Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission (SRC) passed its annual operating budget last night, but not before getting an earful from a raucous crowd of angry parents, teachers, and students.
Almost as soon as Thursday’s SRC meeting began, the overflow crowd made its feelings known, booing when acting superintendent Thomas Knudsen read a summary of the budget.
Under the $2.5 billion budget up for consideration, many schools faced continued shortages of basics like office supplies, nurses, and adequate support staff. But Knudsen told the SRC that even after cutting school budgets to the bone, the District is still facing a $218 million hole.
“We find ourselves at this juncture with just one choice to close the gap,” said Knudsen. “We must break out our credit card one last time and sell 20-year bonds to keep our schools operating at even this bare bones level this year.
Over and over, angry protestors shouted out their discontent, chanting “You say cutbacks, we say fightback!”
And teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan took the District to task not only for its budget, but also for its “portfolio management” reform plan, which calls for slashing the District’s central office, closing dozens of traditional public schools, and expanding charters.
“If you want to manage a portfolio, go work on Wall Street. If you want to educate Philadelphia’s children, then talk to us,” said Jordan.
Saying that the budget was balanced on the backs of children, parent groups from 49 Philadelphia schools took a vote of “no-confidence” in the plan. But Knudsen told reporters the District had no other options.
The budget still counts on receiving an extra $94 million dollars from the city, and the property tax re-assessment plan the Nutter administration is counting on to deliver that money seems far from a reality.