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Corbett plan for Philly schools falls short of $180 million, relies mostly on city dollars

By the Notebook on Jun 30, 2013 06:50 PM

by Dale Mezzacappa and Holly Otterbein for the Notebook and NewsWorks

Hours before the deadline for passing the state budget, Gov. Corbett announced a plan to help the Philadelphia School District out of its fiscal crisis that relies mostly on dollars from the city, will require more borrowing, and contributes an additional $45 million of one-time state money.

The budget passed the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and Corbett signed it Sunday night. A portion of the funds also come with strings attached.

With the fiscal year ending and more than 3,800 District layoffs scheduled to take effect Monday, Corbett outlined a plan Sunday afternoon that he said would raise an additional $140 million for the city schools, short of the $180 million the District asked for from the city and the state. And one chunk of Corbett's $140 million package was money that was in his original spending plan and already factored into the District's budget.

It was unclear Sunday how many layoffs or other cuts would be averted under the plan.

Sales tax to hang around

Corbett proposed to let Philadelphia extend its 1 percent sales tax past its scheduled expiration in 2014 and dedicate that revenue for schools. Because that money is used by the city for this fiscal year, the governor's plan would let the School District borrow $50 million against the expected increase to close its 2013 budget gap. The sales tax extension was approved by the Senate on Sunday night, and a GOP House spokesman said members were on board and would approve it Monday.

The governor's plan also would give Philadelphia $45 million from a pot of money that the federal government had wanted, but has now apparently forgiven, from the state for past Health and Human Services overpayments. The Senate authorized this one-shot infusion of dollars Sunday night, and the House will vote on it Monday. House GOP members also support that, according to a spokesman.

The Senate attached conditions to the $45 million and the sales tax extension, requiring that the state secretary of education determine that the District has enacted "reforms that will provide for the district's fiscal stability, education improvement and operational control." The Senate approved that language, but some Philadelphia House Democrats are against it, concerned that it is anti-union.

Philadelphia Senate Democrats, though, did not oppose it.

“Right now, we feel comfortable with it,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia). “Everything we have in place allows for free and fair bargaining.”

Hunt for back taxes stressed

Corbett's plan counts on Philadelphia doing a better job of collecting its taxes to raise $30 million more. The legislature is considering several bills to help do that, including one that would allow Philadelphia to put liens on properties in other counties owned by delinquent city taxpayers. Those bills were not voted on and do not appear to be on the immediate agenda. Mayor Nutter and City Council were projecting the slightly lower figure of $28 million in new revenue from cracking down on tax delinquency.

The final chunk of Corbett's package comes from a $122.5 million increase in state basic education funding, which for Philadelphia will rise 1.6 percent to $984 million. While Corbett said the increase amounted to $15 million in new dollars, it is only a $2 million increase over his February budget proposal, on which the District's budget is based. Local officials confirmed that the increase was mostly money already counted on by the District.

The total increase for Philadelphia in state education aid is about $30 million, but that includes appropriations for special education, transportation, accountability block grants and other funds the District was counting on.

The bitter taste of half a loaf

Philadelphia officials and some education advocates were clearly disappointed after their months of lobbying and following the playbook of adopting an austerity budget, closing schools, and declaring they had to "live within our means."

"The plan puts only $45 million of one-time state money into the schools," said one person close to the talks. "That's it. The other money is our sales tax and our delinquent tax collection."

School District officials did not return messages seeking a reaction.

The package would add up to $127 million in additional revenue -- $53 million short of what the District said it needed from the city and state to avert a "doomsday" budget that would see schools open in September with little beyond a minimal number of teachers and a principal.

As District and city officials lobbied frantically over the last several weeks for a deal, Harrisburg was decidedly cool to most ideas. A plan that would have allowed Philadelphia to raise some $45 million this year through a $2-a-pack-cigarette tax -- already passed by City Council -- fell off the table at the last minute due to opposition from anti-tax Republicans in the House.

"I think it’s terrible," said Susan Gobreski of EdVotersPA, which advocates for stable, recurring education funding. "What the state should be doing is enacting a fair funding formula instead of hamstringing districts. They’re going out of their way to avoid providing adequate funding. It’s blatant."

Democratic lawmakers also said the budget did not include enough state funding for Philly’s schools.

“These are not new dollars in any significant fashion, new recurring dollars, that are coming from the state,” Hughes said. “That is the big problem in this whole conversation.”

Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that does not drive out new school aid each year according to a predictable formula based on the needs of districts, measuring such factors as tax base, tax effort, poverty rate, enrollment and student needs.

Gobreski pointed out that requiring the District to borrow against the sales tax to plug this year's $304 million shortfall will incur additional debt service payments. The District borrowed $300 million to make ends meet last year and now spends more than 10 percent of its operating budget, some $280 million, on debt service. Members of the School Reform Commission said they could not afford any more borrowing.

"That's money that should go into classrooms," she said. 

Impact on teachers vague

The contingencies on the money do not specify any changes in the teachers' contract, particularly in seniority rules, that some education groups had urged as conditions for more funding. On the other hand, the language is vague enough to give the secretary of education power to judge what is reform and what isn't, putting pressure on the negotiations.

The District is seeking $133 million in labor concessions, most of it from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, to plug the balance of the $304 million shortfall. The PFT contract expires in August.

"This budget once again places education as our highest priority, accounting for 41 cents of every state dollar," Corbett said.

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Comments (35)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2013 10:11 pm
If council will go back and raise the use and occupy tax that would come closer to the $180 million requested.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2013 11:50 pm
The Governor will not release the money which the federal government has kicked in until certain "reforms" are implemented by the district and approved by his Ed Secretary. Since Education Voters is part of the coalition which has called for stripping union members of collective bargaining rights, including seniority, I would like the Notebook to go back and ask how she feels about the Governor's tactics.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on June 30, 2013 11:53 pm
Yeah but City Council like the State does not want to put any of its own money up. It wants to pretend to care. We have the worst political leaders in the Western world right here in Philly. Makes you proud don't it.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 1, 2013 10:17 pm
Poogie, I agree that City Council could do more, but it is first and foremost the Commonwealth which is failing in its duty to fund public education in this city. The Commonwealth created this budget crisis and it's not the City's job to bail out the District when the Commonwealth fails to provide funding for a "thorough and efficient system of public education" in Philadelphia. EGS
Submitted by still worried (not verified) on June 30, 2013 10:05 pm
The Governor in his post bill signing press conference said that he was tying the state money to concessions from the unions. So while it sounds like a reprieve, the money has major strings attached and there are no real guarantees that the unions will agree. I would not be too optimistic. And without the cigarette tax, the City really has a tough time finding the money to make up the difference. Raise property taxes again? It may have to happen.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on June 30, 2013 11:22 pm
Received a "robo" call from "Mike Wang" and "The Philadelphia School Partnership" today. The call stated "Gov. Corbett and the PA Legislature" have a plan to "save Phila. schools from bankruptcy" and "provide everything our schools need." (There was a list of items.) Then, I was told to call Rep. Roebuck and tell him to get with Corbett's plan. Roebuck has been one of the few PA legislators to speak up against privatization of education. I don't know how "Mike Wang" got my number, but this is more evidence of how "The Partnership" is working with the Corbett Administration to privatize Philadelphia schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 9:28 am
Got the same call. Is PSP really this partisan? At whose behest did psp do those robo calls? This is a story that needs more attention.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 1, 2013 9:41 am
Agree. Notebook? Newsworks?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 5:20 pm
http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/nakedcity/Corbett-to-Philly-Fix-your-own-... Dan Denvir's story just posted in City Paper and on philly.com Lisa
Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 1, 2013 11:16 am
from what i read, rep james r. roebuck is one of our staunchest supporters. that sort of loyalty and display of independent thinking and good common sense deserves our support at the polls. might i recommend next election that pft members consider "bullet voting" where appropriate for supporters of public education. that means, say if you are allowed to select and vote for several candidates for city council at large, you only vote for one. it makes your singular vote that much more valuable for your designee, since no other competing candidate is benefitting from your ballot.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 5:24 pm
Philadelphia School Partnership 150 S. Independence Mall West Suite 1200 Philadelphia, PA 19106 Telephone: 484-785-8111 Fax: 484-785-8112 I would like to suggest that anyone who got one of these calls contact PSP. Call and ask them how they got your number. Then come back and post their reply. Thanks. Lisa
Submitted by concerned citizen (not verified) on July 1, 2013 5:50 pm
I also got a robo calll Sunday from Mike Wang of the PSP. My call urged me to call my PA state assembly representative Brian Sims(I live in Center City) to urge him to support Corbett.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 1, 2013 11:15 pm
Straight from the horse's mouth: "Prior to joining PSP, Mike worked for over five years with Teach for America, a national organization that recruits, trains, and supports recent college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools in under-resourced communities. Most recently, Mike served as Senior Vice President for Growth Strategy and Development and was responsible for new site development, regional revenue goals, and partnerships with public schools across nearly 50 current and prospective sites." http://www.philaschoolpartnership.org/about-us/team
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 12:26 am
Corbett is an idiot. But our PA. State legislature isn't much better either. We have to put up with mess (Corbett) for another 1.5 yrs. Wish the Attorney General would speed up the investigation involving Corbett's scandal with Penn State and hopefully shut his mouth the remainder of his term. Quote from Politico,"Tom Corbett blew up at a reporter who questioned his handling of the criminal probe into former Penn State football assistant Jerry Sandusky." Ahh poor Tommy, we all like to blow up at your underfunding of public education and any program for workers or average citizens. He only cares for the wealthy, his business buddies and will leave this Commonwealth and it's people in shambles.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 2:51 am
The district wanted $180 million, which means they really NEEDED about $100 million. All in, they get $140 million. People in this forum complain and will work to stop any concessions from labor. It's simple math; the state and city gave 77% of what they were asked for. Jerry Jordan and you minions, the tax paying public expects 77% from you. That equates to about $138 million. I think we would settle for $120 million in concessions to save your jobs! Detroit auto workers had the choice. Some fought against every concession (how's business in the panhandling market) and others decided to work to make things work. They still have jobs and are bouncing back.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 5:20 am
You seem to think the option is teaching in Phillynor panhandling and unemployment. For most of us it's teaching in Philly or other teaching jobs elsewhere or for some of us like myself more lucrative careers in other fields. I strongly believe that since Philly is the most difficult district to teach in around Philadelphia it needs competitive pay to have any hope of continuing to attract any good teachers. I don't need to make concessions when my colleagues and I are already paid less and now we are being treated as if we are the problem. Nope. The systematic underfunding of poor urban districts is the problem.
Submitted by Stanley (not verified) on July 1, 2013 9:10 am
You lost all credibility when you used Detroit as an example. It lost hundreds of thousands of its population and is now akin to a war zone. That's what you would want for Philadelphia? Looks like you're going to get it.
Submitted by Jennifer (not verified) on July 1, 2013 1:54 pm
I am not a teacher but an active parent volunteer in a Philly school and am aghast at all the concessions the public wants the teachers to make. Could they pay more towards their health care, sure times are tough for everyone but then don't demand they take a paycut at the same time. Seniority is important in schools, I want my children't teachers to be as educated as possible and for their continuing education they should be paid higher, isn't that why we want our children to go to college and then get their masters because they will make more money? why then would we punish the teachers for the same thing. If you spent anytime in a school you would see how much teachers put out of their own pocket to help their students :supplies, trips, clothes, books...List goes on and on. What other pofession does that? Can't remember the last time my doctor paid for my prescription or a lawyer paid for their clients lost time? And remember there are alot of middle class families who go to public schools because they are priced out of parochial schools and they are your neighbors and they want the best for their kids too, why should their kids suffer too? Educate all the kids now, or you will pay for them later for social programs or jail!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 4:02 am
If the PFT gives any concessions, it will be the start of a continual process of concessions. The city and state are responsible for the funding of our children's education not the employees.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 5:31 am
Exactly. We are paid in line with (less than!) our peers in the area. We are paid far less than many suburban districts. We have much higher costs of living than most areas that are paid less. We are not responsible for this mess. We just want to do a good job of teaching our students and not have to squabble for pay each year. Many of us want to teach in Philly and take the pay cut for that privilege (sometimes that $10,000 extra from the Main Line I was offered seems nice!). Even so, all of this squabbling and being blamed for Philly's problem is incredibly tiring.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 1, 2013 8:22 am
Dude--You may well be trolling--that's how ridiculous your post is--but in the event you are serious, I'll respond. People have fought and some died for your right to be in a union; the least you could do is fight for your own rights. Grow a pair. The "mess" you are talking about is a big orchestrated and organized lie to end the PFT, the middle class and lower significantly, your quality of life, all so the rich can be even richer. They don't give a rat's ass about the kids, you claim to hold in such esteem nor you. Wake Up, Sally, there's killing you--get mad and ACT !! As someone once said, "You have a RIGHT to be here, no less than The Sun, The Moon and The Stars." Act like it. There will be no PFT if Jordan concedes anything to the Big Lie. The Austerity Program is basicly ONLY for the traditional Public Schools in the inner cities and rural areas where the marginalized live. Do you really think Scottie, "2 Shoes" Gordon or Kenny," I gots mines" Gamble are worried?? I can't takes no more !!
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 1, 2013 9:33 am
If any concessions are made, they need to be linked to some guarantees - in writing, for example: 1. Bad decisions by superintendents or the SRC, including risky credit default swaps, or bad investiments in educational trends (including unused/unsupported technology...including cyber school outsourcing) will come out of Administrative paychecks (or a City fund) not out of teachers'. 2. Behavior issue children will not be allowed to disrupt classes. Alternative curriculum or options must be provided with current resources (that includes Title I for the impoverished behavior issue kids). 3. Universal application for schools, to determine where the demand really is. Student tracked evaluation rather than just PSSA to determine "seat quality". 4. Health care must be negotiated to give employees a range of options in light of the Affordable Care Act.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 10:04 am
Dream on.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 1, 2013 11:15 am
Then no concessions. The PFT is the only bargaining group right now that has any chance of fighting for an "even playing field". I don't understand why asking for such things isn't even attempted. Even if it has little chance of realization, at least make a statement/try, and stand behind it. If it was so clear when the SDP changed their discipline policy that this would drive families out of SDP schools, why didn't the PFT take to the streets then?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 12:04 pm
The only real bargaining chip from PFT is seniority and I don't see them budging on it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 4:16 pm
someone please explain to me how giving up the right to Due Process at my job (which is all Seniority means) saves ANY money? Other than to allow Principals to just arbitrarily fire all the most experienced, older teachers and hire inexperienced young teachers. . .that is?
Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 1, 2013 10:23 am
i personally would not concede one dime. we have a disfunctional school district run by people who pretend to care (and not very convincingly at that) while they are actually in it up to their elbows trying desperately to dismantle the very organization they are charged with leading. any $ the pft might offer up in appeasement will eventually flow right into the pockets and/or control of people like gleason, gamble, gordon, evans, etc. screw them. if the governor doesn't see an obligation to pay for schools, why should we? i pay taxes and i do what i can for my students, but there is a limit to how much sacrifice is fair to ask of teachers. the game is rigged against us and any seeming concessions made by our opposition are made only for posturing and public relations. better to do without and let the anger of the urban districts fester and simmer till the mood is right to toss out these carpetbaggers who so openly steal from their children's future.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 1, 2013 11:08 am
Bingo !!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2013 12:52 pm
Anon - The game was actually rigged for the union for decades. All the union did was threatened to strike and the school boards caved to their demands.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 1, 2013 10:29 am
off topic: will someone please explain to me why i have to fill in a web address for "homepage" in order to post. i don't understand the point.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on July 1, 2013 12:15 pm
I think the SDP is where it always wanted to be today. The purpose of this budget charade was to put the squeeze on the teachers of Philadelphia. The fake plan of state aid involves strings from the state to have the PFT give up seniority, pay and healthcare. Cuts by teachers are needed to fix the "cesspool" as our own leader Mr. Hite is fond of calling his own organization and your life's work. Leadership at its finest. But if the real plan is lower the wages and benefits for the PFT members. This will cut costs. It will also lower the wages of charter school teachers which is something Hite's real employers want. At this point to his masters he is a genius and the people he really represents are pleased today. If you like me believe the whole point of this was to squeeze PFT LIVING STANDARDS and by extensions lower charter school teacher wages so that the profits of his Charter Management Company bosses go up up up, Philadelphia will become the land of the $36,000 a year teacher continually replaced every two years by ticket punching TFA replacements. This the dream labor force of Wall Street. This is a WIN/WIN for the PSP, Broad Foundation, Gates Plan for World Domination Foundation and all the other unelected non-Philadelphia residents who actually call the shots in our city. Hite will be getting a big bonus in a year or so. He is genius to his true employers. Nutter is another genius. there is no city contribution whatsoever to this plan and watch there will be none. Why did the dumb PFT give this guy campaign support????? We should prepare for the big Squeeze.
Submitted by William Alexander (not verified) on July 15, 2013 5:27 am
The set up puts solely $45 million of one-time state cash into the faculties," aforementioned one person near the talks. "That's it. the opposite cash is our nuisance tax and our delinquent aggregation
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Submitted by Amythn10 (not verified) on September 5, 2014 6:11 am

The Corbett plan for Philly schools gave a lot of hopes to the people of

Philadelphia and also the school authorities. But unfortunately this plan was a

huge failure because of the shortage of $180 million. I hope that the government

plans something effective.

http://poweredmanagement.com/
 

 

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