Residents give school district bad grades in Pew poll

Posted: September 19, 2013

PHILADELPHIANS gave the strapped school district the lowest rating in five years while placing blame equally on local and state leaders for the system's woes, according to a poll released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Of those surveyed, 78 percent described the schools, which are grappling with a $304 million budget hole, as fair or poor compared with 63 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, only 18 percent said the schools were doing an excellent job, compared with 30 percent in 2009.

And so, who's responsible for this mess?

Residents were split, with 31 percent blaming Mayor Nutter and City Council and the same percentage pointing fingers at Gov. Corbett and the state Legislature. Twenty-one percent blamed school administration and the School Reform Commission; 11 percent blamed the teachers unions.

"This needs to be a strong message to all city leaders," said Helen Gym, of Parents United for Public Education. "We're going to hold city leaders accountable. We're going to expect our city leaders to be equally responsible."

Thousands of school personnel were laid off and 23 schools were shuttered to save money. Despite the threat that schools would not open on time, they did with the promise that the city would get the district an extra $50 million by February. But Mayor Nutter and City Council remain divided on how the will find that money.

"Pointing fingers doesn't accomplish anything," Nutter said, adding that everyone shares responsibility. "The school district is in the worst economic crisis in decades and it will require tough decisions to be made. If we work together, we can bring the school district back."

Forty-eight percent of residents said they wouldn't recommend the city to friends as a place to raise children; 44 percent would. Nearly a quarter said they would move away in five to 10 years because of schools and child-upbringing issues.

"This underlines the importance people put on resolving this issue," said Larry Eichel, director of Pew's Philadelphia Program. "If public schools are not an option, it really makes it hard to stay. It tests the commitment to the city."

Charter schools were viewed positively, with 64 percent agreeing they "improve education options and help keep middle class families in the city."

The phone survey was conducted between July 23 and Aug. 13. The survey was done before the airing of TV and radio ads by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers that slammed Nutter and Corbett for the school-funding crisis.


On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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