We Want Answers: New SRC Chair Marjorie Neff

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

The School District of Philadelphia has been beset in recent years by both financial and academic challenges. It seems to me you have the most difficult job in town.
Definitely the most difficult volunteer position in town.

Why did you volunteer?
You know, there are times when I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” But I also believe that just because something’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, if you think it’s right.

The perception is that you ascended to the SRC chair in part because you voted against the charter expansion.
That might’ve been the perception, but that was not the reality. The Governor asked me to do this. We didn’t talk about charter schools before or after as part of his decision-making process. Read more »

Inside Take: 3 Bogus Problems With the Teacher’s Contract

School District of Philadelphia

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

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Within the next 6 months, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will have a new contract.

This prognostication stems from two people: Governor Tom Wolf, who put forth an audacious plan to fund Philadelphia’s schools, and Marge Neff, Chair of the School Reform Commission. The dismal economic situation of the district may not have changed. But with Wolf and Neff in place, the plan now seems to be “find a contract that brings stability to schools” instead of the Tom Corbett — Bill Green playbook of “drown the PFT in its own blood and dance on the corpse.”

It’s likely the two sides will find middle ground. In the meantime, Philadelphia will be inundated with hot-takes on things like “winners and losers”. In the end, the vast majority of people with opinions about the contract, and yes, this includes teachers, won’t have read the document.

What they’ll miss, what most people miss, is that the so-called “big issues” of the contract are neither big nor issues. Here is a Cliff Notes look at three of the most common/lazy complaints about the contract, not one of which is near as important as critics imagine. Read more »

SRC Aims for $2.86 Billion Budget in 2016

The School Reform Commission on Thursday adopted a $2.86 billion “lump sum” budget for the 2015-16 school year, providing the fiscal outlines for leaders as they begin to work on the details of that budget.

The outline — approved unanimously by the commission — assumes that the state and city will step forward with a combined $264 million in new revenues for the year, officials said — subtract an $80 million deficit now expected during the school year and the city’s public schools would still be left $180 million with which to make new investments. But individual schools are being told for now to create a “status quo” budget in case those funds don’t materialize. Read more »

PA’s Wealthy School Districts Get Way More Local Cash Than Poor Ones

School District of Philadelphia

School districts across Pennsylvania have felt the impact of state budget cuts and the expiration of federal stimulus dollars over the past few years.

But the money woes of the high-poverty Philadelphia School District have been so extreme that they’ve garnered national attention: Some city schools lack such basics as full-time guidance counselors and nurses.

A new analysis shows that, despite the fact that low-income students come to class with greater needs than their better-off peers, Pennsylvania and its municipalities actually spend less per pupil in the poorest districts than in the richest ones. Way less, actually. According to the Washington Post, “In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.”

Read more »

Former Teachers Sue SRC Over Free Speech at Charter Meeting

Protesters carried signs outside the Feb. 18 SRC meeting. Inside, those signs were confiscated. Photo | Holly Otterbein

Protesters carried signs outside the Feb. 18 SRC meeting. Inside, those signs were confiscated. Photo | Holly Otterbein

Three women identified as former Philadelphia school teachers are suing the School Reform Commission, saying they were deprived of First Amendment rights when they had signs and posters confiscated during the SRC’s controversial meeting February 18th to discuss approval of charter schools. Read more »

Diaz: Replace SRC With Parent-Led Board

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Photo from Diaz's Facebook page.

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Photo from Diaz’s Facebook page.

Mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz is proposing to scrap the School Reform Commission and replace it with a parent-led school board to make major decisions for the Philadelphia school district.

Diaz pitched the idea at a meeting of Pennsylvania House Democrats Monday at Warren G. Harding Middle School, NewsWorks reports. Read more »

Green Won’t Challenge Wolf’s SRC Decision

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from the SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green said this afternoon he will not mount a legal challenge to Gov. Wolf’s dismissal of him as chair of the School Reform Commission, saying he did not want to undermine support for the Philadelphia School District. But he said he still believes Wolf overstepped his authority in removing him from the chair and replacing him with fellow SRC member Marjorie Neff.

“Lawsuits can wait,” Green said in a press release. “Harmony needs to prevail.” Read more »

5 Things Michael Nutter Wants You to Know About His Property Tax Hike

Matt Rourke | AP

Matt Rourke | AP

Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a budget Thursday that would total $3.95 billion, expand the use of police body cameras, most likely eliminate the need for a tuition hike next year at the Community College of Philadelphia, and increase spending on the city’s long-underfunded Licenses & Inspections department.

But all eyes went to only one part of his plan: a 9.3 percent increase in property taxes. Nutter wants to use that to give $105 million to the city’s cash-strapped schools.

Read more »

Bill Green Gives the Backstory of His SRC Ouster

Bill green

If he had been shaken by the events of the last 24 hours, Bill Green wasn’t showing it when he appeared late Monday afternoon at Philadelphia School District Headquarters. He was all smiles and handshakes as he entered a meeting where students were being asked to weigh in on an issue — the district’s budget woes — that adults haven’t been able to fully resolve.

There wasn’t even an awkward moment when Matthew Stanski, the district’s chief financial officer, referred to Green as “Chairman Green” during public comments. Green — for now, anyway — is no longer the chairman of the School Reform Commission. Gov. Tom Wolf announced Sunday that he was replacing Green with fellow commissioner Marjorie Neff. Green has said he will seek a court ruling challenging Wolf’s authority to do so.

He told Philly Mag that events started rolling on Saturday. Read more »

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