State lawmakers poised to bail out Philadelphia schools – but will it lead to real reform?

Jul 19, 2013 by

PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania lawmakers are expected to send $45 million in extra funding to the nearly-bankrupt Philadelphia school district in the coming weeks.

While the emergency aid won’t solve all of the district’s money woes, stressed-out school administrators will be happy to have the additional funds as they plan for the upcoming school year.

But one question remains: Will Philadelphia’s school reformers be happy with the deal?

It’s widely reported that the Republican-controlled legislature will attach “strings” to the $45 million, requiring changes to various union work rules that dictate how the dysfunctional Philadelphia district is managed.

For now, no one is saying exactly what those strings are. That’s probably because the district is in the middle of contract negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the local teachers union.

The forthcoming $45 million will put even more pressure on the union to make some work rule-related concessions.

Once the extra state aid deal is finalized, it “won’t immediately go into the Philadelphia School District’s coffers,” reports “Before that happens, Pennsylvania’s education secretary must determine that the district has ‘begun implementation of reforms that will provide for the district’s fiscal stability, educational improvement and operational control.’”

Some parents are hoping some of those reforms involve teacher seniority protections.

A recent story tells about one skilled Philly teacher who was recently laid off because she didn’t have enough years of service with the district.

Unfortunately, the school board won’t be able to repeal the “last in, first out” teacher layoff policy. That rule is enshrined in state law, which means it can’t be changed without action from the General Assembly.

Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, is one of the reformers who is pushing district leaders to scale back seniority-related work rules as much as possible.

Gleason says school principals must have more control over their how their buildings operate if the district is ever going to improve its academic performance.

Gleason told that if principals lack full autonomy over hiring, firing or layoffs, Philadelphia schools will never be able to attract top leadership talent.

“It actually takes accountability away from management, and then you end up with principals and leaders who can’t be held accountable for their results,” Gleason told the news site. “The whole organizational culture starts to break down at that point.”

State lawmakers poised to bail out Philadelphia schools – but will it lead to real reform? – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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