This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
At City Council budget hearings today, the School District provided a handout on the potential impact of PA Senate Bill 850, if it were to be enacted into law. It breaks down how, in fact, the adoption of the Senate plan for state education would gut more than $300 million from Philadelphia schools, almost entirely wiping out all the anticipated increases, counteracting the fact that the District would still be getting a large infusion of stimulus money.
Clearly, District leaders are anticipating a battle.
The Republican majority in the PA Senate want to freeze education spending at current levels, so the basic education subsidy for Philly, instead of going up by $120 million as Gov. Rendell has proposed, would be flat. In addition, $102 million in "state fiscal stabilization" funds would not come to Philly. This funding stream would be redirected so that the state could spend less of its own money on schools. Cuts to charter school reimbursement ($43 million), Pre-K Counts, the Educational Empowerment Act, Classrooms for the Future, PA Headstart, Dual Enrollment, and the School Improvement Fund bring the grand total in cuts for Philly up to $300 million.
Right now the District’s budget is premised on all that revenue being restored … so the governor’s position will have to prevail across the board. District leaders are hopeful that there is enough enthusiasm for the new initiatives in the strategic plan (class size reduction, more counselors, new funds for special education, clasroom technology, professional development and more) that there will be strong political support to turn back the Senate’s education austerity plan.