Tony Williams Is Finally Starting to Own School Choice

Photo Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

Photo Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

For years, mayoral candidate and state Sen. Anthony Williams has been Pennsylvania’s highest-profile Democratic champion of charter schools and vouchers. When he ran for governor in 2010, he received a whopping $6 million-plus from three multimillionaires who back school choice. He’s sponsored voucher legislation. He founded a charter school. Williams has arguably been more passionated about school choice than any other policy question he’s wrestled with in his career.

But not on the mayoral campaign trail.

His first TV ad doesn’t mention school choice once. His education policy paper doesn’t say anything about vouchers, and though it touches on charters, it mostly focuses on reinstating charter reimbursement funding from Harrisburg. At a press conference earlier this month, Williams said it was “curious” that he had been dubbed the charter-school advocate in the mayor’s race, since his contenders had expressed support for charters, too.

It’s led to quite a bit of speculation: Is he keeping quiet because he’s the presumed frontrunner, and it’s simply a good strategy to lay low as your contenders tear each other apart? Do the polls show school choice is unpopular among Williams’ base? Are Williams’ true motives — maybe, just maybe, turning the entire School District of Philadelphia over to charter operators — too extreme to discuss with voters? (FWIW, when we asked Williams to clarify whether there is any truth to the rumors that he wants to fully charter-ize the district, he said, “I don’t know where they got that.”)

Perhaps the answer is “none of the above,” because at a mayoral forum Tuesday, Williams finally … kind of, sort of … began to own the issue of school choice.

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Penn State Prez Eric Barron to Name Task Force to Reevaluate Frat System

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Eric Barron | Photo Credit: Michelle Bixby/PSU

Penn State president Eric Barron says he is creating a task force to look into fraternity and sorority life at the university in the wake of allegations that its Kappa Delta Rho chapter posted photographs of nude, unconscious women online.

“This comprehensive examination of fraternity and sorority life and its culture will not be simple and it may not be comfortable,” said Barron. “It will, however, be thorough.” Read more »

Penn State Students Rally Against Facebook Frat

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Penn State students braved the snow Friday to rally in support of the women who were allegedly pictured nude and unconscious on a fraternity’s invitation-only websites.

Police are investigating allegations by a ex-member of Kappa Delta Rho that the frat ran two Facebook pages where members shared “photos of unsuspecting victims, drug sales and hazing.” A police warrant said some images were “of nude females that appeared to be passed out.”

Protesters carried signs that read, “Rape Culture Lives Here,” “Support the Victims” and “This Isn’t Satire” (an apparent reference to a frat member who told Philadelphia magazine that a Kappa Delta Rho Facebook page was satirical). Read more »

PSU President: We Might Need to Reevaluate Frat System

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Eric Barron | Photo Credit: Michelle Bixby/PSU

In the wake of allegations that Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho chapter posted photos of nude, unconscious women online, university president Eric Barron says the entire fraternity system may need to be reexamined.

“We must ask if a reevaluation of the fraternity system is required,” he said. “Some members of the university senior leadership believe it is, and we are considering our options.”

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Member of Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho Defends Fraternity

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When news broke this week that a Penn State fraternity had allegedly run two private Facebook pages where members posted photographs of nude, unconscious women, hazing and other illicit deeds, we, like everyone else, wondered: How could anyone do this? Who could justify such behavior?

An ex-fraternity member first told authorities about the Facebook pages, which were dubbed “Covert Business Transactions” and “2.o,” according to a police warrant. They allegedly featured photos of “nude females that appeared to be passed out” as well as “marijuana and edibles, concentrates, ADD medication, and some cocaine.” Police said fraternity members could face charges of invasion of privacy and harassment.

We found a member of Kappa Delta Rho who was willing to talk anonymously about what happened and how fraternity members are reacting to news coverage of the scandal. His remarks offer a glimpse into the mindset at Kappa Delta Rho.

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Pew Poll: Philadelphians Are Split on Charter Schools

School District of Philadelphia

Philadelphians say education is the top issue facing the next mayor, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll released Monday. But if you’re looking to find out if they side more with traditional public schools or charters, the survey of more than 1,600 residents doesn’t show a clear winner. In fact, the poll indicates that Philadelphians have a rather nuanced view of the city’s schools.

Here are the major findings of the Pew poll, which was conducted by phone from Jan. 28 to Feb. 19 of this year, and what they could mean for the mayor’s race:

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The Brief: Why the Philly Teachers Union’s Endorsement Matters

On the way where? Photo Credit: City Council Flickr page.

Jim Kenney | Photo Credit: City Council Flickr page

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is, as expected, endorsing former City Councilman Jim Kenney for mayor. PFT president Jerry Jordan will make it official at a press conference Monday afternoon at Germantown’s John B. Kelly Elementary School.

“PFT members voted overwhelmingly for Jim Kenney in our citywide referendum,” said Jordan in a statement. “His years of consistent support for traditional public schools and educators, and his vision for a better Philadelphia for every child make him the clear choice to be the next mayor of Philadelphia.”

What is the PFT’s endorsement worth? A few thoughts:

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PA’s Wealthy School Districts Get Way More Local Cash Than Poor Ones

School District of Philadelphia

School districts across Pennsylvania have felt the impact of state budget cuts and the expiration of federal stimulus dollars over the past few years.

But the money woes of the high-poverty Philadelphia School District have been so extreme that they’ve garnered national attention: Some city schools lack such basics as full-time guidance counselors and nurses.

A new analysis shows that, despite the fact that low-income students come to class with greater needs than their better-off peers, Pennsylvania and its municipalities actually spend less per pupil in the poorest districts than in the richest ones. Way less, actually. According to the Washington Post, “In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.”

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