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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School Funding Suit Against State Advances Despite Promises From Wolf

It’s time for Pennsylvania’s courts to force the state legislature to properly fund state schools, attorneys representing a coalition of money-hungry school districts argued today before the Commonwealth Court at Harrisburg.

“We argued today in court the schoolchildren of Pennsylvania have an enforceable right to be heard,” said Maura McInerney, an attorney for the Education Law Center, which helped bring the case. She spoke during a conference call after the court appearance. “The court,” she said, “has a vital role to play in enforcing the state constitution.” Read more »

5 Things Michael Nutter Wants You to Know About His Property Tax Hike

Matt Rourke | AP

Matt Rourke | AP

Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a budget Thursday that would total $3.95 billion, expand the use of police body cameras, most likely eliminate the need for a tuition hike next year at the Community College of Philadelphia, and increase spending on the city’s long-underfunded Licenses & Inspections department.

But all eyes went to only one part of his plan: a 9.3 percent increase in property taxes. Nutter wants to use that to give $105 million to the city’s cash-strapped schools.

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Mayoral Candidate Williams Unveils a Plan to Fund Philly Schools

State Sen. Anthony Williams | Photo Credit: Holly Otterbein

State Sen. Anthony Williams | Photo Credit: Holly Otterbein

When state Sen. Anthony Williams released his first policy paper on education last month, we didn’t mince words: We called it “half-baked.” There wasn’t a word in the mayoral candidate’s proposal about how much money the city should provide to the local school district.

On Wednesday, Williams unveiled a more detailed budget plan at his campaign headquarters in Center City.

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GOP Leaders Slam Tom Wolf for Booting Bill Green

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.

Republican leaders in the General Assembly are decrying Gov. Tom Wolf‘s decision this week to oust Bill Green as chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. The move comes after Green went against Wolf’s wishes and voted this February to create seven new charter schools of 39 that were being proposed. (Five charters were ultimately approved.)

Wolf has appointed Marjorie Neff, who voted against every charter school application last month, to serve as the new chair of the SRC.

“It is unfortunate that Governor Wolf has, once again, chosen to side with public employee unions, in this case to the detriment of the children of Philadelphia,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.

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

Candidate Conversations

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

[Updated at 6 p.m. to include Lynne Abraham’s comments.]

Most of Philadelphia’s Democratic 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 »

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