Rally spotlights Philadelphia School District crisis

August 14, 2013 3:22:28 PM PDT
A rally and 12-hour fast Wednesday was yet another effort by laid off school workers to focus the public's attention to the Philadelphia School District's potential death spiral.

Last week, School Superintendent William Hite shocked a lot of people when he said he needs a firm written commitment by this Friday from City Hall for $50-million, if the state's largest district is to fully open on time with even a minimal staff.

Mayor Michael Nutter said today he continues to try to broker a deal with City Council to green light an aspect of the Governor's plan that would produce a $50-million loan that would be paid for through an extension of the sales tax.

"The most direct and straight forward, non-controversial, no real questions to wonder about, is to pass a sales tax and get the school district its money as quickly as possible," Nutter said.

But Council President Darrell Clarke is backing a far different plan that does not involve borrowing, his staff says. Instead Clarke would give the schools the $50-million from city coffers in return for a list of surplus school buildings that the city would later sell for more than $100-million.

Clarke was unavailable today, but Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell thinks the idea could fly.

"It's our plan. It's clean. We can market properties and move forward in a timely manner, give the superintendent his MoU, and begin our work," Blackwell said.