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Mayor seeking donations for school supplies

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

Mayor Nutter wants people in the city and region to donate money so that schools in Philadelphia have adequate supplies.

At a press conference Wednesday, Nutter announced the formation of the Philadelphia Education Supplies Fund, with a goal of raising $500,000 by Oct. 15 and $2.5 million over the next five years.

He started out by donating $200,000 from the city’s general fund and said the city would pledge up to $1 million in five years.

Nutter said that while the public schools "still need support from Harrisburg and City Council," the fund is "an immediate opportunity for citizens, nonprofits, businesses, corporations, and the philanthropic community to come together in support of education here in our city."

The fund will pay for supplies including workbooks, paper, pens and pencils for all city schools, including those run by the District, charters, and Archdiocese.

The West Conshohocken-based Maguire Foundation pledged $20,000 per year for five years.The foundation donates to many local institutions, including many Catholic causes, museums, and educational institutions. James J. Maguire Sr., a co-principal with his wife of the foundation, attended the announcement.

John and Dr. Janet Haas will match up to $30,000 in contributions for each of the next five years. The Haas family runs the William Penn Foundation.

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will administer the fund. "Every child deserves a quality education from cradle to career," said United Way president Jill Michal. "There is so much we worry about every day when we send our kids off to school … but whether or not their classroom is going to run out of paper at some point shouldn’t be one of them."

With the Philadelphia School District facing a financial crisis, teachers — from whom the District is seeking concessions including wage cuts — have been highlighting how they often buy supplies out of their own pockets. The District and the union are still negotiating a new contract.

Superintendent William Hite, who attended the press conference, said that Philadelphia teachers get $100 per classroom for supplies and that these funds would supplement that. At one time, all supply money and that allotment had been eliminated from the District’s budget.

Teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan called the initiative "welcome news."

He added, however, that although "this fundraising effort will provide a convenient way for citizens to make much-needed contributions … the School District and its teachers should not be in the position of depending solely on charity to buy pencils and paper for schoolchildren."

Nutter said that people could make contributions at the website www.UnitedForImpact.org/teachersupplies. Still unclear is how the funds will be distributed and who will decide which schools will receive them.

Nutter mentioned an application process and an accountability system so that schools could document how the funds were used. But he said the "details" were still being worked out.

One way to allocate the money would be for schools and teachers to apply for specific grants for specific needs. Another would be to allocate funds to schools based on a formula that takes into account such things as poverty level of the students and overall need of the school.

If every eligible school in the city got funds from a $500,000 annual pot, it would amount to about $1,500 per school.

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