Local/State

Nutter, Clarke push to resolve schools funding crisis

Friday, August 09, 2013

Mayor Michael Nutter and Schools Superintendent William Hite opened the day shoulder-to-shoulder, calling again for City Council to sanction all $50 million from a new sales tax going to the cash-strapped school district.

On Thursday, Dr. Hite said he must have that guarantee by Friday August 16th, or he'll be forced to do something as drastic as postponing the September 9th scheduled opening of the fall term.

The mayor, Council President Darrell Clarke and several state lawmakers went behind closed doors later to try to fashion a deal.

The council president wants to split that money between the schools and paying down the red ink in the city pension fund.

"Our position is clear. We think any extension of sales tax should include monies toward pensions and monies toward schools," said Clarke.

But after that meeting, the mayor said there may be some light at the end of tunnel.

"I am certainly that much more optimistic than I was yesterday as a result of discussions from yesterday, the meeting today, and there will be other conversations going on. Again, everyone focused and committed, understanding where we are on the calendar," said Nutter.

State lawmakers claim there is still time to look to Harrisburg for some salvation.

"I'm not talking about the sales tax. I'm talking about the $45 million one-time appropriation that the governor said was a part of the solution to the problem. When is it coming?" asked State Senator Anthony Williams.

For 136,000 public school students in Philadelphia and their parents, this kind of uncertainty is nothing new, and they are fed up.

"The best way we can better the situation is do what we can do, and that's make them pick up a book, have them studying, spell words and challenge them," said parent Ray Monk of Feltonville.

The key players say the negotiations will continue for the next several days as the countdown to August 16th.

The odds are, this political maneuvering will take it right down to the wire.

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philadelphia, philadelphia school district, local/state, vernon odom
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