Speaking with one voice, Philadelphia's mayor, City Council president, school superintendent, School Reform Commission chairwoman, and teachers' union president, and the head of a key charter school group, have told Harrisburg: Give the city schools $159 million.
The rare show of unity came in a letter sent to the Philadelphia delegation to the state legislature, chaired by Sen. Shirley Kitchen and Rep. Cherelle L. Parker.
Gov. Wolf this week vetoed a $30.1 billion budget passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. That spending plan would have added just $8 million in new school funding, not the $410 million the governor wants.
Much is at stake for the Philadelphia School District, which asked for $159 million in new funds from Harrisburg. City Council has come up with $70 million in new money for the schools, but the district has an $88 million gap to cover.
The district's fixed and mandated costs are rising faster than its revenue, and officials have said that as long as there is no course correction in the form of extra annual recurring revenue from the city and state, they will have to make this pitch for funds every year.
In addition to the extra money, the Philadelphia officials asked Harrisburg leaders to ensure that the formula proposed by the state's Basic Education Funding Commission does not kick in until the 2016-17 school year. Were it put into place for the coming year, Philadelphia would be out tens of millions.
Officials argue that before the funding formula is enacted, the state needs to take care of districts like Philadelphia that were hit disproportionately hard by funding cuts under Gov. Tom Corbett.
"Students in Philadelphia - like their peers across the commonwealth - deserve access to a public education that allows them to realize their full potential," the officials wrote. "The conditions in our public schools at present do not allow that for tens of thousands of Philadelphia students."
The letter was signed by Mayor Nutter, Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., SRC Chair Marjorie Neff, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, and Amy Ruck Kagan, executive director of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence.
The officials noted that the city has upped its contributions to the district by almost $400 million over the last five years. They also pointed out that during that time, the district has closed 32 schools, cut 3,000 jobs, and slashed school budgets and supports. Teachers have had no raise since 2012, and members of several unions have agreed to salary and benefits changes.
Administrative costs now make up less than 3 percent of the district's operating budget.
"Without this additional state funding," the local officials wrote, "our schools will have another bleak year. . . . Unless there is a significant increase in state funding, the ongoing inadequate conditions in our schools will continue to be the reality for over 203,000 students. That outcome is not acceptable to any of us."