Mayor Michael Nutter's administration on Wednesday hit back at the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' recent television ad campaign, which accuses Nutter of conspiring with Gov. Tom Corbett to underfund city schools.
Nutter's response came in a series of five videos posted on YouTube yesterday by the city of Philadelphia.
In one video, titled "TRUTH (Phila. Education Funding)," Nutter declares, "The PFT leadership is running false ads distorting my record on education funding and my support for our children.
"They failed to tell you that, as mayor, I've increased education funding by $155 million annually in the last few years while the state has cut funding by $140 million."
He goes on to outline several unrealized proposals he's brought to the table that ostensibly would have brought in even more money for schools, including his infamous attempt to tax soda, as well as a $2-per-pack cigarette tax and a 15 percent hike in the liquor-by-the-drink tax.
He also points out, "even right now, I'm supporting getting hundreds of millions more in recurring revenue from the state sales tax extension."
The City Council has shown some resistance to the language of the legislation extending the state sales tax, originally set to end this year.
Though the cigarette tax was approved by City Council last spring, it has so far stalled in the state General Assembly.
Nutter goes on to point out PFT leadership did not support any of those legislative packages.
"Well, they get an F in telling the truth," he concludes."We teach our students to tell the truth. Maybe the PFT leaders should learn something from our kids."
In a second video titled, "Education Funding and our Children," Nutter again defends his record and calls on other legislative bodies to step up for school funding.
"I've made the right choices for our kids," he says.
"But let's talk about choices. City Council: Make a choice. Pass the sales tax. State General Assembly: Make a choice. Pass the cigarette tax. And Gov. Corbett: Make a choice. Create a new statewide funding formula to fund our schools properly."
In a third video,"Choices," Nutter toes the same line, saying, "Let's stop shortchanging our children with one-time funding schemes. We need long-term sustainable funding for education like the sales tax."
The videos came despite the PFT's agreement Wednesday to stop running their attack ads, as president Jerry Jordan is reportedly set to meet with Nutter later this week to continue negotiating the union's contract, which expired last week.
"The mayor’s assertion that the PFT's leadership has failed to fight for additional education funding is absolutely false," Jordan said in a statement responding to Nutter's videos.
"The PFT has been on the record with its avid support for a sustainable funding formula and other revenue streams for Philadelphia's public schools.
"It is the job of our elected officials, not educators, to create budgets, pass laws and develop legislation designed to properly fund our schools. This is the reason Philadelphia's citizens – including PFT members – vote.
"We are happy to see the mayor demonstrate a newfound zeal to pressure Harrisburg for additional education funding. We hope in the future he'll fight alongside Philadelphia's teachers and school employees rather than fighting against us."
Philadelphia public schools are scheduled to open Monday.