Phila. SRC refuses to pass 'doomsday budget'

Sharrie Williams Image
Friday, May 30, 2014
Budget for Philadelphia schools stalls
The proposed budget for Philadelphia Public Schools has been stalled.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, at the urging of Superintendent William Hite, has opted not to pass the so-called 'doomsday budget' proposed for the city's school district.

The proposed budget included drastic cuts and teacher layoffs.

There were strong statements from the very beginning of the commission's meeting Thursday night.

"This is serious for the future of this city and for the education of their children," said Hite.

There was a sense of urgency from Hite as he voiced his displeasure over the proposal.

He urged the commission not to take action on the budget "until there is more certainty around revenue from the state and from the city."

Moments later came the surprise move from the SRC to support Hite's recommendation.

"Rather than adopting the 'Doomsday 2' budget and giving anyone the impression that the cuts it contains are feasible or acceptable, we are not going to act on the budget tonight consistent with Dr. Hite's recommendation," said SRC Chair Bill Green.

The bare-bones budget would force the district to slash $216 million, which would likely result in 800 teachers being laid off. That would lead to larger class sizes.

Teachers' advocates and parents showed up at Thursday night's meeting to air their concerns about deeper budget cuts.

"We are stripping our schools of resources and then sitting back and watching what happens to our kids," said longtime community activist Helen Gym. "And that is brutal. And it has had untold consequences, and our children have paid the price."

Students were also on hand to protested the proposed budget.

"If we work together and give our 100 percent, we can make a change," said Shatoni Caldwell.

According to the city charter, the district is required to pass a budget by May 31st.

The SRC has made clear it has no intention of meeting that deadline. Officials call the deadline more of a formality.

The district is, however, looking ahead to a more concrete date of June 30th.

As for rejecting the budget, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers applauded the move.

The teachers' union released a statement which read in part:

"Delaying the adoption of another 'doomsday budget' is not merely prudent, it is the only moral option. As significant as tonight's action or inaction by the SRC is, it is ultimately a simple acknowledgement that our schools and educators simply have no more to give."

School district officials say they are optimistic that they will get more funding from the state and city in the coming weeks.