Couldn’t It Be That Chronic Underfunding is Taking a Toll on Philly Schools?

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Dan U-A at the Young Philly Politics blog has some excellent commentary on the turmoil in the Philadelphia School District. I’ll add that the state school funding formulas are needlessly regressive, and deny racial minorities equal funding:

I go through that, because, in response to the absolutely radical, shock doctrine-esque proposal to destroy the School District of Philadelphia— largely driven by chronic underfunding of our schools, and new Corbett-era cuts— the media and our politicians have, in effect, told the children of this city to suck up the pain, because it is time to live within our means.

A Daily News editorial, for example, stated this:

All of these factors make the current budget unsustainable. This is not exactly news. What is news is that the SRC is finally facing these hard financial facts, and restructuring the district accordingly.

Mayor Nutter said something even more charming, that we need to “grow up and deal with” this.

Along with a lot of people, we are going to get into this plan in a lot more detail over the coming weeks.  But, before doing so, and taking this radical monstrosity apart piece by piece, we all must deal with this framing upfront.

As Frank Murphy points out in a must-read piece, we are in a financial crisis caused by 1) a bad economy, 2) a starve the beast Governor Corbett and 3) the recklessness of Arlene Ackerman, for which many politicians, including the Mayor, were complicit.

However, even noting Ackerman and Co’s ridiculousness, why are we NOT in this crisis?  Because we are simply misspending sufficient funds.

I graduated from high school in 1999.  In 1999, the statistic that students and education activists often gave was that the Lower Merion School District spent twice the amount per child, as compared to Philadelphia.  Guess what?  It is 2012, and Lower Merion, without nearly as many costs from safety, special needs kids, and other issues that arise in poor cities, currently spends… twice the amount per child, as compared to Philadelphia.  That was our biggest issue then, and that is our biggest issue now.

The editorial boards, Michael Nutter and Tom Corbett can tell us to live within our means, but what happens if our means are not enough to properly fund education for each child in our city?  (This is mostly a rhetorical question: a state commissioned study has already stated that current levels of funding in Philadelphia are not enough to educate our kids.)

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