Philadelphia’s school district, the nation’s eighth-largest, is sending notices to 3,783 teachers, aides and other employees -- 19 percent of its workforce -- that they may be fired July 1 because of a budget shortfall.
The district faces a $304 million deficit in its $2.35 billion budget, which it says is due to state cuts and rising expenses, documents show. It has requested $180 million from the city and Pennsylvania and seeks $133 million from labor-contract savings to prevent reductions in areas from arts to nurses.
“I am doing everything in my power to prevent this budget from becoming a reality on July 1,” said Superintendent William Hite Jr. in a statement June 7. “Our current circumstances are deeply disheartening.”
Philadelphia is among large urban districts facing shortfalls as states have reduced spending on traditional public schools and more students move to charter schools. Chicago officials last month voted to consolidate 50 of its 681 schools, and Detroit shuttered facilities as its population declined.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering giving Philadelphia permission to impose a tax on cigarettes of $2 per pack and boosting a levy on alcoholic drinks to 15 percent from 10 percent to raise money for schools. The proposal was put forward by Mayor Michael Nutter, and sponsored in the legislature by state Senator Anthony H. Williams of Philadelphia, both Democrats.
Nutter also said the city would increase tax collection so that $28 million would flow to schools for the fiscal year beginning in July, compared with $15 million from the levies this year. The package would generate $95 million for the district’s next fiscal year and more than $130 million annually through 2018, the mayor said.
In October, Philadelphia officials resorted to selling $300 million in debt to fill a budget gap, the second time in a decade. Thomas Knudsen, at that time the chief recovery officer, called borrowing to meet basic obligations an “extraordinary action” that officials couldn’t repeat in the next five years.
Last year, city schools received about $300 million less in state aid, according to the district budget statement. That included funding for students who left for charter schools.
Those who may be dismissed include 127 assistant principals, 676 teachers, 283 counselors, 1,202 aides, 307 secretaries, and 769 support-services assistants, according to Hite’s statement. Art and music programs and athletics would be cut.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan called the district’s plans “unconscionable” and “immoral.”
“It’s time to stop balancing the budget on the backs of school employees and students,” Jordan said in a statement.
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