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 »

Facebook Frat Whistleblower: Penn State Did Nothing for Months After I Told Them About Abuse

Former Kappa Delta Rho member James Vivenzio and his lawyer Aaron Freiwald.

Former Kappa Delta Rho member James Vivenzio and his lawyer Aaron Freiwald.

Did Penn State learn anything in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal?

Not if you believe a lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of James Vivenzio, the 21-year-old whistleblower who told authorities this January that the fraternity Kappa Delta Rho was running a secret Facebook page where members allegedly posted images of nude, unconscious women, drug sales and hazing.

At a Monday press conference about his lawsuit, Vivenzio, a former KDR brother, and his lawyer Aaron Freiwald made a number of stunning allegations about the frat and Penn State. Perhaps the most shocking among them is that Vivenzio said he told university officials about KDR’s alleged Facebook page months before he went to the police, but they did nothing.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement that the university “strongly disputes the allegations in this complaint.”

Here are the details of the suit: Read more »

Officials Prepare for Drop in Grad Rate

empty classroom

We’ve long known that state and local ed officials are concerned about 2017, when a new standardized test — the Keystone Exams — are to be added as a graduation requirement. Now, NPR says, there’s a real fear those tests will drive down the graduation rates in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Statewide, the passage rate so far has been just 54 percent:

Philadelphia, especially, is bracing for a drop in the graduation rate once the testing requirement takes effect.

Right now, the graduation rate in the city is 65 percent. But based on the current scores on these tests, four out of five students in Philadelphia would need to take an alternative route in order to graduate.

Read more »

How Selling Ads Can Save Philly’s School System

luminaimages/Shutterstock

luminaimages/Shutterstock

School Superintendent William Hite needs more money, and we’re all in agreement with him.

City Council has rejected the district’s latest funding plan and remains resistant to Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to increase real estate taxes. Governor Tom Wolf is behind allocating more dollars from Harrisburg to Philadelphia’s schools. Unfortunately, no one is proposing any further cuts to healthcare or pension costs because the unions are too powerful and give too much money to our politicians. Our population has been taxed to the extreme, and more taxes are very, very unpopular. And people living in Western Pennsylvania are understandably not thrilled to watch their hard-earned tax dollars be sucked down the Philly school system vortex. Read more »

The Brief: Stu Bykofsky’s Candidates’ Comedy Night Is Ending

1. Stu Bykofsky’s 25th Candidates’ Comedy Night will be the last.

The gist: For the past two-and-a-half decades, Daily News reporter Stu Bykofsky has convinced city, state and federal candidates to get up on stage and tell jokes for a good cause. (Well, try to tell jokes, at least. With the exception of state Sen. Daylin Leach, few politicians are actually funny.) All of the proceeds from Bykofsky’s Candidates’ Comedy Night go to Variety, a children’s charity. But Bykofsky says that this year’s comedy night on August 11th will be the final act. Bykofsky explained why he is wrapping up the event in an article today: “Let’s start with the truism that all good things must come to an end. It is an immutable fact I cannot do it forever, and 25 years is a mark often used in retirements.” Read more »

Community College of Philadelphia: Average Results for Above-Average Cost

Community College of Philadelphia.

Community College of Philadelphia.

The Community College of Philadelphia is delivering average results at above average prices, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts.

Although CCP students earned associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees (from other institutions) at average or below average rates, it’s the most expensive public community college in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Read more »

Will Council Fund Schools With a Big Parking Tax Hike?

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

[Updated at 4:20 p.m.]

Philadelphia school district officials are asking City Council to pay a huge bill this year. They say they need an extra $103 million, even after lawmakers have voted to increase funding by $376 million over the last four years.

At budget hearings this spring, Council members have scoffed at Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to foot the bill by raising property taxes by 9 percent.

Now, an alternative plan by Council is beginning to take shape. And, after a dark-money group created by parking magnates backed Council candidates who ran against incumbent legislators, it might include a parking tax increase. Read more »

Surprise! Philly’s Commercial Property Taxes Are Pretty Damn Low

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License

Study after study and politician after politician have said that Philadelphia’s taxes are way too high. But a new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence shows that there is at least one exception to that rule.

It found that Philly has among the lowest taxes in the country for small-scale commercial and industrial properties.

Read more »

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