Life during wartime

The war on working people, I mean. Hey, thanks to all the people who voted for the truly awful Gov. Corbett here in Pennsylvania:

In a pre-School Reform Commission budget briefing, Philadelphia School District Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch said that to close a $629 million budget gap, the district must lose about 16 percent of its workforce – 3,820 jobs. That includes a reduction of 1,260 teaching jobs, or about 12 percent of the teaching force. The district says there will be a loss of 650 noontime aides, nearly 400 custodians, more than 180 counselors and 51 nurses would also face job loss. Still, it’s not yet clear how many layoffs that will mean, because an early retirement offer has been made to employees, and we don’t know how many folks will take advantage of that.

The district will also lose full-day kindergarten. It’s going to a half-day program, as was in place years ago. Kindergarten is actually not mandated by the state – though everyone offers it, Pennsylvania doesn’t require children to attend school until age 7 in Philadelphia, and even older in the rest of the state. That doesn’t mean that cutting K is a good idea, but it’s possible because it’s not required.

The teachers’ union has already come out condemning cuts to kindergarten and early childhood education. (PFT says that 1,000 fewer children will get early childhood services next year.) Jerry Jordan, PFT president, said: “We are outraged by the short-sighted and indiscriminate cuts the school district is making to balance its budget. Targeting pre-school programs that are proven to prepare youngsters to be successful in school is unconscionable.” Jordan, in a news release, said the district’s Comprehensive Early Learning Centers will close entirely.

The district will also be cut – but not eliminate – transportation, special ed, summer school, art and music budgets. Class sizes, for the most part, will go up to contractual limits – 30 students in K-3, 33 in grades 4-12. The central office budget will be cut by a whopping 50 percent – it will lose 430 jobs. Instrumental music and the district’s athletics program both stay, with trims. (Though both are vulnerable, Masch pointed out – if anything gets worse, both instrumental music and athletics would have to go.)

And you’ll never guess — they want to reopen the teachers’ contracts!