Philadelphia’s schools superintendent has called the massive layoffs forced by the district’s financial crisis “nothing less than catastrophic.”
The group hit worst by the layoffs are the noontime aides. Doris Hogue, an aide at South Philadelphia High School, told the Inquirer that students trust the aides and that “when fights are getting ready to occur, the students come to us.”
“I just hate to see what September will look like,” said Hogue, who is getting laid off. One student called the aides “the glue holding our schools together.”
Violence is already a huge problem in Philadelphia schools. The Inquirer won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service journalism last year for its series on school violence. One of the articles in the series focused on South Philadelphia High.
From the first article in the series: “On an average day 25 students, teachers, or other staff members were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or victims of other violent crimes. … Violence in Philadelphia schools is more than the sheer numbers. The specter of violence traumatizes students and teachers, and stifles learning.”
City officials are now asking the state for $120 million to help close the school district’s $304 million budget deficit.
In a statement to the Inquirer, Donna Cooper, director of the nonprofit group Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said the “doomsday cuts” would turn schools into “glorified day-care centres.”
Public schools across the country have been laying off tens of thousands of employees amid state budget shortfalls. In December, 11,000 of the 13,000 local government jobs lost were in public schools, according to Reuters.
Local governments have cut 300,000 education jobs since August 2008.
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