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Summer lost: Episode 1 - The slide

By Dorian Geiger on Jul 4, 2014 08:04 AM

It’s a sweltering summer afternoon in Philadelphia, and Dion Jones is reading to his two sons, Jayven and Cameron, on a bench in Smith Memorial Playground.

It’s July 1, one of the first weeks of summer vacation, and Jones just received a handful of free children’s books from the Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership.

Tradeoff in the cigarette tax bill: Potential for more new charters, more appeals

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 3, 2014 07:15 PM

Very probable, optimistic, off the table, never happening, dead, passed.

Such was a week in the life of the Philadelphia cigarette tax.

On Wednesday night, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved the measure by a 119-80 vote.

The Senate, which passed similar language earlier in the week, will likely vote on it Tuesday. If approved, it will head to Gov. Corbett's desk.

Pritchett resigns from SRC; Nutter names retired principal Neff to replace him

By Paul Socolar on Jul 3, 2014 04:54 PM

The School Reform Commission has a new member, Marjorie Neff, a longtime District principal who just retired from her post at the Masterman School. Mayor Nutter named her Friday to the SRC to replace Wendell Pritchett, who has served as a mayoral appointee since September 2011.

Pritchett, whose term runs until January 2017, submitted his resignation today. He recently returned to the University of Pennsylvania law school as a professor and interim dean after serving as chancellor of Rutgers University - Camden.

House approval of cigarette tax hailed as victory by officials and funding advocates

By David Limm on Jul 3, 2014 12:00 PM

After a seesaw week of negotiations in Harrisburg, House legislators late Wednesday night passed119-80, an amended bill that allows Philadelphia to add a $2 per-pack tax on cigarettes to help fund the city's schools. The entire Philadelphia delegation supported the bill.

If approved by the Senate and Gov. Corbett, who have both supported the tax, the School District stands to gain as much as $45 million in the first year and about $80 million the year after, according to estimates. The tax should narrow the District's substantial 2014-15 budget gap to less than $40 million. Its approval was hailed as a victory by both elected officials and advocates for more school funding. 

Spectacular victory for Philly schools - pretty depressing

By Dave Davies for NewsWorks on Jul 3, 2014 11:45 AM

In a stunning, come-from-behind legislative win in Harrisburg, Mayor Nutter and backers of the beleaguered Philadelphia school system managed to get a key vote last night authorizing a cigarette tax in the city to fund the schools.

Without it, there was the prospect of 1,300 layoffs and schools not opening on time in September.

Pa. House authorizes Philly to tax cigarettes for school funding

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 2, 2014 08:29 PM

Updated | July 3, 12:30 p.m. 

Legislation that would enable Philadelphia to levy a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a 119-80 vote Wednesday night.

The vote came after a whirlwind of political deal-making and maneuvering by ideologically entrenched interests on both sides of the aisle.

Having escaped the House Rules Committee by unanimous consent, the cigarette tax bill faced a vote before the full House.

Philly cigarette tax rejected by House GOP

By Mary Wilson for NewsWorks on Jul 2, 2014 09:53 AM

Pennsylvania House Republicans rebuffed an attempt to let Philadelphia impose a cigarette tax to help fund its city schools.

GOP leaders said Tuesday that the $2-a-pack levy was not related to the bill that Democrats were attempting to amend.

It was a setback for Mayor Nutter, who earlier that day had seen senators approve the tax authorization in a separate bill.

Push for additional school funding continues in Harrisburg

By Paul Socolar on Jul 1, 2014 05:58 PM

Along with many advocates, Mayor Nutter was back in Harrisburg on Tuesday lobbying for school funding.

The push continues because the "placeholder budget" for Philadelphia schools that was adopted Monday night includes a gap representing more than 3 percent of the total that must be closed either by securing additional revenues or by another round of deep cutbacks and layoffs. 

Our membership campaign surpassed its goal

By Tim Cravens on Jul 1, 2014 04:23 PM

Thank you to everyone who became a member during our campaign over the last few weeks. Our goal was 300 new members by June 30, and we exceeded the goal by 27. Your membership strengthens our ability to cover the news about Philadelphia’s public schools, news that is important to parents, teachers, activists, and all who care about public education in our city. 

"The Notebook has been working for 20 years to strengthen the community and the connection among all the people who are deeply concerned about the future of the Philadelphia schools," said Notebook editor and publisher Paul Socolar. "We are really pleased to see our member community growing -- it's also a statement of commitment to quality public education in the city."

SRC budget: 'Punting on difficult decisions'

By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 1, 2014 01:06 AM

Rather than commit to yet another round of layoffs and yet another increase in average class sizes, the School Reform Commission approved a $2.5 billion “placeholder” budget Monday evening that banks on $93 million that it doesn’t yet have.

With budget negotiations still underway in Harrisburg, District officials say they’re hoping legislators will soon come to an agreement and fill the gap.

“Hopefully, within the next week or so, we’ll have revenue,” said SRC Chairman Bill Green. “We’re really punting on difficult decisions by passing this placeholder budget.”

SRC adopts budget that is still banking on more money

By Paul Socolar on Jun 30, 2014 07:21 PM

The School Reform Commission, in a special Monday evening meeting, unanimously adopted a budget for next school year without making deep cuts, even as last-minute negotiating in Harrisburg on the state budget and a cigarette tax means that funding levels for Philadelphia schools remain up in the air.

The SRC followed a path recommended by Mayor Nutter, who urged the commission to adopt a budget that "anticipates positive action from Harrisburg," ​and avoids cuts "so painful that they raise serious questions about whether it is safe to open schools." The District budget is balanced with a $93 million line labeled "Additional revenue or expense reduction."

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