Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes made waves in 1977 with their hit record, "This Time It's For Real." Superintendent William H. Hite Jr. may be humming a similar tune when Philadelphia schools open in three weeks. He's much more certain that the district won't have to beg for another large infusion of cash to make it through the school year.

"While we continue to have work to do, the Philadelphia School District begins the 2016-17 school year more optimistic than we have been in years as we work toward our goal of great schools close to where children live," Hite told the Inquirer Editorial Board. "After years of difficult choices and smart fiscal management, not only has our budget stabilized, we are making $440 million in investments over the next five years."

The district will begin the school year with a fund balance, or surplus, of $129 million. State funding will include $1.1 billion for basic education and $137 million for special education. Total city funding is expected to reach about $1.2 billion. But even at that level, officials say the district's $2.7 billion budget could fall $7 million short.

The problem is a structural deficit that over the next five years is expected to see expenditures reach double the amount of the revenue the district receives. It can't cut its way out of the predicament. The district has been depriving schools of personnel and learning materials ever since Gov. Tom Corbett eliminated nearly $1 billion in state funding to all public schools in 2011.

Hite said city schools would be in a deficit situation now if the legislature had not extended Philadelphia's $2-a-pack cigarette tax, which is expected to bring $100 million to the district. With better funding, the district plans to invest $7.2 million in low-performing schools. "This year every high school has an updated laboratory outfitted with new and improved learning materials and computers," he said.

There are more reasons for Hite to be optimistic. He says hundreds of new teachers have been hired to fill a backlog of vacancies and reduce the need for substitutes. Budget cuts have been reversed to put a counselor and a nurse in every school. A labor contract with the district's blue-collar workers has been approved, and Hite believes agreements with principals and teachers are imminent.

In fact, the union that represents principals and other administrators rejected a four-year contract last month even though it included a 3 percent bonus, salary increases, and no rate hike for health insurance. Union officials said "unacceptable" working conditions were the sticking point. Hite said he believes those issues can be resolved. He said talks with teachers have also resumed.

That is very good news. Teachers have been working without a contract since August 2013. Hite said he was optimistic because "we're no longer asking them to help absorb the economic challenges facing the district." He said pay increases were on the table and that raises for teachers were included in the district's five-year fiscal plan. "We're offering real money for teachers," he said.

As the stalled talks with principals show, it's not always about the money. But Hite has reason to be hopeful about the approaching school year. Not having to beg for cash to get it started is a very good sign.