As Usual, Philly Starts School Year Under a Cloud

Public school students go back today, but how much school is left for them?

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It’s the first day of public school in Philadelphia — more than 130,000 students are expected to attend — and as usual, things are starting out under a bit of a dark cloud.

Newsworks explains:

Schools this year will, in fact, have less.

Students will again find overcrowded classrooms and a shortage of guidance counselors and nurses.

Teachers will again be expected to pay for supplies out of pocket and achieve student gains, despite minimal supports.

Principals will again find little discretionary funding in their budgets and will now make due with fewer school police officers, reduced building maintenance and cuts to special education.

There is a sliver of hope, NBC10 reminds us:

Meanwhile, the district is waiting for state lawmakers to approve a cigarette tax when they return from summer break Sept. 15.

The tax is expected to generate $49 million for Philadelphia schools in the current year. Without it, officials say more than 1,000 people could lose their jobs.

The Inquirer reminds us it’s all about the students, focusing on Chanel Smith:

The 16-year-old starts 11th grade at Edison High on Monday. She is keenly aware of the things around her – bigger classes beginning last year, chaotic hallways, and classmates acting out because there weren’t enough adults to keep order.

Smith loves to read, play basketball, and dance. She took auto-shop classes and may want to pursue that trade, but she’s also interested in sports management. Some of her peers don’t have a problem with the cutbacks, Smith said, but she sees the bigger picture.

“Without these resources, how are we going to graduate high school?” she asked. “I get very angry about it.”

And some folks in the community have been pitching in to ensure Philly kids get a good start to school. Fox 29 reports that “The Barber Back 2 School Drive was held on Sunday at The Villa on Broad Street. Building Better Barbers, Inc. teamed up with about 30 local stylists who volunteered to give 200 free haircuts and more than 100 backpacks and supplies to children for the first day of school Monday.”

If you’re taking “first day of school” pictures today and want to share them, hashtag them #phillyfirstday and we’ll publish them later today at Phillymag.com.