Running a school on $160TOM

Kristen Graham:

The number couldn’t possibly be right, Marc Gosselin thought: $160.

That was the total discretionary budget he was handed as the brand-new principal of Anna Lane Lingelbach Elementary, a public school in Germantown.

That’s all he’d have to pay for a whole year’s books, supplies, staff training, after-school activities, and incidentals — small but important items like postage and pizza parties.

“You can’t even buy groceries for $160, let alone run a school for 400 kids for a year,” Gosselin said.

For many, Tom Wolf’s election as governor is a turning point, a change that could finally address years of Philadelphia School District cuts so deep that a school has just 40 cents to spend on each needy student.

And though Lingelbach’s situation is the extreme, public schools around the city grapple with similar problems.

On a recent day at Lingelbach, it was plain how much some schools have been left to their own devices.

Coming into the year, Gosselin zeroed in on students’ reading levels — just 42 percent were meeting state standards. He wanted to administer short tests to gauge children’s reading fluency.