In case you missed it: This week’s good reads about Pennsylvania cities

     Students arrive on the first day of school in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Students arrive on the first day of school in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    It’s back to school without a budget. In this week’s city reads: school funding, affordable housing and the importance of volunteers.

    School budgets

    We are number two. Michigan is number one. The ranking reflects the number of school districts with credit ratings have been downgraded to “speculative.” To blame? An “entrenched” budget stalemate in Harrisburg, charter school payments, and pension costs.Over half of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have contacted State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s office and he is getting an earful. The budget impasse has already cost $11 million in interest payments just to keep schools open. 

    School funding

    Governor Wolf has a new school funding formula that is caught up in the budget battle. But even when his new plan is implemented, it still may not eradicate racial bias in school funding. (The Atlantic)Public-private partnerships between schools and corporations have shown some promise. What is the future of schools like Philadelphia’s School of the Future? (Route Fifty)Five Pennsylvania school districts have appealed to the Supreme Court, alleging that Pennsylvania’s school funding formula is unconstitutional and too reliant on local property taxes. (Lancaster Online)Get schooled on all the basics about education funding by reviewing the Multiple Choices series.

    Communities coping

    The Commonwealth’s communities are scrambling to continue much-needed services as budget negotiations languish. Dauphin County is using money from its general fund to keep mental health service providers afloat. (Pennlive)  Juniata County may have to decide whether non-mandated services should be downsized or halted. (The Sentinel)  Berks County nonprofits are deciding whether to temporarily cut staff or suspend programs. (The Reading Eagle) Cambria county officials are trying to secure a multi-million dollar loan that may not be available until after the November general election. (Altoona Mirror).

     Poverty and housing

    Braddock can boast that it has its own MacArthur Genius grant winner. LaToya Ruby Frazier, photographer and video artist, documents the collapse of the steel industry and its impact on industrial suburbs.

    In Lancaster, baby boomers and millennials are seeing a limited supply of reasonably priced apartments for their growing population.

    Day to day survival. That’s the goal of those who are considered to be deeply impoverished. Deep poverty isn’t just being poor; it often means being homeless and unemployed with higher rates of depression and suicide. Philadelphia has the highest deep poverty level among the 10 largest U.S. cities. ( shows that a small increase in household income can improve outcomes for children with mental and behavioral health issues, including ADHD and depression. Reduced family stress over finances is a major contributing factor to better outcomes. (CityLab)

    Wilkinsburg’s Hamnet Place neighborhood received an $11 million grant to restore the historic Falconhurst building and create 33 affordable housing units. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

    Serve somebody

    Pennsylvania is 26th among the states in volunteerism. In cities with dwindling budgets and tight municipal finances, volunteers can fill the gaps in city services. But what are the best practices for volunteering? There is a playbook.

    There’s a push for SEPTA to offer student discounts through a “School Partnership Program.” As of Tuesday, a petition had garnered over 700 signatures. (PlanPhilly)

    The World Meeting of Families and the pope visit brought a lot of good feelings to Philadelphia and beyond. Catch up with the reporting of the Newsworks staff during the papal visit. As Pope Francis said upon his departure: “May our days together bear fruit that will last, generosity and care for others that will endure!”

    Enjoy your weekend.

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