Budget Troubles Necessitate Layoffs in Philadelphia Schools

The crisis developing in the Philadelphia School District has reached new heights as Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. announced that layoff notices are being mailed out to more than 3,700 employees informing them that they'll be out of a job come July 1st. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that among those being laid off are nearly 689 teachers, 283 counselors, 1,202 noontime aides and 127 assistant principals.

During a news briefing announcing the layoffs, Hite bemoaned the necessity of such a step, calling it "catastrophic," and said that the people affected were more than their job titles but also residents of the city, servants of the public and professionals with families.

This round of layoffs is not expected to be the last as the district struggles to meet a looming budget deficit.

Only staff based in the schools themselves were targeted by this round of layoff notices. The number of people being eliminated at district headquarters is expected to be announced next week.

Hite, who has led the district for less than a year, has spent much of his time trying to avert financial ruin.

Facing a $304 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins July 1, the School Reform Commission adopted a budget May 30 that Hite has said would be catastrophic for city schools.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said: "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."

Under the terms of the current PFT contract, the teacher layoffs are based on seniority, with the newest hires most likely to lose their jobs. They include math, English, reading, elementary, and special-education teachers, as well as music teachers who are assigned to several schools.

After the layoffs were announced, Hite reached out to all district employees via email, pledging to continue fighting for funding both from the city and from the state. Currently Hite is asking for the city to allocate an additional $60 million and more than $120 million from the state — in addition to over $100 million in givebacks that he's demanding from the PFT.

While waiting for the money, Hite is going ahead with the changes demanded by the new "Doomsday" budget adopted earlier this month by the Philadelphia's School Reform Commission.

In a five to one vote, Joseph A. Dworetzky was the only one to vote against the budget. He believes that the administration has not exhausted every possibility to find savings.

With $304 million in projected shortfall, schools would have to go without new books, paper, clubs, counselors, librarians, assistant principals and secretaries this fall. ‘

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