Philly Schools Open Despite Major Budget Shortfall

Photo from organizers' multi-day sit-in at the state
capitol in late June. Via
Fight for Philly.

When the school year started in Philadelphia last year, it didn't seem like the district's financial situation could get any worse. The city closed 23 schools en masse to cut costs, and a "doomsday" budget left teachers and students without basic supplies like paper and textbooks. Two students died after falling ill at schools that couldn't afford nurses. 

Unfortunately, this year is promising to be just as rough. Though school doors will open on time, state lawmakers failed to pass a much needed citywide cigarette tax that would have provided funds for Philly's schools. Instead, the school year will begin with $32 million in budget cuts, leaving schools without janitors and 7,500 students without transportation to school. 

Part of the problem is that Pennsylvania is one of the few states without a fair school funding formula to distribute state aid to districts that need it most, meaning low-income communities like Philadelphia get less help despite having students with higher needs. 

While advocates and organizers are gearing up to campaign for a state funding formula, a small group of state lawmakers convened this week for the first meeting of the Basic Education Funding Commission. 

From The Inquirer:

"The goal of the commission, created by legislation signed by Gov. Corbett in June, is to design a fair and predictable formula for distributing state funding to school districts.

Key to the shaping of the formula is consideration of the wide spectrum of demographic difference across the commonwealth's 500 school districts, including incomes, local taxes, costs, and enrollment, the commission said."

Until a fair funding formula is put in place (and bolstered by adequate revenue sources), the situation for Philly's students, parents and teachers won't improve.  For the latest news about the fight for fair funding, follow #phled on Twitter.


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