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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SRC to Rule on All 39 New Charter Applications at Special Meeting

Philadelphia School District Building

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The School Reform Commission has scheduled a special meeting to approve or reject each of 39 applications to start new charter schools in Philadelphia.

The February 18th meeting is bound to be controversial: Public school advocates say new charter schools draw resources away from public schools, making it harder for students in those schools to succeed. The Philadelphia School Partnership has offered to give the district $35 million to ease the costs of approving new charters, as school reform proponents say Philly schools have already failed students, who deserve a chance to choose an education that better fits their needs. Skeptics say that money covers only a fraction of the money the district will lose.

The meeting will be 3:30 p.m. on February 18th at Philadelphia School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.
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Parents Group to Host Anti-Testing Seminar at School District HQ

The controversy over standardized testing will be fought Tuesday at Philadelphia School District headquarters.

That’s where the Philadelphia Home and School Council will host a seminar teaching parents of their rights to opt-out of standardized tests — an event that comes a week after six teachers in Feltonville said they’d been threatened with discipline for giving parents information on how to opt their children out of standardized testing. (The teachers said Thursday a scheduled conference about the potential discipline had been postponed.)

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These Are the 88 Philly Schools Boston Consulting Group Recommended Closing

School District of Philadelphia

Education activist Helen Gym and a group of civil rights lawyers have won a two-and-a-half-year battle to get their hands on a secret report by consultants on proposed school closures.

The Public Interest Law Center and Parents United for Public Education, which Gym co-founded, first tried, and failed, to obtain the report by the Boston Consulting Group from the school district in 2012. When the state’s Office of Open Records ruled that the district had to release it, the district appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. The district lost, and appealed again to the Commonwealth Court.

On January 20th, the district finally decided to hand over the report and withdraw its appeal. Gym writes in The Notebook that it was quite revealing:

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Should the School District Declare Bankruptcy?

Not long ago, it was rare, almost unthinkable, for cities and school districts to declare bankruptcy. Even when they did it wasn’t a panacea. Sure debt was restructured, creditors were put at bay for a while. But towns didn’t get to wipe the ledger clean and start afresh just by declaring bankruptcy.

Then came Detroit. After the city declared bankruptcy in 2013, the court eliminated $7 billion Detroit’s debt in one fell swoop. The city was authorized to borrow a fresh $1.4 billion to invest in city services. Pensioners made out pretty well. And there are now credible reasons to think the city is recovering, at least a little.

Sure would be dreamy if the School District of Philadelphia could do the same, right? Whoosh, $1.45 billion in debt payments over the next five years wiped away just like that. There’d be an extra $276 million this year alone. As Larry Platt at the Philadelphia Citizen writes, that’s enough to “hire roughly 1,000 more teachers and provide each student with an iPad.” Read more »

Council Members Back Testing “Revolt”

There’s a “revolt” against standardized testing under way in Philly, and some members of the City Council are backing it.

Seventeen percent of students at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences have opted out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and other standardized tests, City Paper reports. Council members María Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla and Jannie Blackwell have now backed those efforts.

“Until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville,” Quiñones-Sánchez said in a statement backing the protests. “We stand with families who are making the choice they believe is best for their children.”

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INSIDE TAKE: Time for Real Talk on Charters

What does MaST have that Disston doesn't?

What does MaST have that Disston doesn’t?

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
(Note: This story has been updated to correct an editing error in the graphic that misidentified the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at MaST. For a Citified factcheck on one of Saltz’s central assertions, click here.)

“Our neighborhood public school is just horrendous on every scale of measurement.” This truism, proclaimed with the same certainty as the “the sun rises in the East” or “the Sixers turn the ball over,” leads off a Daily News article previewing what could be a new charter school boom in Philadelphia. Read more »

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