ONCE AGAIN, the Daily News takes a selective approach to facts when it comes to the School District of Philadelphia.
Let's review the indisputable:
* Pennsylvania public schools are the most inequitable in the nation, according to federal data. Pennsylvania school districts with the highest poverty rates receive one-third fewer tax dollars per pupil than the most affluent districts. As the largest poor school district in the commonwealth, the School District of Philadelphia has been disproportionately and devastatingly impacted by school funding inequality.
* As the state cut $700 million in funding for Philadelphia public schools under our previous governor, City Council increased local taxpayer funding by approximately 40 percent since 2011.
* Philadelphia public schools are understaffed and teachers are underpaid compared to counterparts in wealthier districts. Yet Philadelphia teachers have been working without a contract for three years.
* While the district no longer has a "smothering bureaucracy," it does have a bureaucracy that is too often at odds with the "boots on the ground" - teachers, nurses, principals, other school aides and parents.
* During hearings on the current fiscal year budget, Council was united in conveying constituents' wish that additional resources be put back into classrooms to support the education of our children. Instead, the district hired new administrators - some of whom with backgrounds that have raised questions among the public and in this very paper.
The Daily News could save a lot of trouble and ink by stating its true feelings: That City Council, and by extension the public, has no business calling for accountability from the School Reform Commission or the School District of Philadelphia.
I would respectfully disagree. The most dramatic examples of public school turnaround in this country were the result of bottom-up, community-supported efforts - not ideological top-down dictates. The erosion of faith between school personnel and district administrators is a concerning development. But it needn't be fatal.
There is still time to negotiate an equitable contract in which all give some, but teachers do not give all. Every party involved must be 100 percent focused on joining Gov. Wolf's effort toward a fair budget that delivers tax relief to homeowners, restores funding for public education and makes gas drillers pay their fair share.
Just as our teachers juggle multiple roles in understaffed schools, we legislators can work for a fair school funding formula while also calling for greater transparency and accountability from the district. In the coming weeks, City Council will again invite the district to answer questions the public has about those recent administrative hires and the apparently troubled efforts of a New Jersey-based company that received a $34 million contract to provide substitute teachers.
Our state-controlled district's long-term structural deficit has many mothers and fathers, including some elected officials who looked the other way when the district made poor financial and administrative decisions. Those days, I am pleased to report, are long gone. So long as our schools don't have what they need to help kids succeed, City Council will continue to "vent" to every party with decision-making authority in our schools.