ThinkFest Recap: 3 Takeaways From Jeff Yass on School Vouchers

Jeff Yass is a stock trader in the Philadelphia suburbs. He is a board member of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. He has donated millions of dollars to support Republican and Democratic candidates, including a pro-Tony Williams super PAC in the 2015 mayoral race. And today at Philadelphia magazine’s ThinkFest event, he said he has an idea that can make Philly go from being the poorest big city in the country to the richest. Yeah, he can be a little hyperbolic. But you should still give him a listen. Read more »

Philly Public Schools to Dismiss Early on Friday Due to Heat

Philadelphia School District headquarters

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Classes began on Wednesday, but Philadelphia public school students are already getting a little time off — all district schools will dismiss early on Friday due to heat.

Temperatures are forecast to be 90-plus degrees for the third straight day, and most city schools do not have air conditioning. Nearby cities like Trenton and Reading have closed schools early this week as well. Read more »

Philly Schools Are Retesting Their Drinking Water for Lead

iStockphoto.com | audioundwerbung

iStockphoto.com | audioundwerbung

The Philadelphia School District announced Thursday that it will begin retesting the drinking water in 40 schools throughout the city for lead.

The schools that were chosen are located in neighborhoods where children have been tested with high levels of lead in their blood, or where students attend class in older buildings that have not been renovated in more than 20 years, according to Philly.com Read more »

Philadelphia School District: We’ve Filled 99 Percent of Teacher Vacancies

Photo | It's Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons | Teacher Vacancies

Photo | It’s Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Philadelphia School District superintendent William R. Hite Jr. announced Wednesday that the school district is on track to have all teacher vacancies filled by the start of the school year.

At a news conference at Roxborough High School today, Hite said 99 percent of teacher vacancies have been filled.

Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide to the 2016 Pennsylvania Budget Battle

Clockwise: House Speaker Mike Turzai, Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. | PUT PHOTO CREDIT HERE

Clockwise: House Speaker Mike Turzai, Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. | Photos by Matt Rourke and Chris Knight/AP

It’s budget season once again in Harrisburg. Or more accurately, it’s still budget season. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have been negotiating—and failing to negotiate—over taxes and spending since Wolf laid out his first budget proposal in early 2015.

It took more than a year after the governor gave his first budget address for an actual spending plan to become law, and that only happened without Wolf’s signature. Lawmakers passed last year’s budget nine months after the June 2015 deadline, the longest budget delay in modern Pennsylvania history. And by the time it was settled, Wolf had already proposed his budget for the next year.

Now the due date for a new financial plan is fast approaching. Will state lawmakers meet the deadline? Or will they blow it like last year, leaving school districts and nonprofits across the state in the lurch? Here’s everything you need to know: Read more »

Philly Schools Ordered to Pay $2.3 Million in Discrimination Suit By White Firm

Arlene Ackerman

Former Philadelphia School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

A federal jury has ordered the Philadelphia School District to pay $2.3 million in a discrimination case that involves late superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

The Newtown-based Security & Data Technologies Inc. filed suit in 2012 claiming Ackerman and the school district chose a different company for contracted work because of racial bias.

SDT had started preliminary work on installing surveillance cameras at 19 schools the state had considered “dangerous” as part of a $7.5 million no-bid contract, according to the Inquirer, when Ackerman offered the work to a smaller, minority-owned firm on an emergency contract.

Read more »

Philly Organization Hopes to Recruit 1,000 Black Male Teachers by 2020

black-men-teachers-940x540

Members of The Fellowship pose with Pennsylvania secretary of education Pedro Rivera and State Senator Anthony Williams during a town hall they hosted with U.S. secretary of education John King in January.

A group of local teachers has put together a plan to increase recruitment of black men into the profession.

The Fellowship, a recently founded organization, has already received national attention for its work. Studies have shown that minority students’ performance in the classroom can be enhanced when their teacher is the same race as them. However, according to the organization, having diverse teachers can be beneficial to all students. It can challenge stereotypes that students may have and make them more tolerant.

The group’s motto, “2 percent is not enough,” refers to the fact that just two percent of teachers in America are black men, according to the Department of Education. Only seven percent of total teachers are black, and only eight percent are Latino, compared to 80 percent who are white. Additionally, 3/4 of educators are women nationally. Around five percent of educators are black women, which is also an incredibly small amount. All of this is despite the fact that black students make up nearly 15 percent of the nation’s student body. This means that students everywhere have very little chance of ever having a black man as their teacher. Read more »

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