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District ratchets up pleas for more funds; Clarke calls request 'disturbing and unfair'

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 17, 2014 06:35 PM

Superintendent William Hite and School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green are putting on a full-court press through the media to convince City Council to approve a higher borrowing level for the School District, warning of hundreds of teacher layoffs and other dire consequences if lawmakers don't act.

In response, Council President Darrell Clarke accused the District of "dealing with a ... budget deficit of its own making" and of "disrespect" for the city's taxpayers.

The Notebook celebrates its 20th anniversary

By thenotebook on Jun 17, 2014 11:04 AM

On June 10, the Notebook celebrated its 20th anniversary at our annual Turning the Page for Change event. We’re pleased to announce that more than 300 people attended and we received a record amount of donations.

Hite and Green to make urgent call for more school funding

By thenotebook on Jun 16, 2014 03:02 PM

A June 30 deadline fast approaches, and the School District is scrambling again to adopt a budget for next school year that avoids another round of painful cuts and devastating layoffs.

At noon tomorrow, Superintendent William Hite and School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green will join with education advocates at School District headquarters in calling for more funding for the city's schools. The District has said it needs $216 million in additional funding ($96 million after getting $120 million from the extension of the city's extra-1-percent sales tax) to maintain current service levels, which school officials have deemed inadequate.

But before that, make sure to tune in to Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane in the morning, when Hite and Green discuss the District's dire budget situation and ongoing funding crisis that continues to destabilize the city's school system.

Update: Listen to the hour-long segment below.

Pa. set to study education funding formula - again

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 14, 2014 12:06 PM

A panel will begin studying how Pennsylvania could better allocate money for public education after Gov. Corbett signed legislation establishing the commission this week.

Education funding in Pennsylvania is currently divided and sent to the state's 500 school districts based on the whim of the Legislature.

Education advocates have been pressing for a rational, data-driven formula that takes into account a district's actual enrollment numbers and student demographic data – reasoning that impoverished students and English-language learners should receive a greater share of the state's basic education subsidy.

From the archives: A $2.4 million bill for District's charter schools

By thenotebook on Jun 13, 2014 01:07 PM

The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.

From the Spring 1998 print edition:

by Helen Gym

The highly publicized and much-hyped charter school program has come to Philadelphia -- and the District figures it's costing them millions of dollars.

What do the Renaissance voting results tell us about school privatization?

By Ron Whitehorne on Jun 13, 2014 11:36 AM

For years, the mantra from those who think charter schools are the answer to what ails Philadelphia's schools has been “people are voting with their feet,” citing the mushrooming numbers of families who have transferred out of traditional public schools in favor of charters.

But over recent weeks, the people voted with ballots and they voted decisively against turning over their schools, Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Kensington, to charter school management companies.

$25 million University City school property sale nearing close

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Jun 13, 2014 09:50 AM

With a key City Council member on board, Philadelphia is moving forward on a plan to sell the University City High School property.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell gave her blessing to the bill allowing a zoning change to facilitate the sale after learning of a compromise between the developer and neighborhood groups on a series of issues -- including dimensions of the development.

Mayor calls Council action on school funding 'unfortunate,' would support more

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 12, 2014 05:26 PM

School District officials are still hopeful that City Council will borrow more money on their behalf than was approved by a Council committee on Wednesday, and they have Mayor Nutter on their side. 

But these debates are still mainly about how to close a lingering gap in this year's budget, not the larger revenue shortfall the District is facing in the new fiscal year that is less than three weeks away.

Kids vs. politics

By Helen Gym on Jun 12, 2014 04:16 PM

City Council yesterday proved once again that Philadelphia’s schoolchildren come second to politicking. Instead of following through on its promise to guarantee the District at least $50 million -- a promise it made last August, when Superintendent William Hite refused to open schools otherwise -- City Council’s finance committee moved forward with a bill to halve that amount to $27 million.

It seems inconceivable for Council to behave in this manner, especially at a time when District finances have never been more dire. If City Council doesn’t move on filling the basic budget gap, the District will be forced to pass an obscene budget that will lay off staff and see class sizes go through the roof. The PR damage and the loss of internal capacity at the District is not something that can be made up even if Council were to later piece together funds over the summer.

Funding crisis threatens spread of innovation

By Benjamin Herold for Education Week on Jun 12, 2014 02:19 PM

Nearly a year after Superintendent William Hite committed millions of dollars to expand Science Leadership Academy and two other pioneering District schools here, the investment in hands-on, technology-rich instructional models has stirred hope and experimentation across the city.

But the tentative flourishing of innovation is at risk of being overwhelmed by a massive funding shortfall that has cast doubt on the superintendent's ability to safely open schools in September, let alone spread promising new models across the 131,000-student system.

With film, students document dire conditions in schools

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 12, 2014 10:10 AM

A student-produced documentary that provides an overview of the Philadelphia School District's funding crisis premiered Wednesday night at an event hosted by Philly School Counselors United.

Dalena Bui and Danielle Little, seniors at Science Leadership Academy, co-directed the eight-minute film, which they've titled Schools Interrupted.

"I'm the first one in my family to go to college," narrates Bui in the film. "My parents are immigrants from Vietnam, and they sacrificed their lives so that my siblings and I could have a better education and a better life."

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