This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission adopted a $2.8 billion budget Thursday for the upcoming school year. Often a fraught endeavor, the adoption proceeded with little fanfare, thanks to a rare, if small, budget surplus.
The District projects to be roughly $100 million in the black during fiscal year 2017 as a result of efficiences in areas like energy use and money saved due to its inability to fill all teaching positions. With those extra funds, the District has committed to staffing every school with at least one counselor and providing at least one nurse in each building. Other money will go toward updating instructional materials and creating new turnaround schools, including Renaissance charters.
“Today’s School District budget is a win for parents, educators, and students who prioritized district-wide school investments that restored basic needs for every child in every school,” read a statement from City Councilwoman Helen Gym, referring specifically to investment in District schools.
In recent years, the School District budget has been subject to intense debate and front-page political squabbling. There was little evidence of acrimony Thursday – but that doesn’t mean the District’s perenially precarious funding situation has turned around.
In 2013, the district stared down a $304 million deficit. One year later, the SRC refused to pass a so-called “doomsday budget” because it considered the cuts too severe. Gov. Wolf’s prolonged showdown with Republicans in Harrisburg over the current state budget held up the District’s state aid, forcing borrowing and casting doubt on how much money it would receive.