The Brief: Every Philly School May Soon Have a Counselor

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

1. An arbitrator has decided that Philadelphia must have at least one full-time counselor per school.

The gist: That’s because the school district’s contract with the teachers union stipulates that all schools must have one. NewsWorks reports that arbitrator Ralph Colflesh also ruled in the union’s favor on other matter:

An independent arbitrator has ruled against the Philadelphia School District for not taking seniority into account when rehiring laid-off school counselors in 2013.

Facing a large budget shortfall in the summer of 2013, the school district furloughed all guidance counselors.

As school began, and additional funding came through, many were hired back, but without regard for seniority.

Following a union complaint, arbitrator Ralph Colflesh has now ruled against that action — saying that the district must provide back pay for those more senior counselors bypassed by the district.

The district, however, says it is going to appeal the decision.

Read more »

Insider: Beware the Creation of a “Roid-Rage SRC”

All looks well from up here. |

All looks well from up here. |

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

If State Sen. Scott Wagner didn’t exist, school advocates might have to invent him.

At a budget hearing, he argued Pennsylvania should lay-off 18,000 teachers because “we’d never miss them.” Where did he get his school funding expertise? At an altitude of a couple thousand feet. Back in May, Wagner chartered a private helicopter, flew it over a couple schools in some well-funded districts, and then declared that most schools are really more like the “Taj Mahal.

He also compared teachers unions to Hitler and Putin. When you are betting on crazy, might as well go all-in.

Here’s your budget update: Though Harrisburg Republicans have finally acknowledged that common denominators are a thing and signed onto a more equitable school funding formula, they have not consented to significant new money for education. This provoked a rare show of Philadelphia unity. Last week, Superintendent Hite, Jerry Jordan of the PFT, City Council President Darrell Clarke, and the charter lobby spoke together in support of new school funding.

These leaders would have us believe that the battle lines are clean. Counties like Wagners’ are arrayed against cities like Philadelphia. That’s mostly true. But the Montgomery-Burns-types like Wagner can only succeed because too many Philadelphia officials insist on playing the hapless Smithers. Read more »

GOP Budget Falls Short of Philly Schools Request

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the GOP-led legislature’s state budget Tuesday night, in part, he said, because it would set aside far less education funding than he believes is fair.

How much less?

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia School District asked state lawmakers for an extra $206 million. The Republican bill would have provided only an additional $21.8 million to the school district, according to data from Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher. That’s about 11 percent of the surplus funding that district officials said they need. Read more »

Philly Activists Fast for Education Funding

Photo Credit: POWER Philadelphia

Photo Credit: POWER Philadelphia

POWER Philly is in Harrisburg for 10 days to pray, fast and meet with state legislators with the hope of getting fair funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools into the state budget, which is supposed to be completed and signed by June 30th.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here fasting and getting involved,” Sheila Armstrong, a POWER activist told Philly Mag this week. “I’m a woman of faith, a Christian, and I told my sons, ‘This is a missionary trip. We are doing God’s work.'” Read more »

5 Questions About the Future of Philly’s Schools

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo  courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

Earlier this year, students made a modest request of City Council. | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council did something Thursday that it’s done a lot in recent years: voted to increase both taxes and education funding. Lawmakers expect to raise an extra $70 million for the city’s schools by hiking the property, parking and use-and-occupancy levies.

So, where does that leave the school district? Somewhat better off than it was before, no doubt. But it’s not out of the woods yet, either. Its future depends on the answers to these five big questions, which we should learn in the coming weeks: Read more »

The Brief: Philly’s Maternal Mortality Rate Is Worse Than Libya’s


Photo |

1. A new report digs into Philadelphia’s extremely high maternal mortality rate.

The gist: The city’s maternal mortality rate is 27.4 per 100,000 births, according to a new study by the Department of Public Health. “The surprising findings for many people was that so many of these tragic deaths were related to social-economic status,” perinatologist Jason Baxter told NewsWorks. Other causes include domestic violence, drug addiction, mental health issues and chronic disease. Read more »

Life at Philly Public Schools: Teachers Make Wiffle Balls Out of Duct Tape

Photo of duct tape and newspaper wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Photo of duct tape and newspaper Wiffle balls by Leslie Marie Grace. For the original image, which shows more of the balls, go here.

Philadelphia public school teachers have to get creative sometimes, especially when funds are scarce. Thanks to Reddit, a photo taken by a teacher at a South Philadelphia elementary school is going viral — much to that teacher’s surprise.

“I am frankly amazed!” says Leslie Marie Grace, the art teacher at the George W. Nebinger School at Sixth and Carpenter. “The image has really struck a chord with some people.” Here’s the story behind it:

Read more »

How the Beverage Lobby Quietly Killed the Soda Tax in Philly, Again

Much in the same way that the best lawyers kill lawsuits before they ever make it to trial, the best lobbyists kill legislation before it is ever introduced.

In Philadelphia, City Councilman Bobby Henon was seriously eyeing a tax on sugary beverages to help fund the financially crippled school district, according to several City Hall insiders. In fact, sources say Henon went to the trouble of drafting up legislation and putting together a plan to promote it. As a lawmaker who has launched anti-childhood obesity initiatives, it was a natural fit.

But when Council unveiled its education funding package last week, it included a hike in parking tax, a boost in real estate taxes, and an increase use-and-occupancy taxes … but no soda tax. Read more »

Insider: How to Stop the Annual School District Vs. City Council Smackdowns

How the School District can turn that frown upside down | Photo Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Monika Shayka and Michael Falconi.

How the School District can turn that frown upside down | Photo Copyright of the Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Monika Shayka and Michael Falconi.

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

This is school advocates’ most dreaded time of the year: city budget season. If there’s one thing all education advocates can agree on, it’s that the process of funding our schools is broken. The timing is all wrong and the discussion always seems to lack substance, directing attention away from what matters. How do we change this?

Council members argue for stronger accountability and transparency – they understandably don’t want to spend more money without guaranteeing something better for families and their constituents. The District reasonably argues for more funding – they need recurring funds to match rising costs, and they have agreed to open their books and provide endless accounting of spending.

What’s missing from the debate is a bridge that would span the divide between Council and the District: specific annual goals to match needed investment. Read more »

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