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Former Schools CFO Says Harrisburg Caused Philadelphia's School Funding Crisis

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --The extraordinary cancellation the Philadelphia school district teachers' contract earlier this week was on the top of everyone's mind during an education summit today sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Former school district chief financial officer Michael Masch told the Bar Assocition forum that the district doesn't have a spending problem, it has a funding problem.

And he pointed the blame squarely at Harrisburg.

"The school district is in a budget crisis now and has been for the past three years because the district has been subject to unprecedented state funding cuts.  But not only unprecedented -- discriminatory," he told the lawyers' group.

Masch said Philadelphia saw a cut in state aid over the last three years while the other 499 school districts in Pennsylvania saw modest increases.

He says Philadelphia taxpayers have done more than their fair share to make up the difference -- but, Masch said, that has to end.

Under the School Reform Commission's action on Monday, teachers will have to begin paying toward their health care premiums as of December 15th.  But schools superintendent William Hite, speaking after today's Bar Association education summit, said he would rather have a negotiated contract versus one imposed on the teachers.

"I'm still hopeful that something will happen," he told KYW Newsradio.

There was no word on when or whether the two sides will get back to the bargaining table as they wait for a court ruling on whether the SRC has the power to impose work terms on the unionized teachers unilaterally.

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