Northeast Times

Editorial: Time to pony up

Teach­ers, par­ents and stu­dents took their cause to Har­ris­burg on Tues­day, to try to talk sense to state law­makers and rally sup­port for in­creased fund­ing of pub­lic schools across Pennsylvania.

The only ques­tion is: Was any­one listen­ing?

We hope so, be­cause the fisc­al crisis fa­cing Philly pub­lic schools is real, and the state is fa­cing a Sunday dead­line to pony up new rev­en­ue to avoid drastic cuts that would gut our city’s schools.

Phil­adelphia City Coun­cil has already done its part — passing a $2-a-pack ci­gar­ette tax and push­ing for more ag­gress­ive prop­erty tax col­lec­tions. If Har­ris­burg al­lows the ci­gar­ette tax, Phil­adelphia is ex­pec­ted to col­lect about $74.5 mil­lion more for city schools. That’s even more than the $60 mil­lion the school dis­trict re­ques­ted from the city to help close a $304 mil­lion short­fall in the dis­trict’s budget for next school year.

Now, it’s the state’s turn to step up and ful­fill its re­spons­ib­il­ity to the stu­dents of this state.

The Philly school dis­trict has asked the state for an ex­tra $120 mil­lion, but with the clock tick­ing, Gov. Tom Corbett and the GOP-con­trolled le­gis­lature have failed to put forth any con­crete plans for ex­tra fund­ing.

We would re­mind the gov­ernor that this fisc­al crisis in Phil­adelphia pub­lic schools stems largely from the loss of $1 bil­lion in state and fed­er­al fund­ing for edu­ca­tion that took ef­fect soon after Corbett took of­fice. Philly schools bore the brunt of those re­duc­tions.

We would also re­mind him that a new poll, re­leased on Monday, shows very clearly that Pennsylvania voters are deeply con­cerned about the crisis in pub­lic schools across the state. A ma­jor­ity is even will­ing to pay high­er taxes to ease the crisis. And 55 per­cent said the gov­ernor and state law­makers should take ac­tion that would pre­vent staffers from be­ing laid off, big­ger class sizes and cur­riculum cuts.

Already, the state’s share of edu­ca­tion spend­ing is among the low­est in the na­tion. The state vs. loc­al share of edu­ca­tion spend­ing is only 32 per­cent, com­pared to a na­tion­al av­er­age of 48 per­cent. 

What is really needed is a long-term fix to the prob­lem. But that will only hap­pen when the state ad­opts an edu­ca­tion fund­ing for­mula that takes in­to ac­count poverty rates and oth­er key as­pects of dis­tricts. 

We urge the Har­ris­burg law­makers to find the ex­tra money to help avert drastic cuts to Phil­adelphia and oth­er dis­tressed dis­tricts. It’s the right thing to do, and it needs to hap­pen now. ••

You can reach at lswanson@bsmphilly.com.

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