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Not for wonks only

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The 349-page budget book with details of spending, department-by-department, is now up on the School District’s Web site, just in time for the first community meetings, which are today and tomorrow at Girls’ High and Sayre.

Yes, it’s big and hard to understand, but I encourage you all to take a few minutes and see whether you can make some sense out of some or all of this document, and post comments about what you discover.

With the Inquirer’s recent revelations about the patronage jobs on the District’s payroll, discussed in Helen Gym’s post, I went right to the back of the book to find out how many Board of Revision of Taxes employees the District is expecting to pay for this year, and how much.

I found the answer on page 332. There will be 80 BRT employees on the District payroll at a total cost of $4.56 million. These employees, mostly clerks, are not earning a big salary (the average is about $36,000) but add in a $20,000 benefits package and the pricetag to the District becomes even heftier. Mayor Nutter acknowledged to the Inquirer that these are positions that have nothing to do with the functions of the School District. And that money could cover the costs for full-time librarians in about 50 schools.

I’m just starting to peruse this, but here are just a few tidbits from the first few sections:

  • You’ll find a District organizational chart on page 37 – first time I’ve seen this one
  • The various grant funds received by the District are shown on p. 50, where we see they’re expecting, among other things, a $6 million increase in "Title I-School Improvement/Accountability" funds and a $300K increase in "Title III – Language Instruction for LEP & Immigrant Students"
  • We see on p 60 that the departments under the Chief Business Officer are slated to receive an almost $28M, or more than 50%, boost in their budget. We’ll have to dig into the sections about those departments for more detail
  • The District on p. 60 is also projecting that it will have an additional 1,115 positions next year (FTEs are full-time equivalents). That’s mostly going to be "instructional" and "pupil/family support," ie, teachers and counselors.

Don’t stay up all night!

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