Schoolmageddon ’13: Some Good News About Philly School Violence

There’s actually some good news in the Daily Newsabout Philadelphia schools today.

IN THE MIDDLE of the district’s funding crisis, the state Department of Education passed along some good news to Philadelphia yesterday: Only two of its schools were named to the yearly Persistently Dangerous Schools list.

Lincoln High School in Northeast Philadelphia and Sayre High School in West Philadelphia were named to this year’s list. A third school, Shaw Middle School, was also named by the state, but it was one of 24 schools the district closed.

This year marked the third year in a row that the district reduced the number of schools on the list by 40 percent or more, district officials said.

Now: There’s a real question about whether all of this progress is about to vanish in an instant. The schools that opened this week are understaffed, full of overcrowded classes, and if somebody wanted to create a powder keg designed to increase school violence, they probably couldn’t do much worse than the set of circumstances than we have now. That decline in violence came in what will now be referred to as the “good old days” when schools still had counselors, secretaries, and assistant principals.

Supt. William Hite went on a tour of schools Tuesday to see what the “bad new days” look like. They don’t look good, according to the Inky:

Hite, who visited several schools Tuesday, said the district plans to send teachers to other schools with larger classes, including Mastbaum Vocational Technical School, which reported some classes having 50 or more students.

“We are getting staff over there first thing in the morning. Those classes were so large,” Hite said. James Jetter, a chemistry teacher at Mastbaum, had no class smaller than 45 students. His largest was 51. And these were students who showed up. There were even more on the roster who didn’t.

“It’s been quite busy,” he said, “but the students have been very well behaved. We’re all doing the best we can.”

PA Independent, a libertarian-oriented outfit, details the roots of the current problems:

State auditors warned of financial accountability problems at the Philadelphia School District in periodic audits since at least 1987, foreshadowing some of the issues that underpin the crisis in the district as it opens its doors to students Monday.

But the district has had problems tracking students, accounting for state dollars and keeping accurate finances for much of the past two decades, according to audits conducted by the state auditor general’s office. The auditor general is required to audit all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania at least once every four years.

“It is imperative for us to emphasize that we have been citing the district since 1987 for inaccurate collection and reporting of child accounting data,” the auditors wrote. “The commonwealth’s taxpayers deserve to know that every dollar is accurately accounted for, and, to that end, no error rate is acceptable.”

Finally, Mayor Nutter is expected to make a school funding announcement this morning.