So many wrong steps led us all to this Philly schools mess

I … don’t … know … what … to say.

I don’t know what to say about how tragic the Philadelphia schools crisis has become. What can you say when opening the schools with only a $250 million resource deficit vs. adequacy feels like progress?

Or when the city’s mayor freely admits he’s pushing for a Harrisburg funding package that he had no say in crafting and knows is sorely deficient. Why? Because, even if you need 50 bucks, getting 10 bucks still beats the heck out of zero.

I don’t know what to say when I see that mayor enmeshed in an endless tit for tat with the council president over which guy’s plan for sending $50 million to the schools should rule the day—when I know what I’m really seeing is the umpteenth renewal of a decades-old political feud.

Or when I see that the most vocal advocates for the city’s school kids seem to be thoroughly enmeshed with the teachers union. They apparently don’t see that the union’s self-interest, while legitimate for a labor organization, does not align in all particulars with the best interests of students.

And I don’t know what to say about the leaders of our commonwealth, whose last-minute school aid plan turns out to be mostly hot air with strings attached.

Well, actually, I do know what I want to say about a couple of them.

About Gov. Tom Corbett, two words: Marcellus Shale.

As we witness the slow-motion agony of public schools, not just in Philly but across the state, due to Corbett’s historic de-funding of education, remember this. He had a natural gas windfall drop in his lap. If he’d only stirred himself to tax energy companies in the ways that states like Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska do, we’d have a lot more money to feed the state’s schools, and a whole lot else.

So, let’s keep those dots connected.

And let me say this about his budget chief, Charles Zogby. First, let me note that Mr. Zogby very sincerely believes he has vital ideas for making schools work better. But being sincere is not the same as being right.

Zogby here is like Captain Ahab chasing the white whale. In this analogy, cast the Philly teachers union as the whale. Zogby has leverage now, and wants to use it to harpoon, slice and dice the union.

His enmity with the Philly teachers dates back to last decade, when the union worked hard to foil his plan to turn the district over to the Edison Schools Inc.

So what do any of these exercises in adult machismo have to do with what kids need? Glad you asked. As for the answer … I don’t know what to say.

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