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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People Power in Philadelphia

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I’m so proud of my city.

Do we say that enough in Philadelphia? Outside of the Philly Love Notes blog, probably not often enough. But every once in a while, something happens that reveals the underlying character of the city’s population — and we sometimes surprise ourselves when that something is good.

Well, that something happened this week.

Here’s what happened. The state’s Basic Education Funding Committee came to town for two days of hearings. It had a lot of people on the schedule: Mayor Nutter. Superintendent William Hite. Experts from Penn and Temple. School choice advocates. A real array of the city’s smartest and best-known officials.

Not on the schedule? Parents.

Not on the schedule? Students.

The Basic Education Funding Commission wanted to come to town and hear from just about everybody except the people who are most directly affected by the inadequacies in how we fund our schools.

Crazy, right?

Well, Philadelphia didn’t let that stand.

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Philly Officials Make Case for More School Funding

The Basic Education Funding Commission during a hearing earlier this year.

The Basic Education Funding Commission during a hearing earlier this year.

A parade of Philadelphia officials made the case for greater state education funding Tuesday, the first of two days of hearings held here by the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission. “What our children experience in Philadelphia schools would never be tolerated in other districts,” one principal told the commission.

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Funding Commission, Activists Reach Accord

The state’s Basic Education Funding Commission has decided it might be worth getting some public input, after all.

POWER, the Philadelphia faith-based activist group, said today it was calling off plans to protest at the commission’s two-day meeting in Philadelphia this week, after the commission agreed to begin offering public comment sessions at all its future meetings. Previously, a spokesman for the commission said that only “expert” testimony from officials was needed — precluding the comments of parents, teachers, and other interested parties.

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Are State and Federal Exams Dragging Down Philly Schools?

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With funding battles likely to rage in City Hall this week, City Council appears prepared to open another front in the battle over public education in Philly — this time, the target is the growing burden of standardized testing on public schools.

The council’s Committee on Education will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether to hold hearings on the growing burden of standardized tests required by state and federal authorities, and whether they ultimately harm or help the education received by Philadelphia students.

“What are we sacrificing, education-wise, for all these required tests?” asked Sean McMonagle, legislative aide to Councilman Mark Squilla, who introduced the resolution calling for hearings.

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Ed Funding Committee Will Meet at City Hall

We noted earlier today that the Basic Education Funding Commission  planned to meet two days in Philadelphia this week — but that the commission had not publicized where, apparently deciding to honor the increasingly popular tradition of state politicians visiting Philadelphia to talk about education while trying desperately to avoid actual Philadelphians.

Well, we have a “where” now: The folks at POWER — which is planning to make its members heard whether the commission seeks their testimony or not — tell us that Day One of the meeting, at least, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Mayor’s Reception Room, Room 202 at City Hall.

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Ed Funding Committee to Meet in Philadelphia

The Basic Education Funding Commission during a hearing earlier this year.

The Basic Education Funding Commission during a hearing earlier this year.

The Notebook reports that the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission will meet in Philadelphia two days this week — Tuesday and Wednesday — but that the commission seems interested only in hearing from official sources.

Mayor Nutter, Superintendent William Hite, School Reform Commission chair Bill Green, and District chief financial officer Matt Stanski will testify on Tuesday; Wednesday witnesses will include a number of local charter school operators. Other witnesses will include David Rubin, a Penn researcher on foster children; Mark Gleason of the pro-school-choice Philadelphia School Partnership; and Temple University president Neil Theobold.

As The Notebook points out, however, there will be no “parents, students, and front-line school workers” testifying.
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ThinkFest: William Hite on the State of Philly Schools and America’s “Dirty Little Secret”

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People who ask if money spent on Philly education is being wasted don’t ask the same question about richer suburban school districts, Philly School Superintendent William Hite said Friday during an appearance on the ThinkFest Main Stage.

Hite referenced the Lower Merion school district, which spends $10,000 more per pupil than Philadelphia, before mentioning a discussion he recently had with M. Night Shyamalan, the director and author of a book about education reform.

“I’m quoting him: ‘You know, I’m going to share a dirty little secret: America is racist,'” Hite said.

“There’s no one else that’s reduced its workforce by the amount that we’ve reduced, there’s no one else that’s closed the schools that we’ve closed — not even on a percentage basis,” Hite added. “If we’re going to talk about waste in Philadelphia, let’s talk about waste everywhere else.”

Three other takeaways:
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State Test Scores Out, Central Falls 300 Places in Rankings

Just in time for it to not be a factor in the gubernatorial election, the state has released its annual school performance scores. The school results had been delayed until after the election, though the state says it was for accuracy reasons.

The results are sobering. Central High School, which last year was named the second highest-scoring school in the state, fell three hundred places to 302nd. That seems quite weird — were last year’s seniors the smartest class in Central history? The top school in the state was Downingtown STEM. Central Bucks High School East and Lower Merion’s Merion Elementary in Montgomery County were the No. 2 and No. 3 highest-scoring schools in Pennsylvania.

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Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools to Sue Bill Green, SRC Over Teacher Contracts

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Almost one month after Bill Green and his controversial School Reform Commission voted unanimously and unilaterally to cancel the labor contract for the approximately 15,000 teachers in the Philadelphia public school system, it looks like the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools and schools activist Lisa Haver, one of the founders of the alliance, are taking Green, the SRC and the School District of Philadelphia to court. Read more »

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