Just three years ago, the Philadelphia School District had 12,179 teachers. By this fall, that number will have dropped to about 10,000.
The loss of 2,000 teachers over four years makes it clear that the School District’s financial situation involves more than a little belt-tightening.
Cuts to teaching positions at budget time a year ago were the harbinger of what has proved to be a massive, systemwide financial crunch. And the more information School District officials reveal about the District’s still-unfolding budget crisis, the grimmer the picture gets.
An unscientific survey of a dozen schools by the Notebook in May found that most have experienced staff reductions in recent years and are anticipating further school budget cuts next year.
Those who spoke of cutbacks uniformly maintained that the cuts in next year's school budget were beyond those caused by any enrollment losses.
But some schools were clearly harder hit than others.
Which of these two commonly heard views is true?
A) Philadelphia is a struggling school district with inadequate resources; or
B) Philadelphia has received sufficient revenues since the state takeover five years ago and must be misusing its funds.
Discussions of these views often leave ordinary citizens confused. A host of organizing and advocacy groups, however, are working to clarify the issues and make sure Philadelphia students end up receiving the resources they need.
The Philadelphia School District will spend this summer grappling with its ongoing budget crisis. Schools face cuts of teachers, counselors, librarians, and nurses. The central administration, still reeling from last winter's round of pink slips, braces for the next – and likely more brutal – wave of cuts.
Where does the School District get the money to operate Philadelphia's schools, and how does it spend it?
As the city's parents, students, and residents face another looming budget deficit that threatens cutbacks in school programs, these are important questions to consider.
They also take on added importance in an election year. All the candidates promise to fix the schools, but where will they get the money and what choices will they make about how to spend it?