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.
Though Governor Corbett has announced that he will release the $45 million that the state had appropriated to the District but had been withholding until reforms were made, education advocates continue to debate the issue of fair funding for Philadelphia schools.
This morning on Radio Times, Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and Charles Zogby, secretary of the Budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, debated the issue of funding for public education in Pennsylvania.
As the School District secured the first installments of desperately needed new revenue this summer, one of the first steps taken was to rehire one secretary for each of the 213 schools -- a recognition of the vital role they play in school operations. The cost was $17.6 million.
As schools prepare to open for staff members on Tuesday and for students on Sept. 9, those secretaries are back on the job. The District has estimated that three-fourths of schools saw the return of one of the secretaries from last year.
"It’s based on seniority," said Robert McGrogan, who heads the principals' union, CASA. "The most senior got to stay at their home school."
Robin Dominick, her 2nd-grade daughter, Leah, at her side, told the School Reform Commission on Thursday night that she was worried about putting her child in a split-grade classroom.
“Can you tell her what to do when a 3rd grader bullies her, with no counselor and no aide?” asked Dominick, president of the Home and School Association at Powel School in Powelton Village.
Maureen Fratantoni, president of the Home and School Association at Nebinger Elementary School in South Philadelphia, pleaded for the rehiring of the school’s music teacher, Aaron Hoke, who was transferred.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks and Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook
Pennsylvania's Gov. Corbett urged state lawmakers Wednesday to pass a stalled bill that provides an extra $45 million for Philadelphia’s cash-strapped schools under certain conditions.
“Legislative leaders need to resolve their differences and act responsibly to send the [bill] to my desk for approval,” Corbett said in a statement.
The General Assembly’s Republican leaders do not oppose the schools funding, which is a tiny piece of a large budget-related bill called the "fiscal code." The disagreement is over language that the House inserted into the bill at the eleventh hour, which would have pushed for payday lending in the state. The Senate erased that language Wednesday, so now the bill must head back to the House for approval.
The problem? The House has recessed. Its next scheduled voting session isn’t until September.
by Dale Mezzacappa and Holly Otterbein for the Notebook and NewsWorks
Hours before the deadline for passing the state budget, Gov. Corbett announced a plan to help the Philadelphia School District out of its fiscal crisis that relies mostly on dollars from the city, will require more borrowing, and contributes an additional $45 million of one-time state money.
The budget passed the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and Corbett signed it Sunday night. A portion of the funds also come with strings attached.
With the fiscal year ending and more than 3,800 District layoffs scheduled to take effect Monday, Corbett outlined a plan Sunday afternoon that he said would raise an additional $140 million for the city schools, short of the $180 million the District asked for from the city and the state. And one chunk of Corbett's $140 million package was money that was in his original spending plan and already factored into the District's budget.
It was unclear Sunday how many layoffs or other cuts would be averted under the plan.
Last Thursday, City Council decided that democracy was inconvenient.
Faced with a deluge of phone calls and an unprecedented outpouring of parent action supporting the progressive Use & Occupancy tax, City Council President Darrell Clarke shut down an expected vote on the tax and instead announced that the city would seek more than $74 million for schools through a tax on cigarettes and improved delinquent-tax collection.
One City Hall insider told me that certain members of City Council were “sh*!%ing bricks” at the number of phone calls they were receiving and were unhappy at the idea of taking a public vote on the Use & Occupancy tax. At least one City Council office said it had received almost 100 phone calls on Wednesday, the day before the vote.
The School District has published its 2014 "Guide to School Budgets" that lays out quite starkly what to expect next year unless new money can be found. The document is meant for principals, School Advisory Councils, teachers, parents, assistant superintendents and community leaders.
A national report released Wednesday showed that far fewer dollars are spent per student in schools with predominantly Black and Latino enrollments, and that staffing those schools with less experienced teachers accounts for much of the spending disparity.