HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Philadelphia schools learned Wednesday they will get an extra $45 million from the state as the district struggles with its worst financial crisis in memory and questions about a student's death after an apparent asthma attack at a school without a nurse on site.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced the state aid to Pennsylvania's largest school district at an unrelated news conference in his Capitol offices and did not take questions afterward. However, he said his decision came a day after a letter from the Philadelphia school superintendent, William Hite, convinced him that district officials had made enough progress toward the governor's educational and financial goals for improvements in the 134,000-student district.
Corbett also said he and his wife sent their sympathies to the family of 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, although a spokesman for Corbett later said the release of the money and the girl's death were not connected.
Still, Corbett's acting education secretary, Carolyn Dumaresq, said Wednesday her department will review the circumstances of Massey's death and will try to determine whether she had an inhaler with her the day she died and whether she was able to self-administer it. Dumaresq also said her department would review the district's emergency plans and staffing, and correct any problems it finds.
Dumaresq said it is not unusual for a smaller public school to be without a nurse on site each day because the state requires that the caseload of school nurses must not exceed 1,500 students per nurse. Sometimes one nurse covers two buildings, Dumaresq said.
Because of the funding problems, the district cut its nursing staff district-wide two years ago; the smaller school that Massey attended had a nurse on duty two days a week.
Hite said Wednesday the money would allow the state-controlled district to restore sports and music for the full year and rehire about 400 people, including guidance counselors, assistant principals and teachers. However, he said he did not plan to rehire any nurses, as union officials and a parent's organization urged, because the district has met the state's caseload standard.
Holding six weeks of classes without the money has been "detrimental," he said.
The district approved a budget of nearly $2.4 billion, and the extra money helps close the gap from the prior year's nearly $2.7 billion budget.