PAS lottery conducted, rally planned to pressure Penn

February 18, 2013

PennParents of some of next year’s prospective Penn Alexander School kindergartners will rally outside a University of Pennsylvania meeting on Wednesday to persuade the School District of Philadelphia to open up more spots in the school’s kindergarten and first grade. The rally comes as the District confirmed that the lottery was held and that parents would be notified by mail this week.

A group of parents of “kindergarten eligible students” are organizing the rally as Penn’s University Council meets. A representative of the group, a Penn professor, will speak during the “open forum” portion of the meeting, which allows members of the Penn community to raise issues. The meeting is only open to people affiliated with Penn and top Penn administrators are expected to be present. The rally is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. outside of Houston Hall at 3417 Spruce Street.

A Penn-affiliated parent who lives in the Lea School catchment is scheduled to speak on “partnering with local public schools beyond Penn Alexander.”

Penn Alexander rally organizers are asking that kindergarten class sizes, currently capped at 18, be increased to accommodate all registered students. Penn provides funding to the school to help keep the class sizes smaller than the District maximum of 30 seats per class.

“We request that seats be added to accommodate 22 Kindergarten students per class,” the rally organizers wrote in a statement.

The group also reiterated its opposition to the registration lottery, which was held by computer last week. According to the statement, 88 children registered for kindergarten, which includes some Head Start and special needs students who receive automatic enrollment. The increase to 22 seats would ensure admission for all students who registered.

“Based upon our group’s investigation we believe the existing kindergarten and first grade classrooms are large enough and can support more children,” the statement reads. “We believe that through a natural attrition, the class sizes for first grade will never reach close to 30.”

The group is also pressing the district to release details about how the lottery was conducted. So far district officials have only told parents that they will receive notification of their child’s status in the mail this week.

In an e-mail to prospective kindergarten parents, district spokesman Fernando Gallard wrote:

“The letter will advise if your child is admitted to the 2013-2014 class or if your child is on the waiting list. If an applicant is on the waiting list, a number advising the order on the waiting list will be cited in the letter.  The letter also asks applicants on the waiting list of their opportunity to seek enrollment at Lea School.”

Mike Lyons


27 Comments For This Post

  1. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Does anyone know if the students who are automatically enrolled must live in the catchment?

  2. 46er Says:

    Yes, as we were told.

  3. Durruti Says:

    The most militant line parents will be utilizing black bloc tactics at the rally.

  4. Two Questions for Durruti Says:

    1. What are black bloc tactics?

    2. What is your basis for believing anyone is planning on using them?

  5. Durruti Says:

    1. You obviously have access to the internet. Give it a whirl.
    2. I got the ‘real’ rally flyer from the secret insider email list. Aren’t you on it?

  6. Two Questions for Durruti Says:

    I have been on the internet long enough to know that not every single blog poster out there uses the standard definition of every term, and that sometimes a term has multiple meanings, only one of which is intended by a given poster. It sounds like you are accusing someone of being up to something nefarious, and I think you ought to be a little clearer as to your meaning.

  7. Anun Says:


  8. Durruti Says:

    I thought it was obvious I was joking. Apologies for not making it clearer.

  9. Anon Says:

    Will Amy Gutmann be there?

  10. veronana70 Says:

    The article right below this one states how the city is going to increase my property taxes by 90% next year (I just checked my parcel info via the map link in the article). Forget Penn, we need to rally the City. Amy is not cashing in on our taxes!

    I have a child and I live in the catchment. I oppose increasing the classroom size- even by just one. There have to be other solutions, but everyone has to realize that not everyone is going to win.

  11. Anon Says:

    Our taxes pay for a school that our children may not be allowed to attend. This is why people move to the suburbs. Nutter are you paying attention?

  12. Childless Taxpayer Says:

    My taxes pay for that school too. Enjoy the suburbs.

  13. KT Says:

    Actually, your property taxes do not go to your school district (correct me someone if I am wrong).

    Philadelphia has fudged up their control over Philadelphia schools- and now the state controls the Philadelphia School District’s budget and apportionment. So- a property tax increase does not necessarily mean more money for your local school (it would almost be ok if it did- because at least we would be able to see it go to something we care about in our neighborhood).

  14. Anonymous Says:

    KT, you are wrong. Although the state technically controls the school district through the School Reform Commission, the school district is still funded through Philadelphia property taxes:

    The reason the Actual Value Initiative won’t bring additional revenue to the city and school district is that it is supposed to be “revenue neutral.”

    West Philadelphians should keep in mind that citizens in the Northeast and Northwest neighborhoods in particular have been overpaying in their property taxes for years and even decades all the while paying the same wage tax as everyone else. We weren’t getting a break from the city because we’re somehow special or more deserving than other taxpayers. The system was simply messed up and the city is now attempting to fix it albeit imperfectly that’s for sure. It’s going to be painful for everyone but the argument that our area should continue to get a special benefit only shifts the burden back on to other Philadelphians.

  15. AT Says:

    KT, the school district does receive about 54% of our property taxes, with the rest going to the city. So, if property taxes were to increase, the school district and the city would potentially both get more funding. But, what’s happening with AVI is more of a re-balancing that so far council is saying will be “revenue neutral” – meaning some neighborhoods will be paying less, some will be paying more, and the city and the school district would not be any better or worse off.

    I don’t know the breakdown of how much of the district’s revenue comes from local property taxes and how much comes from the state – anyone have a good source for this?

    Also just to clarify for Anon, property taxes don’t go to your individual neighborhood school, they go to the district. So when we see funding disparities between neighborhood schools, that’s not directly related to one neighborhood having higher taxes than another. It’s because of other indirect factors – like schools having different fundraising abilities, or relationships with funders (i.e. Penn), etc.

    Also, thought people on this thread might be interested in this article:

  16. Anonymous Says:

    The district’s five-year financial plan breaks down the revenue sources but not in the viewer-friendly pie chart format I was hoping for:

  17. anon Says:

    There are only 88 Kindergarten kids this year. But how many kids will there be next year or the year after? We can’t keep increasing class size so that all kids in the catchment can attend; there may be a point when when you have over 100 kids registering for K. What is the alternative then?

  18. AT Says:

    Anonymous, thanks!

  19. KT Says:

    Strange- I just assumed that schools were not part of the Philly responsibility because they do not show up on the budget and seem to jump like puppets any time Harrisburg decides :

    Thank you for the clarification…

    I wish there was something we could do so that West Philly parents all had a guaranteed great school for their kids. We’ve lost to many neighbors to Narberth- and, selfishly, we’d like to keep living here and not have to move to the burbs or shell out $20K for private school per child.

    Penn Alexander has a capacity that works and makes it desirable.
    Lea needs some major, immediate building repair and investment from the community and surrounding institutions. I wonder if we could pull this off fast enough by shuffling some attention, funding, and know-how to help Lea with their many awesome projects- and in time enough so that this year’s kindergarten crop of parents and kids would feel comfortable?

    What would it take for Lea to scoop up those Penn Alexander kids who did not get in by lottery?

  20. PAS mom Says:

    I think what it would take for Lea to take the Penn Alexander overflow would be for Penn Alexander to get so overcrowded that kids on the waiting list don’t get in even after a year or two. The current situation where families pull their kids out of Lea as soon as they get in somewhere “better” doesn’t seem like it’s going to lead to Lea improving. What kind of credibility are these parents going to have in the Lea community when they call for change?

    Furthermore, I doubt that Penn Alexander will ever get that over-crowded. People are not going to keep moving into the catchment like lemmings even as their chances of attending the school evaporate. Applications are already down this year from the previous few years. It’s possible that the over-crowding problem has already solved itself.

  21. cg Says:

    KT, Lea already scoops up kids who do not get a spot at PAS. My son is one of them, and I have to say I’m so far happy with the school. I don’t plan on pulling him out as soon as something “better” comes along. I know a few other parents in the PAS catchment who have kids at Lea feel the same. The teachers I’ve met are great, as is the principal. What the school needs is more resources. More involvement from the community and UPenn would be great.

  22. chill out Says:

    we all need to relax, what are we going to do if UPENN decides to pull their funds?
    we all know what the school district was dumb and not very well thought out but stop attacking UPenn!

  23. chill out Says:

    Im mainly talking about the silly rally last night.

  24. LW Says:

    Don’t leave it like that …

    What happened at the rally?

  25. Neighbors Says:

    We submitted an application for our child and have not been notified of the lottery results at all.

  26. mouse Says:

    The parents I know who got their letter got it by going to PSD headquarters or by going to the office at PAS. Although the PSD told them letters went out Friday/Monday (they were told both) they had not received anything by today in the mail.

  27. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    @Chill out are you seriously not looking at Penn in all this? Some of the ‘greatest minds’ are working, teaching, and attending Penn but they didn’t see what was going to happen when this was set up?

    I cannot wait to see what comes of the investigation of non-resident students at PAS. Personally I know of families who attend and do not actually live in the catchment. Whether they rent empty properties, use fake addresses, or just have administration look the other way it is fraud.

    It may not seem like a big deal but ask the parents who were wait listed if it’s a big deal to them.

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