Mayor Nutter said this afternoon that he wants to fulfill the School District of Philadelphia’s request for $60 million in additional city funding, but he did not offer any specifics on how – or where – to find the money.
“We don’t have all the answers today. We don’t have a plan today,” he said. “What I’m committed to is high-quality education for children here in Philadelphia.”
Nutter said he wanted to work “collectively” with Council to address the district’s “very serious financial need,” which he said raised the “real prospect of the school district potentially running out of money this summer and not making payroll. The real consequences are the viability of opening schools in September.”
“I make these statements in a very serious fashion, not for hyperbole, not for rhetoric, not for drama,” he said.
The mayor said he was mindful that the city has raised taxes two years in a row for the schools, but he refused to “parse through what’s on or off” the menu of options.
“What’s the capacity and the willingness, by both elected (officials) and of the citizenry, to purse that particular path?” Nutter asked. “But at the end of the day, money isn’t going to fall from the sky.”
Nutter’s comments had the feel of déjà vu, with the mayor making grave statements about the financial health of the schools, while talking broadly about the social consequences of not having a quality education system.
“We’ll either pay for our children’s education now or we’ll pay much later in public safety costs, DHS costs, prison costs and the like,” he said.
Aside from property taxes and the use and occupancy tax on businesses, the schools receive city funding from the liquor-by-the-drink tax on drinks sold in bars and restaurants. Nutter spoke approvingly of that tax, which he supported as a Councilman when it was created in 1994. The tax, he said, now generates about $45 million a year for the schools.
“It’s certainly something we should explore now,” he said.
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