Philly Activists Fast for Education Funding

Photo Credit: POWER Philadelphia

Photo Credit: POWER Philadelphia

POWER Philly is in Harrisburg for 10 days to pray, fast and meet with state legislators with the hope of getting fair funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools into the state budget, which is supposed to be completed and signed by June 30th.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here fasting and getting involved,” Sheila Armstrong, a POWER activist told Philly Mag this week. “I’m a woman of faith, a Christian, and I told my sons, ‘This is a missionary trip. We are doing God’s work.'” Read more »

5 Questions About the Future of Philly’s Schools

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo  courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

Earlier this year, students made a modest request of City Council. | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council did something Thursday that it’s done a lot in recent years: voted to increase both taxes and education funding. Lawmakers expect to raise an extra $70 million for the city’s schools by hiking the property, parking and use-and-occupancy levies.

So, where does that leave the school district? Somewhat better off than it was before, no doubt. But it’s not out of the woods yet, either. Its future depends on the answers to these five big questions, which we should learn in the coming weeks: Read more »

Life at Philly Public Schools: Teachers Make Wiffle Balls Out of Duct Tape

Photo of duct tape and newspaper wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Photo of duct tape and newspaper Wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Philadelphia public school teachers have to get creative sometimes, especially when funds are scarce. Thanks to Reddit, a photo taken by a teacher at a South Philadelphia elementary school is going viral — much to that teacher’s surprise.

“I am frankly amazed!” says Leslie Marie Grace, the art teacher at the George W. Nebinger School at Sixth and Carpenter. “The image has really struck a chord with some people.” Here’s the story behind it:

Read more »

How the Beverage Lobby Quietly Killed the Soda Tax in Philly, Again

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Much in the same way that the best lawyers kill lawsuits before they ever make it to trial, the best lobbyists kill legislation before it is ever introduced.

In Philadelphia, City Councilman Bobby Henon was seriously eyeing a tax on sugary beverages to help fund the financially crippled school district, according to several City Hall insiders. In fact, sources say Henon went to the trouble of drafting up legislation and putting together a plan to promote it. As a lawmaker who has launched anti-childhood obesity initiatives, it was a natural fit.

But when Council unveiled its education funding package last week, it included a hike in parking tax, a boost in real estate taxes, and an increase use-and-occupancy taxes … but no soda tax. Read more »

The Brief: Millennials Didn’t Vote This Year, Like At All

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

1. Voter turnout among millennials was abysmal in the mayoral election.

The gist: Only 12 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral election, according to newly released data from the City Commissioners office. Millennials make up the largest bloc of registered voters in the city, though you wouldn’t know it on Election Day. As BillyPenn reported, “There are 71,000 more registered millennials than people age 35-to-49, 82,000 more than people age 50-to-64 and 140,000 more than people age 65 and up. And yet those respective age groups beat the millennials in voter turnout by about 20,000, 53,000 and 42,000.” Read more »

School District Says Council’s Funding Plan Falls Short

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

[Updated] A Philadelphia City Council committee gave a preliminary thumbs-up Wednesday to a package of bills that would raise money for the cash-strapped schools. But school district officials say the proposal falls short of their request for an additional $103 million.

Instead of going with Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to hike property taxes by 9 percent in order to provide an extra $105 million to the schools, Council members are instead opting to spread out the pain to taxpayers. Their school funding package would increase the property tax by 4.5 percent, raise the parking tax by 12.5 percent, and boost the use-and-occupancy tax by 7.1 percent.

Lawmakers also gave committee-level approval Wednesday to Council President Darrell Clarke’s proposal to expand the city’s ability to sell liens on commercial properties. He says that could bring in as much as $30 million to the schools.

Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for Clarke, issued a press release that said Council’s legislation would “increase the local share of funding for the school district of Philadelphia by up to $100 million.”

But Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the school district, said that Council has only earmarked an extra $45 million for the schools.

“Did they meet the funding request that we put forward to them? No,” he said. “That’s clear, and that’s something that we would have liked to see.” Read more »

9 Most Shocking Parts of the PSU Whistleblower’s Lawsuit

kdr-suit-details-940x540

James Vivenzio, a former member of Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho, sued the school and fraternity on Monday over hazing. He is the whistleblower who told police in January that KDR maintained a Facebook page where members posted photos of nude, unconscious women, hazing and drug sales.

We’re not easily shocked, but we have to say, his allegations are pretty stunning. In the lawsuit, Vivenzio and his attorney, Aaron Freiwald, say KDR hazed pledges in bizarre and gut-wrenching ways — such as forcing them to drink their frat brothers’ urine — and that the university turned a blind eye to it all.

Here are nine other horrific parts of Vivenzio’s complaint:
Read more »

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