by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks
Mayor Nutter presented a $3.8 billion budget proposal to Philadelphia City Council this morning that funds some modest service increases. But the mayor's plans for school funding and selling the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works will face political obstacles.
The needs of the city's public schools have posed a perennial budget headache for this mayor, and this year is no exception.
by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks
A Philadelphia city councilwoman wants to dedicate more real estate taxes to the city schools.
Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez said she wants to give 5 percent more of the city's real estate tax collections to the schools.
Superintendent William Hite’s Action Plan 2.0 is full of interesting facts and statistics. A few that caught our eye:
1. As a result of school closings and relocations in 2013, school utilization went from 67 percent to 74 percent -- still far from the District's target of having 85 percent of seats occupied, as was specified in its Facilities Master Plan process.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Here's an accurate headline you could have written about Gov. Corbett's Pennsylvania budget address earlier this week: Corbett calls for $387 million in increased state education funding.
But many education advocates are quick to say that hardly tells the full story.
They say that most of this proposed funding increase is a one-time influx of cash that's delivered with many strings attached.
Gov. Corbett delivered his annual budget address in Harrisburg yesterday, indicating that public school funding would see an increase of $369 million. Two-thirds of that – $241 million – will be directed to the "Ready to Learn" block grant focused on early learning, STEM education, and supplemental instruction. Basic education funding, however, remained flat. Philadelphia will get a $29 million increase through the grant program.
The Notebook gathered reactions to the budget proposal from several education advocates and organizations.
In addition to their responses to our question about Pennsylvania's current approach to K-12 education funding, the nine candidates were invited to give additional explanations of their positions on school funding issues.
The charter school reimbursement line item was designed to provide transition funding for school districts in the early years of the charter school movement. At the time, school districts had no way to estimate the number of students that would choose to enroll in a charter school and properly plan for this expenditure in their budget. Since that time, charter school enrollment has become more predictable and districts no longer face significant budget uncertainties.
However, I do not believe we should focus on the charter school reimbursement line item. In fact, Pennsylvania needs, and I have proposed the creation of a charter school funding commission to study the way charter and cyber schools are funded. The formula, which was established at the inception of the charter school movement, has not been updated in 15 years. Charter school funding must be reviewed to determine if it is in the best interest of Pennsylvania students or if changes are warranted. Transitioning to a student-focused funding formula, as noted above, for both traditional and charter school students has significant potential to improve the distribution of education funding in Pennsylvania.
There’s a governor’s race in Pennsylvania in 2014, and education is a hot issue as Gov. Tom Corbett seeks re-election. Party primaries take place May 20 and the general election is Nov. 4.
At press time, Corbett, a Republican, and eight Democratic candidates had announced their plans to run.
An October poll conducted by Franklin and Marshall College indicates that 21 percent of respondents feel that the state of schools and school funding is the most important issue in Pennsylvania. The Corbett administration has been blamed for cuts to education funding as well as the 2011 abandonment of a statewide funding formula passed in 2008. But Corbett is not surrendering the issue to Democrats.
In a press conference announcing his bid for re-election, Corbett said, “We have a responsibility to provide a good education to all children in Pennsylvania, but it starts with an honest discussion about education funding.”
The Notebook invited each candidate to submit a biography and asked them to give their positions on state education funding by responding to the following questions in 250 words or less:
by Naveed Ahsan
Teachers, parents, students, and education activists will gather at 4:30 p.m. today outside Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office, 200 S. Broad St., as part of the National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.
Education advocates will stage actions in more than 60 cities across the country, demanding better schools for America’s children. The day of action was planned by an alliance of teachers' unions and community groups to fight back against what they see as an unprecedented attack on the public school system.
Hundreds are expected to convene outside Corbett’s office, including members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), the Rev. Kevin Johnson of Bright Hope Baptist Church, and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.
When his counterparts describe handing out iPads to students, Joseph Otto just tunes out the conversation.
Otto is chief operations officer of the William Penn School District in Delaware County, just across Cobbs Creek from Southwest Philadelphia. His district limps along from year to year by paring back services and staff and putting off investments in books, technology, and other classroom needs. The local school board is loath to raise taxes any higher because the district’s residents already shoulder some of the highest tax burdens in the region.
“iPads are not even an option for us,” said Otto.
“We do nothing extra. We’re just trying to survive.”
I’ve been a school nurse in Philadelphia for almost 25 years. I’ve seen lots of blood and a finger almost amputated by a door accidentally slammed. I’ve seen head injuries, seizures, and high and low blood sugar levels in diabetics.
The very worst moments I’ve experienced as a school nurse, however, are those that were spent with children who were having an asthma attack.