Philadelphia – like many financially struggling school districts across the state – is at the brink of an abyss, with no good answers on how to survive another round of massive cuts.
Programs and staffing at every level have already been gutted to deal with sharp reductions in state aid and the loss of federal stimulus funds. Nothing more clearly demonstrates how deeply the cuts have gone than the layoff of 47 school nurses in December.
The projected $144 million hole in next year's budget will further balloon if the city does not update its real estate tax assessments. City Council can help by acting promptly on the mayor's proposal to enact a fair valuation system, while offering some protection to those with fixed incomes where property values have climbed.
While we have been frequent critics of financial mismanagement in the District, this budget crisis is statewide. The onus lies with Harrisburg. As if last year's $900 million cut in state funding for education wasn't enough, further reductions are proposed this year. District officials and many local leaders have been slow to speak up about the devastating effects of these moves by Gov. Corbett to cut government spending but protect corporate tax loopholes. Activist groups have been trying to turn up the heat on state legislators. They should receive more support for their efforts.
We cannot acquiesce to the apparent indifference of the governor and legislature to the consequences of their cuts. They need to hear loud and clear that they must put the money back into our schools, re-establish a funding formula that responds to the real needs across the state, and restore education as a top priority.