by Benjamin Herold and Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
On Wednesday, Mayor Nutter announced his plan to raise $95 million for Philadelphia's struggling School District, mostly through tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol.
But even if that money comes through, city schools will still be looking for an additional $120 million from Harrisburg and $133 million in givebacks from the local teachers' union.
Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), who chairs the Senate's education committee, said the unions have to go first.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
Day two of City Council’s education hearings was a long string of bleak predictions and passionate calls for funding from public school supporters faced with the prospect of what one parent called “trying to do the impossible with nothing.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell called the day’s testimony “disheartening,” but gave little indication that she and her colleagues are eager to move on meeting the Philadelphia School District’s request for $60 million in additional funding.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
District officials met with City Council today to warn that unless Council, the state legislature, and the teachers' union pitch in, next year’s “dire” budget will transform schools into bare-bones operations stripped of all but the most basic staff and programming.
But City Council President Darrell Clarke said, dire or not, there’s a long way to go before Council can find the $60 million that District officials are requesting as the city’s share to plug an unprecedented $300 million structural deficit.
“To suggest that there’s going to be any additional taxes … I think is a stretch at this time,” Clarke said. “I can personally say that without a significant increase in funding from the state, I don’t think there’s going to be any appetite at the local level to do anything.”
by Benjamin Herold for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner
Saying it’s time for Gov. Corbett to relieve the pain caused by massive cuts in state aid to public education over the last two years, Mayor Nutter and a coalition of District, charter and Catholic schools are making a push in support of the School Reform Commission’s request for $120 million in additional state aid for city schools.
“What’s happening at the school level doesn’t lie,” said Lori Shorr, the mayor’s chief education officer. “Talk to parents in a charter school or a District-managed school. They understand what the cuts have meant.”
Nutter, along with the Great Schools Compact, is calling on Corbett and the state legislature to increase the state’s basic education subsidy, restore state reimbursements to districts for money they spend on charter schools and adopt a “student-based funding formula” as a long-term solution to the District’s chronic budget woes.
by Zachary Lax
I am a second-year high school teacher who is proud to serve the students of the School District of Philadelphia. I am also among the many members of our community whose school will be closed. I know that my colleagues, my students, and their parents share my sense of dismay and betrayal over the final decision by the School Reform Commission -- and by extension their appointers, Mayor Nutter and Gov. Corbett -- to ignore our pleas.
By Bill Hangley, Jr.
A new state scholarship program can benefit Philadelphia students who live near struggling schools, but it isn’t likely to have a big impact in the coming school year.
Program officials and local scholarship organizations say that they hope that by this time next year, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) will be running as smoothly as a similar, more broad-based program, the Educational Investment Tax Credit (EITC) program.
“We’re sort of stuck in the weeds right now, but hopefully in a year, things will smooth out,” said Ida Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia.
A wave of “people power,” has been spreading through the Upper Darby School District. Although it’s right in our backyard, many of us may not be aware of the struggle that has much to teach us here in Philadelphia.
Since the announcement of an “academic realignment plan” in April and the school board’s vote to approve it in May, parents, students and teachers have engaged in intensive and strategic organizing. And the bottom line is that they succeeded in getting the District to back off some of the proposed changes and helped restore $2.7 million in state dollars that had been slated for elimination.
This guest blog post comes from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is being told that District budget deficits can only be avoided through deep program cuts, massive school closures, and contract concessions. City Council was asked to increase funding to avoid even further damage. But little attention is being focused on the true cause of the District’s deficits – the state’s insistence that Philadelphia students ought to be educated for 20 percent less than what is being spent on students in the rest of our region.
City Council put off a property tax reassessment sought by Mayor Nutter on Thursday and instead approved a plan that would raise about $40 million in additional funds for the School District.
That is less than half the $94 million that officials said was needed to stave off further cuts to schools and classrooms.
PFT president Jerry Jordan said Tuesday that 270 of his members are receiving layoff notices, including 39 counselors, 85 people in the category covering parent ombudsmen and student advisers, 22 non-teaching assistants, and 97 supportive services assistants.