Photo from organizers' multi-day sit-in at the state
capitol in late June. Via Fight for Philly.
Advocates and organizers in Philadelphia came close to scoring a victory for the city's public schools – only to have legislative tinkering get in the way.
In early July the state legislature passed a $2-per-pack cigarette tax that would have raised around $80 million annually for Philadelphia schools. But because the State Senate added extra provisions, the bill must go back to the House where it may not pass again, leaving the desperately-needed funds at the mercy of "legislative pingpong."
Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite has stated the district will be forced to layoff as many as 1,300 school personnel if it doesn't get the cigarette tax funds by August 15. This would be on top of the 342 layoffs that happened just this week (mostly special education assistants and noontime aides).
The Daily News published a blistering editorial detailing the numerous other funding mechanism that the legislature could (but won't) pursue to stop the starvation of Philly's schools. From a gas severance tax to gambling revenues to charter reimbursements and more, the legislature's refusal to try other options "turns a single glitchy bill into a sweeping and utter failure of leadership."
Even the now-endangered cigarette tax is a "hollow victory," according to Philadelphia Magazine:
"The city won the right to tax itself even more, picking up slack that has historically been the state's responsibility. The district won just barely enough funding to enable schools to open in the fall, at the same utterly unacceptably low staffing levels of last year."
OTL allies in Philly will continue pushing for more revenues for the city's schools, as well as a fair funding system at the state level to distribute funding equitably to the districts and schools that need it most. Follow #phled on Twitter for updates.