Coalition initiative pushes for school funding
by Naveed Ahsan
Since the District’s draconian budget cuts, there has been no shortage of protests in response to the funding crisis. Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, a labor-community alliance, has called a series of actions know as Full Funding Fridays – weekly rallies every Friday morning at several schools currently suffering from the cuts.
Participants hand out leaflets and circulate petitions calling on legislators to increase education spending.
PCAPS has held Full Funding Friday rallies at over 50 District schools since starting the effort in September. At one protest in November, PCAPS members convened at the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, and Decatur, Gideon, Gompers, Rowen, and Sheridan elementary schools.
The goal of the initiative, said PCAPS member Ron Whitehorne, is to build stronger partnerships with parents, students, and community members while forging public discussion around the issue of funding.
“We hope that it will catch on,” and people will start initiating the protests themselves, he said.
In October, the advocacy group held a rally outside the luxury high-rise condos at 10 Rittenhouse Square, launching a campaign for the city to eliminate its property tax abatement program. The city now offers a 10-year tax abatement for building developers and owners, exempting them from property taxes on new construction or renovations. PCAPS says these tax abatements will deprive the District of nearly $50 million in 2014. With that money, the group said, the District could have avoided the closure of 24 schools or prevented the layoff of hundreds of employees.
“Our priority should be to fund the necessary programs to make sure our children get a good education,” said Kia Hinton, a PCAPS member whose daughter attends Motivation High School.
City Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. has introduced a bill that would give the School Reform Commission the authority to determine whether to continue the property tax abatements for taxes that go to the District beyond June 2014. Currently, City Council makes that decision.
PCAPS has released a white paper, Short-changing Philadelphia Students: How the 10-Year Tax Abatement Underwrites Luxury Developments and Starves Schools, which examines some of the city’s most valuable buildings that benefit from property tax abatements.
The group has also released a Five Point Education Platform, calling for a more equitable formula for distributing state education dollars, increased funding for schools and human services, better oversight of charter schools, decreased prison spending, and replacement of the SRC by a local governing board.
For more information, go to PCAPS' website.
Naveed Ahsan is an intern at the Notebook.