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Philly Schools To Open On Time, But With Service Reductions

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School District of Philadelphia will open as planned on September 8th, with temporary “service reductions” but no immediate layoffs of teachers or other staff.

The announcement was made this morning by school district superintendent Dr. William Hite.

The school district is currently facing an $81-million revenue shortfall.

Hite said that classes will start on time and that “mass layoffs” will not be implemented at this time.  Hite also went on to say that schools will look similar to last year.

“For the sake of educating children and minimizing disruptions for families, we have made the decision to make a series of additional difficult -– and hopefully, temporary -– cuts in order to open schools on time,” said Hite.  “Delaying the start of the school year punishes students for adult failures.”

The following service reductions will be implemented:

  • High school students who live within two miles of school will not receive transportation support (an increase from 1.5 miles), impacting approximately 7,500 students at district, charter, and non-public schools.
  • Reduced services in alternative education programs, which will result in fewer higher-quality options for approximately 300 students.
  • Elimination of preparation and professional development time for teachers at Promise Academies.
  • Less frequent cleaning of schools, fewer cleaning supplies, and delayed repairs at schools.
  • Not filling 34 school police officer vacancies, reducing the number of officers available to support school climate and safety.
  • Additional departmental staffing reductions in direct support for schools and families. Details regarding these reductions will be announced at a later date.

 

Hite said the school district is working on negotiating lower prices with its vendors, and he urged the teachers’ union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, to make further concessions.  Hite said the school board is no longer seeking across-the-board wage reductions but is instead pressuring the teachers to accept reductions in benefits.

Hite said the situation is far from ideal but the cuts being implemented would do the least harm to students, compared with delaying the opening of schools.

The superintendent added that the current plan is based on the assumption that the district will receive extra revenue from a city-only cigarette surtax to help fill that $81-million budget gap.  He said if that cigarette tax isn’t in place by mid-October, there could be mass layoffs in the school district.

City Council president Darrell Clarke today released a statement calling the announcement that schools will open on time “of little comfort.”    He said the proposed Philadelphia cigarette tax will do little to fix the school district’s ongoing structural deficit, and called for long-term strategies to address the persistent shortfalls.

 

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