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.

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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.”

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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 »

Pew Poll: Philadelphians Are Split on Charter Schools

School District of Philadelphia

Philadelphians say education is the top issue facing the next mayor, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll released Monday. But if you’re looking to find out if they side more with traditional public schools or charters, the survey of more than 1,600 residents doesn’t show a clear winner. In fact, the poll indicates that Philadelphians have a rather nuanced view of the city’s schools.

Here are the major findings of the Pew poll, which was conducted by phone from Jan. 28 to Feb. 19 of this year, and what they could mean for the mayor’s race:

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Two Stats That Show Harrisburg Is Stacking the Deck Against Philly Schools

Dear Sen. Jake Corman:

I’ve been thinking about you lately. Admittedly, I wasn’t too thrilled to see you displace local favorite Dom Pileggi as the majority leader in the Pennsylvania Senate. But you’ve been on my mind ever since you did an interview with NewsWorks and said something kind of nice about Philadelphia.

“As a Republican, we’ve made a living over the years picking on Philadelphia. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” you said. “But we’re as successful as they are. If Philadelphia is a tremendous, thriving city full of opportunity and cultural advances that communities from around the state and around the country want to come see, that’s good for everybody in the state.”

It was so surprising to hear a Pennsylvania legislator say something nice about Philly that I made a big joke of it here at Phillymag.com. But as the legislative year has gotten under way, it’s occurred to me that you might mean what you say — and that you might just be the man to help lead Pennsylvania Republicans down the path of helping the Philadelphia school district finally succeed and thrive — provided you understand exactly the problem that ails it.

And the problem is the poverty. Read more »

PA’s Wealthy School Districts Get Way More Local Cash Than Poor Ones

School District of Philadelphia

School districts across Pennsylvania have felt the impact of state budget cuts and the expiration of federal stimulus dollars over the past few years.

But the money woes of the high-poverty Philadelphia School District have been so extreme that they’ve garnered national attention: Some city schools lack such basics as full-time guidance counselors and nurses.

A new analysis shows that, despite the fact that low-income students come to class with greater needs than their better-off peers, Pennsylvania and its municipalities actually spend less per pupil in the poorest districts than in the richest ones. Way less, actually. According to the Washington Post, “In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.”

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Diaz: Replace SRC With Parent-Led Board

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Photo from Diaz's Facebook page.

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Photo from Diaz’s Facebook page.

Mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz is proposing to scrap the School Reform Commission and replace it with a parent-led school board to make major decisions for the Philadelphia school district.

Diaz pitched the idea at a meeting of Pennsylvania House Democrats Monday at Warren G. Harding Middle School, NewsWorks reports. Read more »

Green Won’t Challenge Wolf’s SRC Decision

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from the SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green said this afternoon he will not mount a legal challenge to Gov. Wolf’s dismissal of him as chair of the School Reform Commission, saying he did not want to undermine support for the Philadelphia School District. But he said he still believes Wolf overstepped his authority in removing him from the chair and replacing him with fellow SRC member Marjorie Neff.

“Lawsuits can wait,” Green said in a press release. “Harmony needs to prevail.” Read more »

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