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.
Today is National Teacher Day, and this afternoon 59 Philadelphia teachers, one from each District high school, will receive the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
The honorees will join Superintendent William Hite, School Reform Commissioner Wendell Pritchett, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, three trustees from the Lindback Foundation, and others for the celebration, which will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Prince Music Theater.
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.”
Superintendent William Hite has decided not to recommend any charter school expansions for next year, saying it would be irresponsible to do so given the District's financial situation.
"Given our dire financial prospects, we must ask for shared sacrifices from our partners," said Hite in a statement. "It would be irresponsible for the District to endorse charter expansion while asking our principals to do the impossible with school budgets."
by Bill Hangley Jr.
At a rousing interfaith rally of thousands, Superintendent William Hite vowed to support the community organizing group POWER’s newly launched campaign to organize public school parents into an effective citywide force.
At the rally, held Sunday in the massive Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia, Hite agreed to meet regularly with POWER and encourage principals to let it organize in their schools. In return, Hite asked POWER’s members to help lobby for education funding in Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
On the heels of presenting a “doomsday” budget that would reduce schools to the bare essentials, the School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to close North Philadelphia’s M.H. Stanton Elementary School, triggering an explosion of tears and rage from its supporters.
The SRC also voted to establish its own cyber charter school and renew contracts with providers of accelerated and discipline schools. It also added a new provider.
After the 3-1 closure vote, Stanton’s defenders were devastated.
“I’m hurt. I’m hurt really bad,” said Tracey Lester, a Stanton grandparent and vocal supporter.
Facing a $300 million structural deficit and still uncertain whether it will get the increased revenue and labor concessions it is seeking, the School District is asking schools to prepare to operate next year with a principal and a bare-bones allotment of teachers – and just about nothing else.
That means the contractual maximum class size in every classroom – 33 students in grades 4-12 and 30 in K-3. It means no dedicated money for guidance counselors, interscholastic sports, extracurricular activities, librarians, art or music.
No money, even, for secretaries.
by Charlotte Pope
Dressed in uniform, students of the military academies at Leeds and Elverson came to District headquarters Tuesday to hear alternative proposals to the planned relocation of both schools.
They joined parents, teachers and community members -- about 40 attendees in all -- at the meeting, the fourth of an additional six sessions that the District scheduled this month to focus on individual schools or groups of schools slated for closure or relocation.
The District has proposed to move Elverson and Leeds to the Roosevelt Middle School building, combining them to create Philadelphia Military Academy High School.
A version of this testimony was given at the Feb. 12 City Council hearings on school closings.
My name is Samuel Reed III, and I am a proud member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Teacher Action Group, two organizations that are working with PCAPS, a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community members calling for a one-year moratorium on school closings.
I would like to thank City Council for adopting a non-binding resolution calling for a moratorium on closing 37 schools in September. I would like to echo the sentiments of Councilman Curtis Jones, who notes that people shouldn't make whole decisions on half-information.
I want to counter the current notion that frames the one-year moratorium as hitting the pause button. Instead of hitting the pause button, City Council should use its influence to persuade the District to hit the redesign button.