There's a ray of hope for the beleaguered Philadelphia school district as rumors swirl that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is working with state lawmakers and district administrators on a deal that would provide up to $100 million in additional funding. Martha Woodall and Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer also report that any money will probably come with conditions – some of which might be a difficult sell to the unions representing teachers and other school employees.
Among the concessions sought by lawmakers would be an agreement to higher health care premiums for employees and a longer workday. The broad outline of the deal, although not the details, were confirmed by Anthony Hardy Williams, who represents Philadelphia in the state senate.
He said that he was involved in multi-level talks that would hopefully relieve some of the fiscal issues currently facing the nearly-insolvent school district.
Williams said a figure of $100 million had been mentioned, but he said details of a plan were still being hammered out.
He denied that union concessions would be required as part of the deal.
The talks come as the district scrambles to fill a $304 million shortfall by July 1 and avert the announced layoffs of 3,783 employees at schools and 76 at the district's headquarters and regional offices.
William R. Hite, Jr., Philadelphia's Superintendent has asked for an additional $120 million from the state to continue to operate, and Hite has asked for $60 million more from the city. Hite also sought more than $130 million in concessions from the unions, chiefly from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Hite and Mayor Mike Nutter have been doing traveling in an attempt to drum up support for the funding requests. When asked about the negotiations and any possible deal that might result, Nutter's spokesman Mark McDonald declined to comment.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said the legislature was still trying to decide how much to send to financially strained school districts, including Philadelphia.
"It is very clear at this point that there are a limited amount of dollars to go around the state for that purpose," Pileggi said.
He said Republicans who control the Senate were considering a distressed-schools package similar to the one in this year's state budget, but he would not say how much money would be set aside for it.