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Push for additional school funding continues in Harrisburg

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

Along with many advocates, Mayor Nutter was back in Harrisburg on Tuesday lobbying for school funding.

The push continues because the "placeholder budget" for Philadelphia schools that was adopted Monday night includes a gap representing more than 3 percent of the total that must be closed either by securing additional revenues or by another round of deep cutbacks and layoffs.

The District’s budget gap was $93 million when adopted by the School Reform Commission. But the state budget approved hours later by the General Assemby contained $12 million in additional funding for Philadelphia through the new Ready to Learn block grant program. If that budget is signed into law, those funds will narrow the gap in Philadelphia’s $2.6 billion schools budget to $81 million.

Gov. Corbett has up to 10 days to sign (or veto) the state budget.

The governor’s announced plans to delay signing and hold out for scaled-back pension benefits for state workers hit a roadblock Tuesday when the state House voted to send his preferred pension reform bill back to committee. The governor had hoped that Philadelphia legislators would horse-trade, voting for the controversial pension bill in order to get approval for a Philadelphia-only cigarette tax. But 15 Republicans joined Democrats in delaying action on the pension issue.

Philadelphia’s school budget gap could be cut in half if the city could win state approval for a $2-per-pack cigarette tax that was approved by City Council a year ago. The tax would generate more than $80 million annually for schools, but only half that amount in the first year. The state Senate voted to authorize the tax on Monday, but House Republican leaders have told reporters that they have no plans to consider this or other revenue measures. Advocates from Philadelphia continue to press the issue.

A sit-in outside the governor’s office led by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) ended on Tuesday after a fifth day of action in support of increased education funding.

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