Philadelphia School District officials must return to the drawing board to make some tough decisions on how to close a $292 million budget gap in the wake of Gov. Corbett's unforgiving budget proposal.
What's sure to come down the pike are a spate of teacher layoffs, ballooning class sizes and cuts to sports, arts and music. The district also plans to cut 30 percent of its central-office staff, including some executive positions.
There's no telling how many people might lose their jobs, but Michael Masch, the district's chief financial officer, said that in the district's effort to fill the hole, no stone will be left upturned.
"We're not going to promise you that we're going to preserve any program," he said, adding: "We're not going to tell you that we're going to cut a program just because the funding for that program has been cut."
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and her executive staff will have to determine their academic priorities so that the district can seek ways to fund them, Masch said. Officials didn't rule out making a case to City Council to increase the local contribution.
But before reaching any decision, he said, district officials plan to hold two meetings to get feedback from principals, teachers and the community.
In her opening remarks at yesterday's School Reform Commission meeting, Ackerman put up a strong front.
"We've been through tough times before and we'll get through this one," she said. "We're not going to quit on this side of the table."
District officials put next year's loss of state money at $292 million. Of that amount, the district would lose $55 million in funding for full-day kindergarten; $19 million for summer school and after-school programs for struggling students; and $1 million for gifted students to take college classes.
Another major blow to the district would be the loss of $110 million for charter-school reimbursements and $170 million in basic-education funding.
The loss would represent a 10 percent drop in the district's overall funding, compared with this year's, said Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery. Officials said that the cuts were $100 million more than the district anticipated.
More than 25 percent of Corbett's proposed cuts would fall on Philadelphia, even though the city's school district educates a little more than 10 percent of the state's public-school students, Nunery said.
Corbett's budget must be approved by the Legislature.
Nunery said that the district recognizes the state's financial challenges but that the proposed cuts would disrupt the district's progress.
"We're prepared to do our part, largely to deal with not only those challenges, but to educate our children," he said.
However, he said, the cuts would affect the district's ability "to sustain the momentum of the past eight consecutive years of rising test scores and charter-school expansion."
As part of its three-pronged budget plan to combat the challenges, the district announced that Ackerman and Nunery would work 20 days unpaid.
Ackerman's executive team will work without pay for 16 days, and nonunion employees earning $100,000 or more will take six days. Those days will be taken this year and next. Officials estimate that this will save more than $600,000.
The first feedback meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 17 at Benjamin Franklin High School, and the second will be at 10 a.m. March 19 at South Philadelphia High.