Proposed school budget cut begin to hit home
The $2.7 billion budget will be presented to the School Reform Commission tonight. The district must approve a budget by tomorrow.
CENTRAL HIGH School teacher Jacquelyn Mancinelli said she and everyone she knew were in "a state of disbelief" when they learned about the school district's proposed budget cuts.
The school's 27 athletic teams, many of them champions, gone.
The guidance counselors who assist students through the difficult process of college applications from September to Christmas vacation each year: also gone.
"But now it's starting to become more of a reality and everybody is really scared," said Mancinelli, 25, a ninth- and 10th-grade English teacher.
The $2.7 billion lump-sum budget will be presented tonight to the School Reform Commission by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. for consideration. By city-charter law, the district must approve a budget by tomorrow.
Still, even if it's approved, it "is not the end of the road," said school spokesman Fernando Gallard.
"The district can amend the budget by the end of June if and when they receive funding by the city and state," he said.
The budget, with a $304 million shortfall, would have devastating effects on education in Philadelphia, say teachers, parents, students and the district.
It would eliminate all extracurricular activities, sports, art and music. The budget would expand classes to the limit allowed by the Philadelphia teachers union contract: 30 students in grades K to 3, and 33 students in grades 4 to 12.
There would be one nurse for every 1,500 pupils, the state mandate, instead of the district's current rate of one per 1,000 students.
No support staff would be available to serve lunch, watch children during recess, greet visitors, type letters, answer phones or conduct business.
Assistant principals would be nothing more than a memory.
"It's devastating," said Lisa Kaplan, principal at Andrew Jackson Elementary School in South Philadelphia. "If they pass this, I don't know how we are going to do this as principals."
The district has asked for city and state funding - $60 million and $120 million, respectively. Hite said he also expects $133 million in concessions from the entire district workforce, particularly the district's various unions.
Yesterday a City Council committee approved one of two bills proposed by the Nutter administration that would help raise about $45 million for the district by adding a $2 tax per pack of cigarettes.
Another bill that would increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax by 5 percent and raise $22 million for the district did not move out of Council committee.
Both measures still require approval from the state Legislature.
State Rep. Cherelle Parker, head of the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg, did not reveal many details regarding progress in securing funds from the governor's office.
"In the House and Senate, we have been working extremely hard in our efforts to gain support," she said yesterday. "This is a huge crisis."
- Staff writer Jan Ransom contributed to this report.