The District's Plan B: More than 1,000 jobs eliminated
Is Plan B another round of budget cuts?
Monday's City Council hearing on the School District budget made clear that there is no consensus Plan B among local officials if the city fails to get state approval to impose a local cigarette tax that would raise $75 million. Superintendent William Hite said his Plan B is the devastating cuts described in some detail in District budget documents.
But the District is hoping to avoid those -- looking to the mayor and City Council to deliver revenues well beyond the $120 million the District is counting on from the extension of a city-only 1 percent sales tax surcharge.
In all, the District needs to find $216 million in new funds or savings just to preserve the bare-bones status quo -- that's $96 million more than what the District will get if City Council approves a sales tax extension.
District officials said they still hope to get $75 million of that $96 million from the city, one way or another.
"We do not have any preference where you get the money," School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green told Council. City Council approved a cigarette tax last year but has not gotten authorization from the state legislature to impose it.
Green and others are pessimistic about getting additional funds out of Harrisburg this year. Other than funds secured by City Council and the mayor, or from union concessions, Green acknowledged, "Everything else is unlikely."
If the sales tax extension goes through, but not the additional $96 million needed from the city and state to keep staffing at current levels, the District's official Plan B is another round of deep cuts. These are detailed in the District's consolidated budget. Page 63 of that document lays out the 1,252 positions that would be eliminated if the District ends up $96 million short. The job losses include:
- 911 teaching positions
- 76 school police officers
- 64 cleaning staff
- 48 bus drivers
- 34 nurses
- 26 facilities support staff and tradespeople
- 12 classroom assistants
- 5 support services assistants
- 4 noontime aides
- 84 other positions, mostly in the central office.
Nearly 200 of these job cuts, including 100 teaching jobs, will be made regardless of funding, due to declining school enrollments.
Because there are severance costs when jobs are eliminated, the District says it would actually have to cut $148 million to achieve net savings of $96 million.
The District promises to impose administrative and non-instructional cuts first, but those total only $37 million. Budget documents explain that "given the large portion of the District’s budget that is spent on mandated expenditures and the hundreds of millions of dollars already cut from the budget in prior years, the District simply has nowhere left to cut other than instruction."
Here's what the impact of the above cuts would be, according to the District's Budget in Brief document:
Administrative Cuts: $9.9 million
• Administrative Support: $9.9 million. Schools will receive limited information systems and technical support, parent- and community-focused services and activities will be greatly reduced, and functional support for schools (e.g., field trips) will be lessened. The District could also face additional auditing risks and risk of non-compliance with state and federal mandates.
Non-Instructional Cuts: $27.5 million
• Facilities: $12.0 million. Fewer staff will be available to maintain the District’s continually aging school buildings, meaning greater health and safety risk for students.
• School Police: $5.4 million. Funding for school police will be reduced by nearly sixteen percent.
• School Nurses: $4.3 million. Funding for school nurses will be reduced by nearly eighteen percent.
• Transportation: $3.5 million. Reduced transportation resources will result in increased student travel time as the number and efficiency of routes will be reduced, potentially increasing ride time for students to as long as two hours.
• Space Rental and Losses and Judgments: $2.3 million. The District will have fewer resources to pay for judgments against the District.
Instructional Cuts: $110.8 million
• Drastically increased class size: $92.9 million. The District would need to raise class sizes by seven to eight students per class in grades 1 through 12 in order to layoff enough staff to realize gross expenditures reductions of $92.9 million and net savings of $52.0 million. This action would require layoffs of approximately 810 teachers and would undermine the District’s efforts to provide personalized learning experiences for students, drain the District of many talented and dedicated teachers, and strain the physical capacity of school facilities. ...
• Special Education: $9.1 million. Special education services will be constrained to providing only basic, legally mandated services, which are inadequate to ensuring sufficient improvement in students’ social, emotional, and behavioral health and educational outcomes.
• Substitute Services: $3.4 million. Funding for substitute services will be reduced by approximately eighteen percent.
• Promise Academies: $2.4 million. The District will further dilute its internal turnaround model. Teachers currently teaching in the District’s lowest performing schools will not get the additional support and training necessary to help them improve student performance.
• Alternative Education: $2.3 million. Programs that have been successful in helping more students graduate will be cut, decreasing the number of students who can be served through these pathways.
• Contracts: $0.7 million: Six schools with challenging safety environments will lose conflict resolution support and a special program for a magnet school will be discontinued.
While necessary to be fiscally responsible, the District in no way endorses any of these gap closing measures as educationally sound.
City Council will hear testimony from members of the public on Wednesday.