COUNCILMEMBER HELEN GYM, EDUCATION ADVOCATES CONDEMN LATEST MISMANAGEMENT FROM PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, DEMAND OVERSIGHT

In Council News, Helen Gym, News by PHL Council

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“We Cannot Allow the Parking Authority to Rob Our Children’s Future Again”

PHILADELPHIA — Today, Councilmember Helen Gym led education advocates and faith leaders in condemning the latest attempt by the Philadelphia Parking Authority to strip funding from the School District of Philadelphia. Councilmember Gym, who has fought repeatedly for financial oversight over the agency, revealed that the PPA is demanding an $11.3 million refund on an alleged overpayment to the District back in 2020, yet refused to provide documentation for their accounting error. The Parking Authority, which collects over $240 million each year on average and is charged with sending profits to the City and School District, paid zero dollars to the District in 2021.

“There is no place in this world where a single dollar of public money goes to the PPA instead of into the hands of our schoolchildren,” said Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large). “The PPA is a public trust — but over the last two decades, the agency has been run more like a piggy bank for political patronage. We will not allow their mistakes to cost our children the education they deserve.”

In 2007, Councilmember Gym, then an education and parent advocate, led a campaign to force the PPA to live up to its obligation to the schools, winning the first payment to the public schools since the Authority was taken over by the state in 2004. In 2016, Councilmember Gym forced the PPA to meet regularly with the City and School District, called for public audits which she won from the Auditor General and Controller, and was one of the first to call for the resignation of Executive Director Vince Fenerty following charges of sexual harassment and hidden pay-outs to survivors of his abuse. A 2017 audit by State Auditor Eugene dePasquale found nearly $80 million in lost potential revenue for the District between 2012 and 2017. A 2020 audit by the City Controller highlighted excessive salaries for management positions, and identified that one in four PPA employees was politically connected.

Gym said that this latest example underscores the need for serious reforms and increased oversight of the authority.

“For years, it’s been clear that the Parking Authority cannot be trusted to manage its own finances, and our schools have suffered as a result,” said Councilmember Gym. “The PPA must be held accountable for the sake of our schools and our City to provide the robust funding our public deserves. We reject the PPA’s outlandish request to shake down the schools for $11.3 million and demand formal oversight and signoff on the agency’s budget by the City of Philadelphia. We cannot allow the Parking Authority to rob our children’s future again.”

“This is just one example in a long list of decisions directly coming under Scott Petri’s leadership showing that nothing has changed since the ousting of Vince Fenerty,” said Nicolas O’Rourke, Pennsylvania Organizing Director, Working Families Party. “The Philadelphia Parking Authority can no longer be left to its own devices. I join Councilmember Gym and all those gathered here in calling for local oversight of this organization — to make sure that our students are not going to bear the brunt of the malpractice of this organization.”

“Stop trying to rob our children from getting a quality education,” said Rev. Robert Collier, President, Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. “When our school buildings are in need of so many physical repairs and environmental remediation to make them safe for staff and for children, the PPA should gladly donate any alleged overpayment to the schools.”

“Every single day, students and staff are asked to do more with less,” said Hillary Linardopoulos, Legislative Representative, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “The PPA appears hell-bent on their path of reckless injustice, on their path of refusing to pay their fair share, and in their refusal to recognize the role they play in the enormous inequities that unfold every day in every classroom across the city.”

“I am outraged to hear that the PPA, and their inept, undocumented management system, is now putting the onus on the School District of Philadelphia to correct their mistakes,” said Dr. Robin Cooper, President, Commonwealth Association of School Administrators. “It is outrageous that a cash-strapped school district should bail out the PPA for their errors, and that our children and their education will undoubtedly be impacted by money that was already earmarked for their education. We are angry that our members will have to pay the price in running schools that are already woefully underfunded.”

“This is yet another bait and switch by the Philadelphia Parking Authority,” said Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Children First. “There is absolutely no way anybody in this city should accept that a child in our school district is going to cover the Parking Authority’s financial mismanagement. We call for local oversight of the Parking Authority and the rejection of paying back for their mismanagement.”

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