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Letters: Banning signs at an SRC meeting

By on Feb 26, 2015 03:48 PM

To the editor:

The actions of the School Reform Commission members at last week’s special meeting on new charter applications, particularly those of Chairman Bill Green, were shameful. They sanctioned the actions of police officers who harassed community members who came to be heard on a very important issue facing the School District.

To Gov. Wolf: Childhood trauma is the elephant in the classroom

By Daun Kauffman for NewsWorks on Feb 26, 2015 01:35 PM

Dear Gov. Wolf and Education Secretary-designee Pedro Rivera:

I write regarding injured, marginalized children in Pennsylvania schools, to ask that you include them explicitly in a broad, “Healthy PA” paradigm in your new administration.

I am an educator serving children in elementary and middle school classrooms in my own neighborhood in a major urban center for 14 years. I advocate today regarding an aspect of education rarely discussed, but clearly visible to experienced classroom educators.

Mayoral candidates seek teachers' endorsement at union meeting

By Katie Colaneri and Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Feb 26, 2015 09:54 AM

On Wednesday afternoon, six of the Democrats vying to be Philadelphia's next mayor pitched themselves to members of the city's teachers' union, hoping to score an endorsement.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers uses the forum to help decide who gets its support and its maximum allowable campaign contributions. Union president Jerry Jordan says members will vote, starting next week, and announce a formal endorsement by mid-March.

Each candidate was given five minutes to talk and 10 minutes for questions from the audience, ranging from how they would raise money for public schools, to the role of standardized tests, to their thoughts on resolving teacher contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than two years.

Conservative group sues PFT over 'egregious' contract provision

By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Feb 25, 2015 08:43 PM

The Fairness Center, a conservative nonprofit with offices in King of Prussia and Harrisburg, has filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia teachers' union.

The suit alleges that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers pays "ghost teachers," using Philadelphia School District and state funds, to occupy roles in union leadership.

How to opt your child out of the PSSAs

By Jen Bradley for NewsWorks, Philly Parenting blog on Feb 25, 2015 11:19 AM

You may have heard the buzz around the growing "opt out" movement in Philadelphia and throughout the nation. In just one city school, Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, parents of over 100 students have opted their children out of the state standardized tests this spring.

This movement is not by accident. It has been carefully orchestrated by activist educators and parents from organizations such as the Caucus for Working Educators and United Opt Out, and it is growing by the day. The opt-out movement is a response to both the standardization of the educational experience and the damage of high-stakes testing. 

Charter applicants denied by SRC get promises of help with appeals

By Bill Hangley Jr. for NewsWorks on Feb 24, 2015 08:29 PM

In the wake of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's decision to reject dozens of proposed charter schools, charter school advocates are preparing to help applicants who were turned down make the most of their last chance.

Is your teacher a hero? Nominate a dedicated educator

By Shannon Nolan on Feb 24, 2015 05:15 PM

Has a teacher made a positive impact in your life? Do you know an educator dedicated to standing up for students’ rights? If so, then you may want to nominate that person for the National Liberty Museum’s Teacher as Hero Award. The deadline to make nominations is Feb. 28.

An overlooked reason why charters serve fewer poor families

By Matthew Brooke on Feb 24, 2015 12:12 PM

For the last several years, I've held a job at a homeless services agency with a somewhat unusual responsibility: I've helped parents navigate the charter system. 

After a few years, I can't help but feel conflicted about it.

On the one hand, the charter system is an enormous drain on the traditional District system. On the other hand, having the choice to send children to high-quality charter schools is an incredible opportunity for individual families.

But even putting aside the larger question of whether it's fair for the charter system to prosper at the District's expense, there's the question of equity. Do very low-income students have the same access to charters as better-off students? In my experience, the answer is no, and for a variety of reasons -- but one in particular has rarely been discussed.

District posts reasons for denying and approving charters

By the Notebook on Feb 23, 2015 05:46 PM

The School District has posted the "adjudications," or reasons behind the School Reform Commission's votes last Thursday on charter school applications, when it denied 34 of the 39 proposals.

The adjudications go into more detail regarding the denials compared to reasons that charters were approved. Charter applicants have 60 days to appeal the decisions to the state Charter Appeal Board. 

District appeals to state Supreme Court on teachers' contract decision

By Dale Mezzappa, audio by Laura Benshoff on Feb 23, 2015 02:31 PM

Updated | 4:30 p.m.

The School Reform Commission is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that the SRC lacks the authority to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and spend the savings on programs in the schools. 

The District and SRC waited until the last possible day to file the appeal of the Commonwealth Court's Jan. 22 decision.

In a tough spot, the SRC got it right

By Christine Carlson on Feb 23, 2015 12:44 PM

A child asks for a puppy. Presented with a hole-punched gift box, he opens it with excitement, only to find a venomous snake.

So it was with the cigarette tax. As public school advocates, we pleaded for the revenue that the cigarette tax would provide. Although we got the funding we asked for, it was delivered with a life-threatening twist. The bill’s last-minute addition, which reopened the District to new charter school applications and allowed an appeal process for those rejected, threatens the existence of the District schools we sought to help. Each new charter seat added drains even further the resources needed to keep District schools afloat.

Hill-Freedman student hopes proceeds from her book will help buy art supplies

By Neema Roshania for NewsWorks on Feb 23, 2015 11:52 AM

Hill-Freedman 8th grader Maya Anderson has created a world full of crustaceans, supernatural humans and other creatures.

She's deft at explaining the scenes and intertwining plots that take place in "Philadae" — the post-apocalyptic world where her stories unfold. Maya's recently published book outlines 45 characters that she's created and illustrated herself.

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