Happy Friday. This week, we have our recommended reads and also some podcasts for your weekend listening.
As the school year winds down, students might be putting away their books, but Pennsylvania legislators and school leaders are grappling with budgets, testing and education funding.
In Part 12 of our Multiple Choices series of podcasts and web explainers, we break down the complex jargon often thrown around by educators, politicians and yes, even journalists. If you’ve ever wondered what a “block grant” or “charter authorizer” is, we have created a glossary of education funding terms.
Starting with the Class of 2017, Pennsylvania high school students will need to pass the Keystone exam, which includes standardized tests in literature, algebra and biology in order to earn diplomas. This sounds difficult enough for any student, but as you can imagine, non-native speakers feel lucky to graduate before this new Pa. Keystone test requirement.
Students who do not pass the Keystone exam after two attempts can complete a project-based assessment. A recent report estimates that based on last year’s rates, a quarter million Pennsylvania students would need help with project based assessments.
Pennsylvania barely passes when it comes to education spending, earning a D to two reports from civil rights groups. (The Notebook)
As the investigation into the May 12 Amtrak derailment continues, the NTSB concludes that the engineer was not using his cell phone at the time of the crash. (NewsWorks)
How to reuse old rail lines? A point of pride for Pennsylvania is completing the most rails-to-trails projects in the nation, according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy. (The Washington Post)
More on rails — SEPTA loses less money on fares than most other transit agencies and we have the charts to prove it. (PlanPhilly)
Got a baby bump? Campaigns to raise awareness on transportation etiquette are getting more aggressive, especially when there is a baby on board.
Housing and income inequality
According to a recent analysis by Governing magazine, Philadelphia is the second fastest gentrifying city in the country. But what is gentrification, and what are its implications? For many, the term can mean that many low-income residents will face displacement and rapid hikes in property taxes. For others, the term can mean revitalization and neighborhood improvement. Radio Times explores whether gentrification can occur without displacing long-time residents. (WHYY’s Radio Times)
Last week, 300 people came together to imagine what an ungentrified New York Cities would look like in 2034? Part of the future includes the media and community organizers taking a more active role. (NextCity)
For Philadelphia public housing, the demolition of high-rise towers and replacing them with low-rise units is viewed by some opponents as an unfair land grab from minorities. (PlanPhilly)
A New York tech company found that three of the most affordable places to buy a home in Pennsylvania are in Schuylkill and Northumberland County. (Republican Herald)
The size of our cities affects income inequality. The Brookings Institution has found that large cities have more uneven income distribution than small cities. (CityLab)
The Act 47 program addresses the finances of distressed communities, but building better relationships between officials are just as critical. There are programs in some other states that tackle discord head on.
As annual pension payouts for city retirees are getting harder for municipal governments to afford, lawmakers want to switch to 401(k)-style retirement plans for all future municipal hires – including police and firefighters.
The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin named three consulting firms as the Act 47 coordinators for the borough of Colwyn.
Just for fun…
You’ve hear of pop-up parks? Well, a Pop-Up Pope Francis greeted biking priests and seminarians after a 1,400 mile pilgrimage to a City Avenue seminary. (NewsWorks)
Chocolate lovers take note. Could you possibly love chocolate more? Hershey’s Chocolate World believes you can and is now offering chocolate tastings.
You might want to consider a trip to see the Reading Phillies. Why? Cheap tickets, free parking, a plethora of mascots and an ostrich-riding hotdog vendor. Of course he has his own (somewhat creepy) bobble head. (Philadelphia Magazine)