A path forward for Philly’s schools

With district schools set to open in less than four weeks, we have clearly arrived at a time for action. Superintendent William Hite has called for at least $50 million in additional funding just to open schools. But we know the bar must be set higher: The goal must be opening schools that are rich learning environments and that are preparing students for college and careers. Money alone is not the problem or the solution. Only the combination of new funds and reforms will lead to schools that children and families deserve.

Given the political and fiscal context, there is only one path forward and it requires two immediate actions:

First, City Council should vote to approve the redirection of the 1 percent sales tax (already approved by the state legislature). This will allow the city to borrow $50 million for this year, and more importantly, generate $120 million in annual revenue for schools that becomes the linchpin of the School District’s fiscal sustainability plan.

Second, the School Reform Commission and the teachers union must hammer out a much-needed package of reforms and cost savings, which in turn will qualify the District for another $45 million in state funding. The SRC has done difficult and necessary things, such as closing schools and cutting costs, but more reforms and savings are needed to transform the quality of teaching and learning. Nobody wants to take money or benefits away from teachers, but with common-sense reforms that give management more flexibility, much can be done to offset financial sacrifices with improvements in workplace quality, professionalism and career opportunity.

Please read this open letter to Mayor Nutter and Council President Clarke, and join us in this call for immediate action.

Mark Gleason
Executive Director