With almost $40 million needing to be cut by June, The Philadelphia School District has a tough financial road ahead. The five-year fiscal plan put in place by the former superintendent, Dr. Arlene Ackerman, unfortunately did not end as expected. Here is a direct quote from the Five-Year Fiscal plan:
“A Gap Closing Plan is in development to achieve full and sustainable balance for the fiscal year ahead…Assuming that at least half of the initiatives in this Gap Closing Plan recur, the District is projected to produce operating surpluses in FY2010-11 and FY2011-12″
The plan began during the 2008-2009 fiscal school year and was supposed to follow through during the 2012-2013 school year which begins in just several months. The district presently is scrambling to make budget cuts for this school year and will most likely go into the new school year with a deficit.
So what’s going on? What are the real reasons behind the unbalanced budget affecting the already plagued public schools of Philadelphia?
The whole city could probably come up with plenty of reasons. However, speculation and pointing fingers won’t solve any problems for getting our schools back on the right track. Financial issues are just a piece of the challenges the Philadelphia School District faces. Violence has been an increasing problem in the schools of Philadelphia. Just a couple weeks ago, an eighth grader assaulted a teacher punching him in the face, and yesterday a fifth grader shot another student with a pellet gun putting the North Philadelphia school in a frenzy.
The Philadelphia School District has the enormous job of maintaining the schools of our city. But community involvement could possibly be the unexpected force behind changing the way our schools operate. Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia has been affected by the ailing school district and experienced cuts like many other schools. Yet, the school has grief counseling, truancy prevention, and mentor-ship programs along with other positive programs throughout the school. Why? Because of community involvement. The district will do what they believe is “fiscally sound” or needed, but if communities partnered with schools in improving standards, the reliance on the district would lessen.
While the Philadelphia School District scrambles for money through budget cuts, the students are the ones who will and have already suffered. They lose out on extracurricular activities, music programs, and even tutoring opportunities for those who need it. Jonas Crenshaw, passionate principal of Tilden Middle School, puts it best, “Either you can sit back and complain and make excuses for not having money, or you can be proactive and take ownership of your school.” Hopefully principals, parents, teachers, and importantly communities will begin standing up for their schools and create a better situation for our students. They need it.
words by: Valerye Griffin (@valeryeg)