School officials applaud city funding help, turn eye to state

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Schools Superintendent William Hite (left) and SRC chairman Bill Green Jr. say they are happy with City Council's funding moves for the school district.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Schools Superintendent William Hite (left) and SRC chairman Bill Green Jr. say they are happy with City Council's funding moves for the school district.
Posted: June 20, 2014

THE PHILADELPHIA School District is a step closer to avoiding devastating cuts, thanks to a surprising move by City Council yesterday, although the district is not out of the woods yet.

Council authorized the city to borrow $27 million on behalf of the district for this fiscal year. It also introduced a last-minute bill that would authorize the city to borrow another $30 million for the district next fiscal year to help close a $96 million deficit.

The second piece of borrowing legislation comes a week after city lawmakers vowed not to borrow more than $27 million to aid the distressed district. It is expected to be voted on when Council returns in September.

"Our crisis demands urgent actions and we are thrilled that the City Council responded in kind," Superintendent William Hite said last night during a School Reform Commission meeting. "We must now turn our efforts, both individually and collectively, to Harrisburg and labor."

The district still needs the General Assembly to give Council permission to enact a $2-per-pack cigarette tax for Philadelphia only, which would take effect in January and would generate a projected $45 million. It also seeks additional funds from the state, and labor concessions from the teachers union.

SRC chairman Bill Green urged advocates not to give up the fight.

"The more voices that are heard, the better chances we have in Harrisburg," he said.

Earlier this week, Hite said the district needed $96 million to avoid devastating cuts, including laying off hundreds of teachers, increasing class sizes, reducing school police and cutting busing requirements to force high school students to walk farther.

With the funding uncertainty, the SRC eschewed voting on a "doomsday" budget by May 30, as required by the city charter, but it must pass a spending plan by June 30 in order to collect taxes.

The SRC took several other actions at yesterday's meeting:

* Approved nonrenewal of the charter of New Media Technology Charter in Northwest Philadelphia. It begins a lengthy process that could take up to a year.

* Voted for five-year renewals of Khepera Charter, Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter and Freire Charter.

* Approved the permanent closure and sale of William Penn High School in North Philadelphia to Temple University for $15 million.


On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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