With so much talk about cuts in Philadelphia schools, it's easy to get the impression that the problem is overspending.
I have little doubt that a system with 70,000 empty seats can identify savings, but even so, it seems like we are ignoring a major difference between what most suburbs spend to educate children and what Philadelphia does.
Philadelphia schools spent $13,272 a year per child in the 2009-2010 school year. In Lower Merion, where many city parents move once their children reach school age, that number is $26,570.
Of course, Lower Merion spends more than any other district in the state, but it's not like Philadelphia even comes close to matching what most suburban kids get. Philadelphia is in the bottom 20 percent of Pennyslvania cities, ranked by per-pupil spending.
Of course, we all know that money can't buy you love. It probably can't ensure that a child is well-educated, especially in families where parents aren't focused on education.
But as a parent who does care about education, I'm angry that living in a city where property-tax revenues don't rival those of Lower Merion or Haddonfield or any of the suburbs where so many of my friends with kids live, means that I may have to move or choose private school.
The problems of relatively well-off families like mine are minor compared to those of most families with children in the district. Eighty percent of them are poor.
But keeping middle and upper-class families in the city matters. Philadelphia needs our taxes. The city cannot succeed if most of us leave.
If you want more proof that it matters, consider that the University of Pennsylvania kicks in $1,330 a year per child at Penn Alexander, the West Philadelphia public school sought after by so many parents. It helps keep class sizes small there.
So tell me, why do we allow these huge inequities in school funding?