This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Many Notebook readers undoubtedly remember Irv Davis, who was the managing director of the School District for many years, and, before that, a managing director for the city. He kept tight rein on the District’s finances during most of the 11 years that Constance Clayton was superintendent — a period that also saw some periods when money was scarce, but nothing close to what is happening now.
Davis’ policy, as recounted in this story from 1992, was not to sign off on any new labor contract or long-term expenditure if he didn’t think the money was there to fund it, and he took great pride in his ability to keep the District solvent. This was also an era when Philadelphia had more clout in Harrisburg, and city legislators and District lobbyists succeeded in keeping the District’s state aid high, even when its student population was declining during the height of white and middle-class flight. When Davis was in charge, the District often ran surpluses.
While he looked at the District’s needs purely through a budget lens — not for him to question policies like "leveling," which essentially counts on student attrition at the beginning of the school year to cut down on teacher costs — he could also get misty-eyed at the thought that he was helping needy children get a good education. More than once, he personally pleaded with City Council for a higher share of the city’s tax dollars.
Davis died Thursday. Services will be held Friday in Feasterville.