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District takes risk by disbursing health care savings before court rules

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Oct 24, 2014 02:48 PM

The Philadelphia School District decided Friday to give schools access to $15 million starting Monday, based on expected savings from forcing teachers to contribute toward their health care premiums.

Since the School Reform Commission terminated its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers on Oct. 6, the District has been planning three disbursements totaling $44 million.

Until Friday, it was unclear when principals would have access to those funds. Principals were notified in mid-October what their school allocation would be, but the disbursement date was left up in the air after several legal challenges by the teachers' union, which is protesting the legality of the SRC's unilateral move.

Are health care changes fair to teachers compared to central office workers?

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 24, 2014 04:43 PM

Updated | 10/25

 If and when proposed changes to teachers' health benefits take effect, most non-unionized central office employees will have access to a better health care plan without having to "buy up" to it, while all teachers' union members will have to start paying significantly more for the same coverage.  

Members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers have complained about being shifted into a plan that has higher out-of-pocket costs, although they have expressed a willingness to start contributing something toward their benefits.  

As the acrimonious fight between the SRC and the PFT plays out in court and both sides vie for the moral high ground in the realm of public opinion, there are many ways to parse what is fair and reasonable.

Caravan of delights: Pa. gubernatorial race

By Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week on Oct 24, 2014 02:33 PM

Consistently ranked as one of the most "endangered" governors when it comes to reelection prospects, Keystone State Gov. Tom Corbett has consistently trailed Democrat Tom Wolf this year, and he is the only Republican governor whose race is now considered safely in the Democratic column, according to Real Clear Politics. (I wrote about Wolf's position on education funding earlier this year.) However, Corbett has closed the gap in recent months, and what was once a deficit of approximately 20 percentage points is now getting closer to single digits, as the Real Clear Politics polling average below shows:

 

RCPPennGov.PNG

From the archives: Coalition forms to fight takeover

By the Notebook on Oct 24, 2014 11:05 AM
 

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

This piece is from the Fall 2001 print edition:


by Paul Socolar

The award of a $2.7 million contract to the for-profit company Edison Schools Inc. to conduct a study of Philadelphia schools for the governor has galvanized community protests against a possible takeover of schools by Edison Schools or the state.

A statement from FACTS on the role of charter schools in Philadelphia

By Board of trustees and administrative leaders of FACTS charter school on Oct 23, 2014 04:59 PM

Following is an abridged version of a statement issued by the board of trustees and administrative leadership of the FACTS charter school.

Why we speak

As members of the Board of Trustees and the administrative leadership of the Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS), we wish to add our voice and our perspectives to this important discussion [about public education and the District's current funding crisis], speaking out of FACTS’ experience as a public charter school now in its 10th year of existence.

FACTS began in specific response to educational needs of Asian immigrant children who were not being adequately served in Philadelphia by the public schools. It was founded by community residents deeply committed to public education who had struggled for many years previously on a number of fronts to remedy the overall lack of public resources in Chinatown, and in Asian communities more broadly.

National College Fair to be held at Convention Center on Sunday

By the Notebook on Oct 23, 2014 04:19 PM

High school seniors – and other interested students – in Philadelphia and the surrounding area will be able to meet with representatives from about 400 colleges and universities at the Philadelphia National College Fair on Sunday.

The fair, which will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., is sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and hosted by its Pennsylvania affiliate.

Traumatized students, traumatized District

By Paul Jablow on Oct 23, 2014 10:28 AM

A teacher at South Philadelphia High School had a strange feeling about a female student who had been absent with increasing frequency last school year.

She told counselor Pierre LaRocco about it, and he was equally uneasy.

“I don’t know why,” he recalled. “But I knew that, for some reason, it was important for me to make a home visit.”

He said he got to the girl’s home around 11 a.m. and found her there with her mother, feeling depressed. So he took her to the Einstein Crisis Response Center at Germantown. According to LaRocco, during her interviews there, she said she had been planning to commit suicide that afternoon at precisely 2:15.

Some insights from controller's latest report on charters

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 22, 2014 10:51 PM

Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz has been studying charters in Philadelphia for a while now, looking into fraud and keeping tabs on the quality of School District oversight

In his latest report, released Tuesday, he concludes that the way charters are funded is crippling the District's finances.

The Butkovitz report mostly goes over well-trod territory, but he comes up with a few facts and figures worth drawing attention to:

Pa. court hears arguments in teachers' contract dispute; no ruling yet

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 22, 2014 07:17 PM

Lawyers for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers traveled to Harrisburg on Monday for one of the legal skirmishes in the battle over whether the School Reform Commission has the power to nullify the union's labor contract and unilaterally change health benefits.

The session in Commonwealth Court before President Judge Dan Pellegrini was scheduled to start at 9:30 and lasted until 11 a.m. As of 7 p.m., there had been no ruling. 

Tom Wolf on education, uncut: Vote trading, increasing investment, and disbanding the SRC

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Oct 22, 2014 04:06 PM

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf came to WHYY studios Friday to answer an array of questions from a mix of beat reporters during an hour-long visit.

Penn brings wonders of ancient history to Philadelphia students and families

By Shannon Nolan on Oct 22, 2014 11:58 AM

A new program at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology allows Philadelphia 7th graders and their families to experience the wonders of ancient Egypt and Rome for free.

On Tuesday, the University of Pennsylvania launched “Unpacking the Past,” a $2.2 million initiative that provides 7th-grade students in the School District of Philadelphia and schools run by KIPP and Mastery Charter schools with hands-on, curriculum-focused learning experiences using museum resources to make history come alive.

Shared sacrifice: Who pays and who doesn't

By Ron Whitehorne on Oct 22, 2014 10:29 AM

Like a broken record, for over two years the School Reform Commission has sounded the call for "shared sacrifice." The phrase provided the frame for its decision to break the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract and impose what amounts to a huge wage cut. Their message has been: Everyone else has stepped up, and now teachers must do so.

But not everyone else has stepped up. Banks, corporations, and the mega-nonprofits in this city have not made sacrifices, nor has this body asked them to.

Let me be specific.

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