With multimillion-dollar question marks from Harrisburg hanging over the proceedings, School District of Philadelphia officials today presented their $3.2 billion 2009-10 unified budget to City Council.
While touting the programs and reforms included in the spending plan to take effect July 1, the district's top business official was candid about the uncertainty.
"The governor has proposed . . . funding levels and we have also proposed a balanced budget that incorporates these levels of support for public education. But it is up to the state legislature to act, and until they do, we will not know that the budget that we have represented to you is fully funded," said Michael J. Masch, the district's chief business officer.
At issue is $300.7 million that Gov. Rendell included in his budget proposal but which was left out of the state Senate's own proposal approved last week. The state House of Representatives is wrestling with that proposal.
Masch said $121 million in the cut funds is from a proposed increase in basic education subsidy. An additional $102 million is from federal stimulus funds, $43 million is from charter school reimbursement funds, $11 million is from pre-school programs, $8 million is from a program to aid low-income high schools, $7 million is from classroom technology funds, $6.5 million is from state Head Start assistance, $1.7 million is from the dual enrollment program and $500,000 is from the school-improvement fund.
"This all depends on the governor, the House and people who care about the education of children of Pennsylvania. If all of those people say, 'We're not doing this, this doesn't make sense,' then it's not going to happen," Masch said during a break in the hearing.
Though the annual school budget hearing is mandated under city law, the proceeding is largely for information-sharing because Council does not have the power to make changes to the district's budget. The district's governing School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote on the budget May 27.
If the state funds are not restored, instead of hiring 1,115 new teachers and other employees, Masch said, employees will be cut. The district's current budget proposal calls for 576 new teachers to be hired, most to lower class sizes in lower grades as part of the first year of the five-year Imagine 2014 reform plan.
In addition, 449 counselors are to be hired, 43 parent support personnel, 19 to work in dropout prevention and 18 others.
"If these cuts were to be enacted, we would not be hiring more teachers, we would need fewer teachers," Masch said. "We would not be lowering class sizes we would be increasing class sizes."