Civil Rights Leaders Urge Governor Corbett to Immediately Address Philadelphia’s Budget Crisis

Education 10.11,13

Civil and human rights leaders sent a letter this week urging Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett to take immediate action to address the ongoing budget crisis in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).

SDP faces a $300 million budget shortfall that forced officials to make drastic cuts, resulting in more than 137,000 students, 85 percent of whom are students of color and 82 percent of whom are low-income, to attend schools without the resources necessary to provide a quality education. The SDP has closed nearly two dozen public schools, dismissed almost a thousand teachers (nearly all school counselors and other essential staff), decreased elective course offerings, and eliminated school libraries.

The crisis in Philadelphia is, in part, a result of the state’s decision to slash education funding by $1 billion and abandon a state school funding formula designed to increase resource allocations to the highest need schools and districts.

The letter asks Corbett to release $45 million in state funds that had previously been appropriated to the SDP and to determine the need for additional state funds to ensure that all students in Philadelphia have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, in addition to ensuring that there is an appropriate number of teachers and other staff to maintain reasonable class sizes.

In addition, the signers urged the Corbett administration “to launch promptly a process to update the state school funding formula adopted in 2007; enact that formula into law; and establish a multi-year phase-in to restore the fair and equitable school funding to all students statewide…based on the actual cost of meeting the state-adopted Common Core standards, and sufficient to enable all students to achieve those standards, is essential for the state to improve student outcomes in future years, especially for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged students.”

Signers of the letter included Rhonda Brownstein, executive director of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, Patricia A. Coulter, president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia, Phuong Do, interim executive director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, Jerome Mondesire, president of the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center of New Jersey, Rorng Sorn, executive director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, and Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.