As of this writing, Harrisburg legislators have not yet passed a formal budget for the Commonwealth. Currently the Senate and House are reportedly close to approving a budget that would strip tens of millions from the Governor’s (inadequate) and proposed budget for schools. This would mean Philadelphia could stare down a budget gap of around $105 million just to get us to last year’s same situation. Tonight at 5:30 p.m., the School Reform Commission must pass a budget for schools. This is our statement.
Parents United for Public Education urges the School Reform Commission to avoid taking any action on the FY15 budget that would trigger devastating layoffs in schools.
Today dozens of Pennsylvanians are rallying in Harrisburg to demand a responsible budget for our state. Whatever state budget does get passed, the SRC must recognize that receiving anything less than last year’s allotment must be rejected, and in fact, anything which does not start to restore basic personnel in schools is flatly unacceptable to parents, students, and school communities who weathered unimaginable circumstances in too many of our schools this past year.
The SRC has a fundamental responsibility to uphold the Commonwealth’s constitutional obligation to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to every child in every school. That is not happening in our city. We remind the SRC that even if the cigarette tax were to go through, it would provide less than half of the $105 million still needed just to maintain last year’s miserable level of inadequacy.
We ask the SRC to send a clear message to Harrisburg and Philadelphians – you will not enforce further damage to schools and children by cutting anymore. You will not approve more layoff notices which weaken school capacity. You will not cut school budgets any further in a supposed effort to “balance” what is fundamentally an unjust situation.
Parents United for Public Education calls upon City Council to immediately set a schedule for a summer convening to discuss revenue options that must now be on the table. We ask the Mayor to support a revenue shift to restore Philadelphia schools back to their rightful share of 60% of property tax revenue. We demand the Philadelphia Parking Authority use the $18-22 million they expect to collect this summer from medallion license sales to go immediately toward schools. We will be asking SEPTA to address the $22 million loan forgiveness in for-profit property taxes, half of which should have gone to Philadelphia school children. In the coming months, we will also be talking with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as higher education institutions about a collective effort to address this crisis. We expect the SRC to support parents in this effort.
Nothing excuses the appalling behavior of state legislators toward our city. Nevertheless in this time of crisis, it is time for Philadelphians to stand up for our schools and children. We ask the SRC to stand on the right side of history in this moment.