. At the state level, we’ve witnessed devastating funding cuts to education; at the city level, we’ve seen less support from the City Council for our schools than in other big cities; and within the school system itself, outdated labor contracts and anachronistic work rules conspire to threaten the health of our schools.

Lenfest also released a statement, which can be read here.

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