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Philly bears brunt of school cuts

By Paul Socolar on Mar 9, 2011 02:46 PM

School District officials said Wednesday that more than one-fourth of the education cuts in Gov. Corbett's proposed state budget are falling upon Philadelphia, even though it serves only about one-tenth of the state's students.

At a Wednesday press conference, they also for the first time put a specific dollar figure on the size of the District's overall budget gap for next year - $465 million. That figure factors in both anticipated revenue losses and expense increases.

But conspicuously missing from that calculation was any dollar figure accounting for the negotiated 3 percent pay increase for teachers and others in January 2012.

Corbett called for a pay freeze for teachers in his budget address.

Corbett's budget would result in a net loss of $409 million in revenues to Philadelphia schools, according to Michael Masch, the District's chief financial officer. A portion of that gap represents a loss of $116 million in direct federal funding that came through the stimulus program. The balance of the decrease, $292 million, is the District's whopping share of the overall $1 billion in education cuts Corbett proposed.

Masch cited these two additional challenges it faces on the expense side:

  • a minimum $39 million increase in charter school costs, and
  • an increase of $17 million in pension costs.

Masch said that unless something brightens the budget picture, the budget crunch "will disrupt the District's ability to serve its 200,000 students."

"Given the progress that Philadelphia has made, it has proven that resources matter, and when we give kids an opportunity, they take it," said Susan Gobreski of Education Voters PA, referring to eight years of rising test scores. "By targeting these cuts in this way the governor is sticking a finger in the eye of Philadelphia."

An initial target for budget cuts is the District's 1,000 central office employees. The District says it's planning for a 30 percent central office reduction. But this will barely make a dent in the overall shortfall. The District spends only $92 million on central office costs in its $3.2 billion budget.

The District has announced two meetings to invite public input on its budget situation prior to the completion of its budget proposal. Those are March 17 at Benjamin Franklin High School from 6-8 p.m. and March 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at South Philadelphia High School.

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Comments (7)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 9, 2011 4:30 pm

1)Stop giving Ackerman raises, bonuses, take away her district car, and reduce her salary to less than Mayor Nutter's
That saves around 300K.
2)Remove welfare subsidies to parents of students who are consistently truant disruptive, or violent.
That should cover millions.
3)Reduce property tax dollars that come out of PA and get stuck in Federal Holdings in DC
that's 20-30 percent of property (aka school tax) revenue

Submitted by PhD Mom (not verified) on March 10, 2011 1:27 pm

Yes, I totally with you 100%. Why is it that CEOs of school districts across the country make between $300,000 and almost a half million dollars a year. I read that the Philadelphia Superintendent is taking 20 unpaid furlough days to close the budget gap. Well I guess when you make close to $500,000 a year including bonuses and a company car, then you can afford to do that. Unlike working people like ourselves, we can't afford to do that regardless of the number of college degrees and skills that we have. Why does she have a district car? How come she along with the members of city council drive their own cars to work? This why the city and the state is in a deficit now. On the other hand, I can't blame Dr. Ackerman for all of this chaos. She walked into this mismanagement when she was brought on by the mayor. I have to give her a little credit for trying to fix someone else's BS. Also, high five to removing the welfare subsides for parents who just abuse it and reduce the property tax dollars. The city of brotherly love is in trouble.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 9, 2011 4:24 pm

GET RID OF THE 10 YEAR TAX ABATEMENT wonder how much revenue that would make for the city

Submitted by PhilaTeacher (not verified) on March 9, 2011 7:41 pm

I am curious about who is making these decisions at the SDP. Why is it that the schools have to immediately stop all spending, but the schools turning into charters (and other turnaround schools) are offering teachers a signing bonus and retention bonus...?? -- they sent out invitations to apply to these schools via email today.

Teachers have been warned that anyone with less than 5 years of experience could be bumped, but they cannot say anything else. And they aren't going to tell us these things until June 30th. Interesting that school districts EVERYWHERE else are able to do all of their hiring in April, May, and June, so teachers who find out on June 30th will miss out on those opportunities.

How about those district benchmark tests? The amount of money spent for the testing company to write these (invalid) tests, print them, and score them EVERY SIX WEEKS exceeds the cost that would be needed to ask a few trusted teachers to develop tests actually based on the curriculum and state standards.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on March 10, 2011 7:01 am

I laughed at the 1/3 cut of central office staff. I wish no one the treat of losing their jobs, but she did double this staff.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2011 9:05 pm

Does anyone else see the whole picture behind Corbett's plan and how it will effect Philadlephia? Just think If we pass the voucher bill in our state so many of the surrounding suburban schools will be waiting with their arms wide open to steal tax dollars from our children's education in Philadelphia. Leaving the City of Philadelphia in more turmoil. This voucher bill will then leave of city public schools left with the students other districts don't want because of behavior and low academic achievement ( basically cherry pick the cream of the crop and getting paid to do it). We will again see an increase in underachieving schools with the lack of funds to provide supportive educational programs our students need. Do I believe we need education reform? yes. However, we do not need this kind of reform. It will do more damage than good for our children and city. Corbett's plan will not only affect the education of the children in our public schools as well as the teachers but it will have the greatest impact on our city when more and more working class people continue to take flight from the City of Brotherly Love.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 10, 2011 9:58 pm

This should be a wakeup call for all of the legislators in Philadelphia!

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