Since the 2011-12 school year, the district has made a compelling case that it faces massive budget problems for the current year. If uncorrected, a deficit of up to $1 billion is projected over five years.
To avert fiscal calamity, the School Reform Commission recently adopted a five-year plan that calls for reducing labor costs and other expenses.
In that atmosphere, the request for union concessions seems reasonable, and three unions have agreed to givebacks. Employees in the central office were also forced to take salary cuts and contribute more toward their health-care costs. The school police, among the lowest-paid employees, are the only union that has not agreed to pay cuts requested by the district.
How can a district that has had to borrow $300 million to cover its current deficit justify a raise for managers?
According to district spokesman Fernando Gallard, the bulk of the increases were given to employees who were promoted or took "on significant new responsibilities."
But at least three employees whose job titles didn't change received pay hikes ranging from $5,000 to $11,100.
Former communications officer Evelyn Sample-Oates received one of the biggest increases, $42,537, in her new position as chief of family and community engagement.
The raises were approved by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., and Thomas Knudsen, the chief recovery officer, who should be charting a more responsible fiscal course for the district.
Gallard also said that the savings from the raises withheld from the school police would pay salaries and benefits for 36 newly hired school cops.
Safety issues in the schools warrant the expansion of the force, but it is no surprise that members of the School Police Association of Philadelphia are seeing red after learning of the manager raises. An arbitration hearing is set for February.
The School District should be working to restore public confidence in its fiscal management, not undermining it with questionable decisions.