Andrew Jackson School Getting By On Bare-Minimum School Budget

Andrew Jackson School Getting By On Bare-Minimum School Budget

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SOUTH PHILADELPHIA -

Early-arriving teachers busily prepare their classrooms for the start of a new year at the Andrew Jackson School. But this year, things will be missing. Notably, a guidance counselor, most of the support staff and four teachers will not be at the school, despite a big increase in enrollment.

Lisa Kaplan is entering her fourth year as principal.

"I've just noticed, in three years, our resources are just constantly dwindling. Never have I seen it to the point where it is this year, though," says Kaplan.

Most Jackson students qualify as "economically disadvantaged," so a direct appeal to parents for cash donations is out of the question. School leaders are writing letters to faith-based organizations, community groups and local businesses, begging for money.

"Well, the pitch is, we have something wonderful and don't you want to be a part of it?" says Kaplan.

A neighbor donated several cartons of copy paper, crucial, since textbooks are in short supply. The nearby First Unitarian Church held a drive that generated journal notebooks, copy books, thousands of pencils and other school supplies.

Teachers are encouraged to raise money by any legitimate means. Music instructor Chris Argerakis has filled his room with instruments, donations from instrument-makers, music non-profits, and the website donorschoose.org. 

"We had nothing by the school district…I could show they're in storage. We had a set of bells and textbooks that the school district gave me to teach when I came here."

Principal Kaplan knows that cobbling together a public school with private donations, is risky business.

"It's sad for me because these kids deserve more..." says Kaplan.

Despite the level of poverty, Jackson students routinely beat the district-wide average for math and English test scores, from 3rd grade straight through 8th.

But this year, an already tough job is about to get even tougher.

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