Philadelphians have been stepping up in many ways to address the huge resource gaps in schools. Teachers are digging deeper into their own pockets. Parents are volunteering in offices and classrooms. We’ve seen a school supplies fund, a restaurant fundraiser, a “Last Waltz” benefit concert, and lately a #StackThatPaper campaign. All this activity shows widespread understanding of how dire the situation is.
It’s hard to overstate the deplorable conditions facing Philadelphia school children again this fall: another year of bare-bones education, overcrowded classrooms, and gaps in essential services like counseling and nursing.
But Philadelphia is by no means the only Pennsylvania district to see budgets slashed and the jobs of teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors eliminated. Districts across the state are reeling from four years of austerity. Here’s how some were responding this summer:
Members of the Workshop School’s Hybrid X Team work on their Factory Five 818 sports car. The car, which can run at 100 miles per hour, operates on biodiesel that the students produced from doughnut oil. In June, team members from the West Philadelphia high school and their teachers were chosen to participate in the first-ever White House Maker Faire to exhibit the car.
Paul Jablowon Sep 26, 2014 10:33 AM
Doesn’t Philadelphia get a huge share of state education aid already?
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made the point when he met with District Superintendent William Hite in August that the city has 12 percent of the state’s school population but receives 18 percent of the state’s basic education subsidy. But Matthew Stanski, Hite’s finance director, says that these numbers alone don’t capture the reality. He gives several reasons. First, Pennsylvania chips in a smaller share of education funding than most other states, so there is less state aid to balance out inequities between districts. But more important, he said, Philadelphia educates more children from low-income backgrounds than any other district. More than 80 percent of Philadelphia students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, almost twice the statewide average of 43 percent. Such a high concentration of poverty comes with added costs to a school district.
Connie Langlandon Sep 25, 2014 12:23 PM
If Gwenevere Washington and her husband lived in the Marple-Newtown School District in the western suburbs, whose property tax rate is the lowest in their county, the school tax bill that arrived in their mailbox midsummer would have totaled about $1,700, even less with the state discount given to senior citizens.
But the Washingtons own a home in Yeadon, a borough less than 10 miles away, down Darby Creek. It is one of six communities that make up the William Penn School District in Delaware County.
The tax bill that arrived in July hit like a hammer. It was $4,000 for the year, less a $400 discount.
Eric Joselynon Sep 25, 2014 11:13 AM
Hina Fathimaon Sep 24, 2014 02:32 PM
Zac Steele has been passionate about education since he was a student at Swarthmore College. There he delved into issues of race and class in urban education, so when he came across a copy of the Notebook during his senior year, it was a welcome resource for topics he was already exploring.
“I was really impressed with the quality of the publication and the amount of information that the Notebook had going back into the ’90s,” Steele said.
Response to Aug. 26 post, “The future of city schools rests with you fearless, bike-pedaling millennials,” by Christine Carlson.
I love this op-ed about “millennials” who are supporting their neighborhood schools. I’m not even close to a millennial, however. I guess I’m a Gen Xer. I am, however, someone who hauls my kids around on my bike.
Dan Hardyon Sep 24, 2014 01:27 PM
Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charters enroll more than 36,000 students. Their model is very different from that of school districts – students learn at home via computer and generally don’t go to a physical location. But they are paid based on school district costs, not their actual expenses. In a 2012 report, Auditor General Jack Wagner said that Pennsylvania cybers were getting $105 million more than the national average for cyber spending.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, is running for re-election against challenger Tom Wolf, a Democrat, on Nov. 4.