Schools chief Arlene C. Ackerman on Friday saved full-day kindergarten but angered a powerful ally fighting for money for the School District of Philadelphia.
The kindergarten announcement came at an afternoon news conference. "I've heard the voices of the community, the voices of our dedicated parents," Ackerman said. "We're going to celebrate today, but we have to fight tomorrow."
But the Nutter administration signaled that it was not happy at being kept in the dark about the kindergarten deal. Ackerman notified the mayor - who has strongly advocated for an extra $75 million to $110 million in city funding for the district - only an hour before she made the announcement.
"It's a big problem," Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said emphatically Friday night. It was not immediately clear what the repercussions would be.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Nutter said he was "pleasantly surprised" at the announcement but still planned to put forward proposals for a property-tax hike and a tax on sugary beverages to pump more money into the district.
Ackerman said news of the kindergarten deal, which affects 14,000 students, should signal to City Hall, Harrisburg, and others that "we are trying our best to use the funds in a strategic way."
Ackerman and Nutter said the fight was not over.
The district still needs millions in extra funding to maintain small classes, and restore art and music, counselors, nurses, and special-education services, officials said.
In the past, kindergarten had been paid for by a $55 million state accountability block grant, which has been eliminated for 2011-12. Beginning next year, the district will use federal Title I money, which is allocated to schools that educate poor children, to fund the program.
The district typically uses Title I money for such things as summer programs, reduced-class-size initiatives, and employee training.
Now, Ackerman said, "we're going to have to go back and take from some of those things to pay for kindergarten."
Ackerman said the deal on using the federal money for kindergarten came together quickly, and was possible only this week, once the School Reform Commission officially passed a budget.
She had not raised with Nutter or City Council the possibility of using Title I money for kindergarten, officials said.
After raising the option with her staff on Thursday afternoon, Ackerman called state Department of Education officials Friday morning and was given the all-clear by afternoon. A waiver is forthcoming to affirm that the district is properly using the Title I money.
Ackerman said it was imperative for her to figure the deal out by Monday, when layoff notices will go out.
"Doomsday for me was June 6," she said.
The move saves 174 kindergarten teacher jobs and is also a victory for parents, who boarded buses to lobby legislators, signed petitions, made phone calls, and organized rallies to stave off the cut.
Many were jubilant at the news.
Cindy Clark has a son beginning kindergarten at Meredith Elementary in the fall.
"I had no idea what I was going to do" if the program wasn't saved, said Clark, who helped organize parents to save kindergarten. "This is great news."
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, chair of the Education Committee, said the arrangement was "an example of good minds working together."
Despite the news, Nutter said the district still needed money and he planned to continue working to raise the cash.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday on two proposals the administration introduced this week - one to raise property taxes 10 percent and another to create a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.
The district's announcement, Nutter said, doesn't "have any material impact on the need for hearings and, more importantly, the need for money. I think the issue there is the need is still great. Dollars are still needed."
Nutter underscored that moving around Title I money created new holes in school programs.
"Those Title I dollars are presently being used for something and now are going to be diverted to pay for full-day kindergarten, and we have to find out what the proposed cuts are . . . and what programs will not be funded," the mayor said.
He also said the administration would be "putting forward accountability measures" next week to create a closer working relationship with the schools and ensure that city money was spent on agreed-upon priorities.
The administration plans to propose that the district do strict multiyear planning linking revenue to spending.
Councilman Bill Green, who had blasted the district for putting full-day kindergarten and transportation cuts on the table in the first place, said he was pleased the district listened to Council, parents, and activists who beseeched officials not to cut kindergarten.
But he diverged with Nutter on the need to keep a tax hike on the table.
"This has ended the need to raise taxes," Green said. "This is not even a justification to raise taxes now. It really is disappointing that the mayor's knee-jerk reaction was to increase taxes rather than try to have our partners first give us a responsible budget."
Finding more money could affect the number of layoffs, but district officials are proceeding with plans to issue notices to thousands of employees on Monday.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said Friday night he had been told that 2,229 of his members will receive layoff notices. Of those, 1,498 are teachers.