School Boards, Elections, and Philadelphia’s Utterly Failed Democracy

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Maybe democracy in Philadelphia isn’t working so well.

That’s not a novel observation, I realize, but it takes on new urgency with the growing campaign to dissolve the School Reform Commission. What would replace it? Maybe a mayoral-appointed panel — not too different from the SRC, but with more local accountability — but maybe, maybe an elected school board.

You know: One accountable directly to the voters and taxpayers of Philadelphia.

Read more »

Crowdfunding Has Consequences

shutterstock_LOUVRE-940x540

Over two weeks this past summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge poured millions of gallons of frigid water over people’s heads and millions of dollars into the ALS Association’s coffers. (“Coffers”: one of those words used only in writing, never in conversation.) The combination gag phenomenon/act of charity caused a social media tsunami and quadrupled the foundation’s usual fund-raising take, drawing 70,000 new donors to the cause.

I thought about the Ice Bucket Challenge when I read in the New York Times about the “Table of Peace,” a nifty little jewel-bedecked item of 18th-century French furniture (see close-ups here) that made a guest appearance in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way. (Fancy!) The table was in the Times because it’s the latest item the august Louvre is attempting to buy through crowdfunding. Turns out the French government has had to downsize financial support for cultural institutions for two years straight, so the museum launched a campaign to raise a million euros of the $12.5 million euro price tag set by the current owners, the family of the Baron de Breteuil, from the people. (Let them eat cake off of that, amirite?)

Read more »

Philly Schools Shedding Students Faster Than Expected

Philly classrooms aren't quite this empty this fall, but they're shedding students more quickly than expected.

Philly classrooms aren’t quite this empty this fall, but they’re shedding students more quickly than expected.

Philadelphia officials expected there would be fewer students in public schools this fall — but even then they underestimated just how quickly the district would shed students.

“Total enrollment now tallies just under 128,000 instead of the 130,000 officials had been projecting,” The Notebook reports. “That’s a loss of 4,300 students compared to last school year.”

As a result, The Notebook reports, the district is cutting 24 teaching positions immediately — just days after the School Reform Commission canceled its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and imposed terms that requires teachers to contribute payments for their own health care plans.

Read more »

A California Ruling Is More Bad News For Philly Teachers

Philadelphia school district Superintendent William Hite, left, accompanied by Gov. Tom Corbett, speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia school district Superintendent William Hite, left, accompanied by Gov. Tom Corbett, speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Being a Philadelphia school district teacher is not an easy job. And this past week it just got harder. Not only because of yesterday’s decision by the School Reform Commission to terminate the district’s agreement with the teachers union and require teachers to now pay in for their health insurance. It’s also because of a ruling in California.

Per Breitbart last Friday:

In what will be a devastating blow to California public employee unions, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled in the Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy of the City of Stockton that pensions managed by the California Public Employee Retirement System, known as CalPERS, can be cut in bankruptcy “like any other garden variety” unsecured debt. He rejected the unions’ argument that the world’s largest pension fund is an “arm of the state” and that public employee pensions are protected by federal and state laws.

Read more »

What They’re Saying About the School Reform Commission

Protestors demonstrate against the school district's sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. The decision Monday by the School Reform Commission follows nearly two years of stalled negotiations between the district and union.

Protestors demonstrate against the school district’s sudden decision to cancel teachers and others contract and force them to pay health care premiums, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. The decision Monday by the School Reform Commission follows nearly two years of stalled negotiations between the district and union.

A day after the School Reform Commission abruptly and unilaterally ended its contract with the 15,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, there is still plenty being said — a lot of anger, but some support, for the action. An overview:
Read more »

School District Sues Ex-Webmaster Christopher Akers for Fraud, Theft

christopher-akers-lawsuit-school-district-linkedinBack 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 »

Bill That Approved Cigarette Tax Guarantees More Charter Schools in Philadelphia

shutterstock_cigarette-tax-940x540

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.)

Read more »

2 More Philadelphia School Principals Charged with Changing Test Answers

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.”

Read more »

« Older Posts  |  Newer Posts »