Corbett administration: No PFT concessions, no $45 million

Gov. Tom Corbett gestures as he is applauded at a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in Harrisburg, Pa. during the state budget address. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is seen on right, and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, is seen on left. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Another day, another press conference, and still no solution in sight for finding the $50 million the School District says it needs to open schools Sept. 9.

Just as Mayor Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke and much of the city’s delegation to Harrisburg gathered in City Hall today to call on the Corbett administration to release a $45 million grant for Philly schools, the governor’s budget secretary issued a statement saying that ain’t happenin’ - at least not until the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers agrees to a contract with “substantial progress toward achieving the fiscal savings and academic reforms.”

The federation, one of the unions that the School Reform Commission is seeking $133 million in concessions from this year, is resisting any givebacks and almost certainly won’t reach a deal by Friday, the deadline Superintendent William Hite has set for schools to open regularly and on time.

The state Fiscal Code this year allocated the $45 million, which came from the federal government forgiving the state of a past debt, to Philly schools. The only catch was that the state secretary of education must certify that fiscal and operational reforms had begun at the district.

State Republicans and Philly Democrats disagree over whether that condition means the PFT must make concessions.

But in the end, it’s up to Corbett, and his administration’s statement today made clear the grant won’t be the silver bullet needed this week.

There was one sliver of hope from the press conference - this quote from Clarke: “I fully anticipate that we will have some resolution on the local level by Friday.”

He and Nutter are pushing different plans on how to come up with the $50 million from city coffers, but both seemed optimistic today that they could find common ground before the deadline.

Nutter wants Council to support the extension of a city sales tax increase that was enacted during the recession and was set to expire after this year. The state this year cleared the way for making the tax permanent, which would allow the city to borrow the $50 million now against its future revenue.

Clarke agrees the tax should be extended but wants a greater share of the revenue to go to the city’s pension fund, rather than almost all of it going to the School District, as the state plan laid out.

He’s proposed an alternative plan, in which the city would buy $50 million worth of property from the district to provide liquidity, and said today that the proposal is gaining steam.

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