Nearly 4,000 Philadelphia Teachers, School Staff Losing Jobs

Staff started being notified Friday of the layoffs

Nearly 4,000 Philadelphia school teachers, administrators and staff learned Friday they would lose their jobs.

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite, Jr. said the layoffs are a result of severe budget cuts necessary to keep the nation's eighth-largest school district financially sound.

"The School District of Philadelphia must live within its means," said Hite. "We can only spend the revenues that are given to us by the city and state. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of how that looks."

A total of 3,783 district employees are being laid off from various positions at schools and the district's central office, Hite said. The School District of Philadelphia currently employs a total of 19,530 people and has 242 schools.

All of the district's 160 assistant principals are being eliminated -- with 127 of them being laid off. Schools will also lose 676 teachers, 283 guidance counselors and 1,202 noon-time aides.

More than 300 secretaries and 769 support service assistants are also receiving notice.

Hite said the School District has taken some drastic steps over the last 18 months, "borrowing $300 million to meet basic obligations, closing more than 30 schools, freezing charter expansions, adopting a budget that lacks essential programs," but if those moves hadn't been made, the outlook would be even bleaker, according to Hite.

The President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers calls this an "immoral act" in a statement released today. “These cuts are beyond unnecessary-- they amount to an immoral act that no Philadelphia taxpayer should tolerate, said Jerry Jordan, who urged people to join him in Harrisburg on June 25.

"We regret having to take these steps and will continue advocating for the funding that gives our students the education they deserve," Hite said. "On a personal note, I am profoundly upset about having to take these actions."

Last Thursday, the School Reform Commission approved a $2.4 billion budget for the upcoming 2013-2014 school year.

However, that budget included more than $304 million in "draconian" cuts to staff, activities and services. Those reductions include eliminating art, music and athletic programs.

Rob McGrogan, President of the Commonwealth School Administration Association, says principals are holding emergency meetings with staff Friday to notify them of the cuts.

McGrogan said not all of the assistant principals are being laid off because some are retiring or moving into other roles into the district.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) President Jerry Jordan told NBC10's Deanna Durante the layoffs will only result in unsafe schools and a lower-quality education.

Dr. Hite pleaded with city officials and the state to authorize additional funding to keep offerings and staffing at the current levels, but that money has yet to materialize.

The district, the eighth-largest public school district in the United States, asked the city to offer up an additional $60 million and the Commonwealth provide $120 million. Officials have also asked school unions to make $130 million in contract concessions.

Jordan says the district has asked the PFT to freeze teacher salaries until 2017 and take percentage pay cuts. For example, a teacher earning a $55,000 salary would see a 13-percent reduction, according to Jordan. That's a $7,150 cut.

In his message to staff, the superintendent says the district's budget can be amended if that money comes through -- reinstating programs and jobs.

"I remain hopeful and will continue working tirelessly so that we will be able to restore many of the positions, programs and services that are crucial to maintaining nurturing and effective learning environments," Dr. Hite wrote.

Students have been fighting the cuts for months, rallying several times at Philadelphia City Hall and outside district headquarters on North Broad Street.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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