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Parents to PPA: Where’s the dough?

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

As the District’s budget crunch loomed over schools this fall, a group of Philadelphia parent activists took action by asking questions about $20 million in anticipated revenues that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has never delivered to the School District.

Those questions asked by Parents United for Public Education and others led this fall to investigative reports by daily newspapers and a storm of criticism over the Authority’s high salaries, political patronage, and other financial practices.

Parents are challenging what they say is an unwarranted explosion in the Authority’s payroll and expenses, which have eaten up most of the Authority’s rapidly growing revenues from meters and parking fines. Parents say more parking revenues should be going to schools. Authority officials say the growing employee payroll is justified.

Inquiries by the City Controller and Inspector General are underway, and Governor Rendell has asked the state’s Auditor General to investigate.

On October 22, more than two dozen parents attended a Parking Authority board meeting to let the agency know they want to see it deliver on a promise of funds to schools.

The parents pointed to a celebratory press conference in 2004 when Parking Authority officials and state legislators John Perzel, Dwight Evans, and Anthony Williams presented a $4 million check to the School District, while promising that the state-controlled Parking Authority would provide a steady revenue stream to the District. No additional money has been delivered in over three years.

“The situation is urgent,” said Aissia Richardson, a parent at Girard Academic Music Program. “PPA has a responsibility more than ever at this time to address the fiscal needs of this District.”

Parents United has published the annual audits of the Parking Authority on its website and called for scrutiny of the agency’s records. The group says that members had concerns about audit figures, including the growing size of the Parking Authority’s reserve fund.