Public schools on break

All Philadelphia public schools will be closed from today through Jan. 1 for winter break. The schools will reopen on Monday, Jan. 4. Prekindergarten Head Start and Bright Futures programs will also be closed. The district's regional offices, Education Center, 440 N. Broad St., and Comprehensive Early Learning Centers will be open Monday. The CELC program serves parents who are working, receiving training or who are in school at least 20 hours per week and who need year-round, extended day preschool services.

Catholic teens play Santa

More than 160 teams, each consisting of four teens, will spend today delivering toys to families in need throughout the Philadelphia area. The teen volunteers from Roman Catholic Archdiocesan youth programs will meet at one of three locations, including St. Joseph's Prep, to pick up their toys and their Santa and elf costumes. About 20,000 toys will be delivered to 5,000 needy children.

Christmas Masses

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, will be the celebrant and homilist of all Christmas Eve Masses. Christmas Vigil Masses will be celebrated at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul.

Midnight Mass will be preceded by music provided by the Cathedral Basilica Choir and Brass Quartet.

Guv to urge more school aid

Gov. Rendell said yesterday that he will press for another increase in public-school funding and a tax on natural-gas production when he presents his last state budget in February.

Public-school funding is a signature issue for Rendell. Even when cutting spending this year to help fill a recession-driven, multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall, he still pushed through the Legislature a $300 million, or 5.7 percent, increase for public-school instruction, a feat he calls unparalleled among states last year. Last February, he proposed a 5 percent tax on natural-gas production to prop up the state's ailing finances and capitalize on the industry's rush to exploit the Marcellus Shale formation that underlies much of northern and western Pennsylvania.

The idea faced staunch opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate and from the drilling industry, and Rendell withdrew it from consideration in August.

Tax, rent rebate deadline

Eligible older adults and residents with disabilities have only until Dec. 31 to submit property-tax/ rent-rebate applications.

"About 100,000 Pennsylvanians who qualify for property tax/rent rebates have not yet applied," said C. Daniel Hassell, acting secretary of the state Revenue Department. Applications are available at www.paproperty, at Revenue Department district offices, legislators' offices, area agencies on aging, and senior centers, or at 888-222-9190.

Trucker rescued after crash

Firefighters rappelling down a steep embankment rescued a tractor-trailer driver trapped for two hours when his rig skidded off the turnpike in Mount Laurel early yesterday.

The accident occurred when the truck and a van exiting the James Fenimore Cooper Service Area collided about 5:45 a.m.

The truck driver, Raymond Joaneme, 41, of North Babylon, N.Y., was freed by specially trained Mount Laurel firefighters. He was treated at Cooper University Hospital in Camden for a broken leg and shoulder and facial injuries.

The van driver, John Monrow Jr., 67, of Mount Laurel, was treated and released.

- Staff and wire reports