Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. heard City Council clearly - they're skeptical of how the millions they've provided over the past several years have been spent.
Council's concerns were raised anew in the past few weeks, as they consider Mayor Nutter's proposal to hike property taxes to give the schools an additional $105 million. That plan appears dead in the water, with Council officials saying they are more likely to enact a plan that includes a more modest tax hike, coupled with a raise in the Use and Occupancy tax and possibly a jump in parking-lot taxes.
Hite and his team say they've provided every detail Council wants. But the Philadelphia School District chief had an idea: what if the state's top auditor would help give city officials assurances, too?
In the face of steep revenue cuts, the city school system is now spending less to educate each student than it has since 2008, and benefits are costing it nearly $8,000 more per teacher than they did three years ago.
Mix lower revenues with rising fixed costs and the result is fewer dollars spent in Philadelphia School District classrooms, an outside analysis of district finances released Thursday found.
Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski said the analysis underscored the points officials were trying to make this week to a skeptical, frustrated City Council: they keep coming back for more money year after year because the money they receive isn’t enough to cover their fixed costs.
A top Nutter administration official Thursday made a pitch to City Council: the mayor’s proposed property-tax hike is the clearest way to get city schools the $105 million they desperately need.
“Without additional funding, the schools will have another bleak year,” Finance Director Rob Dubow said at a Council hearing.
Mayor Nutter wants a 9.3 percent jump in the city’s property-tax rate to generate $105 million for the beleaguered Philadelphia School District, but skeptical Council members have indicated that it’s going to be a very hard sell.
Another union has a deal with the Philadelphia School District.
The members of Unite Here Local 634, which represents school cafeteria workers and noontime aides, has ratified a four-year contract that contains benefits savings and work-rule changes including a weakening of seniority rights.
The workers - the district's lowest-paid - will actually get pay bumps made possible, officials said, by allowing the district to temporarily stop payments to the union's health and welfare fund. Most workers in the union are part-time, earning $10.88 hourly, or about $8,000 annually.
Helen Gym's City Council campaign got early momentum from an endorsement from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. On Friday, it was bolstered by the effusive support of Randi Weingarten, the president of the national teachers' union.
"If we had more people like Helen in public office, we'd be solving more problems across the United States of America," Weingarten said, standing outside the Philadelphia School District headquarters. "I'm impressed by her passion, by her smarts, by her ability to problem solve."
Weingarten and District Attorney Seth Williams spoke at a late-morning rally for Gym, the longtime public-education activist. Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney stood behind Gym at the event, but did not speak.
The Philadelphia School District is exploring outsourcing its health services, officials said Wednesday - a move that might mean privatizing jobs now held by unionized school nurses.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the district, rocked by years of brutal budgets, had to find a way to expand medical services and was seeking to test the waters to see if it might do so through bringing in private providers.
“With the significant cuts that we’ve made, it’s impacted our ability to deliver health services to all children that need those services,” Hite said.
Matthew Stanski, the Philadelphia School District's well-regarded chief financial officer, is leaving the school system, a spokesman confirmed.
Stanski tendered his resignation effective in June, said Fernando Gallard, the spokesman. He is leaving to become supervisor of management, budget and planning for the Montgomery County, Md. school system.
Stanski came to the city from Prince George's County, Md., where he had been CFO there under Superintendent William R. Hite Jr, now Philadelphia's schools chief.
A seven-judge panel has dismissed a lawsuit filed by school districts, parents, and organizations contending that Pennsylvania’s system of education funding is broken.
Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pelligrini found that school funding is a legislative issue and not a legal matter.
Parents, including two from the Philadelphia School District, and districts including the William Penn system in Delaware County, filed the suit last fall, saying that state officials had “adopted an irrational school funding system that does not deliver the essential resources students need and discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities.”