As the Philadelphia School District is warning of drastic cuts if the state and city can’t provide another $216 million, the head of city council would like more fiscal control if he’s going to provide more for schools.
Council President Darrell Clarke says he understands that the School District of Philadelphia is in need, but he wants a stick to accompany the carrots the city supplies. That stick, he says, would be some sort of control over any new money that comes from the city.
“I just don’t think it’s fair or appropriate for the City Council of Philadelphia to simply each year be asked to raise taxes on the citizens of Philadelphia although it is for a very important issue, the schools,” Clarke said. “But the reality is there is no level of fiscal oversight on behalf of the city council of Philadelphia and I think that needs to be changed.”
Right now the district is controlled by the School Reform Commission. That group is filled with nominees from the mayor and governor, and confirmed by the Pennsylvania legislature. City council doesn’t have any direct control over the SRC. Changing that would require revising state law.
Clarke says discussions are underway on how to fund the schools for the upcoming fiscal year.
“The leadership in the both the House and Senate and council continue to talk with representatives of the governor’s office to come up with a fair and balanced approach to school funding and funding to deal with out municipal pensions. I continue to be optimistic that at some point we can get a consensus on what direction we should take and hopefully have that done within the next couple of weeks,” he said.
State officials have authorized the city to continue a 1 percent sales tax surcharge and use that money for the schools, while council wants half the sales tax money for city pensions replacing it for the schools with a tobacco tax.
Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite says the schools need a $216 million boost just to provide the same level of service as during this year. He’s requesting millions more to improve what he can offer students.