December 16, 2015
Philadelphia schools may be running out of time as they wait for Pennsylvania lawmakers to agree on a budget - which is still absent after months of negotiations.
Superintendent William Hite wrote in an open letter to the community posted on the school district's website Tuesday that schools will be able to operate through Jan. 29 without state funds.
After that, however, the ability to pay teachers and bills is uncertain, he wrote. He said the district is looking at every option to keep funding the schools if the budget impasse isn't over by the aforementioned date. More from Hite's letter:
The prospect of running out of operating funds is dire. We are exploring all options for contingency planning with our lenders and considering possibilities across many fronts to provide for students’ uninterrupted education. We will also provide financial planning information to employees in the near future. We will continue to communicate with you in the weeks ahead.
Hite did not cite any specific numbers in the letter. However, the state auditor has counted $900 million in borrowing from Pennsylvania schools to pay bills since the budget stalemate began this summer.
Hite's letter, which asks the Philly schools community to pressure Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators to reach an agreement, isn't the first time he's raised the alarm bells about being strapped for cash.
He warned in October that despite temporary borrowing to keep schools running, there was a strong possibility they would not be able to operate in the new calendar year without state funds.
Earlier in December, it appeared Senate Republicans and Wolf had reached a compromise, with the governor getting his desired $350 million increase in education spending and GOP lawmakers nixing proposed tax hikes, including one on the state's fracking industry.
But House Republicans balked, asking for even more cuts from proposed tax and spending increases.
Meanwhile, political staffers are churning away and may have to keep working through the holidays, according to PennLive.
How is it going? "It sucks," one staffer told the website.