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Group Wants Continuation of Phila. Sales Tax Hike to Fill School Funding Gap

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  Education advocates are lobbying Philadelphia City Council members to provide quick and predictable funding for the cash-starved Philadelphia School District.

A coalition of organizations wants Council to approve a one-percent sales tax extension and use all of the proceeds -- about $120 million -- for the Philadelphia schools.

But Council president Darrell Clarke wants to use half the money to fund city pensions.

Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania (at lectern in photo), says schools should be a priority.

"The schools need sustainable, long-term funding," she said.  "And frankly, if we grow our tax base and we address our tax issues, the pension problem gets easier and easier.  Solving the pension problem does not fix the schools.  Fixing the schools solves the pension problem."

Clarke disagrees, saying the state legislature needs to step up by approving a $2-per-pack Philadelphia cigarette tax.

"Fifty percent for pensions, 50 percent for schools," Clarke is suggesting.  "Passage of the cigarette tax will allow us to be in a position to provide $120 million for schools."

But there is no indication that Harrisburg has any interest in passing the cigarette tax.

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