School District, Council Talk Funding

Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. presented to Council today the “cold, harsh scenarios” facing the district unless the city and state contribute $180 million in new money and the teachers’ union agrees to enough concessions to cover a $304 million budget shortfall.

He said the district would have to axe such fundamentals as athletics, guidance counselors, librarians and summer programs. He noted that he was asking for funds to fill “a hole, a gap.”

“They will not allow us to provide the education that our young Philadelphians deserve,” he said. “It will not allow us to fully invest in our teachers and principals, and improve their working conditions.”

Council members then proceeded to ask Hite and School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos a series of questions about the district’s $60 million request, noting that the city has raised taxes two years in a row without the state kicking in new money.

Ramos said there was a “qualitatively different feel” among state legislators, who are “no longer debating the need” to restore funding to Philadelphia schools.

“I don’t hear some of the negativity,” Ramos said. “There’s recognition that efforts have been made locally in a short amount of time to right the ship.”

Council President Darrell L. Clarke also asked Ramos, who was appointed chair of the SRC by Gov. Corbett, to arrange a sit-down for Council members with the governor.

“In all honesty, I have no idea why people say the governor won’t put in additional money for the School District of Philadelphia,” Clarke said. “I’ve never had that conversation with him.”

Clarke also unsuccessfully sought specific proposals for finding the $60 million.

“What do you want and how do you want it?” Clarke asked. “You’ve requested a tax increase?”

Ramos reiterated that his plan called for “shared sacrifice” from the city, state and unions, but he did not attempt to tell Council how to come up with any new money.

“Collectively, I think we’re all responsible for getting there,” Ramos said.

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