The Philadelphia School Reform Commission held a hearing Wednesday night to gather comments on its proposed $2.9 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But only one speaker - retired teacher Karel Kilimnik - weighed in at the sparsely attended session.
Kilimnik decried the fact that schools are forced to compete with each other for scarce resources. "It's become The Hunger Games again," she said.
As part of the budget presentation, two principals told the commission how they would spend the additional money at their schools if Gov. Wolf's proposed budget is enacted.
Kimberly Newman, principal of Arthur School at 20th and Catherine Streets in South Philadelphia, said her wish list includes adding a "school climate manager" to help oversee the learning environment and help ensure that students' social and emotional needs are met.
Ted Domers, principal of G.W. Carver High School of Engineering and Science in North Philadelphia, said one of his priorities would be adding a half-time counselor to assist the single counselor he has for his 750 students, all of whom are college-bound.
But the whole exercise may have been academic.
The district is counting on $320 million in new money - $105 million from the city and $159 million from the state - to make its budget work.
"For now, this is the happy scenario we're discussing," said commission member Bill Green. "Schools getting additional resources, how they are going to spend them, and how it's going to benefit students in the entire school community."
The only way that happens, Green said, is if City Council provides the new money Mayor Nutter has asked for and if the legislature approves the funds Wolf has proposed.
But the governor and the legislature remain far, far apart.
And while measures have been introduced in Council for Nutter's proposed 9.3 percent property-tax increase with the money earmarked for the School District, his plan has received pushback from Council.
Absent the additional local and state funds, the cash-strapped district will face a $84.7 million shortfall and another year with fewer resources for students.
"We are going to be advocating to the General Assembly and to the City Council," Green said. He said the SRC needs parents, teachers, principals and community members to lobby, as they did last year, for more money for schools.
SRC Chairwoman Marjorie Neff said the funding proposals offered by Nutter and Wolf "would provide sorely needed relief for our schools, but they do not exist without substantial and sustained advocacy."
Commission member Farah Jimenez agreed, saying, "The small attendance at [Wednesday's] meeting does not mean that the job is done."
Neff said the SRC would make the case for additional local funds at a Council hearing May 26. The SRC is to vote on the budget May 28.