Sen. Anthony Williams Op-Ed: Phila. School District on Brink of Collapse
April 29, 2013
By Anthony Hardy Williams
The School District of Philadelphia is tipping toward the brink of absolute collapse. That’s reality.
Yet that hasn’t jostled most of us from our assumptions about the district’s budgeting process as a Chicken Little-style extortion attempt that will feature a miraculous recovery. That’s unconscionable.
Still, the respective corners – City Hall, Harrisburg, and the union halls – remain as ideologically entrenched as ever. But we all will bear responsibility if the district goes belly up.
That scenario is dangerously close to “when” rather than “if” based on the current trajectory. If we don’t collectively get our act together, that “when” could be a matter of two months. We shouldn’t shoot for the honor of being the largest public school district in the country to file for bankruptcy.
It’s not clear whether disbelief or disdain is behind the lackadaisical attitudes. It certainly isn’t lack of knowledge. Every policymaker who touches Philadelphia knows the stakes and the ask: $60 million from the city; $120 million from the state; and fair, but altered, contracts for the district’s unions.
Without that checklist, even routine transactions – like summertime stopgap borrowing – will be even costlier, if possible. The district already spends $1 of every $10 on debt service. If we continue down this road, it will be closer to $1 for every $8. There’s not much educational quality to be had in that kind of fiscal chokehold, whether kids attend neighborhood schools, magnets, or charters. Read More