Anger Follows Cancellation of School Funding Vote

Schools may not open on time; activists plan protests.

School District of Philadelphia

If you are involved in Philadelphia Public Schools — an administrator, a teacher, a parent, a city official trying to find funding — you are most likely angry this morning. Thursday’s decision by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to cancel a vote on a cigarette tax that would help fund city schools has left the community reeling.

School may not open on time. And activists are planning protests.

Philadelphia Public School Notebook reports:

Schools are now only weeks away from their scheduled opening day, but without assurances that the District will have enough funds to operate a functional system, much less one that offers an acceptable education.

Superintendent William Hite, Mayor Nutter, and City Council President Darrell Clarke all called the cancellation of the vote “devastating.” House Republicans said they would come back on Sept. 15 instead, but Hite says he needs assurances of the money by Aug. 15 in order to forestall all kinds of operational decisions, including up to 1,300 layoffs.

“We support Dr. Hite’s belief that ensuring schools are safe and adequately staffed is more important than opening schools as planned on Sept. 8,” Nutter and Clarke said in a joint statement.

The Inquirer reports on a stopgap that nobody but the House seems to like:

House leaders said that in the interim, they will ask the Corbett administration to advance education money to the city’s schools.

A spokesman for Gov. Corbett, who has supported the cigarette-tax plan, said Thursday that an advance to the city was under consideration, but that it would not help ease the district’s long-term financial problems.

“The ultimate goal here should be that we can open the doors on the first day of school, avoid any layoffs, and ensure that there is a long-term funding plan for the district,” said Jay Pagni.

CBS Philly says all hope is not lost:

In the meantime, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery County) is one House member who believes that the legislation will eventually be passed.

“We’ll take that time to meet with members face-to-face for the next month and see what their issues were, try to turn them to ‘yes’ votes, and I’m very confident with more time on our hands, and the money to open the schools being fronted, that the pressure will be off in terms of trying to force people to vote, and then just try to educate them and encourage them to vote for this legislation,” Vereb told KYW Newsradio this afternoon.

Activist Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education issued a fiery condemnation of the House:

The House GOP decision to refuse the barest of funding gestures is a planned sabotage of our schools, our children, and our city. It proves that under Governor Tom Corbett, the “crisis” in Philadelphia has never been accidental, unpredictable, or a surprise. It’s been a purposeful act of cruelty and neglect.

Parents United will consult with legal counsel about our rights and options in the weeks ahead. We believe our children’s lives and well-being are at stake, and will do what’s necessary to protect them from the unforgivable failure and patent cruelty of too many of our elected officials.

Finally, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools said it would demonstrate outside Gov. Corbett’s Philly office today. The protest is planned for 5 p.m. at the intersection of Broad and Walnut streets.

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  • Janice Rael

    “It proves that under Governor Tom Corbett, the ‘crisis’ in Philadelphia has never been accidental, unpredictable, or a surprise. It’s been a purposeful act of cruelty and neglect.”

    BUT allow me to interject, education funding should not rely on a sin tax! A $2 tax on cigarettes will (thankfully) cause many people to quit smoking (a good thing) thus reducing the tax revenue that the tax might have brought in. How about a tax on sports tickets? How about tax athletes? How about tax oil and gas companies? How about tax big businesses? Why place a tax on the most poor and most ignorant of people, the cigarette addicts, when there are so many bigger, richer groups of people you can tax? I’m glad the cig tax was cancelled but now it is time for PA to TAX OIL AND GAS and TAX BUSINESSES and TAX SPORTS to make revenue!

    • critical mass

      If the cigarette tax was cancelled out of concern for the poor, the Republican politicians, which is to say Public Relations staff for area businesses, would also be supporting public education, which is also for the poor. They don’t give a rat’s arse about the poor, obviously. This is about the cigarette/retailers lobby. The politicians are completely owned by businesses here; they only care about who is handing them money. Meanwhile, I agree that all the subsidies currently going to area businesses should be diverted to education, and taxes should be on the wealthy and corporate residents.

  • Chuck Schwinger

    why should it be up to cigarette smokers to fund schools anyway? Here’s a idea….user fee. Instead of huge tax refunds to people with a half dozen school age kids, apply a user fee. you got kids in school….YOU pay to send them…

    • Pay to play education. I’m sure that will have great results for the future of our city, state, and country. These are our children. They deserve an education and a chance to succeed.

    • critical mass

      Yes, and while we’re at it let’s privatize water, sewage, police protection, sanitation, police, fire department. Clearly we’re not doing a very good job in our schools in terms of educating people about how our democracy was (once) successful, before it became a modern apology for a return to gross, ugly feudalism. Most touching is how middle class people are supporting politicians as they strip the middle and working classes of all rights, privileges, jobs, and dignity. It would be nice if only the yahoo supporters were hurt by this but, alas, the rest of us–most particularly the children of our city and country–are the ones who will be most hurt.

    • DTurner

      Your bright idea to address a growing education gap and an increasingly education-heavy global market is to make education in one of the poorest regions in the country pay to play? I don’t think that’s really a good long-term solution.

    • jay

      I don’t have school aged children , however since I don’t live in the world alone I need everyone to be educatated. apparently you are one of the one’s who did not get an education. therefore, we have your type of comments. interestingly , enough your comment also speaks to a bit of incorrect assumptions. by chance would you know that more pale people attended public schools at one time? they were the Poor folks, then.

      • murdog

        Did not take long to play the race card – the operative thought that you have misstated is that you need everyone to be educated – that is not happening with this failed school system. Since you brought it up by chance did you know that the pale people are the majority that are paying taxes to support this failed school system. Let place blame where it belongs, on the past and present democratic administrations.

    • jay

      typo word should be educated

  • crateish

    Will be working hard to vote every anti-child, anti-worker, anti-middle class Republican out of office.

  • murdog

    Helen Gym and the others are
    quick to blame
    the Corbett admin, maybe she should look at the reality of the situation. The
    democratic administrations past and present have done nothing to help. Every
    year it is the same we need millions more. Yet our children are still functional
    illerates and the teachers unions continue to line their pockets . Maybe we
    should take a hard look the teachers unions, the blatant waste of city admin
    eg. City councils need for a car and driver, the other drones in city hall that
    have city cars. I would like to know why I have seen city cars in North
    Wildwood this summer, parking lots at Kiddie City, supermarkets etc.This is
    just the tip of the iceberg for the bloat that the democratic admins continue
    to accept