Philly schools avoid doomsday closing for a few more months with emergency fund

School District cleaning 46 schools over summer
Charles Mostoller

Another doomsday scenario for Philly schools has been averted.

Just last month, the School District of Philadelphia’s superintendent, Dr.William Hite, warned that he couldn’t afford to pay staff past the last Thursday in January.

But the district will be able to keep paying its bills past the forecast ‘doomsday’ date of Jan. 29, thanks to emergency funding released by Gov. Tom Wolf while the state budget stalemate —now in its sixth month —continues in the capitol.

“We received a little over $600 million after the governor signed the partial budget early this January,” School District spokesman Fernando Gallard told Metro. “The notice we’ve given out that we did not know weather we’d be operating schools past Jan. 29 —that’s been suspended.”

RELATED:With no budget, Philly schools could close in a month

Dr. Hite sent school district staff a memo on Jan. 12 stating that the district would continue issuing paychecks in coming months thanks to the emergency funding, but notedthey received less than half as much funding as they got from the state in past years and may not be able to stay open through the end of the school year on June 30.

“We will continue normal operations by filling the gap with borrowed money and expected city real estate tax revenues,” Dr. Hite wrote.”This, however, is not a financially sustainable situation, without knowing when the remaining State funds will be released, it is difficult to say for certain whether we can make all payments through June 30, 2016.”

George Jackson, spokesman of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said the emergency funding only delayed the school funding crisis.

“It’snot next week, no,”Jacksonsaid. “But there’s still uncertainty that remains about how much past Jan. 29 the school district can go. By no means are we relaxing or celebrating anything.”

At the very least, the school district expectsto be able to stay open into May, Gallard said.

“We’re still analyzing how far that will take us. We’re still in urgent need for funds to have a fully funded fiscal year,” Gallardsaid.”We support the governor’s proposal in terms of the funding for public education. Our goal is to match the governor’s proposal in terms of funding.”

Additional reporting by Jenny DeHuff