There's a pervasive pessimism in Philadelphia that too often sours the city's progress. It's a defeatist culture most evident among sports fans who fear their enthusiasm for the Phillies, Eagles, or Flyers will always be disappointed. But it also dampens support for critical needs - like better education for children.
The right mayor can change that. He or she must be able to make Philadelphians believe that their schools can be great. That task is too big for a superintendent. It requires the heavy lifting of a mayor to persuade a city to move beyond scraping together just enough cash to fill the School District's annual budget gaps. That simply maintains the status quo, which is unacceptable.
Local funding of Philadelphia schools has increased 42 percent, or more than $357 million, since 2009, and more than $856 million over the past 30 years. With revenue from the new city cigarette tax, 47 percent of the district's funds will come from the city this year. But if traditional public schools are to stop hemorrhaging students to charters, they must do better.
That means the state can't be let off the hook for properly funding all Pennsylvania schools. The state's share of Philadelphia's funding has dropped from 62 percent to 53 percent since 2009. But even if Gov. Wolf and the legislature can agree on a new funding formula that increases aid to every district, Philadelphia must do more for its children too.
That can only be accomplished by a mayor who can ably articulate what is at stake and get the right response. That mayor must be able to persuade not just City Council, but residents concerned about other vital city services, including police and fire protection, that investing even more of the city's budget in schools saves taxpayers money in the long run.
The link between poor education and poverty is as indisputable as the link between crime and poverty. Philadelphia won't spend as much addressing the consequences of poverty if it invests more in education. The city needs a mayor who can lift that heavy load, a mayor who knows the young adults moving into town won't stay if the schools can't be trusted to educate their children.