Nutter to business group: Make school funding your business

Mayor Nutter makes his case for businesses to support quality education at an annual address to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The chamber's president was on board, but not everyone. Story, B2.
Mayor Nutter makes his case for businesses to support quality education at an annual address to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The chamber's president was on board, but not everyone. Story, B2. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 20, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Education funding should be the Philadelphia business community's main priority if it wants to have a competitive workforce in the next decade, Mayor Nutter told the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday during his annual address.

Nutter used a quarter of his time to argue for state school funding.

"Quality education remains the greatest challenge Philadelphia faces in the 21st century," he said.

Nutter called for a state funding formula based on the number of students in each district and their needs, such as learning disabilities and poverty.

Pennsylvania funds its schools in large part through local taxes. The state pitches in some aid, but poor and urban districts such as Philadelphia's struggle under this system, which sees the amount of aid change from year to year depending on economic and political conditions.

An education funding formula that factored in poverty, district size, and local tax burden, among other factors, was adopted under Gov. Ed Rendell, but abandoned under Gov. Corbett. Facing a tough reelection campaign, Corbett has recently called for the state to again study a better way to fund public schools.

Nutter also repeated his call for another form of help from Harrisburg - he asked legislators to pass the authorization the city needs in order to enact a cigarette tax and to change the distribution of the city's added 1 percent sales tax, moves the mayor says would send a combined $150 million to the deficit-plagued district each year.

The chamber's president and chief executive, Rob Wonderling, said the business group has supported the mayor's education-related lobbying efforts for more than three years, and is reaching out to chambers of commerce around the state to garner support for what he called a "modern" school-funding system.

"Not one city, not one mayor, not one chamber is going to be able to get it done in Pennsylvania," Wonderling said.

But others in the audience at the Marriott Downtown were not as enthusiastic.

Republican City Councilman Dennis O'Brien said after the speech that he would like to see a board, similar to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) that oversees the city's finances, set up to borrow money for the School District and monitor its spending.

O'Brien did not elaborate on how such a board might work, saying he is still working out details with fellow Council members.

During his 33-minute speech, Nutter also highlighted the various tech-sector start-ups and large commercial developments settling in Philadelphia. He touted the huge growth in the number of young professionals living in the city, as well as the property-tax system overhaul and the new zoning code.

Among his goals for the year, Nutter said, is to complete the sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works and bring manufacturing jobs back.


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

Inquirer staff writer Kristen A. Graham contributed to this article.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|