Butterflies and Stinkbugs

It’s been a beautiful June week and the insects, both good and bad, are out in full force. For our Friday news wrap-up, we present some virtual awards complete with small flying critters.

Butterflies to Yinzer Nation residents Amanda Godley and Betsy Magley: nominated by Education Voters PA as citizen advocates for education, they were recognized last night by the Keystone Research Center / Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center at their annual awards dinner in Philadelphia.

Stinkbugs to the Gateway school board, which voted last week against a resolution that would have asked the state for adequate funding for public education, despite its own financial crisis. Six of the nine board members said that local municipalities should tax residents for schools instead – the least equitable or efficient means of funding schools. (See “A Shameful Betrayal.”) Yet the district is furloughing 27 teachers, increasing class sizes up to 30, and eliminating K-8 field trips, activity buses, band uniforms, the Latin program, middle school athletics, and the high school math lab and writing center. [Post-Gazette, 6-7-12] We sentence the school board to a remedial history class for summer school to learn lessons from Pennsylvania’s own sorry history.

Butterflies to the parents, children, teachers, and administrators in the Highlands school district who held a candlelight vigil for public education last week, inspiring Pittsburgh families to plan a similar event. School board President Debbie Beale criticized the drastic cuts in state funding, quoting Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “The fierce urgency of now.” State Representative Frank Dermody, a Democrat from Oakmont, supported the vigil, calling Gov. Corbett’s budget an “attack on public education.” [Post-Gazette, 6-7-12]

Stinkbugs to the House Republican leaders who are wasting valuable time this week advocating for the expansion of tax credits to businesses sending money to private schools when they should be finding real solutions to the state’s education funding crisis. (See “EITC: No Credit to PA.”) Now they are talking about giving away even more of our taxpayer dollars to corporations by increasing the EITC program and adding another, similar, scholarship program. A plague of stinkbugs on the PA House if they let this go forward.

Butterflies to Canon-McMillan (down in Washington County) school board member Joe Zupancic and middle school Principal Greg Taranto for speaking out against taxpayer-funded billboards advertising the PA Cyber Charter School. Current billboards on the turnpike and along I-79 cost thousands of dollars to rent – all money coming from our taxes that no public school district could possibly afford to spend. [Canon-McMillan Patch, 6-6-12]

Stinkbugs to Gov. Corbett and his allies who continue to defend his $1 BILLION cuts to public education while blaming school districts for the crisis. Here’s what is happening in a typical suburban district in our area: Baldwin-Whitehall (in the South Hills) is being forced to raise local taxes for the first time in five years in order to maintain its educational programs. The district is doing reasonably well, but said that state cuts and the unfunded expense of cyber and charter schools, which cost the district $1 million a year, leave them no choice. [Post-Gazette, 6-7-12] May Gov. Corbett open the windows of the governor’s mansion to let all those pesky, infiltrating critters out – deep-pocketed donors looking to privatize education and stinkbugs alike.

Butterflies to the 26 House Republicans and 11 Democrats who have signed on as sponsors of a new bill that will change the charter school funding formula. Introduced by Rep. Mike Fleck, a Republican from Huntington, the legislation will help to fix many of the problems with the way charter schools receive funding from their local public school districts. For instance, school districts would no longer have to include the cost of athletics and charter school tuition payments when calculating their average per-pupil costs – a figure then used to determine their payments to charter schools. [Post-Gazette, 6-5-12]

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