Updated | 3:25 p.m.
The School District announced 342 layoffs Thursday, most of them noontime aides and special-education classroom assistants.
But the total also includes eight assistant principals, three conflict-resolution specialists, and 15 assistants in Head Start classrooms.
District spokeswoman Raven Hill said that these layoffs were mostly the result of budget decisions made by principals and are not related to the 1,300 layoffs that may be necessary if the legislature fails to give final approval to a cigarette tax to raise funds for the District.
After winning a major victory in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week, the proposed cigarette tax for Philly schools appears stalled in a game of legislative pingpong.
On Tuesday, the Senate sent the bill back to the House by adding amendments, and now the House isn't scheduled to reconsider the measure until Aug. 4.
School leaders say that leaves plans for opening schools in September in total disarray.
Has Pennsylvania been coming through on its constitutional requirement to provide all children with a "thorough and efficient" education? In a recent interview at WHYY studios, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said, flatly, "No."
"Unfortunately, we're left with a situation where we're trying to only spend what we have," said Hite, "and that provides resources that are inadequate and insufficient in order to educate children."
In one of the quieter School Reform Commission meetings in recent months, commissioners voted Thursday to revoke the charter of Mount Airy’s New Media Charter School, while renewing five-year charters for three other schools.
In its last regular meeting of the school year, it also took a series of other actions, including a vote to permanently close the former William Penn High School and sold it to Temple University for $15 million.
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to grant a five-year renewal to New Foundations Charter School, but postponed a decision on two others.
It also gave a $93 million, three-year contract to Maramont Corp. for school lunch services, but only after extensive questioning of company representatives and the District's food service staff.
Updated | 11:30 p.m.
The School Reform Commission declined Thursday to adopt a budget proposal that would raise class sizes as high as 41, cut 800 teachers, reduce special education services to their bare minimum, prevent all but the most basic building maintenance, and make further cuts in services like counselors and nurses.
The SRC made the decision even though failing to adopt a budget before the end of May violates the city charter.
"Rather than adopting a 'Doomsday II' budget – and give anyone the impression that the cuts it contains are feasible or acceptable – we are going to not act on the budget tonight," announced SRC Chairman Bill Green. "Instead, we will continue to focus our energy and attention on securing the needed funding for our schools."
City Council summoned School District leadership Wednesday to answer more questions on the needs of the schools and to argue over what the city can and should provide.
But after three hours of sharp verbal sparring, they seemed no closer to a breakthrough that could get the District enough money in time to avoid triggering hundreds of layoffs and planning for class sizes in September of 40 students or more.
The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner."
by Jeseamy Muentes
More than 13,000 attendees, including education and policy leaders, will gather in Philadelphia this week at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA).
The event will be held April 3-7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the downtown Philadelphia Marriott hotel. The theme is “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” More than a dozen of the 100-plus sessions will include local leaders or have a Philadelphia focus.
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a $2.8 billion “lump sum” budget for fiscal 2015 that counts on receiving $440 million more in revenue than it currently has secured.
It did so shortly after an unprecedented scene in City Hall, when a few dozen school principals clogged the corridors to dramatize the appalling conditions in their schools and ask Council members for more funds.
And State Sen. Vincent Hughes addressed the SRC directly after holding a rally on the District’s steps in which he called for taxing Marcellus Shale extraction – Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that doesn’t do so – to raise money for education.