Buck Passing Continues on School Funding as Doomsday Beckons

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YUC members at PCAPS rally at City Hall to demand Council Address School Funding Crisis   Photo Credit: WHYY

Two developments in the last day threaten an already badly compromised and inadequate school rescue plan.

Council President Darrel Clark came out yesterday, as PCAPS and others rallied at City Hall calling for Council to get back to work, and announced that revenue from  the recently authorized extension of the sales tax by the state should not all go to the schools, but be split with the City to help fund pension obligations.   Clarke indicated he was exploring other options for the schools, namely advertising on school buses and property and selling debt certificates on tax delinquent properties, neither of which can be expected to raise significant amounts of money.     He also continues to hold out hope for the cigarette tax, rejected by the Pennsylvania House and given little chance of revival by most observers.

In short, while congratulating himself and Council, on the job done for the schools, Council has actually passed nothing that has generated new revenue for the schools.   Increased revenue from delinquent taxes is an initiative from the Mayor, aided by enabling legislation passed by the state.   The increase in the single drink tax didn’t make it out of the gate.   The increase in the cigarette tax passed Council but failed to get the OK from Harrisburg.    The reform of the Use and Occupancy tax, the only progressive tax measure that would have raised revenue by cancelling a tax windfall for corporate landlords under AVI, was not passed in order to appease the Chamber of Commerce, and, supposedly, help pass the Cigarette tax.

Meanwhile Governor Corbett continues to claim credit for a plan that relies on other people’s money with the state contributing only 2 million of its own dollars to the school rescue plan.    The state, which took direct control of the schools, ten years ago, continues to evade responsibility for equitable funding.

And, in case there was any doubt, the 45 million dollars of money the federal government has agreed to let the state keep, is clearly being used as a club to beat the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers into making huge concessions including giving up seniority and allowing the District unfettered authority over hiring, transfers and layoffs of teachers.   In an interview with Dale Mezzacapa of the Note book Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said:  “The PFT contract would be the linchpin of whether the monies flow or not, both in terms of savings and the reforms initiated.”

The 133 million dollars concessions being demanded of the PFT and other District unions will negatively impact student learning and, if implemented, will drive qualified and experienced teachers out of our class rooms.   The union, rightly, has opposed the concessions and shows no indication of buckling in to the blatant interference in collective bargaining by Harrisburg.

In the shell game that passes for politics in our city and state the leading players refuse to face up to the disaster that is looming on the horizon in the Fall.    What they have in common is a moral and political failure to recognize what our children need and deserve in the way of an education.    Their policies hurt all children but fall heaviest on families of color and poor people.  Their calls for shared sacrifice mask a capitulation to corporate elites who demand the evisceration of unions, privatization of schools, and transferring the costs of government to the backs of working people.    We must continue our resistance to these polices and the fight for fully and fairly funded schools.

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