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Parents, Community Rally On Day Before School Starts

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PHILADELPHIA -

"Rest in Peace" Philadelphia schools. That was the message carried by protestors in Center City on Sunday as they mourned the effects that the district's budget crisis could have on students when they return to class Monday.

It's the night before the Fall semester begins, and there's a lot on parents' and leaders' minds.

The excitement of a first day of school is certainly tempered by a major fiscal crisis. A total of 135,000 Philadelphia school kids will begin classes, but there are no assurances that the school district will have enough money to finish the year.

Fourth-grader Deasia Sims knows nothing about a budget crisis or teacher shortage. She'll start her first day at Nebinger Elementary in South Philadelphia, but it's her dad who has the butterflies. He's worried staff cuts will impact his daughter's education.

"I'm afraid for the teachers who are doing two and three jobs at a time, now they have to try to police the kids as well as teach them," says Kevin Sims, of South Philadelphia.

Philly schools will start classes with 24 fewer schools and 3,000 fewer employees. These are the kinds of cuts that parents, teachers and students were protesting outside the Center City office of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

"It's sad. It's just sad what's happening," says Kate McDowell.

McDowell starts at the Masterman School on Monday morning. Even in seventh grade, she understands the deep cuts that her school will suffer this year.

"The resources like the counselors, or the music teachers or library..." she says.

"There have been crises every year. It's just gotten worse and worse. But this is the first time where I wonder can school even function the entire school year? I never had that feeling before," says Niel McDowell, Kate's father.

For teachers, many who spent the day buying their own classroom supplies, a protest isn't the way they wanted to spend the night before school. Many say they're conflicted.

"It's difficult, Because we all love our jobs and we can't wait to work with the kids because the kids are what matters to us and having all this other stuff get in the way of that, it's very hard," says Mary Davis, a teacher.

The teachers' union and the district met Sunday for contract talks with no resolution.

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