Yesterday Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia announced the creation of the Philadelphia Education Supplies Fund, a source of money ostensibly to go directly to paying for pencils, paper, books, and other necessities of the classroom. He hopes to garner donations to the tune of $500,000 each year by pledging money from the city's general fund as well as from outside foundations like the Maguire Foundation and the Haas Family.
While hundreds of millions of dollars are still required to complete this school year in Philadelphia, the Mayor is essentially creating a PR campaign to show how hard he is trying to save the School District instead of actually doing anything of substance.
Do I think donations are a good idea in general? Of course! In fact, I was the recipient of thousands of dollars worth of donations a few years ago in order to buy a set of laptops. This was an amazing feat. And, since then, I have drawn funds from friends and family through programs like DonorsChoose.
But, to be honest, what the Mayor is espousing is a severely unfair second tax upon the public of the city. Not only is the "temporary" sales tax increase going to stick around for a while, but now the mayor is hitting up a very poor tax-base for funds they don't have. It's a double-whammy.
The Pennsylvania Constitution states, at Article III, Sec. 14, that: "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
If the city is serious about getting more funding for its education system, it needs to push this from every angle. Even people who have fundamental disagreements are lining up behind the call for a fair funding formula. When is the state legislature going to take this seriously?