The Inquirer reports on a new study today suggesting the Philadelphia school district performs well when A) considering the staggering size of its need and B) comparative lack of resources to meet those needs: Two Penn profs have found “the district actually does more with its resources than any of its high-poverty peers.”
Of the two big themes that ran through last Saturday’s Philadelphia magazine ThinkFest at the Kimmel Center, improving education is probably the bigger challenge facing our city and region than encouraging entrepreneurship and technological innovation.
And the people who have made it their business to dissect what’s wrong with our elementary and secondary education system in order to set it right went after each other — well, maybe not “went after,” but certainly expressed sharply diverging views — in the panel discussion on education in Philadelphia.
This Tweet is making the rounds today, purportedly a sixth-grader’s poem about lousy school funding in Philly. Wagner Middle School is in North Philly, in the West Oak Lane neighborhood.
— Faye Anderson (@andersonatlarge) November 13, 2013
Most of the time, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey comes off smelling like a rose.
It’s extraordinary, if you think about it. Under his tenure the last few years, the police department has A) settled a lawsuit with the ACLU over its stop-and-frisk policy, B) been the subject of a Pulitzer-winning exposé on a drug unit’s corruption, C) seen a police captain caught on video slugging a woman and still keep his job, D) barely seen a week go without fresh allegations that his officers have stolen money or committed sexual assault or simply been racist, basketball-hoop-toppling jerks.
Yet by all accounts, Ramsey is pretty well-liked in Philadelphia. A 2010 Pew poll put his approval rating at 69 percent — against 11 percent disapproval — and there’s no reason to think that number has moved significantly either way. Why? My guess is that when it comes to the worst traits of the police department, most of us have decided it’s not his fault.
CBS 3 reports: “Mayor Michael Nutter says he’s still somewhat in the dark over Council President Darrell Clarke’s plan to send $50-million to the school district in exchange for the right to sell some vacant district buildings. Nutter wants to know who’s interested in buying them.” Clarke has said 11 developers are interested in buying the buildings.
“I would say that it would help further the process — for both us and the school district — if there are legitimate expressions of interest, or these letters of interest, whoever they are and whatever they might say, is helpful, would be helpful in the process,” said Mayor Nutter. “So we’ll see. At some point in time, they may forward them to us.” Read more »
So now the Philadelphia School District has its $45 million in state aid—and a bit of breathing room. Now what?
The good news is that 400 staffers are being rehired to return to the district’s schools, giving overburdened teachers and principals some much-needed relief in the classrooms and hallways. The bad news? All that does is return the district to something akin to the pre-budget-doomsday status quo—a status quo that, you’ll remember, was filled with low test scores, high dropout rates and precious few students continuing their education in college. The district has spent the last few months just trying to balance the budget; improving the actual education our kids receive has (understandably) been almost nowhere on the agenda.
So, again, now what?
The good news is: Gov. Tom Corbett finally released $45 million the state owed to Philly public schools. The bad news? Lots of damage has been done to Philadelphia schools that could’ve been avoided if he’d just released the money six weeks ago. Morale is horrible. It’s possible a child died because she lacked access to school nurses. Teachers have been stranded with little in the way of assistance.
Hard to believe it’s been four years since Wei Chen emerged into the spotlight, then an 18-year-old senior at South Philly High who had witnessed too much violence against Asian students and decided he wasn’t going to take it anymore. His efforts resulted in new administration at the school and a renewed focus on violence across the district.
The $50,000 fellowship, spread over two years, will allow Chen to focus solely on organizing Asian youth in Philadelphia, forgoing various part-time jobs he’s held in child care and restaurants.
“There are not a lot of resources for [Asian students] to talk about a fight or another issue in their school,” Chen said in an interview Sunday night.
He is an organizer of Asian Americans United in Philadelphia, leading workshops and training at schools that include the history of discrimination and social justice.
Chen emigrated from China when he was 16.
City Council and the Nutter administration are still haggling over how to begin to hire back the thousands of teachers and staff members that were laid off to close a $300 million budget gap. Nutter and Gov. Corbett are proposing extending the city’s 1% sales tax to funnel $50 million to schools immediately. (And $120 million annually by 2015.) Council President Darrell Clarke has argued he wants to see half that revenue go to shore up the city’s pension fund.