FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood
State Rep. Mike O’Brien
Youngblood, O’Brien unveil plan to aid Philly school funding
HARRISBURG, May 8 – Alarmed by the dire fiscal situation facing Philadelphia public schools, state Reps. Rosita Youngblood and Mike O’Brien, both D-Phila., are introducing legislation to temporarily divert gaming revenue used for wage tax reductions to the Philadelphia School District.
Youngblood and O’Brien said the school district needs an infusion of $90 million in order to open this fall, and with no likely solution from the city or state, they favor re-prioritizing the use of gaming funds, shifting them to school operations for the next five years.
"Unfortunately, this may be the best – if not the only – way for the Philadelphia School District to avoid insolvency," said Youngblood. "We want to make clear that we are not raising taxes with this legislation; we are just redirecting funds from the city’s gaming revenue."
O’Brien and Youngblood said the temporary cash infusion of about $88 million would give the district time to consider, implement and benefit from changes being suggested by the city’s School Reform Commission. Compounding the district’s challenges, they said, was last year’s crippling $276 million cut in state funding.
"The education of our children is simply too important to let this linger," O’Brien said. "By turning their backs and drastically cutting funds, Governor Tom Corbett and his Republican allies have chosen to put school districts across the state in turmoil.
"However, the dramatic response from the Nutter administration only adds to the turmoil, creating more confusion and angst for homeowners while holding our children hostage. We need to move beyond this Chicken Little response and put forward a practical solution that takes care of our immediate need."
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is proposing to reassess Philadelphia properties to bring in the money for the schools. O’Brien said the property tax hikes that would result from Nutter’s plan would be far greater than any wage tax relief received during the five-year period the legislation covers.
The legislation promoted by Youngblood and O’Brien would suspend the City of Philadelphia wage tax reduction from gaming revenue as prescribed by Title 4 and the Taxpayer Relief Act, and would forward those funds to the Philadelphia School District for five years. If the school district reaches insolvency before the five years, gaming revenue would revert to wage tax relief.
O’Brien and Youngblood said temporary diversion of funds would allow the district to make structural changes to improve efficiency and regain solvency, without adversely impacting students’ ability to acquire a solid education.
"At the end of the day, we must not miss the opportunity to educate," O’Brien said. Added Youngblood, "We must never lose sight of what is really at stake here – maintaining the chance at a quality education for tens of thousands of children."