SOMEDAY - someday very soon, we hope - someone in Harrisburg is going to have to get serious about the fate of Philadelphia's public schools.
We will begin with Gov. Corbett, who is the father of much of the misery that the district is facing. The deep cuts he made in state support for public education in his first two years as governor set this catastrophe in motion.
The governor did this in the name of frugality and of living up to his no-tax pledge. His aides pointed to the facts that while enrollment was down in public schools, statewide costs were not. They fixed that problem with a machete.
To the governor, we offer this message: Remember that the Philadelphia School District is an instrument of state government. It was taken over by the state 12 years ago. The majority of the School Reform Commission are Corbett appointees.
The commission does not govern an alien nation. The 200,000 children in Philadelphia's district and charter schools are wards of the state - by declaration of the state.
Surely, the governor can do more than shrug and be silent about their fate.
The district slashed left and right trying to get out of its deep financial hole. Still, it was not enough. Last week, it announced that it will lay off more than 3,700 employees, a move that will strip the schools of virtually all support personnel, services and supplies.
With the $300 million "saved" by last week's actions, the district will have a balanced budget. What will be left? Schools that are more holding pens than centers for learning.
We're reminded of an ancient saying about the Romans conquering Britain: "They made a desert and called it peace."
As to Philadelphia's legislative delegation, they have not exactly covered themselves in glory. From here, our elected representatives look pathetically ineffective. So far, they have talked a good game about helping the schools, but all they seem to do is march in circles.
Some of them favor Mayor Nutter's plan to raise the cigarette tax by $2 a pack. Some of them do not. Some are in favor of an increase in the city's over-the-bar drink tax. Some are not. Some are championing legislation to give the city more muscle in collecting overdue taxes. Others are not.
Sen. Vincent Hughes, minority chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offers a plan to raise hundreds of millions by acting on Medicaid, business-tax cuts and by expanding the state-store system instead of abolishing it. It sounds good, until you realize that either Corbett or the Republicans who control the Legislature are dead set against some or all of these proposals. From a realistic standpoint, they are nonstarters.
Here is a suggestion for Sen. Hughes and others in our delegation: The district's request from the state is $122 million. Stop dithering and speechifying and sniping at the various plans. Unite behind a practical plan. Trade votes for Republican support, if need be. Go in and bargain and get the money for the district. And don't come out empty-handed with excuses.