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 Michael Masch
I am struck by how many supposedly politically sophisticated public school advocates appear to be urging City Council to give the Philadelphia School District more money, independent of what the state does. If that happens, most of the horrible cuts now looming will still occur, since $60 million represents less than 20 percent of the District’s identified 2013-14 budget gap.
It seems to me that Council President Darrell Clarke has a point when he says that Council has already increased city funding for the District two years in a row, even as the Commonwealth was cutting and freezing its funding, and it's just not smart for the city to do that again.
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.
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
Now that the School Reform Commission has voted to close 23 schools, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools -- a major voice in the school-closings debate -- is regrouping and laying out its next steps.
About 200 people came together Wednesday evening during the group’s general assembly to hear about a new three-part campaign focusing on school funding, community schools, and charter school accountability.
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.