Archive: April, 2012
In my last post, I asked whether it is fair or wise that we spend so much less on children in Philadelphia district schools than we do on kids in most other districts.
That prompted a commenter named Ken Byers to ask: "Property tax revenues don't rival those of Haddonfield because people who live in Haddonfield pay extremely high taxes. Mine are 13k a year. What do you pay?"
It's a great point, so let me rephrase my original question. Is funding schools via local property taxes smart? To paraphrase Brett Mandel, an expert on Philadelphia property taxes and a former candidate for city controller, that lets a zip code determine the quality of a child's education.
With so much talk about cuts in Philadelphia schools, it's easy to get the impression that the problem is overspending.
I have little doubt that a system with 70,000 empty seats can identify savings, but even so, it seems like we are ignoring a major difference between what most suburbs spend to educate children and what Philadelphia does.
Philadelphia schools spent $13,272 a year per child in the 2009-2010 school year. In Lower Merion, where many city parents move once their children reach school age, that number is $26,570.
There was lots of good advice on finding a school for your child at last night's panel discussion on choosing an elementary school. Ok, Ok, so I was one of the panelists, but I'm not talking about myself here.
My fellow panelists, Martha Benoff, a certified school psychologist, and Luise Moskowitz, who is on the Outreach Committee for the Home and School Association at Greenfield Elementary, were chock full of helpful tips, which I'll share here.
Benoff started out talking about a news story she had seen recently that tracked several New York families as they sought to get their children into an elite private school there. The families believed that the preschool their children attended would set the course for the rest of their lives, putting immense pressure on 4-year-olds to perform.
There is a saying that goes something like, "God never closes a door that he doesn't open a window somewhere." It came to mind while reading my Daily News colleague Ronnie Polaneczky's column on the closing of St. Bridget's Catholic school in East Falls.
She reports that many St. Bridget's parents were pleasantly surprised when they took a look at Thomas Mifflin Elementary, a Philadelphia public school where Leslie Mason, a principal who has been there since 2009, helped heal past problems.
With some St. Bridget's parents now considering Mifflin, Polaneczky wonders whether it might finally become a true neighborhood school.
For many parents, getting a child into Masterman is a dream. The high school is considered among the best in the country and, because it's a public school, it's free.
Admission is largely based on test scores, and to get into the high school, children generally need to get into Masterman's 5th grade first. Last year, only a handful of Masterman’s 110 9th grade seats went to students who were not already enrolled in the middle-school program, according to this article by Benjamin Herold in The Philadelphia Public School Notebook.
Even if your child gets into 5th grade, admission to the high school is far from guaranteed.
The parents at Bache-Martin Elementary, which serves the Francisville and Fairmount neighborhoods, have big dreams for an interior courtyard at the school. They want to turn into a garden and play space for the children and are trying to raise money to make that happen.
The project takes a step forward this Saturday, April 14, when volunteers gather to spruce up the courtyard and plant flowers and greenery around the school's exterior at 2201 Brown Street. Anyone can help from 9 a.m. until about noon.
The Bache-Martin parents are joining with the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, which awards 250 scholarships to college-bound high school seniors every year who have demonstrated a commitment to community service and leadership, in the project.
If you live in the city, choosing a school for your child can be overwhelming, but it seems like a good sign that there are at least more opportunities to talk about it.
One of them is coming up April 18, when I will be part of a panel discussion titled "School Daze: Choosing the right elementary school for your Center City Child." The discussion is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square.
Martha Benoff, a licensed psychologist, and Luise Moskowitz, who chairs the Outreach Commmittee of the Home and School Association at Greenfield Elementary, a public school in Center City, will join me on the panel.