By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia school funding crisis was coming to a head this morning in City Council, as the Council president introduced a bailout plan that neither the mayor, state lawmakers, nor school advocates are likely to embrace.
City Council president Darrell Clarke is backing a bill that would earmark one percentage point of the city’s sales tax for schools and the city workers’ pension fund.
Under the measure, the schools would get all $120 million of that one-percent city surtax this year, but the amount would decrease over four years so the schools and the pension fund would eventually split it, 50-50 (see related story).
“It is an approach that we think is fair,” Clarke said this morning. “It is an approach that we think is balanced. We’re not asking the state at this point for any additional dollars — just simply giving us an opportunity to raise revenue on a local level.”
But this plan differs from what Harrisburg lawmakers authorized last year; they said the $120 million should go to the schools in perpetuity.
City Council majority leader Curtis Jones, who introduced the plan at Clarke’s behest, described it as a ‘Missouri Compromise’ “that probably everybody’s going to be a little mad at, but a little bit thankful for in the end, so that we have the proper funding to educate our young people,” Jones said.
But Clarke’s plan hinges on Harrisburg’s revisiting what they did last year. And whether they’d agree to do so is uncertain and, in the view of some, unlikely.
Sources tell KYW Newsradio that Mayor Michael Nutter had wanted Clarke’s bill to include a fallback provision in case Harrisburg doesn’t go along. However, the legislation introduced by Clarke contains no such provision, and Clarke said later this morning to have included one would have been counterproductive.
“This notion about ‘fallback’ basically suggests defeat prior to you even moving the bill throughout the process,” the Council president told KYW Newsradio.
Even if a resolution were reached among all parties, this $120 million would not solve the district’s woes. Right now, the district has a $216-million shortfall in next year’s budget. Because of rising costs, even if the district gets the $120 million, school officials say they would need an additional $96 million from the city and/or the state just to maintain the level of services they provided this year (see related story).
Without those additional funds, further cuts would be needed (another related story).