Philadelphia Councilmembers Grill Schools Chief As Funding Controversy Deepens

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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