Gov. Wolf visits Philly to talk education funding, tout record
Pennsylvania’s Gov. Wolf visited Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia on Thursday to tout increases that state has made in education funding and push for more.
Gladys Ramos, 13, a reporter for The Baldi Times, was ready for him.
The 8th grader asked whether Wolf had a plan in place so that her teachers wouldn’t have to spend their own money on school supplies.
The governor’s response: “I’m trying.”
The most recent state budget contained about $50 million in added money for the School District of Philadelphia, which enabled the District to hire more nurses and counselors and purchase new textbooks.
Superintendent William Hite, who joined Wolf at Baldi, has called the start of the 2016-17 school the best since he took charge four years ago. But he also had to answer tough questions from the crowd at Baldi.
While visiting an English class, Hite was asked by teacher Stephanie Stock whether he would strike a new deal with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which has been without a contract for more than three years. Hite told Stock — who was purposefully decked out in red, the primary color of the PFT — that he would.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t make a promise you can’t keep!’ He better keep it,” Stock said with a half-smile.
The tone of the visit matched the mood in Philadelphia education these days: optimistic with a undercurrent of impatience.
Some of the optimism stems from relatively happy news out of Harrisburg. Not only did the most recent budget come with extra money for Philadelphia schools, but it also locked into place a long-term funding source.
The District receives about $58 million annually from a city cigarette tax. The tax was supposed to expire, but a clause in the most recent state budget makes it permanent. Budget language also ensures that the Philadelphia schools will always get at least $58 million in relation to the tax. If the tax doesn’t actually generate that much money in future years, the state legislature has pledged to make up the difference.
The financial boost freed the District to reverse a years-long trend of austerity.
“We have now new instructional materials in math and English. We have new technologies,” said Hite. “We’re thrilled to be here at Baldi Middle School highlighting what these new investments mean to our young people.”