This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
On May 19, Philadelphians will hit the polls to winnow the field of City Council at-large candidates. Out of 28 declared candidates, only seven will be elected in November (including at least two from a minority party). Each party can run five candidates in the general election. The Notebook reached out to the candidates, asking their opinions on the election’s most gripping issue: education.
Where do candidates stand on the School Reform Commission’s decision to approve five new charter school applications? Whose job is it to find more money for public schools, the city’s or the District’s? Absent an agreement with the teachers’ union, do they think the SRC is right to pursue concessions through the courts? And finally, what ideas do they have for how the District can fix its financial problems?
Over the next couple weeks, we will post statements from City Council candidates responding to these prompts in the order we received them. Today’s statement comes from Democrat Bill Greenlee, a current at-large City Council member and a graduate of St. Joseph’s Prep and Temple University.
Responses were edited for length and clarity.
I signed on to the PCAPS petition to the School Reform Commission calling on its members to vote down all new charter applications at its Feb. 18 meeting. The five new additional charters will create additional costs to the District which it cannot afford. We need to find a sustainable funding source to provide a quality education for all students.
I have consistently voted for money for public schools. The city has an obligation to the students as well as the state to provide adequate funding. It has to be a shared commitment. I also think the School District needs to be responsible with its budget, so as to provide the needed resources to its students to provide a quality education for all students.
I believe the contract should be resolved through direct negotiations with teachers.
I believe we need to work with our state leaders in Harrisburg to come up with a long-term, adequate funding formula and recurring revenue to provide a quality education. We also need to look at the real estate tax abatement. The tax abatement has spurred development in blighted areas. When it was first conceived, I believe it worked. Ten years wasn’t meant to be forever, and we need to look at a formula to decrease it from being 100 percent for the 10-year timeframe.