Say Goodbye to Full Day Kindergarten, and Much More

Well, here’s something to make you sick to your stomach. The School District of Philadelphia announced its budget proposal addressing it’s projected $629M budget shortfall (via Kristen Graham of The Philadelphia Inquirer). The lowlights of the School District’s proposal–laying off 3,820 employees (including 400 administrators and 1,260 teachers + nurses, custodians and other ancillary staff, and elimination of full day kindergarten (return to the pre-Rendell 1/2 day K, thankfully not complete elimination of kindergarten).

Furthermore,

Cuts would hit classrooms hard. Each school’s discretionary budget would be reduced by about 30 percent. Common planning time would be wiped away completely. There would be a 50 percent cut to gifted education, a 30 percent reduction to vocational education, a 20 percent reduction to services for English-language learners, a 9 percent reduction in instrumental music, and a 5 percent reduction to special education.

There would be cuts to nurses (10 percent), psychologists (6 percent), and athletics (7 percent), including the elimination of interscholastic athletics in middle schools.

Facilities would take a 16 percent cut. School police would take a 9 percent cut, including a reduction of 190 per diem officer positions.

The transportation budget would be hit particularly hard, with a 44 percent cut. The district will bus only those pupils it is legally mandated to – special-education and charter students.

Under state law, if the district does not bus its own regular-education students, it is not required to bus nonpublic students, officials said.

Hopefully this budget proposal is just another step in the political dance between the school district, the state, and the city.  As distasteful as it is, I hope that some of this is political brinksmanship and that many of the more painful cuts will not come to pass.  Regardless, you can’t just wipe away a $629M+ budget deficit by making easy cuts.

From a school choice perspective, this development will surely give parents pause before choosing a Philadelphia Public School.  Parents that I have spoken to agree.  Even if full-day K is spared along with art/music/athletic programs, district employees’ morale will likely be extremely low and their workload (i.e., class size) extremely high.  Not exactly conducive to quality education.  Maybe the district will eventually recover and become more lean and mean–heaven knows they have needed to make that change for a long time.  But who wants to be around to watch it happen?  Ironically and tragically, this will probably tip the scales for many middle class families who have been on the fence on whether to stay in the city or move to the suburbs.  The result, an even lower tax base and bigger budget shortfalls in the future.

District Budget Hearings

The District is hosting several community meetings for the public to weigh in on its proposed 2011-12 budget.

  • Tuesday, May 3, at 6 p.m., Meredith Elementary, 725 S. Fifth St.
  • Saturday, May 7, at 10 a.m., Dunbar Elementary, 1750 N. 12th St.
  • Monday, May 9, at 6 p.m., Conwell Middle, 1849 E. Clearfield St.
  • Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m., Catherine Elementary, 6600 Chester Ave.
  • Monday, May 16, at 6 p.m., Fitzpatrick Elementary, 11061 Knights Rd.
  • Thursday, May 19, at 6 p.m., Ellwood Elementary, 6701 N. 13th St.

EDIT:  ADDED THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

More news stories on the topic, compiled by The Notebook

District: 3,800 positions may be eliminated The Notebook blog
District Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch presented the 2011-12 District budget and outlined likely areas for cuts if the District funding situation doesn’t change.

See also: What gets cut, what gets spared The Notebook blog
Phila. schools to see 16 percent layoffs The Inquirer
Philly schools may cut nearly 1,300 teachers AP via Bloomberg Businessweek
School District Calls for Big Budget Cuts Roxborough-Manayunk Patch
Philly School District Plans 3,820 Job Cuts NBC Philadelphia
DN Editorial: Killing charter reimbursements could be deadly to school district Daily News
A token of school cuts’ disaffection: End of free bus rides Daily News
District budget slashes deep: Nearly 4,000 could lose jobs The Hall Monitor blog
Phila. schools may cut jobs to close budget gap 6 ABC

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