This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Every spring, City Council members pepper School District of Philadelphia officials with questions during the District’s annual budget hearing. And every spring, District officials dutifully return with answers to those queries.
This year’s batch of responses came out in early June, about a month after the initial hearing. They contain some interesting nuggets about the District’s operations and policies, covering topics from magnet school attendance to the sale of old school buildings to Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in Philadelphia’s public schools.
We’ve attached the District’s full response at the bottom of the page. Below, we dive into some of the more intriguing answers.
Attracted to the arts? Suburbanites in city schools During the May hearing, after questioning from Councilman Bill Greenlee, the District revealed that there were suburban students paying tuition to attend desirable city schools. That revelation prompted a cascade of rebukes and led to a more detailed report on non-Philadelphia residents attending District schools.
In all, there are 41 non-residents attending 24 city schools. The plurality, however, are children in the foster system who were placed in a home outside the city by Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services.
Ten other students pay to attend Philadelphia magnet schools. Of those 10, seven go to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts (CAPA), long considered the city’s premier arts magnet school. The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, Central High School, and the Workshop School each have one suburban student on the rolls.
At the May budget hearing, District officials said the tuition payments don’t profit the school system, but instead cover the average cost of educating a student.
Though the total numbers are small, Greenlee still bristles at the idea of seven suburbanites earning admissions slots at CAPA that could have gone to city kids.
"Aren’t there seven kids from Philadelphia that would meet their criteria?" Greenlee asked.