Last week Governor Tom Corbett unveiled his proposal for the PA state budget. The proposal claims to put in close to $400 million into education. However on closer scrutiny, none of that money supports the basic education budget, the amount of money going without strings attached to school districts. After years of deprivation under Governor Corbett, Philadelphia schools – and Pennsylvania’s schools for that matter – don’t need to prove that our kids need basic support. Instead we need the state to live up to its constitutional duty to provide a “thorough and efficient education” to every child in the Commonwealth. Parents United supports the increase of $20 million toward special education funding, however that money is not based on need. If it were, it would be many times more than that amount. Below is our statement on the Governor’s budget.
“Too Little, Too Late: Paltry handout makes no change in Philly schools injutice”
Parents United for Public Education statement on Governor Corbett’s budget address
Parents United for Public Education called Governor Corbett’s education funding plan “too little, too late” especially for Philadelphia’s public schools. While Philadelphia’s schools lose hundreds of millions a year under the Governor’s budget, the Governor put almost no money toward improving the basic education subsidy and instead diverted most of the money into selective measures which fail to guarantee equity in basic resources, standards and programming for Pennsylvania schools.
“The Governor’s paltry handout to Philadelphia ensures that our children will live yet another year without adequate librarians, counselors, nurses, and teaching staff,” said Helen Gym,a co-founder and mother of three children in the public schools. “It’s another year of parents scrambling for resources, paying for basic services in schools, and seeking charitable handouts to sustain even the best as well as the most basic of programs.”
Philadelphia parents have filed more than 800 complaints from over 90 schools in the city against the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The complaints allege that programs and services – such as basic access to counselors, gifted programming, special needs services, health care, and adequate materials in classrooms – violate the state code.
Among the concerns Parents United raised:
- No new money in the basic education subsidy: The failure to assure stable finances in Philadelphia is one of the primary reasons for the District’s funding problems. The state legislature must substantially increase the basic education subsidy for all schools, not selectively distribute money to Districts.
- Accountability block grants give too little flexibility for struggling districts: Schools do not need to prove they deserve lower class sizes, arts and music programming or Advanced Placement classes. These are part of a basic delivery of education, not a selective one. Moreover we are deeply concerned that just a year after a statewide investigation into cheating throughout Pennsylvania that the state would even think to tie the grants to test score performance.
- Grant funding for wealthy districts to assist poor ones: This is perhaps one of the most insulting gestures in the Governor’s budget address. The State has been a failed steward of the Philadelphia public schools for more than a decade. To consider that now we must be handed off to wealthier districts for technical advice on how to solve massive funding failures by the state – and that those districts would then be rewarded financially for doing so – is beyond insulting to parents, students, school communities and the taxpayers of this city who have picked up the cost of the state’s failure to responsibly fund education.
- Charter school reimbursements: Philadelphia’s financial problems go beyond basic funding. It’s also that under state stewardship we have massively (and recklessly) expanded charter schools far beyond our capacity to financially or academically manage them. Charters continue to expand under the auspices of the School Reform Commission, especially as even the best District schools struggle under the failure of equitable state funding. The refusal to address Governor Corbett’s elimination of charter reimbursements is a major failure of this budget address and must be of significant concern for Philadelphia’s public schools.
Of course, of major concern is that with the District facing hundreds of millions in deficits, the city must now pick up its responsibilities. Over the next few months, we will begin activating parents across this city to demand that our local and state elected officials step up for Philadelphia’s public schools. Among the issues we will raise are the Philadelphia Parking Authority taxi medallion fund, as well as sustainable and recurring dollar revenue.