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.”
The School District is in bleak fiscal straits. Staring at the possibility of a deficit of $242 million by the end of 2013-14, District leaders are looking to the city and state to contribute $180 million in aid while also looking to reduce labor costs by 10 percent.
As City Council prepares for school budget hearings next week, the Notebook asked prominent folks in Philadelphia education to offer their take on what else could be done to address the gap. What solutions to the District's budget crisis are there, beyond the plea to the city and state for more funding and the plan to cut employee salaries and benefits? We received the following four responses. Comments are welcome.
Philadelphia School District officials say that closing buildings will save them millions of dollars a year.
But a closer look at the numbers shows that the lion’s share of savings will come from eliminating jobs.
Officials have been adamant that their Facilities Master Plan, which would close 37 schools and relocate seven more, is a financial necessity that will ultimately save the District $28 million annually – but less in the first year.
Even before making the annual February budget proposal to the legislature for 2013-14, Gov. Tom Corbett said that this year he would not slash funding for basic education.
I have attended several of the community forums where the public has weighed in on the Philadelphia School District's facilities master plan. The comments and counterproposals regarding the closing of 37 schools and relocation of others have been passionate, provocative, and persuasive.
The District, on the other hand, needs to study up on the art of persuasion.
There's a language problem with the way the District discusses underutilized school buildings. The language of "empty seats" is just that -- empty.
The Notebook interviewed former Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch after his departure from the District on its fiscal predicament and the plans for addressing it. At the time of the interview, the District was preparing to borrow $300 million to cover its operating costs.
Since leaving the District, Masch has disputed the view put forward by District officials that the District’s financial troubles were due to “bad fiscal policy,” as said often by School Reform Commission chairman Pedro Ramos.
Masch is about to start a new job as a vice president at Manhattan College in New York City.
This week's guest commentary about changes in the Philadelphia school landscape is from James M. "Torch" Lytle, a former Philadelphia administrator and Trenton superintendent, now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. The Notebook invites guest blog posts on current topics in Philadelphia education from its readers. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a submission.
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.
By Bill Hangley, Jr.
A new state scholarship program can benefit Philadelphia students who live near struggling schools, but it isn’t likely to have a big impact in the coming school year.
Program officials and local scholarship organizations say that they hope that by this time next year, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) will be running as smoothly as a similar, more broad-based program, the Educational Investment Tax Credit (EITC) program.
“We’re sort of stuck in the weeds right now, but hopefully in a year, things will smooth out,” said Ida Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia.