Today, Philadelphia School District Superintendent Hite announced further cuts to Philadelphia schools, with the possibility of mass layoffs to come if further funding does not come through in the fall.
Philadelphia schools are in dire condition, and children, teachers, parents, staff, and the city can’t sustain further reductions in programs and services. We can’t continue with funding equal to last year, when a severe shortage in nurses, staff, counselors, teachers, supplies, and programs forced students and parents to suffer without vital support and programs. Put simply, the school system has been in a crisis that is only continuing.
The chief cause of the Philadelphia School District’s broken promise to properly educate children is brutal cuts from Governor Corbett and the Republican-controlled state General Assembly. Corbett cut $1 billion from schools statewide and $272 million from Philadelphia alone. Parents, teachers, staff, nurses, and activists from a broad coalition across the state have been continually advocating and agitating for new money for Pennsylvania schools since the governor’s first budget. Philadelphia schools have attracted national attention for school closings and last year’s “doomsday budget.” The entire city had to worry if tragic student deaths were avoidable. In July, PCAPS sat in at the Capitol and outside the governor’s office as waves of protesters from across the state joined us to demand new funding for Pennsylvania education. Despite all this, the governor refused to find any new funding sources for schools. The GOP-controlled legislature failed to pass a desperate, last-minute bill to allow Philadelphia to tax cigarette sales in the city in order to make up only a portion of this year’s budget deficit.
We need robust new investment in schools based on new revenue. Another year of bare bones services that leave our students at risk and falling further and further behind is not acceptable.
Our schools are being starved by those who favor privatization, neutralizing the power of unions, and shifting wealth from working people to corporations and the rich. PCAPS has continued to call for simple, fair solutions to raise funding for schools in Philadelphia and across the state:
A 5% extraction tax on Marcellus Shale. Pennsylvania currently offers energy companies the most generous deal of any of the energy producing states. The people of the state should be sharing in the millions of dollars made from our natural resources.
Closing or tightening corporate tax loopholes that enable large corporations to avoid paying their fair share.
Freezing the phase out of business taxes. While revenue from income and sales taxes is up, it is down from taxes that corporations pay. Now is not the time to continue tax breaks for huge, profitable corporations.
Expand Medicaid. Accepting federal Medicaid dollars will expand health care for low income Pennsylvanians and free up millions of state dollars for education.
A financial fix for Philadelphia schools also requires restoring the charter school reimbursement line item in the budget, allowing the District to cap charter school enrollment, and reforming how charter schools are funded.
The Governor and Republican-controlled legislature need to take responsibility for funding education in Pennsylvania now rather than wait for the budget to blow up later in the year.
We will continue to be in the streets making clear that no justice means no peace. The political leadership of this state and their corporate sponsors suffer from moral paralysis. They have made it clear by their actions that they are willing to write off poor and working class children who are disproportionately children of color. Appeals to reason and conscience have little impact. We must, in the best traditions of peaceful American democracy and protest, up the costs of their refusal. We must do so in the streets, and this November we must use the ballot to elect candidates prepared to stand with us in this fight.