Pa. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai met with Philly Schools Superintendent William Hite Monday to discuss the city’s proposed cigarette tax to fund local schools. No resolution to the ongoing standoff was reached, however.
I am calling on the legislature to return to Harrisburg before school starts and address the cigarette tax and school funding issue. #phled
— Governor Tom Corbett (@GovernorCorbett) August 6, 2014
Gov. Tom Corbett made a big push today to open Philly public schools on time, saying he would send the city $265 million and call on the Legislature to return to work to pass a cigarette tax officials here say will fully fund schools for the year.
The $265 million is an advance on money the state already planned to send to fund Philly schools — it’s just getting here sooner than planned. Officials have said the cigarette tax is needed to ensure schools can stay open throughout the school year — and that they might not open schools on time without assurance they can keep those doors open.
The announcement came at a 9:30 a.m. press conference, as well as in a series of posts to Twitter.
Another day on the brink for Philly schools: Activists and officials headed to Harrisburg on Monday — the day the Pennsylvania House was supposed to approve a cigarette tax to fund city schools — to rally and lobby state officials for the funding authority.
They didn’t get what they were looking for.
When it comes to supporting Philly public schools, restaurateur Stephen Starr has put his money where his customers’ mouths are: He raised more than $100,000 for the school district by asking patrons to add a donation to their bill whenever they ate at one of his restaurants.
Starr gave an interview to the Philadelphia Business Journal about why he promotes the schools. An excerpt:
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.
Meredith Broussard, an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University’s school of media and communication, examines the performance of Philadelphia public school students in a new piece at TheAtlantic.com, “Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing.”
The answer, it turns out, is somewhat simple: The same companies make textbooks and the standardized tests. But Philadelphia students largely don’t have access to the textbooks that form the basis of their tests. Shockingly, she reports, the district’s textbook budget for the recent school year was … zero dollars per student.
“I think that this project can help give us a way forward,” Broussard told Philly Mag this week. “It can help us figure out exactly what kind of funding do we need, in order to achieve the goals of the system we put in place. And, if we can’t afford this system, then, well, we need to rethink how we’re implementing education.”
Some excerpts from the conversation: