Pa. commission hears education spending cuts have created crisis in Philly [photos]

Experts, advocates, and ordinary citizens from Philadelphia on Tuesday told legislators charged with revising Pennsylvania’s education funding formula that city schools are reeling from the consequences of insufficient revenue and urged the panel to base state aid on real student need.

“Philadelphia schools are now a strong investment,” said School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to the members of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has been holding hearings around the state. He said that several years ago, while on City Council, he didn’t believe this, but is now confident in the leadership of Superintendent William Hite.

“Under Dr. Hite, the District has navigated a difficult course to financial stability. …Today I can confidently tell you that further funding won’t go to bureaucracy but will be used instead to improve student learning.”

The commission spent three hours listening to Green, as well as Mayor Nutter, Hite, District Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski, two school principals, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, and experts David Rubin of Children’s Hospital and Temple president Neil Theobold. Rubin wrote a study of showing that one in five Philadelphia students have had contact with the family court and juvenile justice system, while Theobold is a professor of school finance and a consultant to states on funding.

Nutter said that the commission’s work should be “a game-changer” for the state’s students.

“People expect and demand for us to be leaders in education,” he said.

He urged the panel to support higher state education spending and a change in the way the revenue is distributed to take into account the level of student poverty and other student needs including English language learner and special education status. More than 123,000 children in Philadelphia — the poorest city of its size in the nation — live in poverty, he said.

For more, see Dale Mezzacappa’s blog at the Notebook.

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