In case you missed it: This week’s best reads from Pennsylvania cities

    Administrators and teachers give students high-fives and help them navigate their first day of school at Mastery Charter School John Wister Elementary in Philadelphia

    Administrators and teachers give students high-fives and help them navigate their first day of school at Mastery Charter School John Wister Elementary in Philadelphia

    The back-to-school edition.

    We don’t need no (more) education (news)

    So much happened in the world of education this week, and not just your kindergartner starting school! 

    Hearings continued in the Lancaster refugee case, where a group of student refugees claim they are receiving a substandard education. The judge is expected to rule before school starts this week. 

    The case has brought other issues to light, such as ESL teacher to student ratios and so-called “diploma mills” that help students catch up when they fall behind — perhaps with sacrificing the quality of learning. 

    Lancaster isn’t alone in these struggles. Pennsylvania has tried to correct educational inequities with a new school funding formula, which has gotten a lot of praise. But in a new report, the faith-based advocacy group POWER says it’s actually going to leave students of color further behind. 

    If you like to laugh while you cry, John Oliver’s news-comedy show “Last Week Tonight” skewered Pennsylvania charter schools this week. (Content not entirely safe for work viewing.) Oliver used a clip of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale saying Pennsylvania has “the worst charter school law in the United States.”

    Joke’s on you, Oliver. Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that he’s creating a special division within the state Department of Education intended to oversee charter schools.  

    This may stop charter schools from doing crazy stuff like sending out mailers claiming the area public schools have a drug problem or are being run by fraudsters. 

    With all of these questionable educational practices in play, you may be thinking about what your property taxes are paying for. A lot of property tax increases go towards paying pensions for retired educators.  

    AP Civics

    We’re all getting an education in politics and government this election cycle, as it often seems the path to victory leads right through Pennsylvania. Republican VP nominee Mike Pence was near Philly, and his Democratic counterpart is coming to Erie, Lancaster, and the Lehigh Valley this week.

    There are different factions gaining strength in Pennsylvania, contributing to the swing state mentality. On the one hand, voters living in small cities and rural areas are responding to what they see as a loss of manufacturing jobs due to bad trade deals. But in some areas, the vote is skewing in the other direction, thanks to a large influx of Puerto Ricans, who can vote in general elections once they live in mainland United States. 

    Recess

    The best part of the day? Getting outside. In some Pennsylvania cities, a walk around town is accompanied by public works of art that anyone can enjoy. Philadelphia property developers are required to put a portion of their investment toward public art, for example. Other cities across the world have capitalized on art to revitalize distressed spaces and re-engage the community.

    Pittsburgh is currently debating just how much they want to air out to the public. Rather than art, it’s data that’s causing the consternation. A group called OpenPittsburgh thinks the city government’s data should be open, accessible and free to the public, promoting transparency. They managed to get a referendum on the ballot, but now, Pittsburgh is balking at the idea. Mayor Bill Peduto’s office said the referendum didn’t get enough signatures and would violate the city’s recovery plan under the state’s Act 47 program to assist distressed cities. They also say it’s would amount to an unfunded mandate. 

    Detention

    A federal immigration detention center in Berks County is getting national attention for a hunger strike. The center houses women and children awaiting immigration decisions after crossing the Mexico-U.S. border illegally. They are seeking asylum for gender or gang-based violence, and have been held in some cases for up to a year. The women were striking to protest their detainment at the facility, though they have recently moved to eating one meal a day. They say immigration officials threatened to separate them from their children if they didn’t begin to eat. 

    The case has caught the eye of Senator Bob Casey, who has reached out to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on behalf of the women. 

    Meanwhile, a protest of a different nature has broken out at a different Berks County detention facility. At the county prison, guards say they are over-worked due to short-staffing. The county says they are trying to fill open positions as quickly as possible. 

     

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.