Archives for category: Pennsylvania

“The Notebook” reports on the disgraceful funding of schools in Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia.

Corporate tax breaks mean more to Governor Corbett and the Legislature than children. Public schools don’t make campaign contributions. Charter operators and corporations do.

Says “The Notebook”:

“It’s hard to overstate the deplorable conditions facing Philadelphia school children again this fall: another year of bare-bones education, overcrowded classrooms, and gaps in essential services like counseling and nursing.

“But Philadelphia is by no means the only Pennsylvania district to see budgets slashed and the jobs of teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors eliminated. Districts across the state are reeling from four years of austerity. Here’s how some were responding this summer:

“Cutting activities: More than one-fourth of districts were expecting to cut extracurricular activities this year, according to a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers.

“Laying off teachers: Allentown’s school district axed more than 60 teaching positions – on top of more than 400 cut in the three prior years.

“Eliminating the arts: A district near Scranton announced it can no longer afford music instruction for students through 2nd grade.

“Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Pennsylvania is not a poor state and is situated in one of the richest countries in the world. But many districts can’t provide our children with school personnel we once took for granted. Not to mention books, technology – and in some cases, soap and toilet paper.

“The Corbett administration would like us to believe that the problem in Philadelphia is that teachers haven’t sacrificed financially. But teachers deserve to be adequately compensated for their vital work and are right to resist a race to the bottom in education spending.”

Corbett is a disgrace.

Politico.com reviews a number of governor’s races around the country, and here is the takeaway: governors who cut education funding are on the defensive, even insisting that they didn’t do it.

Consider this:

” The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes [http://bit.ly/1llmers]. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ http://bit.ly/1rs9rXY%5D. But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [http://bit.ly/1rsawPz].

“- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO [http://politico.pro/1wLJO4C]. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

On California it is a close race for state superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and investment bbanker-charter cheerleader Mardhall The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes [http://bit.ly/1llmers]. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ http://bit.ly/1rs9rXY%5D. But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [http://bit.ly/1rsawPz].

- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO [http://politico.pro/1wLJO4C]. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

In California, it is a right race for superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and privatizer Marshall Tuck. The future if public education in that state hangs in the balance. If Tuck wins, expect more charter schools and attacks in due process rights for teachers.

For further information contact:

Clovis Gallon, 717-487-2530, clo95@hotmail.com
Lauri Rakoff, 717-577-8327, lrakoff@psea.org
YORK CITIZENS TO SCHOOL BOARD: STOP THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF OUR SCHOOLS
Community members will march outside School Board, Community Education Council meetings
York, Pa. (Sept. 12, 2014) – Parents, educators, and members of the York community are calling on York City School Board members to reject the bids of two out-of-state charter corporations competing to take over the city’s public schools.
The School Board is reviewing proposals from Charter Schools USA and Mosaica Education, Inc. to take over every one of the city’s public schools. This would be a first-of-its-kind experiment in Pennsylvania public education, allowing a private corporation to profit from the education of York schoolchildren.
“No other school district in Pennsylvania has handed over every one of its public schools to a for-profit charter corporation,” said Clovis Gallon, a teacher and member of the York City Education Association. “York students should not be treated like guinea pigs in some grand experiment.”
Parents, educators, and members of the York community will march outside of the York City School Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and a Charter School Presentation for the Community Education Council on Wednesday, Sept. 24.
The details of both events are below. Media coverage is encouraged.
What: York City School Board Meeting

Where: York City Schools Administration Building

When: Wed., Sept. 17, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (School Board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: The march will occur outside the Administration Building. Participants will then attend the School Board meeting.

What: Community Charter School Presentation

Where: Hannah Penn K-8 School

When: Wed., Sept. 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (Community Education Council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Details: The march will occur outside the school cafeteria. Participants will then attend the Community Education Council meeting and Charter School Presentation.

The corporate takeover experiment is being pushed by the York City School District’s chief recovery officer, an appointee of Gov. Tom Corbett, who falsely claims this is the district’s only hope in the face of financial challenges.

“Gov. Corbett has starved York’s public schools of needed resources, and now his appointed chief recovery officer is blaming the city’s schools for not providing children with a rich enough educational diet,” said Gallon. “What York schools really need is for state lawmakers to reverse the Corbett funding cuts.”

York community members look forward to sending a message to school officials that they support their community schools and strongly oppose a corporate takeover by an out-of-state charter operator.

“Local taxpayers and elected officials should be making decisions about the education of York’s children – not an out-of-state corporation with its eye on the bottom line,” said Gallon.

The school board in Pittsburgh voted this week to reduce testing in K-5 by 50%. This is a huge win for children.

What this means is an additional 33 hours for learning, for recess, for all manner of things other than standardized testing.

Jessie Ramey, who blogs as Yinzercation, said:

“We scored a big victory in Pittsburgh last night! The school district and school board agreed to substantially reduce testing for students in grades K-5. The biggest winners are children in grades 3-5, where testing will be cut from 85.5 periods a year to 41.5 periods. At 45 minutes per period, that is 1,980 minutes of instructional time – or 33 hours of real learning time – that our children just got back in their lives.

“Thirty-three hours! And that’s just in test-taking. When tests are eliminated, students also gain back time that had been dedicated to test-prep, so there is a multiplier effect here, too.”

The purpose of testing is for students and teachers to learn about students’ strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can look at student performance and learn what they taught well and what they didn’t teach well.

When states, in collaboration with testing companies, keep tests confidential, reeves long nothing to students and teachers but test scores, they vitiate the value of the test. It’s akin to going to your doctor for a checkup and learning nothing but a score, with no context or interpretation of what you should do now.

A reader from Pennsylvania writes:

“What’s worse are the Pennsylvania Keystone Exams. They have not published a single question from any exam given nor any questions from the Classroom Diagnostic tests, practice tests for the Keystone. Instead they have only published a few sample questions some of which are poorly written. When asked about this, an official said that the sample questions were reject questions that would never be used on the exams. Basically students and teachers are being kept in the dark about these high stakes exams which will be used to determine if a student can graduate or not, how a school district is rated and how a teacher is evaluated.”

Shortly after posting that the school board of Durham, North Carolina, voted not to renew its contract with Teach for America, I recalled that another major city had done the same, reversing the previous board’s decision to bring in 30 TFA recruits.

Last December, the newly elected majority on the Pittsburgh school board voted 6-2 not to renew its contract with TFA. The issue was how to fill positions at hard-to-staff schools. One of the board members who voted not to renew TFA said, “Board members said they’re concerned resignations from teachers in those schools stem from a lack of support for the educators. “People will come to hard-to-staff buildings if they know they will have support there.”

Pennsylvania, like Michigan, is another state where the governor (Tom Corbett) and the legislature feel no responsibility to sustain public education. Philadelphia public education is under fire, as the privatization vultures circle.

Now the York City, Pa., public schools are on the brink of privatization. Seven national charter management organizations made presentations to take over the district’s operations.

Little by little, the privatizers are moving to grab as many public schools as they can. Sad.

In an interview with “The Notebook,” civil rights attorney Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia explains why previous litigation failed and what should happen now to assure that all children get a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” as the law requires.

Here is a small part of a very informative exchange:

Q.: What other legislative or policy fixes could help settle the District’s long-term finances?

A. There are lots. The charter funding formula is absolutely crazy, one of the worst in the country.

But that’s small potatoes compared to our single biggest problem – the state puts in too small a share of funding. Pennsylvania appropriates about 35 percent of the cost of public education. Pennsylvania needs to get up to about 50 percent of the cost of education.

And while they’re figuring that out, they need to calculate real costs – like the cost of educating kids in poverty. When you do that, you’ll take care of the problems. Everything else is just cosmetic – moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic, as people like to say.

We do actually have a commission to look into a new funding formula that’ll start this summer. But we know the solutions. It’s not a mystery. What’s lacking is political will.

Q.: What about the city? Is it contributing enough?

A. Philadelphia used to be near the bottom of local contributions. Now we’re contributing above the median of the rest of the state. This is clearly now a state problem, not a Philadelphia problem.

Q.: Last time we had a funding formula, it didn’t last. Is there any way to compel legislators to use whatever they create?

A.: Most other states have found that the judiciary will step in and say that the constitution [which in Pennsylvania requires a “a thorough and efficient system of public education”] has to be upheld.

In the 1990s, Pennsylvania’s judiciary decided they would not step in. They had some reasons why, but many of those have changed.

For example, we don’t have local control at the level we used to. The state now sets graduation standards. The state sets testing standards. The state tells districts how they have to spend money.

Therefore, there are much stronger grounds for judicial intervention to make sure that the state is providing adequate funding. That’s my thought on the matter. We’ll have to see whether the judiciary agrees.

And here is another exchange:

Q.: Let’s go back to charter finances. What are some policy changes that could stabilize the whole system?

A.: There’s a whole range of numbers that need to be looked at so that there’s some relationship to cost.

For example, charters have been paid for special education at a rate that’s completely phony, year after year. Chester gets paid $36,000 per special-ed student. But most of them are getting “language and occupational therapy” once a week. That’s a minimal expense.

The cyber charters, which are the fastest-growing section of the charter movement, don’t have any of the same costs as brick-and-mortar charters, but they get the same money. The state hasn’t been able to fix that one, even though the auditor general has been writing reports about it for six years. It’s a complete waste of valuable resources.

And then, there needs to be a complete new set of transparency rules, so we know what charters are spending and accomplishing, and we don’t have the kind of waste and fraud we’ve seen.

Q.: What’s your plan to influence the governor’s race this fall?

A.: I believe that by the fall, we’ll be engaged in the kind of litigation like we talked about, to lay out the facts as to why 50 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania do not meet the standards the state has set for itself.

That’s a massive failure, and it’s closely related to underfunding – which has been known since 2007, when the state issued a report about real costs. We’ll bring that to the attention of the courts and the public.

Q.: The counter-argument is that we need to reduce costs, not spend more. Why shouldn’t Philadelphia be thinking about strategically increasing charter enrollment? Would that drive costs down?

A.: There’s no evidence that that really does, or that it’s sustainable over any length of time. That strategy relies on churn — lots of young teachers who turn over constantly. That is the enemy of a slow-and-steady progress model.

In Chester, for example, they have the largest charter population of any district in the state [by percentage], but they’re no further ahead than other students. But it does cost a great deal more, and a lot of that money is being funneled off into private payrolls.

I think everybody’s been surprised at some of the good things we’ve seen in charters that can be used in regular schools.

But we need to find ways that we adapt those, rather than create so much change that it sets back progress. We don’t want a two-tiered system. We don’t want public schools to be only for those who can’t figure out how to get out of them. What happens inevitably as you privatize is, things become stratified. To me, that would be far too high a price to pay.

Governor Tom Corbett has made a cushy deal for his former stat education commissioner, Ron Tomalis.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Tomalis is paid full salary, has no office, and no one is sure what work he does. He is supposed to be a higher education advisor.

“When Ron Tomalis stepped aside as state education secretary 14 months ago, he landed what seemed like a full-time assignment in a state struggling to boost college access and curb ever-rising tuition prices.

“As special adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett for higher education, Mr. Tomalis was tasked with “overseeing, implementing and reviewing” the recommendations made by the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education.

“Despite the state’s fiscal crisis, the former secretary was allowed to keep his Cabinet-level salary of $139,542 plus benefits and — initially, at least — work from home. At the time, state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller explained that the newly created job did not require an office, and Mr. Tomalis “is a professional and doesn’t need to ‘check in’ each day.”

“Now, more than a year later, records obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through requests under the state Right-to-Know Law raise questions about how much time the governor’s office required Mr. Tomalis to spend on those duties.

“The records produced included a work calendar showing weeks with little or no activity (explore it below or click here), phone logs averaging barely over a phone call a day over 12 months and a total of five emails produced by Mr. Tomalis. The state was not able to provide any reimbursement records suggesting Mr. Tomalis traveled the state in support of his work.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/frontpage/2014/07/27/Role-remains-ambiguous-for-Tom-Corbett-s-higher-education-adviser-Ron-Tomalis/stories/201407270215#ixzz38r9YsGRn

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/frontpage/2014/07/27/Role-remains-ambiguous-for-Tom-Corbett-s-higher-education-adviser-Ron-Tomalis/stories/201407270215#ixzz38r93C7gg

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 111,668 other followers