This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
In its annual review of the School District of Philadelphia’s nearly $3 billion budget, City Council members zeroed in on a relatively small item.
After questioning from Councilman Bill Greenlee, district officials said 12 suburban students are paying tuition to attend special-admission schools in Philadelphia’s public system. The district could not immediately say Wednesday how much tuition the suburban students pay, how long the practice has been in place, or what schools are hosting these students.
Council members clearly were not happy about the arrangement.
"I just cannot understand how we have this policy, which admits suburban school children to the school district’s most desirable schools where we don’t have enough space for our own," said Councilwoman Cindy Bass.
The district’s budget hearing is an annual chance for council members to grill school officials. It can be contentious, especially when the district needs more money. That wasn’t the case this year.
There was, however, plenty to discuss.
Council members, for instance, pressed the district to add more librarians. Just six district schools have full-time librarians this year, and only five are expected to have a full-time librarian next year. As recently as 2002, the district had more than 50 school librarians.