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Wanted: Your comments on the District budget

By Erika Owens on Sep 28, 2009 01:05 PM

A budget deal has been reached in Harrisburg, and it will mean a revenue shortfall of $160 million or more in the District budget. The District included money from the state in its budget that is now not going to come. This shortfall is not a surprise, but what do we do now?

One step is speaking up about how you think the money that does remain in the budget should be used. You can do that by taking part in our budget poll. We'll keep track of your responses and let you know what readers like you think about the District budget.

Send your comments in now!

Notes from the news, Sept. 28

By Erika Owens on Sep 28, 2009 11:40 AM

What Does The Budget Impasse Mean for Neighborhoods? Childwatch! blog
Though a budget deal has been reached, a new budget has not yet been signed into law. This post looks at the toll of the continuing lack of a state budget on neighborhoods and on child care providers.

See also: State Budget Deal Done, But Vote Needed The Bulletin
Why We're Worried: The School District's Limited Budget Options Young Philly Politics

School choice would reshape U.S. education The Inquirer (opinion)
Tomorrow Philly schools will be in the national spotlight when Sec. Duncan, former-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Rev. Al Sharpton visit. This opinion piece suggests that more school choice is the answer for low-performing schools.

Teaching a tough crowd Metro
The first in a two-part series, this article looks at a first-year teacher at Kensington Culinary.

Do we need a longer school day? Notebook blog
This post continues to spark a lot of conversation, and the issue is getting increased attention as Sec. Duncan and President Obama reiterate their push for longer school day and year.

Letters: Ackerman is a leader in pushing for change The Inquirer
This letter is from the District's Chief Communications Officer in response to the opinion piece last week about "Queen Arlene."

Ex-teacher pleads guilty to fraud tied to disabled teen's death The Examiner
A former District special education teacher pleaded guilty to lying in the death of Danieal Kelly.

See also: Ex-special-ed teacher pleads guilty in Danieal's case The Inquirer

Notes from the news, Sept. 25

By Erika Owens on Sep 25, 2009 09:39 AM

Editorial: Drop the deadbeats The Inquirer
Inquirer editorial board calls on the SRC to drop the BRT from the District payroll.

Feds are investigating Montco swim club Daily News
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the situation at the local swim club. Thursday, one of the teachers at Carnell Elementary School who was cited as making comments about the children left work early after requesting a sick day. The other teacher stayed the whole day. Parents continue to call for both teachers' dismissals.

Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane WHYY
That link takes you to an MP3 of a segment about foster children in Philadelphia and the new Arise charter school for foster children. "Between 2000 and 2004, more than 75 percent of Philadelphia students in foster care dropped out of school."

Having great vision South Philly Review
The Eagles Youth Partnership gave free eye exams outside of Bregy Elementary School this week.

Teachers need to participate in persistence, not mass exodus The Temple News (opinion)
Using the mass resignation of teachers right before the start of the school year as a jumping off point, this piece suggests "education majors carefully choose teaching as a profession."

Coming out in middle school New York Times Magazine via San Francisco Sentinel
This piece was reposted in the Philadelphia Gay News. It features kids grappling with coming out across the country, including in Oklahoma, Texas, and Michigan.

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news. Thanks!

Falling through the cracks

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 24, 2009 07:43 PM

Listening to Danielle Harris and Toshana Sledge speak on Wednesday before the School Reform Commission was heartbreaking.

Danielle got into trouble at West Philadelphia High and wound up a dropout. She described her bad behavior as a costly mistake. With the help of Youth Empowerment Services, she was re-engaged in schooling and is on her way to a GED.

Notes from the news, Sept. 24

By Erika Owens on Sep 24, 2009 10:19 AM

Schools wait to make cuts to close $160M budget gap Daily News
The $160 million budget deficit was discussed at Wednesday's SRC meeting. District Chief Business Officer Michael Masch said that reform efforts will continue. Sheila Simmons of PCCY and other education advocates urged funding for alternative education programs be restored. The BRT patronage positions will remain on the payroll, at least for now.

See also: BRT workers will stay on schools payroll for now The Inquirer

Two teachers ‘gotta go,’ say pool parents Metro
Wednesday the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission issued a report on the controversy at the Valley Swim Club and found that the club had racially discriminated against the campers. In it, two Philadelphia School District teachers are cited as complaining about the Creative Steps Day Camp being at the swim club. The District issued a statement and said it will be doing sensitivity training at all schools.

See also: Mom Outraged at Teachers in Swim Club Controversy NBC Philadelphia
Pa. agency in pool case has fought bias for years The Inquirer
Parents protest two teachers' remarks in swim club case The Inquirer
Phila. Teacher Named in Swim Club Discrimination Report KYW
Phila. School District comments on swim club probe The Inquirer

On the State Budget... Childwatch! blog
"PCCY urges legislators to continue to work with a sense of urgency to pass a budget based on this framework." The post also mentions how some districts (including Philadelphia) won't receive expected stimulus funds in this budget, and the surprise cultural event sales tax.

Phila. cancels Germantown Settlement contracts The Inquirer
The city canceled $1 million worth of contracts with the social services agency. The agency's charter school was ordered closed by the SRC in June.

NAACP opposes graduation exams The Keystone (Kutztown University)
The NAACP opposed the new Pennsylvania graduation test. The article notes that the state General Assembly urged Gov. Rendell to "'cease funding of implementation of high school graduation requirements' until the Assembly itself could 'establish a policy by legislation.'"

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news. Thanks!

Do we need a longer school day?

By Ron Whitehorne on Sep 23, 2009 10:48 AM

From President Obama to Arlene Ackerman, the the call for a longer school day has been raised as a component of school reform. It’s an issue in contract negotiations here and across the country.  

I don’t know about you, but when that last bell rings my tank is pretty much empty. And my 8th graders, who suffered from post-lunch attention deficit syndrome, weren’t exactly in high learning mode either. Still, given the clear needs of so many of our students, I’m open to any argument that promises to improve student learning.  

Notes from the news, Sept. 23

By Erika Owens on Sep 23, 2009 10:07 AM

The 'What were they thinking?' deficit The Notebook blog
Unlike a "surprise" deficit a few years ago, the $160 million deficit the District now faces was easy for anyone to foresee as budget talks dragged out for months. How did we get to this point, and what can we do to keep it from happening again?

See also: Phila. Public Schools Prepare for $160 Million in Cuts KYW

Another reason to resist the arts tax Daily News (opinion)
This piece laments the proposed sales tax on arts and cultural events. Harrisburg has funded 73 new arts teachers in the Philly schools, but this tax could end up hurting other arts programs' ability to do education outreach.

See also: Pa.'s Budget Deal Faces Another Roadblock KYW

Panel member targets BRT workers on school payroll The Inquirer
SRC Commissioner Johnny Irizarry says that he will raise the issue of BRT patronage positions on the District payroll at an SRC meeting this month.

See also: The BRT test The Notebook blog

Cozen O'Connor forms lobbying group The Inquirer
David F. Girard-diCarlo, who has been nominated to the SRC, will be on the leadership team of a new lobbying and government relations group.

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news. Thanks!

The 'What were they thinking?' deficit

By Paul Socolar on Sep 22, 2009 09:51 PM

It's been almost three years since the story broke in 2006 that the District had overspent and was facing an unexpected $73 million deficit.

It's still referred to as the "surprise deficit." It set off major turmoil during the months of budget cuts and layoffs that followed. There were lots of recriminations all around, with CEO Vallas, the chief financial officer (CFO), and the School Reform Commission all accused of dereliction of duty.

This time round, the District's budget crisis is far from a surprise.

The BRT test

By Helen Gym on Sep 22, 2009 07:36 PM

Whatever you think about the importance of the Bureau of Revision of Taxes, there’s no question that what the city, and perhaps most importantly the Mayor, does with this mess of an agency is a test of leadership and vision that’s under the public – re: media – scrutiny.

Notes from the news, Sept. 22

By Erika Owens on Sep 22, 2009 09:52 AM

Phila. schools prepare for cuts as they face budget shortfall The Inquirer
The state budget, and the $160 million shortfall it will be for Philadelphia schools, is big news today. The District will have to cut programs and account for this shortfall somehow. It looks like alternative education is the first area to get a cut.

See also: School district adjusts to state-budget realities Daily News
Schools Deficit Balloons: $160 million or more . . .Young Philly Politics

Another Public Service Appearance by Michael Vick KYW
New Eagles player Vick visited Pepper Middle School and advised students to "Do the right things."

COMING UP: Wednesday Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences will unveil a new water conversation system to help with its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Saul boasts one of the only CSAs in the country to be grown at a high school.

Public hearing of David F. Girard-diCarlo's nomination to the SRC

By thenotebook on Sep 21, 2009 11:29 AM

The Education Policy and Leadership Center linked to a video of the public hearing of David F. Girard-diCarlo from last week. (The video requires Windows Media Player.)

The hearing, before the Senate education committee, is part of the nomiation process for Girard-diCarlo to join the School Reform Commission.

Notes from the news, Sept. 21

By Erika Owens on Sep 21, 2009 09:53 AM

PA budget deal out, but few details on final changes The Notebook blog
Over the weekend, a budget deal was reached between Gov. Rendell and Republican lawmakers. While Rendell was positive about the increase in education funding the budget will provide, but that does not mean that the budget is filled with good news for funding of education in Philly.

Daniel Rubin: Budget's impact on one student The Inquirer
Rubin writes about the cut in funding for dropout programs in the wake of an uncertain budget through the eyes of one student.

Editorial: You can help raise them up The Inquirer
The editorial describes the "Raise Me Up" campaign, which begins this week in Philadelphia and seeks to raise awareness about kids in foster care and recruit foster parents as well as mentors and volunteers.

How Queen Arlene missed her chance The Inquirer (opinion)
New columnist Buzz Bissinger's first column criticizes Superintedent Arlene Ackerman as "autocratic, imperious, and paranoid about challenges to her power." The column suggests other celebrities to join Tony Danza at Northeast HS.

See also: What’s goin’ on: health care, what's not being taxed, Metcalfe's homophobia, and juvenile humor at the Inky Young Philly Politics

Adjudicating School Reform Center for American Progress
This article looks at teacher evaluation, retention, and placement together with the consent agreement that ended the 40 year desegregation case in Philadelphia, the current contract talks, and campaign for equitable distribution of teachers.

PA budget deal out, but few details on final changes

By Erika Owens on Sep 18, 2009 09:51 PM

A deal has been reached on the budget.

Gov. Rendell said that he would only sign a budget that did not have any further cuts in education, health care, and economic development and that has enough revenue to balance this year's and next year's budgets. Gov. Rendell said those conditions were met and a budget was decided in "a fair and responsible way."  The Republican Senate Appropriations Committee chair, Jake Corman, stressed the budget's strong investments in education.

Unfortunately, the additional funding for Philadelphia from the state for education is still expected to fall as much as $150 million short of what the District had anticipated and budgeted.

Coming soon: Notebook Fall edition on early education

By Erika Owens on Sep 18, 2009 01:00 PM

Keep an eye out at the end of September for the Notebook's Fall edition on early childhood education. We're wrapping up the edition now and you'll be able to find stories about the funding situation, immigrant and English language learning options, another installment of the No Easy Road series, and much more.

Now is the time to ensure effective teaching for all children

By Eric Braxton on Sep 18, 2009 11:10 AM

One of the largest problems facing Philadelphia’s public schools is the inequitable distribution of qualified teachers. While some gains have been made in recent years, high poverty schools continue to have the least experienced teachers and the most staff turnover. We will not be able to resolve the achievement gap until we can ensure that qualified teachers go to the students that need them most. 

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