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Philadelphia Councilmembers Grill Schools Chief As Funding Controversy Deepens

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(Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman, in file photo.  Photo by Mike DeNardo)

(Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman, in file photo. Photo by Mike DeNardo)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman went before Philadelphia City Council today, hat in hand, asking for a $102-million bailout.

But Council members are openly questioning Ackerman’s spending priorities.

Ackerman wants the money to cover one-sixth of the school district’s massive deficit (see related story), and City Council faces a difficult choice of raising part of that cash through either a soda tax or a property tax hike (another related story).

Some Council members, including Jim Kenney and Bill Green, grilled Ackerman on why there is already money for some pet programs like a brief summer program called “Slam” ($24 million) although she needs a similar amount of new money ($21 million) in order to lower class sizes.

“Obviously, class size is important,” Ackerman told Green.

(Green:) “But the question is, is it more important to you than Slam, and Saturday attendance?  And if not, shouldn’t it be?”

(Ackerman:) “It’s number two on the list.”

After about five hours of testimony and discussion, and without any consensus among councilmembers on how to solve the funding dilemma, a resumption of the hearing was scheduled for next week.

Reported by KYW City Hall Bureau chief Mike Dunn

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