News in Brief

Philadelphia Schools to Open on Time with Cuts to Programs

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Philadelphia's schools will open Sept. 8, but the district will cut cleaning, repairs, and professional development for some teachers as a result of cost-cutting measures that officials hope will be temporary.

Superintendent William Hite said at a press conference this month that no mass layoffs will take place at this time to close a remaining budget deficit of around $81 million, in the $2.6 billion spending plan. There had been a possibility that more than 1,000 employees could lose their jobs. But he said the district will revisit the issue in mid-October.

The decision was made to open schools after the 131,000-student district received assurances from Gov. Tom Corbett and House Majority Leader Michael Coyne Turzai, both Republicans, that a $2-per-pack cigarette tax would be among the first items legislators will tackle when they return to Harrisburg after the summer recess, Mr. Hite said.

The district had pinned its hopes on using revenue from the tax to plug the budget hole, but lawmakers left for the summer without agreeing on the deal.

In addition to pleading for more state aid to end the district's structural deficit, Mr. Hite and William Green, the chairman of the School Reform Commission, asked the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to make deeper concessions in wages and benefits.

If the teachers' union does not make those concessions, Mr. Green said the commission, which runs the district, may impose those cuts.

Mr. Hite and Mr. Green noted that obtaining the $81 million will only return the district to a level of services that both leaders deem inadequate and insufficient to fully educate the city's children.

Vol. 34, Issue 02

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