Two weeks ago thousands of Philadelphia public school students walked out of their classrooms to head to City Hall and to the school district headquarters with one demand: more funding for education. The budget deficits and poor priorities of city government have caused the city to close 23 schools with more cuts coming to music, art, sports, after school activities, and community centers, among a host of other public service cuts in the coming years. When asked “why?” the local and state government always cry “austerity!” and “cutbacks!” Why? We know where the money is; We just need to go get it back.
Last year the Philadelphia school system had a $629 million dollar budget deficit. That deficit has caused schools to close, teachers to be laid off, and cultural programs being removed from the remaining schools’ curricula. In 2008 the big banks received $700 billion (with essentially a $3.5 trillion buffer in addition loans being offered) in rescue funds from the federal government while our city was losing tens of millions in interest to the banks. While our schools were starved the fat cats were feasting on our losses. In the third quarter of 2012 Wells Fargo alone posted $4.9 billion in profits. Where did that money come from? It came from starving schools systems and city governments who are now faced with a choice: default on their debt or cut essential services. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein earned $21 million last year. Where did that money come from? In part, from the Philadelphia school district.