Philadelphia School District Budget Numbers Don't Add Up

I attended a rally this morning by Dr. Hite, Mayor Nutter and select members of the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  State Senator Anthony Williams spoke and did not have much to offer except the statement that adults are to blame for the mess that has become the PSD budget.  State Senator Vincent Hughes, the Chairman of the State Appropriation Committee, was more informative with numbers and if it was up to him, we wouldn't have a budget issue.  $100 million could be diverted from the Liquor Control Board if privatization doesn't take place.  There is another $700 million that could be divided statewide but Philadelphia will not get the lion's share of this funding.  I didn't stay for the presentation by State Senator James Roebuck, Chair of the Education Committee, but I cannot imagine that what he said would have solved anything.

I was impressed walking up to the school by the volume and harmony of the music being played.  I thought I was going to a rock concert.  When I arrived in the basement, I was amazed to see a band of about 12 students intently playing drums.  The lead singer sounded promising also.  It is always good to see talented youth.  One of the casualties of the school district's latest budget difficulties would be music and most other extracurricular activities.  These are trying times for the School district.


The Mayor delivered a stirring if unrealistic speech.  He mentioned four things that need to happen to avoid a doomsday scenario.  First, the school district needs to receive an additional $60 million over and above what it has already requested.  Also, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is expected to kick in an extra $120 million to this underfunded budget.  In addition, the PSD is seeking $100 million in concessions from teachers and principals.  He spoke with much force about these concessions even though he has not settled a contract with DC 33 and 47 for going on six years.  Finally, he mentioned some statewide funding formula that needs to be implemented for Philadelphia to get an equitable share of school funding.  This reference was vague and with the majority of Pennsylvanians struggling, our city will not get much sympathy when we are not surviving without tax increases every year.

A casual observer of the current situation in Philadelphia would think that the budget woes of the PSD would be significantly eased with the closure of at least 28 schools.  The mantra of empty seats was addressed and there should have been some immediate relief.  All the people, including Black clergy, who thought that schools were being closed for developers to purchase should be asking, "Where's the Beef".
There is no apparent rush to purchase older buildings with expensive heating systems.  I think senior housing is always a great trend but that market could soon be saturated.  It seems like there is no end in sight for the need for more taxes and more concessions.

I just found out about the meeting this morning.  I know that my State Representative, Jordan Harris, bought passion and enthusiasm to the discussion this morning.  I attended because the meeting is on my way to work.  I hope that the public servants that spoke this morning realize that the budget situation might need an additional tax increase even though there is absolutely no appetite for that right now.  Where are we  in the election cycle again?  Some city council members were curious about the timing of the meeting.  After selling city property for advertising purposes, they are under the gun to address the shortfalls in the PSD budget while dealing with reduced funding from the federal government.  I await the results of today's public budget rally.  

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