Philadelphia Public School System: “Thank You for Smoking!”

You would think that our current health regimen would make our public school system a place where smoking is discouraged. But you would be wrong. Smoking is now being extolled as the only way to save the education of children in Philadelphia.

From the CBS Philly news site: “City Officials Say Without Passage of Cigarette Tax, Philadelphia Schools May Not Open On Time.”

A timely start to the Philadelphia school year is even more uncertain at word the state house won’t consider the cigarette tax on Monday.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite has said 1,300 layoff notices would go out August 15 without money from the cigarette tax.

“I’m annoyed, disappointed and frustrated, because we’re at a point two weeks before we have to make some operational decisions to educate children,” Hite said.

He says a cash advance from the state doesn’t solve the district’s $81 million deficit.

“If in fact it is sending us money that is already in our budget earlier in the year, that does not solve the problem,” Hite said.

So, if you mismanage your finances so badly that you are in an $81 million hole, you can berate the state legislature for not increasing cigarette taxes? How do you get to keep the moral high ground when you have overspent that much?

[See also: “What Happens If Sin Taxes Don’t Bring In Enough Loot For Government? They Tax Healthy Living.]

And isn’t this a regressive tax? I haven’t seen a study, but I think it is more than likely that you are taxing some of the poorer people for a middle class benefit.

Why don’t we ever hear about private schools with a deficit one tenth that high?

Hite called the news “devastating.”

“It is an absolute disgrace what is going on here and no other school district in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, no other set of parents, no other county, no other school district, would ever be subjected to this kind of nonsense and irresponsibility as we are now experiencing today based on the announcement that was made,” Nutter said in an interview with CBS 3.

I think Mayor Michael Nutter (what a great name!) is right that there is a disgrace in Philadelphia. But the disgrace is the extreme budget mismanagement. The further disgrace is a school system that only gets funded as long as people are paying to get lung cancer.