Archives for category: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has stormed the state with the message that public pensions are bankrupting the state.

But Joe Markosek, Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, says that Corbett is wrong.

Corbett’s $3 billion in education cuts has hurt every district in the state, far more than pensions, forcing districts to raise property taxes to keep their local schools open.

The Pennsylvania legislature is hammering out the state budget, and it looks like education will once again face budget cuts. Why are legislators prepared to sacrifice the future?

This letter was sent yesterday to all Pennsylvania state legislators in the 5-county region as well as to press representatives by Higher Education United for Public Education, a group of educators at colleges and universities in the metropolitan region of Philadelphia. 150 professors, instructors, and administrators from 27 colleges/universities in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties signed on in support. Monday is the deadline for the state budget, and things do not look good for public education funding in Pennsylvania.

A small group of activists is conducting a sit-in in Governor Tom Corbett’s office in Harrisburg to demand a restoration of $1 billion in budget cuts to public schools.

Those of us who remember the 1960s recall that this tactic was frequently used by civil rights groups and anti-war activists to draw attention to their cause. It was effective in encouraging others to become involved and active.



Press Release

For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ron Whitehorne, 215-779-2672,

Jesse Kudler, 617-974-3684,

Happening now: Education activists sitting in at Gov. Corbett’s office until statewide education cuts are reversed through fair revenue plan
Parents, students, teachers, and activists demand full and equal funding for schools and fair revenue from taxing fracking, expanding Medicaid, freezing business tax cuts

Harrisburg, PA – Statewide education advocates escalated their fight for full funding for education Thursday evening, announcing a sit-in at the governor’s office until he supports undoing $1 billion in cuts to education statewide and raising revenue through fair measures. Parents and activists from across the state are staying at the Capitol every day until the governor signs a budget that restores funds for education and human services by making businesses and the gas industry pay their fair share.

Activists from across the state announced their plans at a 4pm press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. “The governor’s priorities are the problem. The budget is not the problem,” said Susan Spicka, a public school parent and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley community liaison. “Last week, my daughter turned to me and asked me what would be cut next.”

“Our babies are dying because we don’t have enough nurses,” said “Irene Habermann, Gamaliel National Education Chair, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) Education Chair.

Kia Hinton, a Philadelphia public school parent and Board Chair of Action United, announced the sit-in at the governor’s office. “I’m joining the sit-in because I want lawmakers to look at our faces and remember the students and parents across the state when they vote on the budget,” she said. “Our education system is on the brink after devastating cuts, and our children deserve better. We’re not going to accept cuts anymore. We’re going to the Capitol to demand better from this governor.”

Protesters are calling for a budget that fully funds education and health and human services. They are demanding the governor and legislature expand Medicaid with earmarked federal dollars, enact a tax on fracking of the Marcellus Shale, and freeze business tax cuts. They are also calling on the governor to drop his demand for cuts to pensions for school employees and state workers before he will proceed on other budget items. Attacking hard-working PA families once again will do nothing to remedy the current budget situation.

Fair measures would raise hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to restore funds for education, healthcare, and human services. A 5% tax on fracking would bring an estimated $700 million in revenue to the state. Business tax cuts have cost the state billions of dollars in recent years. Medicaid expansion would add $620 million to Pennsylvania’s 2015 budget and add about $3 billion annually to its economy. It would support 35,000 new jobs by 2016 and 40,000 jobs by 2022.

Protesters will stay in the Capitol until the governor commits to a fair budget that works for his state, unlike all of his past budgets. In coming days, they will lobby legislators, hold “teach-ins” around the Capitol, and participate in dramatic actions to call attention to the dire need for more education funding.


PCAPS is a coalition of students, parents, and teachers with an unwavering commitment to improving Philadelphia’s school system. Members of the coalition include ACTION United, American Federation of Teachers PA, Fight For Philly, Boat People SOS, Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs With Justice, JUNTOS, Media Mobilizing Project, Neighborhood Networks, Occupy Philadelphia Labor Work Group, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Philadelphians Allied for a Responsible Economy(PHARE), Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Philadelphia Home and School Council, Philadelphia Student Union, SEIU 32BJ, UNITE HERE, Youth United for Change.

This is a report on charter school funding in Pennsylvania, especially the effect of excess special education funding for charter schools. It was
distributed by the Keystone State Education Coalition.

The KSEC writes:

“Each time charter schools skim marginal need special ed students out of public school districts, they artificially cause the average special ed cost to spiral higher for the next year’s special ed charter school tuition rate.

“YouTube Video: The $200 Million/Year PA Charter School Special Ed Funding Windfall For Dummies

“Would the special ed funding bill HB2138/SB1316 be the “end of charter schools as we know it”? It might be, especially for the operators of for-profit management companies that contract with charter schools. As best we can tell, instead of special ed money serving special needs students, it appears that the windfall has funded things like multi-million dollar CEO compensation, over 19,000 local TV commercials, a jet and Florida condo, generous political campaign contributions and a 20,000 square foot mansion on the beach in Palm Beach Florida. Here’s a three minute youtube video produced by KEYSEC Co-Chair Mark B. Miller that clearly explains how this happens.

Want more than a three minute video on this topic? Here’s a great piece by long-time ed writer Dale Mezzacappa for the notebook….

“City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg”

the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on June 5, 2014 02:12 PM

Philadelphia charter schools received more than $175 million last year to educate special education students, but spent only about $77 million for that purpose, according to aNotebook analysis of state documents. That is a nearly $100 million gap at a time when city education leaders are considering raising some class sizes to 41 students and laying off 800 more teachers in District-run schools due to severe funding shortfalls. Payments to charters, which are fixed under law, make up nearly a third of its $2.4 billion budget.

The issue goes beyond Philadelphia. Statewide, charters, including cybers, collect about $350 million for special education students, but spend just $156 million on them, according to calculations from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The Notebook used the PASBO analysis of state data to calculate the numbers for Philadelphia, which has half the state’s 170 charter schools.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor’s staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Visit us on Facebook at KeystoneStateEducationCoalition

I earlier reported that the latest data show that 97% of teachers in Pittsburgh received ratings of either “distinguished” or “advanced.” Similar findings have emerged elsewhere, which makes me wonder why it was necessary to spend billions of dollars to create these new evaluation systems, which are often incomprehensible. But Kipp Dawson, a Pittsburgh teacher wrote a comment warning that the evaluation system is flawed and riddled with unreliable elements, like VAM. Don’t be fooled, Dawson says. The Pittsburgh evaluation system was created with the lure of Gates money. It attempts to quantify the unmeasurable.

Dawson writes:

I am a Pittsburgh teacher and an activist in the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (AFT). Let’s not let ourselves get pulled into the trap of applauding the results of a wholly flawed system. OK, so this round the numbers look better than the “reformers” thought they would. BUT the “multiple measures” on which they are based are bogus. And it was a trap, not a step forward, that our union let ourselves get pulled in (via Gates money) to becoming apologists for an “evaluation” system made up of elements which this column has helped to expose as NOT ok for “evaluating” teachers, and deciding which of us is an “effective” teacher, and which of us should have jobs and who should be terminated.

A reminder. VAM. A major one of these “multiple measures.” Now widely rejected as an “evaluating” tool by professionals in the field, and by the AFT. A major part of this “evaluation” system.

Danielson rubrics, another major one of these multiple measures: after many permutations and reincarnations in Pittsburgh, turned into the opposite of what they were in the beginning of this process — presented to us as a tool to help teachers get a window on our practice, but now a set of numbers to which our practice boils down, and which is used to judge and label us. And “objective?” In today’s world, where administrators have to justify their “findings” in a system which relies so heavily on test scores? What do you think . . .

Then there’s (in Pittsburgh) Tripod, the third big measure, where students from the ages of 5 (yes, really) through high school “rate” their teachers — which could be useful to us for insight but, really, a way to decide who is and who is not an “effective” teacher?

To say nothing of the fact that many teachers teach subjects and/or students which can’t be boiled down in these ways, so they are “evaluated” on the basis of other people’s “scores” over which they have even less control.

Really, now.

So, yes, these numbers look better than they did last year, in a “practice run.” But is this whole thing ok? Should we be celebrating that we found the answer to figuring out who is and who is not an “effective” teacher?

This is a trap. Let’s not fall into it.

Billions of dollars have been spent to create new teacher evaluation systems. Here is one result: in Pittsburgh, 97% of teachers were rated either distinguished or advanced. Meanwhile budget cuts are harming children in Pennsylvania.

For Immediate Release
June 13, 2014

Marcus Mrowka

Pittsburgh Teacher Evaluation Results Demonstrate Importance of Due Process and Improvement-Focused Evaluation Systems

WASHINGTON— Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten following news that nearly 97 percent of teachers were rated distinguished or advanced.

“On one side of the country, a judge in California wrongly ruled that the only way to ensure that kids—particularly kids who attend high-poverty schools—have good teachers is to take away teachers’ due process rights. On the other side of the country, the most recent teacher evaluation results in Pittsburgh proved this is absolutely not true. Due process not only goes hand in hand with this new evaluation system, having those rights helped to strengthen it.

“Nearly 97 percent of Pittsburgh’s teachers were rated distinguished or advanced under this new evaluation system. We’re not surprised at all by the dedication and talent of Pittsburgh’s teaching staff who go into the classroom each and every day to help our children grow and achieve their dreams—but there’s a bigger story here that rejects the assertion made in California that due process rights hurt educational quality.

“These results show what is possible when teachers, unions and the district—in a state with due process—work together on an evaluation system focused on helping teachers improve. While we may have some qualms about the construction of the evaluation system, the fact remains that far from impeding achievement due process and tenure, combined with an improvement-focused evaluation system, empower teachers and keep good teachers in the classroom, offer support to those who are struggling, and streamline the process for removing teachers who can’t improve.”



Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for June 3, 2014:

In God We Trust? How about a bill that would require charter and cyber schools to post their PA School Performance Profile scores prominently in any advertising paid for with public tax dollars?

Blogger Rant:

At a recent school board meeting I voted against authorizing a payment to Agora Cyber Charter School. Why? During the NCLB regime, Agora never once made AYP; this year their PA School Performance Profile Score was 48.3 (scale of 100). In my district, our Middle School score was 94; our High School score was 96.4. Agora is run by K12, Inc., a for-profit company founded by convicted bond felon Michael Milken. K12 paid it’s CEO $13 million from 2009 through 2013 and spent our tax dollars on over 19,000 local TV commercials. I do not believe Agora should receive one cent of my neighbors’ tax dollars.

Instead of posting “In God We Trust”, how about a bill that would require charter and cyber schools to post their PA School Performance Profile scores prominently in any advertising paid for with public tax dollars?

Peter Greene reports that teacher tenure (aka, the right to due process) is under attack in Pennsylvania.


Not surprisingly, StudentsFirst is in the mix, urging the legislature to strip teachers of any and all job protections.


He concludes:


So the bottom line of this bill would be that any district can fire teachers at any time, based on an evaluation system that rests on bad data generated by bad tests using a formula repudiated by the statistics experts, combined with observations that are still largely subjective. Under rules like this, it would simply be foolish to go into teaching as a career. At best, it presents the standard choice as best written into law by North Carolina’s education-hating legislature– you can either keep your job indefinitely as long as you don’t ever make yourself too expensive, or you can get a raise and make yourself a more attractive target for firing.

It’s as if these folks are really committed to discouraging people from going into teaching.
The bill has bipartisan backing (can teachers please stop automatically voting Democrat) and of course the big fat love of Governor Tom Corbett. It’s not a done deal yet; if you are a Pennsylvania teacher, a good summer project would be to start contacting your representatives on a regular basis and encouraging them to say no to this dumb bill.

When people write Pennsyvania Governor Tom Corbett to complain about the devastating effects of his budget cuts on the children of Philadelphia, he responds by blaming the teachers’ union for not accepting even deeper cuts. A few days ago, a first-grader died; there was no school nurse on duty. Her position had been cut from five days a week to one day a week plus another occasional day. This was the second child to die in a school where Corbett’s budget cuts had eliminated the full-time nurse. Corbett blames the teachers.

Governor Corbett accepts no responsibilty. His response to critics betrays a guilty heart, or a man without one.

This teacher, Steven Singer, describes what happened when he wrote a letter to Governor Corbett.

“Wow! I am flabbergasted by PA Gov. Tom Corbett’s reaction to the second Philadelphia student dying at school without a nurse on duty! As many of you did, I wrote him a letter asking him to please increase funding so tragedies like this are not repeated. He must be getting some heat because this is the first time he’s ever actually answered any of my correspondences.

“His answer was basically: (1) how dare the Philadelphia Teachers Union intrude on the family’s suffering to make a political point and (2) if only the teachers union would take concessions and work for less money, the state would have enough to pay for nurses!

“The deaths of these two students are direct consequences of Corbett’s education policies! He slashed education funding by close to $1 billion every year for the last 3 years! This resulted in 20,000 teachers being laid off, class sizes skyrocketing, the elimination of art, music and extra curricular activities – and, yes, school nurses! If this is not the time to address the issue of his malfeasance, when is!? Once people have time to forget? He did nothing after the first student died. Hadn’t the time come yet to address that issue before the second one died!? Will there be time to address the issue before another child dies? Would rushing to judgement after three years be too uncouth!?

“And then he blames teachers for asking to be treated fairly! Sure if we all just accepted sweat shop conditions, think of the money the state could lavish on our schools – to Pearson and Common Core!

“We had very low voter turnout during the primary that put Democratic candidate Tom Wolf as Corbett’s November challenger for governor. If people don’t show up to kick this bum out of office, we will all deserve what we get! Correction: we’ll deserve it, but the kids who mostly aren’t old enough to vote, will continue to be the innocent victims of this poisonous political hack!

“Here is Corbett’s letter:

“Putting the safety and educational needs of our students first must continue to be our top priority. There is an appropriate time and place to call for education policy discussions. Right now, our thoughts should be with the child’s family, friends, school and community who have all been through an extremely traumatic situation.

I am deeply troubled that the union leadership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – and by extension the American Federation of Teachers – would use the recent tragedy at Jackson Elementary as an opportunity to make a political statement. For more than a year, we all have asked the union leadership – who are disconnected from the great teachers in Philadelphia who are in the classroom every day – to come to the table and engage in meaningful negotiations to assist in the financial recovery of the Philadelphia School District.

The Commonwealth, the School District, the School Reform Commission and City Council are all working to contribute to the success of Philadelphia’s schools and students. I will continue to ask the union leadership to put the children of Philadelphia first and engage in a meaningful dialogue and a shared vision for the future of the children of Philadelphia.

Tom Corbett”

The City Council sparred with the state-appointed School Reform Commission about how and whether the Philadelphia schools would get enough funding to open in September. Under the current budget, another 1,000 staff may be laid off, and class size will soar over 40.

Neither Governor Corbett NPR the legislature appears willing to help the district, even though they have a constitutional duty to do so.

State leaders are consumed with maintains corporate tax cuts, not saving the children of Pennsylvania.


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