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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
Naseem Bey, a 10th grader at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School (KCAPA), talked of textbooks with 10 pages missing.
If you need a particular page, “you might have to find someone with that page,” Bey said.
Khyeanna Mallette, a junior at Philadelphia Military Academy, remembered leaving a physical education class with a headache and having to get an ice bag from the school’s secretary because there was no nurse on duty that day.
Though Governor Corbett has announced that he will release the $45 million that the state had appropriated to the District but had been withholding until reforms were made, education advocates continue to debate the issue of fair funding for Philadelphia schools.
This morning on Radio Times, Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and Charles Zogby, secretary of the Budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, debated the issue of funding for public education in Pennsylvania.
Due to the District's fiscal crisis, most schools in Philadelphia are suffering a counselor drought. But Promise Academies are not among them.
In fact, the 12 Promise Academies -- the District's in-house turnaround schools -- have 19 counselors, which amounts to 15 percent of the 126 counselors available to all 220 or so District-run schools.
More than half the District's schools -- 115 of them, with a population of more than 48,000 students -- are sharing 16 "itinerant" counselors who travel from school to school and have caseloads averaging about 3,000 students each.
In the Promise Academies, which have a combined enrollment of about 8,000, the average caseload works out to one counselor per about 420 students, much closer to the recommendations of the American School Counselor Association.