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City Council panel approves borrowing $30 million for Philly schools

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Sep 24, 2014 10:01 AM

The city of Philadelphia intends to borrow $30 million more to keep the schools afloat while the District  awaits proceeds from the cigarette tax that was finalized Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Senate.

The city borrowed $27 million to help the District meet expenses for the fiscal year that ended in June. It agreed then to borrow $30 million more in September.

In victory for Philly schools, lawmakers reach consensus on cigarette tax

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 23, 2014 07:14 PM

Philadelphia schools received a tremendous victory in Harrisburg on Tuesday as Senate lawmakers passed a long-sought $2-per-pack cigarette tax that District leaders expect to generate $49 million in revenue this school year for the city district.

In a 39-11 vote, senators adopted the language approved by the House of Representatives on Monday. This was key, as the two chambers disagreed for much of the summer over other elements unrelated to the cigarette tax that were tucked into the omnibus legislation.

What to do if your school closes a month into the year: The case of Walter Palmer charter

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 23, 2014 06:51 PM

The scuffle between the Philadelphia School District and Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School may soon create more than 1,000 educational refugees — students in search of desks.

The charter's founder, Walter Palmer, says the school doesn't have enough funding to keep its doors open all year. In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Palmer would not provide a specific date by which the school would need to close, but earlier reports suggested Oct. 1.

$2-per-pack cigarette tax for schools is finally approved

By the Notebook on Sep 23, 2014 05:44 PM

The Pennsylvania Senate this afternoon approved, 39-11, a long-debated $2-per-pack cigarette tax for Philadelphia to help close the School District's budget gap. Gov. Corbett promptly announced that he would sign the bill. Signing will take place at 11:30 Wednesday morning. (Read the legislation.)

Superintendent William Hite said in a tweet that between the cigarette tax and the earlier approval of a 1 percent sales tax surcharge for schools, the District will net more than $170 million "in recurring and predictable revenue instead of one-time funding."

If it is implemented in October, the cigarette tax is expected to generate $49 million this year for the schools and as much as $80 million annually in future years. The sales tax surcharge provides the District a fixed amount of $120 million annually. The cigarette tax provision expires in 2019, however. Both taxes are on Philadelphia residents only, but they required state approval.

Hite sees some progress in resource-starved system

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 23, 2014 12:21 PM

This article will appear in the Notebook's print issue focusing on school funding in Pennsylvania, due out Sept. 26. 


Students in Philadelphia returned on Sept. 8 to understaffed schools and often oversized classes, with teacher labor negotiations at a stalemate and Harrisburg still dithering over a cigarette tax to provide the District with needed funds.

Still, said Superintendent William Hite, things aren’t as bad as last year, when some schools opened with teaching staffs at bare minimum and counselors and assistant principals scarce.

In the opening weeks, Hite tried to put an optimistic face on what is shaping up as another year of uncertainty for the District.

Community group scrambles to file charter school application

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Sep 23, 2014 10:29 AM

A grassroots group in Northwest Philadelphia wants to transform Germantown High School into an independent charter school serving neighborhood students.

During a packed Monday night community meeting, Germantown High School Coalition members voted to submit a charter school application to the Philadelphia School District by the Nov. 15 deadline.

Pa. House passes $2-per-pack Philly cigarette tax on to Senate

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 22, 2014 06:19 PM

In a 114-84 vote, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives once again approved the $2-per-pack Philadelphia cigarette tax for city schools on Monday.

The measure could get a vote in the Senate as soon as Wednesday. Gov. Corbett has pledged to sign the bill upon passage.

The Philadelphia School District is counting on the cigarette tax to generate $49 million this fiscal year to avoid more than 1,000 layoffs that District officials warn would turn schools into "empty shells."

The Notebook is looking for volunteers

By Tim Cravens on Sep 22, 2014 03:37 PM

Are you a fan of the Notebook? Do you have some time to donate? If so, we invite you to volunteer in our Center City office and be a part of our work.

Accountable for the impossible

By Eileen DiFranco on Sep 22, 2014 01:45 PM

School has been in session for less than three weeks, and already school staff members are up to their eyeballs in problems, old and new.

Good will, dedication, and hard work can’t compensate for the huge holes left by the cutbacks. There isn’t enough time or enough adults in schools to do a satisfactory job of solving most of the problems. Can anyone say with confidence that this year will be better than last year’s mess?

Interactive timeline: A summer of false starts, bluffs, and political theatre in Philly school funding

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 22, 2014 09:40 AM


Since last spring, District leaders have been sounding the alarm about this year's fiscal plight, but even after months of handwringing and headlines, schools have opened with less resources than last year.

Here, we take a look back on a summer of false starts, bluffs, and political theatre. 

Below, you can view a timeline of the summer's milestones – with links to archived articles – and also listen to a piece that allows the major players in the funding debate to tell the story in their own voices.

A look back at the first two weeks of classes

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Sep 20, 2014 10:29 AM

The resource-starved Philadelphia School District has now finished its second full week of classes.

Pending deal on former Germantown High catches neighbors off guard

By Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks on Sep 19, 2014 05:07 PM

A grassroots group in Northwest Philadelphia says it will fight to bring education back to Germantown High School. But it may have to win over members of a Maryland-based development firm to do that.

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