The Philadelphia School District is in trouble. This is not new news. The K-12 system graduates less than 50%. Too many of those who do complete 12th grade cannot read or write at grade level.
There’s more. The District’s finances are just as bad. There is a looming $ 1 billion deficit unless significant reductions are made.
Hmmm. Poor educational results. Giant budget deficits. How does this get turned around?
The School District has wisely taken aim at the finances as its first step. Recently the district announced the closing of 29 “neighborhood” schools. These are the ones across the street or around the corner, where for years parents have walked their children to school. Shifting demographics and declining enrollment has made these poor performing, under utilized schools an attractive target for savings.
The idea is that closure will save money, make other schools more efficient, and allow the district to focus on fewer locations in their effort to improve the educational product.
Hmmm. Sounds logical. But…
Residents living in those “proposed closing neighborhoods” have objected loudly. And, yes, so has the Philadelphia Teachers Union. This is business as usual… in times that are not usual.
The School District dropped another shoe today. There are reports (Philadelphia Inquirer) the District will ask the Union for significant “give backs”. For example, pay reductions of 5-13%, no pay increases until 2017, and providing “hire/fire” authority to principals.
In the past there would be public protests, union protests and strike threats, and then suddenly the City or State would increase the revenue the School District have to use. The crisis would have been patched and life would go on.
While this could happen again, the possibility seems remote given the national and State’s budget dilemmas. So is the School District’s proposals sensible?
The answer is no… but they are clever. The Teachers Union needs to wake up to the world around them. School closures save money. Trying to reverse those decisions without an alternative plan to save an equivalent amount is simply irresponsible. The School District is cleverly telling the Union they had better think about being part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Cutting teacher’s pay or granting principals hire/fire authority (without due process) are bad ideas. Pay should be fair. It is a fair question, however, whether shifting to a “pay for results” renumeration plan is an idea whose time has arrived. Good performing teachers could receive increases while poor performers would not.
Principles with hire/fire authority begs the question of what process would be used and frankly are the principals qualified to judge. Favoritism or incompetence unchecked will not improve education. But with the education product so poor, why not try some other method like this?
The School District has cleverly told the Union if you want to employ your old methods and block everything we are proposing, then your members pay is at risk. Hmmm.