by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
[Updated: 7:07 p.m.]
Your next debaucherous night of drinking and smoking might help close the Philadelphia School District's enormous budget gap.
Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter is proposing to increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax and create a brand-new $2 tax on every pack of cigarettes in order to help fund the schools.
by Michael Masch
I am struck by how many supposedly politically sophisticated public school advocates appear to be urging City Council to give the Philadelphia School District more money, independent of what the state does. If that happens, most of the horrible cuts now looming will still occur, since $60 million represents less than 20 percent of the District’s identified 2013-14 budget gap.
It seems to me that Council President Darrell Clarke has a point when he says that Council has already increased city funding for the District two years in a row, even as the Commonwealth was cutting and freezing its funding, and it's just not smart for the city to do that again.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
Day two of City Council’s education hearings was a long string of bleak predictions and passionate calls for funding from public school supporters faced with the prospect of what one parent called “trying to do the impossible with nothing.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell called the day’s testimony “disheartening,” but gave little indication that she and her colleagues are eager to move on meeting the Philadelphia School District’s request for $60 million in additional funding.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
District officials met with City Council today to warn that unless Council, the state legislature, and the teachers' union pitch in, next year’s “dire” budget will transform schools into bare-bones operations stripped of all but the most basic staff and programming.
But City Council President Darrell Clarke said, dire or not, there’s a long way to go before Council can find the $60 million that District officials are requesting as the city’s share to plug an unprecedented $300 million structural deficit.
“To suggest that there’s going to be any additional taxes … I think is a stretch at this time,” Clarke said. “I can personally say that without a significant increase in funding from the state, I don’t think there’s going to be any appetite at the local level to do anything.”
Facing a $300 million structural deficit and still uncertain whether it will get the increased revenue and labor concessions it is seeking, the School District is asking schools to prepare to operate next year with a principal and a bare-bones allotment of teachers – and just about nothing else.
That means the contractual maximum class size in every classroom – 33 students in grades 4-12 and 30 in K-3. It means no dedicated money for guidance counselors, interscholastic sports, extracurricular activities, librarians, art or music.
No money, even, for secretaries.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
Members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), a group that includes the city’s teachers’ union, say that despite the many promising proposals in Superintendent William Hite’s newly released plan for the Philadelphia School District, the numbers don’t add up.
For the School District of Philadelphia, 2012-13 is shaping up as one of its most challenging school years ever.
The School Reform Commission must close dozens of schools, borrow $300 million to stay afloat, and begin a challenging negotiation with the teachers’ union on a new contract. The District will seek big financial concessions from teachers but also changes in seniority practices and how teachers are evaluated and compensated.
Through the Great Schools Compact, the SRC is setting a goal for creating more “high-performing seats” and more choice for parents through “portfolio management” of schools, a strategy that assumes the continued expansion of charters. But its careful planning to manage that expansion without running out of money for District-managed schools is threatened by charter legislation pending in Harrisburg.
Asked what “portfolio management” means to him, Jerry Jordan’s answer was swift and certain:
“Big business. Outsourcing. It’s literally getting rid of public service,” said the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
But when asked about the PFT’s strategy for slowing a trend that has seen thousands of teaching jobs shifted to non-union charter schools, Jordan’s answer was more general: “We have to work more closely with the parents and the people in the community in order to make sure our schools are funded adequately. We can’t survive another billion-dollar cut.”
School closings. Private providers running public schools. Downsizing the central office while giving principals the reins to hire, budget, and set curriculum. Rapid expansion of charters.
Not too many years ago these might have been radical ideas. Now, they are commonplace, with two dozen urban districts – including New York City, Washington, New Orleans, and Los Angeles – embracing what is called the portfolio model.
Cierres de escuelas. Proveedores privados a cargo de las escuelas públicas. Recortes de personal en la oficina central mientras a los principales se les da control sobre la contratación, el presupuesto y los planes de estudio. Expansión rápida de escuelas chárter.