In front of South Philadelphia’s Francis S. Key School legislators and education activists announced a coalition that is proposing to secure an investment of $170 million for Philadelphia schools in need of critical repairs.
The Fund Our Facilities group intends to pull together money from the local, state and federal governments — and from donors — to help remediate buildings in the School District of Philadelphia.
“This is a priority,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “We will work with whomever we have to work with to get the money from whatever source that would be.”
The monies would go toward cleaning and maintenance staff; rodent, pest and asthma control; lead paint stabilization; repair of water pipe breaks; electrical and light upgrades; bathroom upgrades and window replacements.
State Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-Philadelphia) said he plans to introduce a bipartisan bill to benefit Philadelphia schools.
“From the House side we talked about funding and how do we do this and in a responsible way,” Dawkins said. “Hopefully we’re able to secure the funding we need to have a predictable funding stream for facilities and programming.”
Half of the school district’s buildings are over 70 years old.
Key was built in 1889 and the last time it was renovated was 1917. It would cost approximately $8.7 million to repair the K-6 grade school, according to the district’s Facility Condition Assessment report.
The district is currently in the process of lead paint stabilization of 30 buildings. Two years ago the district estimated that it would cost approximately $5 billion to fix the overall repairs needed in its schools.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said he understands that the millions of dollars needed in deferred maintenance cost to fix schools is daunting, adding, “I’m confident that the Fund Our Facilities coalition will continue to grow until state and federal legislators realize the urgency, the crises facing our schools.”
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) urged big companies or private donors who believe it’s unacceptable for children to go to school in bad conditions to “cut a check today.”
When asked if he thought the $170 million was enough, Kenyatta replied,” Oh hell no, it’s definitely not enough. It’s a drop in the bucket, but there are some problems that are so chronic and so dangerous that we have to deal with them right now.”
Other founding partners include state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) and state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia), the Philadelphia House Delegation, City Council President Darrell Clarke, City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker (D-9), City Councilwoman At-Large Helen Gym, City Councilman Mark Squilla (D-1), City Councilman At-Large Derek Green, the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.