Funding Advance Band-Aid Won’t Stop Philly Schools’ Bleeding

Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: 717-671-1901

Short Term Funding Solution Ignores Structural Problems

Philadelphia Schools Need Fundamental Reform to End Education Crisis

With 80 percent of students failing to make proficiency in reading and math despite a $1 billion revenue increase over ten years, Philadelphia’s public education crisis is at a peak. Today’s funding advance will allow schools to open on time in September, but it doesn’t address the School District of Philadelphia’s decade-long trend of higher costs and dismal performance that has brought it to the brink of failure.

“This band-aid solution will not make Philadelphia schools’ performance and funding problems disappear,” commented Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “To avoid the same budget crisis next year, Philadelphia must address skyrocketing pension costs, enact money-saving and performance-enhancing seniority reform, and embrace charter schools that perform better academically while receiving less funding per student.”

Key Facts on Philadelphia Public Schools:

  • In 2013, more than 80 percent Philadelphia students failed to make proficiency in both reading and math.
  • Since the 2002-2003 school year, district revenue increased by more than $1 billion, from $1.94 billion to $2.97 billion. This represents an inflation-adjusted, per student increase of more than 21 percent.
  • Philadelphia charter schools outperformed Philadelphia district schools in the 2012-2013 Department of Education's School Performance Profile. The average charter school earned a score of 66, while the average district school was at 57.5.

Benefield continued:

“Neither a cash advance nor a new tax will fix the problems facing Philadelphia schools. Until we address the cost drivers in education by tackling pension reform, retaining teachers based on performance rather than seniority, and giving parents more control over where their children attend school, we won’t improve the quality of education for Philadelphia students.”

For more information and graphs of funding and staffing trends see Commonwealth Foundation’s policy points “Philadelphia School Trends, 2002-03 to 2012-13.”

Commonwealth Foundation staff from both our Harrisburg and King of Prussia locations are available for comment on long-term solutions to Philadelphia’s education crisis.

Please use the below contact information to schedule an interview.


Cindy Hamill
Dir. of Strategic Communications
Commonwealth Foundation
Harrisburg | King of Prussia
Office: 717-671-1901
[email protected]