A story in the Sunday New York Times highlighted the efforts Philadelphia’s public schools are taking to combat childhood obesity— and the challenges they face in doing so. I took a look at the issue last year for ASBJ, traveling down to Huntington, West Virginia, which had once been billed as the fattest city in America, a dubious distinction that earned them a visit and a makeover from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who goes into greater detail about this project here:
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Articles tagged with Philadelphia
Incidents of nepotism and conflict of interest recently have been uncovered in some New York City charter schools. Meanwhile, a Philadelphia investigation has found questionable financial practices among some of that city’s charters.
Doesn’t worry me.
Why not? One reason is that such nonsense just happens. There are more than 4,600 charter schools in the nation, so it’s inevitable that some charter organizers are going to be inexperienced, incompetent, or even dishonest in their handling of school finances.
The more cynical reason for my indifference is that charters are doomed.
Oh, I’m not predicting that charter schools are going away. Not a chance. A few financial horror stories are not going to diminish the momentum of the charter school movement or undermine the bipartisan political support that charters enjoy today.
No, I’m saying that charter schools are doomed to lose their independence and flexibility. Their promise of innovation is doomed to slow strangulation in bureaucratic red tape.
As I see it, this is inevitable. A few more years, a few more headlines about financial irregularities, and you’ll see state and federal lawmakers begin to push forward legislation to ensure that tax dollars aren’t misspent.
You’ll see state and federal regulators announce a host of rules on how they handle their money and what they can spend it on.
If you live long enough, you see ideas once considered acceptable damned. Live even longer, and you see those damned ideas acceptable again.
Recent news from Philadelphia has me feeling my age. This week, the city’s school reform commission voted to settle a 40-year-old school desegregation suit-essentially embracing the “separate but equal” education policy once thought overturned by Brown v. Board of Education.
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t think school officials want racially segregated schools. With white enrollment at 13 percent, and busing and other desegregation strategies long proven impractical, separate schools are a reality. This settlement simply acknowledges that.
Yet, I find this whole story surreal. In my lifetime, there were marches, lawsuits, and riots fueled by the desire to desegregate the schools. The thinking was that government simply couldn’t ensure equity in education in a racially segregated setting.
Now I read that the city’s black superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, “beamed after the vote.”
What’s going on? I understand that people are energized by a sense of beginning. This settlement, I suppose, offers a new hope-a sense of the city putting the past behind it and pledging, as the Philadelphia Daily News put it, “to improve educational opportunities in schools that are ‘racially isolated’ by adding programs, equipment, and better teachers.”