Parents Sue Over Philadelphia School Conditions

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Seven Philadelphia parents and the Parents United for Public Education group are suing over the conditions of Philadelphia’s public schools. The petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

In the suit, to be filed against acting Pennsylvania education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, the parents say the state has failed in its constitutional mandate to “receive and investigate allegations of curriculum deficiencies.” Parents United says it delivered 825 complaints about school conditions to Dumaresq that were not followed up on.

Per the lawsuit, the allegations included “overcrowded classrooms, the lack of classes such as art, music, foreign language and physical education, cancelled programs for the mentally gifted, the absence of facilities such as libraries or school materials such as textbooks that resulted in loss of instruction for students, shortages of staff … and unsafe or unsanitary conditions that interfered with students’ ability to respond to the curriculum.”

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Judge: Girard College Can’t Close Its High School

A judge ruled Monday that Girard College can’t close its high school and must remain a boarding school. The surprise ruling is a blow to the leaders of the school, who wished to eliminate boarding and the high school in order to improve Girard College’s finances.

The Inquirer reports the ruling “shocked and dismayed the Board of Directors of City Trusts,” which oversees Girard. When the board requested the ability to end student boarding and shutter the high school, it said Girard would be forced to close within 25 years if the request were denied.

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District Makes Ominous Announcement About School Year

Screenshot via 6 ABC's live press conference feed

Screenshot via 6 ABC’s press conference feed

Protesters chanting “No education, no life!” ended a depressing press conference from Philadelphia School District superintentendent William Hite today. He didn’t announce layoffs, but said “we’re not out of the woods yet” on the school year. If Philly’s new cigarette tax is not approved by state lawmakers, Hite says the school district will have to make big cuts.

Hite said the district is no longer asking the teachers’ union to accept wage cuts, but is asking for changes to benefits. Without those reductions and/or additional money from the state in some way, the district will be forced to lay off employees in October. The school district still has an $81 million gap to reach the funding levels of last school year.

For now, 34 vacant school police officer positions will remain unfilled; 27 elementary schools will have to share police officers.

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Pennsylvania Creates Commission to Study New School Funding Formula

One thing Governor Tom Corbett and Philadelphians can agree on: The funding system for public schools in this state is broken. What we don’t know if they’ll agree on: Whatever recommendations the new Basic Education Funding Commission makes.

Corbett signed the bill, sponsored by Republican Bucks County Rep. Bernie O’Neill, which attempts to overhaul how school districts are funded. “Our current system is very antiquated and fails to recognize the differing needs of school districts with increasing or decreasing enrollment levels,” O’Neill said in a press release.

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Principal, 4 Teachers Charged in Cheating Scandal at Philadelphia School

As expected, charges were announced today in an investigation into cheating at Philadelphia schools. The principal of Cayuga Elementary School and four teachers there have been charged in the cheating scandal, the Inquirer’s Kristen Graham reports. The school is in Hunting Park.

Action News says the attorney general’s office alleges the teachers gave test answers to students, changed answers and “improperly reviewed PSSA questions prior to tests.”

The Inquirer first reported on cheating at Cayuga in 2012. The paper said principal Evelyn Cortez, who was charged today, told teachers to “go through and make sure no questions are left blank” on state achievement tests.

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Masterman Wins Second Junior High Chess Title

NBC 10 reports: “The Julia R. Masterman School chess team found themselves in a familiar situation in Atlanta, Ga. over the weekend. The team, composed of students, Angel Hernandez-Camen, Srisa Changolkar, Shira Moolten, Torin Kuehnle and Nalin Khanna were competing in their second National Junior High chess championship in a row.” The team won a field 1,300 students from 38 states.

School District Says It Needs $216M to Avert Thousands of Layoffs

The Philadelphia school district is still broke, if you haven’t noticed. Schools superintendent William Hite says the district needs $216 million or it will have to lay off a thousand teachers, KYW 1060′s Pat Loeb reports. Hite adds he doesn’t believe layoffs are a realistic solution, saying the budget is already too tight to cut any more jobs.

At the Inquirer, Kristen Graham has sobering details from the budget.

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Masterman Is Once Again PA’s Top School

The Inquirer reports: “Philadelphia’s Masterman High School once again topped U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of Pennsylvania schools, with a number of suburban high schools rounding out the top 10.  New Hope-Solebury in Bucks County surged into the No. 3 spot ahead of academic powerhouses Conestoga (fifth) and Lower Merion (15th).”

The rankings of best Pennsylvania schools can be found here.

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