State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a Democratic candidate for Philadelphia mayor, on Wednesday offered a three-pronged prescription for raising $200 million for city schools that includes shifting more property taxes to the district.
The plan turns on the support of three bodies Williams would have no control over as mayor: the legislature, City Council, and the Philadelphia School Partnership, a nonprofit that funds school reform efforts.
Williams said his plan was aimed at funding two-thirds of the $300 million being sought by Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. to remake the struggling district. Of that $300 million, about $100 million would be expected to come from the city and $200 million from the state.
To raise $200 million, Williams suggested three sources.
First, $50 million could be raised by increasing the percentage of city property tax designated for the School District from 55 percent to 60 percent, he said.
A bill to that effect was introduced in Council last year by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez. In an interview Wednesday, Sánchez said the bill languished because of opposition from the Nutter administration, which did not feel it could find budget trims needed to offset the revenue lost to the schools. It also faced headwinds from Council leadership, she said, which was pressing for a cigarette tax to fund the schools.
Sánchez said the bill could be easily revived and would likely find more support. "I think this has become a very viable option," she said.
As for offsetting the funds lost to the city, Sánchez noted that the administration was able to find hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts in 2008 when there was a financial crisis. She said $50 million for schools should be possible.
Williams' plan counts on $100 million from the state in reimbursement for costs incurred when students shift to charter schools. Gov. Wolf's proposed budget calls for $76 million in reimbursements, Williams said, adding that he would press for the higher figure.
Finally, another $50 million would come from the partnership, which has offered $25 million to cover costs associated with new charter schools. Williams said he spoke to partnership officials Wednesday and asked that they sweeten the proposal by $25 million for needs in traditional public schools.
Kristen Forbriger, director of public affairs for the partnership, was noncommittal.
"We have had conversations with Sen. Williams," she said. "Not much has changed. We are still interested in supporting the district and its plans for creating decent, high-quality schools of both types, charter and district schools. We remain willing to discuss how we can assist the district financially."