It’s not just bad luck that the School District finds itself staring at a mega-deficit yet again this fall. Harrisburg legislators more concerned with minimizing government’s role than with meeting human needs caused a state budget to be adopted with $150+ million less for Philly schools than Gov. Rendell had proposed. That’s going to force more painful budget-cutting decisions in the weeks ahead.
There was recklessness on the District’s part as well. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman plowed full-speed ahead on her plans for the new year when all signs were pointing toward restraint. Class size reduction and more counselors are worthy and necessary measures but were part of a flurry of spending that was beyond the District’s means. Now, just as contract talks come to a head, the District finds itself in a hole.
An open process will be needed to resolve this budget mess. The public did not have a voice in deciding which of the Imagine 2014 programs were implemented this year, but they absolutely should have a say about what goes. Parents, staff, and community members will have insights about cost-saving measures and where to find wasteful contracts.
The Notebook will do its part to support an open dialogue. Come to our Web site, www.thenotebook.org/budget-poll, and tell us how you think the School District should deal with its shortfall.