Mayoral Front-Runner Anthony Williams: “I’m Not Machiavellian”

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

State Sen. Anthony Williams is the consensus front-runner and the top fundraiser in the Philadelphia mayor’s race. But what does he stand for?

Citified sat down with him for a 35-minute interview to find out. This is the second part of the Q&A; the first half ran Sunday. Our questions have been paraphrased and Williams’s responses have been edited lightly for clarity.

Citified: You said you would change the city’s tax structure as mayor. How? Are you a Paul Levy guy? The Center City District CEO’s proposal is to shift Philadelphia’s tax burden away from business and wage taxes and onto property taxes.

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Education Firebrand Helen Gym Lands Big Union Endorsement, Donation for Council

HELEN-GYM-alex-hogan-flickr-940x540

It’s official: The firebrand education activist Helen Gym says she is running for Democratic City Council At-Large in the May 19th primary.

Though she hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, she’s already got one major endorsement under her belt: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ executive board voted Thursday to support her.

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These Are the 88 Philly Schools Boston Consulting Group Recommended Closing

School District of Philadelphia

Education activist Helen Gym and a group of civil rights lawyers have won a two-and-a-half-year battle to get their hands on a secret report by consultants on proposed school closures.

The Public Interest Law Center and Parents United for Public Education, which Gym co-founded, first tried, and failed, to obtain the report by the Boston Consulting Group from the school district in 2012. When the state’s Office of Open Records ruled that the district had to release it, the district appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. The district lost, and appealed again to the Commonwealth Court.

On January 20th, the district finally decided to hand over the report and withdraw its appeal. Gym writes in The Notebook that it was quite revealing:

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Will District Slap Anti-Testing Teachers?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Teachers at a Philadelphia school say they face discipline from the school district for helping parents opt their children out of standardized tests.

Kelley Collings, a teacher at Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, said Monday she is one of a half-dozen teachers called to an “investigatory conference” on the matter, scheduled for Thursday. Collings is also on the steering committee of the Caucus of Working Educators, which helped organize the effort to help students and their families opt out of the tests.

The nature of the accusation against the teachers is unclear, Collings said, but she said the district is attempting to “instill fear” in educators who resist the testing regime. “I’ve never been written up, and I’ve been doing this 15 years,” she said.

Officials at the Philadelphia School District did not respond to inquiries on the topic.

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Philly Schools: Worse than Detroit?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

You know the School District of Philadelphia is strapped–in a big way–for cash. You’ve heard the stories about the lack of counselors and nurses; the $160 budget for a 400-kid elementary school in Germantown. Then there’s the cigarette tax, the sales tax, the property tax increases. Part of the reason for the mess is easy to identify: Pennsylvania is one of only three states that do not use a comprehensive school-finance formula to distribute state education funding to individual districts.

But a new report (see below) from the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative puts the district’s financial struggles into an alarming national context, and shows that city schools are underfunded not just compared to wealthy suburban districts, but to peer cities as well. Indeed, the School District of Philadelphia has less to spend on classroom instruction per kid than even other high poverty cities, like Cleveland, Baltimore and Detroit. (Full disclosure: I’m working with Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative on an unrelated project.)

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INSIDE TAKE: Six Predictions for City Schools in 2015

School District of Philadelphia(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

Reading the big headlines, 2014 seemed like another rough year for Philadelphia’s schools, but we shouldn’t forget that some positive things happened too. With a new governor and a mayoral race, 2015 will bring a lot of debate and new ideas. Here are a few predictions for Philly school watchers:

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INSIDE TAKE: Standardized Testing Isn’t Worth It

It's not like this.

It’s not like this.

(Editor’s note: This column is the first of many to come from Citified insiders, our roster of urban doers, experts and advocates who will offer their takes on a wide array of issues, from schooling to policing to politicking. Insiders are not Phillymag staff, and their opinions are their own. Read more about our insiders here.)

I’m cranky this week.

I spend a lot of time trying to make my classroom, Room 207 at the Paul Robeson High School for Human Services, welcoming. I have my contact information in four places. I bought comfortable chairs. I decorate with seemingly important quotes and song lyrics, I post student work, I use bright colors.  I shake hands and give high-fives at my doorway. I’ve developed a reputation for preaching, in a secular way of course, the gospel of being in class, on time (“You can’t say TGIF if you don’t have a job, and you won’t have a job without succeeding in the classroom”). Read more »

Protesters Invade Penn President’s Party

Protesters took over Penn President Amy Gutmann’s holiday party Monday night, demonstrating in support of Philly schools and with recent events in Ferguson and New York on their mind.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports the activists want Penn to pay a $6.6 million payment in lieu of taxes — known as a PILOT — to the school district. Penn is a tax-exempt institution.

The students, who were members of Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation and SLAP, first laid on the ground for four and a half minutes in memory of Michael Brown, the Ferguson teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer. Caught off guard, Gutmann joined the protesters, lying down on the ground to participate in the “die-in.”
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5 Reasons Philadelphia Should Be Thankful

And the No. 1 reason to be thankful...

And the No. 1 reason to be thankful…

It’s Thanksgiving Week! That means — it addition to some well-deserved time off for most of us — it’s time to actually contemplate what makes us thankful. Let me offer five suggestions for Philadelphia in 2014:

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