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Phila. School District Says It Needs Hundreds of Millions More Next Year

By Mike DeNardo and Jan Carabeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia was presenting its budget to City Council today.  And the district is asking Council for millions more, to stave off even more deep program cuts.

The district is already counting on City Council to provide $120 million more for next year by extending the one-percent city sales tax hike (see related story).  But that's far from a done deal.

Council president Darrell Clarke (below) didn't say how much, but he said Council would provide some additional money. But he wants accountability.


clarke quizzical _philaTV
(City Council president Darrell Clarke, during hearings on the school district's next budget. Image from City of Phila. TV)


"We're going to be asking for some level of oversight beyond a phone call or a meeting," Clarke said.

Schools superintendent William Hite (at left in top photo) says the district needs $96 million beyond the $120 million to retain the status quo.  Most of that could come from a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes (see related story), but School Reform Commission chair Bill Green (at right in top photo) says the prospects of the state legislature approving that, as would be necessary, are iffy.

"I think it is at best 50-50, at the moment, that we will get through an authorization of that revenue in an election year," Green said.

Green said, "There's no fat or even flesh left to cut. We're now talking about amputations."

Without additional revenues, the district warns of 1,000 more layoffs, and class sizes ballooning to 41 students per classroom.

Green added, "If I was still on council, I would vote for additional funds."

Meredith Elementary School Principal Cindy Farlino already finds herself taking on various roles. "Without a full time nurse, who injects insulin three times a week into the arms of students with diabetes? The answer at my school is that I inject the insulin."

The School District wants $440 million and it's asking for $75 million of that from the city of Philadelphia.

Council says it has been in this spot before and it is time for results.

Dr. William Hite says, "The School District of Philadelphia cannot cut its way to solvency or to a system of great schools. It just cannot be done."


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