Monday, July 22, 2013

Philadelphia laying off school librarians

Another story from Library Hotline.

June 24, 2013, Volume 42, Number 25

Facing a $304 million shortfall for the coming year, Philadelphia’s public schools have started making severe staffing cuts for its so-called “doomsday budget”—many of them to the 43 certified school librarians throughout the district.

While the state’s and city’s own budgets have yet to be finalized— and could result in more money going to schools—the School District of Philadelphia began to send layoff notices last week, according to a person close to the matter. The Philadelphia School Reform Commission budget approved at the end of May stands to cut 3,783 positions from city schools.

As of Wednesday, June 12, six elementary school–certified librarians, one library instructional media assistant, one middle school–certified librarian, and one high school librarian had received layoff notices. Layoffs take effect June 30. In addition, two high school–certified librarians have been given forced transfer notices. Another high school librarian, who holds three other certifications, was told by the school principal that there would be no funding for that position in the coming year.

One librarian who received a forced transfer was told he/she could wait to see if a library position opened if she/he did not want to take the teaching position offered, but in choosing that option could not collect unemployment, according to the person close to the matter.

Repeated calls to the district and to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers were not returned.

“The School District has to pass its budget before the state and the city, which means there’s a chance— however small—that additional funding will emerge between now and September,” Brett Schaeffer, communications director of the Education Law Center, a legal advocacy and nonprofit educational group in Philadelphia, told Hotline. “It’s happened that way in the past. The question is what the amount of money would be. The district is looking for $300 million to close the current gap but may get only $100 million.”

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter traveled to the state capital in Harrisburg to appeal for more aid for city schools. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has stated that should the district get more money, many positions would be restored. Hite is asking for $60 million from the city, $120 million from the state, and $133 million from union con cessions for that purpose.

In the meantime, cuts continue. Should some funds be returned to the school district, it’s unclear how they would be reallocated and which positions may be brought back to schools.

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