Monday, July 2, 2012

PA budget locks in $1 billion cut to public education; gives $75 million bailout to struggling parochial schools

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On deadline, Pa. Republicans craft budget deal, Corbett signs $27.7B package
Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012
By MARC LEVY, Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — After days of long meetings and last-minute bills flying, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a $27.7 billion no-new-taxes budget just before midnight Saturday that was the centerpiece of several long-term victories for his legislative agenda.
There were defeats for the governor too, though his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature tried to squeeze out as many victories for Corbett as they could in the waning moments of the fiscal year. Minority Democrats staunchly opposed elements of the budget as well.

“Aid for public schools and universities will remain flat — several public schools approaching financial collapse will see a little extra money — after absorbing more than $1 billion in cuts in the just-ended fiscal year. But more new education money, $75 million, went toward tax credits approved Saturday night to reward businesses that contribute to scholarships for students who transfer to private schools or public schools outside their home districts.”
Scrambling preceded approval of Pennsylvania's budget
Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 6:44 PM
Patriot News By The Associated Press 
Despite Republican domination of the Capitol, the final hours before Gov. Tom Corbett signed his second state budget Saturday night were chaotic.
There were late-night votes, 11th-hour negotiations to seal deals and several senators almost hollering at each other over an obscure natural gas basin under southeastern Pennsylvania.
Corbett signed the $27.7 billion no-new-taxes general appropriations bill15 minutes before midnight Saturday, the centerpiece of several long-term victories delivered by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The bill went to his desk Friday, but he waited for passage of companion pieces of legislation that were integral to the budget, crucial to his agenda or adorned with lawmakers’ pet provisions.

Posted: Mon, Jul. 2, 2012, 3:01 AM
Pennsylvania corporate tax credit will pay for private-school scholarships
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
Gov. Corbett, who has pushed hard for a school-voucher program, achieved much of that goal Saturday night through the expansion of a corporate tax credit that for the first time will pay for public school students to attend private schools.
As part of the budget deal concluded just before midnight, the legislature broadened the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program (EITC), adding $50 million in tax breaks to businesses that donate money for scholarships to students in the state's lowest-performing schools.

How did your State Representative vote on HB 761, the tax code bill that
included the EITC expansion?

How did your State Senator vote on HB 761

Roebuck: New education tax credit just a private-school bailout
Estimates 85 to 90 percent of kids getting voucher would already be in private schools
Press Release June 30, 2012
HARRISBURG, June 30 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said an education tax credit in a bill the General Assembly passed this weekend (H.B. 761) is little more than a private-school bailout.
"If your student is already in private school, congratulations because this plan would give your school a bailout through tax-credit vouchers – but if your student is in a low-performing public school, you’re probably out of luck. It’s still the private school’s choice – not the student’s choice. And it’s important to remember that a voucher will NOT get a child into a charter school since charter schools are not private – they are considered public schools," Roebuck said.
Roebuck said the new legislation would use the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to accomplish the same goals as previous tax-funded private-school voucher bills. Businesses that donate would receive 90 percent reimbursement with state tax credits.

Citypaper by Daniel Denvir TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012
A Pennsylvania program that gives tax credits to corporations in exchange for donations to private schools uses politically connected middlemen to send taxpayer dollars to religious fundamentalists, according to a New York Times investigation published today.
The Times also reported on tax-credit programs―which are effectively the same as school vouchers, turning over public money to pay for private school tuition―in Georgia, Florida and Arizona.
In Pennsylvania, 200 organizations control more than $40 million donated by corporations and take an “administrative fee” of up to 20 percent. Two of those organizations, Bridge Educational Foundation and Bravo Foundation, allegedly coordinate their “scholarship-giving" with elected officials in the state. Bridge has served as the middleman for more than $650,000 donated by natural-gas drilling company XTO Energy(now owned by Exxon). 

Chris Bravacos, a director at the Bravo Foundation, was a member of Governor Corbett’s Education Transition Team

July 1, 2012
"Today is an important day for students across Pennsylvania and the hardworking parents and guardians who sacrifice so much to provide their children with an education that will prepare them for the future. Our state legislature has taken the first critical step in giving all students a chance for lifelong success by giving families a real educational choice with the passage of House Bill 761. 

Individuals, Not Corporations, Pick Up the Tax Tab for EITC Scholarships

PA Budget and Policy Center June 25, 2012
Corporations get triple dip deduction for contributions to private schools
Individual taxpayers are footing the bill for $9 out of every $10 of corporate contributions for private and parochial school scholarships made through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). 
The EITC allows businesses to recover 75% to 90% of the cost of contributing to an EITC-qualified organization. Companies can also take state and federal tax deductions for a “charitable” contribution, amounting to a “triple dip” tax reduction. 

Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC)
State of Pennsylvania website for EITC Program

Posted: Sun, Jul. 1, 2012, 11:39 AM
Troubled cyber charter school ignores state's demand that it close
By David Gambacorta Daily News Staff Writer
Board members of the Philly-based Frontier Virtual Charter High School discussed plans on Saturday to hire 16 teachers and grow the student population during the upcoming school year.
This would seem like unremarkable news, of course, except for one little thing: state Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis made it clear in a June 13 letter to Frontier's CEO, John Craig, that the school had no hope of opening in the fall.

Posted at 11:37 AM ET, 06/30/2012

Testing mandates flunk cost-benefit analysis

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Peter Smagorinsky, Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at The University of Georgia.
By Peter Smagorinsky
According to Wikipedia, cost–benefit analysis “is a systematic process for calculating and comparing benefits and costs of a project, decision or government policy (hereafter, ‘project’). CBA has two purposes:
1.To determine if it is a sound investment/decision (justification/feasibility),
2.To provide a basis for comparing projects. It involves comparing the total expected cost of each option against the total expected benefits, to see whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and by how much.”
I believe that it would be prudent to apply this process to the current accountability movement now being administered in public education, primarily in the form of testing mandates such as No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. Although I am not an economist — I’m an old high school English teacher now engaged in teacher education at the university level — I believe that I understand the issues at stake as well as anyone currently employed in the U.S. Department of Education.

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