IT SEEMS THAT Mayor Nutter plans to take on a more active role in the goings-on of the School District of Philadelphia in light of the district's deep budget plight and a recent request for $110 million in additional funding.
In a letter addressed to the School Reform Commission and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Nutter told SRC and district officials that he expects not only to meet with senior staff on a monthly basis, but also to receive information including a list of vendor contracts, district facilities, and nonunion and instructional staff making $90,000 or more; performance evaluations of reform programs; recent audits and other financial statements.
Nutter's request comes in the wake of his proposal for a second-straight 10 percent property-tax increase, a soda tax and parking-meter rate hikes to help bail out the district.
With last Friday's "sudden and surprising" announcement by Ackerman that full-day kindergarten will be funded from Title 1 (federal) dollars for the coming school year, Nutter said, "the need for vital information is even more urgent."
"There is on the streets of Philadelphia a deep concern and feeling of uncertainty about what the School District has done and will do if granted additional funding to soften the sharp funding cuts that have been approved by the SRC," he said in the letter.
"Now is the time for rapid response and a clearing of the air."
When reached last night, Ackerman said she hadn't yet seen the letter but will comply with the mayor's request.
"I can't imagine that there's anything the mayor can ask that we would not be willing to share," she said.
"This is a partnership; I have no problem sharing information he might request."
Nutter hopes the terms will be formalized in an agreement he dubbed the "Education Accountability Agreement," to be signed by both entities by noon Thursday, he said.
The $25 million to keep full-day kindergarten - the district had threatened to offer only half-day kindergarten to help fill a $629 million deficit - will have to be taken from other programs.
Ackerman conceded that budget problems remain - cuts to busing and other essential services still loom - and that layoff notices will be delivered to teachers and some staffers in administration offices by today.
Nutter asked officials to provide a plan on how they would allocate the additional funding should they get it.
He said he expects the first set of information to be delivered to him by next Wednesday.