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On second day, funding panel hears from POWER, charters

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 19, 2014 11:23 PM

On its second day in Philadelphia, the Basic Education Funding Commission heard Wednesday from two distinct groups.

First were charter operators, who highlighted their successes and parsed the complexities of the state's education funding streams, mostly to argue that their schools are being shortchanged.

And then there were the ministers, parents, and advocates from POWER, the faith-based advocacy group, who urged the legislators to to think of school funding as a matter of justice.

Philly's opt-out movement grows as Council holds hearing on testing

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 19, 2014 07:06 PM

In a sign that the movement to opt out of testing is gaining traction, the Philadelphia City Council Education Committee on Wednesday heard parents, teachers, and education advocates decry state and federal officials' emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.

"Standardized tests negatively impact students living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs, of which Philadelphia has many," said Alison McDowell, a District parent who has led Philadelphia's opt-out movement and helped organize the hearing with Councilman Mark Squilla.

PCAPS to launch campaign for community schools

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 19, 2014 03:45 PM

The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch its campaign for community schools on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City.

As a member of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which is a confederation of parent, youth, and community organizations, PCAPS will host a community meeting at 4 p.m.

Similar events are set to occur in 20 other cities across the country as part of the alliance's week of action.

Community brainstorms new uses for vacant schools

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 19, 2014 01:27 PM

The challenge, posed to community members at a charette last week, was to devise, design, and present new uses for two shuttered school buildings within 24 hours.

The Community Design Collaborative, a nonprofit that provides free design services; the Deputy Mayor’s Office; and the American Institute of Architects hosted the charette, a term used in design circles to describe a collaborative planning session involving representatives from different disciplines.

Commission hears from Philadelphia that spending cuts have created a crisis

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 18, 2014 06:12 PM

Experts, advocates, and ordinary citizens from Philadelphia on Tuesday told legislators charged with revising Pennsylvania's education funding formula that city schools are reeling from the consequences of insufficient revenue and urged the panel to base state aid on real student need. 

"Philadelphia schools are now a strong investment," said School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to the members of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has been holding hearings around the state. He said that several years ago, while on City Council, he didn't believe this, but that he is now confident in the leadership of Superintendent William Hite.

A different model of School District governance

By Susan Gobreski on Nov 18, 2014 03:23 PM

There is a conversation happening in the city about the issue of local control of the School District of Philadelphia and moving away from a state-run district.

It is virtually inarguable that the state-controlled School Reform Commission has not solved the issues of the District. Indeed, one could argue that the premise that governance was the problem has been proven false. Clearly, the citizens of Philadelphia must have more to say, while still ensuring that those who allocate funding are directly engaged with the decision-making.

Local control most likely means either an elected board or mayoral control, each presenting challenges. There are numerous troubling issues with mayoral control: It has been trendy, but it is not a proven improvement strategy, and people should be wary of it. Furthermore, it is not substantially different from the SRC in that a handful of appointments are made, insulated from the public and other elected officials.

Headed into an election year, voters should be skeptical at best about people who want to be handed the only set of keys to the District.

Caucus of teachers' union focused on social justice holds first conference

By Payne Schroeder on Nov 18, 2014 11:17 AM

This past spring, a caucus formed within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with the goal of energizing the union's ranks and re-engaging members in pressing issues of social justice in education.

On Nov. 8, the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) held its first annual convention at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, where more than 125 teachers, counselors, and education advocates from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey came to learn more about strategizing and organizing.

Fair on Wednesday to focus on historically Black colleges

By Shannon Nolan on Nov 18, 2014 10:04 AM

A free college fair hosting historically black colleges and universities will be held at School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., on Wednesday, Nov. 19. It's open to all college-bound students and their families.

The Malcolm Bernard Historically Black College and Universities College Fair will bring more than 40 college admissions professionals who are interested in recruiting students from high schools and community colleges. The fair will run from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

“[This] College Fair is very important because students and parents can learn how HBCUs have educational programs, financial packages, and scholarships that fit the need of students from diverse ethnic, economic, and academic backgrounds,” said Barbara Bernard, executive director of the Malcolm Bernard HBCU College Fair Inc.

District will review applications for 40 new charter schools

By the Notebook on Nov 17, 2014 04:57 PM

The School District said Monday that it has received applications for 40 new charter schools.

In Philadelphia, applications for new charter schools haven't been considered by the School Reform Commission in seven years.

But in passing the law approving Philadelphia's $2-per-pack cigarette tax, state legislators included a provision that requires the School District of Philadelphia to open itself to new charter applications annually, while giving rejected applicants the chance to appeal decisions through a state board.

Now that the deadline for submitting applications has passed, the District's Charter Schools Office will start its process for reviewing each of the applications.

According to a District release, that process will consist of three phases.

Cyber charters again get low marks on Pa. tests

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 17, 2014 04:35 PM

A new study by Research for Action has found that Pennsylvania's cyber-charter sector continues to yield subpar results on the state's standardized tests.

Using the state's recently released school performance profile data for 2013-14, RFA found the average School Performance Profile score for the cyber-charter sector was 48.9 – well below the averages for the state's brick-and-mortar charters and traditional public schools.

Groups plan actions for when education funding body meets in Philly

By Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 16, 2014 11:55 AM

The Pennsylvania legislature's Basic Education Funding Commission is coming to Philadelphia for hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and two advocacy groups have announced plans to make sure that its members hear from the public whether they want to or not.

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