Court Rules SRC Can’t Void Teachers’ Contract

Protestors in October demonstrate against the school district's sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums. The Commonwealth Court just ruled the SRC lacks the power to void the teacher contract.

Protestors in October demonstrate against the school district’s sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums. The Commonwealth Court just ruled the SRC lacks the power to void the teacher contract.

[Update, 3:25 p.m.] SRC Chairman Bill Green says his board hasn’t yet decided if it will appeal the ruling. “I’m obviously very disappointed, but I’m not sure I understand the reasoning of the court,” Green said.

He’s not sure what happens next. “We said in the beginning we hope to resolve this through negotiation and not litigation, but that has not been possible and still appears not to be possible,” Green said.

He said the district had hoped to end this fiscal year on relatively stable financial footing, and be able to ask the state and city for new school funds that would be used not just to plug deficits, but to invest in improving city schools. “If this stands, it would put us in the place of asking for money to avoid cuts, instead of asking for money to allow (Superintendent) Bill Hite and his team to be proactive and transform our schools.”

Green estimates the deficit next year will be about $80 million if the ruling is not appealed and new city or state funds are not allocated for the schools. “The problem is, there’s very few places to go (for cuts) except class size,” Green said.

[Original, 12:11 p.m.] In a unanimous decision, a five-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court ruled this morning that the School Reform Commission lacks the power to void its contract with the teacher’s union and impose new terms, as the SRC did on October 6, of last year. Read more »

Ken Trujillo Is Out of the Mayor’s Race

Ken Trujillo Campaign Announcement

(Editor’s Note: We’ll be updating this post throughout the day. For our analysis of what Trujillo’s departure means for the race, check out Holly Otterbein’s report.)

[Update, 4:12 p.m.] Lynne Abraham’s campaign has released a statement on Trujillo dropping out of the mayor’s race: “We are very sorry to hear that the reasons for Ken’s withdrawing are family related, and we understand that family comes first. We were looking forward to a spirited, issues-oriented campaign; now we wish Ken and his family the very best.”

[Update, 2:36 p.m.] State Sen. Anthony Williams’ campaign just issued a short statement on Trujillo’s withdrawal from the race. “Ken Trujillo is a good man with a record of public service and a deep commitment to the city of Philadelphia.  Vigorous debate over serious issues benefits the people of Philadelphia and Ken’s energy will be missed. I wish him and his family the best.”

[Update, 1:53 p.m. from Holly Otterbein] Unsurprisingly, political insiders are already gossiping if something other than family matters was was behind Trujillo’s surprise announcement: Was he having a hard time fundraising? Was he forced to drop out of the mayor’s race because a high-profile candidate is planning to jump in?

Read more »

Q&A: Who Is Ken Trujillo?

Ken Trujillo at his campaign launch in September. Photo credit: Trujillo campaign's Facebook page.

Ken Trujillo at his campaign launch in September. Photo credit: Trujillo campaign’s Facebook page.

(Update: Trujillo dropped out of the race hours after this Q&A was published, citing family reasons.) 

In the early days of this 2015 mayoral race, there are, at minimum, two clear top-tier candidates: State Senator Anthony Williams, and former District Attorney Lynne Abraham. Williams is the favorite of the political class, with a strong West Philly base, presumed connections to big money and favorable racial math. Abraham has the highest name recognition in the field and a long history of winning citywide races. Read more »

Philly Schools: Worse than Detroit?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

You know the School District of Philadelphia is strapped–in a big way–for cash. You’ve heard the stories about the lack of counselors and nurses; the $160 budget for a 400-kid elementary school in Germantown. Then there’s the cigarette tax, the sales tax, the property tax increases. Part of the reason for the mess is easy to identify: Pennsylvania is one of only three states that do not use a comprehensive school-finance formula to distribute state education funding to individual districts.

But a new report (see below) from the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative puts the district’s financial struggles into an alarming national context, and shows that city schools are underfunded not just compared to wealthy suburban districts, but to peer cities as well. Indeed, the School District of Philadelphia has less to spend on classroom instruction per kid than even other high poverty cities, like Cleveland, Baltimore and Detroit. (Full disclosure: I’m working with Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative on an unrelated project.)

Read more »

Under Nutter, Philly Became Awesome

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License.

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License.

Editor’s Note: Updated with bullet points reflecting the city’s improvements over the last seven years.

The Nutter administration has just released a huge data dump that not-so-subtly makes the case that Mayor Michael Nutter may be the most capable and enlightened executive that Philadelphia has had. Ever. Read more »

Energy Hub? No Thanks.

No energy hub here please, (some) readers say. Image from Shutterstock.

No energy hub here please, (some) readers say. Image from Shutterstock.

Yesterday was energy hub day on Citified. We took a stab at answering the question: “So what the hell is an energy hub anyway?” We sat down with environmentalists who deeply oppose the hub. And we had a Q&A with Phil Rinaldi, the leading hub visionary and CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solutions.

We also invited Citified readers to weigh-in over social media and email with their own views on the prospect that Philadelphia could become a petrochemical capital, and maybe, just maybe, goose the overall manufacturing sector. The boosters were silent. Environmentalists, neighbors of the South Philly refinery, and health advocates, however, were not. Read more »

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