by Naveed Ahsan
Teachers, parents, students, and education activists will gather at 4:30 p.m. today outside Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office, 200 S. Broad St., as part of the National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.
Education advocates will stage actions in more than 60 cities across the country, demanding better schools for America’s children. The day of action was planned by an alliance of teachers' unions and community groups to fight back against what they see as an unprecedented attack on the public school system.
Hundreds are expected to convene outside Corbett’s office, including members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), the Rev. Kevin Johnson of Bright Hope Baptist Church, and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.
by Isaac Riddle
Five of the eight Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Corbett next year gathered in front of education and community groups at a candidate forum held at Temple University last Saturday.
The forum opened to chants of “whose children, our children” and “whose jobs, our jobs” by members of the audience.
Pedro Ramos resigned from the School Reform Commission and his position as chair this week for personal reasons. The letter he sent to Gov. Corbett talks of operational reforms that were made under his watch while the District dealt with deep fiscal challenges.
Although he uses careful language to describe the response of the state and city to the District's request for additional funds, he blames the recession, and not political decisions, for the District's financial woes.
In the letter, Ramos tells Corbett that "financial support" is necessary, along with "a system and a culture of adult accountability," in order to deliver on the promise of a ''safe, high-quality seat for every child."
"I remain optimistic that all our leaders will continue to work together for the benefit of all the Commonwealth's children, including Philadelphia's children," Ramos wrote.
Pedro Ramos, who has served for two years as School Reform Commission chair, has resigned from his post and the commission, citing family matters.
Ramos’ term on the SRC expires in 2014. His replacement on the commission has not yet been named. Commissioner Wendell Pritchett has previously filled in as acting chair in his absence.
Ramos was a gubernatorial appointee. The governor appoints three of the five commissioners, and the mayor appoints two.
Ramos, 48, a former Philadelphia school board president, city solicitor, and managing director, was appointed to the panel by Gov. Corbett in 2011. He joined the SRC at a time of unprecedented financial crisis in the District and worked with school, city, and state officials to bring the District's budget back into balance. Advocating a fiscally responsible stance, he presided over deep cuts in spending.
by Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook and Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
The tug-of-war between the city and the state over how to keep the Philadelphia School District solvent heated up on Wednesday, with City Council President Darrell Clarke announcing that he is not on board with a key piece of the funding package worked out in Harrisburg -- dedicating $120 million to the schools in future years by extending a 1 percent local sales tax.
Instead, Clarke wants to direct just $70 million of the sales tax revenue to the schools and use the rest of it for debt service and the city's chronically underfunded pension system.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
The Pennsylvania House passed a bill Monday that directs $45 million in additional state aid to Philadelphia's cash-starved schools, but only under certain conditions.
One of those conditions is that the money actually materializes.
The state has apparently persuaded federal officials to forgive a years-old debt, freeing up millions of dollars for public education.
However, Gov. Corbett's office said that negotiations between the state and feds over the debt have not been finalized. Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni declined to provide more details.
by Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook and Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
When Pennsylvania's Republican-led legislature added a bit more than $30 million in education aid to Gov. Corbett's proposed budget in its final negotiations last month, legislators decided to target $14.5 million of that money to districts with high numbers of English language learners and $4 million to districts with high concentrations of students in charter schools.
But they managed to devise the formulas for these supplements in such a way that Philadelphia's school district, which has nearly half the charter students in the state and one-quarter of the English language learners, got none of these funds. This in a year when it was desperately begging the governor and legislature for additional state aid just to remain solvent.
In fact, the money for districts impacted by charters and ELL students went to only six districts around the state -- most of it, perhaps not coincidentally, in the areas represented by powerful legislators.
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.
by Holly Otterbein for Newsworks
The Pennsylvania Senate has advanced a budget that increases Philadelphia's basic education funding by $14 million next year, far short of the additional $120 million requested by School District officials.
The GOP-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved the spending plan Saturday night, 16-10. It must now be approved by the full Senate and House.