Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Voucher advocate Finn: Six good reasons to pass on vouchers

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Chester Finn: Unexpected Barriers to Vouchers

 Sean Cavanagh  
Even amid a surge of pro-voucher laws around the country, a number of educational and political forces are likely to complicate and possibly impede the future growth of private school choice, a leading supporter of those policies predicts in a new essay.
…..a number of other complex factors are likely to skew and possibly undermine the private school choice landscape going forward, writes Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official and widely published author. Among them:

·         Resistance among some private school operators, who are wary of sacrificing their independence and individual standards as they have testing-and-accountability requirements placed on them as a condition of receiving vouchers;
·         Provisions in state constitutions—often called Blaine amendments—that block or restrict public funding from going to religious institutions;
·         A lessening of influence among "what was for decades the strongest lobby in favor of vouchers," Finn says—the Roman Catholic Church.  He says the church is "neither nearly as strong as it once was nor nearly as committed to revitalizing its own schools. It seems to have lost most of the wind from its sails."
·         Overall worries about private schools having selective admissions processes and excluding minorities, or students with disabilities;
·         The poor performance and secrecy of some private education entities, including charter operators, who tend to damage the reputation of the entire industry. "The word 'private' has grown even more suspect in American education circles today than it was yesterday," the Fordham official writes. And:
·         Unease among some state and local Republican advocates of choice about the impact of charter, voucher, and inter-district transfer policies on suburban schools.

Education Voters PA Blog FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012
Governor Corbett: “Taxpayers need to help themselves.”
In an  article released Wednesday, Governor Corbett blames local tax increases on local school boards and states “taxpayers need to help themselves.”
For two decades, the state has ignored its responsibility to fund education and has transferred that burden on to local taxpayers. Currently, Pennsylvania ranks 4th in the Nation in our dependence on local property taxes to fund education and ranks the 8th highest in cuts to education.

Allentown School District could ax 6th grade social studies classes
Combining social studies with English would free up more time to learn math.
April 13, 2012 By Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call
Just the other week, the Allentown School Board learned that some Dieruff High School students have such weak knowledge of U.S. history and geography they have asked teachers if the Revolutionary War was fought over slavery and if New Jersey is part of Pennsylvania.
But with state math scores that crash after fifth grade like the stock market of 1929, the Allentown School District is considering ending social studies as a free-standing course for sixth-graders.

Congrats to these outstanding teachers.  I had an opportunity to meet with most of them along with Congressman Pat Meehan last week.  If you are a legislator and would like to know what’s actually going on in our public schools, ask these folks….

Delaware County 2012 Excellence in Teaching award winners

The Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize outstanding and dedicated teachers in Delaware County Pennsylvania.

Congrats to the Inky and the Patriot News on their Pulitzers…….
Posted: Mon, Apr. 16, 2012, 3:25 PM
Inquirer wins Pulitzer Prize for school violence series
The Inquirer's investigation of the climate of pervasive violence in Philadelphia's public schools Monday won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the profession's most prestigious honor.
The entire project can be found at http://www.philly.com/assaultonlearning.
The award is the 19th Pulitzer Prize for the 183-year-old newspaper and its first since 1997

Sara Ganim, Patriot-News staff win Pulitzer Prize for Jerry Sandusky coverage
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012, 3:00 PM     Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012, 4:49 PM
By The Patriot-News
Sara Ganim and The Patriot-News staff have won journalism's top prize, a Pulitzer, for local reporting.  Ganim spent months dogging what became one of the top international stories of 2011 - the sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach and founder of the charity The Second Mile.

Budget guts Pa. watchdog agencies, offices

Luzerne County Citizen’s Voice by Robert Swift Published: April 15, 2012
HARRISBURG - The $27 billion state budget is such an encompassing piece of legislation that it's often talked about in terms of its main components such as the "education" budget and "welfare" budget.  A Capitol activist is focusing attention on what he calls the "integrity" budget.
Three state offices that are supposed to investigate, prosecute and prevent public corruption are taking huge budget cuts, said Tim Potts, founder of the advocacy group Democracy Rising.

New York Times EDITORIAL
ALEC: Embarrassed by Bad Laws
Published: April 16, 2012
A year ago, few people outside the world of state legislatures had heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a four-decade-old organization run by right-wing activists and financed by business leaders. The group writes prototypes of state laws to promote corporate and conservative interests and spreads them from one state capital to another.
The council, known as ALEC, has since become better known, with news organizations alerting the public to the damage it has caused: voter ID laws that marginalize minorities and the elderly, antiunion bills that hurt the middle class and the dismantling of protective environmental regulations.

ALEC: Tennessee Skewers Teaching of Evolution in Schools — Is Your State Next?
Thanks to ALEC, the Volunteer State has adopted a law intended to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools. Just don't expect them to stop there.
AlterNet by Katherine Stewart April 14, 2012
Four score and seven years ago, a Tennessee high school biology teacher named John Scopes was charged with teaching evolution. At the time, Tennessee had a law called the Butler Act, in honor of John W. Butler, the leader of the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, that turned Scopes’s efforts to educate his students into a criminal offense. The enemies of Darwin won in court but suffered a nearly catastrophic loss in the public sphere. The press portrayed them as anti-intellectual and un-American in their opposition to science and progress. They were the “sharpshooters of bigotry,” according to Scopes’ celebrated attorney, Clarence Darrow. “I knew that education was in danger from the source that has always hampered it — religious fanaticism,” he said. The fallout was so toxic that Christian fundamentalism retreated as a political force for decades.
We now have compelling evidence that evolution doesn’t happen — at least not in Tennessee. As of April 10, 2012, Tennessee has on its books a new law intended to undermine the teaching of evolution and promote the teaching of creationism in public schools.

"The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely," Romney said, explaining that part of his reasoning behind preserving the agency was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions. Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile. 
Romney offers policy details at closed-door fundraiser
MSNBC By NBC's Garrett Haake
PALM BEACH, FL — Mitt Romney went well beyond his standard stump speech at a closed-door fundraiser on Sunday evening, and offered some of the most specific details to date about the policies he would pursue if elected.

“….school autonomy and teacher professionalism are often mentioned as the dominant factors explaining strong educational performance in Finland. The school is the main author of curricula. And the teacher is the sole authority monitoring the progress of students.
In Finland, there is a strong sense of trust in schools and teachers to carry out these responsibilities. There is no external inspection of schools or standardized testing of all pupils in Finland. For our national analysis of educational performance, we rely on testing only a small sample of students.”
Posted at 03:00 AM ET, 04/17/2012

What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
Finland’s high-achieving public school system is now part of the conversation about U.S. education reform these days. What, it is often asked, can we learn from Finland? (Plenty, actually, though U.S. reformers consistently ignore the lessons .) The query has been asked and answered so often that it seems like a good time to ask what the United States can’t learn from Finland. So I asked Pasi Sahlberg, author of “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland? ” to tackle the subject, which he does, below.
Gordon Gekko: “gRheed is good.”  RheeFirst, Hedge Fund Managers and other Millionaires continue their assault on public education….

In New York, Schools fight dominates record spending on lobbying

New York World Posted on April 16, 2012 by Alice Brennan and Curtis Skinner
The future of the fight over public schools has a fresh, highly visible face, and it’s called StudentsFirstNY.  But the new school-reform supergroup, founded by former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and ex-D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, is in fact not that new at all. It builds directly one of the biggest lobbying forces in New York State, called Education Reform Now.

Here are more than 400 articles since January 23rd detailing budget cuts, program cuts, staffing cuts and tax increases being discussed by local school districts
The PA House Democratic Caucus has been tracking daily press coverage on school district budgets statewide:



Tuesday, April 24 is Primary Election Day in Pennsylvania.

Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. Click here to find your polling place. During the Primary, registered members of the Republican and Democrat parties are eligible to vote to nominate the candidates that will represent their party on the ballot in the November General Election. ALL voters will be required to show a photo ID before voting at a polling place in the November 2012 Election. Click here for more information on the new Voter ID law.


Stand Up for Public Education!
East Penn Education Forum on April 25th 7:00 – 9:00 pm
What’s at Stake?  Discover how high-stakes testing and funding cuts are impacting our kids and schools.
Hosted by: East Penn Invested Citizens (EPIC), Salisbury Parent Advisory, Allentown Parent Groups and a coalition of Lehigh Valley Parents
Where: East Penn Administration Building School Board Meeting Room, 800 Pine Street, Emmaus

Has your board considered this draft resolution yet?

PSBA Sample Board Resolution regarding the budget

Please consider bringing this sample resolution to the members of your board.


PA Partnerships for Children – Take action on the Governor’s Budget
The governor’s budget plan cuts funding for proven programs like Child Care Works, Keystone STARS and the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. These are among the most cost-effective investments we can make in education.  Gov. Corbett’s budget plan also runs counter to a pledge he made when he ran for governor in 2010. He acknowledged the benefits of early childhood education and promised to increase funding to double the number of children who would benefit from early learning opportunities.
We need your help to tell lawmakers: if you cut these programs – you close the door to early learning! Click here to tell your state legislators to fund early childhood education programs at the same level they approved for this year’s budget.

Education Voters PA – Take action on the Governor’s Budget
The Governor’s proposal starts the process, but it isn’t all decided: our legislators can play an important role in standing up for our priorities.  Last year, public outcry helped prevent nearly $300 million in additional cuts.  We heard from the Governor, and we know where he stands.  Now, we need to ask our legislators: what is your position on supporting our schools?


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