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Alternative proposals on school closings now accepted

By the Notebook on Jan 17, 2013 11:54 AM

The School District is accepting and publishing alternative proposals on school closings, Superintendent William Hite announced Wednesday night. Two such proposals are now on its website.

Speaking at Wednesday's community meeting on closings at Bartram High School, Hite invited community members to submit alternative plans and announced that such plans are being posted online.

One of the two plans posted on the District website Wednesday, titled "Save Duckrey Strategic Plan," recommends keeping Duckrey Elementary School in North Philadelphia open by merging it with Meade School, which is also slated to close. The other, titled "Clouden's Proposal," from Mama Gail's Community Network, is an alternative set of recommendations for school closings in West and Southwest Philadelphia.

To submit a recommendation to the District, email fmp@philasd.org.

At Wednesday's meeting, Hite also announced that the District's next round of community meetings on the closing plan, to be held in February, would offer more specifics about implementation and transition plans for each school to be closed. The School Reform Commission is expected to vote on the closing recommendations in March.

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Comments (2)

Submitted by Katie (not verified) on January 25, 2013 3:27 pm
Dear internets- here is my 2 cents for an alternative proposal- feel free to ake it and run with it... I sent it on to the SRC at the address above- but the alternatives can eb used in other proposals as we build better alternatives to these massive school funding cuts and closures: One of the things I liked the most about how Washington has handled its school closures is that parents have come to the school district with some bottom-up reforms and promises while at the same time embracing some top-down reforms. (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-parents-develop-alterna... "Garrison’s PTA used an online survey of parents to develop its alternative proposal, a 46-slide PowerPoint presentation accompanied by a four-page plan outlining investments they’d like to see from the school system and commitments they will make in return." This is a method of community engagement that could be constructively facilitated by the School Reform Board as a way to engage with the schools, neighborhoods, and parents- and to form promises for improvement to each other. Until then, here is my suggestions, outlining the needs for our children, recommendations, and a combination of top-down and bottom-up reforms. Support for public education has a venerable tradition in economics. Adam Smith (1904 [1776], V.1.182) advocated for public assistance of basic education, and Alfred Marshall (1920, I.IV.28) wrote that “to refuse [public education] is both wrong and bad business from a national point of view.” Jean-Baptiste Say (1855 [1803], II.VII.15) stated explicitly “Education is capital which ought to yield interest.” Investments in education pay off with interest. This literature, typified by Colclough (1982), is large, well-known, and backed by Nobel prize-winning research (Schultz 1989). In a fiscal crisis, we should focus on funding “rain-making” opportunities, which pay off amply in return. Education is one such “rain-maker.” We have no shortage of arguments that schooling children produces an educated workforce and thereby increases national productivity and income. Obviously it is true that educating children eventually produces more educated adults, and many economists have suggested that this type of investment raises incomes in poor cities, like Philadelphia, more than in others. Raising school enrollment, like economic development in general, takes a long time. This is partly because, as a mountain of empirical evidence now shows, economic conditions and slowly- changing parental education levels determine children’s school enrollment to a greater degree than education policy interventions. For this reason, we should take the long-view in our education policies and not pin them on short-term budget crises. Needs for our children 1. A public school within walking distance. a. Public school location is a scalar issue. School proximity to students matters. Students with shorter walk and bike times to or from school are more likely to walk and bike. b. Students that walk and bike to school will get physical activity along the way, contributing to better bodily health. c. Parents escorting their children to and from school are more likely to interact with one another and community members on the way, forming vital support networks which engage the school and benefit the neighborhood. d. As parents and students walk through neighborhoods, they provide “eyes on the street” and make a neighborhood safer- which in turn, makes these neighborhoods more desirable places to live. e. Walking and biking to school reduces air pollution, a considerable consideration for inner cities where increase air pollution has been linked to poor health outcomes and punitive federal regulation. Recommendation: We need a public school within a mile of every child in the city. This will enable walking to school, a healthy activity. It will also allow parents to walk with their kids to drop them off, meet other parents, and form relationships and support structures around school activities. For this reason, we are recommending that not one public school be closed. 2. High quality physical environment of the public school. Our schools will need funding to be renovated so that they have aesthetically appealing greenspace which can be used by the community when school is not in session. This is expected to improve the physical activity and mental stimulation of both students and neighbors, thereby improving property values. a. The Federal government has acknowledged that “Over the next few decades, thousands of schools will be built or renovated (read: NOT CLOSED). Decisions about the construction and renovation of these schools will have important implications for their adjoining communities. In making these decisions, communities will be challenged to meet multiple community goals – educational, environmental, economic and fiscal.” Citizens, school administrators, and parents are recognizing that schools do more than house children for the day. They affect home-buying decisions and traffic patterns. They present opportunities to create neighborhood centers for education and civic life. Recommendation: We are recommending that our neighborhood schools receive funding for renovations both outside and inside the school. Lea Elementary has set forth a model program where community members, school staff, and students have collaborated to draw from the rich knowledge of Philadelphian designers in renovating the outdoor play area (http://westphillyschools.org/greening-lea-master-plan-presented/). What is lacking to see this project through in a timely manner is funding. We recommend that communities begin to form networks and plans for and around their schools, and that this enthusiastic energy be supported with much-needed renovation funding from city, state, and federal tax dollars. 3. Supportive programming and supplies for classrooms. a. There is a stark difference in the quality and quantity of programs provided at Penn Alexander Elementary School and those supplied at Lea Elementary School, only a few blocks away. In order to improve enrollment in “under-enrolled” schools, they will have to attract families by providing high quality programming options, such as music classes, language classes, staffed libraries, and nutritious lunchroom food. We are recommending a top-down approach to ensuring that under-enrolled schools receive adequate programming to attract neighborhood families. This calls for fairness in the supply of programming such that every student is provided for equally by the system in terms of programming - as opposed to treating every student equally in terms of budget allowance. This change in mind-set will see more funding and resources allocated to struggling schools- in an effort to boost their enrollment and the outcome of their students and neighborhoods. Top-Down Funding Sources Because good neighborhood schools feed into better neighborhood property values and property taxes thereof, School Reform should be considered an investment in the context of potential gains from property taxes. To that end, the City of Philadelphia has failed to collect delinquent property taxes and move vacant and abandoned properties through Sherriff sale in a timely and transparent manner so that the City can deliver funding from these transactions to its schools. The tax code is intricately linked to school funding. The budget cuts and financial crises we currently face are partly due to a lack of enforcement of codes already on the books. Our schools and our children cannot be made to suffer the consequences for this neglect. School Reform will require financial structuring reform. The following are short and long-term suggestions for raising funds to keep our neighborhood public schools open, and to give them funds to invest in rehabilitation. In times of emergency, emergency policies may be used to enforce these suggestions. 1. Restore state funding that was cut by Gov. Corbett. 2. Stop allocating funding to charter schools while cutting funding from public schools. 3. Close charter schools that fail to improve education for students, and move that funding to public schools. 4. Reallocate funding from lower-priority projects, such as the expansion of the Pennsylvania prison system. 5. Close the Corporate Tax Loophole. Pennsylvania will spend $2.4 billion next year on business tax breaks, a figure that has tripled in the last 10 years. Because of the so-called Delaware loophole, 70 percent of corporations that do business in Pennsylvania pay no corporate income taxes at all, costing the state an estimated $500 million a year. Halting the phasing out of the capital stock and franchise tax could bring in an estimated $275 million a year. 6. Collect the $515 million owed in delinquent property taxes. a. A move to revamp the city property tax structure is underway, and if passed in the State legislature may provided the needed funding that is so lacking for public schools right now: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/city/20130116_Bills_would_try... 7. Restructure the sheriff sale process such that vacant or delinquent properties are seized and re-sold to bidders in a timely and transparent manner. 8. Raise taxes on items with a negative impact: alcohol, cigarettes, natural gas drilling, etc- and earmark this funding specifically to public schools. 9. Conduct planning surveys to assess the potential property tax gains for every dollar of investment in public school rehabilitation, parsing this study based on which types of school reform were employed. This will help prioritize and guide school investment in a manner that feeds city coffers. Bottom Up Funding Sources In times of crisis, many communities are frustrated with the lack of audience they have with their representatives. We feel powerless in the face of these mega-changes that will impact our children, our neighbors, and our city. It is important to remember throughout this time of transition, that we can be useful for our public schools. The following are suggestions to support our schools in this time of transition, and many of these supports can be continued when we get our schools back on their feet. 1. Volunteer at your local public school. Run a weekly music program. Staff the library. Become a reading tutor. Donate hours to help with a homeroom class. a. To this end, the federal and state background check procedure for schools needs to be streamlined. The process currently costs over $50 and requires three forms. State and federal officials should put their heads together to come up with a simple, free, online system to ensure that parents and community members are screened and can easily jump in and roll up their sleeves. 2. Apply for project-based funding through the community through crowd-sourcing funds. a. There are a variety of online crowd-source sites for this purpose: i. http://www.donorschoose.org/ ii. http://www.adoptaclassroom.org/ 3. Form community task forces focused on the neighborhood school and in coordination with the Parent-Teacher Association. These task forces can organize volunteers for clean-up days, hall painting days, beautification projects, and classroom help. They can also apply for grants for projects and help draw attention and funding toward the school. 4. If the school building is under-utilized, rent out the space. The gym can be rented to neighborhood sports associations. Un-used classrooms can be rented out as office space with two-long contracts negotiable as school enrollment improves. 5. Network with local organizations throughout Philadelphia to drum up support, funding, and ideas for our neighborhood public schools. These programs can often help install and donate support structures for the school: bike racks from the Bicycle Coalition, murals from the mural arts program, and trees from the urban greening initiatives. References US Environmental Protection Agency. Travel and Environmental Implications of School Siting. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; 2003. Available at:http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/pdf/school_travel.pdf.
Submitted by Katie (not verified) on January 25, 2013 3:34 pm
One of the things I liked the most about how Washington has handled its school closures is that parents have come to the school district with some bottom-up reforms and promises while at the same time embracing some top-down reforms. (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-parents-develop-alterna... "Garrison’s PTA used an online survey of parents to develop its alternative proposal, a 46-slide PowerPoint presentation accompanied by a four-page plan outlining investments they’d like to see from the school system and commitments they will make in return." This is a method of community engagement that could be constructively facilitated by the School Reform Board as a way to engage with the schools, neighborhoods, and parents- and to form promises for improvement to each other. Until then, here is my suggestions, outlining the needs for our children, recommendations, and a combination of top-down and bottom-up reforms. Support for public education has a venerable tradition in economics. Adam Smith (1904 [1776], V.1.182) advocated for public assistance of basic education, and Alfred Marshall (1920, I.IV.28) wrote that “to refuse [public education] is both wrong and bad business from a national point of view.” Jean-Baptiste Say (1855 [1803], II.VII.15) stated explicitly “Education is capital which ought to yield interest.” Investments in education pay off with interest. This literature, typified by Colclough (1982), is large, well-known, and backed by Nobel prize-winning research (Schultz 1989). In a fiscal crisis, we should focus on funding “rain-making” opportunities, which pay off amply in return. Education is one such “rain-maker.” We have no shortage of arguments that schooling children produces an educated workforce and thereby increases national productivity and income. Obviously it is true that educating children eventually produces more educated adults, and many economists have suggested that this type of investment raises incomes in poor cities, like Philadelphia, more than in others. Raising school enrollment, like economic development in general, takes a long time. This is partly because, as a mountain of empirical evidence now shows, economic conditions and slowly- changing parental education levels determine children’s school enrollment to a greater degree than education policy interventions. For this reason, we should take the long-view in our education policies and not pin them on short-term budget crises. Needs for our children 1. A public school within walking distance. a. Public school location is a scalar issue. School proximity to students matters. Students with shorter walk and bike times to or from school are more likely to walk and bike. b. Students that walk and bike to school will get physical activity along the way, contributing to better bodily health. c. Parents escorting their children to and from school are more likely to interact with one another and community members on the way, forming vital support networks which engage the school and benefit the neighborhood. d. As parents and students walk through neighborhoods, they provide “eyes on the street” and make a neighborhood safer- which in turn, makes these neighborhoods more desirable places to live. e. Walking and biking to school reduces air pollution, a considerable consideration for inner cities where increase air pollution has been linked to poor health outcomes and punitive federal regulation. Recommendation: We need a public school within a mile of every child in the city. This will enable walking to school, a healthy activity. It will also allow parents to walk with their kids to drop them off, meet other parents, and form relationships and support structures around school activities. For this reason, we are recommending that not one public school be closed. 2. High quality physical environment of the public school. Our schools will need funding to be renovated so that they have aesthetically appealing greenspace which can be used by the community when school is not in session. This is expected to improve the physical activity and mental stimulation of both students and neighbors, thereby improving property values. a. The Federal government has acknowledged that “Over the next few decades, thousands of schools will be built or renovated (read: NOT CLOSED). Decisions about the construction and renovation of these schools will have important implications for their adjoining communities. In making these decisions, communities will be challenged to meet multiple community goals – educational, environmental, economic and fiscal.” Citizens, school administrators, and parents are recognizing that schools do more than house children for the day. They affect home-buying decisions and traffic patterns. They present opportunities to create neighborhood centers for education and civic life. Recommendation: We are recommending that our neighborhood schools receive funding for renovations both outside and inside the school. Lea Elementary has set forth a model program where community members, school staff, and students have collaborated to draw from the rich knowledge of Philadelphian designers in renovating the outdoor play area (http://westphillyschools.org/greening-lea-master-plan-presented/). What is lacking to see this project through in a timely manner is funding. We recommend that communities begin to form networks and plans for and around their schools, and that this enthusiastic energy be supported with much-needed renovation funding from city, state, and federal tax dollars. 3. Supportive programming and supplies for classrooms. a. There is a stark difference in the quality and quantity of programs provided at Penn Alexander Elementary School and those supplied at Lea Elementary School, only a few blocks away. In order to improve enrollment in “under-enrolled” schools, they will have to attract families by providing high quality programming options, such as music classes, language classes, staffed libraries, and nutritious lunchroom food. We are recommending a top-down approach to ensuring that under-enrolled schools receive adequate programming to attract neighborhood families. This calls for fairness in the supply of programming such that every student is provided for equally by the system in terms of programming - as opposed to treating every student equally in terms of budget allowance. This change in mind-set will see more funding and resources allocated to struggling schools- in an effort to boost their enrollment and the outcome of their students and neighborhoods. Top-Down Funding Sources Because good neighborhood schools feed into better neighborhood property values and property taxes thereof, School Reform should be considered an investment in the context of potential gains from property taxes. To that end, the City of Philadelphia has failed to collect delinquent property taxes and move vacant and abandoned properties through Sherriff sale in a timely and transparent manner so that the City can deliver funding from these transactions to its schools. The tax code is intricately linked to school funding. The budget cuts and financial crises we currently face are partly due to a lack of enforcement of codes already on the books. Our schools and our children cannot be made to suffer the consequences for this neglect. School Reform will require financial structuring reform. The following are short and long-term suggestions for raising funds to keep our neighborhood public schools open, and to give them funds to invest in rehabilitation. In times of emergency, emergency policies may be used to enforce these suggestions. 1. Restore state funding that was cut by Gov. Corbett. 2. Stop allocating funding to charter schools while cutting funding from public schools. 3. Close charter schools that fail to improve education for students, and move that funding to public schools. 4. Reallocate funding from lower-priority projects, such as the expansion of the Pennsylvania prison system. 5. Close the Corporate Tax Loophole. Pennsylvania will spend $2.4 billion next year on business tax breaks, a figure that has tripled in the last 10 years. Because of the so-called Delaware loophole, 70 percent of corporations that do business in Pennsylvania pay no corporate income taxes at all, costing the state an estimated $500 million a year. Halting the phasing out of the capital stock and franchise tax could bring in an estimated $275 million a year. 6. Collect the $515 million owed in delinquent property taxes. a. A move to revamp the city property tax structure is underway, and if passed in the State legislature may provided the needed funding that is so lacking for public schools right now: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/city/20130116_Bills_would_try... 7. Restructure the sheriff sale process such that vacant or delinquent properties are seized and re-sold to bidders in a timely and transparent manner. 8. Raise taxes on items with a negative impact: alcohol, cigarettes, natural gas drilling, etc- and earmark this funding specifically to public schools. 9. Conduct planning surveys to assess the potential property tax gains for every dollar of investment in public school rehabilitation, parsing this study based on which types of school reform were employed. This will help prioritize and guide school investment in a manner that feeds city coffers. Bottom Up Funding Sources In times of crisis, many communities are frustrated with the lack of audience they have with their representatives. We feel powerless in the face of these mega-changes that will impact our children, our neighbors, and our city. It is important to remember throughout this time of transition, that we can be useful for our public schools. The following are suggestions to support our schools in this time of transition, and many of these supports can be continued when we get our schools back on their feet. 1. Volunteer at your local public school. Run a weekly music program. Staff the library. Become a reading tutor. Donate hours to help with a homeroom class. a. To this end, the federal and state background check procedure for schools needs to be streamlined. The process currently costs over $50 and requires three forms. State and federal officials should put their heads together to come up with a simple, free, online system to ensure that parents and community members are screened and can easily jump in and roll up their sleeves. 2. Apply for project-based funding through the community through crowd-sourcing funds. a. There are a variety of online crowd-source sites for this purpose: i. http://www.donorschoose.org/ ii. http://www.adoptaclassroom.org/ 3. Form community task forces focused on the neighborhood school and in coordination with the Parent-Teacher Association. These task forces can organize volunteers for clean-up days, hall painting days, beautification projects, and classroom help. They can also apply for grants for projects and help draw attention and funding toward the school. 4. If the school building is under-utilized, rent out the space. The gym can be rented to neighborhood sports associations. Un-used classrooms can be rented out as office space with two-long contracts negotiable as school enrollment improves. 5. Network with local organizations throughout Philadelphia to drum up support, funding, and ideas for our neighborhood public schools. These programs can often help install and donate support structures for the school: bike racks from the Bicycle Coalition, murals from the mural arts program, and trees from the urban greening initiatives. References US Environmental Protection Agency. Travel and Environmental Implications of School Siting. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; 2003. Available at:http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/pdf/school_travel.pdf.

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