Art in the city's schools is likely to be on the drawing board at the School Reform Commission meeting today.

People are lined up on both sides of a controversial resolution to sell most of the artwork donated to public schools over the years, to help plug a $73.3 million budget deficit this year.

"We're in a budget situation, a budget crisis," former SRC member Daniel Whelan said last month at the final meeting of his five-year term.

Whelan said the art, said to be worth $15 million to $20 million, should be sold. In addition, the district has been paying to keep the art in storage since the 2003-04 school year, when the district culled some 1,200 pieces from the schools. Only about 300 are said to be really valuable.

But teachers and alumni say they want their art back.

Woodrow Wilson Middle School teacher Marilyn Krupnick is scheduled to ask the SRC to return scores of paintings collected by Wilson staff, students and alumni since the 1930s. They include works by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Dox Thrash and members of the Pennsylvania Impressionists.

Krupnick and others from Wilson, at Cottman and Loretto in the Northeast, have asked Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts for help.

Kathleen Carignan, acting executive director of Lawyers for the Arts, said there is a legal issue of ownership.

"It's certainly an interesting question as to who really owns it, and what responsibility the school district and the schools have to who donated the art," Carignan said.

But Shelly Yanoff, president of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), said the district should sell the art to pay for art and music instruction in the schools.

"This city is museum-rich and school-poor," Yanoff said yesterday. "We need to hire more art and music teachers."

Sheila Simmons, education coordinator for PCCY, is scheduled to give that position to SRC members today.

W. Douglass Paschall, curator of collections at the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill, said it would be a mistake to sell the collection.

"The art was placed there to teach," Paschall said. "If they sold all the art to try to balance the budget, then next year, they'll still face budget problems, and they'll have no art." *