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The District's Plan B: More than 1,000 jobs eliminated

By Paul Socolar on May 6, 2014 09:56 AM

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 budgetPage 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.

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Comments (17)

Submitted by Dr. Hype (not verified) on May 6, 2014 12:13 pm
Here's an idea: instead of leaving kids and schools on the hook for this manufactured debt crisis, let's delay payment on debt service and let Bank of America and Wells Fargo worry about how they'll adjust to the "shared sacrifice" we all keep hearing so much about.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 6, 2014 12:58 pm
Worked for Detroit. Better watch out though. Philly government might be third world like this, but us is not yet. Rule of law prevails and federal bk will not be so kind to your pension promises, the biggest burden on the district.
Submitted by Eileen M. DiFranco (not verified) on May 6, 2014 2:57 pm
Read Matt Taibbi's article in "Rolling Stone." "Wall Street Firms Making Millions Off Public Pension Funds." Taibbi writes, " Essentially, it's a wealth transfer from teachers, cops, and firemen to billionaire hedge funds." Business has its dirty hand in everything, even the pensions of public servants.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 6, 2014 2:04 pm
That's a good idea. The SDP can file for bankruptcy and the debt will be written down, as well as teacher pensions and salaries, in bankruptcy court. No politicians involved.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 6, 2014 4:03 pm
They have billions of dollars of debt and billions more in deferred maintenance. They need to file for bankruptcy and restructure their debt and contracts.
Submitted by Publius1788 (not verified) on May 6, 2014 6:02 pm
Dear Dr. Hype, Sarcasm is sometimes difficult to discern in the comment section of a story. Hopefully, this suggestion is in jest. If so then, “That is a good one, sir.” If not, then please know that this is probably not possible. First of all, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have basically nothing to do with this matter. That is not how the bond markets work. Additionally, the School District of Philadelphia, and the City of Philadelphia probably cannot default on these bonds because they were sold through the state’s “intercept program.” Since the debt was issued by the through the state, a city bankruptcy – like Detroit’s – is probably not an option to cancel this debt. (A city bankruptcy may well be in the future if the citizens allow City Hall to continue on its current path.) The intercept program was needed and used because the SDP credit rating is/was “junk”. A better idea would be to use some of the one-time, funding ideas suggested by Ms. Helen Gym and others, to pay down the debt in-order-to reduce the debt service payments in the out-years. These ideas include, but are not limited to: the sale of new taxi medallions, the sale of school properties, one time appropriations from the city and state, and grants from foundations.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 1:48 pm
I've read that article. It is jibberish. Lots of rhetoric but zero intellectual coherence and little factual basis. I liked his Vampire Squid article brilliant. Here he is trying to get that glory back but too lazy to figure the subject.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 6, 2014 3:25 pm
You tell good teachers to go to bad schools. That all children need good teachers. Then they get to those bad schools and in a year can't magically turn it around. Enrollment continue to drop. Then you tell those teachers you're laying them off since they taught at bad schools. I love that logic.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 8:04 am
Very soon, there won't be ANYONE left to teach in Philadelphia. This whole manufactured debt crisis has made the great difficulty of finding teachers willing to teach in the inner city infinitely worse. No one is going to gamble his/her career on a District that is falling to pieces - particularly when teaching in Philadelphia so strongly prejudices other, more stable districts against hiring you. My sister-in-law works in Human Resources for a suburban school district and she has told me frankly that the word "Philadelphia" on a teacher's resume results in a quick toss into the "circular file". So - as a reward for dealing with the neediest kids, the lowest pay and the most clueless administrators, we are banished from ever escaping to anywhere else. This outrages me. And to make the situation worse, I've heard that there is no more "testing out" on Praxis exams to earn supplementary credentials. From here on out, all certifications must be earned via classwork. This will have an INCREDIBLE impact on the number of available/certified instructors - particularly in high needs fields - yet no one seems cognizant of this fact. I can't wait till the pool of qualified teacher applicants dries up completely for the mess that is Philadelphia. My only consolation will be that the charter schools - which have a much higher turnover rate - will suffer even worse..
Submitted by maximootoo on May 16, 2014 7:15 pm
I totally agree with you but here is a new twist on the teaching crisis. Mayfair Elementary school has "force transferred" 9 of it's current teachers because the new principal Guy Lowrey wants to hire teachers for grade positions that are also certified in Special Education & this has been approved by the Asst Superintendant. This way he won't have to hire "extra" Special Ed teachers. They were never told that they would need their cert to stay. It's all perfectly legal. Will this be the new "norm" at Philly public schools? It's a sad day for all of them & the union can do nothing. .
Submitted by anon (not verified) on May 16, 2014 7:57 pm
correct me if i'm wrong, but since 440 unilaterally declared every position is site selection this year, these teachers have no guarantee that they will be employed come september?
Submitted by maximootoo on May 16, 2014 7:53 pm
You are correct. They have to wait until end of Aug to see if they get a phone call to see if they have an opening for them & where it may be.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 6, 2014 4:53 pm
They can start with eliminating the two people listed below. This is posted on Key Charter website. I see Ken says "worked", it should read "works" as assistant superintendent for SDP making 150,000.00 annually. Andrea Coleman's is also listed incorrectly. she "works" as a principal for SDP........ Chief Executive Officers Ken Cherry, CEO of Key Charter School of Harrisburg: Ken has 23 years in education and has taught students at all levels in rural, suburban, and urban environments. Ken has worked in both the public school sector and the private educational-business sector. In addition to teaching, Ken has been a building level administrator, a regional supervisor, an executive director, and assistant superintendent. Ken has lead and supported a portfolio of schools ranging in size from five schools to 40 schools. Each time, Ken worked strategically to deploy the necessary personnel to ensure the highest delivery of supports to schools, both operationally and educationally. Ken’s experiences offer you someone who embodies transformational leadership qualities, understands strategic planning, and works collaboratively with all stakeholders. Ken holds a PA certification in teaching, principal K-12, and superintendent. Ken has 10 years of experience working with charter schools. Andrea Coleman-Hill, CEO of Key Charter School of Reading: Andrea is a lifelong educator and has had the opportunity to development effective leadership skills in teachers and administrators by providing support, mentoring, and coaching in an effort to improve the teaching and learning. In doing this, Andrea encourages all educators to be reflective in their practice as classroom, building, and instructional leaders. Using classroom and school visits as a forum, she observe leadership and instructional practices and offer debriefing sessions to strategically review practices and develop actionable steps geared at improving practices to improve student outcomes. Andrea has had the opportunity to develop staff and districts on the use of data, curriculum and instruction, budget, title programs, grants, and targeted staff development. Andrea’s educational journey offers someone who has been a Middle School Assistant Principal, an Elementary Principal, a Director of Alternative Education, Director of Data Analysis, Assessments, and Research, and an Assistant Superintendent. As an Assistant Superintendent, she supported, mentored, and coached forty principals.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on May 6, 2014 8:48 pm
Instead of begging City Hall for more money, how about SUING THE COMMONWEALTH for adequate funding!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 2:43 am
If you're an aggrieved party with considerable means, then go do it. You will need deep pockets to litigate it and it's anything but a sure win.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 7, 2014 6:54 pm
What we need to do at this point is stop going out of our way! We, teachers, have been treated so disrespectfully in so many ways, especially financially. Just do our jobs until the end of the year. Do our jobs well. But only our jobs. Then let the chips fall where they may. Don't try to stop a developing conflict or fight... Whatever happens, happens. Hopefully, no students will be seriously hurt. We need to keep ourselves out of harm's way, but let nature take it's course in our schools with so few adults and teachers. Hopefully then at least some of what we have been going through all year will make it to the media and the public will see exactly what this lack of funding brings. AND that if they take from the teachers, after seeing the conditions the teachers have been working in, that many teachers will leave. There are not that many willing to teach in Philly. And I can only imagine the district with a majority of inexperienced teachers!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2014 11:28 am
Are they out of their minds Is already have three schools, dont need any more. They better continue to search for the money and stop the cuts. The major, city council and the governor better come up with a solution and of course the money. These people have no respect for the children of this city."World class city", Ja,Ja. There is plenty of money to party on the Fourth of July, though.

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