Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, echoed this morning’s call by a coalition of other nonprofit groups for City Council to move quickly to approve the extension of a 1 percent city sales tax and the redirection of $120 million in resulting revenue to the School District of Philadelphia.
“The School District has many needs right now, but two of them are most pressing,” Gleason said. “It needs a significant boost in reliable, recurring revenue, and relief from contractual work rules that strangle innovation, push top talent out of city schools, and breed inefficiency.
“City Council is right to be concerned about underfunded city pension plans. Pensions are the biggest driver of the School District’s financial woes, accounting for three-quarters of a 10-year rise in expenses after adjusting for inflation. But if we don’t improve the performance of city schools, very little else will matter, for education is the lifeblood of the city’s economy.
“President Clarke rightly points out that the city has increased its share of funding for schools in recent years. That’s to City Council’s credit. Even so, Philadelphia contributes a lower share of total school funding than do most of its peers among the largest American cities. In the case of the sales-tax extension, the state legislature already has approved the redirection of the tax to city schools. Passage now by City Council would give the School Reform Commission and Superintendent William Hite, Jr., the ability to strategically align spending with the recently touted priorities of ‘Action Plan 2.0’ with enough lead time to actually make a difference in classrooms next fall.”