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Without cigarette tax, Hite says, layoffs would begin Aug. 15

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 9, 2014 04:59 PM

After winning a major victory in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week, the proposed cigarette tax for Philly schools appears stalled in a game of legislative pingpong.

On Tuesday, the Senate sent the bill back to the House by adding amendments, and now the House isn't scheduled to reconsider the measure until Aug. 4.

School leaders say that leaves plans for opening schools in September in total disarray.

The School District has been counting on the $2-per-pack cigarette tax as a recurring source of funding in the face of a $93 million budget gap.

Without swift passage, Superintendent William Hite said, 1,300 staffers would be laid off and classrooms would see student-teacher ratios as high as 41 to 1.

In order to avoid what he says would be a dangerous, unsafe school system, Hite has also been considering saving money by truncating the state-mandated 180-day school year.

"I've indicated over and over again that I have no intention of putting 40 children in a classroom. I have no intention of reducing services beyond where they've been reduced," he said Wednesday.

Hite stressed that, without additional funding, major decisions would need to be made by mid-August.

"If in fact we don't have a path forward by Aug.15 ... we would have to begin sending out layoff notices, and those layoff notices would be based on whatever [money] we have or do not have at that point in time," he said.

A spokesman for House Republicans said it would be difficult to approve the cigarette tax as passed by the Senate because of provisions jammed into the omnibus legislation.

In an interview Tuesday, House GOP spokesman Stephen Miskin criticized the Senate for adding other provisions to the bill, including authorizing hotel tax increases in municipalities such as York and allocating funds for City Revitalization and Improvement Zones.

"It will very difficult to pass House Bill 1177 if it is loaded with all these hotel taxes and new CRIZs which could cost the state up to $70 million," said Miskin. "We certainly preferred legislation focused on quality education for the kids in Philadelphia."

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Comments (24)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 6:22 pm

and what would be the parameters for being laid off?

LindaK.

Submitted by Kevin McCorry (not verified) on July 9, 2014 6:39 pm
Same as what he's been saying: seniority as a factor, but not the sole determining one.
Submitted by huh? (not verified) on July 10, 2014 11:37 am

Which is meaningless.  Hite will do whatever is best for him and the administration, not for teachers and children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 6:42 pm

I think they call it fire the highest paid first.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 6:58 pm
Wow are we gonna go through this every year in the philly sd. I think I should start looking elsewhere. This pins and needles stuff is for the birds
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 6:01 pm

It really is mind boggling, isn't it?  A new school and subject each year.  Most of the young teachers I knew when I started are already gone through layoffs or not being able to take the uncertainty. I really can't tell if the politicians barely funding the schools are stupid and don't realize the impact this has on stability for students or if they actively want chaos for Philly.  The middle class kids will move on and be fine but the poor students are really screwed.

Submitted by Tim (not verified) on July 9, 2014 6:53 pm

Good luck with that, I've found many suburban school districts tend to look down on hiring Philly teaches because of the district's reputation. On the flip side charters across the city are happy to hire district teachers and keep us on the books until we are too expensive to pay.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 7:10 pm

Maybe.  If you have the right education, taught at the right schools, and taught in enrichment programs the suburban districts respect over the summer you can probably get one with some effort.  Sadly, some of my best colleagues have done this when they were laid off and couldn't wait on the chance of a recall.

 

As for me, I'm sick of Pennsylvania.  I think the it's disgusting that a state could so systemically deprive its poorest residents of basic services.  There are plenty of nice places I can go--places where I can have a teaching career and not just a tenuous job.

Submitted by Tim (not verified) on July 9, 2014 7:18 pm

Same here I want out of PA, I've spent the first few weeks of the summer researching other states where teachers are in demand that pay a decent wage. That and teaching English in Korea or the Middle East wich is looking more and more enticing compared to returning to the district in September.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 10, 2014 10:50 am

Tim:

Where you are now, I've already been. There are a ton of job openings overseas - primarily in the mid-east, Latin America and Asia. The pay is pretty darn good, the students are hard-working and respectful, and teachers - both single and teaching couples - are in high demand. I registered with an agency out of West Chester called Search Associates. Every day, I'm e-mailed new job openings from around the world. I just got back from a week in the Poconos to find 53 OPENINGS in my teaching discipline in my e-mail box in countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica. Having already taught in Asia for two years, I'd highly recommend an overseas teaching stint. Make some money, see the world, and have the time of your life. Good luck!

Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 10, 2014 5:06 pm

Tim and Anonymous,

I've been working a fleld assignment down here in South Carolina for the past 8 months. Actually, I'm in the up-state in the Greenville area of SC. Needless to say, it's a republican state.  Philly is like the Titanic. It will sink.  It's time to jump ship.  They have teaching jobs down here.  Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg are clean and safe as compared to Phlly.  The salary structure starts high.  For some reason, I can not post a hyperlink, but you can Google the SC teaching jobs and salary structure. The schools here seem to be new.  BMW, Boeing and Michelin are hiring. It's a growth area.  I would recommend SC to anyone, except for the heat.

Go-Eagles

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 7:49 pm

Since the school district is in such dire financial need, so much so, that 1300 more teachers may need to be laid off, so why did Hite feel it was ok and fiscally sound this spring to give raises to employees at the district office who were already making well over 6 figures?  He also hired a recruiting director for 90k a year. If Hite is going to be laying off 1300 more teachers why does he need a recruiting director who used to work at TFA? Makes no sense to me, unless one is trying to get rid of REAL teachers, break the teachers union and bring in Teach for America.

Submitted by gayle Robinson (not verified) on July 11, 2014 10:31 pm
I totally agree. We need to know where all this money is going and it's not to teachers or pensions. This Gov. has more than enough money but there is No transparency with the Ddp or the Src.
Submitted by gayle Robinson (not verified) on July 11, 2014 10:50 pm
I totally agree. We need to know where all this money is going and it's not to teachers or pensions. This Gov. has more than enough money but there is No transparency with the Sdp or the Src.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on July 9, 2014 7:16 pm

It all boils down to; do we we believe "Chicken Little" this time??

Let us think this plan through since I am not sure Hite a/k/a CL has thought it out.

On August 15 we start sending out layoff notices. So on August 15 we start laying off how many people?? The leader does not quantify. They do not get the boot tile say 8/18.

We then have two weeks until 1st day for teachers to lay people off and redo the kids rosters for 9/8. Now that is ambitous.

As aonyone who has ever been in a Phildelphia High School knows a competent roster chair is a rare bird. In normal years even under mamawarbucks Ackerman 20-30% of the rosters were screwed up in mid October. But our leaders think the new improved roster chairs (who seem to be the same people) are going to re-roster thousands of kids in 2 weeks. WHO BELEIVES THAT?

The district is self insured for unemplyment beneits so starting Swptember 1 it gets a big hit to pay that. No savings there! If the PFT has any balls it woudl demand payment of accurred leave ASAP byut Jerry will fold on that. Since they lay us off in the middle of the month we get coverage for medical insurance till 9/1. So the savings are what???

They go through all this and hope the Legislature changes its mind which means we undo this and spend millions on a mess.

It appears that this is another cry that the sky is falling and Hite is hoping someone buys it. Maybe but Maybe not.

Would it not make much more sense to open and say look guys in Harrisburg we close on say March 1 when the money runs out. That would make sense and allow planning but is does not sound as dire as shouting:

The Sky is Falling oh my!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 11:07 pm

Exactly Jordan has no nuts-just runs the union nutty 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 8:48 pm
So how many SDP employees are gonna jump ship!?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 10, 2014 11:13 am

Sadly, that's not the question. The question is: how many have ALREADY jumped ship? And how many of the current jumpers - the Math, Science, Foreign Language and secondary Special Ed teachers whose services are in demand by other districts - can be replaced once they've taken the leap? It's not merely a matter of numbers - it's WHO is doing the jumping. The fallout from this debacle will last for decades. it will be impossible to attract bright young teachers on anything but a here today/gone tomorrow TFA sort of basis. Experienced teachers will know enough to steer clear of Philly. But when a hundred thousand angry teens are prowling the city's streets, looting/burning/causing all sorts of mayhem, we'll have the dubious pleasure of saying, "I told you so." Watch for it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 8:45 pm

There is no way that this tax dies in the Senate. How many times do we have to go through this last minute, apocalyptic talk before people realize they won't let a complete catastrophe happen? No, they'll come back on August 4th, they'll make Philly sweat, they'll graciously consent to the tax, Nutter and all of the other lame pols will run to the Daily News proclaiming "all of the hard work that was necessary for the good of the children of Philadelphia", blah blah blah. But somewhere, somehow, mark my words, the Republicans will get what they want. It might be written into the bill, it might come in the form of other concessions or promises of votes, but they will use this to extract what they want. As well they should; that's why it's called politics, I suppose. So yes, we will get our cigarette tax and schools will open on time, but it will come with a price. And at the end of the day, it will have accomplished little other than prolonging the agony and uncertainty of a dying school system.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 10, 2014 11:03 am

Even if we DO get the tax, we lose. It's a ROTTEN idea that will generate very little revenue as smokers make a bee line to the suburbs to buy their cigarettes, black market dealers flourish, the lion's share of  CURRENT cigarette tax revenue/school funding is lost to out-of-state cigarette sales - and we're stuck with a rapidly expanding charter school system in return (which will deplete our resources in no time flat.) Ah, yes. We are living in interesting times.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2014 11:27 pm

Let's start with the Special Ed teachers.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 10, 2014 11:32 am

Can you clarify this statement, please?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 10, 2014 3:06 pm

The statement speaks for itself.  No clarification needed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 10, 2014 3:10 pm

The statement speaks for itself.  No clarification needed.

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