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School Funding Rally At City Hall

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PHILADELPHIA -

Philadelphia's public schools are set to open five weeks from today. What will happen September 9th is anybody's guess. A massive budget hole has district officials warning of packed classrooms and bare-bones programs.

Parent activists spent today haunting City Hall, lobbying council members to do something, anything, to get the funding needed to produce real education come September.

"We certainly have to work on the state, but the city is where we're going to start. We need to see our city officials standing up for their own children in their own backyards," says parent Helen Gym.

With the spectra of teacher layoffs and program cuts looming, Philly schools need short and long-term help. One short term answer to the budget crisis, supported by Mayor Nutter, is an extension of the city's sale's tax hike. But city council has balked at that idea.

At a morning budget briefing, the mayor's budget and education officials again pressed for that extension, but could not even guess as to whether their hopes will be answered. They told reporters that the long term solution is a new funding formula from Harrisburg. Basically, more money and a fairer distribution of the dollars.

"That's the long-term answer or we're going to be here every year," says Lori Shorr, Nutter's Chief Education Officer.

Back at City Hall, the council chamber sits empty. Its members are on summer recess while angry parents look for answers.

"I don't understand what the thinking behind that is. It's giving .... me as a parent and as a community member the idea that...we don't matter," says Kia Hinton, a parent.

Even if city council were to agree to that sales tax extension, council president Darrell Clarke is on record saying that he wants the money to be split among schools and the pension fund. It's a major sticking point.

And council member, Maria Quiñones Sanches, has proposed a 50-million dollar grant to the schools. The Nutter administration says the city can't afford it.

Meanwhile, the school bell sounds in 35 days.

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