Adam Goldin | Philadelphia Blog

Adam Goldin covers Philadelphia news and updates.

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Philadelphia Schools Funded by Soda Tax?

notebookThe state of Philadelphia’s school system has been tumultuous at best for years now. A constant struggle for funding that never seems to come through. Last month, school officials stated that were were taking into consideration the possibility of closing up to three schools a year to save money. This is following in the wake of the extended state budget impasse that concluded at the end of March with far less in school aid than most had anticipated.

According to thenotebook.org, a recent study from the advocacy group Public Citizens for Children & Youth reported findings in the district such as

  • Neighborhood high schools have had an average of four or more principals since 2009.
  • Neighborhood high schools have lost more teachers than any other school type, with 400 positions eliminated between 2010 and 2014.
  • Almost half of neighborhood high schools – nine – have no assistant principal.
  • More than half the neighborhood high schools’ counselors were laid off over four years, from a total of 91 in 2010 to just 35 in 2014.

All of these turnover and staffing issues lead right back to budget constraints, and they cause staff and principals to be overworked and stretched too thin to educate appropriately. When you’re a student in this environment there just isn’t much incentive to work hard or stay on track to graduate.

From The Philadelphia Tribune: “Lisa Haver, co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, told school officials she was “shocked” by the prospect of more school closures, especially after two dozen schools, among them Germantown High School and Edward T. Bok Technical School in South Philadelphia, were shuttered in the summer months of 2014. She made the comments during a School Reform Commission meeting this week. The SRC is a state-controlled commission that oversees city schools.”

Ever since the 2012 financial troubles for the city and state, Philadelphia schools have been working in crisis mode, day-to-day, with the school district never forming a cohesive plan for fixing the problem and moving forward toward recovery. School closures are disruptive to students and faculty, can be a financial and time strain on already burdened parents, and are tumultuous for neighborhoods.

School officials say that they are committed to reinstating full time positions like counselors, nurses, librarians, and music and art programs into elementary schools and ending split-classes (the practice of teaching two grades in one room.) even in spite of these cost cutting measures.

If you know even one teacher in Philadelphia, chances are you know someone who has had to pay for paper and pencils out of their own pocket, who has had to ask for money or donations to have books to read in an English class, who has had to look to crowdfund an empty science lab with supplies payed for by strangers on DonorsChoose.org, indiegogo.com, AdoptAClassrom.org or ClassWish.org.

The mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenny, opposed the idea of imposing a soda tax to fight childhood obesity when we was a city council member five years ago and the issue was brought before the city council. Now, as mayor, he has just this month suggested instituting the highest soda tax in the nation. The reason for this, he says, is not to improve public health, but to make money for the city. From Business Insider: “The policy would make a 20-ounce bottle of soda $0.60 more expensive for distributors, much of which could be passed on to consumers in the form of significantly higher prices. He estimates that the more-than-$400 million that could be raised via the tax in the next half decade would fund universal preschool and “allow the city to renovate a variety of its most vital public venues.”

While the funds are not even specifically directed at schools, but multiple areas of the city that are under-funded, this soda tax comes a little out of left field. It is unlikely that a tax as high as he is proposing will pass, and taxing soda not as a health and obesity campaign, but simply as a source of revenue for underfunded areas of the budget, seems a slippery slope that most will be unwilling to tread.

The state of Philadelphia’s school system has to rely on more than the potential to start taxing items at will. It requires a plan of action, with measurable goals, and a focused allocation of resources.

What do you think is the best move for the Philadelphia school district? Tweet at @AdamGoldin_!

 

Spring Festivals and Events in Philly

cherry blossom fairmont parkIt doesn’t matter if you are looking for a uniquely romantic date night or a relaxed family fun day, there are so many great things to do in Philadelphia in spring, and as the weather starts to warm up, there is no better way to shake off the chill and the cabin fever of winter than by getting out and enjoying some of the great events that this city has to offer.

Spruce Street Harbor Park. The Delaware River Waterfront has been amping up their game every year. We are going into the third year of the SSHP, and while I know it can get crowded in peak times, it is always worth the trip. Last year they stretched the length of the park further, and tied in more with the Roller Rink just around the point past the Seaport Museum. Though the specific details haven’t been released yet, they have always tried to expand the offerings. From horseshoes and shuffleboard to napping in a hammock fried chicken sandwiches from Federal Doughnuts and ice cream from Franklin Fountain, to a sandy beer, wine, and cocktail barge on the water for the grownups, it’s a spring afternoon that just can’t be beat. Last year they opened in May.

Chinese Lantern Festival. As part of the 10th birthday part of Franklin Square, Historic Philadelphia is putting on a great spring event starting in April and running until June. The small but charming square at 6th and Race will have the usual fare of the carousel and Philly-landmark mini-golf as well as Square Burger (for that Tastykake milkshake), but there will also be huge, illuminated lanterns, including a three-story-tall pagoda and a 200 foot long Chinese dragon. There will be craftspeople with small booths and will be creating edible sugar dragons, Chinese character painting of guest’s names, and more! There are entertainers at night when the lanterns are lit, including acrobats and balancing acts. The square is free during the day, but once the sun sets, the activities entertainment will come with a ticket price.

Fairmount Park’s Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival. Fashion shows, tours of the Shofuso Japanese Garden House, a samurai competition, Taiko drumming, dancing, karaoke, live music, Sakura Under the Stars, and more events all made an appearance at last year’s festival. And, of course, the cherry blossoms themselves, which are just as magical as any of the festivities put on at this wonderful spring festival.

Starting this month and running through September, the Franklin Institute will be hosting a “Science behind Pixar” event. From the math and engineering to the modeling and sound recording, dive into the world of Pixar with over 40 hands on displays, along with video of interviews with the creators of Pixar films. Try out modeling, set design, animation, and more at this event that everyone can enjoy. Don’t forget to walk through the giant heart on your way out, in true Franklin Institute tradition!

And don’t forget to celebrate warm weather the Philly way: with a street fair. The Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival, the South Street Spring Festival, and the 9th Street Italian Market Festival all happen about the same time every year. Each brings the unique personality of its neighborhood, with food, drinks, entertainment, music, and elbow-to-elbow people out into the sunshine every year. I recommend going early in the day if you are taking kids, as the crowds get rowdy after a day of sun and imbibing. If you’re looking for something more brainy, check out the Philadelphia Science Festival, which culminates every year with a street fair science carnival.

philadelphia skyline

Philly’s Changing Skyline

Philadelphia’s iconic skyline, familiar to anyone who visits frequently or calls Philly home, is changing again. The Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, due to open in 2017, has been in progress for a while (the $1.2 billion skyscraper began construction in 2014), and will be one of the largest buildings in the country when completed.

At 59 stories of glass and stainless steel tall, it has been planned to be an extension of Comcast’s global headquarters. It will also become the headquarters for NBC 10, Telemundo, and the Four Seasons Philadelphia Hotel. It has 1.285 million rentable square feet of office space, and 230,112 square feet of hotel space. The Four Seasons, which was located in Logan Square for over 30 years, will be taking over the top two floors with a spa, fitness facilities, meeting space, event space, and a 360 degree view restaurant at the very top of the building as the cherry on the sundae.

It will be the eighth tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The architect is world-renowned  Lord Norman Foster of Foster + Partners, with interior design by Gensler. It will include a parking garage and a retail mall on the lower levels and at least three television studios. There will be an enclosed public indoor plaza build to compliment Comcast’s existing outdoor space, and will connect to the Suburban Station concourse underground, as well as widened sidewalks and roads surrounding the building which will improve access to the area for Philadelphians.

Governor Tom Corbett’s Office said the tower “will become the dedicated home for the company’s growing workforce of technologists, engineers and software architects.”

“We are thrilled to mark another historic moment in our company’s history in Pennsylvania with the development of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “This expansion of Comcast’s vertical campus in Philadelphia will create tens of thousands of jobs and drive billions of dollars in economic development in the Commonwealth and the City. This exciting project would not be possible without the support of the Commonwealth and Governor Corbett, who is a true and committed partner in driving Pennsylvania’s growth.”

The building is estimated to generate $2.75 billion in overall economic impact in Pennsylvania and will create over 20,000 jobs by some estimates. They are also looking to make the center as much of an attraction as it is a technologically-advanced business center. “This entertainment and innovation complex elevates downtown Philadelphia’s strong reputation as a world-class destination for culture and connection,” Corbett said. “We’re investing in public spaces where visitors and Pennsylvanians alike can marvel at our world-class art, our incomparable architecture and our unique attractions. This project is not only about building a new tower on Philadelphia’s skyline, or about creating new and beautiful public spaces in Center City. This project shows that Philadelphia is taking a bite out of the ‘Big Apple’ and we are ready to compete with anyone in the world to bring jobs to Pennsylvania.”

While there is not yet word on what the restaurant on the top floor will be, the most buzz is definitely whirling around it. It will be the tallest publicly accessible point in Philadelphia by about 400 feet, with huge glass walls for a view of the entire city. For reference, the City Hall Tower Observation Deck is 500 feet above ground, and restaurant R2L is also 500 feet high, this new restaurant will clock in at 900 feet off the ground. And we also know there is no shortage of food talent in the Philadelphia area, so there is no doubt this place is going to knock some socks off.

Welcome!

Welcome to Adam Goldin‘s blog about Philadelphia. Check back here to learn more about all the amazing that the City of Brotherly Love has to offer.

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