In spite of a significant looming deficit, Superintendent William Hite painted a positive picture of the School District during a panel discussion Tuesday hosted by the Central Philadelphia Development Corp., a membership organization of Center City businesses invested in continuing the economic growth of the area.
Hite and Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson appeared as part of a panel discussion moderated by Paul R. Levy, founding chief executive of the development corporation, to talk about education funding and the future of Philadelphia schools.
Hite touted the start of a $440 million investment plan to improve schools in the District. He also highlighted the hiring of 700 new teachers and the return of art and music teachers to every school.
“We’re really beginning to change the message,” he said, “from having to eliminate, cut, and having to do all of those dramatic things, to making investments in youth regardless of where they live in the city.”
In contrast to Hite’s optimistic tone, Monson told the audience about the financial challenges that the District faces due to inequitable state funding and “piecemeal” local tax revenues.
Nevertheless, Hite said, the District is doing its best to work its way through funding obstacles and to get past the trauma of 2013, when dozens of schools were closed.
“After the start of year five here as superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia,” he said, ”indeed we are in the best shape that we’ve been in since I have been here in Philadelphia. And many of you recall some of the extraordinary steps we had to take just to get to a place of fiscal balance.”
– Darryl Murphy