The city schools’ financial troubles are not new, yet reactions to the School District’s latest request for aid — $60 million more from the city, $120 million more from the state — were met with surprise.
Frankly, after two consecutive years of raising taxes on Philadelphians at the last minute to address the school system’s structural deficit, I fully expected a third emergency funding request this year. What I did not anticipate, and will not accept, is the continued absence of a commitment from state officials to address the plight of Philadelphia’s schools.
In Fiscal Year 2010, the state showed commitment by helping schools keep pace with rising costs. The state-city funding ratio that year was 62.7 percent to 37.3 percent. But this school year, the estimated state-city funding ratio is 57.5 percent to 41.9 percent. So it’s time for Harrisburg to step up.
Years of draconian budget cuts from the state helped get us to the current $242 million budget shortfall. City Council stands ready, as it has in years past, to engage in a process of establishing longterm fiscal solvency for the School District. But any last-minute aid from the City must be met with a substantive contribution from the state. Otherwise, demagogues who reject the mission of public education will be vindicated by its collapse.