by Paul Jablow
Naseem Bey, a 10th grader at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School (KCAPA), talked of textbooks with 10 pages missing.
If you need a particular page, “you might have to find someone with that page,” Bey said.
Khyeanna Mallette, a junior at Philadelphia Military Academy, remembered leaving a physical education class with a headache and having to get an ice bag from the school’s secretary because there was no nurse on duty that day.
Othella Stanback, a senior at Benjamin Franklin High School, said that one of the American history classes was so crowded early in the school year that some students had to stand up or sit on radiators. Her roster has already been changed twice.
For these and other students at District schools, the system’s massive budget cuts have hit classrooms, cafeterias, and libraries in ways both large and small. It is not hard to find students who are angry and speaking out about the harm done to their schools.
by Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks
A new photo mural uses the alphabet to spell out the hardships of the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis.
The 26-panel project hangs along a gate below the Berks Street stop on the Market-Frankford El. Not far away sits Kensington CAPA High School, where the students who are behind the outdoor art installation go to school.
by Naveed Ahsan
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 Isaac Riddle
Matthew E. Stanski, the Philadelphia School District's chief financial adviser, and Lori Shorr, chief education officer for the mayor’s office, told the City Council Education Committee on Wednesday that the District doesn’t have enough revenue to adequately educate students.
In response, however, City Council members were surly, questioning the relationship between money and achievement and expressing their irritation that Stanski couldn’t tell them exactly how much money the District will be asking for next year from either the city or the state.
Shorr and Stanski argued that a predictable state funding formula would help the District become financially stable.
by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks
Philadelphia City Council is looking into how science and math are introduced to the School District's youngest students.
In the first voting meeting of the School Reform Commission since Pedro Ramos resigned as chairman, the remaining four members of the panel will meet tomorrow to act on a list of resolutions that include a large number of donation acceptances.
A District spokesman said that Commissioner Wendell Pritchett will preside over the meeting as acting chair, as he has done when Ramos missed a meeting. Gov. Corbett still has not announced a replacement for Ramos. The governor's selected candidate will have to be confirmed by the state Senate.
Copies of the Notebook's high school guide are still available, in case you haven't had a chance to nab one yet.
You can pick up a copy, or a stack, if needed, at two locations: The School District's headquarters at 440 N. Broad St. will have an abundance of copies, at least until the Dec. 6 high school application deadline, and our office at 699 Ranstead St., near Seventh and Market Streets, will also have guides available. Just make sure to email beforehand to let us know how many copies you need and when you plan to drop by.
The Notebook’s annual Fall Guide to High Schools lists individual school profiles and data -- including enrollment, admission requirements, and extracurricular activities -- for the city’s more than 80 public school options. The guide and school profiles can also be found on our site.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Philadelphia is not the only city in Pennsylvania whose educational institutions are battling a funding crisis. Sharon Ward, executive director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and a longtime observer of state education policy, breaks down the issue.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Where do we go from here?
That's the question that Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite put before the packed crowd gathered at District headquarters on Monday night for a School Reform Commission meeting on strategy, policy and priorities.
Like a college professor facilitating a philosophical discussion, Hite broke the crowd up into more than a dozen large, round tables and asked this overarching question of questions:
"What action should we take to get as many students as possible attending schools where at least 50 percent [of students] are reading and doing math at grade level?"
Back in August, the School Reform Commission suspended the state school code, using special powers it was granted by legislators when the state took over the District. Among the provisions suspended was one that prevented school districts from setting enrollment caps for charter schools.
But based on what the Pennsylvania Department of Education has done so far, it would seem that the code suspension -- designed to prevent unregulated charter growth that officials say would seriously impede the District's ability to plan financially -- has not had any effect.
After the SRC voted to suspend the code, Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn sent warning letters to charter schools that the District says have enrolled too many students, saying the schools should no longer seek direct payment from PDE. He also threatened charters that continue to "overenroll" with non-renewal or revocation.
The District and state, however, don't appear to be on the same page regarding this issue. Since the suspension, PDE has continued to pay charter schools directly for expenses that the schools claim they are owed and that the District refused to reimburse.