Tuesday, March 1, 2011

SB1 - A Taxpayer Funded Bailout of Struggling Parochial Schools?

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SB1 – A Taxpayer Funded Bailout of Struggling Parochial Schools?
Over the past several years market forces have resulted in the closing of many parochial schools due to changing demographics and subsequent reduced demand (see Dan Hardy’s article in today’s Inquirer, below).  At the House Democratic Policy Committee hearing held in Philadelphia last week, Mary Rochford, School Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, testified that there are presently over 13,000 empty seats in Philadelphia’s Catholic schools and another 19,000 empty seats in the five suburban counties.  

Meanwhile, at the same hearing, Philadelphia School District Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery estimated that Philadelphia's public schools could lose $40 million in state funding next year if SB 1 is passed.  SB1 would drain critical resources from students and schools that can least afford it.

 To my knowledge, there is no data demonstrating that any private or religious schools are more effective than traditional public schools when they have a school population of students in poverty that is over 80%, like the 144 schools associated with SB1.

While SB1 has been positioned as a vehicle to help families that cannot afford tuition escape failing public schools, year three of SB1 would provide vouchers to any poor student, even if they are already attending a private or parochial school and even if they happen to be living in Upper Saint Clair, Mount Lebanon, Lower Merion, Radnor or Tredyffrin Easttown, arguably the top school districts in the state.

Pennsylvania Constitution Article §15.
 Public school money not available to sectarian schools.
“ No money raised for the support of the public schools of the  Commonwealth
 shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”

FYI, here’s a link to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference’s website, advocating for SB1:
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Posted on Tue, Mar. 1, 2011
Archdiocese will close seven elementaries
By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Philadelphia Archdiocese announced Monday that seven small parish elementary schools - four in Philadelphia and three in Bucks County - will close at the end of this school year.  The announcement continues a longtime trend of declining numbers in the area's Catholic schools, reflecting the shrinking of church membership.
Parish elementary school enrollment in the archdiocese has fallen 18 percent during the last five years; high school enrollment has dropped 20 percent.

As you read this posting about Wake County’s efforts, keep in mind that the average percent of students on subsidized lunches for the 144 schools associated with Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 1 is 80.8%, vs. a statewide average for all school of 39.1%.

Seeking Integration, Whatever the Path
NY Times, Published: February 27, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. — For decades, the Wake County Public School System — the nation’s 18th largest — has been known as a strong academic district committed to integration.  From the 1970s to the 1990s, that meant racial integration.
In 2000, after courts ruled against using race-based criteria, Wake became one of the first districts in the nation to adopt a system of socioeconomic integration. The idea was that every school in the county (163 at present) would have a mix of children from poor to rich. The target for schools was a 60-40 mix — 60 percent of students who did not require subsidized lunches and 40 percent who did.

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Ravitch: 'A moment of national insanity'

I'm beginning to think we are living in a moment of national insanity. On the one hand, we hear pious exhortations about education reform, endlessly uttered by our leaders in high political office, corporate suites, foundations, and the media. President Obama says we have to "out-educate" the rest of the world to "win the future."
Yet the reality on the ground suggests that the corporate reform movement --- embraced by so many of those same leaders, including the president --- will set American education back, by how many years or decades is anyone's guess. Sometimes I think we are hurtling back a century or more, to the age of the Robber Barons and the great corporate trusts.

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