This is a defining moment for public education in the City of Philadelphia. Never has so much been on the line – from thousands of essential jobs for Philadelphians to fundamental educational programs and services. In the past month, thousands of Philadelphians have marched at City Hall and lobbied City Council on behalf of supporting Philadelphia public schools and the children who attend them. Because of that we expected City Council to do everything possible to guarantee the maximum amount of school funds to the District – not to scoot by with the least they can get away with.
While we acknowledge the yeoman’s work some Council members have launched on behalf of Philadelphia public schools, the proposal announced today by City Council President Darrell Clarke is simply not enough. The cigarette tax still relies on Harrisburg approval. Delinquent taxes are not a source of emergency funding. Delinquent taxes are what we are due and in fact long overdue thanks to City’s lack of a real collections mechanism. Where is the school funding guarantee?
We are particularly disappointed that City Council refuses to issue a vote on the Use & Occupancy tax put forward by Council members Quinones-Sanchez and Reynolds-Brown, which was voted out of committee. The Use and Occupancy tax is a school funding guarantee entirely within the District’s control. Because it is forwarded to the District as a grant, the bill has a shot at assuring that essential positions and programs like guidance counselors or public league sports can be preserved/restored.
We see no such guarantees if things are left as they are in the current proposal.
In 2010, City Council approved a 5% millage shift that crippled structural funding for the schools. We are not going to make that up through ad hoc, piecemeal approaches to school funding.
We strongly urge City Council to use its final session wisely and call for a vote on the Use & Occupancy bill. This is no time to rely on the “cautious optimism” of Harrisburg politicians who have let our schools deteriorate to the state they are in today. We applaud the cigarette tax and intent to collect aggressively on delinquent taxes as part of a total school funding package. We are still waiting on City Council for a school funding guarantee for Philadelphia’s children. As parents, we expect nothing less.
Helen Gym, Gerald Wright
on behalf of
Parents United for Public Education