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Shorter school year is off the table; District offers cuts to close budget gap

By Kevin McCorry for WHYY/Newsworks on Aug 15, 2014 06:00 PM

Philadelphia's public schools will open on time and – for the time being – mass layoffs will be averted.

Superintendent William Hite made the announcement Friday morning after a month during which he offered both options as a way to cover the District's $81 million budget gap.

The District is banking on the assurance of top Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg that Pennsylvania will pass legislation authorizing the $2-per-pack Philadelphia cigarette tax in mid-September.

If so, the District expects revenue collections will begin Oct. 1 and generate $49 million for the District this school year.

This, of course, is no slam dunk. The House and Senate haven't been able to find consensus on the measure since City Council endorsed it in early 2013, but House Majority Leader Mike Turzai came to Philadelphia this week to assure Hite that it will pass this fall.

Although Hite says there's reason to doubt passage, he's willing to count on that funding to open schools on time.

In order to close the remaining $32 million gap, the District will count on an assortment of "hopes" and "cuts."

Flanked by four members of the School Reform Commission at a press conference in the atrium of the District's North Broad Street headquarters, Hite explained the District's rationale.

"For the sake of minimizing disruptions for families, and for the sake of educating children, we've made the decision to make a series of additional difficult and, hopefully, temporary cuts in order to open schools on time," he said.

The cuts

  • High school students at District, charter and nonpublic schools who live within 2 miles of school will not receive transportation, which means 7,500 fewer students.

  • Reductions to funding for the multiple pathways to graduation program, which the District said will affect 300 students.

  • Elimination of preparation and professional development time for teachers at the District's Promise Academies.

  • Schools will be cleaned less frequently and have access to fewer cleaning supplies.

  • School police officer vacancies will be left unfilled, leaving an additional 27 elementary schools to share an officer. High schools would be unaffected.

  • Cuts to additional central office departmental positions, resulting in 20 layoffs.

The hopes

  • Lower prices can be associated with some of the District's vendors.

  • Sales will close on more of the District's unused properties.

  • The state Department of Education will stop making payments to charters for students enrolled above and beyond agreed-to caps.


Hite, who believes schools will be safe despite the cuts, said this plan makes sense academically for students and fiscally for the District.

Delaying the school opening, he said, "potentially could further exacerbate our deficit if, for example, additional students exited our schools for charter schools."

Imploring teachers' union for concessions

A District spokesman confirmed that the idea of shortening the school year is now off the table.

Beyond academic concerns, Hite said, shortening the year would be troublesome because many salaries and contracts still would need to be paid and the state would deduct its subsidy for days missed.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (40)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 15, 2014 7:00 pm

It is time that PFT do their part. All unions in the district have taken pay and benefit cuts. We cannot go another year with PFT (the largest union in the district) not doing their share to help the situation.


Submitted by SDP employee (not verified) on August 16, 2014 12:48 pm

i agree with you. Also it is time for the PFT to stop complaining about how much money they spend out of their pockets each year.That comes with the job. Soon or later you teachers will make concessions or the SDP will do it for you

Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on August 16, 2014 11:44 pm

You're absolutely wrong. Spending hundreds of dollars of your own money does not "come with the job." Teachers in suburban districts are paid up to $25,000 more a year and given money to set up their classrooms, but they rarely have to buy their students' school supplies. Parents in those districts take care of their kids' needs. 

I know you're coming from a place of anger because the district has screwed non-union employees over more than anyone. I can sympathize. But, to steal a line from The Hunger Games, "Remember who the real enemy is." It's not the PFT. It's Hite and the SRC. They're the ones who are making your life financially difficult while they enjoy their $300,000+ salaries without caring a bit how hard it is for you to pay your bills.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2014 10:48 pm

It's time clueless posters like yourself stop talking about things you know nothing about. Comes with the job? Since when? Philadelphia still pays a measly $100 per teacher per year for supplies the district is suppose to supply. Other districts have been paying $500 for years and they give their teaches the necessary supplies already. This job is barely worth the aggrevation at the current wages. Cut them and the district will look like a ghost town. If it's not that bad why don't you go into it as a profession? Save your threats, there will no concessions outside of some health care payments by the teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 9:31 am


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 2:38 pm

OMG how can you be so stupid.  If you do not like your job just quit

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 2:31 pm
You poor would be in your best interest to stop posting. No where in my statement about your ignorance and lack of information did I say that I "hate my job". Again, if you keep your mouth shut no one will know how stupid you are.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 2:10 pm

The only person that is a stupid fool is you.  You are the one that is spending money out of your pocket each year for supplies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2014 1:53 pm

Divide and conquer.  You are playing right into their hands.  Shameful!

Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 2:53 pm

Obviously, that is the tactic. Pit one labor group against the other. Demanding that teachers give up basic job security is not about saving money but about destroying the union. You cannot succeed with the goal of privatization until all workers are under your thumb. Schools will be no better than Walmart.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2014 4:06 pm

PFT has already made concessions:

Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on August 16, 2014 10:33 pm

You're basically saying because all of the other unions lay down before the overpaid adminstration and wealthy SRC members, that the PFT should wimp out, too. And please keep in mind that the principals didn't loose anything - they just went back to their pre-Ackerman 10-month schedule. They continue to make upwards of $120,000 a year - twice a teacher's salary. 

It is not a given that any union had to make concessions. They did not make this mess. Those who did aren't giving up a dime. What is the rationale for making your must undervalued, yet most important employees suffer because you or your counterparts screwed up? It is not our responsibility to make up for our leader's critical mistakes.

I will say this: All five unions and their leadership are fools for not sticking together. We should be united.



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2014 10:13 am

To say that PFT has not done their share is simply not true. In addition to all the out of pocket spending by PFT'ers, which to me seems like a low estimate, at least compared to mine. One needs to consider the loss of wages with PFT'ers not receiving raises for the last several years. Add to that those PFT'ers that have not received any step raises, yet continue to make payments on their huge student loan debt. Additionally all the employees who are still laid off are making huge "contributions by having no salary, for me that's about $50,000 since June 2013. The only other stepping up many of us can do is to share our food stamps, we can't share a portion of our unemployment benefits because we were denied an extension to those.

When will the banks, the ones we bailed out with our taxes, step up to the plate and offer some concessions on the outrageous interest they are charging the SDP. There has been almost no mention of those "partners"stepping up. To even consider that is silly as those "partners" are the same ones that hang around the country clubs with Corbett, and are undoubtedly invested in Education Companies, and shale extraction.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 4:37 pm

Amen. It's high time the PFT made a sacrifice like everyone else.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 15, 2014 7:39 pm

If the PFT gives concessions, what guarantee do we have that all the laid off people will be called back, atleast the 342 people who were laid off, for the schools to be safe.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 4:48 pm


Submitted by 1st grade teacher (not verified) on August 15, 2014 8:28 pm

Custodial services were going to be privatized if the union didn't agree to pay cuts.  Principals are working a shorter school year, with the opportunity to make up some of that wage loss by working days in August voluntarily.  None of this amounts to what was being asked of the PFT.  I'm relieved salary concessions are off the table.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2014 2:12 pm

Salary concessions might be off the table for now, but there won't be any cost of living increases for ten years. That will be equivalent to a 25% pay cut.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2014 8:32 pm

so who is the winner here ?

Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 3:22 pm

Easy - rhe big winner is the club of education investors who are applying pressure to privatize one of the largest school districts in the country. They will outsource any job they can. Doing it on the cheap is their business model.

Destroying seniority and tenure and union representation will ensure a fresh crop of temporary workers who will be paid less and will not stick around long enough to collect retirement benefits. Teaching will be so deprofessionalized that they will make it a bus stop to something else.

The idea suggested by Newt Gingrich that children should be doing "chores" around the school is another tactic to eliminate adult jobs and increase the bottom line.

Of course, people with means will send their kids to private school. Charter schools may also become the new elite system. But traditional public school will just be a warehouse especially for the poor and the difficult to teach.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 5:44 pm

What's wrong with kids doing chores? I went to Catholic school and we did lots of chores. Took out the trash, cleaned the classrooms, Provided safeties for the young kids to walk home, etc. If it saves the district money, it should be done.

Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 6:13 pm

Here we go again with the good old days!!!

Not only did I go to parochial school, I was a layteacher for five years back in the 60's. I think we had one person to clean the bathrooms and a single janitor to keep the boilers working. But all the classrooms were maintained by the teacher and students.

We are not talking about just passing a broom or washing the chalkboard. We are talking about major cleaning after school. Scrubbing desks. Dusting windowsills. And of course, carrying out the trash can. Basically they used children (and their teacher) to cut the cost of hiring cleaning staff.

Also, I bet like me, you did not have lunch in school. So there was no garbage to take out. Without a dedicated cleaning staff to dispose of food waste, it does not take long for vermin and mold to infest a school. Seriously, would you want your child in a classroom with flying roaches and mice scurrying around? That is what happens when garbage accumulates. Mold is also a serious health risk from poorly maintained and leaky buildings. Philadelphia school children experience these disgusting infestations every day.

These are all health hazards and would not be tolerated anywhere else that people gather. Forcing children to enter buildings infested with vermin and mold is child abuse. So is using kids to clean bathrooms or scrub floors. What is this, :Little Orphan Annie???


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 6:01 pm

We had lunch in school. The kids who lived close went home and the kids who lived farther ate in the classroom. No cafeteria. Having kids do chores is not child abuse. Work teaches responsibility and builds character. I also had two paper routes when I was 10 years old. Do you consider that child abuse, too?

Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 6:17 pm

I never said that having chores to do in school was child abuse. Classroom teachers routinely assign classroom "jobs" like giving out paper or collecting books. It teaches children how to work in a community.  Nothing wrong with simple housekeeping.

The child abuse comes from having to go to school in unclean buildings infested with vermin because the cleaning staff is inadequate to keep up.

What you fail to realize is that using children to do adult jobs as a cost-cutting measure is intrinsically wrong. This is not about character building but free labor.

My brother also had a newspaper route. A lot of his friends shined shoes or worked in the Italian market after school. It was a way to earn extra money.

At least they and you did not have to work in a sweat shop like my teenaged father (long before he became a father) to put food on the table for younger siblings. Yes, he grew up with a fine character, but deprived of an education and condemned to sweat shop labor his whole life.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2014 8:03 am
Tell me, are the suburban kids doing these type of "chores" in their schools??
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 19, 2014 9:10 am

There is a huge and basic difference between "helping out" in a classroom by doing things like erasing the board or collecting papers and the kind of plant maintenance that only adults should handle. Cleaning with chemicals for example is not an appropriate activity for children. Scrubbing floors or toilets is hardly a task for children or even teens. Students in appropriately funded schools, whether urban or suburban would never be given such tasks.

Pioneer edu-entrepreneur Chris Whittle, founder of Edison Schools, Inc. put in his "business plan" the notion of letting kids do office work like filing, monitoring hallways, and other adult jobs, in order to save money for the corporation. There was even a plan to pay high school students to do adult work of all kinds, of course at a stipend level.

We must never go down that road. I hope I have made myself clear.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2014 7:19 pm

And that is why Whittle got out of the get-rich-through-education business.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2014 9:37 pm

If anyone has been following this funding crisis closely, you would know that PFT offered the district a cost-saving package at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

It was rejected by the SRC. They have tied this financial crisis to there desire to make drastic work rule changes that have nothing to do with saving money during this critical period.

 Most PFT members surveyed are willing to contribute more to thier health care, and even accept a temporary salary freeze. What the PFT will not compromise on are important issues like Tenure, Seniority Rights, and the sweeping "Principal Automony" movement.

the SDP could have financial relief if they would work with the PFT instead of trying to divide, weaken, and destroy it!


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 1:47 pm

From the perspective of a private sector employee, I have to ask what many of us are  thinking. Why won't you consider modifications to tenure and seniority rules and why are PFTt members still not paying into healthcare like the rest of America (even suburban teachers do this). This is where often times the PFT loses public support.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 2:17 pm

 I can see your point.  Unfortunately, some administrators act in a way that many teachers see the need for these protections.  As a teacher, I could support theses ideas if we were fairly evaluated.  

Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 6:38 pm

As a private sector worker, maybe you are also aware that compensation packages can take verious forms. Group health insurance can be included as part of a base salary or the salary and health insurance can be negotiated separately. But the money alloted for them both is the same. What the SRC wants is for teachers to make the same as before but put more of that salary towards their health insurance   - a pay cut.  The union actually agreed to that, but it was rejected.

As for seniority, that is simply a fair way of deciding who gets chosen for a job when there is only one position but two workers.  You can say, chose the better worker, but who gets to make that decision? Do you think you can trust every administrator to not only make a wise choice but avoid all outside influence (like the cost of the worker)? You are asking for the wisdom of Solomon and the integrity of Moses. Seniority eliminates the politics, the cronyism and the nepotism.

Tenure is merely the application of due process. Even private sector workers should be protected from arbitrary and capricious treatment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 6:43 pm

Thank you Gloria for your thoughtful reply. I must add, however, that in the private sector its u s quite common for a salary freeze and insurance premium increase to occur simultaneously. You're right that it's tantamount to a pay cut but happens frequently (both my spouse and I have worked for large area companies where this occurred). Many of "us" feel those is education are out of touch with those realities.

Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 11:45 pm

Since the teachers have not had a raise since 2011, they are well aware of what a pay freeze looks like. Working without a contract for the past year is not only a freeze but a loss for many of their normal promised step increases or increases promised for higher degrees. A step increase means the employer forces you to make less money than you are supposed to get and then gives it to you in yearly increments for a set time.  This usually results in a backloaded salary known as a pension.

There is absolutely no protection for wage increasea when the contract can be frozen like that. You do realize I hope that the teachers are forbidden to strike and that the SRC can impose any working conditions or pay scale it wants according to Act 46.  The purpose of labor contracts is to preserve workers' rights as well as help guarantee a professional wage. That is why teachers organized in the first place, because they had traditionally been forced to give back wages or work with overcrowded classrooms and other indignities too numerous to mention.

Do we really want to slip back to the good ol' days when bosses had authoritarian rule over workers?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 1:56 pm

From the perspective of a private sector employee, I have to ask what many of us are  thinking. Why won't you consider modifications to tenure and seniority rules and why are PFTt members still not paying into healthcare like the rest of America (even suburban teachers do this). This is where often times the PFT loses public support.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 18, 2014 3:18 pm

The reason that tenure is necessary is to protect the rights of teachers to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and academic freedom without being subjected to unfounded charges and First Amendment retaliation. Many people in the district think that they can do whatever they want to people for whatever reason they want wthout impunity. Without tenure and seniority teachers would be at the mercy of every irrational dictator in the school district.

Are you that naive?

Tenure is only the right to "due process" and the right to be evaluated pursuant to professional standards. It only protects good teachers.

You see teachers are Americans and public employees -- we have a Constituion in America and it gives every citizen basic human rights. 


Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on August 18, 2014 6:55 pm

Well said as usual. An incident exactly like the one you describe happened to me. A parent left a conference with me thinking I had told her her child would be better off in a private school.  I said no such thing, but the rumor spread to the principal who threatened me with disciplinary action for saying mean things about her school. Even if I had said it, which I did not, she was basically preparing to write me up on some kind of insubordination charge....based solely on hearsay.  I of course called the union. The principal apologized the moment we entered her office. Still she had to sit for a lecture from the representative about basing disciplinary actions on hearsay.

That is how nutty it can get.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 10:47 pm

Thank you, Rich! And yes, they are naive! 

Submitted by Geoffrey Winikur (not verified) on August 18, 2014 11:26 pm

From the perspective of a teacher, I can't help that notice that when the economy is booming the private sector claims that union members don't deserve raises because they don't show the initiative to build their own businesses, take risks, accept bailouts, and all the the other jabberwocky of welfare capitalism. Yet, when times are tough unions are supposed to support the failures of the "free" market. Save your sob story, sucker.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 2:52 pm

Can a reporter ask Hite, Nutter, Corbett, and every other politician that is crying about he PFT what the value of eliminating step raises have totaled and will continue to total?  This number is really adding up and should be publicized by the PFT constantly.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2014 7:38 pm

With the cost of living going up and the fact that SDP teachers have not gotten raises in 3 years it is criminal to ask them to give up more of their hard earned money.  If you make $50,000 a year you really only bring home $25,000 after taxes, union dues, and other expenditures.


How then can asking teachers to pay for their own heath insurance solve this problem?  Poverty level is at around $27,000+ and we are already below it with our take home pay.  I have 2 other jobs to supplement the monies lost in my paycheck.


I stay because it is my oxygen, my passion, and the students are my (our) future.  Give SDP teachers a fair salary first, then ask about contributing to health insurance, salary concessions, and the other nonsense.  No one became a teacher and thought oh yeah I am now rich.  We do it because it's who we are.  As far as supplies go-you try teaching without the tools.  Would a builder not have equipment, would a chef not have ingredients, would an artist not have materials????????????  SAME THING HERE!

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