Philly Activists Fast for Education Funding

Photo Credit: POWER Philadelphia

Photo Credit: POWER Philadelphia

POWER Philly is in Harrisburg for 10 days to pray, fast and meet with state legislators with the hope of getting fair funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools into the state budget, which is supposed to be completed and signed by June 30th.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here fasting and getting involved,” Sheila Armstrong, a POWER activist told Philly Mag this week. “I’m a woman of faith, a Christian, and I told my sons, ‘This is a missionary trip. We are doing God’s work.'” Read more »

5 Questions About the Future of Philly’s Schools

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo  courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

Earlier this year, students made a modest request of City Council. | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council did something Thursday that it’s done a lot in recent years: voted to increase both taxes and education funding. Lawmakers expect to raise an extra $70 million for the city’s schools by hiking the property, parking and use-and-occupancy levies.

So, where does that leave the school district? Somewhat better off than it was before, no doubt. But it’s not out of the woods yet, either. Its future depends on the answers to these five big questions, which we should learn in the coming weeks: Read more »

The Brief: Philly’s Maternal Mortality Rate Is Worse Than Libya’s

shutterstock_205907629

Photo | Shutterstock.com

1. A new report digs into Philadelphia’s extremely high maternal mortality rate.

The gist: The city’s maternal mortality rate is 27.4 per 100,000 births, according to a new study by the Department of Public Health. “The surprising findings for many people was that so many of these tragic deaths were related to social-economic status,” perinatologist Jason Baxter told NewsWorks. Other causes include domestic violence, drug addiction, mental health issues and chronic disease. Read more »

Life at Philly Public Schools: Teachers Make Wiffle Balls Out of Duct Tape

Photo of duct tape and newspaper wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Photo of duct tape and newspaper Wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Philadelphia public school teachers have to get creative sometimes, especially when funds are scarce. Thanks to Reddit, a photo taken by a teacher at a South Philadelphia elementary school is going viral — much to that teacher’s surprise.

“I am frankly amazed!” says Leslie Marie Grace, the art teacher at the George W. Nebinger School at Sixth and Carpenter. “The image has really struck a chord with some people.” Here’s the story behind it:

Read more »

How the Beverage Lobby Quietly Killed the Soda Tax in Philly, Again

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Much in the same way that the best lawyers kill lawsuits before they ever make it to trial, the best lobbyists kill legislation before it is ever introduced.

In Philadelphia, City Councilman Bobby Henon was seriously eyeing a tax on sugary beverages to help fund the financially crippled school district, according to several City Hall insiders. In fact, sources say Henon went to the trouble of drafting up legislation and putting together a plan to promote it. As a lawmaker who has launched anti-childhood obesity initiatives, it was a natural fit.

But when Council unveiled its education funding package last week, it included a hike in parking tax, a boost in real estate taxes, and an increase use-and-occupancy taxes … but no soda tax. Read more »

Insider: How to Stop the Annual School District Vs. City Council Smackdowns

How the School District can turn that frown upside down | Photo Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Monika Shayka and Michael Falconi.

How the School District can turn that frown upside down | Photo Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Monika Shayka and Michael Falconi.

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

This is school advocates’ most dreaded time of the year: city budget season. If there’s one thing all education advocates can agree on, it’s that the process of funding our schools is broken. The timing is all wrong and the discussion always seems to lack substance, directing attention away from what matters. How do we change this?

Council members argue for stronger accountability and transparency – they understandably don’t want to spend more money without guaranteeing something better for families and their constituents. The District reasonably argues for more funding – they need recurring funds to match rising costs, and they have agreed to open their books and provide endless accounting of spending.

What’s missing from the debate is a bridge that would span the divide between Council and the District: specific annual goals to match needed investment. Read more »

The Brief: Millennials Didn’t Vote This Year, Like At All

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

1. Voter turnout among millennials was abysmal in the mayoral election.

The gist: Only 12 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral election, according to newly released data from the City Commissioners office. Millennials make up the largest bloc of registered voters in the city, though you wouldn’t know it on Election Day. As BillyPenn reported, “There are 71,000 more registered millennials than people age 35-to-49, 82,000 more than people age 50-to-64 and 140,000 more than people age 65 and up. And yet those respective age groups beat the millennials in voter turnout by about 20,000, 53,000 and 42,000.” 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 »

The Brief: Unapologetic Bill Hite Presses His Case for More Cash for Schools

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in the Pennsylvania Capitol meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and state legislators seeking funds for Philadelphia Schools during state budget talks Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pa. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in Harrisburg last year. He’s got a whole new funding fight in 2015. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

1. With City Council prepped to short the School District, Superintendent Bill Hite urges politicians not to let the district’s ongoing crisis become the new normal.

The gist: As Citified’s Holly Otterbein first reported, City Council is now considering an array of funding options for the schools that will fall short of the $105 million requested by Hite. Probably well short. Council members have telegraphed this for a while, particularly during last week’s district budget hearings, which were a spectacle. This week, City Council President Darrell Clarke said Hite’s request — which totals $300 million overall, including $200 million from the state — represents a “Cadillac version of what [Hite would] like to see moving forward.”

Hite is pushing back. He told the Inquirer’s editorial board: “I respect Council’s position as the authorizing authority for additional revenue. But I’m the superintendent, which means I have to tell you what it costs to educate children.” Read more »

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