The Pennsylvania Department of Education has declared deficient curricula at four Philadelphia schools where parents complained to the state after budget cuts forced sharp program cuts.
It is a "significant victory" for parents, education activists said, a signal that the state Department of Education has acknowledged it has a legal responsibility to monitor city schools' curricula and take responsibility when necessary.
Parents from 75 Philadelphia School District schools filed 825 complaints detailing problems caused by budget cuts two years ago. They ranged from a lack of art, music, physical education and gifted programs. Initially, the state declined to act, saying it was a local matter. Some of the parents then filed a lawsuit to force an investigation.
With an ongoing stalemate over the state budget (deadline: June 30) in Harrisburg, finances remain precarious for many agencies that depend on the commonwealth for funding.
The cash-flow situation is particularly dire for the Philadelphia School District, which educates about 130,000 students. In a letter sent to staff Tuesday night, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the school system could run out of money on January 29 without a new state budget.
"After that date," Hite write, "our ability to keep schools open, issue paychecks and pay bills is uncertain. The prospect of running out of operating funds is dire."
William R. Hite Jr., Philadelphia's schools superintendent since 2012, will get a five-year contract extension.
The resolution to extend Hite until August 31, 2022 was crafted by the School Reform Commission, which is expected to approve it officially Thursday, spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed.
Hite's base pay, now $300,000, would remain the same, and provisions in the contract that allow for performance bonuses would be removed. The superintendent would only receive a pay increase if Philadelphia School District teachers do, and at the same rate they do.
Amid a school culture where fights, assaults and arrests had become the norm, Philadelphia School District officials have removed the principal of Washington High.
The decision was made Monday night, The Inquirer has learned, after three students burst into a ninth grade classroom where they did not belong, attempting to seize a cell phone from a teen in the room and assaulting the teacher in the process. The students were arrested and charged with aggravated assault; the teacher suffered a concussion and other injuries.
Students and teachers inside the school say that Washington - once one of the city’s strongest neighborhood high schools - had become unsafe, with students openly wandering hallways, cutting class, smoking, often with no repercussions.
It's been another newsy day for the Philadelphia School District.
Earlier, officials announced that they were amending - not cancelling - a contract with Source4Teachers, the firm awarded a two-year, $34 million contract this spring to handle substitute-teaching services. The New Jersey company's performance has been subpar - at its high point recently, it filled just 30 percent of short- and long-term classroom openings.
Superintendent William R. Hite said the district would take back part of the work, handling long-term sub services itself. But Source4Teachers will keep staffing short-term vacancies.
Source4Teachers, the New Jersey firm hired to fix the Philadelphia School District's substitute-teaching problem, has struggled since the beginning of the school year to fill the hundreds of vacancies in city classrooms each day. Many have called for its two-year, $34 million contract to be cancelled.
The superintendent described it in an email to employees Thursday by saying that its relationship with Source4Teachers "has not worked as anticipated."
The district has announced Thursday that it was changing the way it did things - but stopping short of halting Source4Teachers' work.
The Philadelphia School District will have to borrow money to scrape together enough cash to make payroll through the end of the year, officials confirmed.
A small legal ad appeared in The Inquirer today, announcing a special School Reform Commission meeting for Thursday at 1:30. The subject? "a resolution authorizing the issuance of tax and revenue anticipation notes..."
Fernando Gallard, district spokesman, said the meeting is actually being postponed, but that the SRC in the coming days will meet to authorize temporary borrowing to make ends meet.
It's SRC Thursday, and I'll be livetweeting the goings-on - beginning with a 4:30 p.m. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers rally, and continuing on to the meeting, scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start. (Read the recap below.)
The teachers' union is rallying against a plan recently announced by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. to give three Philadelphia School District schools to charters and close two more, among other things.
They're also promoting "community schools" - a model popular in some other cities, where schools become hubs with medical, mental, and dental services embedded inside the building.