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Philly Schools Funding Proposal Causing Widespread Consternation

By Mike DeNardo and Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Both Mayor Nutter and advocates for Philadelphia public schools indicate they don't like the fact that a new plan for funding the schools, introduced this morning in City Council (see related story), would require the approval of lawmakers in Harrisburg.

Mayor Nutter says he's concerned that the proposed graduated split of $120 million in sales tax proceeds would need approval from state legislators.

"That is, in my view at least, a risky proposition," the mayor told KYW Newsradio today.  "That is a dangerous strategy."

Nutter thinks Council President Clarke's bill could make a bad situation worse.

"If the General Assembly possibly takes the position that they're not taking any other action or they're not going to do exactly what City Council has said, then we run the very real risk of no getting those dollars in a budget year that is already a mess," the mayor said.

Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, agrees.

"I think there are a lot of moving pieces, and that's one of the things that we are concerned about," she said today.  "It's risky.  And even if they have a deal today, they could lose the deal tomorrow.  It could fall apart over something else."

Meanwhile, Harrisburg was quickly turning thumbs down on Council President Clarke's idea.  Steve Miskin, spokesman for the Pennsylvania House majority leader, said this afternoon, "We do not plan to renegotiate our deal" for devoting sale tax revenues to the schools, but a short time later issued a revised statement:

"We are having talks with the SRC (School Reform Commission), Council, and the mayor about funding for Philadelphia schools," he said.

The district says it needs $96 million on top of the $120 million from the sales tax hike extension (see related story) to prevent more layoffs and program cuts.

Gobreski says the $120 million is a start, but what Philadelphia schools need is predictable funding.

"We have to get out of this hamster wheel where we keep coming back to the same thing every year," she said.

Nutter says it would be better to work with the legislature than to try to dictate an all-or nothing posture.


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