Philadelphia leaders should return money to where it belongs: with students

September 18, 2023

Philadelphia Inquirer: Letter to the Editor

Good Jobs First Researcher Anya Gizis wrote the following letter to the editor in response to a story focusing on inequitable school funding throughout the state of Pennsylvania:

A school bus in Philadelphia at night
Sergey Novikov

The Inquirer did a public service chronicling the inequitable funding structure that disadvantages so many Pennsylvania students (”See how much money your school district has for students,” Sept. 6). Especially in Philadelphia, where nearly a third of students live in poverty, there’s another reason schools are so underfunded: property tax breaks given to corporations. Because of the city’s generous residential abatement program, Philadelphia schools lost more than $135 million in the 2022 fiscal year. Between 2017 and 2022, the School District lost a staggering $624 million. These figures, taken from the School District’s end-of-year spending reports, don’t include even larger revenue losses to the city. Worse, the money has largely flowed to some of the city’s wealthiest developers for residential projects, which produce very few permanent jobs. True economic development means improving those things that draw people to communities, and great schools top that list. I attended Philadelphia public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade and experienced firsthand what disinvestment looks like: lack of air-conditioning cut scorching days short, my high school’s stairwell caved in, textbooks that were more than 20 years old. The money going to developers could have an outsized impact were it back where it should be: with students.

Read Anya Gizis’ letter to the editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer.