Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Spending in each school is a meaningless statistic because teachers, principals, and administrative staff are payed in large part on the basis of seniority. They also get paid extra for earning degrees and taking other courses; the older they are the more likely they are to have earned the degrees and taken the courses.The less stressful a school is, the more desirable it is for teachers, so the more the higher paid teachers are attracted there and the more tax dollars are spent in that particular school. But the school is not doing better because it has the more experience teachers; it is attracting the more experienced teachers in many, many cases because it is doing better.

August 18, 2007



The fact is that Philadelphia schools are dramatically underfunded compared to the schools of virtually all suburban school districts--due to a low rate of taxpayer contribution by city taxpayers. To take the most extreme example, Lower Merion spends over twice as much per capita as Philadelphia does for its children's education--and these kids who need money for teachers, books, supplies, extracurricular activities, etc. far less than Philadelphia kids do.63% of the school district's funds come from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The city pleads lack of ability to come up with more money because of high costs of police protection, child welfare, and other expenses that have to do with our high concentration of poverty. Few organizations composed of citizens of any race argue that significantly more money is needed for the Philadelphia public schools.Calling names is not constructive. But I confess being somewhat concerned that the general multi-racial consensus in Philadelphia that educating kids is not a major priority in terms of the spending of tax dollars--a consensus that does not exist in the districts to which middle class people tend to flee in order to raise their children.I have seen in terms of our family spending on our daughter's development how much money can make a difference: a generally excellent student,she tends to do extraordinarily well in areas where we have spent family money on her development.The school district has many dedicated teachers, parents, and administrators as well as those who are not so dedicated. Most of the children in the school district come from families poor enough to qualify for the federal school lunch program; no school has less than 37% of its students qualifying. Our students are more in need of the extra attention that more staff and more programs buy, and they are less likely to get it than their counterparts in suburban areas.

August 15, 2007



63% of the money for the Philadelphia School District comes from the state of Pennsylvania. Many school districts get only 10% to 20% of their funds from the state.Philadelphia gets a lot of money from the state--but less than it ideally should get from the state--because of the great financial distress that the city has. No other city spends anywhere near the amount of money our spends on a per capita basis for either police protection or court costs or foster care services, for instance, than Philadelphia does.There should be a much greater population of middle class people in Philadelphia than there now is.There should be a much greater focus on education as a key to social mobility in Philadelphia than there now is.Having a state university in Philadelphia is one step in the direction of building a more middle class city out of the base of the people who live here now.We cannot just import a middle class from around the country. We have to be able to do much more to increase the aspirations and opportunities of the people who now live in Philadelphia.A state university will be a significant step in this direction.

June 20, 2007



It is not easy to get good, qualified teachers to teach in the Philadelphia public schools at the salaries that are offered--salaries that are less than those offered in the vast majority of suburban school districts. This is true despite the decline of the Catholic school system--which limits its ability to compete for new teachers and encourages existing parochial school teachers to look elsewhere for employment.In the past decade the legislature has made two changes to make recruiting easier: the residency requirement for teachers has been repealed, and the teacher pensions have been raised by 25%. With this, and a massive recruiting effort by both the district itself and college education departments both within and outside of the city, the number of teacher vacancies has fallen to about 40: the lowest in years, but still a sign that Philadelphia teaching jobs are far from the most desired occupational choice around.Given this lack of interest, the idea that hundreds or thousands of teachers can be laid off is just plain false.


The key issue is how the schools are funded. The more reliance on local property taxes, the greater the inequality of resources for education. The higher the percentage of resources coming from federal and state governments, the more equal the funding can be. Pennsylvania disproportionately gives its statewide resources to the districts that need it most, but the far greater contributions of the more affluent communities still give their students an enormous public funding advantage coupled with their advantage in private resources.

Secretary Paige's calling the NEA a "terrorist organization" is unbelievable and outrageous. His immediate resignation would be approrpiate. Each day that his resignation is not forthcoming is a permanent stain on the integrity of the Bush Administration, and the Department of Education.

February 26, 2004



Charter schools offer increased flexibility to parents and administrators, but at a cost of reduced job security to school personnel. The evidence to date shows that the higher turnover of staff undermines school performance more than it enhances it, and that the problems of urban education are far too great for enhanced managerial authority to solve in the absence of far greater resources of staff, technology, and state of the art buildings.


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