University of Pennsylvania: Pay Your Fair Share to the Philly Schools

University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees

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During the 2013-2014 school year, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) faced a budget shortfall of $304 million. The district was forced to take extreme measures, including laying off thousands of School District personnel. In 2014, a young girl died of an asthma attack at Bryant Elementary School, where the a nurse had been cut back to only two days a week and was not at school that day. During that time, parents, community members, alumni and current students demanded that the University of Pennsylvnia take action. Year late, the University of Pennsylvania has yet to pay its fair share to the Philly schools.

As the largest private landowner in Philadelphia, Penn's tax-exempt status has direct, devastating consequences for the School District’s budget. Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) are a widely used method by which mega-nonprofits mitigate some of those consequences. The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania have the ability to make this decision. Penn's refusal to pay PILOTs has coincided with increasing School District debt and continued unfair learning conditions for Philadelphia’s Public School children -- an inequity that disproportionately impacts children of color. Our mayor has made a bold commitment to fix the nearly $1 billion deficit facing our schools over the next 5 years; in order for this to work, everyone in the city must pay their fair share. As the governing body of the wealthiest institution in Philadelphia, it’s the University of Pennsylvania's turn to step up.

To: University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees
From: [Your Name]

As alumni, staff, parents, and students of the University of Pennsylvania, we demand that you, the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees:

1. Contribute 50% of the value of forgone taxes on property in Philadelphia;

2. Initiate good faith negotiations with city officials in order to make those contributions.