Action Steps for 2013-2014 Philadelphia School Budget Advocacy
Schools across Philadelphia received grim budget news for next fall (see this story). The new school budget only pays for a principal and teachers. Money for support staff, classroom aides, school secretaries, school counselors, school nurses, sports programs, music programs, art programs, books, paper, and other supplies has been eliminated.
For the week of May 20, please help us by doing the following:
1. Continue to contact Mayor Nutter and members of Philadelphia City Council to advocate for more funding from the city. (Find council contact information here.)
2. Contact Governor Corbett and members of the Pennsylvania State House and Senate to advocate for more funding from the state. (Find contact information on this page from the McCall Home and School website.)
3. Attend the City Council hearing this Thursday, May 23rd at 10:00 am regarding city business with Wells Fargo bank. School financial issues include roughly $280 million in loans from Wells Fargo.
4. Help organize a rally in Harrisburg to meet with state politicians to advocate for more school funding.
Summary of the May 17 Meredith Home and School Association meeting with City Council members Mark Squilla and Jim Kenney and State Representative Larry Farnese (prepared by Temwa Wright of Parents United):
Key discussion points from the meeting:
- The State: There is little likelihood that the state will approve the $120M requested by the School District and the liquor and cigarette tax increases. Strategies to push Harrisburg included calling, rallying, writing letters, demanding that our Council members drive to Harrisburg to demand the money, inviting state reps to Philadelphia so they can really get to know our schools, showing the state that we generate more revenue for them than they give back to us, asking the state to change the formula for charter school reimbursement, and organizing a citywide effort to Harrisburg (something we’ve spoken about before). Kenney was very pessimistic about getting Harrisburg to change their mind on anything except maybe striking a deal to privatize state stores.
- The City: The main problem in the City, according to Squilla and Kenney, is that we have approx $500M in deliquent taxes that have not been collected (Kenney thinks we can collect $250M of that). We only collect 86% of our taxes (including only 40% of our liquor tax which all goes to funding schools). We need to push our Mayor to collect deliquent taxes instead of implementing new taxes that already punish those who are already paying. There was a lot of frustration in the room regarding deliquent tax collection.
- Wells Fargo: The School District budget includes approx. $280M in debt to Wells Fargo and we should ask Wells Fargo to bail out the School District just as they were bailed out. At minimum, the District should be given more flexibility in paying back the debt.
Key action items:
- Target legislators - identify key senators to target. Farnese’s recommendations included Dominic Pileggi, Jake Corman, John Rafferty, Charles McIlhinney, and Ed Erickson. I don’t know enough about politics to know if these are the right people to target and who else.
- Collect deliquent taxes - I am not yet educated enough regarding the barriers to collecting these taxes. This problem has been going on for a long time and I wonder why we still haven’t overcome it. I know the Inquirer did a series on tax deliquency, but I haven’t read up on it yet.
- Advocate for Wells Fargo bail out: There’s a City Council meeting on Thursday where this issues will be discussed, but I don’t have the meeting details yet. The plan was to have signs saying “You were bailed out, now bail us out!” or something like that.
- Organize a citywide rally to Harrisburg: Different groups have been talking about this, but now we need to put it into action. We need to mobilize an effort ASAP.