Two weeks ago, Gov. Tom Corbett finally released $45 million in federal funds to Philly schools — funds he'd pledged back in June.
Corbett, a Republican who orchestrated deep cuts to public education, insisted that he would only release the money on the condition that unionized teachers, who already make far less than many of their suburban counterparts, deliver major concessions. He seemed to succumb to mounting political pressure and horrible publicity instead.
And with 3,000 school staff positions cut, the damage had already been done. Guidance counselors are now overwhelmed — in one case attending to nearly 3,000 students each. A hundred classes were running with students in combined grades (soon to be reduced to 50). And the death of sixth-grader Laporshia Massey, who allegedly fell sick at a school where no nurse was on duty, has sparked a national outcry.
The anecdotes of dysfunction and privation are many. But the big picture, as Bill Hangley writes at The Notebook, is hard to quantify.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has announced that he will spend the $45 million to hire back dozens of counselors, and to fund sports, music and programs for students with disabilities. Another $10 million is reportedly in reserve for extra payments to charter schools.
The basic outlines of the disaster, however, are locked in place, since the School District still lacks much of what it needs to support normal (and thus already-bare-bones) operations. It is demanding $133 million from unions, mainly teachers.
The chaos marches on.
On Monday, an incredible 139 teachers were reassigned to different schools seven weeks after classes started — a process called "leveling" that seeks to keep teacher-student ratios below caps set by union contracts.
Over the next few months, I will dedicate most — if not all — of my columns to profiling the impact of cuts at Philly schools. Teachers, students, and parents: How are cuts impacting your school?
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story.
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