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Phila. School District Sends Out Thousands of Layoff Notices

By Mike DeNardo and Todd Quinones

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There's a pink slip in the mail for about one out of every five Philadelphia School District employees.

The district is sending out 3,783 layoff notices to assistant principals, teachers, counselors, noontime aides and others.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite says the layoffs will save the district $215 million toward its $300 million shortfall.

"The School District of Philadelphia must live within its means. We can only spend the revenues that are given to us by the city and the state. Unfortunately this is the harsh reality of how that looks," said Hite.

Teachers union president Jerry Jordan calls the schools without support staffs unconscionable.

"It is an unsafe environment for our children to learn in," said Jordan.

Christine Donnelly is a fourth-year counselor at Academy at Palumbo High School.

"Every day I'm doing graduation rehearsal with the kids and it's a special class for me. It's the class I came in with. And I say to them periodically, 'I came in with you. Apparently I'm going out with you,''' said Donnelly.

Without new funding, the layoffs take effect July 1st.

school district cuts
(credit: CBS3)

The school district a week ago adopted a budget based on the money it was getting from the city and the state. That budget had a $304-million shortfall and eliminated not only art, music, and sports but assistant principals, school secretaries, and other support staff.

In a letter to staff, Hite describes the cut positions as "essential" but notes that at the moment there's no extra money from the city or state, which are putting their budgets together over the next month.

In his letter, Hite says he is personally "profoundly upset" at having to take this action and he hopes that funding can be found to restore the positions.

Jordan issued a statement in response to the announced layoffs:

"Today we are seeing what a 'doomsday' budget looks like for Philadelphia's schoolchildren, and how our city's educators are paying the price for a deficit we didn't create. The 2,409 layoffs announced today represent not only hard-working educators who face the very real prospect of joining the ranks of the city's unemployed, but the loss of essential programs that our children need to receive a quality public education."

"The school district will say that these layoffs are a tough but necessary part of financial rightsizing. We say that these cuts are an unconscionable action that deprives children of sports, art, music, counselors, librarians, nurses and other vital programs and services. The impact of these layoffs will hurt our city's poorest children, the ones who rely most on public education to provide a foothold to a better future.

"These cuts are beyond unnecessary—they amount to an immoral act that no Philadelphia taxpayer should tolerate. Everyone who is able to should join us in Harrisburg on June 25 as we demand that our elected leaders do their jobs and properly fund public education.

"It's time to stop balancing the budget on the backs of school employees and students. It's time to move away from year after year of deficit emergencies and cutbacks. It's time to move toward a funding formula that adequately and consistently supports high quality public education for our children."

Mayor Michael Nutter also issued a statement in response to the layoff announcement:

"For months, the School District has been open and honest about the impact that its $304 million budget shortfall would have on District students and employees and the quality of education that it would be able to provide. Today is the reality of that disastrous, bare-bones budget.

The layoffs of the 3,783 teachers and school support staff is devastating not only to those individuals who will lose their jobs but to the thousands of students and parents and the school communities that will suffer because of these regrettable personnel reductions and other budgetary cuts.

This has been an exceptionally difficult process for Dr. Hite, the School District leadership and the School Reform Commission. No one wants to close schools, lay off teachers or staff but the current leadership is determined to make the District's fiscal health, immediate and long-term, a top priority.

To help the children of this City, there has to be a real commitment from the Commonwealth, City and the unions to find critical funding for Philadelphia public education. I have proposed a revenue package that would provide the District with $95 million in vital funding. Now, we need action in Harrisburg and City Council to pass that legislation. We need Harrisburg to do its share and support the School District. And, we need the education unions to accept critical economic and work rule changes.

If we come together, now, we may be able to stem the tide on these grievous cuts and give our young people the kind of education they deserve."

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