WEEKLY REPORT: MORE FUNDING, PROPOSED GOVERNANCE CHANGE FOR PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS UP FOR DEBATE IN CITY COUNCIL

In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, News by PHL Council

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MORE FUNDING AND PROPOSED GOVERNANCE CHANGE FOR PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS UP FOR DEBATE IN CITY COUNCIL

Administrative building for the School District of PhiladelphiaWith news out of Washington that the American Rescue Plan approved by Congress and the President includes $1.3 Billion in aid for the School District of Philadelphia, a Councilmember introduced a resolution Thursday to hold hearings to ensure an “equitable allocation of resources” for the School District.

The plan to hold hearings on the American Rescue Plan’s promise of $1.3 Billion in added resources for the School District was proposed by Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), who chairs Council’s Education Committee.

“The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides a once-in-a-decade opportunity to invest in our schools, by directing $1.3 billion to all public, private, and charter schools, with an emphasis on supporting our most disadvantaged children and families,” the resolution states, adding, “Students, teachers, and families deserve an equitable strategy to not only reopen, but also to help students catch up, thrive, and bridge the digital divide in remote learning.”

Meanwhile, Coucncilmember David Oh (At Large) introduced legislation to change the Home Rule Charter to allow for a major structural change in the makeup of the Board of Education governing the School District. Under the proposal, Philadelphia voters would gain the power to elect five members of the school board, each representing a geographic section of the city, and the mayor would retain appointing power over four seats on the board. Under current city law, the mayor appoints all nine school board members, subject to Council advice and consent.

“Shifting the school board away from an all-appointed body is not a silver bullet solution for the ongoing crisis of public education in Philadelphia,” Oh said. “But it is a bold leap in the right direction to ensure increased accountability and transparency, and provides parents and students with a much-needed seat at the table.”

If approved, Oh’s legislation will advance to a ballot question before voters this fall. Because Oh’s proposal would change the Home Rule Charter, it requires the approval of two-thirds of City Council, or 12 votes.

COUNCILMEMBERS MOURN, DENOUNCE MASS SHOOTING DEATHS OF EIGHT PEOPLE IN ATLANTA, INCLUDING SIX WOMEN OF ASIAN DESCENT

As a horrified country heard more news of the shooting deaths at three Atlanta-area spas and massage parlors, Councilmembers spoke Thursday of a rising tide of hatred and violence directed at Asian-Americans and immigrants across the nation.

“This mass shooting targeting Asian women is the latest escalation in the nation’s history of systemic racism and violence against Asian immigrants, fostered by a culture of white supremacy and misogyny that has long devalued the lives of immigrants, Black women and women of color,” Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large), said in a statement. “I grieve for the victims, for their families, and for countless others who have suffered discrimination and brutality. I stand united with the Asian American Pacific Islander community as we demand justice for the victims, assistance for their families, remembrance for those lost to us long ago, and systemic change to protect women and immigrants for generations to come.”

Gym attended a candlelight vigil in Chinatown on Wednesday evening in honor of the women murdered in Atlanta, a gathering that included a wide array of organizations, including Asian Americans United, VietLead, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, Woori Center, CAIR Philadelphia, APALA-Philadelphia, Modero & Co., Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Asian Arts Initiative, Red Umbrella Alliance, Philadelphia Chinatown Community Development Corporation and CAGE.

A suspect is in custody and has been charged in the homicides. His motivations for the killings remain under active law enforcement investigation.

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Council Expands its Investment by $5 Million in its New Normal Jobs Initiative. Coming on the heels of an initial $4 Million investment last month, Council Thursday introduced legislation to authorize an additional $5 Million in spending on programs that undertake an array of measures to improve and revitalize neighborhoods – and provide job opportunities.

The new legislation, introduced by Council Appropriations Chair Quiñones Sánchez on behalf of Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), authorizes new spending on:

  • Same Day Work and Pay program. $1 Million to continue supporting a same-day-pay employment effort putting people to work cleaning and maintaining vacant city lots, under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
  • Community Life Improvement Program. $1 Million for an existing, city-run program under the Managing Director’s Office that focuses on quality-of-life issues and problems in neighborhoods across the city.
  • WorkREADY Program. $1 Million for WorkREADY, the city’s program that seeks summer jobs for young people.
  • Jobs Training by Revitalizing Neighborhood Commercial Corridors. $2 Million to support a program that provides job training through the revitalization of neighborhood commercial business corridors.
  • Hire Philly’s “Pipeline Philly” jobs program. $50,000.

Council Approves Public Health Emergency Sick Leave for Workers Dealing with COVID-19 Pandemic. Council unanimously approved legislation to reinstate two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave coverage to Philadelphia workers. The bill, offered by Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large), applies to businesses that employ over 50 employees and could be used by workers to quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19, care for a sick family member, or stay home with a child whose daycare or school has closed as a result of COVID-19.

Emergency paid sick leave provides assurance that sick workers are staying home when symptoms arise or exposure to the virus occurs, thus reducing the risk of workers passing on the virus to each other and to the public. Employers who provide emergency paid sick leave to their employees are eligible for a federal tax credit.

The bill now goes to Mayor Kenney for consideration.

Councilmember Parker Reacts to Fatal Shooting Outside City Prison. As of March 17, Philadelphia had experienced 104 homicides — 32 percent higher than last year’s terrible pace, and 383 people had been shot — 48 percent more than last year. But one latest gun murder led Council’s Majority Leader, Cherelle Parker (9th District) to deliver a gripping, emotional speech Thursday. The shooting victim was Rodney Hargrove, 20, who was shot fatally moments after his release from a city-run prison in the Northeast section of the city. Parker relayed how she had come to know the victim, from his days as an aspiring rap musician who was learning his trade at a school in her district that has a recording studio. “We must fix this,” Parker said, her voice breaking with emotion. “We will change this culture” of continuous gun violence, she vowed.

Council President Clarke, who speaks rarely during sessions, was moved to say, “We’re working on this with every breath in our bodies. We must change the direction of our young people.”

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Joint Committee on Public Safety; Public Health and Human Services, 3-15-2021

Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, 3-17-2021

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council, 3-18-2021

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

Featured Photo: C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia

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