Throwing more money at Philadelphia's schools isn't the answer

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Make no mistake: The children of Philadelphia are victims of a failing school system. They have been “left in the lurch,” as described in an Aug. 4 Post-Gazette editorial (“House Inaction: Philly Students Are Left Waiting for a Funding Source”). But the relevant question is: How do we rescue them? How do we put the district on a sustainable path and drastically improve the educational options for parents in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania?

An additional $80 million in taxes is not the answer to these questions — especially after a $1 billion revenue increase for the School District of Philadelphia over the last decade, with little improvement in student achievement to show for it.

In the last 10 years, Philadelphia’s spending per student has jumped 21 percent. Despite this increase, more than 4 in 5 of students still failed to make proficiency in both reading and math in 2013, according to the Nation’s Report Card.

Is this because of skyrocketing class sizes? Hardly. In the same period, district enrollment plummeted 25 percent while the number of teachers dropped by just 6 percent. As a result, the student-teacher ratio in 2012-13 was actually lower than 10 years ago.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. There is a genuine crisis in Philadelphia, and students deserve better than another stop-gap measure that doesn’t address the district’s long-term problems.

Expanding school choice, ending inflexible seniority mandates and negotiating union concessions in labor contracts — these are real steps toward a brighter future for Philadelphia’s children.

Senior Policy Analyst
Commonwealth Foundation

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