Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System

Posted by carldavidson on December 14, 2014

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post

Dec 11, 2014 – Many school reformers today like to say that “money doesn’t matter” in making schools work and that holding students and teachers more “accountable”   — largely through standardized test scores — is what is needed.

Certainly a great deal of money can be used poorly but that is not the same thing as money doesn’t matter. It is, however, a good mantra for people who want to ignore the severe and consequential funding inequities that persist in the U.S. public education system across the United States.

According to this 2013 report on school funding by the Education Law Center:

    In fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, state governments, on average, funded 43.5 percent, or $259.8 billion, of the total amount spent on public education. School districts and other local sources were responsible, on average, for almost 44 percent of all public school spending or $261.6 billion. The federal government, on average, provided almost 13 percent of the total revenue received by public schools, or $75.9 billion.

With most of the money coming from state and local sources, disparities are inevitable, especially because in most places local sources are dependent on property taxes, meaning that poor areas have less money to spend on schools. Federal money given to low-income areas doesn’t close the gap.

So how inequitable can school funding be within a single state? Let’s look at one of the most troubled in this respect, Pennsylvania.

Here’s some testimony from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, given to a public hearing of the Basic Education Funding Commission in Pennsylvania about school funding:

    Pennsylvania’s system of funding schools is a failure by every criterion: equity, adequacy, predictability, fairness. Too many students in too many schools are unable to meet state standards of what children should know and be able to do. Too few are going on to college or are prepared for well paying jobs. No one is responsible to calculate how much it will cost districts to provide the necessary instruction and support. The inequity of the system is glaring: the amount of public resources spent on preparing a child to succeed in the adult world varies from $9,000 to $27,000 a year, which is a quarter of a million dollars difference over a school career from K to 12th grade. But it is not only unfair to children, it is unfair to taxpayers where the tax burden can vary from the equivalent of 8 to 36 equalized mills of tax effort for homes with the same value. And in the ultimate insult, the districts bearing the highest tax burdens frequently have less dollars to spend on their students than districts with tax burdens half the amount.

    The reasons for these multiple failures are simple:

    1. Too few state dollars result in too high reliance on local dollars;
    2. The system does not take into account how much it costs to educate children.
    3. State dollars are distributed on a basis which does not reflect the tax effort of the district.

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Posted in Education, Harrisburg, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Young People Take to the Street in Solidarity with Ferguson, Garner and vs. other Killings

Posted by carldavidson on December 5, 2014

Pittsburgh police give Downtown protesters their space

By Liz Navratil

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dec 4, 2014 – Julia Johnson let out a piercing scream on the steps of the City-County Building on Thursday afternoon.

“Stop killing us!” she yelled next. Then, she screamed loudly once more.

Below her, on the steps leading to the Downtown building, dozens of people lay on the ground, their limbs splayed outward as if they were dead. Later, some would be outlined in chalk, and Ms. Johnson would scatter flower petals over their bodies.

On the outskirts of the protest — which at times swelled to include about 100 people — were Pittsburgh police officers on bicycles and on foot, some in plainclothes. Most of them stood silently or chatted with one another while the crowd — over about two hours — chanted slogans such as “no justice, no peace” and “no racist police.”

Their message was being echoed at similar demonstrations across the country — they decried a New York City grand jury’s decision not to indict an officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold this year and lamented a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to charge an officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

20141204MWHprotestLocal17-1 Protesters rally against police brutality and racism by marching with their hands up along Liberty Avenue, Downtown.

Protesters rally against police brutality and racism by marching with their hands up along Liberty Avenue, Downtown. Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette

But this demonstration, unlike some in other cities, ended peacefully and without arrests.

Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Eric Holmes stood on the fringes of the protest as groups blocked traffic at four intersections and as one of his officers coordinated with demonstrators to clear the path for a woman driving her child to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The issues discussed, he said, were important to many officers on the force. “I obviously recognize that I’m an African-American male, so I’m going to come to the discussion on both sides.”

Cmdr. Holmes said he took a “passive approach” to working with the demonstrators. “I allowed them to block the street, and I made that call, so that decision rests with me. We wanted to make sure that individuals are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights and we do recognize that with that comes a cost, and today that cost was [the] disruption of traffic.”

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, watched as the group gathered outside the City-County Building. She praised the police and the protesters for the way they acted. The 2009 G-20 Summit aside, she said, Pittsburgh residents and police have a long history of peacefully interacting with each other at protests.

Still, tensions at times were high. Iyanna Bridges, who is black, yelled in the street at a white man who she said described their protest and stories as “funny.”

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Posted in Pittsburgh, Racism, Solidarity, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Wolf’s Challenge: PA ‘One of the Worst’ in Funding Its Schools

Posted by carldavidson on November 12, 2014

Schools, Parents Sue Pennsylvania Over ‘Educational Caste System’

 By Deirdre Fulton

Beaver County Blue via Common Dreams

Nov. 11, 2014 – Six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations sued [1] the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Monday, claiming legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor have failed to uphold the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and "participate meaningfully in the economic, civic, and social life of their communities."

According to the complaint [2] (pdf), "state officials have adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts."

"The disparity in education resources has created an educational caste system that the Commonwealth must eliminate." —Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

As a result, the plaintiffs claim that hundreds of thousands of students throughout the state lack basic educational supports and services—functioning school libraries, up-to-date textbooks and curriculum materials, reasonable class sizes, guidance counselors, school nurses, vocational-ed and college prep classes, academic tutoring programs, and more.

"My child is in classes with too many other students and she has no access to tutoring services or support from paraprofessionals, but our elected officials still expect and require her to pass standardized tests," said [3] Jamela Millar, parent of 11-year-old K.M., a student in the William Penn School District. "How are kids supposed to pass the tests required to graduate high school, find a job and contribute to our economy if their schools are starving for resources?"

The state NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools joined the suit on behalf of their members. Urban, suburban, and rural districts are represented among the plaintiffs. While the state-run Philadelphia School District did not join the legal action, two Philadelphia parents are part of the suit and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers issued a statement in support on Monday.

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Posted in budget crisis, Education, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

At Visit To Aliquippa HS, Wolf Talks Schools And Taxes

Posted by carldavidson on October 14, 2014

Tom Wolf with Mayor Dwan Walker (Photo Credit: KDKA)

By Jon Delano

BEAVER COUNTY (KDKA) — Students in Aliquippa had the day off — except for the undefeated football team hard at practice.

But that didn’t stop Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf from pushing his education plan at the high school.

“We’d like to welcome you all. If you’ve never been here before, this is Aliquippa,” quipped Mayor Dwan Walker.

Walker, with State Rep. Rob Matzie and school superintendent Dave Wytiaz, briefed the candidate before a short press conference.

“I’m here because this is important to me as a Pennsylvanian,” said Wolf.

“Education actually matters,” he added. “It doesn’t matter because I’m running for governor. It matters to all of us who want to build a business in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who want to build a family in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who actually care about a society where people can actually get a head. This is how we transform lives.”

By imposing an extraction tax on natural gas drilling, Wolf pledged to bring state funding of education back up to half of school spending

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Posted in 2014 Election, Aliquippa, Education, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Philly Students ‘Strike’ in Support of Teachers

Posted by carldavidson on October 8, 2014

Beaver County Blue via Inquirer Staff

Last updated: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 10:39 AM
Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 8:32 AM

Students from at least two Philadelphia public high schools are refusing to go to classes this morning to protest the cancellation of their teachers’ labor agreement.

"We’re striking because every single teacher in the districts benefits are at risk and being played with through politics," organizers said in a Facebook post.

Dozens of students protested outside the High School for Creative and Performing Arts on South Broad Street and the Science Leadership Academy at 55 N. 22d St. in Center City.

The School Reform Commission on Monday canceled the labor contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in a move aimed at requiring the union’s members to contribute to their health care costs.

The action had the support of both Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter.

At CAPA, band members provided music for the protest.

Outside SLA, students were holding up hand made signs and beating drums in a buoyant, upbeat demonstration.

"This is why we’re striking," Ruby Anderson, 18, an SLA senior said as she offered information leaflets from Students4Teachers to passersby.

Throughout the morning, SLA students offered up a variety of chants, including: "SRC! Leave our teachers be!" and "Tom Corbett, shame on you! We deserve a future, too."

Striking students planned to remain outside the schools until noon, when the schools are to close for a scheduled half-day.

Posted in labor, trade unions, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Six Arrested in Philly Protest at Corbett, Christie Campaign Stop

Posted by carldavidson on June 10, 2014

Teachers, Parents and Students Spotlight School Cuts

By Allison Steele and Julia Terruso
Beaver County Blue via Philly Inquirer

June 10, 2014 – As many as 1,000 protesters, many angry about school funding, blocked traffic and waved signs in Center City on Monday afternoon, hoping to disrupt or at least deflect attention from a fund-raising stop by Govs. Corbett and Christie.

"Our members are here because they’re being mistreated," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Six people were arrested for obstructing the highway – a summary offense – after sitting down on 17th Street. Police did not use handcuffs as they led them away.

The names of those arrested were not available Monday night, but a statement from the coalition group Fight for Philly identified them as "parents, activists, and retired teachers."

The two Republican governors were scheduled to appear Monday evening at a private fund-raiser hosted by the Republican Governors Association. The association did not release details of the event, including its location.

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Posted in 2014 Election, Education, GOP, trade unions, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

This Chart Is The Fate of Housing In America As Student Loans Bankrupt A Whole Generation

Posted by carldavidson on May 22, 2014

By Wolf Richter

Beaver County Blue via Naked Capitalism

May 19, 2014 – A friend of mine is suffering from excruciating anticipatory pain. He’s heading to New York to attend his daughter’s graduation, which should be a glorious moment in life. But her commencement speaker is Fed Chair Janet Yellen. “Gotta find some thorazine to take before the ceremony,” he muttered. He paid for his daughter’s education. Not many students are that lucky.

Student loan balances soared 362% to $1.1 trillion since 2003, during a period when mortgage debt – including the effects of the current Housing Bubble 2 – rose “only” 65% to $8.2 trillion and credit card debt actually declined by 4.2% to $660 billion (chart). The burden of servicing that increasing pile of student loans is eating into other forms of borrowing and spending, such as the American classic, reckless consumption on credit cards, or the purchase of a home. And so the proportion of first-time buyers – the single most important sign of a healthy housing market – has been shrinking for years.

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Posted in Austerity, Banks, Debt, Youth and students | 3 Comments »

Pittsburgh and The Revolt of the Cities

Posted by carldavidson on April 26, 2014

AN ARTICLE FOR DISCUSSION. During the past 20 years, immigrants and young people have transformed the demographics of urban America. Now, they’re transforming its politics and mapping the future of liberalism.

By Harold Meyerson
Beaver County Blue via American Prospect

Pittsburgh is the perfect urban laboratory,” says Bill Peduto, the city’s new mayor. “We’re small enough to be able to do things and large enough for people to take notice.” More than its size, however, it’s Pittsburgh’s new government—Peduto and the five like-minded progressives who now constitute a majority on its city council—that is turning the city into a laboratory of democracy. In his first hundred days as mayor, Peduto has sought funding to establish universal pre-K education and partnered with a Swedish sustainable-technology fund to build four major developments with low carbon footprints and abundant affordable housing. Even before he became mayor, while still a council member, he steered to passage ordinances that mandated prevailing wages for employees on any project that received city funding and required local hiring for the jobs in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new arena. He authored the city’s responsible-banking law, which directed government funds to those banks that lent in poor neighborhoods and away from those that didn’t.

Pittsburgh is a much cleaner city today than it was when it housed some of the world’s largest steel mills. But, like postindustrial America generally, it is also a much more economically divided city. When steel dominated the economy, the companies’ profits and the union’s contracts made Pittsburgh—like Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago—a city with a thriving working class. Today, with the mills long gone, Pittsburgh has what Gabe Morgan, who heads the local union of janitorial and building maintenance workers, calls an “eds and meds” economy. Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, and its medical center are among the region’s largest employers, generating thousands of well-paid professional positions and a far greater number of low-wage service-sector jobs.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

Peduto, who is 49 years old, sees improving the lot of Pittsburgh’s new working class as his primary charge. In his city hall office, surrounded by such artifacts as a radio cabinet from the years when the city became home to the world’s first radio station, the new mayor outlined the task before him. “My grandfather, Sam Zarroli, came over in 1921 from Abruzzo,” he said. “He only had a second-grade education, but he was active in the Steel Workers Organizing Committee in its early years, and he made a good life for himself and his family. My challenge in today’s economy is how to get good jobs for people with no PhDs but with a good work ethic and GEDs. How do I get them the same kind of opportunities my grandfather had? All the mayors elected last year are asking this question.”

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Posted in Democrats, Organizing, Pittsburgh, trade unions, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Obama Pledges $600M for Job Training Programs in Oakdale Speech

Posted by carldavidson on April 17, 2014

Obama CCAC

April 16, 2014 — President Barack Obama talks about job training and the workforce of the future during an appearance Wednesday afternoon at the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills campus in Oakdale. Obama was joined by Vice President Joe Biden. (Joe Wojcik/Pittsburgh Business Times).

By Paul J. Gough
Pittsburgh Business Times

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced $500 million in job training and $100 million in apprenticeship programs Wednesday during a stop at the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale.

The programs would help train workers for the high-demand jobs of today and the future in what the president and vice president said would be high-paying, high-benefit employment to get more Americans into the middle class. Neither would require congressional approval, Obama said.

As part of the $500 million program, competitive grants will be offered to community colleges with job-driven training.

Obama said he envisioned skills-based education that "train Americans with the skills employers need, not something that looks good on paper and doesn’t give you a job."

"In today’s economy it’s never been more important to make sure that our folks are trained for the jobs that are there, and for the jobs of the future," Obama said during the speech that was also webcast on WhiteHouse.gov.

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Posted in Economy, unemployment, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

How Billionaire Businesses Expect the Public to Subsidize Their Low Wages and Opposition to Unions

Posted by carldavidson on October 27, 2013

McDonald’s Tells Worker She Should Sign Up For Food Stamps

By Emily Cohn
Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

McDonald’s workers struggling to get by on poverty wages should apply for food stamps and Medicaid.

That’s the advice one activist McDonald’s worker received when she called the company’s "McResource Line," a service provided to McDonald’s workers who need help with issues like child and health care.

"You can ask about things like food pantries. Are you on SNAP? SNAP is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance [Program] — food stamps … You would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits," a McResource representative told 27-year-old Nancy Salgado, who works at a Chicago McDonald’s. "Did you try and get on Medicaid? Medicaid is a federal program. It’s health coverage for low income or no income adults — and children."

Salgado is one of many fast-food workers who have walked off the job in recent months to protest the industry’s low wages, part of a nationwide movement aiming to raise pay to $15 an hour. She has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years, and earns $8.25 an hour in her current job as a cashier. Earlier this month, Salgado was detained after pressing McDonald’s President Jeff Stratton for higher wages.

"Do you think this is fair that I have to be making $8.25 when I’ve been working at McDonald’s for 10 years?" Salgado said during the confrontation.

The audio of Salgado’s call to the McResource Line was posted Thursday on YouTube by advocacy group Low Pay Is Not OK. In the call, the McResource representative points the worker towards government assistance when she explains she needs help.

The YouTube version of the call is edited, but Low Pay Is Not OK provided a fuller recording to The Huffington Post. In the longer version of the audio, the McResource representative tells Salgado that because she’s employed by a McDonald’s franchise, which does not pay for the McResource service, she is not eligible for consultation. Still, the representative goes on to offer advice, including recommending that Salgado reach out to resources like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

McDonald’s pointed out to The Huffington Post that the audio is clearly edited. “This video is not an accurate portrayal of the resource line as this is very obviously an edited video," Lisa McComb, McDonald’s’ director of U.S. media relations, told The Huffington Post.

"The McResource line is intended to be a free, confidential service to help employees and their families get answers to a variety of questions or provide resources on a variety of topics including housing, child care, transportation, grief, elder care, education and more," McComb said.

A flier for the McResource line that hung a break room at a McDonald’s restaurant, according to a representative from the advocacy group, Low Pay Is Not OK.

"It made me mad [that I couldn’t get help from the McResource line] because I thought that all the McDonald’s employees qualified for it," Salgado said in a phone call with HuffPost Thursday. McDonald’s did not clarify what percentage of its workers do qualify for its consultation services.

More than half of fast-food workers rely on public assistance, a reality that costs taxpayers more than $7 billion a year, according to an estimate from the National Employment Law Project published last week. McDonald’s low wages cost taxpayers about $1.2 billion annually, the study found.

McDonald’s announced on Monday that it earned $1.5 billion in profits in the third quarter, which is a 5-percent jump over last year.

In an emailed statement, McComb defended McDonald’s wages.

"McDonald’s and our independent franchisees provide jobs in every state to hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Those jobs range from entry-level part-time to full-time, from minimum wage to salaried positions, and we offer everyone the same opportunity for advancement,” she wrote.

"We’re working for one of the richest employers," Salgado said. Their response to her inquiry, she added, shows that they admit they don’t pay their workers enough to get by.

Posted in Austerity, Organizing, trade unions, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

 
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