Philadelphia school district laying off 3,783 employees

Philadelphia protests against school closings, cuts (AP photo)
Philadelphia protests against school closings and ‘doomsday’ budget (AP photo)

On the heels of a “doomsday” school budget for 2013-14 that has no funding for things as basic as paper and new books, the Philadelphia school system is now laying off 3,783 employees, including 676 teachers and 283 counselors, effective July 1.

Superintendent William Hite Jr. announced that the pink slips were in the mail on Friday, while calling the layoffs “nothing less than catastrophic for our schools and students,” according to this Philadelphia Inquirer story.

Along with teachers and counselors, those losing their jobs include 127 assistant principals and 1,202 aides who monitor the cafeteria and playgrounds. Among the targeted teachers are those that teach reading, math, English, special education and music. Teacher layoffs are being conducted based on seniority, according to the current district-union contract.

And more jobs are expected to be lost on top of these if the city doesn’t find more money for the school district, which is said to be trying to deal with a projected $304 million deficit. Mayor Michael Anthony Nutter said he is looking for ways to raise more revenue for the schools, but so far, nothing has been definitively done to stop the cuts.

In March the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to close 23 public schools at a meeting where American Federation of Teachers President  Randi Weingarten was arrested for protesting the action. About a week ago, the commission approved what was called a doomsday budget for the next school year because it includes no money for items such as new books, paper, counselors, assistant principals, arts and music programs, athletic programs, secretaries and librarians.

Weingarten released this statement  after the news of the layoffs:

What was Superintendent Hite brought in to do? Mass-close schools even though it makes the corridors and streets less safe for kids and destabilizes neighborhoods? Make draconian budget cuts that strip schools of nurses, libraries, guidance counselors, art, music and after-school activities, and rob children of the rich learning experience they deserve? And now impose nearly 3,800 layoffs that public schools can’t function?

This is a travesty. We are watching before our very eyes the evisceration of public education in the City of Brotherly Love. And instead of an all-hands-on-deck approach, instead of investing in our children’s futures, we see Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter sit on their hands while Superintendent Hite and the School Reform Commission have the gall to strip our schools to the bone and blame the very people who work closest with kids—the very people who devote their lives to helping children achieve their dreams. Where are the priorities of the governor, the mayor, the superintendent and the SRC? Certainly not with the children of Philadelphia.

(Correction: An earlier version left out the mayor’s first name, using only his middle and last names. It is now fixed.)

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | June 8, 2013