Back in 2008, just a few months after Arlene Ackerman’s reign as Queen Bee of School District of Philadelphia began, Christopher Akers, seen here in his LinkedIn profile, was hired as the district’s full-time webmaster at a salary of just under $50,000. Well, six years later, Ackerman is gone (as in literally gone: she died in 2013) and Akers is being hauled into Philadelphia’s Federal Court by the cash-strapped district, which is alleging that he spent his taxpayer-funded time there developing apps for his own business. Read more »
Philadelphians exhaled last week when the Pennsylvania House approved a $2-a-pack cigarette tax increase in the city, a move expected to generate up to $170 million. Without that extra money, the district’s schools faced drastic cuts in October. No one was really happy about it. When it looked as if the bill would pass this summer, Newsworks’ Dave Davies wrote the legislative victory was “spectacularly depressing” — but at least it’s a solution for this school year.
It’s not like House Republicans suddenly changed their mind on a cigarette tax that was declared dead in late June and delayed again this July for nothing. A report in the Inquirer this summer detailed the reason many House GOP members flipped: An amendment in the cigarette tax bill allows charter school applicants rejected or ignored by the School Reform Commission a second chance with the state Charter Appeals Board. Previously, they had no avenue to appeal. (See the final version of HB 1177 below; it contains both the cigarette tax language and the charter appeal process.)
Two former Philadelphia school principals have been charged with changing students’ answers on standardized tests in order to boost scores. District Attorney Kathleen Kane announced the arrests of Barbara McCreery, 61, of Philadelphia, and Arthur “Larry” Melton, 70, of Cherry Hill Thursday afternoon.
McCreery, the former principal at Communications Technology High School, is accused of changing answers on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests in 2010. Melton, the former principal at Edward W. Bok Technical High School, is charged with changing answers of a group that was “on the cusp.”
As we told you Tuesday, the cigarette tax to fund Philly schools has finally passed both houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature. Today, we bring you reaction to that news:
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The Pennsylvania House has passed a bill authorizing Philadelphia to levy a cigarette tax for schools. The bill now moves back to the Senate.
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Here we go again: the Pennsylvania House is expected to vote today to give Philadelphia the authority to levy a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund city schools. If approved, the bill goes to the Senate.
The problem? The Senate has approved gas tax authority for Philadelphia — but only in a bill larded down with amendments containing hotel taxes and other tax incentives favored in that chamber. Will the Senate vote for the House’s clean bill?
So the folks who want a public vote on dissolving the School Reform Commission are one step closer to their goal. (Though as the Inquirer pointed out Sunday, any vote is likely to take place in May, not November.)
One’s first instinct is to throw in with the anti-SRC activists: It’s hard to point to gains made under the state’s stewardship of Philly schools since the takeover.
Still, there’s never much point to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. So here’s three questions for the anti-SRC activists:
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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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 »