Note: This is adapted from a brief that was published Aug. 8 by the Philadelphia-based group Research for Action. The full brief can be found here.
Philadelphia’s school funding situation is a central issue in state policy discussions. The recent debate has focused on city’s authority to raise taxes on cigarettes. But the essential questions on whether the school system has enough money have been present in the state capitol for at least two decades.
The Commonwealth Foundation released a brief on Philadelphia school trends recently that received prominent attention in the local press. It argued that despite a funding increase, the District has little academic improvement to show for it.
You can hear them calling in the street.
They lean on corners, squat on milk crates, rest on folding chairs – angling for a buck.
At the bustling intersection where Erie and Germantown Avenues slice through North Broad Street, they occupy every corner, calling to passersby:
They're the city's black market cigarette hawks.
From packs semi-hidden in coat pockets or under thighs, the hawks sell individual "loosie" cigarettes. On a recent hot Friday afternoon, the going rate on North Broad was 50 cents a pop.
Gov. Corbett is authorizing a $265 million advance to the Philadelphia School District.
This is an early disbursement of money that the district was already scheduled to receive, and thus does not erase the district's $81 million budget gap.
As the head of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Mark Gleason sits at the heart of the school reform movement in Philadelphia.
PSP is the conduit for tens of millions in philanthropic dollars, which it deploys to support what it calls “the transformation, expansion and startup of high-performing schools.” It measures success by “the number of students in Philadelphia who move out of failing schools to better-quality school options.”
As Pennsylvania lawmakers appear to be at a stalemate over a cigarette tax proposal for Philadelphia schools, advocates worry that tax-averse legislators have a fundamental misunderstanding of their city's situation.
An "us-vs.-them" mentality pervades any debate involving education funding for the Philadelphia School District. Many Republican lawmakers have balked at the notion of approving a tax authorization for Philadelphia when it doesn't benefit their own districts.
Pennsylvania House Republicans have canceled a planned session on Monday to vote on a $2-a-pack cigarette tax in Philadelphia, jeopardizing the next school year for tens of thousands of students.
"Here we are again," said a frustrated Superintendent William Hite at a hastily called news conference Thursday afternoon.
Schools are now only weeks away from their scheduled opening day, but without assurances that the District will have enough funds to operate a functional system, much less one that offers an acceptable education.
State lawmakers are scrapping plans to approve a cigarette tax for Philadelphia city schools this summer and, in the meantime, they're asking the governor to send the School District a cash advance.
The state House and Senate can't agree on a bill that includes authorization for Philadelphia to pass a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes to help fund its school system.
A planned vote next week in the House was canceled, leaving the District without the injection of funds it was seeking.
For more than a decade, Larry Jones has been a prominent supporter of Philadelphia’s charter schools, particularly the smaller, community-based variety that proliferated in the wake of the 2001 state takeover.
He has run the 350-student Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School since it opened in 2001; since 2006, he has also served as president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
Jones’ advocacy frequently highlights the distinctions between the interests of small schools like his and those of the larger providers now running networks of schools. We asked him to reflect on the potential impact of the current budget proposals on the kinds of schools he represents and the ways that charter supporters could collaborate with traditional public school advocates to advance their mutual interest in adequate, sustained funding for schools of all kinds.
With all the questions swirling around this year’s education budget, virtually everyone agrees on one thing: It won’t solve the Philadelphia School District’s big problems. Union officials, charter advocates, School Reform Commission officials, parent groups, Mayor Nutter, even President Obama’s top education official, agree that under the current status quo, Philadelphia students are not getting the education they deserve.
With that in mind, the Notebook has asked education advocates to weigh in on the bigger question: What’s the long-term path to a truly stable, well-funded, reliable school system? Over the next few weeks, we’ll run a series of Q&As with local leaders and ask for their thoughts on the route to a better place.
Our first interviewee is Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters Pennsylvania, an advocacy group. A 20-year veteran of political activism in Pennsylvania, Gobreski’s goal is to fight for a “thorough and efficient public education” for all students, District and charter alike.
After winning a major victory in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week, the proposed cigarette tax for Philly schools appears stalled in a game of legislative pingpong.
On Tuesday, the Senate sent the bill back to the House by adding amendments, and now the House isn't scheduled to reconsider the measure until Aug. 4.
School leaders say that leaves plans for opening schools in September in total disarray.