School woes

The Philadelphia School District is being walloped with one crisis after another.

While the district is still dealing with the fallout from the Martin Luther King High fiasco, resulting in Mayor Nutter's call for an investigation, it's now facing the brutal reality of a $629 budget gap.

 At a Wednesday meeting of the School Reform Commission, the brutality of the fiscal crisis was explained: a proposal to slash staff by 16 percent, 3,820 employees, and the loss of full-day kindergarten.

The district's chief financial officer Michael Masch explained that a flat economy, sharp state cuts and the loss of federal stimulus money had contributed to a drop of 12 percent, of $377 million, in district revenues.

But it's worth asking how so many smart people failed to plan better for this day of reckoning? Teachers are famous for creating lesson plans ahead of time.

The federal stimulus was a one-time infusion of $250 million. The economy has been flat for several years. Edward Rendell, often dubbed the "Governor of Philadelphia," was generous to the city's educational coffers. But we all knew those days would end when Tom Corbett assumed office with Republicans controlling both chambers of the legislature.

The bad news was soft-pedalled for too long. In December, SRC Chairman Robert Archie alluded to "a possible shortfall in the budget due to loss of federal stimulus funding. "

Possible? No, this day was coming. Even stranger, at City Council debates candidates keep talking about more programs for the schools, instead of fewer. With what funds? In what universe?

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