This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
"Free" public education just got a bit more expensive for parents at Center City’s Greenfield Elementary School.
Feeling a pinch from the Philadelphia School District’s budget shortfall, Greenfield principal Dan Lazar has sent parents an "urgent request" asking families to contribute $613 per student.
"It is my sincere hope that this will only be a temporary measure, but unfortunately our new reality necessitates such a drastic request," said Lazar in his email to parents, putting Greenfield on a small but growing list of city public schools making direct money pitches to parents.
The District faces a $304 million dollar budget gap, forcing layoffs of teachers and other personnel. If today was the first day of classes, District schools would open without counselors, front office staff, noontime aides, and other staff, as well as a lack of basic school supplies such as paper and pens.
Lazar says the budget hit to Greenfield thanks to the District shortfall is $355,740. He came up with his per pupil request by dividing that figure by an estimate of enrollment for the coming year.
On Thursday, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said he will not be able to open all schools on time on a full-day schedule — unless the city comes through with a promised $50 million that was part of a funding package cobbled together last June by Gov. Tom Corbett. Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke are still squabbling over how to make that contribution.
In making his plea, Lazar noted similar efforts being done at other district schools including Science Leadership Academy and William M. Meredith Elementary. District spokesman Fernando Gallard added to that list Penn Alexander, Cook-Wissahickon and Central High School as District schools that, at some point, have asked for some sort of family contribution.