Schools in Crisis and in Tug-of-War

ImagePhiladelphia City Councilman William Green tells me, “I’m not sure that the urgency exists that has been expressed by Dr. Hite.” Bill Green is talking about last Thursday’s stunning, grab-the-establishment-by-the-collar announcement from Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite that the district needs $50 million by Friday, the 16th , or that schools may not open.  Green also says Council President Darrell Clarke should not be made out to be the bad guy in the lack of immediate funding for the PSD. He tells me, “I completely agree with the Council President that it’s (sales tax extension) a bad plan.” Green adds, “We lose our ability in the fall to do something that is more impactful and meaningful.”

As for the $50 million needed, Green, a member of Council’s Appropriations Committee, says he’s seen a commitment from various members of City Council to get the $50 million from some source. That source is the question. Green says of the Nutter Administration’s claim that the city cannot take $50 million from the General Fund, “Well, they’re wrong.”  He also blasts the Governor and the PA Legislature. Says Green, “They failed what they had to do in Harrisburg and once again City Council and the City of Philadelphia is the funder of last resort.”

Schools Advocate Helen Gym, of Parents United, says, “What’s smart about Councilman Clarke’s plan is it puts the onus back on the state.” Clarke wants to transfer unused school properties from the district to the city so that the city can sell them to raise money.  About Dr. Hite’s ultimatum, Helen Gym says, “I was angry but someone needed to draw a line in the sand.”

What’s clearly going on here is that part of the impasse or failure to have sufficient state and local funds is caught up in some desires to have leverage to extract more concessions from the labor unions in the PSD.

Councilman Bill Green believes Hite may get assurance of money soon but actual legislative action won’t come until September.

The scheduled start of school for 136,000 students expected to attend traditional public schools in Philadelphia is September 9th.  The rest of the students in the system, abut 35-percent, will attend Charter Schools.

Photo courtesy of Office of Councilman Green.

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