Mayor Cherelle Parker lobbied for education funding in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG — As Pennsylvania’s budget deadline approaches, Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle L. Parker visited the State Capitol to ask lawmakers to finally augment funding for public education and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and to challenge her political opponents for setting low expectations for the city.

Parker, who served 10 years in the House of Representatives before being elected to the City Council and then becoming mayor, said in an interview that she didn’t come to Harrisburg to play politics. She said she also held meetings with state agencies on Monday to ask for simplified rules and regulations that would make it easier to advance her city priorities, such as a promise to close an open drug market in Kensington.

“The city can’t handle this alone,” Parker said. “We have limited ability to generate revenue. I am doing what I can to work with these leaders, and I thank them for putting the needs of Philadelphia first in their actions.”

State lawmakers and Gov. Josh Shapiro are in the final stages of budget negotiations this week; must agree a budget for the next financial year by July 1.

Parker touted her ability to convene stakeholders from across industries, including a remarkable group of public education leaders who sent a letter to Shapiro asking that leaders approve proposed changes to school funding. If approved, the plan would bring in $1.4 billion more to Philadelphia’s state schools over the next seven years.

“We’re not going to let anyone compete with us,” Parker said. “There are no divisions in Philadelphia that can be exploited.”

However, there is one division that he skillfully avoids: school vouchers. Parker said she declined to take a position on whether she supports vouchers to send students from struggling school districts to private schools because it could hinder Philadelphia lawmakers from negotiating a final budget deal.

“If I feel like I need to be heard on any issue, not just this one specific issue, on any issue, I will make sure my voice is heard,” Parker added.

This year marks the first state budget since Parker became mayor of Pennsylvania’s most populous city. She said coming to Harrisburg to lobby for the city felt like “coming home.” She called on lawmakers to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour as the “number one way” to lift Philadelphians out of poverty.

Parker also spoke to lobbyists, lawmakers and reporters at the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday and praised her efforts to make Philadelphia the “safest, cleanest and greenest” city in America.

Parker also challenged her opponents who questioned the city’s ability to implement an ambitious cleanup program.

The mayor called out politicians who questioned whether the Parker administration could follow through on its plan to thoroughly spotless every block in 13 weeks.

“I won’t apologize for being ambitious, I won’t apologize for being bold,” Parker said. “I won’t apologize for reaching high.”

Explanation: This story has been updated to clarify Parker’s comments about politicians questioning her cleanup plan.

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