Relax, People. Chip Kelly Is No Racist

Players and pundits are asking whether the Eagles’ coach makes personnel decisions based on race. But is that even the right question?

by Larry Platt

We all know the drill by now. There’s an accusation of racism. To some, the evidence is scant; to others, a prima facie case has been made. The response is defensive, sometimes condescendingly dismissive. And then we’re off to the races, talking past one another all the while.

That familiar script is taking shape now on a topic about which the citizens of Philadelphia are already arguably too passionate: professional football. What are the chances for a reasonable dialogue when you mix the hot-button issue of race with Philly’s fanaticism for football? Not high. But one prominent local academic says it’s not too late to turn the usual flurry of accusations and counter-accusations into a teachable moment.

Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly

First, the background. Stephen A. Smith, the bombastic ESPN on-air personality and former Inquirer columnist Stephen A. Smith raised the issue in Mid-March: Eagles coach Chip Kelly had just jettisoned African-American stars LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, a year after unceremoniously cutting Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson. The parting with Jackson was followed in short order by the long-term contract awarded to wide receiver Riley Cooper, the white player who, in the summer of 2013, was caught on handheld video using the ‘N’ word during a confrontation with an African-American security guard during a Kenny Chesney concert. (A concert, it should be noted, that Kelly, and a handful of white Eagle players, also attended; it should also be noted that Cooper didn’t use the word as a prototypical slur. He seemed to use its hip-hop appropriation—“nigga”—when he said, “I will jump that fence and fight every nigga here,” addressing the security guard standing between him and where he wanted to go).

Last month, Smith took to the airwaves. “Chip Kelly makes decisions the last couple of years that dare I say leave a few brothas feeling uncomfortable,” Smith said. “…Now, I’m not saying I know, I’m just gonna say that it does strike me as a tad bit odd. I’m gonna repeat this. Gone: LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, ya know, DeSean Jackson. Staying: Riley Cooper.”

Smith said there were rumblings of upset in the Eagles locker room.

Recently, Tra Thomas, a former star player and a former assistant coach under Kelly, said Smith was on to something. “One of the things that you’re seeing right now, and these are the things that you have heard in the locker room from some different players is that…they feel like there is a hint of racism,” Thomas said on Fox-29 News. He cited a study that came out last fall showing the Eagles to have fewer black players (27) and more white players (25) than any team in the league, which sharply differs from the composition of the league itself, which is 68 percent African-American and 28 percent white. “You start to see the culture of the team change extremely quick when Coach Kelly takes over,” Thomas said.

For his part, Kelly responded last week during a media session at the NFL owners meeting. “I was just disappointed,” he said. “We gave Tra a great opportunity. He came in on a Bill Walsh minority internship program. Mr. Lurie was nice enough to keep him on for two years—one on offense, one on defense—to see if he could find a job in the NFL. So I hope Tra does find a job in the NFL. We don’t have a job open.”

When asked about having more white players than any team in the league, Kelly said: “I don’t look at the color of any player. I just look at how do they fit on our team. In 2015, I don’t think that’s something that’s ever come into my mindset.”

Former assistant coach Tra Thomas said there was a “hint of racism” behind Kelly’s decisions, pointing to a study showing the Eagles have fewer black and more white players than any team in the NFL. “I don’t look at the color of any player,” Kelly replied.

Indeed, there is a case to be made in response to Thomas’ allegations. Yes, Kelly jettisoned some great black players, but he also signed some great black players, like DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell. His own chief of staff and alter ego, James Harris, is African-American.  And the coach has a history of introspection when it comes to race relations. When the Riley racial imbroglio flared up in 2013, Kelly reached out to the legendary Dr. Harry Edwards, professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley and a longtime leading voice on race in sports. According to a story last year in the Wall Street Journal, Kelly sought Edwards’ help in keeping his team together, and on other challenges facing a diverse locker room, including how to handle the playing of loud, racially- charged rap music. Continue reading

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Taking On Asthma

It is the number one cause of chronic absenteeism in Philadelphia schools, and one of the reasons so many children fall behind. One woman is working to change all that, at home and in schools

By Roxanne Patel Shepelavy

Tyra Bryant-Stephens, a pediatrician at CHOP’s West Philadelphia outpatient clinic, did everything she was supposed to do when she diagnosed a patient with asthma. She prescribed medicine to treat and prevent symptoms; taught families how to use inhalers; told them how to reduce triggers in their homes, by limiting smoke, dust, cockroaches and mold; helped them to develop action plans for keeping their children healthy. But the young doctor quickly realized that wasn’t enough.

“There was a disconnect between what we asked families to do, and what they would do at home,” Bryant-Stephens says. “Often I saw them after they’d had to rush their children to the emergency room, and knew they weren’t doing what we’d agreed. I knew I needed to try another approach.”

That was in 1992, when the treatment for asthma was less standard than it is now. But it was already the number one chronic disease in children, and the most common reason they went to the emergency room and were admitted to hospitals. What’s more, Bryant-Stephens knew that asthma was connected to another common problem among her low-income patients: Success at school.

35,000 students in Philadelphia suffer from the asthma, more than half of whom have ended up in the emergency room in the last year to treat an attack. As in other parts of the country, the city’s poorest children are most vulnerable.

Asthma is the leading cause of chronic absenteeism around the country, amounting to almost 13 million missed days every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. An estimated 35,000 students in Philadelphia suffer from the lung disease, more than half of whom have ended up in the emergency room in the last year to treat an attack. As in other parts of the country, the city’s poorest children are most vulnerable. They more often live in houses that carry triggers, like dust, mold and cockroaches. They are often in more heavily-polluted neighborhoods, near refineries and factories. And they often have parents with asthma, which puts them more at risk. Bryant-Stephens says asthma attacks often happen at night, disrupting sleep. “So even if they come to school, they tend not to learn as well,” she says. “They have worse concentration and memory, and are less on point with tasks. That negatively impacts their academic performance.” Continue reading

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Meet The Problem Solver…

Michael Gomez, Principal of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High, on the North Philly school’s innovative model

It wasn’t a (real life) teacher who originally inspired Michael Gomez to teach. Or a particular class. Or even his passion to help children learn.

It was Robin Williams—or at least John Keating, the character he plays in Dead Poets Society.

“In that movie, I saw that a teacher could bring language and literature to life,” says Gomez, who is now principal of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, a Catholic school in North Philadelphia. “Keating taught with passion and exuberance and got his students to feel the same. I wanted to do just that.”

Michael Gomez

Michael Gomez

Cristo Rey Philadelphia serves low income students of all faiths with a unique model: Four days a week, students engage in a college-prep curriculum on campus. The fifth day, they work at local businesses to gain real-world experience. Four students share the duties of one full-time entry-level employee at companies such as Comcast, Independence Blue Cross and The Philadelphia Zoo. The wages earned cover approximately 60 percent of each student’s school tuition.

The school is part of the Cristo Rey Network of 28 schools serving 9,000 students, 96 percent of whom are minority, in 27 cities across America. These students earn a reported $44 million each year, and the Network boasts that it has a 100 percent college acceptance rate.

Gomez says he is continuously inspired by the real-life John Keatings he works with everyday. “Our faculty and staff truly believe they are working towards a common mission—changing the lives of the students in our care,” he says.

The principal began his career with the hope that he might teach students not just how to read “the word” (as in all literature), but also the world. “I knew that it was a world that needed change,” he says. “I thought I could do that best as a teacher.”

Gomez, who has an education doctorate from Penn, first taught at his alma mater, St. Peter’s Preparatory School, in Jersey City, NJ. Since then, he’s served as Assistant Principal for Student Affairs at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE, and as principal of Philly’s St. Joseph’s Prep.

“I will feel successful at Cristo Rey when our students graduate college and begin to transform the world,” he says.

THE CITIZEN: Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School was founded in 2012. How and why was the school created?

Michael Gomez: Knowing the landscape of education in Philadelphia, especially the public sector, we saw a need to serve urban students, especially students from families that are struggling socio-economically. We wanted to reach out to these students and tell them that if you go to our high school, you will be accepted into and graduate college. It is a bold statement that no one was making and we wanted to start a school that could make that statement.

We saw a need to teach students so that they were both college-ready and world-ready.  We wanted to create a school that developed students personally and professionally. We do all this through our college prep curriculum and work-study program. Continue reading

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Moscow on the Delaware

With two months to go in the election, can Democratic Party candidates rise above the mediocrity of one party rule?

by Jeremy Nowak

Nowak

Nowak

What is the incentive to do things differently in a one party system that too often rewards loyalty over performance?

Can the next mayor rise above the accommodations of one party rule to change the basic operating assumptions of government? Or will we read about the transgressions at Licenses and Inspections ten years from now, just as we did ten and twenty years ago?

First, let’s be clear: The Republican Party in Philadelphia has no chance to win a citywide election based on party registration and the national brand of the party, particularly with African American voters. The city’s Republican establishment seems fine with losing as long as it maintains a small share of patronage through the parking authority and the courts. Moreover, the two most competitive Republican candidates during the past fifty years were former Democrats: Frank Rizzo and Sam Katz. If Katz or Bill Green ran as independents this fall, their chances of winning would increase dramatically if the Republican Party disappeared. But it won’t; a reliable but diminishing number of Republican votes will siphon votes from an independent.

The Democratic Party decides who is next. Political reform is now less about new ways of doing things and more about bringing new constituencies into the fold: LGBT voters, new immigrants, the bicycle lobby.

One party rule is not unusual in urban politics. Chicago and Boston have had Democratic mayors for 85 straight years. That’s a run that would make Mexico’s PRI, which held national power for a mere 71 straight years, blush with envy. But in Philly, we excel at it. During the past 138 years, Philadelphia has had two streaks of one party rule. The Republicans ran the city for 75 straight years between 1884 and 1951 and from 1952 until today we have been a Democratic town: 63 years and counting.

Philadelphia’s Democratic Party reform movement led to the election of Joseph Clark as mayor in 1952 followed by the estimable Richardson Dilworth. This ended a Republican patronage machine with a colorful and often corrupt history.

But the golden era of reform was short-lived. By the late 1960’s the reform-minded Democratic Party was becoming a more insular ward- based system. Mayors Tate and Rizzo represented the rise of row home Philadelphia, with heavy support from working and middle class neighborhoods that felt cut out by the Republicans, but were also alienated from the seemingly more well-heeled good government Democrats.

Then came the emergence of African American political power in the 1970’s, a disruptive force to the party of Tate and Rizzo. In fact the first serious African American candidate for mayor, Charles Bowser, bucked the party in the 1970’s and ran as an independent.

Through Bowser, African American leaders signaled that the party better make room. African American wards and electoral power became increasingly mainstreamed; three of our  past four mayors have been African American.

Since those days, the battle within the Democratic Party has been about the distribution of appointments, nominations, and contracts among social groups bound by neighborhood, ward loyalty, money, and ethnic or racial affiliation. Continue reading

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The Citizen Recommends…The Storm: Philadelphia 1765-1790

The latest installment of Sam Katz’s documentary on the history of Philadelphia airs Thursday, April 2 at 7:30 pm on Channel 6

The newspapers still contain speculation about Sam Katz’s political future, and he’s lately been given to weighing in on pressing contemporary issues. But it’s when you engage him on his hometown’s past that Katz comes most alive.

The latest short film from Katz’s History Making Productions captures a city at war with itself during the struggle for independence. Characters including Thomas Paine and Betsy Ross wrestle with the meaning of phrases like “all men are created equal” as they try to rebuild a city and found a nation at the same time. As with the series’ other installments, Katz and his team bring our city’s history to life by combining academic rigor with gripping storytelling. Kudos to Channel 6 for preempting the ever-profitable Wheel of Fortune for such a local history lesson. But Katz the documentarian—and maybe Katz the once (and future) politician— understands that his films do more than look in our rear-view mirror: “You can’t envision where you want to go, if you have no idea where you’ve been,” he says.Unknown

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Kill The Property Tax

The way we fund schools is fatally flawed. It’s time to find a better way.

By Dr. G. Terry Madonna and Dr. Michael Young

Editor’s Note: In their most recent Politically Uncorrected ™ column, Dr. G. Terry Madonna and Dr. Michael Young argue that the Pennsylvania property tax should be eliminated. Madonna is Professor of Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Young is an author, pollster, and speaker, and was Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Penn State University. They can be reached, respectively, at terry.madonna@fandm.edu and drmikelyoung@comcast.net.

Governors propose and legislatures dispose.

That particular political adage could be one that Governor Tom Wolf might ponder as he begins the likely lengthy process of steering his budget and tax proposals through the state’s Republican dominated legislature.

Unknown-1

Dr. G. Terry Maddonna

Wolf’s budget proposes major tax restructuring designed to reduce Pennsylvania’s property tax burden by 50 percent on the average taxpayer.  But if 50 percent, why not 100 percent? Why not get rid of the property tax for school funding altogether?

Is that a radical idea, an extreme idea, an unrealistic idea?

Actually, no!

Dr. Michael Young

Dr. Michael Young

Many legislative Republicans would like to do so, and Wolf is certainly moving in that direction. Pennsylvanians widely favor it as well.

Moreover, the argument for abolishing the property tax as a source of public school funding is compelling. Doing so would comprise one of those rare moments in government where officials have the opportunity to do something that is not only good politics, but also good policy and good economics.

 

Pennsylvania’s property tax, like property taxes in many other states, is a fossilized artifact from the 19th century that faltered badly in the 20th century and failed spectacularly into the 21st century.

Pennsylvania is dead last in terms of the inequality between how wealthy and poor districts are funded. This embarrassing outcome is mostly the result of using the property tax to fund education.

There is not much good to say about it – and few do. Economists and public finance experts have produced entire libraries documenting the foibles of the property tax. It’s a very long list.

  •   FAIRNESS – the property tax is regressive, unfairly falling on seniors and others with fixed incomes or less means to pay it.
  •   COST- the property tax is enormously expensive for government to collect compared to modern “broad based” taxes like income or sales.
  •   EFFICIENCY – the property tax is “inelastic;” economist-speak for a tax that fails to raise enough revenue to pay the bills.
  •   COMPLEXITY – the property tax is unreasonably complex, relying on arcane metrics like “millage” and wildly disparate valuations that make it byzantine and baffling to taxpayers.
  • UNPOPULAR– finally, the property tax is repugnant to most taxpayers, deeply resented and widely unpopular.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently revealed that: “The state of Pennsylvania is 50th, dead last, in terms of the inequality between how wealthy school districts are funded and poor districts.” This embarrassing outcome, prejudicial to poorer school districts, is mostly the result of using the property tax to fund education.

Among all the major taxes Americans pay, including income and sales taxes, property taxes are the worst by any measure used. Taxpayers loathe them; politicians deplore them; economists condemn them. Continue reading

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New Blood: Has Allan Domb Lost His Mind?

Condo King Allan Domb shocked the establishment by running for City Council. He hopes he’s just the first business macher to get off the sidelines.

By Larry Platt

Allan Domb ticks off the names, and the list reads like a heavy-hitter who’s who of Philadelphia. He’s committed the names to memory, all of those nice and uber-successful friends he sees on Rittenhouse Square every day, all saying some version of the same thing to him: “Have you lost your mind?”

Allan Domb

Allan Domb

When the 59-year-old real estate tycoon and restaurant owner (he’s partnered with, among others, Stephen Starr on numerous projects) announced what seemed to be his quixotic run for City Council, the establishment took note. For a long time, the business community in Philadelphia hasn’t done politics. They’ve been a part of our transactional culture—donating to campaigns, seeking favorable policies for their business interests—but they have shied away from wading too far into the cesspool and trying to help fix things. Power has long been outsourced here to elected officials.

That may be changing. Philly 3.0 is a PAC put together by a group of prominent businessmen, intent on altering the makeup of City Council. (In a sign of just how scared the business community is of the cutthroat pols that hold sway here, 3.0 is not releasing the names of those bankrolling the independent expenditure venture). And now comes Domb, unafraid to step out from the shadows and seek to make a difference in a very public way.

Has he lost his mind? Or is Domb some master Machiavelli? A recent news report floated ungrounded speculation that he’s a Darrell Clarke stalking horse; by exceeding $250,000 in self-funding donations to his campaign, he can trip the “millionaire’s provision” which would ease fundraising limits for other candidates, something that is of great value to Clarke’s favored incumbents.

Domb came to Philadelphia in 1977 and started working at Phelps Time Lock Service, selling and servicing mechanical locks for $14,000 per year. At night, the belching of his muffler-less ’63 Impala announced his arrival at Howard Johnson’s, where he’d wash dishes. Meantime, he started attending real estate classes at Temple.

“What is that?” Domb asks of the cynical press speculation. “How does that come to be printed?” Welcome to the world of Philly politics, Allan. Ironically, it turns out, Domb’s entry into the race did come about from a conversation with Darrell Clarke. But it wasn’t one about some backroom deal. It was, instead, a discussion that reignited his inner idealist.

Two years ago, when the city was shuttering over 20 schools, Clarke asked Domb, president of the Board of Realtors, if he could hazard a guess as to how much those buildings would fetch on the open market. Domb said he doesn’t shoot from the hip. So he spent some time doing due diligence. He visited each school, walked around the neighborhoods, talked to residents. He ventured into areas of the city he’d never seen, and was aghast. “I told Darrell, some of the schools were saleable, some were usable, but a good many were disastrous,” he says.

Domb took his assignment one step further. He suggested an innovative solution for the neighborhoods that were suddenly on his radar screen. He advised Clarke to create a Keystone Opportunity Zone and offer the shuttered schools to companies for free if they’d hire 10 percent of their employees from the 10 blocks surrounding the school.

“The idea didn’t go anywhere, but it made me say to myself, ‘You’ve got to get more involved with the city,’” Domb recalls. “My grandfather served in World War I. My father was in World War II. Philadelphia has been very good to me over the past 35 years. I said, you know what, what have I really done in terms of community service?” Continue reading

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Young, Drunk, and In Defense of the PLCB

Why privatizing liquor in Pennsylvania will leave us with a hangover.

By Jim Saksa

A wise man once called alcohol the cause of, and solution to, all life’s problems. There may be no place where that’s more true than Pennsylvania these days, where alcohol is once again the cause of a fight in Harrisburg, and where privatization supporters herald it as the solution to a whole host of the Commonwealth’s problems.

The case for privatizing liquor and wine sales is devastatingly simple: The state shouldn’t sell booze. I get that. I hate having to stop at two different stores when I’m in a boilermaker makin’ mood. And I think a lot of Pennsylvania’s liquor laws are stupid, like the weird minimum volumes at beer distributors (which are changing) and our ludicrous liquor licensing system.

When it comes to privatization and the promise of better booze choices, my heart and gut say yes. But my head and liver say no.

images

Like a barrel-aged bourbon, my views on this matter have matured. We’ve inherited today’s system from our Old Granddad-drinking great-grandparents. This is a system no one would have ever designed on purpose, not unless they hated drinking and wanted to make it as difficult as legally possible to get drunk. Which is exactly what happened: When prohibition ended, Pennsylvania was governed by Gifford Pinchot, an outspoken dry who famously said the new PLCB’s mission was to make acquiring alcohol “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.”

When it comes to privatization and the promise of better booze choices, my heart and gut say yes. But my head and liver say no. Like a barrel-aged bourbon, my views on this matter have matured.

As a result, we’re one of two states—Utah, full of tee-totaling Mormons, is the other—that controls the retail and wholesale distribution of liquor and wine.

But there are another 17 so-called “control” states where a government agency controls the wholesale distribution of liquor and wine. And 13 of those also handle the retail side of liquor sales. So if you want some hard booze in Virginia, you have to head to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, store.

Until recently, Washington was one such state that controlled distribution and retail for hard liquor (but not wine, which you could get by the bottle at bars and grocery stores). In 2011, they privatized their liquor stores. To compensate for the lost revenues from hawking hooch, the “No, not DC” State imposed annual fees and charged large sums for retail liquor licenses.

As a result, liquor prices actually rose in Washington. One-third of the stores that opened under the first 167 licenses auctioned off by the state have since closed, unable to pay off the loans they took out to afford a license. Washington’s overflowing fees soaked up all the newly-privatized stores’ profits, leaving the owners there high and dry. Continue reading

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Wanted: A More Powerful Philadelphia Foundation

Foundations in Kansas City and Tulsa have surpassed ours in terms of reach and influence. How can we get our philanthropic Mojo back?

By Jeremy Nowak

Nowak

Nowak

In 2014 the Cleveland Foundation celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was a landmark celebration for the $2 billion philanthropy. The Foundation is not only important to that city but it was the founding institution of the community foundation movement.

In 2018 the Philadelphia Foundation will celebrate its 100th anniversary. It has done wonderful things for the city and region but its endowment is only $365 million – in a city that is four times the size of Cleveland. In fact, its size and its influence are a great deal less than that of other community foundations in almost any other city in America. Is this a problem that we can fix or has the clock run out on the local community foundation model?

Here is some historical context. The Cleveland Foundation was founded in 1914 by Frederick Goff; a prominent Cleveland lawyer. Goff had a long association with John Rockefeller and admired Rockefeller’s philanthropy, through the General Welfare Board in 1902 and then the Rockefeller Foundation, launched in 1913.

Rockefeller was one of a number of late 19th and 20th Century industrialists along with Sage, Carnegie, and Mellon, who pioneered privately endowed philanthropies.

Foundations in Cleveland, Chicago, and New York have more than $2 billion in assets, and Boston recently reached the $1 billion mark. Philly has trailed far behind with a $365 million endowment.

The big innovations of private philanthropy at that time were organizational and legal: Private endowments could now function in perpetuity with favorable tax treatment; hire professional staff; and stay aligned with original donor intent, rather than the whims of later heirs or executives.

Goff organized smaller donors to have the clout of the emerging private endowments. As a multi-donor trust, The Cleveland Foundation became a public charity, accountable to a broader representation, taking in money from many donors and focusing its endowment on charitable purposes.

Just as Rockefeller had a global vision for his Foundation, Goff’s vision was for one city and one region. While Carnegie was thinking about a national library system and Rockefeller was providing research dollars for innovations in agriculture, the Cleveland Foundation was worrying about conditions in the immigrant east end.

One year earlier Cleveland was also the birthplace of another democratic experiment in philanthropy: the community chest, later known as the United Way. Its structure was based on an interfaith charity in Denver 25 years earlier.

Community foundations and the United Way became the two mass philanthropies of the industrial age: the Vanguard gift funds and Kickstarters of a very different era. They organized donors at different levels of wealth and from different sources to invest in local civil society.

Immediately after the Cleveland Foundation was founded, prominent trust bankers and civic leaders followed suit in other cities: Chicago and Boston in 1915, Philadelphia in 1918 and New York in 1924. Today there are about 800 community foundations in the United States and a similar number around the world.

Where Philadelphia diverged from other big city community foundations is in asset growth and civic influence. Whereas Cleveland, Chicago, and New York have more than $2 billion in assets (Boston recently reached the $1 billion mark) Philly has trailed far behind.

Asset growth is not everything; effectiveness and influence can happen outside of larger pools of capital. They often do. But scale provides one important pathway to social impact, which is why a public foundation should exist.

The other way to be influential is by how you do things: through pioneering funding strategies, convening civic partners to work on problems together, becoming a warehouse for city and regional data and progress indicators, or creating technology platforms for donors and grantees so as to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Philly Foundation’s small asset base has always been a bit of a mystery. Is it a question of leadership over many decades, long before the current President? Is it a question of the interests and capacities of the trustees? Why is the place so seemingly sleepy and content in comparison to others around then nation? Continue reading

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From Balancing Checkbooks to Coding Video Games

Tuesday night’s Citizen Speaks panel featured unique perspectives on partnerships between public schools and private businesses to enhance learning and grow the workforce.

By Rosella LaFevre

“When you design a school, you need to understand that students learn outside those four walls.”

With those words, Building 21 co-founder Laura Shubilla introduced—and summed up—the Citizen Speaks event Tuesday night that delved into a paramount issue for Philadelphia: The importance of engaging city corporations in the business of educating students.

Allan Domb, Jeremy Nowak, Jeff Benjamin and Laura Shubilla

Allan Domb, Jeremy Nowak, Jeff Benjamin and Laura Shubilla

Shubilla was joined on stage by Citizen columnist (and the evening’s moderator) Jeremy Nowak; Vetri co-owner Jeff Benjamin; and realtor (and Council-at-large candidate) Allan Domb, whose idea for how to bring more Philadelphians into the workforce prompted the evening’s discussion. Domb’s big idea: Encourage businesses to create technical training curricula in local high schools.

The panel’s discussion was followed by comments from the crowd of educators, business and civic leaders and interested citizens, including School Reform Commissioner Bill Green, who said that we can fix our schools within 10 years with the right resources and focus—even, perhaps, by authorizing more new charter schools this year.

Here are some of the other highlights:

Domb noted the city’s 26 percent poverty rate, and the fact that businesses struggle to find qualified workers. By giving businesses a say in how future workers are trained in high school, he said, both businesses and students benefit. He posited that such a plan might entice businesses from out of the city to move here for the chance to develop curriculum and train future workers. “All I want to do is make sure these kids get a job,” Domb said. Continue reading

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