City officials are gearing up for the end of school — hoping to help kids have a fun, safe and nutritious summer. As the end of the school year approaches, officials have announced a number of initiatives aimed at the city’s youth.
Perhaps one of the most important — but least visible — is the Summer Food Program, which provides a free breakfast, lunch and mid-afternoon snack to any child in the city, filling stomachs that are often empty without access to school lunches.
“When the summer time comes we lose a lot of children,” said Patrice Patton, the Summer Food Program coordinator. “We were labeled as one of the country’s hungriest cities. For some of these children, the only healthy meal they receive during the school year is at school. So, we’re like an extension of the free-lunch program.”
Last year 2.8 million meals were served to approximately 90,000 children in June, July and August.
Patton said she expected that number to increase this year.
“Because of the economics of our city,” she said.
This year the program starts June 18 and runs through Aug. 31.
Meals will be served to children from 1 to 18. All the child has to do is show up.
“We take any child,” said Patton.
They are served at schools, recreation centers, YMCAs, churches and other sites. Meals are served at a number of outdoor sites too — playgrounds, play streets or city parks.
Last year there were 859 sites scattered throughout the city. The list of this year’s sites is still being compiled.
Patton said program officials try to keep the menu appealing to children and nutritious. The menu varies every day but she gave as an example, tuna salad on a roll with lettuce, carrot sticks on the side and chocolate milk.
The majority of the children served are under the age of 13. But, officials hope to encourage more older children, many of whom are just as hungry, to participate.
She is actively trying to reach kids in the 14- to18-year-old bracket.
“After 12 or 13 they get lost in the system,” Patton said. “I think they get embarrassed to receive a free meal. They care about what the other children think about them.”
So, this year the packaging has been changed to make it more appealing and organizers are reaching to youth athletic leagues and similar organizations to make sure anyone who needs a meal has access.
Patton added that in addition to the 90,000 youth served last year, another 41,000 children were eligible to receive food services but did not.
In addition to the food program, Mayor Michael Nutter has announced a series of recreational programs for the city’s youngsters. They included the Summer Service and Summer Reading Challenge, which offers incentives to young people who read and/or volunteer this summer. Challenge participants can pick up and drop off forms at any branch of the Free Public Library. The challenges are: for children 5 to 18, participants are asked to read three books and complete book reports; for youth, ages 14–18, participants will volunteer at least three service events, completing no less than 10 service hours.
Those who complete the challenges will be entered in to a raffle drawing, including donated tickets from the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Zoo, as well as American Idol concert tickets and WWE Wrestling tickets. Each winner will reach two tickets. The grand prize is two tickets to Power 99’s 30th Annual Powerhouse concert in October.
“Summer is certainly a time to relax and enjoy a break from school. But it is also an invaluable opportunity for our young people to be active and engaged in fun and enriching programming,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.
On a more serious note, the mayor also reminded residents that the city’s youth curfew goes into effect on the last day of school, June 14. Children 13 years old and younger must be off the street by 9 p.m.; youngsters 14 and 15 by 10 p.m. and youth 16 and 17 by 11 p.m.
For more information on summer youth programming options and for a full list of program start dates and times, call 3-1-1 or go to www.phila.gov/youthprograms.
Board delays vote amid concerns over lack of raises for municipal workers
The city’s amended five-year plan faces deeper scrutiny by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority after board members on Thursday put off a vote on the administration’s spending plan.
“Quite frankly, I think they realized that the plan they submitted on July 27 was not going to be approved,” said Sam Katz, PICA board president. “It’s better, in my opinion, that there be no record that PICA disapproved the plan.”
A veto by PICA would give the state cause to cut off its subsidies to the city, and in the words of Finance Director Rob Dubow, cause “cash flow problems.”
“We now have to dig into what’s been submitted and determine whether it meets the reasonable test,” Katz said.
Katz said a vote would be taken on or before Aug. 27, the state deadline for approval, and that he expected action much sooner, possibly as early as next week.
He and the board’s other four members expressed a number of concerns during their regularly scheduled board meeting. Their chief worry centered on the fact that the plan submitted in July included no raises for firefighters or any of the city’s blue or white collar workers. Firefighters have an arbitration award that gives them a 9 percent pay raise, dating back to 2009, and expected to cost $200 million over five years. The other two major unions, District Councils 33 and 47, have been working without a contract since Mayor Michael Nutter came to office.
“Zero in the face of two arbitration awards was not a reasonable assumption,” Katz said. “My concern about the way this was unfolding is that we will reach a point, now or at some point in the future, when all of this accumulates to a number that makes Philadelphia unaffordable for everybody.”
To the delight of union leaders, Katz urged the administration to finalize contracts with firefighters, white and blue collar workers.
“Then we’ll have basis of looking at the next five years - not on assumptions, but on actual agreements,” he said.
The 16 pages of amendments to the plan, submitted on Wednesday by the administration, included a range of cuts going as high as 5 percent for each department and amounting to a $260 million total.
It would include the elimination of 380 positions — including more than 100 firefighters.
“Our biggest area of expenditures is personnel,” Dubow said.
The plan does not include any cuts to the police department.
In response to the charge that the city’s figures were a political scare tactic, Dubow said cuts, though just submitted to PICA, were part of the budget process and generated this spring as department heads prepared the budget unveiled in March.
Union leaders praised the PICA board for the delay and criticized the amended plan and its deep cuts.
“It’s crazy,” said Bill Gault, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 22. “More of my members will die. My people have been three years without a raise … and now they present a budget to PICA that goes nine years without a raise. It just seems to be vindictiveness.”
Cathy Scott, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 47 echoed Gault.
“The addendum that’s been presented is really just more smoke and mirrors from this administration,” she said, noting that under existing contracts, the city cannot lay off municipal workers. “I would say it’s time that this five-year plan really gets looked at. The mayor has to get real about this budget.
Scott said the city and its unions have not met since May.
“He can’t continue kicking the can down the road,” she said.
Katz said he hoped that as PICA studied the plan, other possibilities might emerge.
“It would be draconian for the city to have to implement that level of cuts,” Katz said. “I suspect there will be other options that we’ll discuss.”
Various local city leaders will head to Washington, D.C. this weekend to mark a historical occasion.
The long-anticipated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication will be held Sunday in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.
The dedication program, emceed by PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, will begin at 9 a.m. and pay tribute to King with the words of noted speakers including civil rights leaders and King family members, as well as musicians and poets. President Barack Obama will deliver the dedication address.
“The memorial is certainly deserved,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who will be heading down to D.C. to view the memorial with his family.
“I remember in the ’80s marching in Washington to have the Dr. King birthday declared a holiday and this is a continuation of a true tribute of a great American and the impact that Dr. Martin Luther King had on this country and the world.”
“Dr. King is certainly most deserving, and I am very proud as an African American that he will be getting this recognition. This is history.”
Councilman Curtis Jones referred to King as a game changer.
“Before him, our sights were set a lot lower — the bar was a lot lower than they are today,” said Jones, who is also attending the event.
When Martin Luther King came on the set, there were white detractors and Black detractors. There was a whole movement of people who felt that his way was not the right way — that the non-violent way was not quick enough and he was able to transcend some of those to issues to appeal to a wide audience of people.”
“He was the more acceptable negotiator for civil rights. With that in context, a lot of young people ask me, are we are better off today, than we were then. My answer is equivocally yes. You cannot minimize the fact than when he gave the speech ‘I Have a Dream’ how prophetic he was,” Jones said, noting that the country has an African-American president and a Black Republican presidential candidate.
“Have we gotten to the promised land yet? No. All you have to do is look at Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Philly or look at the poverty rate in Philadelphia, which is 27 percent or the murder rate in the African-American community. Martin Luther King would be marching, protesting and speaking out on those injustices.”
Jones gave his views on the symbolism of the King statue.
“The symbolism of the statue is that statue is like a beacon. We’re on the seas of injustice. We realize that when we see that beacon we have the hope of getting to shore, but the reality is we’re not there yet,” Jones added.
Bilal Qayyum, executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, who is not attending the dedication, provided his perspective on the King memorial.
“Dr. King is an international hero. Dr. King was one of the greatest Americans. When people really think about it, we can take credit for the stuff he did for Black folks, but he actually helped transform the attitudes of Americans. For him to have a memorial is a great thing for Americans,” Qayyum said.
The West Potomac Park ceremony is free and open to the public. No tickets are required, and the public is encouraged to bring their own picnic blankets and chairs. Gates will open at 6 a.m. and the public may access West Potomac Park via four gates on Independence Avenue, SW.
The National Park Service officially welcomed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to America’s 395th national park on Aug. 28, 2011, the originally scheduled dedication date and the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter and a broad coalition of federal, state and local lawmakers; members of law enforcement; the clergy; and community leaders as she introduced a bill banning assault weapons.
The measure, Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, would ban the sales of military-style assault rifles and high capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Feinstein was the author of the first assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire under the Bush administration in 2004 allegedly behind pressure from the National Rifle Association. Feinstein said she has no illusions, and that the measure faces a stiff uphill fight in Washington.
“The bill introduced today is the product of more than a year of work, with input from across the country,” Feinstein said in a press release. “Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that — but it’s a battle worth having. We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assault weapons with the growing threat to lives across America. If 20 dead children in Newtown wasn’t a wake-up call that these weapons of war don’t belong on our streets, I don’t know what is.”
Nutter, who has been pushing for stronger gun laws in Philadelphia, also spoke during Feinstein’s announcement, saying stricter gun laws are needed now.
“Again and again and again, Americans have been stunned by senseless acts of violence involving assault weapons and large-capacity magazines: Columbine, April 1999, 13 murdered; Virginia Tech, April 2007, 32 murdered; Tucson, January 2011, 6 murdered, 12 wounded including one Congresswoman; Aurora, July 2012, 12 murdered; Oak Creek, August 2012, 6 murdered. The December 14 tragedy, which killed 20 young children and six educators in Newtown, remains incomprehensible to us all. Too many times during the last year, mayors have expressed shock at a mass shooting. Even more frequently, many of us must cope with the gun violence that occurs on the streets of our cities,” said Nutter, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Weapons of mass destruction are destroying our communities, our streets and our families. The first police officer we lost after I became mayor was killed by an AK-47. Citizens have been killed on Philadelphia’s streets by handguns with high capacity magazines as well as assault rifles. This needs to end now.”
The new proposal would ban the manufacture, sale, transfer and importing of over 150 military-style assault weapons owned by gun enthusiasts. It would also ban an additional group of firearms that can use detachable magazines and prohibit large-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The legislation would protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens who use guns for hunting, household defense or legitimate recreational purposes. The Assault Weapons Ban on 2013 includes a grandfather clause that exempts all assault weapons lawfully possessed at the date of enactment from the ban. The legislation also requires background checks on transfers of assault weapons covered by the legislation, including sale, trade and gift.
“I believe this bill is a big step toward ending the mass shootings that have devastated families across the country,” Feinstein said. “It’s time for Americans to stand up and tell the gun manufacturers that the lives of our children are more important than their profits and get these dangerous weapons out of our schools, our workplaces, our malls and our theaters. It’s time to take action and we’ll get it done, no matter how long it takes.”
The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 is among a series of measures being proposed by the Obama Administration after the Sandy Hook massacre.
The senator’s announcement came one day after a protest in Harrisburg where gun control activists, community leaders and those victimized in some way by gun violence called for stricter gun control laws in Pennsylvania.
The protest, called Day of Action to Fight Gun Violence, was spearheaded by CeaseFirePA and was part of a coalition of Pennsylvania mayors, law enforcement officials, community organizations and those directly impacted by gun violence. Protestors were calling on Governor Tom Corbett to enact stricter gun laws.
“To change the status quo, we must make our voices heard. That’s what Pennsylvania mayors, teachers, students, parents, faith leaders and victims of gun violence did today. And it’s what Pennsylvanians must and will continue to do until we achieve meaningful reform,” said CeaseFirePA’s executive director Shira Goodman in a press release.
CeaseFirePA is also calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to enact laws that would require background checks for all gun sales and ammunition sales, a statewide requirement that gun owners report lost or stolen guns to the police and a ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“The governor and the legislature need a reason to act,” Goodman said. “We must give it to them. They must hear our voices every day, in letters, emails and visits. We must make clear that this call to action will be ongoing until we see real change. Together, the people of Pennsylvania must demand action. Together, we are an unstoppable force, and our children are depending on us to make our voices heard.”
Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by The Philadelphia Tribune offices late Thursday afternoon, looking remarkably fresh considering the beating he took earlier in the day.
As he tried to deliver his annual budget address in front of city council on Thursday morning, he was shouted down by irate union members angry about their lack of a contract, and it got ugly fast. Read Eric Mayes’ eyewitness account on the front page of this issue, and you get just a glimpse of how raucous it was. Think pitchforks and torches.
They screamed, chanted, cursed, blew whistles, and carried signs that were most unflattering to the mayor. Unable to be heard above the din, Nutter finally gave up and walked out, eventually delivering the budget address in the Mayor’s Reception Room on the second floor, attended mostly by reporters and cameramen – and a gloating former mayor John F. Street, who usually invites his Temple University students to the address to watch government in action, but seemed to take particular pleasure in Nutter’s unwelcome reception.
Calling Nutter “ineffective” Street took a few potshots at his former rival. “Here we are - it’s been six years and he has not negotiated a contract. That’s crazy. Mayors negotiate contracts.”
But back to the council fracas. Nutter walked out of the room, but not before council members preceded him by walking out first. Nutter had no idea that while he was attempting to speak, council had voted to adjourn the session, and watched helplessly as Council President Darrell Clarke had banged his gavel and got out of dodge on the dead run.
I asked Nutter specifically whether he felt hung out to dry by council members - left to the whim of the angry mob while they retreated to safety. I also asked him if the move was political. He was, as always, diplomatic and measured in his response, praising the American system of government which allows for healthy, even hostile debate – but did reserve a short left hook for Clarke, saying, “You have to control your space. He didn’t take control of his house.”
Of course, it could be that council members had no taste for standing with Nutter while being pelted verbally. After all, self-preservation dictates that if the angry mob isn’t mad at you, but rather mad at the guy standing next to you – don’t stand next to that guy.
And between the angry firefighter’s union, the angry white collar union, the angry blue collar union, and other assorted angry city employees calling for blood, not many folks want to stand next to the mayor these days.
The thing is, I believe in the mayor’s sincerity. You can certainly disagree on whether he’s doing the right thing for the city, but it’s hard to doubt that he believes it. He believes in the righteousness of his cause, and that ultimately, history will prove him right all along.
And there are certainly some things in the budget that will give pause to the average Philadelphian.
It calls for a full-steam ahead on AVI, the Actual Value Initiative, a new and reworked formulation for assessing and collecting property taxes from city homeowners and businesses. While we have heard all along that some property taxes will decrease while others increase, there aren’t many examples of a decreased tax burden, unless you happen to own one of the zillion-dollar center city high-rises. Chances are, if you’re a Philadelphia homeowner, next year’s taxes are going to hurt a lot worse than last year’s. In some cases, that hurt will be deep enough to cause folks to move out of the city.
But the mayor’s proposed budget also has some bright spots too.
There’s more money for police and fire – from hiring officers and firefighters to rehabbing old station houses. There’s more money for expanding public libraries, a welcome change considering just two years ago this same mayor was talking about closing underused libraries.
The budget also includes improving the city’s ability to collect on present fees and taxes, including the hiring of a Chief Collections Officer, whose responsibility would be to go after tax delinquents and slow payers.
While nothing is set in stone yet, and there are still many details to iron out, if Thursday’s display in council chambers was any indication, we’re in for a long, ugly fight.
I have no idea who will win, but being a city resident and taxpayer for a very long time, I have a pretty good idea who’ll lose.
Daryl Gale is city editor of The Philadelphia Tribune.
Divine Changes president Joan Preston of West Oak Lane remembers the first Champions for the Extraordinary Excellence Award program the non-profit hosted recently. It took so much work that she and her committee were skeptical about doing it again.
After the ceremony Mayor Michael Nutter encouraged Preston to keep the initiative going.
Consequently, another roster of honorees was celebrated by the non-profit group recently. The awards ceremony was held at the Shiloh’s Omega Banquet Room, 1500 Master St. in North Philadelphia last Saturday.
This year’s honorees were members of Concerned Black Men Stephen Lyles of Mount Airy, James Newton of Pottsgrove, Harvey Crudup of Cheltenham and Hank Wilson. Also honored was Northwest CommUnity Coalition for Youth or NCCY chair Isabella Fitzgerald of West Oak Lane and Marian Anderson House founder Blanche Burton-Lyles of South Philadelphia.
Each honoree received several awards. These included citations from Gov. Tom Corbett, Mayor Michael Nutter, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady and a City Council honor sponsored by Councilwoman Marian Tasco. They also received the Divine Change trophy and a City of Philadelphia paperweight courtesy of the mayor’s office.
The program opened with the Rev. Marc McCoy’s introduction of the mistress of ceremonies, the Rev. Roslyn Davis. The Rev. W. Joe Harvey gave the invocation before Deacon Gary Hunter delivered the biblical reading.
“We members of Divine Change are glad to honor those gathered here today,” said the Rev. Deborah Murgerson in the welcome address.
Minister Raymond DeShields delivered his a capella interpretation of “Faith” by Vanessa Bell Armstrong. His selection was well received by the largely Northwest Philadelphia audience before Harvey blessed the food.
Wilson spoke for CBM members in accepting their awards. He shared his own personal anecdote about once being a juvenile delinquent. He said it was meeting former CBM chairman Marq Temple of Mount Airy that changed his life.
In her remarks Fitzgerald thanked Preston, the Divine Change board, and her own family who were gathered at one of the tables. She singled out her two sons Raymond and Derek who she called “my inspiration.”
“This is truly an honor,” said Burton-Lyles as she accepted her awards. “Marian Anderson was a humble and unbelievable person. She saw something in me as a pianist and encouraged me. She was a woman of grace. When I was growing up I was always around good manners. I feel that good manners are always in order. Marian Anderson represented this.”
There were burly police officers along the walls, in the back and down in front. Intermittently, there were unison chants that erupted from the partisan audience in support of the speakers, while boos and impolite catcalls rained down on those who were the object of their derision.
And there was even an elderly civil rights warrior wheeled to a microphone to deliver her stirring opposition to what was about to go down.
And it went down anyway.
On Wednesday, at a meeting of the School Reform Commission, the SRC voted unanimously to ratify the buyout and separation agreement it reached with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman earlier in the week. Ackerman will walk away with $905,000, according to the terms of her separation. The SRC picked up the tab for $500,000. The remaining $405,000 — which has caused quite a stir — came from anonymous private contributions.
Before the SRC ratified the agreement, state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas voiced his opposition to the buyout in a rousing speech. He pointed out that 120 days had not yet passed since the SRC gave Ackerman a vote of confidence and extended her contract into 2014.
Thomas also said that he could not support the buyout without the identification of the anonymous donors. And he also urged the SRC not to abandon Imagine 2014, Ackerman’s initiative to accelerate student achievement.
“Put children first!” is how Thomas concluded his speech, which was greeted by cheers and wild applause from the pro-Ackerman crowd.
But nothing Thomas could have said set off the crowd on the second floor of the School District building the way longtime West Philly community activist Novella Williams did.
Rolled up to the microphone in a wheelchair, Williams lit into Mayor Michael Nutter, SRC Chairman Robert L. Archie and interim Superintendent Dr. Leroy Nunery with righteous fury.
“I came here today because I am concerned about Dr. Arlene Ackerman,” Williams bellowed. “She deserves not to be lynched by three or four Black men!”
Williams’ pronouncement drew a thunderous ovation mixed in with a few “oohs” and “aahs.”
She wasn’t finished.
“It took Black folk so many years to develop a credentialed Black woman to bring before this city to educate our children. And I fought long and hard to see this. I didn’t think you would allow these other men — Michael Nutter, Dwight Evans and you, Mr. Archie — to let this happen to this wonderful lady! I am appalled!”
Channeling the classic O’Jay’s song, someone shouted out, “For the love of money.”
And Williams continued.
“All of you! You’re going to let this little Black man — and I’ll call him a boy — over there at City Hall do this? Don’t you know what he is doing is dividing the races?” Williams roared.
Nutter, who was not at the meeting, was not her only target. Williams also lined up Nunery in her crosshairs.
“Mr. Nunery, you will not be the next superintendent! I know you are in that back room, cutting deals!” she said.
While she was not in attendance, Ackerman delivered a message to her supporters via her appearance on 900 AM WURD on Thursday.
“I want people to go down there and ask questions,” Ackerman said. “Don’t let people get away with not giving you the answer. You are the tax payers, this is your city. The reason people have been able to get away with this is because they believe that we as Black people are going to scream and holler for a little while and then we’ll go away. Don’t go away.”
Low-income Philadelphians are being encouraged to take advantage of free tax preparation services in the hopes that they will maximize their tax benefits.
“Every year, thousands and thousands and thousands of Philadelphians, unfortunately, lose millions of dollars in benefits that they’re eligible for,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “We need to make sure that people get every dime that they are owed as citizens of the United States of America. That starts with getting information about the tax credit.”
In an effort to raise awareness, Nutter declared Jan. 27 Earned Income Tax Credit Savings Day.
He was joined by The Campaign for Working Families and the Urban Affairs Coalition, who announced the opening of nine sites across the city where volunteers will prepare tax returns for low-income residents
“We can put money in your pocket,” said Khadijah Jones, director of the Campaign for Working Families.
Among the most overlooked benefit is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available for families making less than $50,000 and individuals with an income less than $20,000.
The refundable credit is worth as much as $5,751.
According to statistics provided by the Internal Revenue Service, only about 5 percent of eligible families take advantage of the tax credit.
“How is that possible?” asked James Daugherty, territory manager with the IRS. “People go in and out of EITC population all the time.”
Income fluctuations, employment, marital status, children living at home, all affect eligibility which means many people are either unaware that they are eligible, or don’t want to be bothered, he explained.
It’s worth the effort to find out.
“It’s generally going to bring a couple of thousand dollars into a community,” he said. “Money that comes into a community stays in a community.”
Nationally, about 26 million people received $59 billion in EITC in 2011, said Lourdes Padilla, deputy secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare. Among them were 900,000 Pennsylvanians who received average refunds of more than $2,000
Over the last nine years, volunteers with Campaign for Working Families have prepared 102,820 tax returns, netting $168.7 million for families in Philadelphia. In addition, they saved those families an estimated $22.3 million in tax preparation services and fees.
“Numbers like these certainly justify devoting a special day for EITC awareness,” she said. “We want to spread the word to even more Pennsylvanians about this valuable resource.”
The average income of the Philadelphia families served by the campaign over the last nine years was $21,489.
Sites are open throughout the city through April 17.
They are: The Mayor’s Offices of Community Services, 1113 Chestnut St. and at 7315 Castor Ave.; PA CareerLink Northwest, 235 Chelten Ave.; Temple University, 1301 Cecil B. Ave.; Impact Services, 1952 E. Allegheny Ave.; Diversified Community Services, 1529 S. 22nd St.; United Communities, 2029 S. 8th St.; Ebenezer Temple Church, 5649 Christian St., Mount Pisgah Church, 428 N. 41st St.
In addition, two mobile sites are available at www.myfreetaxes.com/philly and selfserve.thebenefitbank.com.
For hours or for more information call 311 or visit www.CWFPhilly.org.
When Jamira Burley graduates from Temple University on May 10, she faces a new rite of passage — paying off her students loans — roughly $30,000.
“Being an adult is only good in theory — because there are so many bills you have to pay,” said Burley, who on Monday May 7 took part in a national conference call with President Barack Obama, Mayor Michael Nutter and other students to discuss the looming increase in interest rates on student loans.
In addition to Burley, 15 other area college students sat in on the call with Nutter, 74 mayors across the nation, several governors and about 200 students. The call was part of a national blitz to draw attention to the issue during a tough election cycle.
For Burley, though, it was personal.
“You graduate, and the likelihood of you getting a good job is slim, and even if you do get a good job, half of your paycheck is going to paying bills. There is no way to really live,” she said.
By her own admission, Burley is one of the lucky ones.
One of 16 children, Burley, from West Philadelphia, said there was no way her parents could pay for her college. She worked during school, but the more she earned the less financial aid she qualified for, and so her student loans increased.
“I actually came into college with more than $50,000 in scholarships, but I actually worked during my college career and the more you work, the more you make, they give you less student aid,” she said.
Temple cost her between $12,000 and $14,000 a year.
Armed with a dual bachelor’s degree in international business and legal studies, the 23-year old starts a job on May 14, but still, she’s looking at monthly payments that could go as high as $550 a month. Now, she’s faced with another glitch — in July, before she’s even made her first student loan payment, the interest rate could double.
The possibility has Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., in showdown mode, with the Senate taking up the debate Monday. Both sides say they want to keep current interest rates, but disagree on how to pay for it.
Democrats have made a $6 billion proposal that would keep current subsidized Stafford loan interest rates of 3.4 percent from doubling for another year. Republicans oppose how Democrats would finance their measure. Democrats would force owners of many privately owned companies to pay more Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. Republicans want to eliminate a preventive health fund created as part of Obama’s 2010 revamping of the nation's health care system.
The White House has threatened to veto a House-approved GOP bill similar to the Senate proposal, and Obama has launched a grassroots campaign against the plan.
Republicans are demanding a vote on their alternative measure.
The partisan bickering leaves approximately 7.4 million students, whose Stafford borrowing costs would rise by an average $1,000 over the lives of their loans, wondering if their interest costs will double.
According to the American Student Assistance, the typical college student graduates with $22,700 in student debt.
It’s become something students expect.
“It’s expected,” shrugged Dontay Muhammad, 16, of North Philadelphia. “I’m going to college and I’m going to have all this debt. So, right now I don’t feel any kind of way about it.”
He attends Community College of Philadelphia, but plans to head to the University of Maryland in the fall, where he expects tuition to run as high as $30,000 annually.
There is no way he can afford that on his own.
“I’m going to have to take out student loans,” he admitted. “I see my parents helping with it, so hopefully I won’t have to take out that much.”
Muhammad hopes to keep his loans in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.
That is not to say he isn’t worried.
“Of course it concerns me, because it means more money to pay back,” he said.
With three younger brothers hopefully headed to college, his parents may find themselves stretched.
“This is adding more and more debt on to young people we should be investing in,” Nutter said to reporters after the conference call. “Student debt in the United States of America is now greater than credit card debt and car loans combined. It’s an astounding amount of money that is owed.”
Noting that Pennsylvanians have higher than average student debt, the mayor said higher costs will prevent more people from attending college.
The doubling of interest rates … and if tuitions continue to go up, it continues to get harder and harder to get over that hurdle,” he said. “It makes it that much more difficult for young people to go to college, stay in school and ultimately to graduate. This is literally about attacking our nation’s finest — our students.”
Burley said she supported the president’s plan — and urged others to do the same.
“Young people are suffering in this debt crisis. They are not only being buried in credit card debt, but they’re being buried in loans. It’s important for us as a nation to come together behind the president to make sure our interest rates don’t double — or we’re going to live in a society where young people don’t want to go to college,” she said. “Or, they’re going to be buried in so much debt they’ll never pay it back.”
Technology company Fiberlink has opened new offices in Philadelphia.
With more than 1,000 new customers acquired in the last year, Fiberlink hired 100 new employees to support its rapidly expanding business. The company plans to continue this pace of growth and aggressive hiring to staff its new office in Philadelphia, which will accommodate more than 140 employees.
The company’s success in the mobile technology sector, powered by the popularity of iPads, iPhones and Androids with business users, drives the need for additional office space in downtown Philadelphia.
“Fiberlink and other small businesses are the key to economic growth in Philadelphia and our nation,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.
“The growth potential and well-being of any city rests in its ability to retain and attract talented young professionals with the promise of good career opportunities. Fiberlink’s continued success demonstrates how innovative technology companies can tap into this strong talent pool and thrive in our city. I thank Fiberlink for continuing to create jobs and promote economic growth in Philadelphia.”
Fiberlink’s new office space is located on the 20th floor of Three Parkway, at 1601 Cherry Street. The nearly 30,000 square feet of space will accommodate the company’s skyrocketing growth and expanding employee base.
“Building on our 20-year history of innovation, Fiberlink continues to deliver industry-leading enterprise mobility management and security solutions for our customers. Our roots are deep in the Philadelphia area, and we look forward to further growth and expansion from our beautiful downtown location,” said James Sheward, CEO and co-founder of Fiberlink.
“We thank Mayor Nutter for his support and our talented team of hometown professionals for their many contributions to our success.”
Headquartered in Blue Bell, Fiberlink enables organizations, ranging from large enterprises to small- and medium-sized businesses across all industries, to cost-effectively support their expanding mobile workforces. Customers across the globe trust the MaaS360 MDM platform to manage and secure their mobile devices, apps and documents. MaaS360 is built on a proven cloud-based platform, delivering fast, easy-to-use enterprise mobility management capabilities.
Fiberlink is looking for professionals in the areas of Inside Sales, Marketing, R&D and customer success to join its team.
The company will host an open house for new job applicants on July 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the new downtown location. For information on current job openings, visit http://www.maas360.com/join.