As newly appointed members of the Board of Education, we come with diverse backgrounds and opinions. However, as we enter this year’s budget season, we share a singular focus on creating and passing a budget that maintains the school district’s financial stability and invests in initiatives that continue and accelerate student achievement across all schools. On Thursday, we took the first step in this process by adopting the Lump Sum Budget for fiscal year 2020. On May 30, the board will adopt a final budget.
We think of a budget as reflecting a set of priorities, and so we have worked hard to make sure that this, our first budget, represents the board’s priorities. This budget includes real investments in schools that will build on strategies that we know work and fill critical needs. These include: 30 additional English Language teachers, new investments in Special Education, a curriculum specialist for World Languages, teacher-coaches for English Language Arts and Math, a new Office of Career Connectedness in conjunction with the City, expanded behavioral health staff and counselors, 25 additional teacher-residents for hard-to-fill subject areas, such as STEM and special education, and more. By making investments in areas that will provide our students with the support they need, we expect to see continued progress in student achievement and school climates.
While these investments will do much to support the learning happening in classrooms, we believe that a successful budget also must invest in the buildings that house these classrooms. We cannot overlook the direct effect that building conditions have on student productivity. All of our children, regardless of where they live and the school they attend, deserve to learn in safe and modern environments.
To this end, our proposed capital budget includes: modernizing 133 pre-K to 3rd grade classrooms in 10 schools and classroom modernization and new furniture in more than 140 elementary classrooms in 11 schools; implementation of the GESA (Guaranteed Energy Savings Act) Pilot Project to address outstanding repairs and lower utility costs; and the enhancement of classrooms by using certified EPA RRP (renovation, repair, and painting) practices to remove loose, peeling, and flaking lead paint.
Last summer, the District’s Operation team led improvement projects in 57 of our schools. The investments taking place during FY20 will help us continue to create better learning environments for our students.
The School District of Philadelphia is seeing success: 70 percent of schools throughout the city have improved; we’ve doubled the number of high-performing schools and decreased the number of low-performing schools by 50 percent; our graduation rate is up 6 percent (since school year 2014-15), and we’ve increased access to Advanced Placement (AP) and dual-enrollment classes for more than 6,500 students.
We are making progress, and we are moving our schools and students forward. This budget, with its emphasis on student achievement and support and facilities investments will help us to continue to move the needle on providing all of our children with the quality education that they deserve.
We want your input. We are committed to making the budget process transparent and easy to understand. You can access the specifics of our budget here, and we strongly urge you to participate in the budgetary process. Here’s what you can do:
Attend our next Finance & Facilities Committee meeting on April 11;
Attend the Board of Education budget hearing on April 25;
Submit written testimony to the Board of Education at email@example.com;
And advocate for fair school funding with your elected officials at the city, state, and federal levels.
Lee Huang and Leticia Egea-Hinton are co-chairs of the Board of Education’s Finance & Facilities Committee.