Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said last week that he had completed negotiations with state lawmakers on a rescue package for Philadelphia public schools as the district tries to reverse a $304 million deficit and avoid laying off 20 percent of its workforce and eliminating programs from art to athletics, says the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In an online report from the Inquirer late last month, the Republican governor said portions of the aid package will have strings attached, including contract concessions from unionized employees in the state’s largest district.
He also said that an earlier proposal from city and school officials to allow a cigarette tax increase in Philadelphia worth $45 million a year lacked support in the GOP-controlled state legislature. Instead, the Philadelphia schools will be given the power by the state to collect taxes more aggressively, changes that are worth an estimated $30 million a year, the Inquirer reported.
The district will also get $45 million in one-time cash from a now-forgiven debt that Pennsylvania owed to the federal government. In the proposed state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the schools will get nearly $16 million extra in aid, according to information from the state senate.
After Republicans who control state government suggested that the district might not get the relief it sought for what had been dubbed a “doomsday” budget, a group of Philadelphia parents and school employees began a hunger strike in mid-June in an effort to press for additional money.
The school district has already sent layoff notices to 20 percent of its employees, leaving little more than teachers and principals in schools, as a result of both a $304 million deficit in the operating budget and more than $134 million in federal grant reductions. Without financial help, Philadelphia school officials also say they need to eliminate all art, music, and athletics programs.
A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Phila. to Get State Aid to Ease ‘Doomsday’ Budget