The School District of Philadelphia
Office of Communications
440 N. Broad Street, Suite 301~Philadelphia, PA 19130-4015~(215)400-4040

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Fernando A. Gallard
215-400-6349



05/29/2014

STATEMENTS FROM SUPERINTENDENT HITE AND SRC CHAIRMAN GREEN ON DELAYED ADOPTION OF FY2015 BUDGET

PHILADELPHIA—Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent, and William J. Green, School Reform Commission (SRC) chairman, gave the statements below at the May 29 SRC meeting.  

Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent:  

Last year, in our effort to work towards financial balance, we adopted a budget that left our schools in dire conditions that persist to this day. With only weeks left in the school year, many of our teachers, administrators, support staff and other employees are still spending each school day just trying to hold it together until the bell rings, until the next school day, until the end of this school year. While their efforts are admirable, running schools this way for another year is unsustainable, and does an extreme disservice to our students and families.

The $440 million requested from the City and state, and concessions from our labor unions is an attempt to reverse what has amounted to a systemic disinvestment in Philadelphia public schools and students. Our severely under-resourced school system threatens the future of one of America’s greatest cities. Our funding challenges carry costs that will be felt not only by public school students and parents, but every Philadelphian and by extension, all residents of the Commonwealth.

The School District does not have the authority to generate its own revenue. Had the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted a fair funding formula in 2010-2011, the District would have received $4,000 more per student, totaling $2.5 billion over the last five years. Charter schools would have received hundreds of millions more. In the absence of adequate funds, the District remains in a perilous position, unable to enact lasting reforms that meet the needs of students, families and school communities.

Many contend that District revenues have increased in the years since the steep revenue drop in 2010-2011. Our revenues are not increasing at the same rate of our costs. Our pension and health care costs are rising above the rate of inflation. Our revenue increases amount to giving an additional dollar to cover three dollars’ worth of costs. It is not enough. Worse, our revenue increases have been, for the most part, in the form of one-time funds, leaving us with uncertainty about revenue for the next year and over the long-term.

Just yesterday, the principal of one of our finest schools noted that next year’s budget does not include any money for copy paper. It is one thing to ask parents to fundraise for extras – field trips, for instance – but to ask them, or our business partners, or the greater Philadelphia community to provide the basics because we cannot causes me to question how we got here and whether there is public will to get back on track.

I do not have any questions, however, about what will happen if we do not reverse this pattern of asking our schools to do more with less. Young families with children and young professionals will flee the city. Property values will decline. Businesses will have to look outside of the city for skilled employees. The tax base will fall. Costs for social services, health care and law enforcement will rise. This will be the future of Philadelphia.

We have seen the short-term effects of disinvestment: Many of our schools need building upgrades. We can’t afford them. We’ve had to close schools, lay off staff and reduce programs and resources that students need and want.

Since my arrival two years ago, I have become increasingly troubled by what is happening in our schools and to our students and staff. There are not enough supports for students: We need more counselors, nurses and hallway/cafeteria aides. Our administrators need more staff. I hear the same message from parents, teachers, principals, students and other staff – that this is no way to operate our schools.

The status quo cannot continue. Great cities are bolstered and sustained by quality investments in education. Investing in education is good business, good public policy and promotes a family-first agenda. Investing in education secures students’ rights to a quality education.

We need to be able to do what we know works best for students without being hindered by our budget. We need to provide students with better access and exposure to advanced courses to improve their prospects for attending college. We need investments that help close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates.

Our Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski is going to present a budget tonight that I cannot endorse as educationally sound or economically prudent for the city or state. This budget is based on our known revenues. I recommend that you not consider the budget until we have a clearer sense of our revenues, which will allow us to create a more academically sound financial plan.

William J. Green, Chairman, School Reform Commission:  

As I testified to City Council several weeks ago, we have a collective obligation to our children, which starts with providing a free, quality public education.  

Anyone who has spent time in our schools this year knows that we are failing to meet that obligation – we are not providing our students with the educational opportunity they deserve.   

We also know that our principals, teachers, and support staff are holding things together with duct tape, and are stretching to the breaking point in their efforts to protect students as much as possible from the impact of the cuts.   

As our Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski has said time and again, we got through this year with one-time funds, which haven’t yet been replaced with recurring revenue, and we face fixed costs that continue to grow. There aren’t any gimmicks or quick fixes to solve our financial challenges And there’s no fat or even flesh left to cut – we’re now talking about amputations.   

As Dr. Hite expressed, the kinds of cuts to our schools that our known revenues for next year would require are devastating and unacceptable.   

Rather than adopting a “Doomsday II” budget – and give anyone the impression that the cuts it contains are feasible or acceptable – we are going to not act on the budget tonight. Instead, we will continue to focus our energy and attention on securing the needed funding for our schools from both the City and state.   

The case for investment is strong. Dr. Hite and the great team he has assembled know how to make all of our public schools great. They have a real plan, based on real data.  Just as importantly, they have the courage to challenge the status quo, which has failed our students for far too long.   

Implementing that plan requires actual resources in the form of recurring, stable revenue. It requires our city and state leaders to invest in our students. If they do, the District will succeed.  Our children will succeed.  And Philadelphia will succeed.   

Our population will grow, as our families have school options that keep them in the city. Our tax base will grow, as our young people graduate with the skills needed for college and career and employers have the confidence to expand in our city. Rather than our current vicious cycle, we’ll be in a virtuous one, in which our investment in education returns greater and greater dividends for all Philadelphians.  

Every day, families are making decisions about whether to stay in Philadelphia. Every day, students are experiencing the harmful consequences of our lack of a full, fair funding formula in Pennsylvania. Every day, the urgency of securing the needed funding for next year increases.  

Let us be clear – the stakes are great and failing to our collective obligation to our children is not an option.

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