Philadelphia School District officials introduced their 2014-15 budget Friday morning, and it was just as grim as promised. It projects operating revenues of $2.5 billion and expenditures of $2.8 billion.
The school system needs $440 million in new city and state money to provide just a few more services than they currently do. To maintain the current level of funding, which does not allow for counselors or nurses in every school or adequate supplies, the district needs a total of $216.2 million in new money.
And if it doesn't get the funds? Officials said there was hardly anywhere to cut but where it hurts most.
Philadelphians want the School Reform Commission abolished and the city's public schools returned to local control, the teachers' union said Tuesday.
Nearly 97 percent of over 3,000 city residents surveyed over three months favor a return to local control for the Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers officials announced. PFT members and members of PCAPS, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, conducted the survey.
Most of those polled said that if the SRC is abolished, they favor either an elected school board or a combination of an elected and appointed school board.
Philadelphia voters are down on the School Reform Commission and Gov. Corbett, and side with city teachers in their contract dispute with the Philadelphia School District.
The news comes from a new poll of registered voters commissioned by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and conducted by Hart Research Associates.
Corbett, the poll found, gets low marks from city voters on education issues. In all, 74 percent of the 554 registered voters surveyed said they are either fully dissatisified or somewhat dissatisifed with how the governor has handled public education. And, pollster Guy Molyneux says, 62 percent of voters say Corbett's handling of education has made them less likely to support him for re-election in November, including 53 percent of voters who are not registered Democrats.
Two local education-reform organizations have filed papers asking the state Supreme Court to act quickly on the School Reform Commission's request to affirm it has broad powers to impose work-rule changes.
The Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN (Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now) on Monday filed an amicus curiae - friend of the court - brief with the high court. PSP and PennCAN, in the brief, noted the organizations are "deeply concerned that the ongoing and annually-worsening city school budget crisis - and the intractable labor disputes that always accompany it - will continue to erode the state of public education in Philadelphia."
The SRC has moved to make broad changes, including bypassing seniority for Philadelphia School District teacher assignments, transfers, layoffs and recalls. The commission asked the state Supreme Court to declare definitively that the 2001 law that created the SRC gives it the power to do make those changes.
Ozzie Wright knows Bartram High. He was raised in the neighborhood, and when he returned to Philadelphia from military service, he lived in a house near the school on S. 67th Street.
And when the retired Philadelphia principal and Army captain heard about what was going on at Bartram this year - fights and open marijuana smoking and a "conflict resolution specialist" knocked unconscious by a student - his reaction was typical: shock, dismay.
"I hate to see these things happen in any school," said Wright.
Trouble continues at Bartram High, where a "conflict resolution specialist" was knocked unconscious on March 21.
A brawl erupted in the school cafeteria on Tuesday, with teens punching and stomping on each other and school police. The fight occurred at lunchtime, and was captured by a cell phone camera, with footage posted on social media.
It appears serious, with dozens gathered, and several students exchanging punches. A male school police officer attemps to separate them as the room fills with screams. In short order, a larger brawl erupts between mostly female students. A female police officer attempts to break up one skirmish, then others. At one point, the female police officer appears to fall to the floor.
Two more Philadelphia public schools have been tapped for likely conversion to charter schools.
Muñoz Marín Elementary and Steel Elementary were designated "Renaissance," or turnaround, schools on Tuesday, the Philadelphia School District announced. Muñoz-Marín was paired with ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, and Steel was paired with Mastery Charter Schools, Inc.
But it's not a done deal - yet. In a new wrinkle in the Renaissance process, parents at both schools will have final say over whether they become charters or remain district schools.
Helen Gym, a founder of Parents United for Public Education and a board member of Asian Americans United, is being honored by the White House next week.
Gym has been named a Chesar Chavez Champion of Change - one of 10 community leaders nationally who have "committed themselves to improving the lives of others in their communities and across the country," people who "represent the values and steadfast determination of Cesar Chavez to organize ourselves for a more just tomorrow."
Gym and the other Champions will particpate in a discussion about how to expand opportunities for all Americans, according to a White House news release.