Editor and director of the Notebook since 1999, Paul was one of the Notebook’s founders in 1994. He came to the Notebook as a public school parent with a long history of involvement in public education and other social justice issues. His children both graduated from Philadelphia public schools. He has been an active Home & School Association member and served as a parent representative on a School Council. Prior to becoming editor, he worked on education issues for the National Coalition of Education Activists and the American Friends Service Committee.
The School Reform Commission has a new member, Marjorie Neff, a longtime District principal who just retired from her post at the Masterman School. Mayor Nutter named her Friday to the SRC to replace Wendell Pritchett, who has served as a mayoral appointee since September 2011.
Pritchett, whose term runs until January 2017, submitted his resignation today. He recently returned to the University of Pennsylvania law school as a professor and interim dean after serving as chancellor of Rutgers University - Camden.
Along with many advocates, Mayor Nutter was back in Harrisburg on Tuesday lobbying for school funding.
The push continues because the "placeholder budget" for Philadelphia schools that was adopted Monday night includes a gap representing more than 3 percent of the total that must be closed either by securing additional revenues or by another round of deep cutbacks and layoffs.
The School Reform Commission, in a special Monday evening meeting, unanimously adopted a budget for next school year without making deep cuts, even as last-minute negotiating in Harrisburg on the state budget and a cigarette tax means that funding levels for Philadelphia schools remain up in the air.
The SRC followed a path recommended by Mayor Nutter, who urged the commission to adopt a budget that "anticipates positive action from Harrisburg," and avoids cuts "so painful that they raise serious questions about whether it is safe to open schools." The District budget is balanced with a $93 million line labeled "Additional revenue or expense reduction."
In a letter today to the members of the School Reform Commission, Mayor Nutter urges the SRC "to refrain from passing a budget that would include cuts that are so painful that they raise serious questions about whether it is safe to open schools."
The SRC meets at 5:30 this evening to adopt a District budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Despite a legal deadline of May 31, commissioners postponed adoption of a budget last month, saying there was not sufficient revenue to pay for needed services.
Nutter's letter to the SRC says that if nothing changes in Harrisburg, the adoption of a state budget anticipated as soon as tonight could leave the District with a $93 million hole. Rather than cutting to eliminate this anticipated deficit, the mayor says, "I urge you to pass a budget that anticipates positive action from Harrisburg as they continue to work to finalize their budget."
Is Plan B another round of budget cuts?
Monday's City Council hearing on the School District budget made clear that there is no consensus Plan B among local officials if the city fails to get state approval to impose a local cigarette tax that would raise $75 million. Superintendent William Hite said his Plan B is the devastating cuts described in some detail in District budget documents.
But the District is hoping to avoid those -- looking to the mayor and City Council to deliver revenues well beyond the $120 million the District is counting on from the extension of a city-only 1 percent sales tax surcharge.