by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks
As the School District of Philadelphia is trying to sell off vacant properties, a university is kicking the tires on one building.
The now-closed William Penn High School on North Broad Street is at the edge of Temple University's campus. Spokesman Ray Betzner says Temple is talking with the School District about acquiring the property.
by Mary Wilson for NewsWorks
Some education advocates are criticizing a Pennsylvania Senate proposal to revamp how public charter schools start, expand, and receive funding -- because it would remove a check on their growth.
A plan before a key legislative committee would allow charter schools to increase their enrollment without the approval of the school district that first authorized their charter.
A meeting on "school report cards" will take place from 6 to 7:30 tonight at Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia. It is the fourth of five such meetings held by the District to gather community feedback for a new grading system for schools.
This summer the District announced plans for a new school report card to replace the school annual reports and faulty School Performance Index (SPI) scores that have served as measures of accountability. An earlier series of forums was scrapped after two contentious meetings where angry parents questioned the motives behind rolling out a new and costly accountability system during a time of tremendous financial and structural instability and the value of the project.
At the time, a District spokesman indicated that the reason for the cancellation was the unstructured, off-point nature of the discussions, saying the District was not seeking input on whether it should proceed with school report cards, but rather, what information they should contain.
The School District is trying to find 4,000 students that it expected to enroll in September who didn't show up.
Many of those may have switched to charter schools. Superintendent William Hite has said that of the $45 million that the state released last month, about $10 million has been set aside in anticipation of higher charter payments, which are mandated based on enrollment.
If it turns out that more than 1,000 or so of the missing students turn up in charters, that $10 million figure could go higher and create a new budget hole. District officials say they still don't have a definitive count of charter enrollment citywide.
The District has sought for years to impose enrollment caps on charter schools to contain the rapid growth of its payouts to charters. Still, it would be possible for charter enrollment to increase sigificantly citywide without any charters breaking their agreements, because many are not enrolled up to their limit.
Wednesday was a rare sight in City Hall: Mayor Nutter and City Council President Darrell Clarke standing next to each other and agreeing on something.
The something was a deal for the city and District to work together to get $50 million in promised revenue to the School District through the sale of empty school buildings.
However, when all the self-congratulation was over, the District's financial position was at least as precarious as ever, if not more so.
by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks
A deal has been struck between the mayor and City Council to provide $50 million to Philadelphia schools.
The compromise has Mayor Nutter signing Council's bill that makes $50 million available to the School District. At the same time, the District will aggressively market vacant school properties with help from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to make sure that money won't have to be used.
Nutter says all available properties will be marketed on the Internet beginning next week.
by Isaac Riddle
At a school like Frankford High School, where one out of four students is absent on any given day, just getting students through the doors is a constant struggle.
According to recent Pennsylvania Department of Education attendance rates, in the 2011-12 school year, more than 11,500 students were absent daily from District schools.
On Wednesday, members of Project U-Turn, a city-based initiative focused on the dropout crisis, announced the launch of a new campaign that seeks to improve Philadelphia’s school attendance rate.
How was your school affected by leveling? Did you lose teachers? Did you gain teachers? How many classes of students are facing different teachers? Do you think your school is better off or worse off?
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, leveling is the process of moving teachers around based on actual enrollments rather than summer estimates. Usually, it happens by mid-October. This year, it ended on Monday, Oct. 28. Although leveling, in some form, occurs every year, more teachers were moved than usual this year because of the District's severe budget situation. The District said that 139 teachers were transferred and 29 were hired.
Please either comment on this post or tweet your stories using the #PHLleveling hashtag. Or, if you prefer, email email@example.com. Please make sure to include the name of your school.
by Naveed Ahsan
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools will launch a new campaign to end 10-year property tax abatements at a press conference today at 4:30 p.m. held at the luxury high-rise condos 10 Rittenhouse Square.
The city of Philadelphia now offers a 10-year tax abatement for building developers and owners, making them exempt from paying property taxes on new construction or renovations. PCAPS says these tax abatements will deprive the School District of Philadelphia of nearly $50 million in 2014. With that money, the group says, the District could have avoided the closure of 24 schools this past June and the layoffs of thousands of employees.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
The Philadelphia School District has been "leveled."
As a result, the District has reduced the number of its controversial split-grade classrooms, made up of students in different grades, from about 100 to 50.
With leveling, the District aligns staffing projections made in the summer with enrollment realities in the fall.
If more students show up at a school than the District had projected, and fewer students show up at another school, the District shuffles faculty from one to the other in an attempt to keep student-to-teacher ratios within the contracted maximums.
The District's contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers stipulates that kindergarten through 3rd-grade teachers should have no more than 30 students, and teachers in grades 4 through 12 should have no more than 33.
This year – in the wake of layoffs and turnover, which have reduced the District's staff by about 3,000 – students, parents and faculty at schools across the District expressed grievances over a host of academic issues, including split-grade classrooms and class sizes that have far exceeded contractual maximums.