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.

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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 »

Why Pa.’s New School Funding Formula Is Still Unfair and Unconstitutional

Photo by Christopher Futcher/iStock

Photo by Christopher Futcher/iStock

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Michael Churchill. Churchill is a staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia.)

While politicians and advocates are celebrating the legislature’s passage last week of a student-based, fair formula for distributing new school funds, it is important to understand this reality: Our school funding system is as unconstitutional today as it was last week. Read more »

Philly Schools Plan to Recognize Two Muslim Holidays

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

Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite announced today that the district will start recognizing two Muslim holidays. | Photo by Bradley C. Bower/AP

The Philadelphia School District is planning to add two major Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, to its calendar starting in the 2017-18 school year.

District officials, City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., and the Philadelphia Eid Coalition unveiled the news Tuesday. “I’m honored and proud to announce that the school district fully intends to honor the Eid celebrations for the many Muslim students and staff that celebrate these holidays,” said Superintendent William Hite in a statement. Read more »

A Second-Grader Brought a Loaded Glock to School Today

iStockphoto.com | RonBailey

iStockphoto.com | RonBailey

A second grade student at Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter found a surprise in his book bag when he got to school this morning: a fully-loaded Glock.

A police source told Philadelphia magazine that a relative allegedly stuck the weapon in the little boy’s bag for reasons that are thus far unclear. The child didn’t realize the weapon was lurking in his school bag until he got into his classroom.  Read more »

Activists: Uber and Lyft Tax Should Fund Philly Schools, Not the PPA

Hannah Sassaman of the Media Mobilizing Project address the Parking Authority. Photo by Jared Brey.

Hannah Sassaman of the Media Mobilizing Project addresses the Parking Authority. | Photo by Jared Brey

Public school advocates packed the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s monthly board meeting on Tuesday to question a change in a state bill that would allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Philadelphia — and drive a guaranteed fee to the PPA with little or nothing left for the school district.

Philly Mag reported on Monday that the state bill was initially written so that the school district and PPA would share a 1 percent tax on ride-sharing revenues, with two-thirds going to the district and one-third to the PPA. But a version approved by a state House committee earlier in May changed those provisions so that the PPA would be guaranteed a $2 million yearly fee from each of the largest ride-sharing companies, while the schools would get a portion of what’s left over. According to current estimates of how much revenue the tax would generate, it’s unlikely that there would be much, if any, money left for the schools.

“There is no place in this world wherein a new revenue stream should go to the Parking Authority ahead of the school district,” Councilwoman Helen Gym told the board Tuesday morning. Read more »

“Tax” on Uber and Lyft Would Actually Be a $4 Million Windfall to the PPA

uber-PPA-940x540First it looked like it was for the kids, and now it looks like it’s for the Parking Authority.

A bill in the state Senate that would allow alternative taxi services like Uber and Lyft to operate legally was initially written so that the tax revenue the services generated in Philly would be split between the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the Philadelphia School District, with two thirds of the money going to education. But the bill, which was approved by the state House Committee on Consumer Affairs earlier this month, has undergone an obscure but meaningful change. In the current version, PPA is guaranteed $4 million in revenue from Uber and Lyft before the schools can collect a dime. Read more »

Helen Gym Calls for Investigation of School Police Use of Force

Stills from the original video posted on Facebook by the Philadelphia Student Union.

Stills from the original video posted on Facebook by the Philadelphia Student Union.

Councilwoman Helen Gym sent a letter on Tuesday to the School District and the School Reform Commission calling for an investigation of an incident at Benjamin Franklin High School last week in which a student accused a school police officer of assault. The officer was filmed restraining the student, sparking condemnation on social media. A spokesman for the District told Philly Mag last week that the incident is being investigated, and that the officer had been reassigned.  Read more »

Council: Why Did $1.3 Million for School Nurses Go Unspent?

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

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

The Philadelphia School District has a modest fund balance this year, meaning for the first time in recent memory it spent less money than it budgeted.

But that’s the result of “bad savings,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said during City Council’s hearings on the District’s budget Tuesday. It’s not that the district just managed its money well; instead, it failed to spend budgeted money on basic services, Gym said. That includes a gap of $1.3 million budgeted but not spent on school nurses, $4 million on maintenance and repair, and $2 million on special education bus attendants. In all, the district saved $65 million through staff vacancies and deferred maintenance, Gym pointed out. Read more »

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