Philly’s Mayoral Candidates Pretty Much Cool With Wolf’s Ouster of Green

Candidate Conversations

From L to R: Mayoral candidates Nelson Diaz, Doug Oliver, Lynne Abraham, Anthony Williams and Jim Kenney.

Most of Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates either agree with Gov. Tom Wolf‘s shocking decision this week to remove Bill Green as chairman of the city’s School Reform Commission, or believe that it was his choice to make. After Green defied Wolf’s call to approve no new charter schools, Wolf tapped Marjorie Neff, a former school principal, to be the new head of the SRC.

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University of Delaware President to Head Philly Fed

Pat Harker | University of Delaware

Pat Harker | University of Delaware

Patrick D. Harker, president of the University of Delaware, is stepping down to become president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. He leaves his current post July 1.

“While I am excited about my new role with the Philadelphia Fed, I will miss working on this beautiful campus with the best students and the most dedicated faculty and staff in American higher education,” Harker said in a statement released to the university community.

Harker had been under fire on campus in recent weeks for a Feb. 5 op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, in which he called for reforms to the traditional model of university education, to lower rising costs . “The system is teacher-centric,” he wrote then. “We need to become learner-centric.” Read more »

Jannie Blackwell Wants To Roll Back Rules for Tax-Exempt Groups

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell | Photo Credit: City Counicil's Flickr

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell | Photo Credit: City Counicil’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill Thursday that would overturn a new rule requiring local nonprofits to verify annually that they are legitimate charitable organizations in order to receive a break on their property taxes.

Under the law passed in 2013, tax-exempt nonprofits must certify by March 31st of each year that they are “purely public charities” and that they use their properties for charitable purposes. Blackwell’s legislation would erase those annual reporting requirements. Read more »

Conservative Group Sues PFT Over “Ghost Employees” on Philly Schools’ Payroll

School District of Philadelphia

A new conservative nonprofit sued the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and school district in Common Pleas Court Wednesday over the district’s policy of keeping full-time union employees on the payroll. (Read the full suit below.)

The Fairness Center, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Americans for Fair Treatment, issued a scathing statement about the practice:

What’s a ghost teacher? What else would you call a certified School District of Philadelphia teacher earning a publicly-funded salary, enjoying cost-free health benefits, accruing a state pension, and building up years of seniority without having taught a class in over a decade? It’s true: More than 20 of these ghost teachers are working full-time as union bosses for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers right now—even as city schools face staffing shortages and budget strain.

Appalling stuff, right? Turns out it might be more than a little misleading. Read more »

Trending: Mayoral Candidates Should Ignore Schools

It’s becoming trendy to declare that, since the mayor doesn’t directly control the School District of Philadelphia, education shouldn’t be the dominant theme of the 2015  campaign. Brett Mandel, echoing arguments I’m increasingly hearing online and in private conversations, contends that “if education is what mayoral candidates are going to talk about, they might as well offer their Philadelphia weather platform.” Tom Ferrick doesn’t go that far, but he suggests a mayor’s real role when it comes to schools is to provide the cash, and that’s pretty much it. Read more »

The Brief: Doug Oliver Doubles Down on Being Vague

Last night, I interviewed long-shot mayoral candidate Doug Oliver at Venturef0rth as part of Citified’s new Candidate Conversations series.

Going into the Q&A, my big question was: Does Oliver deserve to be in the major leagues?

He’s never held elected office before. His exploratory committee had only $1,085 in the bank at the end of 2014. And yet, former Gov. Ed Rendell has called him “enthusiastic,” “refreshing” and “charming.”

During the interview, I found Oliver to be energetic and honest and passionate about the city. But he was also stunningly vague at times, and perhaps more surprisingly, unapologetic about his lack of specific proposals to fix the city’s problems. Toward the end of the Q&A, I told Oliver I thought the mayor’s race in general has suffered from a dearth of ideas. (You can watch the full exchange above.)

As a candidate who has pitched himself as someone with “fresh eyes,” I asked him what his big idea is for the city. He doubled down on being vague.

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The Brief: Will Crime Be an Issue in the Mayor’s Race?

Matt Rourke | AP

Matt Rourke | AP

This is Michael Nutter‘s final year as mayor, a/k/a legacy time. He’s talked up everything from his urban planning record to Philadelphia’s recent drop in homicides to its population growth.

But on Thursday, he delivered a speech at Temple University about youth violence that highlighted just how much work remains unfinished:

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Mike Turzai “Very Disappointed” Philadelphia SRC Only Approved 5 New Charters

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai says he is “very disappointed” that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Wednesday night to approve only five of 39 new charter school proposals.

The Allegheny County Republican made clear by Thursday morning that the SRC’s vote could have consequences: He says it “makes it tougher” to have a discussion about reinstating the charter reimbursement line item in the state budget.

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SRC Approves 5 of 39 New Charter School Applications

School District of Philadelphia

[Updated at 6:30 a.m. Thursday]

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission decided Wednesday night at a high-stakes, five-hour meeting to conditionally approve five of 39 applications to create new charter schools.

SRC chairman Bill Green said the vote came after a “thorough, high-quality process” of evaluating the proposals and airing them in public. Officials say they held 100 hours of public hearings and received 1,400 letters and emails on the applications.

But in the end, the SRC’s decision pleased neither public school advocates nor education reformers.
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