PHILADELPHIA – Philly Mayor Michael Nutter wants to set the record straight.
In five videos posted to YouTube, Nutter took exception with a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers ad campaign that depicts him as a puppet of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and a louse at funding the city’s education system.
“The PFT leadership is running false ads, distorting my record on education funding and my support for our children,” Nutter said in the online videos, according to NBC. “They failed to tell you that as mayor, I’ve increased education funding by $155 million annually, while the state has cut funding by $140 million.”
To his credit, Nutter appears to be attempting to make the best of a very bad situation. With Philadelphia schools facing a $300 million deficit, he has proposed numerous funding solutions, including proposed taxes on sweet drinks, liquor, cigarettes and adjustments to property tax values, all of which would generate millions in revenue. Most of the proposals withered on the vine.
But we don’t believe the district deficit is as much a revenue issue as it is a spending issue. Many of the district’s most unnecessary expenses are tied directly to union labor agreements.
We suspect district officials could eliminate a big chunk of the budget deficit if union leaders would simply agree to modest concessions, such as larger employee contributions toward their health insurance costs or big cuts to the union’s Health and Welfare Fund budget.
Last year EAGnews detailed the excessive costs of the recently expired PFT contract, and it’s obvious there are plenty of areas for potential savings that would have virtually no impact on students.
So far, the state and city have pledged extra funds to limp the district through the 2013-14 school year, but much of the money is contingent upon securing significant concessions from the PFT, which thus far has refused to contribute much at all.
PFT President Jerry Jordan mentioned the possibility of a wage freeze and some type of employee contributions toward health insurance premiums, but he seems more focused on attacking the mayor and diverting attention from further talk about employee concessions.
The union doesn’t want to give up one red cent more than necessary.
The PFT antagonized Nutter with its misleading ad campaign and forced him to defend himself to the public, which only wasted time and money that would have been much better spent on resolving the district’s budget problems.
Nutter did the right thing setting the record straight, but he could do more to explain to the public why union concessions are such a critical component to the long-term financial stability of Philly schools.
He needs the public to help pressure the union into eliminate expensive perks the district can no longer afford. Because without concessions – significant, permanent concessions – the budget crisis in Philly schools will continue in perpetuity.