Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Will the School District cut the specific programs Council fought for?

Reading through Kristen Graham's coverage of the School District's fight to get $75 million in givebacks from its unions (which are assumed in its budget), and remembering that the district acknowledged an additional $35 million gap yesterday (because of another assumption in its budget, about $57 million in charter school reimbursements from the state), we find ourselves wondering: Is Council going to get screwed here?

Will the School District cut the specific programs Council fought for?

School officials appearing before Council
School officials appearing before Council

Reading through Kristen Graham's coverage of the School District's fight to get $75 million in givebacks from its unions (which are assumed in its budget), and remembering that the district acknowledged an additional $35 million gap yesterday (because of another assumption in its budget, about $57 million in charter school reimbursements from the state), we find ourselves wondering: Is Council going to get screwed here?

Council fought hard to make sure that additional funding sent to the schools went to specific programs -- namely, yellow school buses, reduced class sizes, accelerated schools and early childhood education.

And the district agreed to spend the money that way. But all Council got by way of assurance was a letter, and the Daily News reported at the time that the agreement "depends on getting at least $57 million in additional funding from the state and $75 million in savings from labor unions."

Right. Those same assumptions that now aren't panning out. And District CFO Michael Masch says no decisions have been made on what to cut.

Council spent a lot of time and energy arguing for these priorities. In fact, identifying these priorities and arguing for them was probably the biggest policy discussion of this year's budget process, aside from the related issue of where to find the money. Could it all go to waste?

Update: Right, as "Contender" points out in comments, Council spending "a lot of time and energy" on this matter is a relative thing. It could have spent a lot more time on it if the issue of school funding hadn't been conveniently put aside until after the May primary.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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