Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said Friday that a district already strained by layoffs and budget cuts in recent years could get even worse -- as in 1,000 fewer employees if it doesn't receive $216 million in additional funding for next year.
In officially unveiling its $2.49 billion proposed budget for next year, the district is asking for City Council to implement the extension of the 1 percent sales tax already approved by the General Assembly, which would provide roughly $120 million. On top of that, the district needs another $96.2 million to maintain current service levels, something Hite has repeatedly called "insufficient."
Without the additional funds, however, schools would essentially be reduced to "empty shells," Hite said. The district would be forced to make reductions to administration, non-instructional staff (school police, nurses, transportation, etc.) and classroom teachers. And due to the layoffs last year that cut school personnel to a bare minimum, the majority of the cuts would be classroom teachers, forcing an increase in class size.
Hite insisted that neither the city nor state can afford for the district to reach that point.
"This district can no longer cut its way to eliminating deficits," he said. "It's just not enough individuals remaining in the district."
In addition to the $216.2 million, the district is seeking another $224 million from city and state coffers, as well as labor concessions, for a total of $440 million. Hite says that level of investment will allow the district to begin to implement core initiatives outlined in Action Plan 2.0 around improving early literacy and improving high school graduation rates.
District officials will be face-to-face with many City Council members next month for the district's budget hearing on May 5.