by Bill Hangley Jr.
As news of violence and disarray at Bartram High School dominated Philadelphia headlines, national education researchers were downtown at the Convention Center, discussing the theory and practice of a “portfolio” school reform strategy that relies on management changes – converting low-performing schools to charters or closing them.
And although many have tied Bartram’s troubles to the budget cuts that sharply reduced staff levels at the school, Philadelphia School Partnership head Mark Gleason does not agree.
The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner."
Ten advocacy groups across the state are making a push for more pre-K funding in Pennsylvania. This new coalition is seeking to use this year’s gubernatorial race as an opportunity to campaign for high-quality pre-K care for every family.
The coalition includes Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia (ELGP), Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
Spring has arrived – and with it the recurring nightmare: the School District again confronting a catastrophic budget situation. Superintendent William Hite said he needs $440 million in new revenue to operate schools at an adequate level next fall. The first $200 million of that figure will merely head off another round of cuts. That’s because the current budget was balanced using one-time funds and because costs for pensions, benefits, and charters climb each year.
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a $2.8 billion “lump sum” budget for fiscal 2015 that counts on receiving $440 million more in revenue than it currently has secured.
It did so shortly after an unprecedented scene in City Hall, when a few dozen school principals clogged the corridors to dramatize the appalling conditions in their schools and ask Council members for more funds.
And State Sen. Vincent Hughes addressed the SRC directly after holding a rally on the District’s steps in which he called for taxing Marcellus Shale extraction – Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that doesn’t do so – to raise money for education.
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.