Philly schools to open in time with steep cuts
Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite had good news and bad news on Friday. The good news is that local public school will be able to open on time on Sept. 8.
The bad news is more cuts.
Facing a current $81 million budget shortfall and relying on state official’s approval of the cigarette tax, the district will implement cuts to save money and cause the least possible “harm” to students and schools.
“For the sake of educating children and minimizing disruptions for families, we have made the decision to make a series of additional difficult – and hopefully, temporary – cuts in order to open schools on time,” Hite said.
So far the list of cuts include: reduced services in alternative education programs, which will result in fewer higher-quality options for approximately 300 students; less frequent cleaning of schools; fewer cleaning supplies, and unfilled school police officer vacancies.
The preparation and professional development for teachers at Promise Academies was eliminated, and high school students who live within two miles of school will not receive transportation support, affecting around 7,500 students at district, charter and non-public schools.
“To delay school opening – during which time we would be required to continue paying employees, make our charter school payments, and meet other contract costs, all while students are not being educated – punishes students for adult failures,” Hite said.
The superintendent again called on several of the district’s labor unions, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), to make concessions in health benefits, and for legislators to quickly enact the cigarette tax legislation, which is expected to generate $49 million this year.
Failure to do so will result in direct cuts to school budgets in mid-October, leading to increased class sizes and combined grade-level classes, according to Hite.
“We implore our state legislators to quickly enact the Philadelphia-only cigarette tax. Each month of delay in authorizing this tax results in the loss of millions of dollars of revenue,” Hite said. “We implore the PFT to make concessions. We are not seeking across-the-board wage reductions from the PFT, but rather benefits changes that would enable us to restore essential services to schools.”