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Without cigarette tax, Philadelphia schools weigh drastic options

Photo: Dorian Geiger

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

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With an Aug. 15 decision deadline looming, the Philadelphia School District is holding on to a shred of hope that lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House and Senate will reach consensus on a cigarette tax bill that would generate badly needed school revenue.

Leaders in the House say that won’t happen, but in the meantime, the School District isn’t revealing the exact nature of its Plan B.

Here, though, are the leading options. One is to lay off 1,300 staffers, including 800 teachers, and run a full school year where resources are skeletal and classrooms are packed.

Or, shorten the school year.

"If somebody is asking me to choose between a 180-day school year that is not adequate and, let’s pretend 150 days of adequately staffed schools, I’m going for the 150," said Cindy Farlino, principal of Meredith Elementary in Queen Village.

Farlino says her school would be a mess with 40 students packed into each classroom. The rooms just aren’t big enough.

"A school that’s not adequately staffed is not a safe environment," she said.

Principal Karen Thomas is leaving Cook-Wissahickon Elementary in Roxborough to take the reins at Bodine High School in Northern Liberties.

At current funding levels, she too supports a truncated school year.

"There has to be a major statement at this point about people’s priorities," she said. "And the legislative priorities are very well established at this point. I mean, I don’t need any more information from them to know where they stand. They just don’t care. They don’t care at all."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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