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Philly lags other cities in school funding

By Patrick Kerkstra on Jul 27, 2013 10:49 AM

We’ve done our part. And then some. Now it’s somebody else’s turn.

That seems to be the prevailing view of Philadelphia’s City Council members on the school funding crisis.

Two years ago, City Council swallowed hard and raised property taxes for the schools. A year later, Council did it again, while also increasing the use and occupancy tax. And this spring, Council enacted a city cigarette tax to provide additional funding for the schools (though Harrisburg failed to approve enabling legislation).

All these actions were taken as federal cash evaporated with the end of the stimulus and state funding for the state-run School District of Philadelphia plummeted.

“The state really has the responsibility for the schools. There is almost no other way to put that. They are responsible. They have been responsible, and they have been derelict in their responsibility,” said Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

That opinion is widely held by City Council members.

And yet, local support for school funding in Philadelphia trails that of most large cities, national data shows.

Most cities contribute more

In the 100 biggest districts in the nation, local funding -- mostly taxes, but some other sources as well -- accounted for an average of 46 percent of school funding in 2010, the latest year available, according to a Notebook analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

But in Philadelphia, local funding contributed just over 30 percent of the District’s budget that year, the 79th lowest total in the group of 100 districts.


The city’s share of school funding looks less miserly when the comparison is limited to very high-poverty districts, where the school-age family poverty rate tops 30 percent.

In those 22 high-poverty districts, local funding tends to be far more modest: just 36 percent of total revenue, on average. But even in that cohort, Philadelphia’s 2010 funding share was comparatively low. And some districts with high poverty rates get most of their funding from local sources, including Atlanta, Houston, Boston and Dallas.

Philadelphia places among the lowest of the local-funding ranks in the Commonwealth as well, a distinction that is doubly problematic for city schools, given that Pennsylvania offers far less support for local education than most states. Of the 267 districts with more than 2,000 students, only 19 had a lower local funding ratio than Philadelphia.

Like Philadelphia, the cities that struggle with local funding tend to be high-poverty communities, such as Reading, Chester, and Altoona.

Philadelphia would probably fare better compared to its national peers with more recent data, given the recent local investments in the School District. But even taking that spending into account, the national and state comparisons suggest that Philadelphia’s taxpayers are not unduly burdened by school taxes, no matter how City Council might feel about the prospect of additional tax hikes or budget cuts to free up more cash for the schools.

Philly’s unique challenges

But then, Philadelphia is different from other cities in key respects, and the case for additional local school funding is hardly a slam dunk.

Despite the relatively modest support for local schools, the city taxes its residents more heavily than just about any big city in the nation. A recent report published by municipal researchers in Washington, D.C., concluded that Philadelphia trailed only Bridgeport, Conn., in the overall tax burden it places on residents. Given that, squeezing more out of city residents and businesses – even for schools – is a politically challenging sell -- particularly when it’s a sell Council has been asked to make three years running.

“Fundamentally, Philadelphia’s problem is we have too many taxes, and that essentially kills our competitiveness in terms of job creation,” said at-large Councilman Bill Green, who has consistently opposed raising city taxes not just for schools (excepting the cigarette tax), but for virtually everything else as well.

While some may blame the city’s high taxes on an inefficient government, Philadelphia has some structural disadvantages that most other cities don’t face. As its own county, Philadelphia also funds its court system, prisons, row offices and other county functions. In most cities, those county expenses are shared with nearby suburbs. Philadelphia also has an unusually large number of land-owning hospitals, universities and other charitable organizations that are exempt from local property taxes, which reduces the amount collected by both City Hall and the School District.

Philadelphia also has one of the nation’s most distressed public pension funds, owing to low employee contribution rates and chronic shortchanging of the fund by a long line of mayors and city councils. Those pension problems have badly hobbled the city’s budget: over the next five years, 20 cents of every general fund dollar the city spends will go to pensions. And that’s just making the minimum payment allowed by law.

Which is why it was such a blow to some on Council when lawmakers in Harrisburg decided the best way to partly patch up the District’s funding crisis was by making the city’s temporary sales tax permanent and using it to pump up the schools budget, instead of the pension fund as some had hoped.

Using the sales tax to inflate the pension fund “was probably the best opportunity” the city had to defuse its largest financial liability, City Council President Darrell Clarke told reporters last week.

“Then all of a sudden there’s this conversation in the General Assembly that essentially would take all of that revenue and apply it to schools, so clearly we were significantly concerned about that possibility,” Clarke said.

The sales tax gambit wasn’t the Nutter administration’s plan either, but the mayor is willing to accept a permanent sales tax hike if it provides “desperately needed funding for the schools,” said Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald. “Both school funding and the pension fund are critical issues and we must find long-term solutions for both.”

The Nutter administration hopes to make at least some progress on the pension problem when – or rather, if – it reaches new deals with the city’s blue- and white-collar unions. But that is far from the sure bet of a dedicated pension funding stream, which the sales tax would have provided.

At the very least, Council wants to see additional city spending on schools matched by state investments, which it considers a reasonable request, given the fact that the state controls the School Reform Commission.

State share climbed, then dropped

But that’s actually exactly what’s happened for the last 11 years. Between the 2002 and 2012 school budgets, city funding and state funding of the Philadelphia schools both increased by 39 percent (or about 6.5 percent, adjusted for inflation). Over the long term, the state and city are matching each other.

More recently, however, the city is doing all the heavy lifting. Since the 2009 fiscal year, the city has increased its funding of the schools by nine percent, while the state has slashed its share by 12 percent. That shift roughly coincided to when Gov. Corbett took over from former governor and Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell.

The shift in that trend line troubles city officials and Council members alike.

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez has been one of the most consistent advocates for more school funding on Council, even if it meant local tax hikes or city spending cuts. But even she is frustrated by the last few years.

“We had eight years of Rendell and increased funding,” she said. “This last decade, we had an abundance of state resources, and since the state takeover, there’s this notion on Council that if the state wants to take over they have to carry the lion’s share. Now they’re changing the deal.”

Council reluctant to help

As for her colleagues, they are even more frustrated. Interviews with Council members and some staffers finds that:

  • Some Council members are prepared to simply wait Corbett out. They’re hoping for a Democratic winner in next year’s gubernatorial race, and some new faces in the General Assembly.
  • Council is reluctant to commit to new long-term school funding commitments when the Nutter administration still lacks contracts with two of the city’s biggest unions. Without new contracts, Council members say, long-term financial planning is almost impossible.
  • Council members are also keen to see a resolution to the District’s negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Right or wrong, the perception among some on Council is that past city funding hikes for the District were simply added on to teachers' contracts.
  • Council thinks there still a chance that the General Assembly will give Philadelphia the ability to raise cigarette taxes once it reconvenes this fall.

At least some of Council’s reluctance to find more money for the schools is tied to its lack of influence over the District.

“Really, all we are allowed to do is appropriate money for the School District. The rest falls under the state’s jurisdiction,” Bass said.

Of course, the School District is in an even more difficult position. Unlike all the other districts in the state, Philadelphia’s has no authority to raise taxes. Instead it must appeal to a City Council that resents the District’s independence, and to a state legislature that is often openly hostile to Philadelphia.

On top of that, divisions in the education advocacy community -- between charter supporters and those who prefer traditional public schools – have made it even easier for Council to delay settling the school funding question.

“It gives people a pass. It’s easy for us to say to folks, ‘You guys aren’t united. Talk to me when you’re united.’” said Sánchez. “We use all that stuff. In this last education debate we saw every little political spin played.”

“We’re playing out the clock. The state clock. The PFT clock,” Sánchez said. “But at what expense?”

One option for enhanced school funding that received little public consideration in Council this year is to cut city spending, and to shift a greater share of the money collected in property taxes to the district.

Green made a pitch late in the budget cycle to do just that, but it went nowhere. Earlier this month, the watchdog group called the Committee of Seventy called on the city to reconsider, and to trim city spending by one to two percent, and allocate the savings for the schools.

“Incalculable harm is being done each day that this is unresolved,” said Zack Stalberg, executive director of the Committee of Seventy. “It might not be quite fair, but it is the reality that’s it’s the local community’s responsibility to educate its kids. And in Philadelphia we’re doing a poor job of it, and it manifests itself in the poverty rate, the unemployment rate, and a whole bunch of other things.”

When asked about the prospect of city budget cuts to fund the schools, Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald replied: “Where would the Committee of Seventy choose to make the cuts? What services would it select for reduction?”

Calling for city cuts is far easier than enacting them. With so much of the city’s budget locked up in mandatory expenses – pension payments, debt service, contract obligations and so on – a one to two percent cut can easily translate into a much larger budget crunch at the operational level.

Sánchez – a progressive who favors full funding of needed city services – understands why some colleagues might flinch at cutting the city’s budget to send more money to a state-run school district that does not answer in any meaningful way to City Council.

“We should go to the state every year. Every year,” she said. “But ultimately, these are our kids.”

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Comments (36)

Submitted by Helen Gym on July 27, 2013 4:00 pm

A really important story. It overlooks one important fact though. The first property tax hike brought no new money to the Philadelphia public schools and instead was a 5-point shift in the millage rate away from school funding. In 2007 Parents United was part of a coalition working with City Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. to establish a 60% share for Philadelphia public schools. The Nutter administration made a determination to reduce that share to 55% - a move that has had a permanent crippling effect on local support. By our estimates, that 5% difference amounts to $80 million+ per year every year. In a state where school funding can swing drastically depending on political priorities, stabilizing and prioritizing local funding plays an essential buffer against such state-level instability.

Restoring the 60% share of school funding must be a city and local priority. This was not a serious effort by Councilman Green, who introduced the idea in the penultimate Council session, though the gesture is appreciated.

We also need to prioritize other uses/abuses of the property tax - overgenerous tax abatement programs and delinquency among them. Additionally, creative analysis of the other local taxes serving the District is needed - use & occupancy, liquor by the drink, and school income tax - as well as PILOTS and other creative opportunities for school funding.

Kudos to Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez and others who made a valid run at the Use & Occupancy this time around. But the failure to move this through - despite an overwhelming push by parents and citizens - demonstrates that City Council and the Mayor are sadly short on ideas and solutions which prioritize school funding.

Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:28 pm
Ms Gym - I saw the graph and I understand the comparison with larger urban school districts for local revenue. It's clear that the graphs shows that the city is not adequately funding education as compared to other urban school districts. Having said that, each school district funds public education (I'm assuming) with different revenue streams like property taxes, wage taxes, sale taxes, etc. A better comparison would be with the urban school districts within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that have similar demographics like SDP. I don't have the figures. I would like to see a comparison with urban school districts like Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown, York, etc. I would wager that revenue is from property taxes alone leading to an apples to apples comparison. A second comparison would be the neighboring schools that border SDP, which could have similar demographics like poverty rates, income, etc. Here is the best website that I've found with the data presented in a user friendly manner. Unfortunately, the data only goes back to 2010.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on July 28, 2013 10:55 pm


The 12th paragraph of the article is about how Philly compares to other schools in the Commonwealth and includes a link to this chart that allows you to make all the comparisons you want - among PA districts:

Submitted by lmm324 (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:42 am
Paul - Thank. The graph is very useful, which clearly shows that the city is not funding education as compared to those other districts. On the other hand, it shows that a vast majority of the funding comes from the state debunking the myth that the state is not funding SDP.
Submitted by Helen Gym on July 29, 2013 2:06 pm

No one said the state is not funding Philly. The issue is that the state is not funding Philadelphia thoroughly and efficiently.  

Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:21 pm
Ms. Gym - We can argue all day about "thorough and efficient". Paul Socolar provides a hyperlink for a chart on local funding for various PA school districts. It's clear that the vast percentage of the school district budgets get their revenue locally. Please look at page 19 of the budget. 50% of SDP's budget comes from the state. According to the chart, the percentage go down precipitously, probably with an average around 30%. I know my school district is 31% from the state. Ergo, the state is funding SDP at substantially higher percentages. It's been further established here on this thread that per pupil instructional costs are inline with other school districts, particularly the ones that border SDP. Sure, there are significant differences with Lower Merion and Springfield. I agree on that point. The issue isn't funding, but the operations of the school district. Please look at page 35 of the budget. You are spending 50% on instruction with the remaining 50% spent on operations. I believe most school districts operate around 60% on instruction and 40% on operations. Huge differences there. Then again, the SRC is running SDP.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:29 pm
Bottom line is city council will only fund agencies it can stock with idiot patronage employees who will kick back cash and vote for the machine. City council's one action was tying its last tax increase to making the SEIU employees happy. That was $10 million a year in costs above market rate. SRC has taken much of that away from them in the admin & bureaucracy. The SEIU still serves as a Democrat machine tool. And city council wanted to go on the record making sure the district continues to squander money on these interests. Remember back in 98 when the IBEW had a multi-million dollar "contract" (if theft can be legally contractually) moving computers around at $80 an hour? Because you need an electrician to plug in a computer of course. Coincidence that IBEW head Johnny Doc is also head of the Democrat party... Don't wonder why the rest of the state doesn't want to feed this monster. The interest group rip-offs that pass unquestioned in Philly as normal business are actually quite disgusting by any civilized standards.
Submitted by Helen Gym on July 29, 2013 2:05 pm

It's interesting that you insist that Reading and Allentown with District populations below 20,000 students to be an "apples to apples" comparison to Philadelphia's 206,000 student population. Note that Philadelphia unlike any other District in the Commonwealth is both a county AND a school district. It's the reason we get singled out in acts of legislation. So there is really no apples to apples comparison to Philadelphia. It's a question here of equity, not comparables that eliminate the discomforting fact that we don't even try for equity here - especially for folks who like to lecture us to "live within our means."

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:05 pm
Mutter is not short on ideas to help the schools, just the traditional schools as he's playing his part perfectly. His whole focus is on The National Stage where he expects to be rewarded for the destruction of worker rights et al in Philly. I agree, he is short on something though.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:18 pm
Directing more money to schools would require cutting back on the cancer that is the rest of Philadelphia's bloated incompetent incredibly unproductive city workforce. Yet all I ever hear from public school advocates are new ways to raise Philly's worst in the USA tax burden. And BTW, all those people who got 10 year tax abatements in the early-mid 2000's housing boom will be paying full freight over the next couple of years. Tax abatement was incredibly effective at suckering many thousands of new taxpayers into the Philadelphia tax hell. The idea that getting rid of the abatement will raise substantial money is worse than naive. You think there is the same demand for $500k homes/condos with a $9k a year tax bill versus a temporary $2k a year tax bill? There is more money coming in from property tax. The budget problems will continue because the "advocates" are always focused on the wrong thing- figuring out how to scheme up new funding and generally support a more expensive version of the status quo. The money may be there, but it is not in the hands of the Philadelphia taxpayer.
Submitted by Frank (not verified) on July 28, 2013 8:47 am
My my calculations, current funding for the School District of Philadelphia totals over $12,500 per student. Is that correct?
Submitted by Paul Socolar on July 28, 2013 5:00 pm

There's any number of ways to calculate per student spending.  

The state department of education website provides a spreadsheet with per pupil spending for every district in the state. The most recent available data is for 2011-12. By their metrics, Philly comes in at about $13,100 per student, which places it 280th of 500 districts in the state. Lower Merion and Springfield (Montgomery County) are at the top of the list, spending about twice as much as Philly.

The District spent about $3 billion from all its various funds to educate 203,000 students in District and charter schools in 2012-13, and so by that most crude calculation, it works out to about $15,000 per student. But the state's spreadsheet applies consistent standards across districts about which revenue and expenses categories get included.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 28, 2013 6:22 pm
On the State's PDE site, from the "AFR Data: Summary-Level " for 2011-12, the "Total Revenue" is $2,639,578,978.00. Dividing by 203,000, which is for 2012-13 (2010-11 was 206,989, so 2011-12 estimate slightly higher than 2012-13), you get slightly less than $13,002.85 per pupil funded.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 28, 2013 6:36 pm
I thought that there was 150,000 in traditional public schools and 35,000 in charter schools with a total enrollment of 185,000. If this is the case, the per pupil spending is higher. Having said that, I take your enrollment. Lower Merion and Springfield are completely different than SDP. Before the funding issues with SDP, the per pupil cost was higher than most suburban school districts. Today, the per pupil cost is inline with most suburban school districts. SDP needs to live within its means.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 28, 2013 9:47 pm
Go-Eagles, I mean no disrespect, but your statement that "Before the funding issues with SDP, the per pupil cost was higher than most suburban school districts," is a false statement. You should check your facts before you make statements like the ones you just made. Go to Select the light brown "Rank All Districts" tab. Then on the left-hand side, select the blue button which says "Spending Per Student." Select among various school years between 2000-01 and 2009-10. There have been vast differences in per pupil spending among school districts in the Commonwealth for well over a decade. Based on data from the aforementioned OpenPAGov database, in 2000-2001: Lower Merion SD spent $15,145/pupil Springfield Township (Montgomery Co.) spent $11,956/pupil Springfield SD (Delaware Co.) spent $10,091/pupil Philadelphia City SD spent $8,034/pupil. Based on data from the aforementioned OpenPAGov database, in 2009-2010, the most recent year for which data are available: Lower Merion SD spent $26,571/pupil Springfield Township (Montgomery Co.) spent $19,472 Springfield (Delaware Co.) spent $15,244/pupil Philadelphia City SD spent $13,384/pupil You can't simply take the total budget and divide it by the number of students. This is not how school districts calculate the per-pupil cost. There is a study called Pennsylvania's Education Costing-Out Study from 2007 which explains the public school funding system(s) in Pennsylvania. Here is the link to it: There have been some changes to the state's funding system for public education since the study's publication, due somewhat to an infusion of federal stimulus funds but mainly because of actions of the executive and legislative branches since Gov. Corbett took office. These changes under Gov. Corbett have made the funding system more regressive, further disadvantaging poorer districts than was the case during the Gov. Rendell's time in office. EGS
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:48 pm
EGS - Not so fast. I just posted a reply to Ms. Gym. For starters, I am very aware of that website. I've used it in the past and have referenced it. I would not go back to 2001. I would look at the more recent data. Furthermore, I would not compare SDP to the Lower Merion's of this world. Lower Merion and Springfield have much different demographics. Like I said to Ms. Gym, the apples to apples comparison is with urban school districts like SDP with a second comparison with school districts that border SDP. It ties into demographics like poverty rates, income, etc. Many people calculate per pupil spending by taking the budget amount divided by the number of students. It's fair, but unfair. It's fair that you can get a quick comparison with like school districts. It's also unfair. I had a conversation with my local superintendent. They don't like this method, particularly how it relates to spec. ed. funding. Superintendents like to look a the amount spent on instruction and break it down from there. A typical school budget spends 55% to 65% on instruction. It depends. I've noticed that school districts spend different percentages of their instruction budget on spec. ed. I've seen percentages range from 10% to 25%. It varies. My district spends 25% on spec. ed. The two neighboring school districts with similar demographics spend 10% on spec. ed. In summary, the per pupil spending could be skewed (maybe not the best word). Like I said, I would look at demographics.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on July 28, 2013 11:47 pm
Go-Eagles, I'm not a school finance expert. However, when I look at comparable numbers from the OpenPAGov database, most nearby suburban districts spend more per pupil than the SDP. I looked at numbers from 2000-2001 because this would qualify as "before the funding issues with the SDP" and then looked at 2009-2010. I mentioned Lower Merion SD and Springfield because you mentioned them. (I included both Springfield districts because you weren't clear about the one to which you were referring.) The fact remains that this statement of yours is false: "Before the funding issues with SDP, the per pupil cost was higher than most suburban school districts. Today, the per pupil cost is in line with most suburban school districts." With regard to special education, I am dual certified in elementary and special education. I worked for part of the 2012-2013 school year as a special education paraprofessional with the SDP. There are many individuals with far more special ed expertise than I. However, here is some "inside information" about how special ed actually works. There can be a variety of reasons for variations in special education expenditures. Most larger districts---such as SD of Philadelphia, Lower Bucks SD, and Upper Darby SD---provide almost all special education services "in house." In other words, the school district provides services and programming for almost all students within the district using district personnel. Smaller school districts rely much more on the Intermediate Unit (IU) for special education services for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (even though Emotional Support is usually considered high incidence) and low incidence disabilities such as intellectual disability, autism, visual impairment, and hearing impairment. To give you an idea of what kind of services an IU provides, the Montgomery County IU has its Guide to Services available online: (It includes cost information.) I don't know how much money larger districts save by providing their own special education services. However, it is clear that contracting for special education services with an IU like MCIU is not cheap. For example, during the 2012-13 school year, MCIU charged districts $40,670 per student for students receiving services in an Autistic Support Classroom Program – Elementary (p. 37 of the Guide to Services 2012-2013). Also, there may be some variation in the nature of the special education population in a particular district. It seems logical that a family which has a child with multiple disabilities such as intellectual disability and cerebral palsy may want to live close to a medical center. Finally, districts also contract with Approved Private Schools. There is variation in the percentages of students placed in APSs among school districts. Examples of APSs are the Overbrook School for the Blind, HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy, and the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. These schools are also very expensive for school districts. Different school districts have different philosophies and resources for special education. Some districts can afford to provide smaller caseload sizes than legal maximums. Caseload size refers to the number of IEPs for which a teacher is responsible. A teacher may service a student with special needs without being the student's case manager. For example, a student may receive instruction in both Autistic Support and Learning Support classes, but only one of those teachers is the case manager who is responsible for the IEP and other paperwork. Therefore, the student only counts toward one teacher's caseload. For low incidence programs, such as Life Skills Support and Autistic Support, caseload and class size are often the same thing in the SDP. LSS and AS classes are self-contained classes in the SDP. (Students in LSS and AS classes have varying degrees of inclusion with other students, depending on factors such as the principal, the teachers, and whether or not any students are "legal cases.") For example, the maximum caseload size for an Autistic Support teacher is 8 in PA. In the SDP, AS caseloads are usually close to 8, give or take 1 or 2 students. A teacher's caseload can change during the year due to students moving, reevaluation, and other factors. Hypothetically, another district or IU may aim to provide a caseload for AS teachers that is 6 students per teacher. This increases expenses by increasing the number of teachers necessary. The legal maximum for a Learning Support teacher is something like 21. In the SDP, it's likely that many LS teachers have caseloads at the legal maximum. More affluent districts may have their own policies which set a lower number for the maximum caseload sizes for various types of special education services. Some districts also have more therapists and related service providers than other districts. So, my point in saying all of this is that demographics are just a small component of special ed costs. It's very important to look at caseload sizes, although this is information that you may not be able to find online or in district publications; you'd have to request this information. If you are interested in special ed issues, I would try talking with special ed teachers and principals in various districts about the ins and outs of how special ed actually works in a particular district. This may help explain why your district spends more on special ed than neighboring districts. EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 12:36 am
EGS and Go-Eagles, you can find the demographic breakdown of the SDP (as of Dec 6, 2012) at; SDP charters at They are separate. Go-Eagles, you will see that the enrollment of the traditional SDP schools is 149,535, and charters is 55,625 for a total of 205,160. Then if you go to PDE page "AFR Data: Detailed", under "Expenditures" you can find the spending for Special Ed plus Gifted which I believe is the amount in addition to the Instruction cost for all students. This is for both the traditional and charters combined. For 2011-12 the Total Expenditures is $2,655,631,411.00 divided by 205,160 students total =$12,944.20 Instruction $1,812,504,429.14 divided by 205,160 students = $8,834.60 per student. Special Ed & MG (supplement?) is $379,947,433.92 divided by 31,809 Students w/Disabilities and MG total =$11,944.65. Not sure if this is correct, but if you add this to the base per student instruction expenditure, you get $20,779.20 per Special Ed /MG student for instruction, which aligns with the previously published $19,000 quoted in a Notebook article on charter compensation. I have not been able to locate the details for charter spending on the PDE site. I welcome any references/links here.
Submitted by lmm324 (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:23 am
Paul - Once again, thank you. At times, I have problems with the states Excel spreadsheets on the presentation of their date (on all items). 280 out of 500 is in the middle. In other words, it's not at the bottom.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 29, 2013 9:46 am
Ms. Cheng - Here is a link to the SDP Proposed Budget In Brief dated April 26, 2013. Page 2 - Revenue - $2.4 billion & Expenditures - $2.7 billion Page 3 - PSERS funding percentage - 16.99% an increase from 12.36% or roughly 25% overall. Page 5 - Expenditures Per Pupil - $14,000 Ms. Cheng - I believe charter school total payments are $741 million (page 35 of complete budget for non-district operated schools). I'm assuming non-district operated schools are charter schools, which seems viable for 55,000 students. EGS - The $14,000 seems inline with most suburban school districts (at least compared to my local school districts).
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 10:43 am
Thanks Go-Eagles. Take (from State spreadsheet 2011-12): $1,812,504,429.14 (Instruction)+ $379,947,433.92 (Special Ed & Gifted) = $2,192,451,863.06 then divide by 205,160 and you get $10,686.55 as a "blended" per child instruction cost for Philadelphia SD including the charters. O.k., then using $14,000 - $10,687 = $3,313 on capital and other expenditures, roughly 24%. Right now I'm still very curious about what the charter data looks like. I'm not on any side, just wishing things were better for the kids.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 28, 2013 5:39 pm
If you go to this page, you can see the "Revenue Data for all LEAs" Used 2010-11 and enrollment data from this link, , because I didn't have time to add individual schools as is shown on State's site to get figures for 2011-12: For 2010-11, the total revenue of the Philadelphia City SD was $2,835,402,858.00 with an enrollment (includes charters) of 206,989. The per child revenue then for 2010-11 year was $13,698.33. Keep in mind Special Ed funding is included in this figure. To illustrate how this affects the figure, the SDP spends $19,000 per Special Ed child, and $8,000 per regular ed child, for just instruction (no capital, transportation, debt service, adult ed, etc expense included).
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2013 4:23 pm
5-year contract extension.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 28, 2013 9:37 pm
Neither side would want that. A 3 month extension may well be in the cards though, at least, several sources have told me that. Actually, I heard it first on this site then checked it out. Not for nothin as they say in South Philly, but anybody who even remotely thinks Mutter isn't fully complicit, is a fool.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on July 29, 2013 5:05 am
A very Good Article. Just re-enforces the truth that our city council and mayor do not care a wit about the district. No politician in Pennsylvania is going to send anymore money to Philadelphia since we are simply unwilling to fund out own schools. Crying poor and talking about how dysfunctional your students and their parents are just does not cut it. God helps those who at least make the effort to help themselves and the poser politicians in Philadelphia are simply pathetic.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on July 29, 2013 10:00 am

Just in from the Controller's Office this morning:

PHILADELPHIA - City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released his latest economic report that indicates City General Fund tax revenues for fiscal year 2013 (FY2013) totaled more than $2.7 billion, an increase of $200 million over the previous fiscal year.

The FY2013 tax revenues were an eight percent increase over the FY2012 collection of just over $2.5 billion.  Almost every city tax increased over the prior fiscal year, including the realty transfer tax by almost $28 million, or 24 percent.  The increase is reflective of the boost in home sales over the same period, as the tax is levied on the sale or transfer of real estate located in Philadelphia. Other tax revenue increases came from the business privilege tax (19 percent), tobacco (16 percent), and real estate (eight percent). 

While the majority of tax revenues increased over the prior fiscal year, a few revenues did decline such as the amusement tax and valet tax with decreases of 14 percent and two percent, respectively.  The lower amusement tax can be attributed to Philadelphia’s professional sports teams not entering post-season play, which results in less ticket sales.  The five percent tax is imposed on the admission fee charged for attending any amusement event in the City, including concerts, movies and athletic events.

Along with including a review of the city general fund tax revenues, the Controller’s economic report showed that there were 1,200 total monthly home sales for June 2013.  This was an increase of almost 19 percent over last year.  The majority of sales occurred in South Philadelphia, Fairmount, Roxborough and Fishtown.



Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 29, 2013 10:47 am
Wow, thanks Mr. Socolar. I wondered about that realty transfer tax. Obvious question: Where is all this money going, if not to the schools?
Submitted by Saw (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:14 pm
Shouldn't the PFT be jumping all over this?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 20, 2015 7:31 pm

Wow, thanks Mr. Socolar. I wondered about that realty transfer tax. Obvious question: Where is all this money going, if not to the schools? Cipto Junaedy | Cipto Junaedy

Submitted by tom-104 on July 29, 2013 1:52 pm
Check out Will Bunch's Attytood column in today's Daily News. Why philanthropy can't save Philadelphia. See the links.
Submitted by Phillymama2313 (not verified) on July 29, 2013 3:37 pm
Mr. Kerkstra presents a thoroughly researched analysis of City Council's laissez faire attitude toward school funding. Thank you for that! I agree with others in this discussion that it's time for Council (among others) to step up and create an adequate and sustainable source for funding for public education in the city. But the fact that local funding in Philadelphia ranks low in comparison with other cities in PA and across the country with similar demographics is hardly a compelling argument for additional funding. Local funding of education, which is tied to property values, reflects and perpetuates inequality in this country, as Will Bunch points out in his column in today's Daily News. It's interesting to note that Allentown, PA is similar to Philadelphia in its demographics and percentage of local funding. And it was in Allentown that a group of business leaders commissioned a study of the Allentown City School District in 2005 to determine the resources needed to reverse trends that included families leaving for suburban districts, low achievement, economic decline and increased drop-out rates. This effort provided the impetus for Pennsylvania's 2007 costing-out study, which identified the cost of providing a high quality education in the state. For more info and a copy of this study, go to the Good Schools PA website at Why aren't Philadelphia's business and philanthropic leaders following this example? As a parent who has kids in both public and charter schools in this city, the funding issue affects us all. Charter schools receive roughly 80% of the district's per pupil expenditure in the previous fiscal year. So this year's budget cuts will hit charter schools next year.
Submitted by Chance (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:43 pm
As you say the tax burden is already among the highest in the country. Patrick Kerkstra used the simplistic variable of the poverty rate presumably because measuring the per-capita taxable value in every city would be overly complicated due to the different taxes involved and the city and county government burdens, but, that would be the more accurate measurement, and they would show that whether you measure by real estate value, income value, or others, the cities closest to Philadelphia would also have similar funding shares. Having explained the challenge of being a city and county and providing county services to an urban base, and having noted the already high tax burden, the conclusion of the article and then the comments seems to be, never mind that, city taxpayers should be paying more. I disagree. What this illustrates is not that the city taxpayer is not making enough effort, it illustrates that the burden of services, city-county-state service structure, and impact of the state funding formula or lack thereof are complicated and debilitating, that few want to have a full discussion of them, and that if even Mr. Kerkstra does not want to pursue it fully but instead seems to conclude that the answer is simply 'the city could be paying more,' then of course that's will be what's concluded in Harrisburg and the rest of the state. There is evidence and research to support that higher taxes at a local level in a mobile and open society will destroy jobs, except where the institution is immobile - such as health care and higher ed, the city's main economic life preservers (which therefore also became easy targets for education advocates and City Council in the search for more funding, despite contributing fiscally as a cost of doing business through the wage tax).
Submitted by Zaw (not verified) on July 29, 2013 4:59 pm
Is it even possible for someone to "bottom line" this for me? There are so many numbers flying around its making my head hurt. Isn't there a resource available, other than people posting comments, that lays this out in plain English? No one has a link to some research that a jornalist might have done, or an advocate, or even the PFT? Bottom line: Are charters running cheaper than SDP? Are suburban districts paying more per student? My suspicion is that the numbers are left purposely convoluted so that there can be differing interpretations.
Submitted by Paul Socolar on July 29, 2013 5:00 pm

"Are suburban districts paying more per student?" is an easy question to answer.  All but 3 of them are spending more.

There are roughly 60 surrounding suburban PA school districts around Philadelphia. You can look at their spending by retrieving one of the spreadsheets on this page from the state department of education. The spreadsheet for 2011-12 "expenditures by LEA" is the most recent comparison available from the state. The tab on the bottom allows you to look at expenditures per pupil (or per ADM, in education-speak), and Excel allows you to sort . As I noted earlier, Philadelphia ranks 280th of 500 districts in the state. So it's in the middle statewide.

But Philadelphia is near the very bottom in spending for districts in this region. Not a single district in Bucks or Montgomery counties spends less per pupil than Philadelphia. Upper Darby in Delaware County and Avon Grove and Oxford Area in Chester County are the only 3 districts in the 4 surrounding counties that spend less than Philadelphia. You can easily verify this from the attached document.

The charter comparison is more difficult and subject to dispute because the SDP as a whole has some costs that an individual charter does not incur, like providing transportation services (which are free to charters). What gets included and excluded in order to make a fair comparison is grounds for much debate. The state's funding formula purports to fund charters at the same level as is actually available for spending in district schools, but many charter proponents say it does not.

Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on July 29, 2013 6:54 pm
Thank you for this update. In 2011-2012, the School District was still receiving federal stimulus funding. I assume the disparity between the SDP and surrounding county schools may even be greater. Last year, for example, Upper Darby received additional state funding.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2013 11:40 am
The surrounding counties are among the wealthiest in the us. Of course they spend more for schools. That is a good thing for them and has causes no harm to philly other than drawing more wealthy people into their district. But since the prevailing attitude at the sdp and philly government generally over the last 50 years has been a huge middle finger to these people and businesses, there is no basis to complain that they have left. Comparing philly to lower merion is just completely bogus. It is a smokescreen for people who want to pursue destructive philly politics and policy but want to pretend their are no negative consequences.

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