Transportation cuts on hold at Philly schools

Posted: August 22, 2014

IN A SUMMER of gloom and doom, could there be some good news for the Philadelphia School District?

The district delayed a vote last night on a policy that would eliminate TransPasses and tokens for 7,500 high-school students who live between 1 1/2 and 2 miles from school. Superintendent William Hite said the district is in talks with SEPTA and the city to resolve the issue.

"We are working with several partners, and we think and are hopeful that we will have a solution to that and there's more to come, so stay tuned," Hite said during a School Reform Commission meeting.

The cost-cutting measure, which would save the district about $3.6 million, would affect students at traditional public, charter and private schools.

It was announced by Hite last week in a series of cuts - which the district hopes are temporary - to address an $81 million deficit. They include not filling police vacancies, reducing building maintenance and trimming slots for alternative education.

Officials also will try to sell more unused properties and renegotiate with some vendors. The plan would save about $32 million.

The district's biggest hope is that state lawmakers will approve a Philadelphia cigarette tax, which could generate up to $49 million. Without that revenue, Hite said, the district will be forced to lay off hundreds of teachers and increase class sizes.

Earlier in the day, state Sens. Vincent Hughes and Larry Farnese were joined by education advocates, parents and staff to denounce conditions in schools last year when many schools shared counselors and nurses due to budget cuts.

Robin Roberts, the mother of a rising ninth-grader at Carver Engineering and Science High, said the full-time counselor at her son's middle school was replaced just before high school applications were due.

"This is the third year we're now failing our children and each year it gets worse," Roberts said. "These children don't have the opportunity to redo their academic school years."

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia said that more than 800 complaints were filed with the state Department of Education last school year by parents and students over "curriculum deficiencies," but were not addressed. The nonprofit law center plans to pursue legal action.

The SRC yesterday also approved the sale of vacant land near Waring Elementary to the Spring Garden Community Development Corp. for $65,000, and a three-year lease of the former LP Hill School to Northeast Treatment Services for $175,726 annually. It also accepted a $555,000 grant from Barra Foundation for the School Redesign Initiative.

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol


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