The Brief: Finally, A Real Debate About Education Funding

Michael Nutter doubles down on his criticism of candidates' school plans.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

1. The Nutter Administration Launches Second Strike Against Candidates’ School Plans

The Gist: The Philadelphia School District says it needs an additional $103 million from the city this year. Last week, Mayor Michael Nutter said the mayoral candidates’ proposals to raise extra cash for the schools were “bogus.” The Nutter administration doubled down on its criticisms yesterday, with finance director Rob Dubow telling reporters that, though not “horrible,” the plans were either one-time fixes, would fail to raise enough money for the city’s schools, or would take years to pass.

Why It Matters: Nutter, of course, has another idea to fund the city’s schools this year — by increasing property taxes by 9 percent. Perhaps Definitely not surprisingly, none of the Democratic mayoral candidates running in the May 19th primary election support that plan, and they’ve been panning it around town. So, as Citified pointed out Monday, it behooves the Nutter administration politically to shoot back at the candidates. But there’s an upside to all this for residents. The tussle between the mayoral contenders and the current administration is a bit unusual — in another, perhaps more lively, mayoral race, the education funding debate might be more animated among the candidates themselves — but it’s creating a healthy dialogue nonetheless. Neither a large property tax hike nor a shaky school funding plan should go unquestioned, especially when eduction is the No. 1 concern for Philadelphians.

2. Doug Oliver Campaign Says It’s Met At Least 25,000 Voters on Trains

The Gist: Al Dia hung out with long-shot, millennial-courting mayoral candidate Doug Oliver as he introduced himself to voters on the subway. Oliver says he’s been pounding the SEPTA pavement nearly every day for the past two months. “So far, they estimate they’ve connected with 25,000 voters on the trains alone. And every day they gain at least four volunteer offers for their campaign, about half of which actually follow through,” writes Max Marin.

Why It Matters: This typically isn’t the ground operation of winners, at least not winners of big-city mayoral elections. But Oliver, a first-time candidate with very little name recognition and possibly even less money, has few options. As a charming, high-energy candidate, though, Oliver tends to do well in these situations, and the SEPTA strategy could help him develop a reputation as a hard-working, no-frills guy. Should he run for another office someday, these qualities don’t hurt.

3. Bad Ballot Position Vaporizes Highly Qualified Candidate’s Dreams

The Gist: Mike Newall has a sad story for the Inquirer about Jodi Lobell  or really, a sad story about how we choose judges in Pennsylvania. Lobell, a judicial candidate for Common Pleas Court, has a great resume:

She’s been a civil servant for more than two decades. She worked her way up the prosecution ranks putting away murderers, and was the first and only woman to head the district attorney’s trial division.

In 2010, as chief of the charging unit, she led Seth Williams’ efforts to refocus the office on the strongest cases and the most serious offenders. She also helped build diversionary programs for misdemeanor crimes that clogged the system, including busts for small amounts of marijuana.

But the order in which a candidate’s name is listed on the voting ballot is determined by a lottery, and in March, Lobell drew a lousy ballot position. Now Lobell’s own campaign manager says she only has “a slight chance” in the election.

Why It Matters: It doesn’t have to be this way. Really. We could appoint judges instead of electing them, or we could have voting machines that spit out randomized ballot positions.