Math is Hard for Philly School Administrators

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

The Pennsylvania House will be in session during the first week of August. One of the items on the agenda is allowing Philadelphia to increase the per pack tax on cigarettes to two dollars. The money from the additional tax would go to fill a $93 million funding deficit in this year’s school district budget. Without the additional money, the Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District has stated that layoffs would need to occur. Here is where the math part comes into play.

According to the talking points, if the district does not get the additional money the teacher layoffs would result in class sizes of 40 students. The PA Independent did a little digging and found that the numbers just do not add up:

"Philadelphia’s student-to-teacher ratio is about 16-to-1, according to the numbers the district reported to the state’s Department of Education.That almost mirrors the national average, which is about 17-to-1…a ratio of 17-to-1 doesn’t translate to class sizes of 17 students. The numbers have varied a bit, but in recent years an average ratio of 17-to-1 has roughly translated to an average class size of 22 for elementary schools and 26 for high schools…If the district were to lay off 1,300 workers, we could assume a "worst-case" scenario, where all the layoffs are full-time classroom teachers. But even then, the numbers don’t seem to work.

"That would leave the district with about 7,000 teachers, bringing the ratio to about 20-to-1. Though that is higher than the national average, it’s not dramatically higher, and classes of 40 students or more seem unlikely."

The authors of the article purportedly made numerous attempts to contact the district spokesperson and clarify the numbers. They never received a response.

Dumping more money into the Philadelphia School District is a bad idea to start with, given their appalling educational results. Lawmakers should be even more skeptical since the numbers the district is using do not seem to add up.

If the members of the General Assembly really wanted to insure that the children in Philadelphia (and across the state) were receiving a quality education, the answer is increasing competition and letting parents decide where their children should be educated. When parents have control of their children’s education, everybody wins.

Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) is a non-profit organization founded to raise the standard of living of all Pennsylvanians by restoring limited government, economic freedom, and personal responsibility. By empowering the Commonwealth’s employers and taxpayers to break state government’s "Iron Triangle" of career politicians, bureaucrats, and Big Government lobbyists, this restoration will occur and Pennsylvania will prosper.