August 1, 2014 |
THEY WERE supposed to help the homeless, not themselves. Two former executives of SELF Inc., a nonprofit that provides shelter and drug-and-alcohol-recovery programs for the city's homeless, were charged yesterday with using their corporate credit cards for personal expenses, according to an indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Erica Brown, 38, of Glenolden, Delaware County, and Nathaniel Robinson, 62, of Philadelphia, both racked up six-figure charges on their individual cards, spending federal funds meant to support SELF Inc.'s operations, according to the indictment.
July 28, 2014 |
HARRISBURG - Hospitals from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. A performing arts center in Center City. An ambulance association in Montgomery County. They are among the several dozen projects worth tens of millions of dollars that the legislature has designated for special funding this year. The money was tucked into a relatively obscure budget bill known as the fiscal code, and written in opaque language replete with legalese. Some call it legislative pork; others, just another form of Harrisburg's infamous so-called WAMs (walking around money)
July 27, 2014 |
Built by neighbors in response to racial segregation, the pool at the George Washington Carver Community Center in Norristown had opened every summer since 1960. As the only outdoor public pool in the municipality, it was not just a place for kids to swim, but a point of pride for a struggling community. In recent years, the center has struggled to raise the money to open the pool. This summer, it won't open at all. The closure has become a tipping point, heightening calls for a public-private model or municipal oversight of an institution that has been run by volunteers for six decades.
July 26, 2014 |
Given how little good news is ever reported about Philadelphia's municipal pension fund, Thursday was a red-letter day. The total fund ended the fiscal year up 15.6 percent, outperforming its benchmarks by 1.96 percent. A more narrow portfolio, managed internally, did well, too, showing an 11.97 percent return, about 3.5 percent higher than similar benchmark funds. That is, in fairness, a very small step in the right direction. The city's pension system is severely unfunded, with only about half the money it needs to pay its $5 billion in obligations to current and future retirees.
July 25, 2014
WE CAN'T talk about the struggles of the Philadelphia School District without taking aim at the inequities in the state's approach to funding the schools throughout the state. For one thing, the per-pupil allocations for Philadelphia are lower than many other districts. Cuts made in basic education funding have often led to larger per-pupil cuts to poorer districts like ours and smaller cuts to wealthier districts. And a rational funding formula that would better account for the economic realities of each district rather than a flat generic formula had only a brief and shining moment before the Corbett administration abandoned it. The inequities in school funding were driven home dramatically earlier this week when Daily News columnist John Baer analyzed reserve-fund balances of schools around the state, and found $4 billion in total reserve funds.
July 22, 2014
THIS IS NOT a plea for more school funding. Not even as Philly kids, teachers and parents await word on whether schools are shuttered in September for lack of funding. This is a reminder that the money's already there. It's a reminder of how Pennsylvania's vast, expensive public-education system hoards tax dollars in multiple and movable accounts. It's about how public officials at every level who don't want to seem "anti-education" allow the hoarding - unquestioned, unchallenged.
July 19, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - Republicans are routing Democrats when it comes to raising money in the four most competitive House races in the Philadelphia region. The Republicans in those contests have more than three times as much cash on hand as the Democrats: $5.36 million to $1.64 million as of June 30, according to campaign filings released this week. In three of the four races, the Republican candidates raised at least twice as much in the latest reporting period as their Democratic rivals.
July 17, 2014 |
In a report Tuesday, Montgomery County Controller Stewart J. Greenleaf Jr. said an underfunded pension system is a blemish on the county's otherwise improving financial outlook. The county ended 2013 with an operating surplus of $6.9 million, which it used to bring the reserve fund closer to the recommended 10 percent level. But the county made only $3.4 million of its required $11 million payment to the retirement fund. Greenleaf said the county should commit to making the full required retirement payment in 2014.
July 14, 2014 |
PRESIDENT Obama's education secretary said Philadelphia schools are "starved for resources" and strongly urged state lawmakers to step up investment in education during a visit to the city yesterday. Arne Duncan's comments followed a roundtable discussion at Community College of Philadelphia with Mayor Nutter and a dozen young men of color about their challenges in education. "The children of Philly deserve better than what they have. The lack of funding, the lack of commitment at the state level is simply unacceptable," Duncan said.
July 11, 2014
IT'S TEMPTING to slam the state Legislature for failing to accomplish one simple task - pass a $2-per-pack cigarette tax in Philadelphia to help fund the schools. But, in our estimation, the Legislature has failed to accomplish not one but five simple tasks, any one of which would have helped the city's schools open on time, with more than bare-bones staffing. And that turns a single glitchy bill into a sweeping and utter failure of leadership. Because of last-minute tinkering with the cigarette-tax bill, the law that was on its way to Gov. Corbett's desk must now go back to the House, where success is iffy.