Philadelphia made history in 2017 by ending the 16-year state control of its public schools. Now, we must come together yet again to create the quality schools our children deserve.
The question is: How do those schools get the funding they need? The answer will determine the future of our schools and our neighborhoods — and reveal whom our city government prioritizes: corporations and the wealthy, or the rest of us.
In the coming months, there will be a discussion about increasing property taxes while once again rolling back taxes on businesses. But Philadelphia has already seen three property-tax increases in the last seven years, and President Trump's tax bill just gave corporations billions of dollars. We say: Enough!
Increased property taxes will fall heavily on low-income people and the fixed-income elderly, and contribute to the continued displacement of black, brown, and working-class Philadelphians due to increasing housing costs. There is plenty of money in our city and our country — but instead of investing in our children, money is being hoarded by the top 1 percent.
Our City Our Schools has put together a plan to fund our schools that would raise more than $200 million per year, protect low- and moderate-income Philadelphians and small businesses, and support economic prosperity. The mayor and City Council can act on our plan in this budget season. This plan both solves the $100 million gap that hits our schools this year and creates some surplus so we can begin to envision the schools our kids deserve.
Here are our main proposals:
We also know that the School District has to be careful with any funds we raise. Two cost-cutting measures we propose are:
The Chamber of Commerce will say that we need continued business tax breaks, but we all know its plan does not work. Over the last 30 years, we've cut the city wage tax by 22 percent, cut the city gross receipts tax 64 percent, and given massive state and federal corporate tax breaks. Yet poverty levels have increased in Philly and disproportionately impacted black and brown communities. We've tested their "trickle-down" economics, and the lesson is simple: Tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy do not lead to greater investment in our neighborhoods, do not create jobs in our communities, and do not fund our schools.
By enacting the Our City Our Schools funding proposal, the mayor and Council will not only address the looming budget deficit, but also create a surplus so we can imagine the schools our children deserve: smaller class sizes; healthy and safe schools buildings; fully funded programs for arts and sports; fully-staffed school counselors, librarians, and nurses.
Our city is at a crossroads. We are seeing a surge of people with moderate means moving in, yet our schools are still woefully underfunded. Our city's number-one priority must be keeping this city affordable for longtime residents while providing the highest quality education in the country. In the face of a federal administration hellbent on destroying our social services, it's up to the mayor and Council to protect small businesses, Philadelphia's schoolchildren, and the majority of Philadelphians.
Every day, educators, students, and parents do amazing work in our schools under inhumane conditions. Now is the moment for all of our institutions to step up to contribute to our schools. We call on Mayor Kenney and Council to demand that our city's wealthy pay what they owe our students by creating a budget that funds the schools our children deserve.