Philly Cigarette Tax Moves Closer to Approval

A legislative spokesman passes along the following:

Just wanted to provide a quick update on where things stand with Philly schools. House Bill 1177, which contains the Philly $2-pack cigarette tax, was just voted out of the House Rules Committee by an overwhelming majority. The bill was also amended and stripped of all language related to the CRIZ and hotel taxes. It is now a “clean bill” that can be voted on the PA House floor in 24 hours.

At this point, we expect that the House will pass the bill tomorrow and it will be considered by the PA Senate early next week.

So far so good. Now comes the tough part.
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Paris Hilton’s $13,000 Dog Purchase Could Have Bought 315 Books for Philadelphia School Students

Paris Hilton (via Shutterstock)

Paris Hilton (via Shutterstock)

Last week, our own Victor Fiorillo reported on a crowdfunding campaign being conducted by a AP History teacher at Philadelphia High School for Girls to purchase books for the cash-starved district. We’ve been told the teacher, Mr. Mark Hoey, has reached his goal via the generosity of strangers on the internet.

But what if Paris Hilton helped? Read more »

Parents Sue Over Philadelphia School Conditions

harrisburg-capital-940

Seven Philadelphia parents and the Parents United for Public Education group are suing over the conditions of Philadelphia’s public schools. The petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

In the suit, to be filed against acting Pennsylvania education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, the parents say the state has failed in its constitutional mandate to “receive and investigate allegations of curriculum deficiencies.” Parents United says it delivered 825 complaints about school conditions to Dumaresq that were not followed up on.

Per the lawsuit, the allegations included “overcrowded classrooms, the lack of classes such as art, music, foreign language and physical education, cancelled programs for the mentally gifted, the absence of facilities such as libraries or school materials such as textbooks that resulted in loss of instruction for students, shortages of staff … and unsafe or unsanitary conditions that interfered with students’ ability to respond to the curriculum.”

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City Picking Up the Pace on Tax Collection

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

For the first time since Mayor Nutter took office, the City of Philadelphia made significant, measurable progress over the past 18 months in its long-running fight against the property tax delinquency epidemic.

The total debt owed the city and School District of Philadelphia in unpaid property taxes fell over the past year, edging down $10 million between April 2013 and April 2014, according to a Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly analysis of city tax data. The total number of property tax deadbeats declined as well, dipping about 1,400 over the same period.

To be sure, the gains are modest given the massive scale of property tax delinquency in Philadelphia; nearly 96,000 delinquent parcels and $512 million owed, figures that dwarf those in all other big cities except Detroit.

But it’s notable nonetheless that the city managed to stop — for a time at least — the spread of tax delinquency (the epidemic has grown quickly in most years of the Nutter administration), and more notable still that the city is now reducing the total amount owed.

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Casey Backs Bill to Increase School Nurses

The same day that Philly schools opened with a shortage of nurses — and a week after the district was sued over a death blamed, in part, on a similar shortage last year — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has announced his support for a federal bill that will help increase the number of school nurses available in big city districts like Philadelphia.

Under the NURSE Act, “school districts across the state where the ratio of nurses to students is greater than 1 nurse per 750 students would be eligible to apply for grants,” his office announced. “High need districts, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, would receive preference in the process.”
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School District Sued in Asthma Death

Philadelphia School District Building

The estate of the sixth-grade girl who died after suffering an asthma attack last fall at a Philadelphia school has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district, the city, and the school, saying their policy decisions and in-the-moment negligence were responsible for her death.

Laporshia Massey died in September 2013, in the midst of a budget showdown between the state and the school district — no school nurse was on hand when her attack began during the day at Bryant Elementary School. Her family quickly suggested the death was due to a lack of a nurse at the school (an investigation said the father may have also played a role), and within weeks Gov. Tom Corbett signed over money due to the district. Corbett is not named in the suit. (See the full lawsuit below.)

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Mom Testifies About Abduction of Daughter From Philly School

The mother of a girl kidnapped from a Philadelphia school in 2013 testified today in the trial of the woman accused of committing the crime.

Christina Regusters, 21, is accused of dressing up in Muslim attire to disguise her appearance, signing the girl out of class before the end of the school day at Bryant Elementary School, then sexually assaulting the girl overnight. The girl was found next day, abandoned on a wintertime playground wearing nothing but a shirt.

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