by Isaac Riddle
Five of the eight Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Corbett next year gathered in front of education and community groups at a candidate forum held at Temple University last Saturday.
The forum opened to chants of “whose children, our children” and “whose jobs, our jobs” by members of the audience.
Since the District’s draconian budget cuts, there has been no shortage of protests in response to the funding crisis. Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, a labor-community alliance, has called a series of actions know as Full Funding Fridays – weekly rallies every Friday morning at several schools currently suffering from the cuts.
Participants hand out leaflets and circulate petitions calling on legislators to increase education spending.
PCAPS has held Full Funding Friday rallies at over 50 District schools since starting the effort in September. At one protest in November, PCAPS members convened at the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, and Decatur, Gideon, Gompers, Rowen, and Sheridan elementary schools.
The goal of the initiative, said PCAPS member Ron Whitehorne, is to build stronger partnerships with parents, students, and community members while forging public discussion around the issue of funding.
by Naveed Ahsan
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch a new campaign to end 10-year property tax abatements at a press conference today at 4:30 p.m. held at the luxury high-rise condos 10 Rittenhouse Square.
The city of Philadelphia now offers a 10-year tax abatement for building developers and owners, making them exempt from paying property taxes on new construction or renovations. PCAPS says these tax abatements will deprive the School District of Philadelphia of nearly $50 million in 2014. With that money, the group says, the District could have avoided the closure of 24 schools this past June and the layoffs of thousands of employees.
by Isaac Riddle
About 50 parents, teachers, students, and community members joined Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan in a protest about budget cuts outside of Vare-Washington Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon.
The group gathered to voice concerns over the latest loss of programs and services at the South Philadelphia school and to talk about the impact the District’s leveling efforts will have on a school already hurting from staffing shortages brought on by districtwide budget cuts.
The sudden resignation of School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos has many asking who his replacement will be. For others, his departure raises the question of how the five-member panel should be selected, especially because the term of another commissioner is set to expire in about three months.
Joseph Dworetzky, who was named to the SRC by former Gov. Ed Rendell, will reach the end of his term in January 2014. Dworetzky has been an outspoken commissioner, unafraid to challenge his fellow SRC members and the District. Back in May, he voted against a stripped-down budget that eliminated nearly everything from schools except a principal and small number of classroom teachers. He also objected to a number of Superintendent William Hite’s proposals to close schools.
Parents United for Public Education and Philly School Counselors United filed a complaint with the Department of Education Thursday saying that Philadelphia chidlren are being denied an adequate education due to the counselor shortage in city schools.
"The lack of counselors impedes the ability of teachers to deliver as effectively instructional services," according to the complaint, filed with the help of the Public Interest Law Center of Pennsylvania (PILCOP).
by Samuel Reed and Peggy M. Savage
Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead but Don't Leave does a great job of examining the skills and traits of thoughtful, innovative, and maverick-like educators. This new book, written by Barnett Berry, Ann Byrd, and Alan Wieder of the Center for Teaching Quality, documents the leadership journeys of eight teachers who are exceptional at what they do but not the exception.
When we first looked at the title of the book, we had mixed reactions. Like many teacher-leaders, we bring an entrepreneurial and activist spirit to our practice. We were excited about the concept of innovative teachers leading, but not leaving, the classroom, yet concerned that the language of market-driven entrepreneurship may lure talented and dedicated teachers away from our craft, our passion, our willingness to give back and connect with our communities.
by Isaac Riddle
“If you can’t get your voice heard, then you need to find the mechanism to be heard,” said Eileen Duffey, an 18-year veteran of the School District of Philadelphia.
Duffey, a school nurse at the Academy at Palumbo, found that mechanism through Our Schools Are Not for Sale, a short documentary video that examines the current education funding crisis and the closing of 24 neighborhood schools by the School Reform Commission earlier this year.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
Before this year's classes began in the Philadelphia School District, parents groups and lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center worried that budget cutbacks were so severe that the state would not be able to meet its legal obligation to provide an adequate education.
A few days before class, they called on fellow parents, students and teachers to file formal complaints with Pennsylvania's education secretary.
Thus far, they said, 260 have been filed. They expect to file an additional 100 complaints by the end of the week.
The Philanthropy Roundtable, with the help of the Delaware Valley Grantmakers, sponsored a meeting of big donors in Philadelphia on Monday and Tuesday. The philanthropic association offered advice, field trips, and workshops on how donors' money "can increase a city's total number of high-quality K-12 seats, regardless of the school sector(s)," public, charter, or parochial.
That the meeting came in the middle of an unprecedented budget crisis that has stripped city schools of essential services was an insult to several dozen protesters, who said that they felt the donors' presence was part of a privatization agenda.
"The message of the young people is that they were upset that these groups had the audacity to come to Philadelphia in the middle of the worst financial crisis the School District has faced," said Hiram Rivera, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union. "These are wealthy people talking on how they can capitalize on this crisis while students are going to schools with no counselors, no nurses, no programs."