Philadelphia goes back to school amid serious funding questions
The Philadelphia school district begins a new year betting the city and state can deliver a total of nearly $100 million in grants in loans needed to keep doors open. The issue is just a piece of the city's larger budget shortfall.
A new school year begins on Monday for about 134,000 Philadelphia students even though the school district - one of the largest in the United States - has no guarantees on how the city and state will deliver nearly $100 million it needs to keep operating.Skip to next paragraph
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Based on the promise of that cash influx, the embattled district rehired about 1,000 teachers and staffers laid off at the end of the last school term.
The city council meets on Thursday to take up the issue, with both sides vowing to bridge their differences.
The school district is also counting on a $45 million state grant that Governor Tom Corbett's administration won't release unless unionized teachers make concessions in a new labor pact. Their old contract expired on Aug. 31, and talks are under way.
Even if both pieces of financial help arrive soon, they would only put a bandage on a long-festering budget shortfall for the district that serves the fifth-largest city in the United States.
The city of 1.5 million residents faces its own looming crisis in funding pensions for police, firefighters and municipal workers, a situation that could limit options for putting the school district on firmer footing.
"What's happening in Philadelphia is the worst example of what's taking place in districts across the state," said Sharon Ward, executive director of the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC).