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More uncertainty: $45 million hits snag in General Assembly

by thenotebook on Jul 03 2013 Posted in Latest news

by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks and Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook


Pennsylvania's Gov. Corbett urged state lawmakers Wednesday to pass a stalled bill that provides an extra $45 million for Philadelphia’s cash-strapped schools under certain conditions.

“Legislative leaders need to resolve their differences and act responsibly to send the [bill] to my desk for approval,” Corbett said in a statement.

The General Assembly’s Republican leaders do not oppose the schools funding, which is a tiny piece of a large budget-related bill called the "fiscal code." The disagreement is over language that the House inserted into the bill at the eleventh hour, which would have pushed for payday lending in the state. The Senate erased that language Wednesday, so now the bill must head back to the House for approval.

The problem? The House has recessed. Its next scheduled voting session isn’t until September.

Charles Zogby, Corbett’s budget secretary, said that waiting is not an option.

“If left to languish, it will … impact our ability to further fund Philadelphia schools,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said he expects the House to return and pass the bill.

House GOP spokesman Stephen Miskin said leaders are looking into whether there will be any ramifications if members delay a vote until the fall.

Sharon Ward, executive director of the liberal-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the state cannot function without the budget-related bill that includes schools funding.

"I would think they would want to resolve it quickly,” she said. “They’re not going to put this off until September. It would be unprecedented.”

The $45 million in state money originates from an apparent settlement with the federal government.

However, Pileggi suggested that was not a done deal.

“The administration hopes to have [the funding] available based on negotiations with the federal government, which, my understanding is, have not yet concluded,” Pileggi said.

Corbett's office did not respond to a request for comment on the status of the agreement.

The GOP-led Senate passed another piece of Corbett’s Philly schools package Wednesday, which would let the city extend a 1 percent sales tax that would have expired in 2014.

The legislation, which is a small piece of an overall tax bill, now heads to Corbett’s desk.

State officials assume that the District will be able to borrow $50 million for 2013-14 against the future sales tax revenue. In upcoming years, the tax is expected to generate up to $120 million annually for the District.

Corbett’s funding package also boosts the Philadelphia School District's basic education subsidy by about $2 million compared to his February budget. And it assumes that the schools will receive $30 million from improved local tax collections.

That adds up to about $127 million in extra city and state aid that District officials were not already counting on. That is $53 million less than what the District asked for in order to avert layoffs and deep cuts to programs.

The Philadelphia School District, which is also asking for $133 million in labor concessions, has not commented on whether it is important to have the one-time shot of $45 million immediately available so it could restore some layoffs.

That money is contingent on the Pennsylvania education secretary determining that the District has put into effect “reforms that provide for fiscal stability, educational improvement and operational control.” The SRC did not publicly oppose adding the contingency language to the agreement.

The earlier that laid-off teachers and others are called back to work, the less chaotic it would be to open schools in September.

The School District is asking the teachers' union to accept tiered salary cuts and extra contributions for health care. It also wants to base pay raises on "performance" rather than longevity and level of education, and virtually eliminate the use of seniority for determining where teachers are assigned.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan said the "strings" attached to the additional funding do not affect collective bargaining. Jordan has argued that the District is demanding too much from teachers to balance its budget and not enough from the city and state government.

Update: Also on Wednesday, the local government watchdog group Committee of Seventy called for City Council to hold a special summer session to work with Mayor Nutter to find more local aid for the schools. The group said the city should consider cutting its budget to free up funding.

Councilman Jim Kenney said lawmakers will keep working together to avert a crisis when schools open in September.

"After what happened in Harrisburg sinks in ... we will have continued conversations with the Council president and with the mayor's office and with whoever else is interested to see what can be done," Kenney said.

City Council President Darrell Clarke's office declined to comment on the Committee of Seventy's statement.

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Comments (36)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/03/2013 - 23:55.

Hahaha! I Wonder Who Planned That.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/03/2013 - 23:56.

PA Senate to House: "We just gave you making sure 500,000 people don't have access to health insurance, now please don't force those same people to payday lenders."

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 09:20.

Within seconds of Corbett’s plan the "hunger Strikers" adjourned to the nearest Denney's for a celebratory Grand Slam breakfast because that $45 million that was going to re-employ all the laid off people and was in the bank.

Well the House Republicans went home without voting on it and are scheduled to return on September 23 to vote and by then Who Knows?

Maybe they will hold up the money to get Payday lending because by then there will be a big market for loan shark loans to broke teachers and the campaign funders of the GOP will not want to miss the market the House Republicans have created.

So wake up the Gals up from their Hot Cake Syrup coma and get them back in front of the Bellvue because their next meal may not be till September 24, 2013.

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 09:47.

What a despicable display to denigrate people who are trying to be heard. The hunger strikers said from day one that their hunger strike would last until the legislature passed a budget.

They may have been unsuccessful in thawing the cold hearts in Harrisburg, but at least they fought which is more than can be said for the many cynics in Philadelphia. Your cynicism and lack of idealism are killing us.

Thankfully many young people are seeing the situation with fresh eyes, not the cynicism people have come to see as normal in the last thirty years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 10:44.

tom-104 - Thankfully, many older people like Poogie and myself have seen the situation with stale eyes for 30 years and have come to see that SDP is a bottomless pit of corruption and crynonism leading to our cynicism.

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 13:25.

The SDP has been owned and operated by the state since the state takeover in December, 2001. So the corruption and cronyism is coming from them and their appointees in Philadelphia.

Under the present segregated system being set up for thousand of children in Philadelphia, they are being prepared for the prison industrial complex. Corbett increased funding for prisons by $700 million dollars at the same time as he cut funding for education statewide by almost $1billion in his first year in office. As he calls for "shared sacrifice" in this budget, the funding for prisons has been increased another $45 million.

State prison funding is now twice as much as for higher education.

And we should laugh at the hunger strikers for raising their voices in protest?

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 14:26.

The whole Hunger Strike show did not do the PFT a service.

Images of Rubenesque hunger strikers later joined by equally rotund politicians engaging in the one day (or maybe 3 hour) mini fasts for the news cameras was not a powerful image to promote the plight of the PSD workforce. Outside of Philadelphia it was looked upon as farce.

Then as soon as some deal is announced they declare it over without even knowing what is in the package that seems just plain stupid. What was the point to going through the motions of a fast to then call it off without knowing the full details of rescue package? None of the strikers looked like they were at death's door last week.

Now it turns out that the money is a chimera.

The one thing I have consistently harped on is the utter failure of Philadelphia Politicians to contribute to the rescue plan. I mean it is there school system and they apparently do not give a damn. Where is Philadelphia's money???? Nowhere!!

If I were a Pennsylvania politician why would I vote to help a city that cannot pass a use tax, tobacco tax, drink tax, collect taxes or collect heating bills from its mayor or DA????

The only bigger farce than the "hunger Strike is the Government of Philadelphia and it is getting a free pass for reasons I cannot fathom.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 15:12.

The Hunger Strikers said from day one that it was until the budget was passed. They were making an appeal to stone cold hearts. Just because those hearts remained frozen does not mean it meant nothing. The ones who looked bad were the legislators!

Could you cite your source that outside of Philadelphia it was looked on as a farce (or is that a product of your cynical imagination)?

What is your proposal to do something about the situation?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 15:32.

tom-104 - When I first heard about the hunger strike, I rolled my eyes. All you have here is a Mexican standoff. The school district looks to the city and state. The city looks to the state. The state looks to the city. Supporters like you says its a state problem because the state is running SDP through the SRC. It ends up as a merry-go-round. Urban school districts like SDP have been failing for decades. Philly has no voice in Harrisburg.

Protesting with a few hundred people is not going to get SDP anywhere.

Have you ever looked at the breakdown of the budget? I have.

Instruction - $1.57 billion
Operations - $852 million
Charters - $741 million
Central Office - $108 million
Misc - $17 million

Total - $3.28 billion

Obviously, charter schools are killing you. Common tom, $852 million to operate your schools and $108 million for central office. $12 million alone for the Office of Superintendent and CEO considering Hite make $300,000. Those are staggering numbers.

In summary, you have too much OVERHEAD with too many cooks in the kitchen. You need to look within the district to solve your problems.

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 15:40.

All the Overhead you cite was allocated by the state through the SRC. Tell them. We want to abolish the SRC and return the schools to community control then we can fix them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 18:39.

tom-104 - Not true. I would consider it to have this and that administrator to comply with some unfunded mandate. They have the same type of overhead here with Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 19:31.

Has the state taken over Pittsburgh schools? Has the state been "managers" of your schools for 12 years?

A commenter above said the amount being spent on charters is "killing" Philadelphia public schools. That is right. In 2009, charters were 15% of the budget. In the "Doomsday budget" they are 30% of the budget. The killing of the public schools is by design.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 23:01.

tom-104 - No. The state has never taken over Pittsburgh Public Schools. It was I who said charters are killing SDP. PPS has very few charters. They pay $50 million on a budget of $525 million or 10% of their budget. SDP is paying $741 million on a budget of $3.2 billion or roughly 25% of its budget for charters. Pittsburgh has been controlled by democrats for 80 years. They haven't figured out the system, not yet.

Submitted by tom-104 on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 23:18.

Philadelphia is controlled by Democrats too. Mayor Nutter is President of The United State Conference of Mayors where he is promoting charter schools. I guess he figured out the system and felt abandoning the people who voted for him is best for his career hopes with the corporate elite.

The FY 2014 Budget in Brief issued by the SRC on April 26th says charters in the School District are 30% of the budget.

It also has this summary:
"The current level of expenditures in these three categories – debt service, charter school payments, and out-of-district placements – is the result of past decisions for which The District must now manage. All of these expenditures are mandatory and are all becoming an increasingly larger share of the District's overall operating budget. In FY09, these categories constituted approximately 29% of the overall District operating budget in FY14, they are projected to be approximately 48% of the District's operating budget. As a result, a smaller share of the District's operating budget can be spent on District operated schools."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 08:49.

tom-104 - If the charter schools did not exist, you would still have to educate those kids in SDP schools. If you read this thread, it leads you to believe that charter schools actually SAVES the district money $7,000 per pupil.

And there is a waiting list of 30,000+.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 09:23.

Actually, a rough estimate is that over half of the charter students transferred from private/parochial schools. These would not necessarily have opted for the SDP. Their families may have followed others that simply moved out of the City. Tuition for parochial schools is roughly ($6,000) on par, maybe a little more, than real estate taxes in the suburbs, and there is no wage tax in the suburbs, so if options are not acceptable in the City, moving becomes more viable.

Even when students transfer from SDP schools to charters, it is a net expense to the SDP, because it can't adjust it's infrastructure right away, and carries the cost of the capacity to educate the transferred students. In addition, with fewer students and the same capacity cost, the per student instructional cost increases for the SDP. This means that charters, who by law must be paid the per student instructional expenditure of the home district, benefit from an inflated per child payment that the SDP must pay.

The size of the waitlist is a little misleading because many students are on multiple waitlists, including those for special admit schools in the SDP. Until there is a universal application for the SDP and charters, there is not a clear way to see which schools families are choosing first.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 09:35.

I know, I made the "it's" vs "its" mistake - sorry grammar aficionados.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 10:33.

"If options are not acceptable in the city"- that hits to the core of this discussion. It points to the troubling issue that all "reform" arguments try and distract us from, their need to sort our winners, our lucky members, our industrious, our strong, our "worthy" from the rest.

This society purports to be democratic while sorting the haves from the have nots. The haves - the Mark Gleesons and their ilk, take pains to hang onto a greater share of resources, while purporting to help/save/ reform the rest of us. Maintaining this charade is a tricky balance requiring a spin machine working overtime to delude the public- hence Michelle Rhee's pseudo "Students First" organization.

I have no doubt that Mark Gleeson thinks highly of Mark Gleeson's character and Mark Gleeson's motives. Therein lies the rub. Mark Gleeson believes his delusions.

The push back will not relent. Either the corporations will relax their skewed intervention into civic life or the "masses" will respond as they have throughout history, violently. I am not an advocate of violence, quite the opposite. I am just saying this is what will eventually happen in this country as the privatization "reformers" usurp the rights of the rest of us. Without change in the direction towards corporate takeover of our society we will reach a tipping point. The burden is for us to work to restore balance to this equation now, before the inevitable violence ensues.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 07/06/2013 - 15:03.

I know I'm wasting my time in stating my opinion but here goes:

You are equating work that is being done to raise standards and levels of academic achievement to intentional sorting by "luck", "industriousness", "strength", and "worthiness". I'm not sure I'd conclude the same thing. Behavior or academic readiness (grades/test scores), or even attitude (interview), are legitimate indicators of whether a student will benefit from a set/specialized program or not. Sorting by these traits in order to provide better tailored programs to raise or uphold standards is valid. You would not put a beginning Dance student in with intermediate or advanced students; you could only teach a limited set of skills in such a situation.

Academic standards may be related to the factors you mention, but sometimes they are not. "Luck", "industriousness", "strength", and "worthiness" may determine a person's success in life, but as many a college graduate or even successful dropout can testify, they are not always made/guaranteed by academic achievement. For example there was the story of a struggling History graduate who had gone to Masterman, then to an Ivy college.

So I don't believe there is the intentional determining of who will or won't be successful in life, in the limited scope of improving academic achievement. Instead, trying to improve academic achievement overall is a very democratic objective. If we have to selectively group students to do so, then that supports a democracy rather than weakening it.

So for the bitter and defensive teachers who are on the lookout for anyone weakening their "armor": hey demographics are on your side. There is an ever growing need for teachers, evidence the largest growing part of our growing population. You are in demand. Ironically, corporations by decimating the middle class only add to the demand for your services.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 19:57.

There was a plan presented that (at its core) had a chance to do just that - trim the middle management; however it came from BCG, who unfortunately besides being experts in management also keep company with the rich and famous. So being weighted with incriminating suggestions about nonprofit management and projected charter expansion, the plan was easily ditched... to the relief of those who were afraid of change.

Here's the dilemma: there is a need to bring better fiscal management, but a school district, as a municipality can't seem to act or prove in court that it has an inherent interest in its own existence (see Harrisburg's attempt to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy). And so it is with the SDP, even under the auspices of the State, it acts as if it has no interest in its own continued existence. Thus we have constant crisis management. The attempt to introduce private industry practices, checks and balances, etc. seems to fail for this very reason. Whereas in private industry there is a definite interest in a business's continued existence, this motivation is lacking for a municipality. So when we try and introduce competition in the form of charters, there is no "in kind" attempt at improvements in the School District. We are left with a helpless and bitter mindset, instead of empowered schools.

If we want the SDP to run in the best interests of it's continued existence, then we need to give it the power/right to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Then we would see a lot more responsibility on all sides, whether it be State, City, or unions.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 11:13.

It sounds like it could be a long summer on the beaches of Avalon for the PFT members. Such a crying shame.

Submitted by Truth (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 14:06.

Huh? How dare you. I'm a PFT member and I can't afford to go on vacation. I have bills and responsibilities. The money that I might spend to improve the U.S. and state economy has to be saved because of possible slashes to my hard-earned - and teaching in Philadelphia is HARD - salary. There is no disposable income. Perhaps Corbett can afford a vacation. Perhaps Nutter and Hite can afford vacations. I WISH I could hang out on a beach.
Your comment is inane.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 12:10.

Not funny...I'm a hard working single parent. I work in the summer to help make ends meet. I'm laid off and like many others worried about my children and how I'll afford my it's not as rosy as you think it is.

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 09:56.

In not passing the $45 million payment to the SDP the legislature may have helped the PFT.

If the $45 million had passed all summer that money would have been the cudgel that the PSP, TFA, Broad Foundation and all the other out of state unelected representatives of organized money groups who actually run the SDP would have used that money to beat the PFT members under the poverty line.

And our "friends" Ducan and Obama would be cheering them on.

Now we can say gee the state ain't passed anything final and the City of Philadelphia did not even pretend to try so why should we fund the schools.

The City of Philadelphia failed to pass a tobacco tax, drinks tax, occupancy tax, collect taxes, and/or have its mayor and DA pay their gas bills on time.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 16:31.

Poogie - Thank you. I've been saying it as well. Why anybody go out of their way to help SDP when they have their own problems as well?

We are coming to a moment in history that urban areas like Philly, Camden, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago and Pittsburgh are acceptable losses and or collateral damage. Philly folks can't bury your head in the sand. I live near Pittsburgh. The people in the rural areas don't care if you can't fund a public transportation system or fund a public school system. You read it here on the blogs. Folks in suburban and rural areas want throw in the towel and say enough about funding inner city problems.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 18:12.

If our economy goes down yours will go down with it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 21:57.

Prisons are located in some suburban but often rural areas. Prisons employee many people. So, they are willing to "accept... inner city problems" if it is an employment opportunity. ????

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 23:37.


I couldn't agree with you more. Great comment!


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 23:07.

What affects the largest concentration of the State's population will affect the rural and suburbs as well, both economically (lack of skilled workers for higher end jobs that bring in tax monies) and socially (rise in crime rates and welfare roles because they don't have the skills to get jobs to support themselves). Plus it is just plain ignorant and border line racist statement like that (to heck with the poor and minority populations in the cities). Shame on you!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/06/2013 - 07:20.

Plus if you lower the living standards of the population of Philadelphia, which is what "shared sacrifice" is all about, it means thousands of people will have less income to buy products. This will cause businesses with no connection to the school district to begin failing. This downward spiral will affect the economy of the whole region, including those people in the suburbs and rural areas who a just "so tired" of Philadelphia's problems and "just don't care" about what happens to the city.

Study history!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/07/2013 - 23:24.

So raise my taxes to give my money to a government worker or I'll have less money? Puleaze. That reeks of desperation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:02.

Ah,, I pay the same taxes you do.wrni

Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:06.

Your comment reeks of ignorance.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 23:32.

true, but why then does the state control it. it they want to run it, own it, they should pay to maintain it; corbett don't get to have it both ways. with district pegged as a liability, time is ripe to wrest control out of state's hands, if we had a few decisive pols with vision and cojones.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 23:06.

meanwhile alcorn goes to universal

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:30.

Lots of talk about educational responsibility, certainly sincere, from the "nattering classes."

Let's confront the elephant in the room: students. No amount of committed instruction is going to send a crack baby to Masterman. No incentivized teacher is going to inspire a sleep-deprived pupil allowed an unregulated PC or TV in her room. Parents who gained nothing from their PSD years hardly expect more for their children.

Just attend an elementary-school "promotion" ceremony with girls glittering in cubic zircons and even, once, a tiara. The parents footing the bill well recognize that this is the closest most will come to a true Graduation.

Such parent get no more than they expect -- a stance shared statewide and in the Legislature.

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