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Hite says Pa. needs fair school funding formula

By the Notebook on Jul 23, 2013 08:46 PM
Photo: Monika Zaleska

Superintendent William Hite spoke at a forum on "equity and excellence in education" hosted by the Urban League of Philadelphia and held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

by Monika Zaleska

Superintendent William Hite on Tuesday publicly decried the lack of a reliable education funding formula in Pennsylvania, noting that Philadelphia, with many of the Commonwealth’s neediest students, still doesn’t know whether it will have enough money to operate full-service schools this year.

Hite made his remarks at a symposium – the subject of which was “equity and excellence in education as a civil rights issue  -- convened as a warm-up to the annual conference of the national Urban League, which opens here Wednesday. 

“I do think that, as a Commonwealth, we have to collectively think about how do we make sure we are meeting the needs of students regardless of where they attend school. And the only way to deal with that through a lack-of-basic-education-funding perspective is through a formula,” Hite said.

Hite said that the District has taken many steps toward cutting expenses, including closing schools, reducing its workforce, and suspending the expansion of charter schools. And yet the money is still short.

His calls for the return of a funding formula were met by the loudest applause of the day from a full Pennsylvania Convention Center conference room of educators and policymakers from around the state.

“I am wondering why in the District that educates more black children than any other place in Pennsylvania, I’m wondering why the money or funding in the place in Pennsylvania that educates more children in poverty than any other place, or more children that are learning English than any other place, is the least funded,” Hite said.                                                                                                                                        

“Here’s a question. Here’s a question we should all be asking, and as I think about this, the response to this question could be a funding formula.”                            

Later, in an interview with reporters, he elaborated.

“I just don’t understand how, if in fact we’re educating more students in poverty, more minority students, more students who are learning English as second language, and more students with special needs, we have one of the lowest per-pupil funding mechanisms of any district in the Commonwealth. That’s the fundamental question and the only way you address it is by attaching funds to students and their needs,” Hite said. 

Also at the forum was acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education William Harner, who spoke before Hite. He said that “money does matter,” but that it must be spent on “things that work.” He also told the group that Gov. Corbett had kept his promise not to raise taxes.

Hite appeared to be responding to Harner, but it was not clear whether the secretary remained in the room to hear him.

Harner, a former superintendent of the well-off Cumberland Valley district who spent a year working in Philadelphia under then-superintendent Paul Vallas, said that he plans to host meetings around the state to have “frank conversations” about education.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is getting ready to open schools without secretaries, counselors, and most support staff. Facing a $300 million shortfall in this year’s budget, it laid off more than 3,800 employees.

The District asked for $180 million from the state and city and is counting on $133 million in labor concessions, mostly from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

But the funding package worked out in Harrisburg amounts to about $127 million in additional funds, and most of that is still uncertain.

“We’re getting to a place now where we have to move very quickly on what sources of revenue will be available. The District is ready to deploy those resources for the things we’ve prioritized, services to students, and safety,” said Hite.

But so far, that doesn’t amount to very much.

For now, the only sure addition beyond what the District already budgeted, Hite said, is $17 million -- $2 million in basic education funding and $15 million in enhanced city tax collections. Still not finalized is a $45 million payment from the state, using money from a partially forgiven federal debt, and a $50 million loan from the city using as collateral expected future sales tax revenues.

Many at the conference called for the return of a predictable education funding formula, which was abandoned in summer 2011 after three years in place.

“I don’t buy the argument that we don’t have the money," said Ronald Cowell, a former Democratic state legislator who is the president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center in Harrisburg. “The point really is you choose to do something else with the money, you spend it somewhere else, or you give it away in terms of a tax break.”

Monika Zaleska is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (13)

Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 23, 2013 10:25 pm
hite undermines his own argument by continuing to shovel what little money philadelphia has straight into the maws of the charter mercenaries. hite is gleason's paid for mouthpiece. "Citing budgetary uncertainties, Superintendent Hite decided last month to delay the approval of turning over Alcorn, Kenderton, and Pastorius elementaries to their recently assigned charter operators, Universal Companies, Scholar Academies, and Mastery Charter Schools, respectively. Local officials are still plotting ways to raise more money for Philadelphia schools, and key components of the school funding package from the city and state has yet to be secured, but District leaders are asking the SRC to move ahead with the expensive Renaissance conversions nonetheless."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2013 10:52 pm
What DO they teach at the Broad Superintendents Academy?
Submitted by lmm324 (not verified) on July 23, 2013 11:22 pm
They teach that education is spelled M-O-N-E-Y.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2013 2:17 pm
They teach how to grandstand in public while really having another objective.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2013 6:26 am
Hite has no integrity - he is continuing to dismantle public schools. He will further stratify this school district.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on July 24, 2013 6:29 am
They will be passing resolutions regarding these new charter schools on Friday morning at 8:30. Maybe if there's sufficient turnout, we can send a message about where education funding should go. I'd love to get back the counselor and secretary we lost at my school.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 24, 2013 1:11 pm
Joan----Like your good buddy, Eileen, you are, of course, very well intended, but your strategy ain't working. Showing up is meaningless in its current context. Malice with Pressure, is the only thing bullies respond to, up close and personal--More Teamster, Less Mouse. Hite isn't even a good con artist for crying out load. If he weren't so loathsome, I'd feel sorry for his acting disability. In any case, he's the proverbial wart on the ass of life. WHEN "The People" have had enough abuse and corruption, they'll respond "Appropriately." If NOT, then they'll get what they deserve.
Submitted by lmm324 (not verified) on July 24, 2013 2:27 pm
Joe K. - You sure talk a good game. You can flip over to Youtube and see what happened with the board meetings in Chicago. Essentially nothing. The pols will get re-elected by the "people" (a.k.a. low information voters).
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 24, 2013 2:30 pm
Imm--You seem to be on all sides of every issue, blabbering condescendingly in all directions. Either you're schizoid or you're trolling. I won't bother responding to you further.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2013 8:49 pm
Wart on the ass of life - oh I love that! To f-ing astute Joe K. <3
Submitted by Joan Taylor on July 24, 2013 10:27 pm
I agree that our union needs to be more Teamster. (In fact, in my youth, I tried to organize a group of teachers in a non-union school into the Teamsters. I lost my job.) We certainly could emulate the Teamsters to our benefit. One example of theirs we should follow is simply showing up and letting our commitment send a message. The indifference and/or inattentiveness of the rank and file, coupled with the fatigue of our PFT leadership, is going to end badly for teachers unless we pull a rabbit out of a hat really soon. I think violence is a senseless non-solution. I would have to sever any ties to a movement that promoted violence, which is why I am appalled by laws that justify vigilante murder.
Submitted by tom-104 on July 24, 2013 9:56 am
The Urban League has been taken over by corporate interests and hedge fund managers: Bill Gates and the Urban League Scan this page and then look at the bottom of the page. ************************************* The Urban League has ties to the Walton Foundation (Walmart family) in New Orleans charter schools. Urban League of Greater New Orleans $491,300 ************************ Urban League and the Broad Foundation In 2002, Hugh B. Price, President and CEO, of the National Urban League was an instructor at the Broad Superintendents Academy. (Page 2) ************************* Also see: Corporate Funding of Urban League, NAACP & Civil Rights Orgs Has Turned Into Corporate Leadership Chris Hedges: The Liberal Elite has Betrayed the People They Claim to Defend
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2013 2:09 pm
Thanks Tom that 's exactly what we need to know. and here people are rallying around Cory Booker like he's progressive savior- it galls me.

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