Republicans in the state House and Senate remain at odds over how to resolve the state's five-month budget impasse.
The House on Tuesday passed a $30.3 billion spending plan vastly different from the $30.8 billion measure that had already been approved by the Senate with the governor's blessing.
House Republicans said their smaller budget is more realistic, given the votes they can muster in their caucus. But Democratic House Minority Leader Frank Dermody criticized the vote as a waste of time.
Updated | 3:25 p.m.
The School District announced 342 layoffs Thursday, most of them noontime aides and special-education classroom assistants.
But the total also includes eight assistant principals, three conflict-resolution specialists, and 15 assistants in Head Start classrooms.
District spokeswoman Raven Hill said that these layoffs were mostly the result of budget decisions made by principals and are not related to the 1,300 layoffs that may be necessary if the legislature fails to give final approval to a cigarette tax to raise funds for the District.
Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams has been criticized for being the only Philadelphia Democrat in the Senate to vote for an amendment that would "sunset" the $2-a-pack cigarette tax for Philadelphia schools after five years.
In a statement sent to reporters, Williams said he did so as the best choice available to get the tax approved.
Following is the text of his statement:
After winning a major victory in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week, the proposed cigarette tax for Philly schools appears stalled in a game of legislative pingpong.
On Tuesday, the Senate sent the bill back to the House by adding amendments, and now the House isn't scheduled to reconsider the measure until Aug. 4.
School leaders say that leaves plans for opening schools in September in total disarray.
Updated | 11:30 p.m.
The School Reform Commission declined Thursday to adopt a budget proposal that would raise class sizes as high as 41, cut 800 teachers, reduce special education services to their bare minimum, prevent all but the most basic building maintenance, and make further cuts in services like counselors and nurses.
The SRC made the decision even though failing to adopt a budget before the end of May violates the city charter.
"Rather than adopting a 'Doomsday II' budget – and give anyone the impression that the cuts it contains are feasible or acceptable – we are going to not act on the budget tonight," announced SRC Chairman Bill Green. "Instead, we will continue to focus our energy and attention on securing the needed funding for our schools."
The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner."
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a $2.8 billion “lump sum” budget for fiscal 2015 that counts on receiving $440 million more in revenue than it currently has secured.
It did so shortly after an unprecedented scene in City Hall, when a few dozen school principals clogged the corridors to dramatize the appalling conditions in their schools and ask Council members for more funds.
And State Sen. Vincent Hughes addressed the SRC directly after holding a rally on the District’s steps in which he called for taxing Marcellus Shale extraction – Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that doesn’t do so – to raise money for education.
Though Governor Corbett has announced that he will release the $45 million that the state had appropriated to the District but had been withholding until reforms were made, education advocates continue to debate the issue of fair funding for Philadelphia schools.
This morning on Radio Times, Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and Charles Zogby, secretary of the Budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, debated the issue of funding for public education in Pennsylvania.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
The Pennsylvania House passed a bill Monday that directs $45 million in additional state aid to Philadelphia's cash-starved schools, but only under certain conditions.
One of those conditions is that the money actually materializes.
The state has apparently persuaded federal officials to forgive a years-old debt, freeing up millions of dollars for public education.
However, Gov. Corbett's office said that negotiations between the state and feds over the debt have not been finalized. Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni declined to provide more details.
When Pennsylvania's Republican-led legislature added a bit more than $30 million in education aid to Gov. Corbett's proposed budget in its final negotiations last month, legislators decided to target $14.5 million of that money to districts with high numbers of English language learners and $4 million to districts with high concentrations of students in charter schools.
But they managed to devise the formulas for these supplements in such a way that Philadelphia's school district, which has nearly half the charter students in the state and one-quarter of the English language learners, got none of these funds. This in a year when it was desperately begging the governor and legislature for additional state aid just to remain solvent.
In fact, the money for districts impacted by charters and ELL students went to only six districts around the state -- most of it, perhaps not coincidentally, in the areas represented by powerful legislators.