Thursday, January 12, 2012

Could vouchers have prevented Catholic school closings?

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Posted at 04:54 PM ET, 01/11/2012

Pennsylvania school district on verge of collapse

(and using free labor to stay open)

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
A tragic story is unfolding in Pennsylvania’s troubled Chester Upland School District, where a combination of drastic budget cuts, poor management, student attrition to charter schools and other factors have left the immediate future of the traditional public schools in doubt.

Chester Upland families nervous over possible shutdown
By Dan Hardy, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER, Posted: Wed, Jan. 11, 2012, 8:40 PM
Damien Hibbert, a senior at the Science and Discovery High School in Delaware County's Chester Upland School District, should be in the final lap right now, deciding on what college to attend, getting ready for the senior prom, renting his cap and gown.  Instead, his mother, Amanda Rios, said Wednesday, he and his family are trying to figure out what to do if his school, along with the rest of the district, falls victim to an unprecedented budget crisis.
The district is $20 million in debt. In recent years, it lost almost half of its students - and the funding to that goes with them - to charters, and has suffered heavily from cuts in state funding. District officials say those two factors have left the school system insolvent. They say they are out of options, except a possible federal lawsuit. The Corbett administration says the district's own mismanagement is at fault and, as result, there will be no state bailout.

Public Education Advocate Susan Spicka of Shippensburg to run as Democrat for 33rd Pennsylvania senate district

Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 1:54 PM    
By ELIZABETH GIBSON, The Patriot-News 
Susan Spicka of Shippensburg will run for the 33rd Pennsylvania state senate district seat that represents, under re-districting, parts of Cumberland, Franklin, Adams, and York counties.
It will be Spicka's first run for political office. Spicka, 41, is a former public school teacher and lives in Shippensburg with her husband and their two daughters.
Last spring, she was one of the co-founders of Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, an organization of parents and community members that came together to raise awareness about how public policy impacts public education and to encourage community members to support public schools.  Information:
Additional coverage from the York Dispatch:

Could vouchers have prevented Catholic school closings?
Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:15 am By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer
A member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Blue Ribbon Commission that recommended the closing of nearly 50 schools said if a school voucher law had been passed a decade ago, the need for the Catholic schools restructuring “would not have been as dramatic and drastic as we had to announce last Friday.”

Are vouchers a savior for Philadelphia's parochial schools?

WHYY Newsworks By Elizabeth Fiedler, January 10, 2012
Today officials from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sat down with representatives of about 50 elementary and secondary schools slated to close or be consolidated. Friday's announcement of major school closings and consolidations has left students, teachers, and alumni shaken. The solution to Philadelphia's struggling Catholic education system may already be in place elsewhere.

Pennsylvania Constitution and Vouchers
These pesky details seem to have been overlooked in the two previous articles:

Here’s a pdf of the complete Archdiocese Blue Ribbon Commission report of January 2012

Easton Area school district looking down the barrel of a $7.6m deficit
By Samantha Marcus, Of The Morning Call, 11:32 p.m. EST, January 11, 2012
One number can set the tone of the Easton Area School District's budget season. And by the looks of it, it's going to be a chilly one.
$7.6 million.
The district's finance director on Wednesday provided a 2012-13 preliminary budget that contains a $7.6 million deficit that while not as severe as that of the preliminary 2011-12 budget still poses a threat to district services.

San Francisco Chronicle
Property Investors Bet on Rising Demand for U.S. Charter Schools
Brian Louis, ©2012 Bloomberg News, Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- A warehouse where workers once shaped and cut steel on Milwaukee's north side is getting a second life. It's being transformed into a charter school that's scheduled to open in August.

New York City Charter School Finds That a Grade of ‘C’ Means Closing

New York Times By ANNA M. PHILLIPS, Published: January 11, 2012
For the first time, New York City is closing a charter school for the offense of simply being mediocre.  The announcement this week that the city planned to shut Peninsula Preparatory Charter School, a seven-year-old elementary school in Far Rockaway, Queens, was unusual by any definition. Since 2004, the city has closed only a few of its 142 charters that have opened — schools that are publicly financed but privately managed, and are a source of competition for traditional schools.
But as more of the city’s charter schools have matured, reaching the five-year renewal mark, the Education Department has become increasingly impatient with weak-performing ones. With the closing of Peninsula Prep, which had received a grade of C on each of its last four progress reports, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott seemed to be signaling that the city’s 136 charters will now be held to a higher standard.
And increasing scrutiny of New York charter schools could have widespread implications, prompting a wider conversation across the country about what the bar for closing should be, and how much charter schools should be expected to outperform public schools.

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