Jones addresses the ‘biggest hurdle’ facing Philadelphia

Here’s the latest ‘Curt’s Corner’ post from Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. in July’s edition of The Fallser. 

When the Mayor’s administration released the $4 billion City budget, of which Council only controls roughly 40-percent or $1.5 billion, we immediately went to work on how best to prioritize those funds.

We heard testimony from agencies, groups and concerned citizens from all over Philadelphia.

Payments towards city debt services, employee pensions and our overcrowded prison system had to be met, as well as funding for our brave men and women of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments who keep our city safe.

Funding for the School District had to be a top priority as well.

Two years ago, in his remarks to Congress, President Obama declared, “The countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”

This is undoubtedly true and, undoubtedly, the biggest hurdle this city must clear to achieve greatness.

The President’s goal to ensure that every child has access to a competitive education cannot be met without the cooperation of cities and localities across the country.

I truly appreciated the City of Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter and City Council dedicating themselves to the education of our children and investing in a brighter future for our city.

My colleagues, along with the administration, were diligent in working together for a suitable option to assist our School District.

We weighed the options of a 1-cent or 2-cents per ounce soda tax, a 10-percent property tax hike or a 3.5-percent property tax increase, along with increased fees for parking in conjunction with cuts to the City and School District budgets.

As we debated late into the evening on how best to fix the deficit problem, it was clear there would be no easy solution.

In the end, we aggressively rallied for the Philadelphia School District and will hold the school district’s administration responsible through the City’s new Education Accountability Agreement, an unprecedented commitment for the state controlled district to share its finances with the City.

As I have stated from the very beginning of this school budget crisis, we will either pay now with the proper investment in public education or we will pay later by funding prisons and parole officers.

I voted to support public education, for without it, the progress Philadelphia has made in recent years will certainly be reversed. Philadelphia wants to move forward, not backward.

I am adamant that the funds secured will benefit Philadelphia’s children and increase resources in areas from early childhood education to class size reduction to accelerated school programs and transportation for public and parochial schools.

The next generation of Philadelphia’s community, business and political leaders are growing up in the School District today, so ask yourself, what kind of leaders do you want them to be?

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