"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crisis in PA Cracks Ed Privatization Scheme Wide Open

Some good journalism coming out of privatization scheme for Phildadelphia public schools. The lead is at the top of the article for a change:

The fiscal crisis facing our public schools is being exploited by a movement to privatize public education, break unions and subject students to high-stakes test-prep regimes.

The story is there, not buried way down, like it is in the NYT and the corporate owned media. Same scenario playing out all across the country as state budget woes are being used to cut public education spending and transfer funds to friends and cronies in the corporate, for-profit world, a world where earnings per share is worshipped at the expense of everything humane. Nothing like a financial crisis to get people to pay attention - the plan all along since the inception of NCLB was to privatize public education, break unions and keep the profits rolling in for the testing industrial complex and the profiteers like Pearson. The day of reckoning has finally arrived.

The good news is, people are slowly waking up and they aren't sure this is the way they want their children to be educated in a Race to the Top that generates a few winners, a monopoly in the testing business, and lots of losers including their own children who are reduced to nothing but a number.

Thanks to the dedicated teachers who have hung in there in the trenches there are still a few educated people around who can still discern the difference between fair and unfair, equal and unequal, stupid and intelligent. Despite the vicious attacks by business leaders and politicians who have scapegoated teachers and public schools for a financial crisis that was caused by them, there is no longer anywhere for the privatizers to hide.

After Bush and his regime trashed the economy and mismanagement the budget, states are looking for ways to save money and it's on the backs of the most vulnerable. Public education spending is being slashed and teachers are easy pickings when it comes to  austerity because after all, who, other than teachers know what it's like to live on a tight budget. 

It will be interesting to see what happens in PA. Will Penn cough up a few bucks to help educate the next generation, or continue to hide behind its non-profit status.

Hostile Witness

Make 'Em Pay

The fiscal crisis facing our public schools is being exploited by a movement to privatize public education, break unions and subject students to high-stakes test-prep regimes. But it is a crisis nonetheless — one that requires long-term solutions, immediate band-aids and, critically, a substantial commitment from Philly's largest stakeholders.
As I've reported, the state, whose School Reform Commission (SRC) has controlled Philly schools since 2001, has underfunded poor districts for decades. This fiscal year, Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican legislature slashed nearly $300 million of Philly's funding. The district now faces a $218 million deficit for the coming year and a $1.1 billion cumulative five-year shortfall.
"We have a dysfunctional conversation here," Republican City Councilman Dennis O'Brien told the SRC last week. "We have a five-year plan [from the district] with no anticipated revenue from the state until 2016 or '17? What the hell is up with that?"
Sure: Corbett probably isn't eager to deliver aid to Philly. But the crisis is statewide: Upper Darby, Harrisburg, York. Philly could lead a movement.
Short-term solutions, though insufficient, are also critical. The city's funding debate has revolved around Mayor Nutter's controversial request that a recalibrated property-tax system pay out an additional $94 million. But deep-pocketed Philadelphia institutions could also help soften the blow. Penn (with a $6.58 billion endowment) hides behind its nonprofit status and pays no property taxes to the city. And unlike nearly every Ivy League school in the country, Penn pays no "payments in lieu of taxes," or PILOTs. In 2005, Harvard agreed to pay Boston $60 million in PILOTs over 20 years; Yale pays about $8.1 million a year to New Haven.
Already, a yearly investment of about $800,000 from Penn has turned West Philly's Penn Alexander School into a shining beacon in the troubled district. Imagine what a few million more dollars could do.
Nutter has said that Act 55, a 1997 state law, stripped the city of its ability to legally challenge nonprofit exemptions, and thus made it impossible to demand PILOTs. But in April, the state Supreme Court ruled that cities could hold nonprofits to a tougher standard. The city has indicated it will.
The city should make Penn pay now. And if Nutter had the gumption, he would lead a movement of mayors to demand that Corbett meet the state constitution's requirement to provide for "a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."

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