Note: As he states at the beginning of his testimony in the video above, John went off script after what transpired at the meeting. This transcript is what he originally intended to say to the SRC.
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
You passed a resolution on April 20 directing the district to prepare a budget that sufficiently funds and satisfies the real needs of all your students. What happened? Why wasn’t this resolution followed? Will someone at least describe the dollar difference between the budget you are voting on and what the true financial need is BEFORE you vote? If not, why not?
This approach and your apparent willingness to vote on and possibly approve an inadequate budget raise other questions.
Recent studies have identified significant inequities in the allocations of the State’s BEF. The negative impact of these allocations on Philadelphia schools is $300M per year. These same studies have also demonstrated that the common denominator in the misallocations is not the relative need level of a district’s students or the district’s ability to pay. It’s the color of their students’ skin. Please describe what actions you are taking to address this and get a fair allocation for our students, and if any redress is expected for FY2017-18. I’m sure there are others here who also would like to know.
I have previously asked if you thought the students of Philadelphia had a right to the same quality of education and the financial resources required to provide it, as those students in better funded, and in Pennsylvania’s case, whiter districts. I certainly do, and assumed your answer is “Yes.” Now, I’m not so sure of your answer. If you can’t or won’t even identify what your real needs are, why should anyone expect that you will fight for these resources?
Everyone, including me, hopes that the Fair Funding suit will be successful, but as this is Pennsylvania, it always helps to have a Plan B. If you have to fight tooth and nail for $100M increases, how do you expect to cover the combination of your projected large operating deficits, the as yet unbudgeted financial resource requirements to fully meet students’ needs, and a $5B Facilities rehab price tag? It’s imperative to start NOW to try to negotiate cost reductions, including with Charters, versus falling off the fiscal cliff and being forced into another round of catastrophic cuts. If Chester-Upland could do it, so can you, especially if you start now.
If answers are not available today, please provide me with a point of contact.