MAYOR NUTTER’S REMARKS IN SUPPORT OF INCREASED FUNDING FOR PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL CHILDREN

Philadelphia, May 9, 2013 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter spoke at a press conference with members of the Philadelphia delegation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Dr. William Hite, Philadelphia School District Superintendent, and Pedro Ramos, Chairman of the School Reform Commission, to announce their support of the Philadelphia School District’s call for additional funding from the State and City government and its request for labor savings.  His prepared remarks follow, check against delivery:

 

“State Senator Hughes, thank you very much and State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams thank you as well. State Representative Jim Roebuck who is the House Chair for the House Committee on Education and State Representative Curt Thomas who is the House Chair of the Commerce Committee. She wanted to be here, I know, our house delegation chair, State Rep Cherelle Parker has a significant conflict on her schedule.

 

“Dr. Hite thank you for your leadership and Chairman Ramos thank you and the SRC as well. Dr. Lori Shorr, thank you for your continued commitment as the City’s Chief Education Officer to make sure that my office and the entire city government is focused on the most important constituency here in the City of Philadelphia – the children of this city.

 

“We are at a great school and great schools are great not only because of wonderful students but also because of great principals, teachers, faculty and staff, and so I want to ask our young people and others to give a big round of applause to Principal Kaplan. Our music teacher, Chris Arjoricas, thank you. And the school’s rock band. I loved that rendition of “Shake it Out.”

 

“State Rep Mark Cohen thank you for your presence here as well as State Representative Jordan Harris. Can we please give all our elected officials a big round of applause?

 

“I want to say to you and to the young people here at Andrew Jackson Public School that it is a pleasure to be here with you. I am constantly saying to the folks back at the shop that if I had my way I would start every day at a school somewhere here in the city. I know that it’s almost impossible, but every chance I get to come to a school, I really do look forward to being with you and whether it’s a K-8, or just a middle school or high school, a 5-12 or whatever the configuration is, I love being around young people.

 

“You inspire me, you remind me of why 30 years ago this year I decided that I wanted to be actively engaged in public service, that I’ve dedicated my life to trying to make things better for everyone here in my hometown, that the opportunities that I have had in this city, that every one of you – no matter where you live what, no matter where you come from, no matter who your parents are, or what they do, or what they don’t do, that you should have a chance to be a successful young person here in the city, and that as adults if we rededicate ourselves to that singular mission of being focused on young people, investing in young people, supporting young people, how much greater a city we would be and how much better your lives would be.

 

“So I’m going to give you three words today and my comments will support the foundation of these three words – collaboration, coordination and commitment. And so when we talk about art and music in our schools, every school in Philadelphia should have an art and music and culture program. Every school in this city should have those types of programs, every one of them.

 

“And you know as well as I do that over the last few years the School District has experienced severe, severe budget shortfalls. And even this year despite borrowing $300 million literally to pay bills and making more than $315 million in cuts this year and over $700 million last year, the school district is still facing a $304 million shortfall that is dangerously hurting the educational opportunities for our children and the quality of education that we as adults should be providing.

 

“A few weeks ago Dr. Hite and the SRC in the greatest example of openness and transparency and honesty laid out for us, unfortunately, a devastating picture of what a bare bones budget would look like because this Superintendent and this SRC said that we are only going to budget with the dollars that we know that we have, not hope for, not ask for, not anticipate it, not begging and borrowing but rather this is what we have and this is what it will provide.

 

“That is a very stark picture because that is not an education for the children of this city – that is buildings that are open and people who are there but it is not an educational opportunity for children. That was a picture that showed schools with no assistant principals, no guidance counselors, no teacher’s aides, no lunch monitors, no extracurricular activities, no afterschool programs. That’s not a school. That’s not a school.

 

“In addition, it also set out increased class sizes and reduced teaching staff. Before I was Mayor, before any other title that ever meant anything, I’ve been a parent. My son will be thirty years old later this month. My daughter is 18. The most important title that any one of us could ever have is parent, guardian, close relative, someone who has a responsibility for a child, and as a parent and as Mayor of this city, I will not allow a nightmare for the educational opportunities and future for the children of this city to ever become a reality. It will not happen.

 

“Collaboration, Coordination, Commitment. The only way that we can prevent that nightmare for our children and this city from happening is by all of us working together.

 

“The City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the School District of Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission, and our public employee school unions must work together and must reach a level of agreement about a shared sacrifice that will protect the educational future and the economic future of our city and more importantly, for our children

 

“Under the strong leadership and guidance of Dr. Hite and the School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos, and all the School Reform Commission members, the District has made some very difficult and certainly unpopular decisions and choices to support the school district and its fiscal health as a top priority. And yes, unfortunately, that has also involved the closing of some schools.

 

“In a system that has 70,000 vacant seats, more than would fill Lincoln Financial Field, we cannot support that level of infrastructure anymore.

 

“The District has reduced its Central Office staff by nearly half – from 790 to 405 full-time employees, saving $63 million.  The District has reduced contracted services by $21 million, and unneeded books and materials by $30 million.  But the District cannot cut its way out of a budget shortfall so huge, without hurting the quality of education that it provides to 200,000 Philadelphia school students every year.

 

“You saw over the past few years that we in the City government did not try solely to cut our way out of massive deficits that we faced as the result of the Great Recession either.  You can’t do it.  We made cuts, we cut back in services, we made a series of reductions, but we also put new money on the table.  No one likes raising taxes or providing new revenues, but everyone wants quality service.  Well those two things are just in conflict with each other – they only exist in a fantasy.  We’re dealing with reality.

 

“And some others have stepped up as well.  The school district bus drivers and maintenance workers, at Local32BJ Local 1201, agreed to a new contract last year that will save the School District about $100 million over the coming years.

 

“You know that I’m committed to public education.  You know that I’m committed to the children of this city.  And as Dr. Hite has noted: it is time for shared sacrifice on behalf of our children and on behalf of the future of this great city.

 

“The School District and the SRC have made four specific requests:

 

–         $60M in new money from the City of Philadelphia, and I support that.

 

“As I’ve announced previously, I’m committed to working with our City Council to find a way to generate these new revenues for our School District.  City Council President Clarke and I have had preliminary discussions about the prospect of increasing the liquor-by-the-drink tax from its current capped rate at 10% to possibly 15%.  I support that proposal – that would raise somewhere between $20 million and $25 million.

 

“In addition, I’ve had other discussions with the Council President and we’ve talked about possibly proposing an increase in the tax on cigarettes – this idea is in the preliminary stage of exploration.  We’ll continue to examine a variety of other potential funding options with City Council, and I expect that we will be able to propose a set of recommendations, or a menu of options, within the next week.

 

–         The District and the SRC have asked for $120 million increase in funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

“As we all know over the last few years, the District has lost nearly $300 million in State funding revenue from various funding sources.  This dramatic reduction in funding has contributed to the District’s significant funding gap.  The State has a constitutional obligation to provide our children with “a thorough and efficient education”.  I am proud to stand here with members of the Philadelphia delegation and support Philadelphia’s children, and ask that our State also step up and restore some of the funding that the District has lost over the last few years.

 

“As an executive, I am fully aware that the State has its own fiscal challenges right now, but I also know that from my own personal discussions with Gov. Corbett that he does care about Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s school students.  I will work in a very positive manner with Gov. Corbett and his Administration, and of course, the General Assembly to seek additional funding to educate our children beyond the additional $90 million in basic education line-item funding the Gov. has already proposed in his budget a few months ago.

 

“That includes creating a funding stream similar to the charter reimbursement – with 40% of Philadelphia students enrolled in charter schools, it is clear that some of the educational innovation that’s been put forward here in Philadelphia is working.  High-performing charter schools – high-performing charter schools – and high-performing District schools; that must be the focus.  Let’s not get distracted by titles.  High-performing schools, high-performing seats, wherever they are, whoever manages them, that’s what’s critical in this conversation. High-performing schools are an integral part of the Philadelphia public education landscape.  This funding stream will help create more high-performing seats for our young people. Period.

 

–         Over $100 million in contract savings involving our educators in their contracts.

 

“As Dr. Hite said earlier, critical reforms in new contracts for teachers and principals are imperative to the future fiscal health of funding education and investing in our children.  I want to be clear: these are conversations that will occur between the District, the SRC and the unions.  But I do support the proposals that will involve a significant amount of savings as a result of work-rule changes and other proposals.  That is what a shared sacrifice looks like.  Everyone has to put something concrete on the table and support our children.

 

–         The creation of a state-wide funding formula that considers the actual number of students being served, going to school, and their particular needs.

 

“This formula is not just what’s fair for Philadelphia, but for every school district across the Commonwealth, many of which are struggling.  It’s essential to the long-term financial stability of investing in the education of our children, and as I understand it at least, Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the United States of America that doesn’t use a weighted student funding formula.

 

“Now you might think that this is a lot, and it certainly is, but I want you to consider the cost if we don’t come together and act now.  I want to emphasize that these ‘asks’ are not singular in nature – they have to be taken together.  There must be a whole package put together that makes educating our children a priority, while preserving the fiscal stability of public education in Philadelphia.  These ‘asks’ are inter-dependent.  We need the City and the State to work together in concert for our children to make sure that we receive and provide a quality education for them and for their futures.

 

“Each of us has a role to play as public servants to prepare our children for a productive role in the future and in the economy of our City.  Our decisions today will impact the quality of life for Philadelphians and for these young people for decades to come.  We must collaborate, coordinate and then demonstrate our commitment.  Thank you.”

 

 

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