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New arguments in legal battle over teacher work rules; PDE and SRC press urgency

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 18:15 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner." 

Notebook editorial: Nightmare scenario

Posted in April 2014 Edition | Permalink

Spring has arrived – and with it the recurring nightmare: the School District again confronting a catastrophic budget situation. Superintendent William Hite said he needs $440 million in new revenue to operate schools at an adequate level next fall. The first $200 million of that figure will merely head off another round of cuts. That’s because the current budget was balanced using one-time funds and because costs for pensions, benefits, and charters climb each year.

Lump sum budget counts on $440 million not yet secured; principals storm Council

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 22:27 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to approve a $2.8 billion “lump sum” budget for fiscal 2015 that counts on receiving $440 million more in revenue than it currently has secured.

It did so shortly after an unprecedented scene in City Hall, when a few dozen school principals clogged the corridors to dramatize the appalling conditions in their schools and ask Council members for more funds.

And State Sen. Vincent Hughes addressed the SRC directly after holding a rally on the District’s steps in which he called for taxing Marcellus Shale extraction – Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that doesn’t do so – to raise money for education.

Nutter's budget has some interesting questions to be answered in hearings

Submitted by thenotebook on Thu, 03/06/2014 - 18:45 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks

Mayor Nutter presented a $3.8 billion budget proposal to Philadelphia City Council this morning that funds some modest service increases. But the mayor's plans for school funding and selling the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works will face political obstacles.

The needs of the city's public schools have posed a perennial budget headache for this mayor, and this year is no exception.

Deadline Friday to comment on District's proposed new charter policy

Submitted by Dale Mezzacappa on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 17:50 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

The School District is proposing an overhaul of its charter school authorizing policy to make it more rigorous and consistent and is seeking public comment on the changes.

The deadline for providing such comment is this Friday, March 7. Comments can be recorded here. Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said the proposed policy will be revised to take the feedback into account.

Specifically, the proposed rules are aimed to support high-quality charters and close underperforming ones, while offering more frequent monitoring, more transparency, and the opportunity for expansion to charters that meet new, higher standards and academic benchmarks.

Corbett's 'Ready to Learn' education budget favors wealthier schools, advocates say

Submitted by thenotebook on Fri, 02/07/2014 - 21:03 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Here's an accurate headline you could have written about Gov. Corbett's Pennsylvania budget address earlier this week: Corbett calls for $387 million in increased state education funding.

But many education advocates are quick to say that hardly tells the full story.

They say that most of this proposed funding increase is a one-time influx of cash that's delivered with many strings attached.

Gov. Corbett’s school budget proposal draws mixed reviews

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 02/05/2014 - 18:03 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

Gov. Corbett delivered his annual budget address in Harrisburg yesterday, indicating that public school funding would see an increase of $369 million. Two-thirds of that – $241 million – will be directed to the "Ready to Learn" block grant focused on early learning, STEM education, and supplemental instruction. Basic education funding, however, remained flat. Philadelphia will get a $29 million increase through the grant program.

The Notebook gathered reactions to the budget proposal from several education advocates and organizations.

No school closings this year, says Superintendent Hite

Submitted by David Limm on Fri, 01/10/2014 - 14:30 Posted in Latest news | Permalink

After losing two dozen schools last year -- on top of six in 2012 -- the School District of Philadelphia won't be seeing any closings in 2014. 

Superintendent William Hite announced Friday afternoon that the District would not be proposing any school closures this year.  

Nearby districts struggle to make up for shortfalls

by Connie Langland Posted in December 2013 Edition | Permalink

When his counterparts describe handing out iPads to students, Joseph Otto just tunes out the conversation.

Otto is chief operations officer of the William Penn School District in Delaware County, just across Cobbs Creek from Southwest Philadelphia. His district limps along from year to year by paring back services and staff and putting off investments in books, technology, and other classroom needs. The local school board is loath to raise taxes any higher because the district’s  residents already shoulder some of the highest tax burdens in the region.

“iPads are not even an option for us,” said Otto.

“We do nothing extra. We’re just trying to survive.”

No relief in sight for District’s troubled finances

by Dale Mezzacappa Posted in December 2013 Edition | Permalink

This story will appear in the Notebook's forthcoming print edition focusing on school funding, due out on Dec. 2.


Nearly three months into the school year, the School District of Philadelphia is still navigating treacherous fiscal waters, having made little progress in convincing state and city lawmakers to provide financial relief and stability.

Faced with a $304 million budget gap for this fiscal year, the District had sought $180 million in new revenues from the state and city and $133 million in labor concessions. As of mid-November, it had received $112 million in increases from the state and city, but just $17 million of that is in recurring funds. And it had reached no agreement with its unions.

As a result, it is still operating schools with shrunken staffs, sparse instructional materials, inadequate counseling services for students, and classes at their contractual maximum. 



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