Remembering Edward Robinson, Philadelphia’s Great Champion of African Consciousness

A version of this article was published shortly after Robinson’s death in 2012.

Edward Wesley Robinson. Photo | drrobinson.org

Edward Wesley Robinson. Photo | drrobinson.org

The birth of Edward Wesley Robinson Jr. on April 24, 1918, in Philadelphia laid the foundation for the birth of African consciousness — and the academic excellence of black students — in Philadelphia’s school district. Robinson, who died at age 94 on June 13, 2012, was a historian, educator, professor, author, documentarian, filmmaker, and curriculum specialist who attended Central High School, Virginia State College for Negroes (now Virginia State University), Temple University School of Law, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Robinson said that “Never during all my years in America’s best elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, high schools, colleges, and post-graduate schools was I ever taught anything about the huge body of information concerning the beauty, grandeur, and sophistication of Kemet (i.e., ancient Egypt) or the Songhai Empire. I was mis-educated. Fortunately, though, I was later rescued from cultural and intellectual oblivion by the intervention of my ancestors.” That rescue is quite obvious, and he wrote such books as Journey of the Songhai People and Twas the Night Before KwanzaaRead more »

Selfie Sex-Ed: Should High Schools Teach Sexting Risks?

Sexting

According to a long-term study by researchers at the University of Texas, sexting may actually be a normal part of sexual development among teens.

As provocative as that sounds, I think it’s probably true. And — as exaggerated and semi-Puritan as this sounds — it’s also true that sexting can completely ruin a teenager’s life.

A girl who shares an intimate photo with her boyfriend can be charged with a summary offense in Pennsylvania. He can face charges for having the images, too.  Read more »

Many More Philly Students Are Opting Out of State Exams

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

It would appear the opt-out movement has momentum: Philadelphia School District officials said this week that the families of 486 students in grades 3 through 8 have asked to be excused from taking standardized tests — a dramatic increase over the mere 20 who opted out last year.

That growth is “remarkable,” said Kelley Collings, a teacher and activist with the Caucus of Working Educators who has helped lead efforts to encourage Philadelphia parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

“The numbers are still growing,” she said via email. “As more parents and students understand they have the right to opt out, word is spreading.” Read more »

Darrell Clarke: Fund Philly Schools By Cracking Down on Tax Deadbeats

Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr

Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

A Philadelphia lawmaker has a plan to fund the city’s schools and crack down on tax deadbeats at the same time.

City Council President Darrell Clarke introduced a bill Thursday that would expand the local government’s ability to sell liens on commercial properties.

He says it could raise “millions of dollars” annually for Philadelphia’s schools. He did not provide a more specific figure.

Read more »

Jim Kenney’s Complicated History with School Vouchers

Photo Credit | Matt Rourke, AP

The Philadelphia teachers union announced last month that it is backing former City Councilman Jim Kenney in the mayor’s race.

“His years of consistent support for traditional public schools and educators, and his vision for a better Philadelphia for every child make him the clear choice,” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Nearly 20 years ago, though, Kenney would likely have had a hard time wooing the PFT. In 1996, the young Democratic Councilman wanted to strike a deal with then-Republican Gov. Tom Ridge to obtain more funding for the city’s schools in exchange for something that is anathema to teachers unions: a voucher system, which would allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to pay for tuition at private and parochial schools.

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Council to Nutter: Find Your $105 Million Somewhere Else

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

Close, but no cigar, Mayor Michael Nutter.

That was the general message from Council members at their hearing Tuesday on Nutter’s five-year fiscal plan, the first budget hearing of the season.

Lawmakers said they expect to provide additional money to the city’s cash-starved school district, but not in the way the mayor has suggested. In response to a request from school officials for an extra $103 million, Nutter has proposed raising property taxes by 9 percent in order to send slightly more than that, $105 million, to the district.

Read more »

Council Skeptical of School Funding Plan

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The City Council will begin two months of budget hearings today — with the biggest question being whether it will approve Mayor Nutter’s request to raise $103 million in new city funding for public schools.

The increase would be funded by a 9.3-percent hike on property taxes — and so far, KYW reports, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm.

Councilman Bill Greenlee doubts the Mayor’s plan will fly.

“A lot of us — and I’m one — feel that this almost 10-percent real estate tax increase is probably not the best way to go at this point,” said Greenlee. “Obviously there will be a lot of questions, and we got a lot of decisions to make.”

So over the ensuing weeks and months, expect City Council members to pitch their own alternative methods of raising that cash, including potential cuts to city services.

“I think there’s a combination of things that we could do that would help us generate recurring revenue, without looking at the property (tax) increase as the only option,” says Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez. “I think Council, as it has done in the last five years, we’re going to discuss all those options, discuss them with the Administration, and end up somewhere.”

Read more »

How Trauma Overwhelms Philly Schoolkids

Photo illustration | Alyse Moyer. Photos | Shutterstock.com

Photo illustration | Alyse Moyer. Photos | Shutterstock.com

During the 18 years he was a counselor at Barratt Middle School in South Philadelphia, Steven Hymans became accustomed to seeing students arrive for classes traumatized beyond their years.

“There were so many homicides in the neighborhood,” Hymans said recently. “In my 18 years at the middle school, I saw a lot of trauma, a lot of neglect. I did so much grief counseling while I was there.” Read more »

SRC Aims for $2.86 Billion Budget in 2016

The School Reform Commission on Thursday adopted a $2.86 billion “lump sum” budget for the 2015-16 school year, providing the fiscal outlines for leaders as they begin to work on the details of that budget.

The outline — approved unanimously by the commission — assumes that the state and city will step forward with a combined $264 million in new revenues for the year, officials said — subtract an $80 million deficit now expected during the school year and the city’s public schools would still be left $180 million with which to make new investments. But individual schools are being told for now to create a “status quo” budget in case those funds don’t materialize. Read more »

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