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🌳 FDR Park’s future is under scrutiny | Morning Newsletter

And education in Pa. goes on trial

    The Morning Newsletter

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It’s Friday, and while temps will remain in the mid-to-low 60s, it will be under cloudy skies and a good bit of rain.

Mother Nature is the perfect segue into today’s top story, which looks at the future of FDR Park in South Philly. The city has grand plans for the part that formerly housed a golf course, but some residents question the need to overhaul this pocket of natural green space — given that such space is a precious urban commodity.

And we look at a case heading to trial today that will open the books on funding disparities between Pennsylvania school districts, including why the districts that could benefit the most from more funding may receive the least.

Appreciate you taking time out to soak us in.

— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr,

For Philadelphians who want to get away from the concrete jungle of the city, FDR Park has long been an oasis. Even more so now, as the defunct golf course that was once a park staple has been overrun by Mother Nature and is teeming with all kinds of wildlife — some of which you’d never expect to find in South Philly.

Maybe that’s why some neighbors are a bit miffed at the city’s proposal to bring a for-profit golf course and a series of artificial soccer fields to the space. It’s part of a 93-page reimagined look from Parks and Recreation, but it’s not the look some neighbors want.

“People from South Philly can walk around here and feel like they’re in nature,” says Maxwell Cohen of Point Breeze, who visits five times a week with his dog. “Why would you take something that doesn’t exist in a lot of other cities and put a driving range in?”

Our reporter Frank Kummer examines this question, and what’s best to keep the space sustainable.

What you should know today

  1. Jury deliberations continued in the federal trial of labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, with jurors asking for more information on bribery law.

  2. Glen Mills, the disgraced Chesco reform school, submitted an application to operate again under a new name.

  3. A Penn State study found COVID-19 in deer. Now researchers are warning hunters to be careful.

  4. After 22 incidents this year alone, Valley Forge Casino is stepping up enforcement and installing infrared cameras to detect gamblers leaving children in cars.

  5. Villanova basketball head coach Jay Wright missed an opportunity to coach at UCLA’s storied program and that’s totally OK with him.

  6. And this essay from a 10-year-old Philly kid on the importance of COVID-19 vaccines is one of the best things you’ll read all day.

  7. Local Coronavirus Numbers: Here’s your daily look at the latest COVID-19 data.

After a seven-year wait, education in Pennsylvania is going before a state judge, with the equity of funding for districts throughout the state on trial.

🔥 What sparked it: Six school districts filed suit alleging that funding across Pennsylvania schools is not only inadequate but inequitable and in violation of the state constitution.

😬 How bad is the disparity?: It’s a tangled web of local school taxes and state funding, but the plaintiffs say the current system of state-funded distribution discriminates against students in lower-income communities. Lower Merion, for instance, has more than $31,000 to spend per student — compared with $18,000 in Delco’s William Penn School District.

👀 Eye-opening stat: Half of Pennsylvania’s Black children and 40% of Hispanic children live in the poorest 20% of districts.

📚 How has this impacted Philly?: Some say inadequate funding has forced Philly schools to “make bad choices no one should have to make,” like “leveling” — a process that shuffles teachers around the district based on enrollment numbers.

How long will it last? The trial is expected to go eight to 10 weeks, but any changes in Pennsylvania wouldn’t be immediate, given likely appeals.

Our reporters Maddie Hanna and Kristen A. Graham set the scene ahead of today’s proceedings.

🧠 Philly Trivia Time 🧠

Here’s a little post-Veterans Day trivia. Do you know what the USS Olympia, which now has a permanent home dockside at Penn Landing, famously carried before arriving in Philly? Take a guess and then check out this remarkable story to see if you were right.

And thank you to all who serve.

Photo of the day

That’s my week. My colleague Lauren Aguirre will bring you our Sunday edition, and I’ll get you up to speed first thing Monday. Have a great weekend. ✌️