Editor and director of the Notebook since 1999, Paul was one of the Notebook’s founders in 1994. He came to the Notebook as a public school parent with a long history of involvement in public education and other social justice issues. His children both graduated from Philadelphia public schools. He has been an active Home & School Association member and served as a parent representative on a School Council. Prior to becoming editor, he worked on education issues for the National Coalition of Education Activists and the American Friends Service Committee.
Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter, in his annual budget proposal, addressed the dire needs of a School District that again faces an enormous budget deficit by proposing $153 million in additional funding for next year. That amount, if realized, still falls short of the District's request.
The District is turning to the state and city for a combined $440 million. It is counting on $120 million of that to replace funds that were promised and raised last year but were not recurring. And to cover rising costs while taking some steps toward his aspirational vision for the District, Hite has asked for a great deal more. The price tag attached to the first year of Action Plan 2.0, as it's called, is $320 million. A quarter of that amount will be used just to cover unavoidable annual increases in expenses.
Hite has said he wants the city to dig deeper by providing the $120 million promised to the District last year in the form of an extension of a sales tax surcharge and an additional $75 million to help fund his Action Plan.
New data released by the School District on Tuesday show that charter enrollment in Philadelphia has swelled to 67,315 students, which is more than one-third of all K-12 students in public schools.
More than 1,500 of those students are enrolled in excess of enrollment caps for individual schools. Twenty charters are 10 or more students over their enrollment caps.
Four charters have more than 100 students in excess of their caps, led by Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter, where the District reports an enrollment of 1,302 despite an enrollment cap of 675.
The District has attempted to make those caps enforceable by writing them into its charter agreements. But this has not prevented the state from paying some charters directly for students enrolled in excess of the caps.
[Update:] A District spokesperson said Walter D. Palmer and four other charters have been billing the state for enrollment in excess of the caps. Other charters have not tried to secure payment from the state for more than the authorized numbers of students.
Gov. Corbett devoted nearly one-fourth of his annual budget address to education issues, proposing a total commitment of $10.1 billion to public education spending in the fiscal year starting July 1, a boost of 3.8 percent.
What does the District's 64 percent on-time graduation rate look like, school by school?
It ranges widely, from a 99 percent graduation rate at Masterman to a half-dozen neighborhood high schools with graduation rates in the low 40s. Not surprisingly, special admission high schools with strict entrance requirements are clustered near the top, while neighborhood schools nearly all fall below the District's average rate.
A decade ago, it wasn't far off to say that in the School District of Philadelphia, only half the students graduate.
At least now you can say two-thirds.
The District's six-year graduation rate -- the percentage of students who started high school in Philadelphia District schools in 2007 and earned their diplomas by 2013 -- has climbed to 67 percent. That figure includes hundreds of students who don't graduate on time, but persist through a fifth or a sixth year of high school to earn their diplomas.