What the Inquirer characterizes as a “school rescue plan” commits almost no new state money to Philadelphia schools and is a barely disguised attack on collective bargaining and the PFT. This package was the result of a collaboration between the Governor, the Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce and the Philadelphia School Partnership. It is a public relations effort by the corporate school reformers to position themselves as saviors of our schools and put the onus for a bad outcome in the Fall on Philadelphia teachers and their union.
What they did do:
Increased the basic allotment by 15 million. This was in the plan months ago and was already counted by the District.
Allowed Philadelphia to continue 1% sales tax passed expiration and dedicate that revenue to schools – authorized the borrowing of 50 million against that future revenue.
Apparently secured 45 million in disputed federal monies that the feds say the state won’t have to return. That money will go in a special account to be released by the Secretary of education based on his judgment that the District has “begun implementation of reforms that will provide for the district’s fiscal stability, education improvement and operational control.” This money is the result of what Comcast’s David Cohen characterized as a “handshake over the phone.”
Provided legal authority to enhance collection of delinquent tax debt. This does not represent any additional state dollars but only enhances the city’s capacity in this area. The 28 to 30 million is already counted as the city’s contribution to the schools.
Increased the prison budget by 63 million dollars.
What they didn’t do:
Pass the cigarette tax proposed by the Mayor which would have raised an estimated 45 million for the schools. City Council, you may remember, according to the logic of Darrel Clark, didn’t pass use and occupancy tax reform, in order to get this bill passed in Harrisburg.
Close any corporate tax loopholes which could have raised hundreds of millions for education. While the Senate did delay the reductions in the capital stock and transfer tax for 2 years, the House, faithful as always to Grover Norquist, didn’t support this.
Did not accept Medicaid funding available as part of implementing Obama care, a measure that would improve health care outcomes for low income people and, indirectly, help fund education.
Perhaps the only bright spot is the budget does provide the means to restore the jobs of 1200 school safety positions, leading Unite Here and the fasting workers and parents to claim a victory of sorts in a march to the School District that concluded the heroic 15 day action. While the union efforts may well have helped secure some, as opposed to no, money from Corbett and company, the overall picture remains bleak.
The corporate reformers game plan will now move to a full scale attack on the PFT. Armed with their studies generated by think tanks that they fund they will press their case for concessions and for implementing a business model of school management without the impediments of a union contract. The mantra will be City Hall and Harrisburg stepped up, now its time for the PFT.
The response from defenders of public education and collective bargaining must be to support a teacher contract that is fair to teachers and good for students and continue to press the city and state to live up to its obligation for full and fair funding for our schools.