Parents' Action Toolkit to Restore Education Funding for Our Children's Schools--Part II--What You Can Do Now!
A. Come to the Roxborough Corridor Schools Parents Summit next Monday, May 20th—Rally in Gorgas Park 5:30/Summit in Roxborough High School Auditorium at 6:30.
B. Call and write all At-Large City Council Members (critical swing votes) as well as your City Councilperson.
To find your City Council Representative: http://philadelphiacitycouncil.net/council-members/
C. Call and write State Senator Dominic Pileggi (Senate Majority Leader-R) and State Representative William Adolph (Chair of the House Appropriations Committee-R). Both are critical figures in budget negotiations who need to be lobbied regarding finding funding for Philadelphia’s kids.
D. Write your own letter to the editor on how these budget cuts hurt our kids. One Op Ed on the impact of the budget cuts written by Rebecca Poyourow was published last Friday (May 10).
The more people who write in to publicize this, the better. Here are the Philadelphia Inquirer's guidelines on submitting letters to the editor: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/Write_to_Us__Letters_and_Op_Eds.html
TOOL KIT PART I—BACKGROUND
Why are Philadelphia schools so drastically underfunded that the School District is currently proposing cutting 25% from every school’s budget?
1. State Level.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not have a fair funding formula in place to ensure that all children across the state have what they need for an appropriate education. After Governor Corbett came into office, beginning with the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state made massive cuts to the public education budget, cutting $1 billion from K-12 budgets across Pennsylvania each year since. All school districts across PA are hurting, but our city’s schools have been severely underfunded ever since. Nearly a third of the total PA cuts ($300 million) came from Philadelphia, which is the largest of the 500 school districts in the state and one of the poorest. As a result, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Philadelphia has lost $1,258 per student in state funding - the largest per-child cut taken by any Pennsylvania school district. The Education Law Center found that Philadelphia now gets $78,000 less per classroom than surrounding districts. Since Philadelphia serves proportionately more high-need children who require additional services, including special needs students, English Language Learners, and low-income students, these cuts are particularly painful and unjust. The School District of Philadelphia is currently asking Harrisburg for $120 million to begin to redress this inequity.
[For more information, see the Education Voters PA website]
2. Local Level.
The city is also responsible for funding our schools; Philadelphia cannot put all blame on the state. A few years ago, the proportion of property taxes designated for the district (millage) was shifted from 60% down to 55%, taking desperately needed funds away from schools, and ensuring yearly shortfalls. We need to impress on City Council that consistent support for education is imperative to fulfill our obligations to our children and to keep young families in the city. The School District of Philadelphia is currently asking City Council for $60 million for the school budget. We should also request that the millage be readjusted back to 60% for an appropriate level of local education funding that remains steady from year to year.
3. Federal Level.
Our children’s schools’ budgets are seeing the results of sequestration on the federal level as well. Due to across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level (with no debate as to the merits of cutting particular programs), federal funding for education has been cut as well, primarily in the form of Title I funding, which affects school districts such as ours that serve large numbers of children in poverty, English Language Learners, and special education students. It means funds for Head Start, small class sizes, and providing targeted after-school programs have been slashed.
4. School District Priorities.
The Philadelphia School District and the School Reform Commission (Philadelphia’s unelected board) share some of the blame as well for their misplaced priorities. While it is absolutely the case that Philadelphia’s schools are underfunded, the District and the SRC have historically pursued charter expansion (at a cost of $139 million over the next five years), they increased central administration spending by $30 million this year, and they currently propose an $11 million contract with Pearson testing company and a $15 million cyber school contract. The District must redo its budget to prioritize district-managed schools and classrooms and not contractors, administration, and overexpansion of charters.
[For more information see the Parents United for Public Education website.]