FIVE YEARS ago, the city and state entered into a shotgun marriage for the sake of the children. They formed the School Reform Commission and sealed the deal with $115 million in new annual aid.
They came up with another $300 million in one-time aid with a bond issue and waited to see what it would buy.
Measurable gains in student achievement followed and the feuding funders ended years of useless blame games.
With the hiring of chief executive Paul Vallas, the SRC brought in a leader with a special talent for finding previously untapped funding streams.
But the $300 million fund and Vallas' resource- fulness have papered over a structural deficit. One-time grants and bond issues won't fix it this time.
Councilman Wilson Goode's proposed Schools Reinvestment Act, introduced on Tuesday, could help to provide the predictable funding needed if the district is to continue its achievement gains. And it could prompt the state to consider upping its ante.
Goode's bill would increase the share of the city's real-estate taxes earmarked for the schools from 58.42 percent to 60 percent. It would mean $97 million in new, permanent city funding over the next five years.
The shift would represent only 5 percent of the city's real-estate-tax revenues. But its impact on the district's budget could be far-reaching.
Goode's bill is likely just the first of a number of ideas. The mayor's Commission on Education will issue a report with his suggestions by March.
Mayor Street, quite understandably, is pushing Vallas for a five-year plan that would predict with some precision the district's budget needs for that period.
It is a reasonable demand considering a $70 million deficit the district surprised us with last year.
The mayor has pledged to go to the mat for more state funding. But he must assure Gov. Rendell and the Legislature that the district is on firm footing.
Goode's bill, or a similar measure, could accomplish that. But even that won't be completely effective without the Vallas funding plan in place. *