The School District of Philadelphia is in the midst of a second year of dire negotiations due to a dramatic budget shortfall. Dean of the College of Education Gregory Anderson said Temple will attempt to assist the cash-strapped district with various partnerships.
In an interview with The Temple News, Anderson said the university will venture into strategic collaborations that cater to the best interests of the students and the district. The College of Education submitted a grant to the Department of Education to enhance pathways for science and math preparation in the district, Anderson said.
“I see a way to play a role is to use our research skills and capacity to support the community and be even more strategic about how we support communities,” Anderson said.
The university is also trying to engage the community by developing a collective impact strategy to provide support programs for disabilities and autism, as well as more preschool experiences for the surrounding communities, Anderson said.
In July, Temple announced a $1 million pledge and vowed to create programs to aid local public schools, which would coincide with the $30 million federal CHOICE neighborhood grant for the Norris Apartments east of Main Campus.
Although Temple plans to intervene and catalyze success for the district, there is only so much the university can do, Anderson said.
“We definitely have a role to play, but I don’t think our role is to take over schools…we’re not going to be able to, on our own, fix what is really a city and a state problem,” Anderson said.
Anderson attributes the district’s roughly $81 million budget shortfall to the lack of a state funding formula, as well as the dependence on the governor’s budget.
“Without the injection of millions of funding, the district is going to continue to be in disarray,” Anderson said.
The district is counting on state approval for a citywide cigarette tax that is estimated to bring in $49 million if passed. Anderson believes that even if the district gains funds, there will still be a vast amount of instability.
“You can’t just throw money at a problem to solve it,” Anderson said. “They can improve the level of construction, and try to stabilize the curriculum.”
The possibility of school closures is another roadblock for the district, Anderson said.
Last year, 24 schools were permanently closed. When an under-performing school is closed, the neighboring schools can see an influx of students, swelling class sizes in middle and high schools.
In June, the district approved the $15 million sale of the shuttered William Penn High School property to the university and the Laborers’ District Council. Temple and LDC will use part of the property for a vocational school for adults hoping to learn skills like running a small business and managing finances.
“You would think that [LDC is] interested in an enhancement of their technical skills for the members, but they’re equally interested in general education,” Anderson said.
In July, a community organization filed an injunction with the state Supreme Court, halting the sale of the property.
Last week, the court denied the request for injunctive relief.
Logan Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.