"Transportation is a privilege, not a right," says the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Last week, the Philadelphia School District announced that 7,500 fewer high school kids would be so honored.
The move came as the District announced that it would close its $81 million budget gap with a mishmash of cuts and hopes.
Flanked by four members of the School Reform Commission, Superintendent William Hite announced Friday morning that Philadelphia schools would open on time Sept. 8, but that another round of "difficult and hopefully temporary" cuts would be made to narrow the District's $81 million deficit.
Here are five key points about the School District's latest plan for dealing with its budget gap.
1. Temporary cuts and budget adjustments totaling $32 million were announced. These include discontinuing TransPasses for 7,500 high school students who live less than two miles from school, eliminating 300 slots in alternative programs for students at risk of dropping out, making 27 more elementary schools share police officers, reducing school cleaning and repairs, cutting extra professional development time at the District's Promise Academies, and eliminating some administrative positions. "These are cuts we want to treat as temporary," Hite said. "We want to restore them."
Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and a founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS), is a fixture at School Reform Commission meetings and a consistent advocate for transparency, adequate funding, and a strong union role in public education.
“Public schools must continue to be a civic enterprise where district policies and decisions are formulated in public forums,” says the APPS mission statement, “not a financial enterprise controlled by corporate interests."
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."
In my twenty-four years as a school nurse, I’ve called quite a few parents about all sorts of problems. There was the boy who dislocated his shoulder while hanging from the doorjamb and the boy who fractured his jaw. There was the little girl with the hundred and four degree temperature and the girl with the nosebleed we simply could not stop. I’ve called about seizures, asthma attacks, and lacerations needing stitches. Each time I’ve called the parent- even if I’ve called 911- I try to reassure the parents by saying, “Your baby is ok, but I’ve called 911 because….”
Accounts of the collapse of a 7-year-old boy at Jackson Elementary School on Wednesday say that at least two first responders -- a library volunteer who was a retired nurse and an employee of a behavioral health organization trained in CPR -- were not regular staffers and just happened to be in the building.
That raises the question of whether Jackson had in place an emergency plan required by the state departments of Health and Education that identifies "specially trained" staff and specifies staff responsibilities.
"In true emergency situations, the school should do all in its power to render emergency care," say the guidelines. "To prepare for emergencies that can be reasonably anticipated in the student population, the school should have written first aid policies and emergency management practices in place. These policies and procedures should reflect staff responsibilities and district expectations for staff action in an emergency situation, including identifying specially trained and designated individuals who, in addition to the nurse, will render first aid."
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.
by Neema Roshania for NewsWorks
Seventh grader Jared Taylor often volunteers to stay after school to straighten desks and sweep his classroom and the hallways. It's a tough choice because it leaves his younger sister, a 3rd grader, waiting for him outside the Carpenter Lane institution.
He cares about C.W. Henry School — the Mount Airy K-8 he's attended since kindergarten — and recent budget cuts have often left the school messy.
As the angry crowd of parents, principals, teachers, and other public education advocates filed out of Wednesday night’s School Reform Commission budget hearing, SRC Chair Bill Green gave a capsule summary of what he said moments earlier.
“It’s immoral what’s happening to the students,” he said. “It’s unfair what’s happening to the teachers.”
The two-hour hearing on the District’s 2014-15 school budget included a grim presentation of the District’s financial picture by Chief Financial Officer Matthew J. Stanski and a flood of critical testimony, mostly from parents and educators.
As news of violence and disarray at Bartram High School dominated Philadelphia headlines, national education researchers were downtown at the Convention Center, discussing the theory and practice of a “portfolio” school reform strategy that relies on management changes – converting low-performing schools to charters or closing them.
And although many have tied Bartram’s troubles to the budget cuts that sharply reduced staff levels at the school, Philadelphia School Partnership head Mark Gleason does not agree.