Good News From Around the State

It’s Friday and we could all use some good news, so here is a wrap-up of positive public education budget items from around the state:

  • Three former members of ALEC in our state legislature have renounced their membership! Keystone Progress, which has been tracking the legislation written by corporations and introduced into our state, reports that Republicans Sen. John Pippy and Rep. Mark Mustio (both from Southwest Pennsylvania) and Democrat Rep. Harry Readshaw are now saying they are not members. [Read why “There is Nothing Smart About ALEC”]
  • Last night, parents and community members in the Upper Darby school district outside of Philadelphia met with state Representative Nick Micozzie about the budget cuts forcing their district to eliminate elementary art, music, library, and physical education. They have become an active group with their own website, but are particularly focused on the state budget. The Delco Times reports that Micozzie, a Republican from the 163rd District, “has battled for years for a better way to fund public education in this state and … clearly is not wild about the governor’s spending plans.” He has vowed to ask the Governor to come to the Upper Darby to discuss the cuts to public education.
  • Two legislators – one Republican and one Democrat – were recognized last night for being outstanding champions for public education: Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17) and Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-29) received awards from the Pennsylvania School Board Association for their work in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties.
  • On Wednesday, Lehigh Valley hosted a community forum to discuss the state budget cuts. Richard Snisack, Superintendent of the Parkland School District explained, “It’s not an expenditure issue, it’s a revenue issue,” and stated that he feels our democracy is at risk. [WFMZ-TV, April 26, 2012]
  • A group like ours, the Chester County Coalition for Public Education, is hosting a Rally at the Chester County Courthouse next week. State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19), the minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, will be there and issued a strong statement this week saying:
    • “Cutting support for early childhood and basic education and slashing funds for higher education will be disastrous for students at all levels and even more devastating in the years to come. … We know that cuts to basic and early education mean increased local property taxes, larger class sizes, teacher layoffs and less individualized attention and specialized programs. We know that cuts to higher education mean significantly increased tuition and fees, greater student borrowing and debt and more people on the unemployment rolls. Altogether these cuts will set Pennsylvania back decades and undermine all of our efforts for long-term economic growth and prosperity.
 This is an issue that affects every Pennsylvanian – from current students and their families, to teachers and professors, to high school seniors and prospective college students.”

We need more legislators issuing statements such as these. And we need more of our representatives publicly declaring they are free of ties to ALEC. We still need more community forums and rallies. And we especially need more of our Republican legislators, like Rep. Micozzie, standing up for public education and asking Governor Corbett to explain his proposed budget cuts. But all in all, these are positive signs as we move into the final two months of the budget negotiation. Chins up!

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Good News From Around the State

  1. That is good news, but better news closer to home is that the PPS board just voted on a resolution to end seniority in making decision about staffing and instead focus on factors that are in the interest of the students: “to improve the current furlough process for teachers in order to consider factors beyond seniority in light of the growing body of evidence around teacher effectiveness as well as the disproportionate impact that seniority-based furloughs have on the district’s most vulnerable schools.” Read the PG Article below. But one small step toward moving toward what is best for our kids first!
    School board wants end to seniority-based layoffs
    By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    The Pittsburgh Public Schools board is asking the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers to do what no teachers union in the state has done: Agree to furloughs not based on seniority.

    The board Wednesday night approved a resolution directing school superintendent Linda Lane to talk with union leadership “to improve the current furlough process for teachers in order to consider factors beyond seniority in light of the growing body of evidence around teacher effectiveness as well as the disproportionate impact that seniority-based furloughs have on the district’s most vulnerable schools.”

    The vote was 8-1, with board member Mark Brentley Sr. voting against the measure.

    Ms. Lane is expected to report back to the board in June as to whether such an agreement may be feasible.

    The measure was introduced by board member Sharene Shealey, who expressed concerns about vulnerable schools, such as Pittsburgh Faison PreK-5 in Homewood, which was reopened as a new school this year with a hand-picked staff.

    About 40 percent of its teachers have less than four years’ experience and the district is facing what is expected to be the largest teacher furlough in the district’s institutional memory.

    “The proposal is to get a dedicated team of people who choose to be in tough places and allow those teams to flourish,” Ms. Shealey said, noting that children need stability.

    Union president Nina Esposito-Visgitis, who attended Wednesday’s board meeting, said: “No one union or no teachers have worked harder to work in collaboration with the district to move our students forward. No union has. None. So it was very disappointing to me that the board of education would choose to make such a public display this evening.”

    She said seniority is “the only fair way” to issue furloughs and that both the state school code and contract are clear.

    Ms. Esposito-Visgitis also noted that city teachers go through a “rigorous evaluation system.”

    Due to a projected deficit, Pittsburgh is planning to eliminate as many as 400 school-based professional positions — teachers, social workers and counselors.

    The number actually furloughed among the 2,245 professionals represented by the union is expected to be smaller than that because of retirements and resignations.

    Currently, city teachers have both building and system seniority. The system seniority within a certification area is used to determine furloughs.

    Under the proposed system, some schools, like Faison, would be hit harder than others. Pittsburgh King PreK-8 and Westinghouse 6-12 also have large percentages of newer teachers.

    Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said that all school districts in the state use seniority for determining furloughs of employees in teacher unions. The state school code calls for the use of seniority unless the union and district negotiate otherwise.

    Gov. Tom Corbett last year unsuccessfully tried to get support for economic furlough legislation that would have permitted factors other than seniority to be used. Currently, both the state Senate and House have bills addressing economic furloughs.

    About two weeks ago, 450 Pittsburgh classroom teachers received “displacement” notices in an email telling them they won’t be working in the same building next year. Also, provisional furlough notices will go out next month, with official ones to be sent before Aug. 1.

    The reductions are expected to save $29.1 million in a full year, including the closing of seven schools, adjusting feeder patterns and increasing class sizes.

    Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

    First Published 2012-04-26 04:26:30 is some better news closer to home

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