Hey, sometimes we can make common cause in the State of
Today, the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chastises the Pennsylvania House for taking summer break without authorizing the cigarette tax that Philly schools say they need to open at full-strength and stay open all year.
The Philadelphia school system, the largest in the state, is facing a massive $81 million shortfall that must be addressed before layoff notices for some of its 17,000 employees go out on Aug. 15. The Republican-controlled state House is not helping matters by delaying action.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s predicament hasn’t generated the sense of urgency in the House that it deserves. On Thursday, Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai said that because the House could not reach a consensus on the cigarette tax and a proposed hotel tax, it would hold off voting until September. That puts the Sept. 8 opening of Philadelphia’s schools in jeopardy. Now the district must decide if it should shorten the academic year, postpone the first day of school and cut spending on transportation — and this on top of teacher layoffs and cutbacks in school police.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Turzai asked the governor to transfer funds to the district early, but what Philadelphia needs is House approval for a higher cigarette tax. Like Congress, the chamber left for the summer with its work undone. In this case, it’s Pennsylvania children who are left in the lurch.
It’s not a screaming jeremiad, but it’ll do. Thanks, Pittsburgh! In return, we promise not to make fun of Ben Roethlisberger for, like, a day or two.