Reports: Phila. schools bracing for big cuts

Facing a massive budget gap, Philadelphia School District officials are preparing for the worst. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has asked top administrators to prepare scenarios for 20-, 25-, and 30-percent cuts. Projections show a shortfall of as much as $430 million.  The district’s budget is about $3.2 billion.

Phil Goldsmith was interim schools superintendent from 2000 to 2001, before becoming the city’s managing director under former Mayor John Street.  Goldsmith says any of the scenarios will require cutting staff.

“It’s not going to be done by just cutting back office supplies and memos and things like that,” says Goldsmith.  “It’s going to require, you know, layoffs.”

But Goldsmith says it should never have come to this.  He says the district’s declining enrollment should have triggered a round of layoffs long ago.

“They knew that there was going to be a financial issue,” he says.  “This stuff should have been done.  And the fact it wasn’t done now means the cuts have to be larger.  If this had been done over time, you wouldn’t have had to take such draconian cuts as have to be done now.”

As far as generating new revenue, Goldsmith says it’ll be a tough sell to get the state’s new Republican legislature to kick in more money for the district.

The school district issued the following statement on the issue:

“The School District of Philadelphia is exploring multiple options to soften the impact of a budget shortfall.  We will have to make strategic fiscal decisions, but, in doing so, we will remain focused on funding those programs and initiatives that led to the recent, tremendous increase in achievement by our students.  Their needs and education remain our priority throughout this process. Governor-Elect Corbett has not announced his official cabinet, but we certainly welcome the opportunity to work with them to address the matter.”

You can read Phil Goldsmith’s “It’s Our Money” column on the cuts here.

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