PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Dom Giordano spoke with Nathan Benefield from the Commonwealth Foundation about the organization’s opposition to a cigarette tax in Philadelphia to help fund city schools.
Benefield believes the additional tax will do little to alleviate most of the problems plaguing Philadelphia’s public schools.
“That is a very temporary solution. Cigarette taxes are a declining source of revenue, and it’s very easy to avoid the taxes, especially when you are talking about taxing it in Philadelphia. Smokers are just going to go right outside the city borders and shop for cigarettes there. Moreover, that doesn’t stop this long-term crisis we see in Philadelphia of underperformance, of families fleeing the district schools to go to charter schools, of spending increases and always running deficits, isn’t going to be solved by this one tax increase,” he stated.
He said that despite criticism about growing classroom sizes in Philadelphia, the number of students assigned to each teacher is trending downward.
“There might be some classrooms with 40, but the reality is the student to teacher ratio over the last decade in Philadelphia has actually declined. There have been layoffs in the school district, no one wants to see teachers laid off, but the school district has lost far more students over that time period, in fact a 25 percent drop in enrollment in district schools. The reality is that teacher layoffs have not actually kept pace with that,” Benefield commented.
Benefield also voiced his opposition by Democratic Candidate for governor, Tom Wolf, to increase income taxes on the wealthiest Pennsylvanians to reduce the burden of funding schools with property taxes.
“Class warfare rhetoric has appeal to a certain segment of the population. We’ll tax the rich and that will be good for you. Taxing the rich and soaking the rich has never worked. It always comes back to bite the average worker. It will certainly hurt our state overall. We’ve already been losing jobs to other low-tech states,” he said.