Protesters chanting “No education, no life!” ended a depressing press conference from Philadelphia School District superintentendent William Hite today. He didn’t announce layoffs, but said “we’re not out of the woods yet” on the school year. If Philly’s new cigarette tax is not approved by state lawmakers, Hite says the school district will have to make big cuts.
Hite said the district is no longer asking the teachers’ union to accept wage cuts, but is asking for changes to benefits. Without those reductions and/or additional money from the state in some way, the district will be forced to lay off employees in October. The school district still has an $81 million gap to reach the funding levels of last school year.
For now, 34 vacant school police officer positions will remain unfilled; 27 elementary schools will have to share police officers.
The district is assuming $49 million in cigarette tax revenues, if it's implemented on October 1st. (Estimates go from $38 million to $60 million.) Even with the cigarette tax money, there would still be a $32 million gap in the budget.
"We are on the precipice, with the fate of not just the school district but the city and the greater region at stake," School Reform Commission chairman Bill Green said.
Students protested outside district headquarters afterward.
— Kristen Graham (@newskag) August 15, 2014
Students start school on September 8th.