The School District has published its 2014 "Guide to School Budgets" that lays out quite starkly what to expect next year unless new money can be found. The document is meant for principals, School Advisory Councils, teachers, parents, assistant superintendents and community leaders.
Comprehensive neighborhood high schools across the nation struggle with dropout prevention, and Philadelphia’s are no different.
“What you see in that research is that these schools tend to have a higher concentration of really at-risk kids,” said Kate Shaw, executive director of Research for Action.
“In part because of that, the percentage of kids who graduate is much lower.”
And although principals at a handful of neighborhood high schools – Roxborough, George Washington, Germantown and Ben Franklin – said that helpful strategies aren’t hard to identify, most also acknowledged that implementing changes in an age of budget cuts, staff turnover, and districtwide strategic shifts is a constant challenge.
For Philadelphia advocacy organizations aiming to influence Gov. Corbett’s education budget, the fight continues.
The governor’s proposed state budget for 2013-14 puts $90 million back into basic education. That’s a 1.7 percent increase, coming after a $900 million cut in 2011-12. Some advocates said what Corbett has put on the table is hardly enough.
“What they are restoring to the budget is less than one-tenth of what was cut,” said Brett Schaeffer, communications director of the Education Law Center (ELC).
A national report released Wednesday showed that far fewer dollars are spent per student in schools with predominantly Black and Latino enrollments, and that staffing those schools with less experienced teachers accounts for much of the spending disparity.
City Council put off a property tax reassessment sought by Mayor Nutter on Thursday and instead approved a plan that would raise about $40 million in additional funds for the School District.
That is less than half the $94 million that officials said was needed to stave off further cuts to schools and classrooms.
The School District finds itself in a historic budget hole because, in part, it had stopped employing sound business practices, according to Thomas Knudsen, the man now in charge of straightening out its finances.
Ultimately, the District will need more resources, said Knudsen.
But, he added, "You can't drive something into the ground and then assume you have the right to simply call on resources to put it back together.
"You have to demonstrate the acuity to manage with what you have, then make the argument for more."
About 250 parents, community members, principals, teachers, and District officials braved an unusual fall snowstorm on Saturday to attend the first citywide summit on School Advisory Councils.
The "SAC Summit" at Benjamin Franklin High School was a key step in District plans to put functioning SACs in an increasing number of schools, perhaps close to half of those in the city.
[Updated 10:30 pm] There was more bleak budget news at Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission (SRC) meeting Wednesday.
Presenting a first-quarter financial report, District Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch announced almost $17 million in possible new cuts, then said there’s still another $22 million left to go. In this latest round, school budgets could be chopped by another one percent – or an average of about $40,000 per school.
Summer 2008 Arlene Ackerman joins the Philadelphia School District as CEO. She brings with her leadership experience in D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle. Ackerman was selected from among three finalists for the position.
Spring 2009 Ackerman unveils her five-year strategic plan, Imagine 2014. The School Reform Commission approves the plan with an estimated first-year budget of $126 million.