When Gov. Tom Corbett announced the release of $45 million in funding to the School District of Philadelphia last week, parents like Tom Alexander breathed slight sighs of relief.
“We knew that there was much more money that we were waiting for, but all along we thought this $45 million would be some sort of temporary relief. We thought, okay, this $45 million is being released; maybe we’re gonna get thru this,” Alexander said.
But parents are now learning that the long-awaited injection of additional funds to the District still may not prevent some unwanted changes from occurring at their children’s schools, and they’re not at all happy about it.
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“We were hoping this money would help to solve the issues that they’re trying to deal with through the leveling process without having to remove any teachers. We thought we had dodged another bullet. But then we learned that the plan with us losing two teachers was still going forward,” he said. “So yes, we’re very angry.”
Alexander’s fury mirrors that of several parents of students attending Cook-Wissahickon Elementary school in Roxborough who, on Friday, will be joined by Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan for a before-school demonstration to protest the impact of cuts to public education funding.
The $45 million funding comes as the District is nearing the end of its annual process of "leveling," through which it evaluates school attendance levels to determine which schools need the most teachers.
Some parents say they believed the District’s receipt of the $45 million would circumvent this process; that the additional funds would alleviate the need for adjustments like split-grade classrooms or relocation of teachers.
SDP spokesman Fernando Gallard says not so.
“The $45 million will allow us to minimize the numbers of split-grades, but it will not affect the leveling process,” Gallard said.
“If there is a split-grade class and we’re able to deal with that by hiring a teacher, we will be doing that. We will still have split-grades, but less of them. And if there is a school where there are more teachers than the formula we have set, then we are going to have to relocate them.”
When the leveling process is completed next week, Cook-Wissahickon will lose two teachers, and third- and fourth graders will be put into split-grade classrooms. Over the past three years, the school has lost several staff members, aides, assistants, and teachers. That’s why parent Rebecca Poyourow says she’s protesting tomorrow.
“They’re not devoting any of this money toward overcrowding or split-grades and that’s infuriating,” Poyourow said.
“We want our teachers back; we don’t want split grades. We want all the schools across the District to join us in protesting. We don’t want chaos for our kids.”
During last week’s announcement, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the $45 million would be used to rehire some 400 employees, including counselors and other support staff, as well as provide funding for the full year for music programs and athletics.
Gallard says the District will be releasing detailed information regarding the results of this year’s leveling process on Monday, Oct. 28.