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Dale Mezzacappa has reported on education since 1986, most of that time with The Philadelphia Inquirer. Prior to taking over the education beat, she was in the Trenton and Washington bureaus covering politics and government. Her work has won many local and national journalism awards, including for a series spanning 13 years that followed 112 inner city sixth graders promised a free college education by a wealthy philanthropist. She is currently contributing editor at The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a quarterly independent and non-profit publication. A graduate of Vassar and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, she teaches a journalism course at Swarthmore College and sits on the board of the Education Writers Association.
 

Recent Blog Entries

More by Dale Mezzacappa

SRC listens to anger for hours, after thousands protest contract cancellaton

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 16, 2014 11:37 PM

For nearly three hours Thursday night, the School Reform Commission listened to harsh and bitter criticism of its move last week to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and unliaterally change health benefits for the union's 11,500 members. 

Winners and losers in release of new District funding allotments, leveling

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 9, 2014 05:03 PM

The District giveth, and the District taketh away -- at least for some Philadelphia schools.

Principals got a memo Wednesday offering additional per pupil allocations for their schools as a result of the School Reform Commission's move to cancel the teachers' contract and cut health-care costs.

[Update, 10/15: The District has finalized the amounts to be received by schools in this first round. Very few school allocations changed, but the earlier spreadsheet slightly misstated the enrollment at some schools.]

But for many principals, it was no windfall. At dozens of schools, the extra money was accompanied by a decrease in teacher allotment because of “leveling,” or the adjustment of staff size to match actual, instead of projected, student enrollment.

The District promptly released the school-by-school breakdown of additional funds and changes to teacher allotments Thursday afternoon in response to a request from the Notebook.

Details of the health benefit changes

By Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Socolar on Oct 6, 2014 01:21 PM

The District will require all PFT members to contribute to the cost of their benefits. Those earning less than $25,000 will pay 5 percent of the plan's premiums. Those earning between $25,000 and $55,000 will pay 10 percent, and those earning over $55,000 will pay 13 percent.

The District says monthly payments for PFT members will range from $27 to $71 for single coverage and $77 to $200 per month for family coverage.

SRC revokes teachers' contract, changes health benefits, redirects $44 million to schools

By Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Socolar on Oct 6, 2014 09:30 AM

After 21 months of fruitless labor talks, the School District made a bold move Monday to unilaterally restructure teachers' health benefits and send $44 million in savings directly back to schools.

At a special meeting that was barely publicized until hours before its 9:30 a.m. start, with no public testimony before acting, the School Reform Commission unanimously voted to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in order to rework its health-care provisions. The District also filed a legal action in Commonwealth Court to establish its right to rewrite the contract based on special powers granted to the SRC.

Two Philly charters owe their existence to appeals to state board

By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 2, 2014 07:22 PM

The new cigarette tax bill that sends badly needed money to the School District comes with a controversial provision -- that the District start accepting applications for new charter schools.

To the consternation of the charter community, the School Reform Commission has not considered new charter applications since 2007, citing its precarious financial situation, although it has continued converting low-performing District schools to charters.

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