WHY A CITY FOCUS?
Harrisburg is horrible dreadful, Corbett horrible dreadful. That goes without saying. But that doesn’t mean the City doesn’t play a vital role in funding our schools. In fact, Parents United is even more focused than ever on the City of Philadelphia. Despite two property tax hikes, did you know the City’s investment priority has been declining?
Under the Nutter administration the share of property tax collection going to the schools has dropped from 60% to 55%. That is a permanent structural change in our ability to secure stable financing for schools. To give you an idea of how much that amount could be, in 2007 Parents United and others worked with City Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. to successfully shift the share of property taxes going to schools from 58.75% to 60%. That 1.25% difference alone was estimated to add over $20+ million to the District side in 2007. Today, a five percent difference would likely be over $80 million PER YEAR every year.
Combine this devastating shift in investment priorities with the City’s tax abatement program (the most generous in the nation) and failure to collect delinquent taxes, and we have a poor recipe for localized funding stability – a critical buffer in a state where Philadelphia is often at the whim of whichever political party wins office.
This is why Parents United is pushing a city focused approach to generous and structural change in funding to the schools:
- Basic politics: The city is in our control. The state is not.
- The City needs to look at significant amounts of money not slap dash, ad hoc, piecemeal approaches toward funding core educational services.
- It’s important that any new taxes right now DO NOT function as a residential burden. Homeowners in Philadelphia have seen two consecutive years of property tax raises. The move to AVI will for the first time shift the tax burden from commercial properties and businesses (many of whom see enormous tax breaks through AVI) to homeowners in a city with some of the highest poverty levels in the nation.
- The Mayor is proposing taxes (cigarettes and liquor) which rely on state approval. We can’t afford to wait on a state that has never put our interests at heart.
In the long term, we want to see the City shift property tax priorities back to 60% for the District and 40% for the City.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
A. SEND A PERSONAL MESSAGE FOR SCHOOLS
Target: At-large City Council members, your City Council Rep
- Introduce yourself as a constituent and public school parent.
- Tell them what the cuts will do to your children’s education—using personal examples is great.
- Ask them to guarantee funding for our children’s schools. We need to send a clear message that we need a school funding guarantee from City Council, not a let’s go to Harrisburg and see if they approve our tax idea. Punting to Harrisburg jeopardizes school funding. Council needs to guarantee school funding.
- Demand that Council require the school district to prioritize district-managed schools v. outside contracts or charter expansion.
- Remind them that Council reduced the percentage of the city millage given to the schools from 60% down to 55% several years ago and this reduction has contributed to the district’s financial instability.
- Tell them you need to hear concrete solutions for school funding guarantees. Wait for their answer.
- Follow up with phone calls and letters.
Find your City Council Representative here: http://philadelphiacitycouncil.net/council-members/
- W. Wilson Goode, Jr., City Hall, Room 316, Phila PA 19107 (215) 686-3414
- Dennis O’Brien, City Hall, Room 582, Phila PA 19107 (215) 686-3440
- James Kenney, City Hall, Room 330, Phila PA 19107 (215) 686-3450
- William Greenlee, City Hall, Room 508, Phila PA 19107 (215) 686-3446
- Blondell Reynolds Brown, City Hall, Room 581, Phila PA 19107 (215) 686-3438
- David Oh, City Hall, Room 319, Phila PA 19107 (215) 686-3452
B. ORGANIZE A MEETING WITH COUNCIL.
- Get a small group of committed parents, teachers, students, or community members together and schedule a meeting in which you can go talk to council members about why this is important.
- If you cannot schedule a meeting, just pick a time and show up to speak with their staff members.
- You do not have to be experts—just speak from experience about what these cuts will mean to you.
C. TESTIFY AT CITY COUNCIL HEARINGS.
Testifying at Council is an unpredictable affair. If you are on a public speaker list during a hearing, expect to wait until the very end when public comment is scheduled. If you are speaking during a public session of City Council, you will be asked to sign in and list the bill number of the issue you want to speak on. In either case plan to allot significant blocks of time