PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 8, 2013 – State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams reacted today to School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.’s announcement about possibly delaying the start of the new school year:
“Without question, opening schools on time and appropriately staffed should be the priority for this city with 30 days to go before classes begin.
“Dr. Hite and his team have done yeoman’s work in reforming and cutting in the context of real fiscal constraints. They did so after ongoing and deliberate conversations with a number of policymakers, including the secretary of education and the governor.
“Dr. Hite is doing what we would ask him to do: be fiscally responsible and not spend money unless it is in hand. But if he does not have an identified and verified $50 million by Aug. 16, he cannot responsibly and fully open the city’s schools. That would be a nearly unprecedented disaster and almost contemptuous disregard for the tens of thousands of families whose lives would be upset in the process.
“With the debt forgiveness from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Pennsylvania realized an unexpected windfall and some of that was to be directed to the district if it met satisfactory measures of reform. The Philadelphia delegation is comfortable that it has, and we’re calling on acting Secretary William E. Harner and the governor to release those funds. I’m sending a letter to that effect.
“The district is in dire need of this money to ensure that our schools can open with a level of personnel that would provide safe environments for the quarter of a million children in this city who attend them. This anticipated $45 million from the state would be a measurable contribution to that effort. I am hopeful that Secretary Harner and the governor will understand the urgency and act accordingly.”