Will Pennsylvania Governor Help Rescue Philly Schools?
Philadelphia's school system has been on the ropes financially for some time, and without a quick infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars, school system officials say they will lay off nearly 4,000 staff members.
District officials have already shut down dozens of schools and axed arts and sports programs to help close a shortfall of more than $300 million before July 1 to avert the massive layoffs. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and the city's School Reform Commission are seeking assistance from everyone—the city itself, the state, and labor unions, with Hite hoping to secure more than $100 million in salary and benefit concessions from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Now, after saying little at all about the ongoing fiscal crisis in his state's largest school system, Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to persuade the federal government to help the strapped school system. His strategy, as reported by the Philadelphia Daily News, is to ask the feds to forgive a $108 million debt that the state owes and redirect that money to the city schools. Everyone seems to think that request is a long shot.
He issued a statement Wednesday pledging his commitment to "finding a long-term solution for the Philadelphia School District that is focused on students and fiscally responsible for taxpayers."
But as my State EdWatch colleague Andrew Ujifusa writes, Corbett's move to offer some aid to the ailing district comes at the same time that an internal poll was leaked to the Philadelphia City Paper showing that the Republican governor—who is among the more-vulnerable incumbent governors in the country—might get a major bump in his approval ratings and improve his re-election odds if he tangles with the Philadelphia teachers' union on issues such as seniority.