[Updated May 7 based on revised budget documents]
Last week, the School District provided the first details on how it plans to spend the additional $314 million it anticipates having next year.
Yes, that number is $314 million.
As a parent, I’ve never been a fan of the policy to close school on election days – a ridiculous practice that has been going on since the Vallas administration. But the latest news that the city is forcing schools to add two extra days to the school calendar because they want to close schools for the May 19th election has me particularly irritated.
Approval of Superintedent Ackerman's Imagine 2014 strategic plan is the news of the week. You can check our Breaking news section for ongoing updates about the plan, or check here for a list of all of our coverage related to Imagine 2014.
Anytime the District has to rally a line-up of politicians to testify on its behalf, you know something’s up.
On Wednesday night, a group of political heavy-hitters opened the School Reform Commission meeting to urge the SRC to vote in favor of the District’s controversial strategic plan – Imagine 2014. Meanwhile CEO Arlene Ackerman issued dramatic statements that emphasized just how much pressure the District was exerting on the SRC for its vote:
"Tonight is the night that we demonstrate to [children] that we care . . . Tonight is the night the School Reform Commission acts on behalf of all of our children," Ackerman said during the meeting, which drew a capacity audience to the District's headquarters on Broad Street near Spring Garden.
Here is an excerpt of a District document that outlines the priorities for Phase 1 of Imagine 2014, 2009-10. The plan has 170 items in all. In the PDF 48 items are bulleted for Phase 1, though it has been reported that Phase 1 involves 44 items. The pricetag for year one is $126 million.
Two important education cases were argued in the U. S. Supreme Court this week: Safford Unified School District v. Redding, concerning strip-searches of students, and Horne v. Flores, about services to English language learners.
The SRC voted 4-0 to approve a slightly revised version of Supt. Arlene Ackerman's Imagine 2014 plan, which officials say will cost $126 million in the first year.
Just hours before the School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote on Imagine 2014, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s five-year blueprint for the School District, officials finally revealed and put a price tag on their first-year priorities -- $126 million.
In a recent visit to a school, I watched an eighth-grade math teacher move with his students through a lesson on quadratic equations. About halfway through, he called on a student to answer. That student then selected the next participant, and so on. It was a fun way to keep the class on their toes, because no kid knew if he would be called on next. After watching the entire class, I inquired about how the teacher had come up with the system.
The mayor’s Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr, has told the Notebook she has been assured by District Chief Business Officer Michael Masch that the District can afford to implement the Imagine 2014 plan “if we have adequacy in state funding.” She and the mayor are supporting approval of the plan.
But that’s a big “if.”
Yesterday I was listening to "Radio Times" on WHYY discuss property tax abatements, which are coming to the end of their 10-year term. One strand largely absent in the dialogue was the impact of property tax abatements on school district financing.
Eric Braxton’s blog about the lack of public discussion, among SRC members at this week's meeting, of something that's a huge deal for Philadelphia families – the five-year “strategic plan” -- is on target. How could three of four SRC members have had so little to say on something so important?
Yesterday was an important meeting for the School Reform Commission. It was the first meeting for new chairman Robert Archie and new member Johnny Irizarry. It was also the presentation of the final draft of the District’s new strategic plan, Imagine 2014. I don’t want to rush to judgment too soon, but I hope we will see more engagement from SRC members in the future.