To support Philly children and pensioners, we must vote in large numbers on Tuesday

     City Council President Darrell Clarke and others have sought to divide the revenue from a one-percent City sales tax to pay toward both the schools and pensions. (NewsWorks, file art)

    City Council President Darrell Clarke and others have sought to divide the revenue from a one-percent City sales tax to pay toward both the schools and pensions. (NewsWorks, file art)

    Philadelphia City Council and state lawmakers are seeking ways to fill a $216 million school-funding gap and address the city’s troubled pension fund.

    Council President Darrell Clarke and others have sought to divide the revenue from a one-percent City sales tax to pay toward both the schools and pensions.

    Under a bill proposed by Clarke on Thursday, schools would receive the entire $120 million of that one-percent tax this year. The amount would decrease over four years, eventually becoming a 50-50 split between the schools and the pension fund.

    In truth, both problems need to be addressed. Certainly, the schools are the priority, but if the pension issue is allowed to fester, it will become a sore seemingly incapable of healing, much like the schools.

    Be heard on Tuesday

    If we are to address either problem, though, we must fight off the creeping sense of complacency that has overtaken us, and we must vote in large numbers on Tuesday.

    That’s the best way to speak up for our pensioners who worked and believed in a system that would reward them in their retirement. And that’s the best way to look out for our children.

    The next governor will be key to implementing the changes we need to make both our seniors and our children whole. We must make sure our choice for governor is the right one.

    We can no longer afford to believe that Presidential elections are the only ones that count. Presidents work within a system of checks and balances. Congress, the Supreme Court and even governors can stymie presidential policies and priorities. If we’ve learned nothing else during the Obama years, we should have learned that.

    Impact of Corbett’s cuts

    Gov. Tom Corbett, who took office in the middle of Obama’s first term, was facing a $4 billion budget deficit and the disappearance of federal stimulus money. Corbett made his priorities clear by cutting $961 million from education. Those cuts hit Philadelphia especially hard, eventually creating a massive budget hole and forcing the closure of 24 schools.

    Corbett said he inherited the economic mess. True enough, but that “mess” was part of a national recession that began when former President George W. Bush oversaw a mortgage crisis that crippled the stock market, forced government bailouts and damaged the world economy.

    Corbett further defined his priorities when he funded a $400 million prison expansion in Montgomery County. He did so as Philadelphia schools were scrambling to find $304 million, a bitter irony that made him look as if he were opening up the school-to-prison pipeline.

    Was Corbett wrong? I think so, but I also think he made the decisions he was entitled to make as the duly elected governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    In short, I believe Corbett did what he thought was best.

    Now it’s our turn

    If we believe our children aren’t entitled to a quality public education, we should stay home on Tuesday and let others decide their future.

    If we believe we shouldn’t fight for our children, we should stay home on Tuesday and let others lead the way.

    If, however, we are resolved to wake up from our stupor, and stand up for what is right, we must go out and vote for the candidates of our choice.

    Then, we must hold them accountable.

    Whoever wins our votes must know that there will be hell to pay if we wake up to yet another press conference decrying education shortfalls. That there will be consequences if we have to watch the school superintendent begging to fill a budget gap. That there will be voter anger if there is another mass school closing.

    Our children deserve nothing less than a community that is fully engaged in their futures.

    That engagement should be rekindled this Tuesday when we vote.

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