Is City Council with Philadelphia schools or against them?

     Parents, teachers and students at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School in Roxborough have made several efforts to raise money for the school. (Janis Chakars/for NewsWorks)

    Parents, teachers and students at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School in Roxborough have made several efforts to raise money for the school. (Janis Chakars/for NewsWorks)

    With the doomsday budget here, we have heard a lot about the sorry state of our schools and our government’s inability to find stable and adequate funds for them. However, it is important to recognize the achievements of our public schools, so that our city council understands the value of their duty to support and fight for these crucial centers of community.

    The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.

    With the doomsday budget here, we have heard a lot about the sorry state of our schools and our government’s inability to find stable and adequate funds for them.

    However, it is important to recognize the achievements of our public schools, so that our city council understands the value of their duty to support and fight for these crucial centers of community.

    The elementary school in Roxborough, neither the hippest, toniest, nor most destitute neighborhood of the city, is a case in point.

    Cook-Wissahickon works. It is a public school that serves as the cornerstone of a family-oriented neighborhood.

    It has an innovative principal. It has selfless teachers. It makes state benchmarks for adequate yearly progress. It provides a safe environment. It has an active home and school association.

    It partnered with an outside benefactor to run a needed after-school program. Parents worked with area universities to put together a tutoring program when there was an influx of new students because of school closings, but resources did not keep pace. Parents, teachers, and students hold fund raisers for the art program. The school has won grants for environmental initiatives.

    The school is a success, despite the fact that the government does not give it due support, and even with a majority of its students on free and reduced lunch. This school takes care of its community.

    Part of the solution or part of the problem?

    City Council can join in this success or it can help undo it. It can raise the liquor-by-the-drink and use and occupancy taxes, or it can give up and blame Harrisburg.

    City Council puts its integrity in question when it sides with the few restaurant industry representatives who bother to speak publicly in council chambers against the liquor tax. There are the dozens testifying in support of the tax, backed by research, instead of bellyaching about collecting pennies from patrons.

    City Council shows weakness when it sides with special interests over the demands of its citizenry and the force of reason.

    City Council shows its lack of dedication to our schools and our city when it does not pass the use and occupancy tax, the only measure under discussion fully under its control.

    The City Council president showed a defeatist aim-low attitude last Wednesday when he said the cigarette tax might be the best they could do (promising, as usual, that the city would also collect the taxes they have thus far been unable to collect) and that his work does not matter anyway because Harrisburg has the final say.

    Not yet time to pass the buck

    Philadelphia should act for Philadelphia first, and when City Council has shown it has done all it can do for its citizens then we can all turn our full attention to Harrisburg. We might find a more receptive audience there as well. And if we don’t, at least we will have our honor and dignity.

    First, City Council must decide whether it is with us or against us. The fate of the city hangs in the budget.

    The school issue is the main issue, because it connects to all others — from crime to property values to whether people will want to live and raise families in the city at all. Schools are neighborhood pillars that are of value to everyone. City Council should make them their top priority, pass the liquor-by-the-drink and use and occupancy legislation and then go occupy Harrisburg.

    Janis Chakars is a contributor to NewsWorks’ Roxborough/Manayunk/East Falls neighborhood section.

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