By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — What did Mayor Nutter know, and when did he know it?
Those were the questions being asked today in Philadelphia City Council about the school district’s sudden request last week for an extra $60 million from the city (see previous story).
The mayor’s proposed budget contains no extra money for the school district. But members of the School Reform Commission — which includes two mayoral appointees — said last week they need $120 million more from the state and $60 million more from the city.
At a budget hearing today, Councilman Wilson Goode grilled the mayor’s top education officer, Lori Shorr, about when the mayor learned of the request.
(Goode:) “Was it solely their decision (to ask for $180 million)? Did they make that decision without input from the mayor, who appointed two members (to the SRC) and the Mayor’s Office of Education?”
(Shorr:) “I think I’m trying to answer this, but I don’t think I’m saying what you want me to say. We made it clear that we would be supportive — because we know they have a $300-million structural deficit — that we would be supportive if they would ask for more funding from both the state and the city.”
(Goode:) “So when did they tell you the number?”
(Shorr:) “The day before.”
(Goode:) “Do you think that’s appropriate?”
(Shorr:) “Yes, because we knew there would be an ‘ask.’ “
(Goode:) “My last question: did you want to know sooner?”
(Shorr:) “(pause) That’s a good question. I mean –“
(Goode:) “Yes, it is a good question. Did you want to know sooner than the day before?”
(Shorr:) “I think we knew what we needed to know before the day before.”
(Goode:) “That answers everything. Thank you.”
The mayor last week issued a statement saying he will “seriously consider” the request for funding. Shorr, at the hearing, explicitly said the mayor supports it.
But it remains unclear whether councilmembers will support that amount, and where in the budget they would find those dollars.
Council will hear directly from school district officials in late April.