If you ever had any doubt that the so-called “reform” movement was about privatizing public schools, this should settle it:
Money is so tight in the Philadelphia School District that the unthinkable has happened. For the first time in 17 years, CAPA – the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, the district’s arts gem on South Broad Street – cannot afford to put on a musical.
“I was shocked and upset,” said Jack Schmieg, a freshman vocal major at Oberlin College in Ohio who starred as Jean Valjean in CAPA’s production of Les Misérables last year. “I couldn’t imagine not having a musical. . . . I was in the musical every year at CAPA, and it was the highlight of every year for me and everybody else that participated.”
Senior Daniel Wisniewski was disappointed, too. He played Javert in Les Mis and had expected to audition for an even bigger role this spring.
“I feel bad for all the other seniors,” he said. “This was going to be our year.”
But disappointment turned to disbelief when they heard that a new performing-arts charter high school that the School Reform Commission approved last year planned to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s former North American headquarters at 16th and Vine Streets for $29 million.
“Really?” said Wisniewski, who will major in theater at Ithaca College in the fall. “And we can’t get a musical?”
Schmieg said, “Something is terribly wrong with the system if a new performing arts school can be approved by the SRC and CAPA can go unnoticed without a musical this year. CAPA really is a diamond in the crown of the School District.”
CAPA parents promise that the show will go on in 2014: the home and school association is setting up an endowment to provide permanent funding for the musical and other projects.
“This is the only long-term solution,” said Harry J. Levant, incoming president of the parents’ group.
The effort has taken on greater urgency now that CAPA and other district schools have been told that their budgets will be slashed by 25 percent for the next school year.
CAPA was created in 1978 as a desegregation program that would attract arts students from across the city. It enrolls 729 students who prepare for college while focusing on creative writing, dance, drama, instrumental music, vocal music, or visual arts.
Students must audition for the coveted spots. Johnny Whaley Jr., CAPA’s veteran principal, said the school receives 3,000 applications a year and holds about 1,300 auditions for 200 openings.
Alums include ?uestlove and Black Thought of the Roots, the members of Boyz II Men, the jazz bassist Christian McBride, and the actor Mark Webber.
Also, here’s a good related story on education reform.