Fumo opposes legislation paving the way for private management of the Philadelphia School District.
Remarks on the Floor of the Senate, October 23, 2001.
The PRESIDENT: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Philadelphia, Senator Fumo.
Senator FUMO. Mr. President, I am kind of torn on this particular piece of legislation because I have been a great critic of the way in which the Philadelphia School District has been run, and not just all of a sudden. Right now it is in vogue for everyone to go and attack the district. I was a great critic of the way the district was run when Ed Rendell was mayor and begged him to go into that district to try and straighten it out. Rather, he shunned his responsibilities and looked elsewhere for things to do. Mr. President, so from that standpoint, I really do not care if the State takes over the system. If the State wants to take over the system and they think they can do a better job than what has been done down there, that is fine. However, do not kid yourself. It is not an easy thing to do. There are 210,000 children in that district. That is a number that is incomprehensible to many of you. I got involved in a charter school in my district, and then I got involved in another charter school, and they work. It is interesting to say, gee, I can go into a school and see 16 children in a classroom with a teacher and a teacher aide and have a wonderful building and a great facility and dedicated teachers, all for $1,000 less. But the reason why that happens is because the community comes together. There are concerned parents, there is a board that actually does a lot of the work, and you are only dealing with a couple hundred children. You start to multiply that, and instead of getting economies of scale, you get the disaster of bureaucracy, and that is what we have in Philadelphia. It is simply too big. If you think you are going to come in and run it better with Edison or anybody else to privatize anything, come on in and try. It is not going to work.
I also want to thank you, quite sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart as someone who is deeply involved in the Casey campaign by admitting defeat this early. This bill clearly contemplates that you are never going to have the Governor, at least not in the next 8 years, and that is why you have so craftily drafted it so that Bob Casey, when he becomes Governor, will not be able to change this board. That is why you have go 7-year terms, no way to remove people, so I want to thank you for that vote of confidence. I am sure we will be able to raise a lot of money based on that throwing in the towel this early in the game.
Mr. President, in addition to that, I quite frankly want to thank you on behalf of the children of the city of Philadelphia, and more importantly than that guess, the taxpayers of the city of Philadelphia, because by any stretch of the imagination, with privatization, with custodians, without custodians, the best case scenario is that they are going to be $150 million short. And with authority comes responsibility. You will fund that $150 million, and you will do that next year in a budget, and maybe, maybe I am wrong. Maybe it will only be $100 million or $75 million, but you will fund that, and I want to thank you as a Philadelphian for that because it has been a long time since I have seen that kind of largess ever expressed toward the city of Philadelphia. I will not be up here during the next budget cycle telling my colleagues on this side of the aisle that they have to give me $75 or $100 million more for my district when they are not getting anything more for their districts. I am not going to make that argument. I have a responsible position here, I am elected by my Caucus. But I want to thank all of you, because at some point in time that money will flow with this control, and I will not even have to fight for it. So I am thanking you in advance for that.
I am not going to vote for this, because I am not going to be a party toĖI remember my good friend, Dick Tilghman. In fact, I do not know if they have aired the tape yet, but someone came to my office and wanted some memorable events, and I remember when we did the tax in Ď91 and Dick came in with the paper with all the tax with rubber gloves and said I do not want my fingerprints on this at all, and he never put his fingerprints on it. He voted for it, but he nver put his fingerprints on it. I am not going to put my fingerprints on this, and I am not going to vote for it, but I do want the thank you on behalf of the citizens of Philadelphia for your largess which is yet to come, but I know, with authority comes responsibility. You are in here doing all this for the children. Jim, I hope you come down and help run the system for us. You know, come on in. Everybody come on down. It is going to be a big party. In the meantime, we will worry about the other problems in Philadelphia, while you take care of our children, and we know you care about them deeply, deeply. I know that is why you are doing this. You are not doing this for any political partisanship. It is just out of the goodness of your hearts, and I want to thank you for that and the $75 or 200 million, whatever it is, that comes our way will be greatly appreciated.
Following remarks in debate by several other Senators, Fumo again spoke on the legislation.
The PRESIDENT: The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Philadelphia, Senator Fumo.
When we take a look at the track record of the Commonwealth running school districts, just take a look at Chester-Upland. You are sorry you ever walked in there. You did not do a damn thing for them. You have not educated one kid any better than they were before, and you have the audacity to tell me, when you could not do it there, you are now going to do it in Philadelphia. But again, I thanked you. I did not get up here and argue, I thanked you. What you are trying to do now is give your Members some cover, make them feel a little bit comfortable. You will not have to pay that bill in Philly, we will tax them down there. Ainít gonna happen. Got me? Ainít gonna happen.
As far as my speech before, I did not think you would come in riding on the white horse to our classrooms, and I guess you are not. You are coming riding in on the red horse or the gray horse or the black horse, but not the white one. You are coming in with a taint, but at least you are coming in. If it were not for the fact that our children are going to suffer even more when you are there, I would really even welcome you with open arms and vote for this. But in the end what is going to happen is that you are going to put more money in here. You are, like it or not, you are, and if you want to read back into my remarks, go back to 1991, and those of you remember when I got up here every day, every day and said, you are in the Majority, we are in the Minority, we are going to pass a $2.1 billion tax bill and we cannot do it alone. You are going to vote for it. Everybody said no, no, no, no, no. In the end you voted for it. Now you can call it whatever bill you want, and it may have been the Casey bill, whatever but Republicans passed that bill. You will fund these schools when you take them over, and you will fund these schools to the detriment of your own school districts. Remember that. For that I do thank you. But in the end I do not think our children are going to get a better education than they are getting now, because I have not seen anybody come up with a unique idea, an original idea. And yes, the Mayor of Philadelphia is not my closest friend, but you asked for a plan and he offered a plan. He came here. He asked for changes to be made in the law so he could do some privatization, so he could do some different things, and he was snubbed. He learned the hard way what it was like to come up here to try to make a deal. He learned the hard way and he is learning more every day. By next year he might even really be upset with this place. So far, he has had his Parking Authority taken away from him, his teachers have been allowed to move out of the city, and now he is losing his school district, all because he was a nice guy and came up here and talked with the Republicans in authority. Eventually, he will learn who his friends are. But do not chastise me. I welcome you. Come, teach our children. Bring us your suburban friends. Teach them, bring them in, bring in all the teachers from the suburbs. Take care of our kids for us. You do not know what problems are until you walk into Philadelphia. You have not been through my city. You have not seen the poverty in my city. You have not seen when people cannot afford to eat and their children come to school hungry and what it is like to teach a kid when he has not had breakfast and the night before he was abused, one way or another. You come and do that with some private group called the Edison group that has not shown a profit yet. You come and do that, and we will be back here again. Mark my words, this is not over. The only thing changing is, it is now the Pennsylvania school district. It is no longer the Philadelphia School District. It is the Pennsylvania school district, and our taxpayers will be very happy for you to foot that bill, because that is what you are going to do. And you talk about cooperation, the last way you get cooperation is by mugging somebody. If you think you are going to go to City Council and now say, hey, we were great, we took over your school district, now give us some tax money. Your are not going to get it. Last week an ordinance was put in to transfer $75 million to the school district, when everybody thought there was a partnership. I will bet you that ordinance does not go anywhere and it will get canned real quick. It is your problem now. You can listen to whatever you think. And eventually I do think a Federal court will come in, and I think a Federal judge is going to say to the State of Pennsylvania, you will fund that school district, because those children are being discriminated against. And it is a civil rights action. And I know it was not nice to call Tom Ridge a racist, but that is what that action calls for. And it was on hold, and I told the Mayor of Philadelphia do not, do not put that action on hold, because you are getting conned up in Harrisburg, and if he has not realized it ye, maybe the other plaintiffs in that case will. You do not want to take care of our kids. You honestly do not want to take care of our kids. You want this to go away. I do not blame you for that, because you have to take care of you own kids. The Republican Party is supposed to be the one that talks about local rule and let us get government off our back. That is not what you are doing tonight. You reap what you sow. Just do not forget that, and I have told you that a lot, and you have been reaping a lo9t of what you have been sowing, and you have not liked it, and you are not going to like this any better. This is not going to be a happy thing for you in a year or two, mark my words, put them on the record, put them on my Web site, I will put them there. You will fund this problem to the detriment of your own districts, and I thank you for that largess.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo