Read statements to Council on District's financial needs from Hite, Green, others
By David Limm on May 5, 2014 01:53 PM
Superintendent William Hite told City Council on Monday that he is frustrated that the District finds itself in much the same fiscal crisis as last year, asking yet again for hundreds of millions in needed funding.
"This is not the conversation that we should be having in one of the largest big-city school districts nationwide. Discussing how we will make ends meet should not be our annual rite of spring," said Hite, whose prepared remarks for Council's education budget hearings were provided by the District.
Hite asked Council to approve extending the 1 percent sales tax extension and give the District at least the $120 million -- an amount that is already counted on in the District's proposed budget. Council has the authority from the state to do this, but has been balking because it wants to use some of that money to shore up the city's pension fund.
In addition, Hite is asking the city to find an additional $75 million, to help close a projected $216 million budget shortfall.
"The conditions in our schools are simply not sustainable, not from the standpoint of teacher and principal capacity, not from a student persistence perspective and certainly not from the view of families," Hite said.
Hite was accompanied by a District principal, teacher, and student, who also testified: Cindy Farlino, principal of Meredith Elementary in Queen Village; Olivia Paris, a student at YESPhilly, an accelerated high school; and Michelle Jackson, a teacher at Martin Luther King High School, the subject of the documentary We Could Be King. It tells the story of the school's football team after a merger with arch-rival Germantown High.
School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green also addressed his former colleagues, expressing his support for all the tough policy decisions and cost-cutting actions Hite made last year amid the fiscal crisis. He told Council that there's nothing left to cut.
There’s no fat, or even flesh, left to cut – we’re now talking about amputations. We cannot spend funds we do not have. So if we have to take drastic action – such as increasing class sizes to 40 students or cancelling contracts – in order for schools to open, we will do so. I don’t say this to be dramatic – I say it to clarify the choices before us.
The Council's hearings on the School District's budget are taking place now and will continue throughout the afternoon and on Wednesday, with public testimony following the District's presentation.