Rep. W. Curtis Thomas: Fighting for the Future of William Penn High School

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  • 1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas D-Philadelphia Contact: Marilyn Kai Jewett 215/560-3261 STATEMENT State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas: Fighting for the future of William Penn High School June 16, 2014 I am highly disappointed, troubled and angry about how local government and the School Reform Commission is continuing to engage in denying poor students in this city an equal education, and their disregard of the interests and wishes of communities throughout the city regarding the closing and sale of public schools. In 2013, the General Assembly authorized an additional 1 percent Philadelphia sales tax, which would provide $120 million. The sales tax was reauthorized and specifically designated for the schools. However, the city has now proposed to do otherwise with the additional funds. To insist that the funds be split between the schools and the pension fund is no less than coercion and bullying. Over the last 12 years, neither City Council nor the administration thought it was important to make the pension fund a priority. Now, they want to divert funds designated for the schools to the pension fund and continue holding our children’s education hostage. I want to reiterate my unwillingness to give legislative authority to City Council to use additional sales tax for anything other than the schools. Four years ago, the SRC concluded that there was a need to keep William Penn High School open, but would have to close the school temporarily to address capital needs. The consensus was that it would reopen in 2014 as a career technical school. To date, there has been no resolution to reverse that decision. For City Council to use that property to raise money for something else is a disgrace. At what point does the interest of the students come first? Once again, I am opposed to use of the sales tax for anything other than the schools. I am also opposed to the marketing and sale of schools to entities that are not operating in the interest of the community. Communities surrounding William Penn have more than enough students to attend the school. Students who reside in communities east of Broad Street – Yorktown, Jefferson Manor, Harrison Homes, Ludlow Homes, Nehemiah Homes, Richard Allen Homes, Spring Garden and Hartranft -- deserve and need a -MORE-
  • 2. neighborhood high school. The William Penn Development Coalition submitted an expression of interest to the SRC in a timely manner and a proposal for the reopening of the school as an educational center and building trades program. The coalition has met regularly with the SRC and the School District on this matter. It is reprehensible for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to call the William Penn Coalition on June 12, and tell them to put $15 million on the table by June 13 or their proposal would be dismissed, before the SRC has adopted a resolution to close the school and turn it over to the city. City Council told the SRC and the School District that they can’t obtain money needed to fund the schools next year until William Penn is sold. William Penn includes 3,200 square feet of space, an Olympic size swimming pool and other amenities that don’t exist in other school buildings. Don’t the students of North Philadelphia deserve a state-of-the art facility? To force the sale of this property is unconscionable. I and the community want to know: Who made the closed door deal to sell-out the education of our children in North Philadelphia? Back in the day, this would be called a “move job!” The SRC and the community should not be bullied for private interests. This is nothing but pure “politricks” in action. Pennsylvania State Representative W. Curtis Thomas represents the 181st Legislative District and serves as democratic chair of the House Commerce Committee. -30-