Mar 28, 2022 - News

Philadelphia School District budget proposal busts $4 billion

Illustration of a red apple with a hundred dollar bill for a leaf. 

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The School District of Philadelphia has pitched a $4.2 billion budget proposal with no teacher layoffs or tax increase, district officials told Axios.

Driving the news: The Board of Education's first draft of the 2022-23 budget includes more than $170 million in new spending and a decade-best student-to-teacher ratio, said Uri Monson, the district's chief financial officer.

Yes, but: District enrollment continues to dip, and some schools are expected to see more "leveling" — shifting teachers around to accommodate student numbers — than in years past.

By the numbers: Enrollment is expected to fall by 3,000 for next year, which would create a drop of 7,000 over two years, according to the district.

  • The district skipped leveling last year, meaning changes to individual school staffing levels will be magnified this year.
  • The district anticipates one teacher for every 12.3 students next year, which would beat the 1-to-13.3 ratio in 2011.

Between the lines: The district's budget depends heavily on a mix of state funding, federal pandemic money and city dollars.

  • While only the Philadelphia City Council can approve a property tax increase, the district has not requested a tax hike to pay for its budget.
  • Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to give his budget address later this week.

What they're saying: Monson acknowledged the falling enrollment in some schools but said the district's new investments target "some of our most vulnerable populations."

  • New spending would go toward more English-language learners and special education students, health counselors, climate supports and more.
  • "Between the pandemic and the violence in the city, there's a lot of trauma that our students and our families are encountering, so we want to put resources there," Monson said.

At-large Councilmember Helen Gym, on the other hand, questioned the district's "shocking drop in enrollment projections," which she claimed would lead to the loss of hundreds of teachers and drive parents out of the district.

  • Gym called for the district to set enrollment targets that boost engagement and to better coordinate with city officials to staff schools and recruit families.

Of note: It remains unclear whether the district will close any schools next year.

  • District spokesperson Marissa Orbanek noted to Axios that the district recently launched a systemwide plan to assess its current school buildings and prepare for changes in the coming years.

What to watch: The school board will hold a detailed budget hearing later next month.

  • A final vote on the school budget is expected May 26.

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