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Phila. Lawmakers Hear Competing Views on School Budget Options

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Mike DeNardo Mike DeNardo
Mike DeNardo, a veteran of KYW Newsradio for more than 25 years,...
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By Mike DeNardo and Jan Carabeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia City Council heard from the public today about the need to restore services to the cash-strapped school district. On Wednesday evening, a rally was held outside by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, with promises to keep the pressure on lawmakers.

School officials told Council on Monday that the district needs $216 million in new money just to maintain last year’s budget at “doomsday” levels (see related story).

Today, parents, teachers, and the public were sounding off. There were so many in attendance that some were forced into an overflow area.

Nearly 80 people signed up to speak.

“It’s really about the need for more staff in general,” said Adam Bachmann, a George Washington High School counselor.

Jeremy Estes, a senior at Washington High School, said he needed advice when applying to college.

“I was lost and didn’t know what to expect…With the budget cuts, we went from six counselors to one for 1,800 students…It’s physically impossible,” he said.

Teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan (in photo) told Council he backed a series of funding options — from a bill to raise parking meter rates, to raising the percentage of real estate tax revenues that go to schools, to exploring putting slot machines at the airport.

Jordan also called on City Council to allocate all $120 million from a city sales tax extension to schools (see related story).

Darrell Clarke, the council president, was absent during the hearings Wednesday — he was in Harrisburg lobbying for the Mayor’s $2 per pack cigarette tax. He wants half to go to fund city pensions (another related story).

Jordan says he understands that the full $120 million may come as part of a package deal, with schools getting more money in the early years.

“We also hope that by the time a potential 50-50 split is realized, that a weighted funding formula will have been reinstated,” he said.

In the meantime, students told Council they needed counselors, sports equipment, and more teachers without delay.

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