Philadelphia School District officials hinted that the School Reform Commission may use powers given to it under the state takeover law of 2000 to keep Promise Academy teachers from getting laid off. The district's $629 million budget gap for 2011-12 means that it will lose about 1,200 teaching jobs. Some will be taken care of by retirements or resignations, but layoffs seem inevitable. Since many teachers at Promise Academies (which are district-run Renaissance, or turnaround schools) have little seniority, many would be vulnerable to layoff. (See here for more backstory.)
Today, spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser issued a statement on the topic:
“The School Reform Commission is reviewing all of its options as it addresses the budget for 2011-2012. The Commission was given certain extraordinary powers and the SRC is considering whether the exercise of any of those powers will assist it in resolving the budget issues, while preserving to the greatest extent possible the educational program and priorities of the District. This would include all of its options under Section 696 of the Public School Code. The SRC is scheduled to vote on the budget on May 31, 2011.”
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan has said that he will not stand for layoffs that exempt Promise Academy teachers, and will fight such a move legally.
In other words: stay tuned. I can only imagine the anxiety beginning teachers are feeling now. The questions around who will be exempted is no help.
Overall, the district has said that its current plan, if no more money is found, is to cut more than 3,000 jobs district-wide, including teachers, nurses, counselors and others. The central office staff would be cut by a full 50 percent. There would be other painful cuts, too - full-day kindergarten is on the chopping block, as are most transportation services and all extended day programs. There would be cuts to special education and services for English language learners; trims in athletics and music. Individual schools' budgets would take big hits, too.
The district will paint a grim budget picture in its annual appearance before City Council next Tuesday and Wednesday.
On another note, something I wasn’t able to squeeze into my print story on today’s SRC meeting (see tomorrow’s paper or Philly.com) was the tale of what happened to the district’s Adaptive Reuse and Rightsizing policies.
Yes, they have confusing names, but essentially the Adaptive Reuse policy will govern how the district rids itself of empty buildings, and the Rightsizing policy gives guidelines for where the district ought to be in terms of capacity. Given the 70,000 extra seats in the district at the moment, both will be important going forward.
Changes had been made to the policies, and Cecelia Thompson, a district parent and activist, asked the SRC to delay its vote for a month so folks got time to study the policies and ask questions.
Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky moved that the SRC do just that. (He had questions, too.) The SRC will vote in June on the two policies. Lots of people get up at SRC meetings and ask the district for lots of things, but I don't often hear a community request get made and then immediately acted upon by the SRC. A smattering of applause went up when Dworetzky's motion to delay the vote carried unanimously.