School District Strikes Deal Over State Funding

Posted: June 04, 2000

The Philadelphia School District last week made a deal with Gov. Ridge's administration that will keep schools open through the end of the next academic year and avert a state takeover of the 212,000-student system.

But the deal will not be final until the city finds a way to contribute $20 million more to the schools, as Mayor Street has pledged. Some City Council members are skeptical of the deal and unconvinced that the city should provide the money. They are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow to grill district officials about the school system's finances.

Under the deal announced Wednesday night - minutes before the Board of Education approved a $1.59 billion budget - the state is deferring district payment on $59 million it says it is owed and advancing $363 million in basic-education subsidies to the district in July and August. That early infusion of funds will help yield about $10 million in interest for the district.

In return, the school district and city have agreed to suspend for one year a federal lawsuit alleging that the state's school-funding formula is racially discriminatory. Also, the district agreed to cut $30 million from its budget.

Among the cuts identified are the consolidation of three disciplinary schools into two, cuts in the comprehensive child-care program due to declining enrollment, less staff training, and the closure of two adult-education programs offering free academic and vocational classes to city residents.

The deal helped reduce the district's projected deficit for 2000-2001 to $80 million. City and state officials also have agreed to work on a longer-term funding solution.

But still uncertain is the fate of Superintendent David Hornbeck's new promotion and graduation requirements, which call for some students to pass standardized tests this year. The budget included $15 million for new programs to help struggling students meet the requirements - $30 million less than the board originally had planned.

- Susan Snyder

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