Crisis In Philadelphia Schools Comes To A Head

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Students mobilize outside the Philadelphia school district headquarters. (versageek/Flickr)
Students mobilize outside the Philadelphia school district headquarters. (versageek/Flickr)

The beginning of a new school year is just around the corner, and many school districts across the country are struggling.

In Philadelphia, a long-running education crisis is coming to a head.

Many city teachers and students still don't know where they'll go to school in September, after the city laid off 4,000 employees — including almost 700 teachers — and closed 23 schools earlier this summer.

"The school officials were referring to this as 'The Doomsday Budget,'" WHYY reporter Holly Otterbein told Here & Now. “It’s just a skeletal staff that remains.”

The budget shortfall was caused by a number of factors, Otterbein said. Stimulus funding dried up, which resulted in less state funding to Philadelphia schools, and federal funding also decreased. Add to that rising pension costs.

The budget cuts and school closures in Philadelphia are affecting even the most successful schools in the most affluent parts of the city.

“And that’s partly, I think, why you saw a more robust response for funding this year,” Otterbein said.

There is concern that the school crisis in Philadelphia will have long term, negative economic effects.

“Philadelphia, for the first time in over 50 years increased in its population,” Otterbein said. “There is a serious concern here that if we don’t get our schools in order, we may reverse that trend, and of course, looking at Detroit’s news recently, that is not a trend we want to reverse.”


  • Holly Otterbein, reporter for WHYY in Philadelphia. She tweets @hollyotterbein.

This segment aired on July 31, 2013.


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