Feb. 04–The Philadelphia School District eliminated 91 school police jobs on Friday in a cost-cutting move that brings the total number of city schools without officers to 100.
Also cut were eight regional office jobs and six central office jobs. The district faces a $61 million budget hole that must be plugged by June.
The police cuts will save $617,000 — about 1 percent of necessary reductions.
District officials could not say on Friday how much the other job eliminations would save, or the total figure that remains to be cut.
Twenty five additional schools lost their police officers as a result of the move. There are now 100 schools citywide without an officer stationed inside.
Nine of the 10 schools considered “persistently dangerous” under the federal No Child Left Behind law kept their full complement of police officers; one school lost one officer.
District officials said they would soon release the full list of schools without an officer.
Cut on Friday were 82 per-diem officers, who worked full-time but without benefits, and 9 officers who were on track to become permanent officers, Chief Inspector Myron Patterson said.
Patterson, the district’s head of school safety, on loan from the city police force, said he has shuffled his deployment plan. He sent back to schools some officers who had been stationed at district headquarters and others who helped with training and truancy.
“I’m confident that our men and women will step up to the plate,” he said.
Roving school police units and city police cover schools without officers, periodically checking in at those buildings, Patterson said.
The district has had a long-standing problem with school safety. The Inquirer investigative series “Assault on Learning” found that violence in city schools is widespread and underreported, with 30,000 serious incidents over the last five school years. Those findings were corroborated by a district blue-ribbon panel on safety.
Michael Lodise, head of the school police officers’ union, has said he thinks that the newest reductions, which come on top of cuts made last year, will further hinder school safety.
In a policy shift put in place this school year, school officers are now responsible for calling city police when crimes are committed. Patterson said he did not think the loss of officers would lead to more reporting problems.
“I don’t see it that way,” Patterson said. Even in the 75 schools that had already lost their officers, “they have been reporting. The checks and balances have been going on pretty well. The principals have been reporting.”
When incidents are not reported, “corrective action,” Patterson said.
Although violent crime has spiked in the city recently, Patterson said he foresaw no problem in getting more help from city police.
“That has been a mandate, supporting me while I’ve been detailed over here to the school district,” Patterson said.
Still, the chief inspector said, the latest round of cuts should serve as a “call to the total school community. You cannot depend on the police department, school policing, to take care of all your problems. This is your chance to come in and have a vested interest in your neighborhood schools.”
Beyond the police cuts, the central office losses include four positions in the superintendent’s office and two jobs in the communications office. The communications cuts come from the district’s public access cable station.
All of the reductions are tough, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said.
“There are very difficult decisions that need to be made. But given where we are with our budget gap, we don’t have a choice,” said Gallard.
Prior to Friday’s cuts, district officials had announced they would drastically cut back on summer school, cancel a planned pay raise for nonunionized administrative employees, force them to contribute to their health insurance costs and institute furloughs and pay cuts for some workers.
Also possible are cuts to school psychologists and the elimination of spring athletics, instrumental music, gifted programs, and bilingual counselors, though those decisions haven’t been finalized.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has questioned the district’s financial viability, has estimated the district will need to cut $400,000 a day to make up the $61 million shortfall by June.
The district already faces a $269 million budget gap for its 2012-13 fiscal year.
Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, “Philly School Files,” at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.