School district woes continue, officials ask Council to help

After 100 days on the job, Philadelphia School District superintendent Bill Hite talks with reporter in his office January 2, 2013 ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

The school district's financial woes continue as it faces a $304 million shortfall and officials voted recently to shutter 24 schools. 

"A $304 million shorfall presents cold, harsh scenarios: Schools with no assistant principals or administrative assistants, no guidance counselors, librarians, music teachers or school-based instructional aides, no athletics, extracurricular activities and summer programming," Schools Superintendent William Hite told City Council during a budget presentation today. "If this budget scenario comes to pass, then the activites that enrich their talents, interests and lives would disappear, and there would be fewer adults to help them navigate their childhood years with an eye towards the future."

Hite said the school district's budget crisis is real. School officials are seeking $60 million from the city and $120 million from the state. Council members have said the request comes at a tough time when the city is moving to a new property-tax system, the Actual Value Initiative. Not to mention the city has provided the schools with additional money for the last three years.

There is no appetite to raise money for schools through property-taxes, but officials have discussed the idea of increasing the liquor-by-the drink tax.

Update 1:14 p.m.: Council grilled the School District about what the city can expect from a $60 million investment and where conversations stand with the state as it relates to getting additional funding. Some Council members are hesitant about giving schools more money without help from the state.

"I don't know what we'll do. We understand there is a need. There has been a need for the last couple of years," said Council president Darrell Clarke. "I can personally say without a significant increase in funding from the state there will be no appetite on the local level to do anything." 

Clarke asked Pedro Ramos, chairman of the School Reform Commission who was appointed by Gov. Corbett to arrange a meeting so that Council members could speak directly with the Governor.

"In all honsety I don't know why the Governor would not put additional money in the city of Philadelphia School District," Clarke said.