Wolf Dumps Green as SRC Chair

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[Updated with comments from Marjorie Neff]

Gov. Tom Wolf has announced he will replace School Reform Commission chairman Bill Green with Marjorie Neff, a fellow SRC member. The decision came a week after the Green-led SRC approved five new charter schools for the district, with Neff as the lone “no” vote.

Green announced Wolf’s action in a Sunday-night press release, followed an hour later by the official announcement from Wolf’s team. Green said he does not believe that Wolf has the legal authority to remove him as chair, and said he would seek a ruling from Commonwealth Court to resolve the matter.

“The School District of Philadelphia is in dire financial straits, and our children are being put at a disadvantage as a result of misguided cuts and poor decisions,” Wolf said in a written statement. “The district was forced to make major cutbacks in transportation, security, and janitorial services just to open on time last year. We must make new investments in education and provide a fresh path forward for Philadelphia’s schools.” Read more »

Nutter Weighs School District’s $103 Million Request

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Staring down a deadline to deliver his own 2016 budget request to City Council, Mayor Nutter is weighing a request from the Philadelphia School District for $103 million in new funds, KYW reports.

Because of that request, Nutter says his budget proposal remains unsettled: “What we’re trying to figure out right now is how to properly and in a sustainable fashion respond to the $103 million request. What would it be, what form would it come in, and do we in fact include that in the budget that gets submitted.”

Nutter is resolute that the requests need to be settled quickly: “The Governor’s budget address is on Tuesday, the 3rd. My budget address is on Thursday, the 5th. So all of this to some extent will be happening in real-time. We’re at a point where we need to address the budgetary request from the School District as early on as possible (and) identify those resources. We will collectively try to figure out how to do that. But there’s no question that the need is great.”

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Here’s What Gene Marks Gets Wrong About Teachers and Snow Days

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Earlier this week, Philadelphia magazine opinion columnist Gene Marks questioned why teachers get snow days. Today, Steve Clark, a teacher and two-time “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia” offers a rebuttal.

Why do teachers get snow days?

The simple answer to this question, Gene, is, well, they don’t get snow days.

No. Really. As Inquirer staff writers Dan Hardy and Larry King informed us, “Every school in Pennsylvania must get in at least 180 instructional days for students.” (It’s in the Pennsylvania public school code.) They precede this by suggesting, “That’s because their districts pad their calendars with a few “snow days” added to the end of the year. That way, everyone knows in advance what will happen if bad weather forces closures, with the extra days canceled if not needed.” But that’s not really fair; I mean, they probably had to Google that or something, and who has the time for that? Certainly not willfully ignorant writers with a shaky soapbox to stand on! You probably had a lot of those Wendy Williams watching, book-reading, overly sleepy teachers, Gene.

But here’s a longer answer to your lowest-common-denominator click bait: Read more »

Mike Turzai “Very Disappointed” Philadelphia SRC Only Approved 5 New Charters

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai says he is “very disappointed” that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Wednesday night to approve only five of 39 new charter school proposals.

The Allegheny County Republican made clear by Thursday morning that the SRC’s vote could have consequences: He says it “makes it tougher” to have a discussion about reinstating the charter reimbursement line item in the state budget.

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Live: SRC to Decide All 39 Philly Charter Applications

[UPDATE] The SRC has approved 5 of 39 new charter school applications — with conditions.

[ORIGINAL] As promised, the School Reform Commission will be deciding on all 39 new Philadelphia charter school applications this afternoon. Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein is on the scene, providing a blow-by-blow account of what’s sure to be a contentious meeting for public school advocates and school reformers. Follow her live coverage, and the #phled conversation, on Twitter below:

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The Brief: What the Mayoral Candidates Are Saying About Charter Expansion

School District of Philadelphia

Today’s the day the Philadelphia School Reform Commission must decide the fate of 39 applications to create new charter schools.

It’s not an easy decision, at least politically: Republican leaders in the state legislature want the SRC to give a thumbs-up many of the applications. Gov. Tom Wolf is reportedly pushing for the SRC to approve none of them. And the nonprofit Philadelphia School Partnership has offered $35 million to the school district if the SRC signs off on enough charters to enroll 15,000 students.

Read more »

Anthony Williams’ Half-Baked Plan for School Funding

Photo Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

Photo Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

When Citified sat down with Sen. Anthony Williams last week for a lengthy interview, we asked him why he hadn’t released an official mayoral platform. It had been two-and-a-half-months since he launched his campaign. He promised his platform would firm up soon.

Sure enough, on Monday, he rolled out the first policy paper, which addresses education funding and accountability. It’s thin.

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Mayoral Candidates Pan $35 Million Offer To Expand Charters

School District of Philadelphia

The School Reform Commission has a tough choice to make: Should it accept the Philadelphia School Partnership’s offer of $35 million? In return for the big check, the PSP wants the SRC to authorize enough new charter schools to enroll up to 15,000 students.

That’s a difficult decision because the district loses money every time a student moves from a traditional public school to a charter. The PSP says the donation is intended to “take the cost issue off the table.” But the offer doesn’t actually do that, as Citified’s Patrick Kerkstra explained last week:

PSP estimates that the district loses about $2,000 every time a student enrolls at a charter school. The district, meanwhile, has been estimating its per-student charter costs as $7,000. That’s quite a delta. The district’s estimate may be wrong, but if not, a $2,000 coupon off a $7,000 expense falls well short of taking the cost issue “off the table.”

That’s an understatement. The district has since estimated it would cost the district a whopping half-billion dollars if 15,000 kids enrolled at new charter schools.

We asked the mayoral candidates last week if they believe the SRC should take the $35 million offer. (For those counting, former City Councilman Jim Kenney released a statement before we asked for one.) Here’s what they had to say:

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