The Brief: Every Philly School May Soon Have a Counselor

If an independent arbitrator's ruling sticks, that is.

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.

Why it matters: Fifty-five of the city’s schools are without a full-time counselor, according to NewsWorks. If the arbitrator’s ruling stands, it would make a huge difference in the school district. But it would cost $3.4 million, district officials say. And without more funding from the city or state, they say they can’t afford that. On another note, this is a huge win for the teachers union — and those who argue that their contract should include provisions such as these that guarantee a level of educational services.

2. Budget talks in Harrisburg are going nowhere.

The gist: Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a budget passed by GOP lawmakers, saying that it failed to include enough education spending and meet other priorities. On Tuesday, he met with Republican leaders to resume talks. They didn’t go well. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said “we’re going to be here for a while” if Wolf continues to push for raising taxes. “I don’t want to give any sort of illusion that we’re getting closer or we’re having productive meetings,” said Corman. “They’re very cordial. The governor makes his case — he wants enough revenue so he doesn’t have to worry about this for four years. I respect that.”

Why it matters: The state budget is supposed to be finalized by July 1st. If the impasse drags on, everyone from the impoverished to government employees could suffer. And in the long term, it’s looking less and less likely that the city’s schools will get a windfall from Harrisburg this year.

3. The Philadelphia Water Department paid an outside advertising company $63,000 for a new logo.

The gist:’s Ryan Briggs and Brian X. McCrone broke the news. They wrote that the water department shelled out that cash despite the fact that it “has an eight-person in-house public relations teams.” More shockingly, they reported that the department’s previous logo came with a price tag of just $250. (An art student did it.) Joanne Dahme, a spokeswoman for the water department, defended its contract with the firm:

Dahme said that her staff is too small to handle the rebranding project, which included extensive internal and external surveys about how the department functions and interacts with the ratepayers and partners — and wide-ranging improvement recommendations.

She also told NewsWorks that the department needed a new logo partly because ratepayers were confusing it with Philadelphia Gas Works:

“We did hear that that was sort of the top item of confusion. People did not often know. Even when we got letters from customers, or emails, they would say PGW versus PWD,” said [Dahme].

Why it matters: So, is this a waste of money? Plenty of experts will tell you that it isn’t, and good design simply costs money. And the truth is that $63,000 is a drop in the bucket of the water department’s budget. But perception matters, and as the school district is begging state lawmakers for more than $200 million, it doesn’t look great for the city-owned water department to be spending tens of thousands of dollars on a logo.

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