by Diane Payne
April 29, 2017
The March 23 meeting of the School Reform Commission had been posted on the School District (SD) website for months as a regularly scheduled Action Meeting. For some reason, many of us who called the district to sign up to speak were told we had to speak on the topic of next year’s budget. APPS sent an email to the SRC requesting that they inform the district employees who take registration information that the district had never posted this as a budget meeting and that the public cannot be barred from speaking on general topics at any SRC Action Meeting.
Incredibly, the SRC made it even more confusing for those who tried to speak at the April 20 meeting. At first, callers were told they could only speak on the budget. Those who called on subsequent days were told they could speak on anything EXCEPT the budget, as they already had the limit for that one topic. The SRC was actually taking the position that they only wanted to hear from six members on the public about a $2.9 billion budget. Only the City itself, at $4 billion, has a larger budget than the school district. On the day before the meeting, some callers were told that they could not speak at all. Not until letters were sent by APPS, and action was taken by the office of Councilwoman Helen Gym, did the SRC allow all of those who called to speak. APPS’ Karel Kilimnik challenged the SRC to end the disinformation, confusion and lack of transparency.
All four commissioners—Chair Joyce Wilkerson, Commissioners Chris McGinley, Farah Jiminez, and Bill Green—were present. A confirmation hearing for Estelle Richman, nominated by Governor Wolf months ago, has yet to be scheduled. Harrisburg continues to inflict the SRC on Philadelphia but will not take the time to make sure all of its seats are filled.
Five members of APPS spoke at this SRC meeting. Click here to see their testimony and those of other community members who spoke on the budget, lack of transparency and the PFT contract..
CFO’s Budget Report
District Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson gave a 5-minute presentation on a $2.8 BILLION dollar budget—a single page of figures for the FY 18-22 financial plan. Where money is going and how money is spent is indiscernible from the single page of figures and from the presentation. Monson acknowledged the $65 windfall from the city’s reassessment of commercial properties, but recommended that the money be spent on early literacy initiatives and eliminating split grades. This would result in the hiring of an additional 112 teachers. The tenacious George Bezanis of the PFT’s Caucus of Working Educator’s shouted from the back “What about the PFT contract?” Superintendent Hite responded that getting teachers a contract was a “priority” and meetings were scheduled with the PFT. Haven’t we heard that—many times—before? After four years, they are only empty words.
After Monson’s presentation, commissioners questioned him for about 20 minutes on specifics. Munson explained that a portion of the unexpected money must go to charter schools as well. He stressed that the numbers in this budget were based on what is actually available right now as funding streams. If no new revenue becomes available, we can expect to again resort to cuts beginning in FY 19.
More Services Needed for ELL Students