After Weeks of Concern, Philadelphia Schools to Open as Scheduled

A $50 million shortfall and a debate over how to come up with it threatened to delay the opening of some schools in the nation’s 10th-largest district.

Posted: 08/16/2013 09:20 AM EDT
After Weeks of Concern, Philadelphia Schools to Open as Scheduled

After weeks of concern about financing a $50 million shortfall that threatened havoc, the Philadelphia public schools will open on schedule in September, city officials announced.

For weeks, there have been lingering questions about whether the nation’s 10th-largest school system would open as planned because of a need for a $50 million infusion of funds for the financially troubled school district.

The funds would enable the school superintendent, William Hite Jr., to rehire roughly 1,000 assistant principals, counselors and other personnel who were among a layoff earlier this year that removed more than 4,000 staff and administrators as a part of a $304 million budget deficit.

Hite had said that if he didn’t receive the $50 million by the end of this week, it would prevent some of the schools from opening on Sept. 9.

Mayor Michael Nutter said that the city would borrow the $50 million, a plan that was rejected by the city council president, Darrell Clarke, who said that the council was not in support of that plan. However, Clarke later said that the city could transfer the $50 million from the general funds for use by the school system in a plan that was supported by the council.

The Philadelphia school system has been the object of controversy, particularly over a plan earlier this year to close nearly a sixth of its schools, shutting nearly 40 buildings. Hite and schools officials said that the system, with an enrollment that is roughly two-thirds African-American, would improve academic success by moving out of old, inefficient buildings.

Since coming to the job a year ago, Hite has contended that the school system would fare far better if the district would sell older buildings and transfer students into the newer facilities. Under this plan approved by the commission, some middle schools would become elementary schools and thousands of students would be forced to attend schools in different buildings and in some cases other neighborhoods

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(Photo: Tom Gralish/AP Photo/The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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