The Philadelphia School District and the Chester Upland School District are in trouble.
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission revealed last week the district will have to cut an additional $61 million by June.
The SRC also named turnaround expert Thomas Knudsen as “chief recovery officer” to restore the district to fiscal health. Knudsen will serve as both superintendent and chief financial officer.
Leroy Nunery, the former interim superintendent, and Michael Masch, the former chief financial officer, will continue to work for the district in new roles.
In Chester Upland the situation is both dire and urgent.
The district has run out of money thanks to a combination of bad management and declining enrollment. The district is staying open thanks to teachers and staff who agreed to work for free.
Gov. Tom Corbett first balked at helping the district at all, but after a public outcry he has now pledged to provide $3.2 million in funding — but that will only cover one month.
Both Philadelphia and Chester Upland are financially strapped school districts that need state financial assistance to stay open.
There is plenty of blame to go around for what went wrong. But after the school officials have been demoted and the teachers have been demonized and the students demoralized, the schools still have to stay open, and that is going to require more money.
Local and state politicians, was well as school officials, are going to need to work together to turn around these beleaguered districts. Officials should learn from other urban school districts that have faced similar problems. Why waste valuable money and time on unworkable solutions that have already failed in other districts?
While it may be expedient to blame local school officials, the state can not relieve itself of its responsibility. In the case of Philadelphia, the state bears direct responsibility for the present management structure of the school district. The state must also be held accountable for the drastic reduction in funding to Pennsylvania school districts. Funding to school districts was cut by more than $900 million for 2011–12.
Students in the Philadelphia and Chester Upland school districts can not be allowed to suffer because of the failure of the adults.
Remember: This is about the students. Funding their education is absolutely paramount.