March 17, 2017 The Cost of New Charter School “Seats” Ted Behr State Rep. Mike Turzai of Pittsburgh has proposed House Bill 700 in the Pennsylvania House that would require the School District of Philadelphia to open at least 3,000 more charter school seats a year. Other than his strong preference for such school in general, Turzai bases his initiative an estimated 30,000 children on waiting lists for charters around the state.
We know that based upon his track record on other issues, Turzai is the ultimate political animal. What clear-thinking citizen doesn’t recall his infamous statement at the time of the passage of the ill-fated state Voter ID legislation in 2012 on that issue and in two other questionable areas, ““Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.
The introduction to Turzai’s bill No. 700 follows these misguided political intersts, and reads in part, “Charter schools are a lifeline for children who otherwise would be forced to attend poorly performing schools based solely on their residence.” He avoids mention that his “poorly performing” school label is due in large part to the fact that his consesvative Republicans in Harrisburg have been starving the our public schools for more than a decade. In any case, the current status of charter school expansion shows that public charters comprise about 65,000 students in the Philadelphia School District or 32 percent of the total in 86 schools.
There are three issues that Turzai’s initiative ignores: 1. The laws governing oversight of charter school operation and financing are badly outdated and badly in need of strengthening – according to State Auditor General Eugene Depasquale. 2. Funds diverted to private and charter schools by private taxpayers as tax deductible charitable donations take tax funds away from state revenue which should be available to all schools, public and private and subject to the priorities (and oversight) for education as a whole. 3. Every time a student departs the public school system for the seat in a charter, he or she leaves behind what are known as “stranded costs.” To understand what a “stranded cost” means, imagine a public school classroom with 33 students of which 3 enroll and leave for a charter. With them go the state subsidies which support our impoverished Philadelphia School District (SDP). But the school still has to pay the teacher in front of the class, heat and maintain the school building, and cover the costs for the district itself.
Last week, the SDP released a study Boston Consulting Group estimate that indicates that the district absorbs about $4,824 per year in such stranded costs every time a child leaves to attend a charter-operated school. While the calculation is very complicated – taking into consideration debt service on loans - the net impact of the 3000 in annual migration to charters proposed by Rep. Turzai is an immense burden on the public school system. While some expense savings are possible when 25 percent of the public school students leave for charters, it takes time for the PSD to react, and there are limits to what can be saved.
For instance, the report indicates another salient fact: Because of lower salaries and benefits, charters could afford 3 teachers for the cost of every 2 at the District. The SDP spent 42% more per average teacher in FY14, due primarily to higher average salaries and total benefits at the District.
“This report reaffirms much of what we knew about stranded costs and it highlights the complexities and constraints of operating in a large urban school district, with a charter law that needs real reform,” said Joyce Wilkerson, Chair of the School Reform Commission in the SDP press release on the study. “We need a charter law that allows The School District of Philadelphia to operate a logical school system that focuses on quality public education and puts the children of Philadelphia first.”
Added Uri Monson, the PSD Chief Financial Officer, “Some of the constraints that lead to stranded costs… can be mitigated with action by SDP…by layoffs and school closures. Continuing to grow and improve District-managed schools, and attracting students back to great schools near where they live, would also mitigate these fiscal challenges for the District.”
Let’s keep in mind that the present unsatisfactory conditions and poor educational outcomes our Philadelphia children are experiences are due to the harsh, uncaring actions to reduce school funding under Gov. Tom Corbett (and his helpers in the Republican- controlled legislature) during his 4-year administration. If upon reflection you feel that Rep. Turzai’s charter school expansion bill #700 is unjustified, let alone being unjust, let him know by phoning his office in Harrisburg, 717-772-9943 or emailing him at email@example.com. If you are in contact with him, also ask him to pass on your views to Pres. Trump’s new Secretary of Education in Washington, Betsy DeVos.  National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, www.publiccharters.org/  The Morning Call Newspaper, March 16, 2017 www.mcall.com/opinion/yourview/mc-charter-school-law-pennsylvania-depasquale  School District Release: https://webapps.philasd.org/news-files/pr-files/20170306_SDP_Summary_Outcomes.pdf
Sen. Toomey: Please Say No to the Gun Lobby March 3, 2017 Ted Behr One of Pres. Trump’s first acts was to quietly nullify a common sense regulation instituted by Pres. Obama requiring that the Social Security Administration notify the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in cases where disability recipients should not possess a gun due to significant mental illness.
Shannon Watts, Founder Of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America alleges that the National Rifle Association poured more than $30 million into the campaigns of conservative candidates prior to last November's election. If true, tremendous pressure is being exerted in two directions, Congress and Pres. Trump, to eliminate any meaningful license controls on gun purchase and use – when 90 percent of Americans favor stronger gun license background reviews.
To make matters worse, Congress members now trying to please the gun lobby in a way that will make Pennsylvania citizens, and Philadelphians in particular, even less safe. This involves allowing mandatory concealed gun carry reciprocity between states. That is, it would require that Pennsylvania recognize the concealed carry permit or license from every other state.
As pointed out by gun control advocates, the problem is some states have much lower standards for carry permits than others do. In fact, some predominantly rural states don’t require licenses or permits at all, whereas in PA, you must apply to your local sheriff (or in Philadelphia, the police commissioner) for a license, and a more detailed background check is performed. Some other states even require a minimum number of hours of safety and proficiency training.
“But under this proposed law, someone who couldn’t get a concealed carry license here in PA could find a way to carry a loaded, concealed firearm here. This undermines local law enforcement and takes away the power of our officers to determine what’s best for public safety here!” predicted sane gun safety advocates.
The bottom line is that Congress is debating gun carry regulations that reduce restrictions to the lowest possible state standard – creating in effect a national standard that will virtually allow people to guns around crowded Philadelphia any place, any time. In the complicated, already violent urban environment like ours, this is madness!
Tell Senator Toomey to oppose this dangerous legislation. Tell him that PA voters are watching and will fight back whenever Washington or Harrisburg makes our lives and those of our children less safe. Contact Sen. Toomey Phone: (215) 241-1090 Mail: Sen. Patrick Toomey 8 Penn Center 1628 J.F. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1702 Philadelphia, PA 19103 On-Line:www.toomey.senate.gov/
Quotes for this article were taken from the websites of Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Opinion: Alert Senator Toomey on Children’s Health Feb. 1, 2017 Ted Behr The Pennsylvania Partnership for Children (PPC) has alerted us to an opportunity to impact a critical, rapidly developing situation in Congress: Repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without any viable replacement being offered. This is a move that can disastrously affect not only low-income families in general, but also and more cruelly, our children.While reactionary Republican conservatives remain entrenched in the U.S. House of Representatives, occupy the White House, and may soon dominate the Supreme Court, there does remain one area of possibility to exert pressure: their narrow plurality in the U.S Senate. This potential vulnerability was clearly evident in recent vote to confirm Pres. Trump’s unfortunate choice of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The Senate balloting was actually deadlocked 50:50 and Vice Pres. Pence’s vote was needed to break the tie in her favor. In this competitive environment, therefore, we can focus public opinion with remendously powerful effect – on our Pennsylvania U.S. Senator, Patrick Toomey. While he has a full 6-year term still to serve, he presumably wants to remain in Washington and must be continuously responsive to the will of Pennsylvania voters.As PCC emphasizes, “Repealing the ACA while delaying a replacement for several years will cause crippling uncertainty in our federal health care system and stands to threaten the gains in health care coverage we’ve made for kids going back decades.” PPC is circulating a letter to our full Congressional delegation that highlights the importance of keeping kids’ coverage in the broader health care debate in Washington.The message of the letter, and our clarion call to Sen. Toomey is: No vote on a repeal of the ACA should be made before a complete, immediate alternative is crafted and vetted, and prioritizing and protecting kids’ coverage must be at the forefront.We urge you to take a minute or two to contact Sen. Toomey’s office and make it crystal clear that you care about the health of our children now and their welfare for the years that follow their sensitive childhood.Your can contact Sen. Toomey by a number of means, the most effective is a handwritten or typed letter sent by mail to his office. These are generally opened and your views recorded. Another interesting approach is to spend a dollar or so and fax that letter to him. Telephone calls and Emails and twitter messages are also good means of communicating but are less likely to have maximum impact.A useful resource for your advocacy on this vital matter is the PCC’s website: a recent article that appeared in Pennlive authored by Joan Benso, president of PCC and Denise Salerno, president of the PA chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The PCC website also has very helpful hints on how to craft your advocacy message: http://www.papartnerships.org/get-involved/talk-to-legislators
Contact Sen. Toomey Phone: (215) 241-1090 Mail: Sen. Patrick Toomey 8 Penn Center 1628 J.F. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1702 Philadelphia, PA 19103 On-Line:www.toomey.senate.gov/
New School District Report Reveals Needs for Massive Upgrade of Facilities Feb 20 Ted Behr The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) unveiled its comprehensive Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) which studied short and long term needs its 308 educational and athletic facilities which serves 140,000 students in pre-k, elementary, middle, high school and alternative schools. “Every child should have access to a safe, healthy, and welcoming school facility that supports teaching and learning opportunities. The Facility Condition Assessment empowers us to prioritize capital projects and clearly show our existing and potential public and private partners what our infrastructure needs are and how they can help,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. The FCA report updates information on the condition of school grounds, school buildings, athletic fields and related building systems. In order to create modern schools and classrooms where students and teachers thrive, it is critical that the School District have real-time, relevant information about the condition of its school facilities. Covering every single building and structure, the study demonstrates that if urgently needed additional moneys are obtained, “…the School District is ready to use those funds to modernize and improve our school buildings. ” said Fran Burns, SDP Chief Operating Officer Among the key findings were: - PSD’s emphasis for investment will be the replacement and upgrade of building systems rather than complete facility replacement. The report allows PSD to plan, budget and prioritize routine replacements and capital investments in a timely and objective fashion. - Over a quarter of the School District’s facilities (87) are in a state of good repair and need minor facility improvements - Over 12,000 repair projects are documented with a projected cost of $4.5 billion, of which $3 billion are needed over the next 10 years - The greatest capital investment needs are in heating and cooling distribution, temperature control, and electrical service and capacity upgrades - 23 facilities account for nearly 25% of our total repair costs Typical of the reaction of PSD principals to the report was that of Deanda Logan at Cramp Elementary School who said, “Our school is our home and like any older home, you need to make repairs at some point. You realize that a ‘band-aid’ approach is no longer effective. Right now we are in the midst of building improvements including upgrading to a state-of-the-art heating and cooling unit which will allow us to better control the building temperature. When the temperature is comfortable, students and teachers can focus on learning.” Each school’s site assessment report will be available at the main office of the school and online. For more information please visit, www.philasd.org and search for “FCA.”
Thank You, Pres. Barack Obama Jan 20, 2017 Ted Behr Rather than continuing to dwell on the problems and threats to our democracy which minorities – African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims – and the underserved city and rural dwellers may face under the Trump administration which takes power in our country today, it is worthwhile keeping in front of us the positive legacy of the extraordinary man (and woman) who led this country during the past 8 years: Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. War: When Pres. Obama came to office, American men and women were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at a rate of almost 50 per month; today the total is less than 2 per month. The government now pays for families to meet the plane in Dover Delaware when war heroes’ remains return; previously, their return was held secret. The Obama government has closed its secret prisons around the world, dramatically reduced the prison population at Guantanamo, and renounced torture of prisoners. Finally, under the guidance of American advisors, military operations in the near east have regained much of the area previously controlled by ISIS. On the home front, the scandal of veteran homelessness (numbers cut in half) and inadequate veteran health care and jobs are being addressed. Foreign Affairs: The U.S.-brokered international coalitions have been successful in reducing stocks of nuclear fuel (16 countries have totally given up their stocks), protecting eastern European countries against Russian military action, combatting global warming and air pollution through the Paris Accords, stopping Iran’s nuclear bomb development, eliminating Syria’s supplies of chemical weapons and identifying the international threat of cyber warfare. The 50-year cold-war with Cuba is being been being reversed. The emergence of ISIS, the deterioration of our relations with dictator-led countries like Russia, North Korea, Syria, and China remain, and continued conflict in the near east and the resulting refugee problem continue to defy solution. But, as the respected global observer Lee Hamilton recently said, “We are far from perfect, but America is unquestionably the world’s leading power, with unrivaled military, technological and economic strength. The U.S. is still the indispensable nation, and our position in the world is paramount.”  National Economy: When Pres. Obama took office, the country was in the jaws of the most severe economic crisis since the 1930’s with unemployment at over 10 percent. Under his leadership and with his far-sighted 2009 stimulus package, we have experienced 82 months of job gains, and unemployment is 4.7 percent. With the subsidies which Obama championed, the U.S. auto industry was saved, along with thousands of jobs, and our automakers and their suppliers are again among world leaders. Banks can no longer use our savings on risky investments for their own profit. Health: 20 million more Americans now have the protection heath insurance, cannot be denied for that insurance if they have preconditions, and where children are still dependent the can remain protected under their parent's coverage. Tremendous resources have been applied to research and treatment of mental illness and the FDA is now in charge of tobacco use. Unutilized stem cells can now be used to develop cures for intractable diseases. Environment: Millions of acres of public lands have been protected against predatory development and the first controls against carbon emission have been enacted. The country has made large investments in clean energy and set strong auto emissions regulations. Law Enforcement and the Judiciary. While the Republican Senate leaders unconscionably blocked Pres. Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a sizeable number of his appointees occupy seats on lower courts. Prison populations are declining and while failing to overcome Republican opposition, he has continued to support common sense gun regulation. The Man: As we emerge under the rule of a new president who appears to be the antithesis of traditional American family values, we should always remember the moments when Barack Obama’s quiet decency, compassion, grace, humor and humility shown their brightest: the awe-struck 5-year old black boy standing at his side as he signed the Affordable Care Act; his tears when meeting with families of Sandy Hook massacre; singing “Amazing Grace” in Charleston; holding hands with his daughters; dancing with Michelle; good-natured stand-up comedy; and a long 3-point basket. We thank you, Barack Obama, for your selfless public service to our country and to the world.
The Trump Presidency – Recounts & Initial Appointments 12-2-16 Ted Behr Scarcely three weeks have gone by since the presidential election which will bring billionaire Donald F. Trump to the White House. Weary voters who had hoped for a return to a less frenzied, more truthful, and more realistic time after November 8, have been sadly disappointed. For instance having lost the nationwide popular vote to Hilary Clinton by an unprecedented 2.3 million votes, Mr. Trump contends this the result of voter fraud in California and other states won by Mrs. Clinton. We are assuming that the recounts now being engineered in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, will not change the election outcome(a). Were those results reversed in all three states, of course, Mr. Trump would not have the 270 Electoral College votes he now claims and Mrs. Clinton would be our next president. At this point, this reversal seems so unlikely that it is more reasonable to take the position that Clinton affirmed in her concession speech election night that we now “keep an open mind,” and give the President-Elect “a chance to lead.” Another option that enough Electoral College designees would abrogate their party affiliations and vote for Mrs. Clinton is dismissed by top election experts.
That reality being asserted, however, a number of cabinet nominations Mr. Trump has just announced give grave concern about just that leadership stance – especially to those who depend on major government programs and policies for important parts their livelihood and well-being – namely education and health. While there may be strong liberal opposition to these proposed designations, the Republicans have a working majority in the U.S. Senate that can eventually force approval of Trump’s choices.
The first appointment which is troubling to low-income urban residents is that of Rep. Tom Price to be head of Health and Human Services. This department administers such key federal initiatives as Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Food and Drug Administration, The Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health. These agencies government with their annual budget of almost trillion dollars is a prime target for conservatives from both a fiscal savings standpoint and their philosophy of government.
Rep. Price, an orthopedic surgeon before his election to congress by a suburban Atlanta district, Price ’s track record in congress and in his public statements are disquieting, especially for women: - Author of many of the moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act - routinely vetoed by Pres. Obama. - Voted to defund Planned Parenthood and ban federal funding of abortion - Voted to give pre-born children the adult rights under the 14th Amendment - Favored a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. - Voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation - Voted against FDA regulation of tobacco as a drug
With respect to the defunding of Planned Parenthood, it is noteworthy that millions of women obtain family planning and contraception assistance, cancer screening, and health checkups where few other resources are available. While not directly related, it is sad to note that Philadelphia has one of the highest mortality rates in women during the first year after giving birth, meaning these women are not able or motivated to obtain appropriate counseling during this critical period.
Working for Rep. Price as HHS Secretary would be Ms. Seema Verma nominated to head Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (www.cms.gov). Verma was a consultant to Vice-President-elect Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana and helped craft that state's Medicare Expansion program, Healthy Indiana Program 2.0. Verma’s approach requires that that Medicaid beneficiaries pay a small premium for health insurance coverage and have a 6-month lock-out on insurance if they fail to make payments.
A third and perhaps the most alarming nominee for cabinet rank is Ms. Betsy DeVos, from another multi-billion dollar family (Amway). Her money, her husband rich, influential Richard DeVos, Jr., and her passion for conservative causes have made her a major player in Michigan politics, and now on the national education scene. Among her strong preferences are: - Strong backing for charter schools and the least amount of oversight on their operations (in Michigan about 80 percent of charters are owned by for-profit companies). - General opposition to unions, particularly teachers’ unions - Strong proponent of “Right to Work” laws requiring non-union employees to pay union dues - Fierce advocacy of voucher programs that subsidize charter and private schools
All of these positions, but particularly the voucher program, could pose the threat of shifting of “Title I” funding now used exclusively for low-income public schools to high-income charter and parochial schools.
So stay tuned, America, while Mr. Trump wrestles with his appointments to other, equally important cabinet and high government positions – and eventually a decisive Supreme Court nominee! His personal politics prior to his run for the Republican nomination were practical, businesslike, and relatively moderate. The latest Trump, however, seems to be in bed with the farthest of the far right, and thus a threat to everything that affects low-income, urban residents.
(a) Trump presently leads in Michigan by 10,704 votes; Pennsylvania by 70,638 votes; and Wisconsin by 22,177 votes.
Election 2016: Did We Do Our Part in Southwest? Nationally & Statewide, Democrats failed to turn out! November 18, 2016
The election results have given the presidency to Donald F. Trump, mystifying a majority of Americans and the international world. Secretary Clinton did win the overall popular vote by an unprecedented margin of 1.1 million votes which is increasing due to mailed-in and other late voting counts. Unfortunately, under our system of electoral college balloting by state, Mr. Trump presently has 306 electoral votes against 232 for Mrs. Clinton or 36 more that he needed to win the presidency. It is also noteworthy that an estimated shift of only 55,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconson would have allowed Clinton to be elected.
The weight of the presidential race permitted Sen. Pat Toomey to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate over Democrat Katie McGinty. The ugliness of that campaign on both sides was sickening, but it suffices to say that PA Democratic voters lost a chance to send a uniquely qualified environmental expert to Washington just when her advocacy is so vitally needed there. Because final voting results on a ward-by-ward basis have not yet been released, it is not possible to compare Southwest turnout in this year’s election with voting in past presidential contests. Nevertheless, some conclusions can be reached and inferences drawn. For instance, voting tallies for the five state representatives who serve a portion of Southwest indicate a strong increase in voting. All of these candidates were incumbent Democrats who mostly ran unopposed. Nevertheless, with their own efforts and a that of a number of unions and outside “get out the vote” groups, the voting showed a very creditable increase in 2016 as compared with 2012 – when president Obama headed the ballot! Total Vote Count to Date for State Reps. Donatucci, Harris, Roebuck, Brown and McClinton: 2012: 112,579 votes vs 2016: 119,894. The increase for Secretary Clinton: 7,315 votes or 6.3 percent. Many contributing factors? Yes, but credit each of these State elected officials with providing strong constituent services and consistent legislative performance that tried to meet the needs of our community. They did their job, and Southwest voters responded.
Statewide, the voting results were drastically different. Of some 4.2 million registered PA Democrats, only 2.8 million actually went to the polls or 67.4 percent. Of the 3.3 registered Republicans, 2.9 million or 88.2 percent voted, giving Mr. Trump a margin of 66,300 votes to win the state’s 20 electoral votes – Remember that number!
Had there been a better turnout in Philadelphia, the results statewide could have been dramatically different.
Philadelphia shows some 853,100 residents on the Democratic voter rolls as against only 125,500 registered Republicans. Of these only 563,300 Democrats (66.0 percent) vs. 105,900 Republicans (84.3 percent) voted this year. This means the Democratic City Committee failed to organize their constituency and get them to the voting booths to the tune of 289,800 votes – far more than enough to overcome Mr. Trump's plurality elsewhere in the state!
Another point of comparison: In the four other counties in SE Pennsylvania that surround Philadelphia, the Democratic turnout was and astounding 90.9 percent.
As we pointed out two years ago at the time Gov. Tom Wolf was elected to office, it was not that he generated a huge Democratic turnout to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Rather, Gov. Wolf won because more than 200,000 Republicans, mostly women, didn’t show up to vote! This year, that number of formerly disenchanted conservatives were sufficiently motivated by Mr. Trump’s promises and Mrs. Clinton’s shortcomings to give him Pennsylvania. Obviously, it would have to take a similar reversal in at least one more major state to swing the national election, but that doesn’t in the least excuse the dismal performance of the Democratic City Committee and its leadership.
When it comes time for another new energy and competence to our City Committee. election of Democratic City Committeepersons, public- and party-minded residents should seriously consider running for that office with an eye to bringing
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Candidates for President - The Globe Times Endorses Hillary Clinton November 4, 2016
Except for advertising and TV companies and political party employees, virtually every American will welcome sunset on November 8 when the voting polls close. The negative, highly personal campaign for the White House has reached a point where it demeans the position of President in the eyes of many Americans and most observant people around the world. In that kind of bitter environment, it is difficult to imagine that the next occupant of the job can be fully effective as the leader of the free world.
Nevertheless, this newspaper urges in the strongest possible terms that every registered voter in Southwest makes the effort to vote this coming Tuesday. The issues could not be more important to every responsible adult for their own sake and for the sake of their children and grandchildren.
Topping the list is that the next president will have the right to nominate one or more Supreme Court Justices. A measure of the gravity of this issue is that Republican Senate leaders are already committing themselves to block any such Court nominations by Hillary Clinton should she be elected. On the other issues that impact residents in urban areas like Philadelphia there are clear differences between the platforms of the respective major parties and their presidential candidates.
In a nutshell, the solution to many social and economic problems forward by Mr. Trump and the Republicans is to provide huge tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals with the expectation that those benefits will trickle down to the less fortunate 99 percent of the population. His solution to immigration is to extend and heighten the wall between us and Mexico – even though for several years more Latin Americans have been migrating back to their homelands than come to the U.S. – legally or otherwise.
Mr. Trump plans to scrap the Affordable Care Act and turn our health plans over to the insurance and drug companies and health providers. He pledges to abolish Roe vs. Wade and take women’s right to control their bodies back to the 1950’s.
Above all, Mr. Trump’s campaign for the nomination against his 16 Republican rivals and his subsequent campaign against Secretary Clinton has been an unending series of distortions, half-truths, and outright lies.
Would we have preferred a less compromised Democratic candidate than Sec. Clinton? Yes! The questions concerning her use of a private email server for State Department correspondence – regardless of whether our country’s security has been compromised - is troublesome and reflects on her judgment. And, we are aware of the complications posed by the weak character and questionable business practices of her husband Bill Clinton.
But to weigh that email server mistake – for which she has publicly apologized – and her lifetime of public service on behalf of women, children, families, and the country as a whole against the disastrous personality, the squalid business practices and deplorable moral values of Mr. Trump would be a grave disservice to candidacy of Sec. Clinton and to present and future generations of Americans.
Hence the Globe Times gives a strong endorsement to Hillary Clinton and her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine. Ted Behr
U.S. Senate As with the presidency, there are stark differences in the background and platforms of the two candidates for U.S. Senate in the November 8 election. Brushing aside the negative campaign rhetoric on both sides – mostly funded by political action groups from outside Pennsylvania – there are two salient aspects regarding this contest.
For the past 8 years, congressional Republicans have dedicated themselves to oppose anything put forward by President Obama. That group includes the incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, who except for a moderate stance on gun registration – which we applaud – has conformed to his party leaders on every issue.
Katie McGinty has shown herself knowledgeable on key legislative issues and has the background to be a real national and world leader in the critical areas of environmental protection and climate change. Given the importance of having as many moderate supporters in congress regardless of who becomes president, and the need to have more qualified women in the Washington halls of power, the Globe Times endorses Katie McGinty for U.S. Senate.Ted Behr
“Questions” on the General Election Ballot November 4, 2016
On the right side of the General & Special Election Ballot for Tuesday, November 8, 2016 there are two ballot questions for Philadelphia County residents to vote on. The texts for these questions and the Globe Times recommendations are as follows:
2016 Ballot Question #1 Proposed Constitutional Amendment Amending The Mandatory Judicial Retirement Age
"Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?"
Unfortunately, this issue has become highly politicized with Democrat legislators opposing the 5-year increase in the retirement age for judges from 70 up to age 75, and Republicans in the legislature favoring it. At the time of the Primary Election in April 2016, the wording of the non-binding measure on the primary ballot clearly indicated the question was an increase in the retirement age; Shall judges ”… be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?
Subsequently, the Republican state legislative majority determined that based on that particular wording the voter response would be strongly negative. Hence, in this past October they decided to change the wording to what appears on the ballot and is shown in the box above, that “judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years.” Was that change important to the Republicans? Absolutely! And, we know that because of their underhanded efforts to manipulate the wording, disguise the issue, and confuse the voters. When Franklin and Marshall College assessed voter response to the two wordings, the statement presently on the next Wednesday’s ballot, above, was approved 64% Yes and 36 % No or No Opinion. When F&M questioned the original wording of last April which emphasized that the increase in the judge's retirement age from 70 to 75, the response was 37% Yes and 63% No or No Opinion… almost opposite !
So the wording favored by the Republicans and appearing on the ballot makes a huge difference. In the State Senate debate on the issue, only two Senators spoke their mind, both Democrats. One was State Sen. Anthony Williams who pointed out the recent scandals involving the state judiciary and the need to promote turnover and voting up or down on retention of judges based on their performance. Mark Dent, writing in Billy Penn.com  noted the political implications stemmed from the fact that the nineteen justices turning 70 state-wide this year includeTom Saylor, Chief Justice of the PA Supreme Court. “Losing Saylor at the end of this would be a major hit for the Republicans,” Dent suggested. “They wanted Chief Justice Saylor [to stay],” said state Sen. Daylin Leach, “who would otherwise retire.”
Proponents say that that we benefit from the accumulated wisdom and experience as judges get older, and that people are living longer and continue to work productively far past what was previously considered retirement age. They point as well the outstanding judges on the US supreme court who are in their ‘80’s. Opponents feel that older judges are out of touch with the technology age and our present life and times. Since the change ultimately affects some 1000 judges in our state who earn high salaries in their senior years it is also an economic issue.
The Globe Times feels that the desirability of bringing new, younger judges onto our courts who reflect the ideas, values, and culture of current day Pennsylvanians strongly supports a NO VOTE on the increased retirement age for commonwealth judges.
CITY BOND QUESTION (Bill No. 160610)
"Should the City of Philadelphia $184,303,000 to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?"
This request covers the funds needed to cover routine capital expenses for construction and repairs on city facilities. Obtaining this money through a bond issue avoids having to increase current year taxes to pay for improvements which benefit residents and businesses over many years in the future. The Globe Times supports a YES VOTE on the bond issue.
 https://twitter.com/FandMPoll  Dent, Mark. Billy Penn.com, October 12, 2016
Our City Schools: Fair Funding, New Charters, and the Soda Tax Sept. 16, 2016 Ted Behr With schools now successfully in session for the fall and some additional cash in the till for vital improvements in the public school environment like additional teachers andcounselors, and nurses in every school, it is worth noting that there is considerable unfinished business.
1. Fair Funding Formula. The legislature did recognize the principle of fair funding of our state school system, but it only approved such an allocation of tax money on the basis of need to new appropriations – not the entire public school budget. The issue is now with the state supreme court and the lines of battle are clearly drawn.
Advocates for more and more equitable money for poor public schools – impoverished farm districts and tax-destitute urban districts like Philadelphia argue that the state constitution wording of “thorough and efficient system of education” has been violated by the Republican-dominated legislature, and the late Governor Corbett. By “thorough and efficient” they suggest that students should not be released from the school system until they are thoroughly educated and are prepared to live efficiently. Since this seems to them a question of constitutional interpretation, fair funding backers insist that since the legislature has abdicated its responsibility – and have blocked Gov. Wolf’s strong efforts to right the issue - the courts are obliged the elected officials to do so.
The fair funding opponents claim that this issue is wholly and irrevocably the legislature’s responsibility, and the courts should not meddle with it.
The court decision may well not come down until after the November 8th election and, in any case, statewide, it is unlikely that the legislature will be reconstituted on a more liberal basis. Let us keep in mind that this is not simply an economic or educational or political issue. It is a moral issue and Teachers Union president Jerry Jordan was right in his recent release when stated, “ The way we fund our schools is not just an issue of fairness, it is an indicator of what we're willing to invest in the future of our children and our communities." 2. New Charter Schools. The School Reform Commission has opened the way for more applications to form charters schools in the city. Let us not forget in this regard that every time a child leaves a public school for a charter, there are “sunk” costs which remain with the public school which amount to about $5000 per child. On that basis, the public school system and taxpayers absorb hundreds of $millions to support what charter advocates blithely refer to as “choice.” In addition, of course, as State Rep. James Roebuck has pointed out time and time again, charter schools receive nowhere near the amount of fiscal, operational and educational oversight they should have, and even whether they do produce better-educated children for all their money and freedom is subject to question. 3. The City Soda Tax Under Attack. The latest news is that big money beverage and truck delivery industries have taken the validity of the Philadelphia Soda Tax to court. Just what kind of injunctions will be handed down awaiting what will likely be a protracted judicial review is unknown, but it will be a crying shame if Pre-K children are now denied the prospect of quality early childhood education that the Soda Tax would have underwritten. We can only hope that the court decision will be both favorable and prompt.
Paschalville Library: Behind Worn out Walls, A World of Wonder (June 24)Fighting a fading façade with innovative, neighbor-friendly programs By Siobhan A. Reardon Visitors to the Paschalville Library, in the heart of Southwest Philadelphia, are often struck by the state of disrepair of this century-old building. Those who know and love this library, however, and who consider it an invaluable neighborhood resource and civic center, are instead struck by the amazing things taking place under its crumbling roof. Paschalville’s librarians and staff have managed to create and initiate critical programs for community members; that they must do so under such inadequate conditions is unacceptable. With a roof that is plagued by leaks, much of the library lives under plastic coverings, making books difficult to access and ruining parts of the book collection. At times the library has been forced to close due to excessive heat, because of an HVAC system that only works at 25 percent of its capacity. The elevator cannot access the basement, cutting off access to customers and making the movement of materials difficult. The Paschalville community, living in one of the most underserved neighborhoods in our city, deserves better than broken-down, out-of-date infrastructure. Despite these conditions, this library continues to offer some of the most forward-thinking programming taking place across our library system. Its Teenscape music, art, and maker space offer students an afterschool program with hands-on sessions in music performance and music production, a program run by Greater Love Productions and Southwest Leadership Academy music teacher Aaron Gamble. The Friends of Paschalville Library sponsored the Teenscape space, investing in professional recording equipment for student use. Philadelphia rapper Freeway, impressed by the very existence of this program in this neighborhood, visited the students in early June to his experiences in the music industry and listen to students’ own compositions. In addition to meeting a Philadelphia icon, these students are getting ahead—according to the National Center for Education Statistics, students who participate in such extracurricular activities have a 15 percent higher school attendance rate than non-participating students and are more likely to have a higher GPA. One in three visits to our city’s libraries is an individual who requires assistance filling out a job application. Paschalville Library has made itself an invaluable resource for job seekers with its Job Readiness Center, which staffs a Digital Resource Specialist dedicated to helping scores of people each week with résumé composition, job searching, interview skills, and other job-skill development. And the library made waves following a visit by Mayor Kenney who tweeted in the early spring about its Tiebrary—a necktie collection from which customers can borrow colorful cravats for job interviews. Within a space that is broken down and outdated, Paschalville Library is achieving incredible things. Through its Friends group, committed librarians, and frequent customers, this community has truly invested itself in its library—it is time for the city to do the same. Mayor Kenny’s Rebuild initiative funded by the sweetened beverage tax to improve critical community programming and spaces, libraries among them, will provide essential support for this effort. We know that the libraries of the 21st century must be so much more than warehouses of books. We must now ensure that their physical spaces are up to the task of serving instead as silos of curiosity, enlightenment, technological access, and community support.
Serving Up Waffles with Sugary Soda (May 20, 2016) A number of City Council members have begun waffling on Mayor Kenney’s proposal for a 3 percent “soda tax.” Alternatives put forward include percentages lower that what the mayor feels is require to properly fund the five critical expenditure areas ▪ Universal, quality pre-K education ▪ 25 more community type schools ▪ Bond support to rebuild parks and recreation facilities. ▪ A significant contribution toward our massive city pension system
Another alternative is just to tax bottles which would contribute nickles and dimes toward programs that need big bucks. Our continuing concern, of course, has been adequate funding of the Mayor’s stellar Pre-K education throughout the city. The proposal for quality early childhood education will finally allow all our children to be properly prepared to start Kindergarten. A Southwest principal once confided that some of the children she received from nearby daycare centers didn’t know how to turn the pages of a book or hold a crayon or pencil in their hand! That kind of education deficit at the start stays with those children throughout the educational process – until they graduate or drop out. A while back, an elderly suburban volunteer reading helper at Mitchell Elementary worked with Brannon, a boy in third grade who read at the 1st-grade level. The youngster’s life in class was a constant torment because other students had called him “stupid” so long that he was convinced it was true. Coming along side the lad for a couple of hours daily two days a week for two years, the young fellow graduated from 4th Grade reading as well as his peers. By the outrageous drop levels in our local high schools, the story of Brannon’s intractable education deficit can be multiplied over and over again every year. Quality Pre-K education for today’s children gives definite promise that the systemic injustice can be reversed. The 2002 University of Pittsburg study* of the impact of an Early Childhood Initiative ECI at the showed that: 1. Over 85% of ECI children entered kindergarten without education support services, and 98% were promoted from kindergarten to first grade. 2. Only 1% of ECI students were referred for special education services, compared with 21% of non-ECI children in the same school districts. 3. Only 2% of ECI children were retained in grade once they entered school, compared with 23% of non-ECI children in the same districts. 4. After 3 years of participation in ECI, children demonstrated increased social skills, self-control behaviors, and significant decreases in problem behaviors. 5. Parents of ECI children were more involved in enrichment activities, the use of appropriate toys, and more effective discipline strategies. At the time of that study, educators estimated that taxpayers were saved $1.68 for every $1.00 invested in early childhood education – the kind of universal quality Pre-K that Mayor Kenney wants for our children. The other aspect of the mayor’s proposal that gets downplayed when the big money soft drink industry corporations and their legislative buddies advertise the added cost of buying sugary drinks is the outstanding health benefits children will derive when they are weaned off these poisonous beverages. So in the end, what is it that our opposition council members don’t get. Teachers, doctors, the NAACP, the Police FOP, AFSCME, SEIU and virtually every civic-minded organization dealing with children do get it! Friends, it’s Win, Win, Win for the Soda Tax! Ted Behr *http://www.prektoday.org/tools_research_summary.shtml
Soda Tax Supporters Fight Back (May 6, 2016) While consumers have been inundated with million of dollars of television and newspaper ads by organizations opposing a tax on sugary drinks, known as the “Soda Tax,” reputable groups of all kinds are lining up behind Mayor Kenney to support his proposal. Tax supporters, of course, have medical science and nutrition on their side, facts that are conveniently ignored by soft drink manufacturers, bottlers, transportation unions and retailer groups. As reported in the Philadelphia Daily News on April 29, a new Harvard University study predicts passage of the tax would prevent 2,300 cases of diabetes per year in Philadelphia. The study also concludes that the tax would reduce obesity in children and adults, which could prevent the deaths of more than 700 people over the next decade and save nearly $200 million in health costs.
But it’s the lifetimes of pain, disability, mental anguish behind the health cost figures that people should be concerned about. Anyone with diabetes or with a family member or friend with the dread disease can attest to the gradually increasing impact it has – until it ends in premature death. And, of course, overweight and diabetes go hand in hand with heart problems and debilitating leg and foot ailments.
Then there is the key factor of what the tax money will be used for that gets pushed aside by the anti-soda tax faction. Over the first five years of the levy, $256 million is slated for universal pre-K. Although quality pre-K has been a major budget initiative of Gov. Wolf, there seems little likelihood that the Republicans will adequately fund it on a state-wide basis. And any educator will attest that quality pre-K for a child is a gift that keeps on giving, year after year throughout his or her school tenure – and over the 5-year plan period, we’re talking about blessing the lives of 25,000 kids!
Another $62 million would be channeled into our school system. Again, given the intransigence of the Republican legislative majority in Harrisburg, there is probably little chance that the public school system will receive that kind of financial backing again this coming fiscal year. The prospect for supporting improvements in 25 more community type schools is alone worth supporting the tax – or do our councilpersons feel proud that Kingsessing children are going to school in a 100-year old building like Mitchell?
The last two items to be paid for by the sugary beverage tax are $56 million to help defray the cost of a $300 million bond issue for to rebuild our parks and recreation facilities. Anyone who has to deal with our two century old Kingsessing and Myers Recreation Centers knows that that money will be well spent.
Finally, the city pension system gets $26 million against its $5.7 billion deficit. A drop in the bucket considering the constantly mounting costs, but at least it’s a worthwhile start.
The position taken by the soft drink industry and retailers is understandable. The tax will temporarily take money out of their pockets. But saying it unfairly drives up the grocery bill of low-income citizens is not true if parents make good, rational decisions about nutrition for themselves and their children.
With 77 percent of inner city women overweight, it does seem a shame for them to impose that lack of good dietary judgment on their young ones.
It is sad to see that at least three city councilpersons, Jannie Blackwell, Maria and Al Taubenberger have indicated they oppose the tax. That the latter, a Republican, would pander to the big money sugary drink interests is perhaps understandable since little that his party backs in the city, Harrisburg or Washington has much to do with reality of urban life and the needs of city dwellers.
One would hope that Blackwell and Quiñones-Sánches would reconsider their position and courageously support the mayor. Ted Behr
Wolf Temporarily Ends Budget Crisis – But Problems Remain! (April 1, 2016) We had a chance recently to speak with our State Representative James Roebuck, Jr. who has spent a number of frustrating years under a reactionary Republican House. During that period as Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, the erudite Rep. Roebuck has been the spokesperson for those who believe in a rigorous and fair public school education in the commonwealth.
Commenting on the fact that the Republicans have finally worn down Governor Tom Wolf on the current year budget (seven months late), Rep. Roebuck said, “Gov. Wolf was right to end the Pennsylvania budget crisis temporarily by allowing an inadequate Republican budget to become law Monday without his signature.
"While the budget impasse is temporarily over,” he added, “The problems that caused it remain. Schools in Philadelphia and across the state will finally receive funding for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2016. But this budget is basically just a stopgap because it leaves in place most of the 2011-15 Corbett-Republican cuts to education and social services," said Roebuck,.
"Pennsylvania still faces a deficit, and it will become increasingly clear in the coming months that the state has to reach a bipartisan compromise to pay its bills. Governor Wolf has already compromised and it's time for Republicans to meet him halfway. “We still need a budget that puts people above politics," Rep. Roebuck concluded.
State Senator Art Haywood’s Views on the State Budget Smoke & Mirrors Fiscal Plan Leaves Whopping Deficit
“Today’s [March 23] vote was painful. With anti-tax leadership, the Senate was handed yet another smoke and mirrors budget bill. We have schools, universities and agricultural programs in desperate need of state funding, but what we voted on today was a spend-only bill that does not match our available funds. This is because we have leadership that refuses to increase taxes to pay for our state’s basic resources, even while it commits to spending money we do not have.
Today’s budget legislation would leave Pennsylvania $290 million short in revenue for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Within less than four months, it would leave our state $1.9 billion short, as Republicans admit. With that kind of deficit, we would be forced to make additional cuts to education in the months ahead. The Governor’s office has calculated that this deficit would lead to 23,000 teacher layoffs across the commonwealth while raising property taxes and limiting senior services. I cannot in good conscience vote for legislation that would fund education for three months only to gut school funding by the time summer arrives.
Funding education is one of my highest priorities and we must make the necessary investment in these pathways to opportunity across the state; but, you cannot make an investment with money you do not have. That is why I have supported the Governor’s revenue proposals – like a shale severance tax - to fund education. The Governor is committed to keeping Pennsylvania’s schools open, and a stopgap budget that funds education while raising revenue is the best path forward.
I do not live in a fantasy world where we can invest in education with invisible money. I will continue to fight for Pennsylvania’s education funding, and I refuse to settle for the shameful trickery that this bill represents.
Yet More New Charter Schools December 18, 2015 Five new public charter schools in Philadelphia aided by grants from The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), Several of the charters supported by some $10.5 million in PSP grants will be located in Southwest.
While the organizations who will run these new charters are well-established and competent, including the Mastery and KIPP groups it is well to recognize that (a) their opening will draw an estimated 3700 away from existing schools most of which are neighborhood public schools. These affected public schools are still faced with absorbing basic operating expenses – calculated at around $5000 per student – due to the loss of the state contribution. And (b) there is still the open question of the proper administration of charter schools and the over-subsidization of both classroom and cyber charters by the state.
We urge the Philadelphia School District and our state legislators to resist the creation and funding of any more charter schools until these two urgent questions are resolved. Ted Behr
Election Day 2015: Kenney Elected, but Voter Turnout is Deplorable November 18, 2015 Election results in the city of Philadelphia were as anticipated, November 3, with Democrat Jim Kenney sweeping into the mayor’s office, and Democratic council members dominating their Republican counterparts by landslide vote counts. Since the last Republican mayor, Bernard Samuel, whose term ended in 1952, Democrats have built a 7 to 1 plurality in voter registration.
Overall voter turnout was abysmal - about the same as during the primary last May when the real competition at the party level decided the eventual general election winners. Of some 1.1 million registered voters in the city, fewer than a quarter or 235,000 voters showed up to vote on Tuesday – 21.4 percent of those registered. Sadly, this puts us 13th among the top 22 largest cities in the country.
Where does one put the blame? Squarely in the lap of the Democratic City Committee. With entrenched, unmotivated leaders and a coterie of inept Ward and Committeepersons what does one expect. Typical of the mess in party leadership was the retention of Anthony Clark as City Commissioner – which oversees the election voting - who according to the Committee of Seventy has not voted in three years.
The five Democratic candidates for at-large councilpersons won handily: Derek Green, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Alan Comb, and Bill Greenlee joined newcomer Helen Gym, the top vote-getter in that race. Gym gained her popularity by her staunch fight for public school improvements for the last 10 years. City agencies and other elected offices also went to Democrats as expected.
Both Kenney, and the city council with four or five fresh minds among them will have to begin facing the critical problems which confront Philadelphia, public schools, criminal justice and deteriorating neighborhoods. On a state-wide basis, the key race was for justice of state supreme court, with Democrats again sweeping into office: Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty, and David Wecht. Their election provides Democrats with a nominal 5-2 proportion on the highest state judiciary. Their election was achieved despite massive negative ad spending purportedly driven by outside political groups. As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 21, the barrage of attack ads against Judge Dougherty was funded substantially by a SuperPAC with ties to the Koch brothers of Kansas.
The significance of the Democratic-oriented state supreme court cannot be understated. It is this body which will rule on redistricting of electoral districts after the next national census is taken in 2020.
Here in Southwest, the voter turnout pretty much mirrored the city. As of noon, the dedicated poll workers in the 40th Ward Polling station in the community room at Myers Recreation Center had time to reflect on their participation in the bi-annual event – three times this year in parts of Southwest due to the special election August.
Said Jim Robinson, greeting voters outside the polling place with support literature from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, “I come here to help every year, along with my co-worker over there Carmen Hall. It really important to vote in the primaries, but also to take your place in the general election as well. If we want to have a change in the way things are, we have to show up. If you don’t step up when you do have a choice, then you can’t complain when you don’t like what happens in the city.”
Voter Anthony Scott was vigorous in his insistence that citizens have a moral responsibility to cast their ballots. “You take down exactly what I’m saying, young man,” he stated pointedly to our reporter. “I came here to vote because it’s very, very important for us to do that every time we can. I can remember the time when we didn’t have this right. In another place in this country, if you tried to register, it was almost impossible. If you tried to vote, they told us ‘You can’t,’ and they sprayed us with fire hoses!”
Full election results can be obtained by visiting the official website of the city commissioners, www.philadelphiavotes.com Other authoritative insights on the electoral process in Philadelphia are available at the website of the non-partisan Committee of Seventy, www.seventy.org including the range of opportunities to volunteer at polls election day. Ted Behr
Jan. 23, 2015:Thank You, Dr. King There has been a growing and worthy tradition each year on the day we honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thousands of children mount stages, stand before their peers, parents and friends, and give excerpts from the classic “I have a dream” speech. And where opportunities are provided for reflection, as they should, we rehearse again the circumstances which were the proximate cause of his death: his travels to Memphis, Tennessee, to support with his presence and encourage by his words the efforts of that city’s 1300 striking black sanitation workers to obtain union recognition and as a consequence a living wage and basic health benefits.
Three weeks prior to his fateful final visit, Dr. King had traveled to Memphis to rally support of the black religious community for the striking workers’ cause. He said then, “You are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down. ”
Again in Memphis in early April, the exhausted King confided to a small group of the workers and his band of civil rights leaders, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life… But I'm not concerned about that now… I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land”
Our own best sense of the deep compassion that was at the core of Dr. King’s being are taken from his words of comfort for the family and friends of the four children who killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in September 1963: Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Diane Wesley and Carole Robertson.
“These children… have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows; to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism… to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice… and to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.
“Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.
“Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people… Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men…
“But, if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
These are words for the ages, but they are also backed by commitment and a willingness to sacrifice that puts iron in those words. As Dr. King’s mentor and Savior said to us all, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. By: Ted Behr
Oct. 3, 2014: Tom Wolf’s Education Proposals
Public school education is important to the Democratic candidate for Governor, Tom Wolf. His two daughters went public schools in York County and went on to college and successful careers.
Wolf has promised to work for to restore a school system where every child receives the best possible education regardless zip code. He promises to put back Governor Corbett's billion dollars in cuts to education, implement a fair funding formula, and institute reforms to help local school districts innovate and improve student performance.
How will he do this? While he is disinclined to provide details that the Republicans will attack, it seem evident that he will propose tax rates under which the more well to do pay a higher percentage than the less affluent – just as we all do on our federal taxes.
Wolf also supports the idea that basic education should include universal pre-K, because too much of the battle for educational achievement is lost before our children enter kindergarten.
With regard to the funding formula that shifts the state contribution to public school education to those districts with the least property value resources, Wolf has promised to up-date the last costing out study to determine the true costs of a high-quality education. Again, the funding formula approach tie funds to district size, poverty levels, local tax efforts, and student makeup. Such formulas help lighten local property taxes; make state fund transparent; and properly weight contributions to charter, cyber and public schools on the basis of real performance. He wants all three school sectors to meet the same high administrative and academic standards.
These are just promises, and many of us have a low opinion of politicians’ promises. In Tom Wolf’s case, one senses first that he has the necessary experience as former revenue secretary under former governor Ed Rendell and many decades as a successful businessman. Above all, we feel he will use his office to persuade the state legislature to assume more of the cost of funding public schools. Within the context of his practical and forward thinking state education plan, we trust it will not be more of the same for our Southwest students who don’t deserve that lifelong penalty. To read more on Wolf’s education views, visit: http://www.wtae.com/news/candidate-profile-tom-wolf-in-democratic-race-for-governor/25881606#ixzz3EwkwEUzk Oct. 3, 2014
Governor Corbett’s Education Policy
Governor Corbett's public education record is an abject failure in terms of the needs of Southwest families. Classes are overcrowded, teachers are hesitant to walk in the halls, there are far too few counselors and nurses to meet those specific needs, students are poorly motivated to study and stay in school, there are reports of shortages in school supplies, books, computers and other basic resources, and parents are not vigorously recruited to help.
Far too many of our children are dropping out or if they persevere and graduate, they find themselves poorly equipped to go further with their education or qualify for all but the lowest paid entry level jobs – if they can find one. This recipe for failure isn’t the children’s fault and in most cases they are behind their suburban peers not because they lack intelligence or won’t make the effort. First, it’s because they live in an urban area where the local tax base is insufficient to adequately fund its local public school system; second, the power brokers and their legislative supporters are overfunding private and charter schools and not regulating them adequately: and third, it’s because Corbett and the elected legislators are too concerned about preserving their seats to take the high road and fix our tax structure and invest in the future of all of our children.
According to the calculation we outlined on the Opinion page in the September 19 issue of the Globe Times, we feel Corbett’s claim to have increased public school spending depends mostly on the tax money he is using to fund employee pensions. Where he has short changed our children, however, is in the funding of what goes on in the classroom. Our calculation is that this critical shortfall is on the order of $1.3 billion. In our view this is not just reprehensible, it’s immoral.
According to several recent studies, Corbett and state Republicans are responsible for removal of 20,000 to 30,000 public school employees, including teachers, counselors, classroom aides, and librarians. Wolf’s campaign estimates that 70 percent of public school districts have had to increase class size.
The bottom line is that between districts, there are winners and losers, and Southwest is among the latter. How do you measure that loser status in plain English? According to the Education Law Center, poor school districts spend $3000 less per student per year than more affluent ones. This amounts to a $90,000 deficit per classroom, assume an average class size of 30 students
Upon his election, Corbett abandoned the funding formula that Gov. Rendell and our legislature approved. Not only is Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not currently use a funding formula for distributing state education dollars to local school districts, it is also far below the national average in terms of percentage of state funding -- contributing only 32%.
The Tip of the Iceberg - Public School Advocates Comment on the Funding Stalemate Scientists tell us that the tip of the iceberg we see above sea level is only 20% of its total size, with four times as much ice or 80% hidden below the water line. This physical reality can be a titanic problem for an unwary or uncaring captain of an ocean going ship.
We see the same proportions applying to the iceberg of funding of schools, and the direction of the SS Commonwealth ship of state, with Captain Corbett at the helm and the Republican sailors in the state legislature taking shore leave instead of working the vessel.
The debate in pilot house – the halls of power here and in Harrisburg - is focused for now the abject failure of the political leaders there to pass an added 2% cigarette sales tax to overcome an indicated $81 million Philadelphia school budget deficit. What is below the water line, of course, is the annual $1 billion deficit in the funding that the state-wide school system. According to State Representative James R. Roebuck, our state education watchdog, in the 3 years since Gov. Corbett took office the accumulated shortfall of “thorough and efficient” public education funding that our state constitution mandates is on the order of $3 billion!
The tragic truth of Titanic and iceberg analogy is that the passengers on the boat are our school children. For Corbett and the Republicans it seems like just a recurring nuisance to deal with school budget deficits year after year. Sadly, for each of our kids, it’s a one way journey: no books, old buildings, few supplies, scanty nursing and counseling, and well-meaning administrators and teachers with their hands tied behind them.
In a strategic move to force action by the state officials, School Superintendant Dr. William Hite has indicated he will not open city schools in September without a firm commitment that the $ 81million smoker’s subsidy.
In rapid response to this threat, Gov. Corbett has offered to “…release $265 million to permit timely school opening.” It is important to note that the money so generously offered by Corbett is merely part of the funds already allocated to Philadelphia under the state budget – the budget which is responsible for the $81 million deficit.
More cynical observers are entitled to feel that this advance is intended by Corbett as the Republican candidate for reelection, rather than a legitimate attempt to address the school funding problems faced by the city and school districts throughout the state.
As Rep. Roebuck keeps insightfully pointing out, the money for overcoming some of the school system’s funding crisis is readily available: a reasonable tax on Marcellus shale extraction; recovery of the overpayments to charter schools; closing the “Delaware Loophole” on corporations, and a fair, means-based state income tax that doesn’t let rich wage earners off the hook.
In addition, Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) notes that more funds could be generated by freezing the phase out of business taxes and by expanding Medicare in Pennsylvania. Accepting federal Medicate dollars (which Corbett refuses to do) will expand health care for low income Pennsylvanians and free up more state dollars for education.
Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) Executive Director Donna Cooper notes that, “Superintendent Hite needs to know this [cigarette tax money] is a certainty by August 15th so that he can responsibly open the schools. The Philadelphia School District is under state control, it’s the Governor’s job to deliver that certainty.”
Sharon Ward, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center pointed out, that, “More than one in every 10 public school children in Pennsylvania attends school in the City of Philadelphia. There is no more important issue before the General Assembly than ensuring that these children can get back to school on time.”
Commenting the gravity of the situation, Rhonda Brownstein the Executive Director of the Education Law Center, said, “…The School District of Philadelphia, and the thousands of families and children in the city, need to know as soon as possible if their schools will open on time.”
Michael Churchill, an attorney of the Public Interest Law Center for Pennsylvania pressed the point that even with the Cigarette tax increase, the district remains far short of the funds to provide a quality education, "…Even with the cigarette tax, Philadelphia students will have $2,500 less per student than the average student in neighboring districts, and schools without basics like counselors, nurses and adequate textbooks. It is time the state legislature and governor end this blatant unfairness.”
Darren Spielman, CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund echoed the sentiments of other advocates, “It’s unacceptable that so many people have had to spend so much time and energy for the simple right to tax our own cigarettes, something city council approved unanimously more than a year ago. We need to spend our energy improving teaching and learning. That's the way forward.”
The above statements by education advocates were provided by PCCY. For further information on this critical issue, visit them on-line at their website www.pccy.org or contact Anthony Hopkins, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sit-In Fails to Move Corbett on State School Budget By Jesse Kudler, Fight for Philly
Statewide education advocates held a final rally to end their sit-in Monday night after five days at the Capitol. Despite the sit-in, including day-long protests outside the governor’s office, rallies, a protest at the Governor’s Residence, a tent on the Capitol steps, phone banking, and online campaigns, the governor refused to acknowledge the parents, teachers, and students from across the state demanding full funding for education. He also refused to consider real revenue solutions like taxing fracking, expanding Medicaid, or freezing business tax cuts. The governor never presented a budget that reversed his $1 billion in statewide educations cuts.
“I am beyond disappointed. Gov. Corbett proved once and for all that he doesn’t care about our children or the future of our state. He proved once and for all that he is cruel enough to turn a blind eye to children sitting right outside his office when their needs conflict with the desires of his corporate cronies,” said Kia Hinton, a Philadelphia public school parent and Board Chair of Action United. “This is a new low for a governor who has the ability to turn this all around with a 5% tax on drillers. A governor who has never visited a Philadelphia public school is signing a budget that may make it impossible for those schools to even open on time.”
On Monday night, the Republican State Senate passed Corbett’s $29.1 Billion budget package without many revenue producing factors that would make it a realistic plan. Said Democratic State Senator Larry Farnese of Philadelphia trenchantly, “The governor’s $29.1 billion budget is a sham…I hope this is the last time we, as a legislature, have to vote on a Corbett budget,” referring to his party’s expectation that Corbett would be defeated in Tom Wolf in his bid for reelection.
“Budgets are about priorities, and the priority of the Corbett administration seems to be about putting schools and jobs at the end of the line… “Children have to come first, and the time is always right to do the right thing, so I’m pleased that there was some progress tonight because the Senate successfully amended House Bill 1177 to include a local $2-per-pack cigarette tax to help fund Philadelphia’s schools.”
Fair budget measures could have raised hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to restore funds for education, healthcare, and human services. A 5% tax on fracking would bring an estimated $700 million in revenue to the state. Business tax cuts have cost the state billions of dollars in recent years. Medicaid expansion would add $620 million to Pennsylvania’s 2015 budget and add about $3 billion annually to its economy. It would support 35,000 new jobs by 2016 and 40,000 jobs by 2022.
The governor attempted to link a Philadelphia cigarette tax increase for school funding to cutting pensions for state employees and school workers. But protesters applauded the Philadelphia delegation’s refusal of his gambit to use children as a bargaining chip.
Corbett & Republicans turn their backs Philly kids By State Rep. James Roebuck
Regarding the State Budget scheduled for passage by June 30, for the fourth year in a row, Governor Corbett and the Republicans who control the state House and Senate are again turning their backs on children in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.
Republicans have chosen to pass a "Frackers First" budget that keeps most of their roughly $1 billion in K-12 education cuts from 2011, instead of passing a fair gas-drilling tax and accepting the federal funds Pennsylvania would get by accepting a clean Medicaid expansion.
I and other Democrats in Harrisburg have been advocating for common-sense solutions that have bipartisan support and support from a majority of the public – but Governor Corbett and most Republican legislators have chosen the wrong direction again.
Republicans have added to this outrage by demanding Democratic votes for terrible ideas their own colleagues rejected -- not to provide Philadelphia schools with a restoration of the state revenue they deserve, but merely to let us raise our own local money through a cigarette tax.
Governor Corbett has ultimate responsibility for the Philadelphia schools because he appoints three of the five School Reform Commission members, and the governor is once again failing the children of Philadelphia.
I’m angry about this budget, and if you are too, you might want to call the governor at 717-787-2500."
Rep. Roebuck is Democratic chairman of the PA House Education Committee
6/20/14 Father’s Day and Pre-K: Your help is needed now! By Ted Behr Although Father’s Day is past, an issue of vital concern to every dad and granddad in the state is still with us – universal Pre-Kindergarten Education for our children.
Now, it’s rare that Pennsylvania political leaders agree. But, in a public appearance this month and a subsequent press release, former PA governors, Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Mark Schweiker agreed that from a practical standpoint investing in early learning will improve our state's economic future.
While they did not raise the childhood education issue to a moral level, as Mayor Nutter recently has, the two state leaders affirmed quality Pre-K learning “…most certainly betters the life chances of each child who is given this important head start.”
As we approach the November 4, 2014 governor’s election and the electoral races for many state legislators, we need to place at the top of their commitment list the goal of quality pre-kindergarten education for ALL children in our state. Every parent and grandparent and every concerned citizen has a stake in this issue and needs to forcefully communicate their views to the candidates.*
In the press release affirming their remarks, the two governors cited the sad fact that at the end of their respective administrations, Pennsylvania was “…a leading state for early childhood investments and …at the top of national rankings.” Now, other states have been “roaring ahead…” and Pennsylvania places 30th out of 41 states that provide high-quality pre-k for 4-year-olds.”
Following Schweiker’s groundbreaking recommendations from his Early Childhood Care and Education Task Force came such Rendell childhood policies as the T.E.A.C.H. program that prepared 5000 teachers for quality early childhood learning, expansion of Head Start, the launch and annual expansion of the state's great Pre-K Counts program, the creation of the state's Office of Child Development and Early Learning, and adoption of the groundbreaking Pre-Kindergarten Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood
According to Rendell, “Our collective efforts paved the way for more than 100,000 young children to start school ready to learn since 2004.” Parents and grandparents see the results of these programs firsthand, and according to the Pre-K for PA organization, 67 percent of Pennsylvania voters across party lines support expanding access to high-quality pre-k programs.
The fall election presents an opportunity for our state chief executive and members of the legislature to recommit themselves again to spending and policies that will put Pennsylvania back at the top of all states. Giving young children access to proven early childhood education programs children for school and save taxpayers millions of dollars in social welfare, health and justice systems and special education costs down the road.
“Children cannot vote, but they are our most important constituents,” concluded Schweiker. “That is why we focused so much on this issue as governors and why we are today urging the candidates running for governor and those vying to be in the Pennsylvania House and Senate to sign on and support the full platform of the Pre-K for PA campaign.”
The quotations for this opinion piece were taken from: Want to guarantee a kid a sound future? Invest in early childhood education: Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker, June 11, 2014.
To contact the campaign headquarters of the two major party gubernatorial candidates on this matter, visit: ▪ Tom Wolf (D): email@example.com ▪ Tom Corbett (R): www.tomcorbettforgovernor.com To join the statewide campaign for better childhood learning, visit www.prekforpa.org
OPINION 6/6/14 Gov. Corbett: Don’t Expand Gas Drilling in State Forests! By Ted Behr.
On May 23, 2014, Gov. Corbett issued his Executive Order 2014-03 allowing resumption of the leasing of state forests for oil and gas drilling, and for the first time, gas leasing in state parks.
The Globe Times strongly opposes this invasion of our public lands and urges readers to protest through our state legislators.
The purpose of Corbett’s move is to generate another $75 million in new extraction lease fees and production taxes on the gas and oil being produced – to help balance is 2014-15 budget which some estimate to represent a shortfall of $1.3 billion. Given the minor contribution of the gas and oil revenue against the damage that the additional drilling could pose on our treasured parks and forests, one must ask, “Is that kind of money worth the risk to the environment and potential damage to our air, rivers and drinking water?”
With great foresight, our community and government leaders over the past century have gradually set aside some 2.2 million acres of our Pennsylvania forest and 120 state parks for public enjoyment – a unique and lasting treasure for us and our children and a key element in preserving our air and water resources.
With the discovery in 2003 that vast quantities of natural gas was present and accessible in the shale rock deposits 3-5000 feet below the surface of our state mountains, gas drilling companies have been under increasing pressure to lease more and more land, and naturally cast covetous eyes at the great expanses of open land in our forests and parks.
State government has likewise seen the development of oil and gas extraction as a new and much desired source of tax and fee revenue – especially when they were politically committed to now new taxes (except on low and middle income families through sales and property tax increases.)
Realizing that we did not know very much about the impact of such drilling on our environment and natural resources, in 2010, Gov. Ed Rendell had allowed the leasing of about 130,000 acres of state forest land to gas companies.
The new decree by Gov. Corbett rescinds that 2010 Act, and overturns Gov. Rendell’s moratorium even though four years later we still do not yet know the potential for environmental damage. In addition, the Governor refuses to disclose which parks and forest land they plan to lease to the drillers.
We join the highly respected environmental advocate Sierra Club in calling on our state officials, including our state representatives and Senator Williams to sustain the Rendell moratorium on drilling on state forest land.
Information for this opinion piece was taken from a recent press release by the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania.
May 22, 2014 Letter to Gov. Corbett – Restore Fair Funding of Schools By Ted Behr
The last time we wrote, the Philadelphia community was grieving the loss of Laporshia Massey, a 12-year-old who died from asthma complications that started at school. Today, tragically, we grieve once more. Again, a child has been stolen from us much too soon—this time a 7-year-old from Jackson Elementary School. Again, there was no school nurse on site.
Five years ago at Jackson Elementary, there was a full-time school nurse. Today, the dedicated nurse who has served the Jackson community for 15 years only visits on Thursdays and every other Friday.
Since you took office in 2011, you slashed school funding by $1 billion and turned down Medicaid funding that could have helped many of Philadelphia’s children. The number of school nurses in Philadelphia has fallen from 289 to 179. Now, instead of focusing on the health needs of students at one school, nurses in Philadelphia’s public schools cover five or six schools, sometimes visiting each school only once every other week.
We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy. But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.
Mr. Governor, we cannot tolerate one more life lost, one more dream snatched from our children. You have the power to fix what you have broken. Restore full and fair funding to all Pennsylvania schools. And do it now.
Sincerely, Randi Weingarten Jerry Jordan, President, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Ted Kirsch, President, American Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania
OPINION: May 16, 2014 Choosing the Next Governor - The Charter School Issue. By Ted Behr
Philadelphians are blessed to be able to draw on a knowledgeable, objective and non-partisan resource to help us come to grips – individually and collectively - with key social and fiscal issues: The Committee of Seventy (COS).
On the COS website, www.seventy.org, we find an analysis of just such a critical issue – one which certainly divides our major political parties and their candidates in the Primary Election coming up in three short weeks on May 20.
As COS stresses, the oversight and funding of charter schools is important because there are about 80 of them within our city limits, and they educate over 60,000 of our students – 30 percent of total public school enrollment. And, these totals don’t count the “stay at home” cyber charters. Although charters are indeed “public” because they are funded in part with taxpayer money, they are less subject to state-wide review and control than public schools. (For more complete information on this aspect visit the COS website on the candidate positions cited in this opinion piece based.)
In preparation for deciding our vote on May 20, we checked out the information submitted on the charter school question by the major candidates for governor which we summarize as follows:
Gov. Corbett indicates that he supports “competition and choice in public education,” but has failed to muster enough legislative support in the Republican Party he leads to bring the key questions to a vote. Also under Corbett’s administration, the state’s contribution to public school funding has dropped from 50 percent of school district budgets to 35 percent, and the important state-wide public school funding formula to base that state contribution on the needs of poorer districts has been all but abandoned.
Further, Corbett and his legislative allies failed to make up with state taxes the contributions made under the Obama stimulus funding – to the tune of about $1 Billion.
All Democratic candidates, Rob McCord, Katie McGinty, Allyson Schwartz and Tom Wolf, agree that charter schools need reform and question the cost and benefits of the cyber charter schools. U.S. Congresswoman Schwartz states charters can be “laboratories of innovation” and wants parents in low performing districts to have choices. State Treasurer McCord feels that existing and proposed legislation favors the charter industry and reduces local control. His comprehensive education plan can be seen on-line at Rob McCord, Investing in Education. He has the endorsement of the state’s largest teacher’s union, PA State Education Association.
Kathleen McGinty, former State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary and environmental advisor to President Obama Agency believes on state financial support of charter schools that work, reimbursement of audited costs and the same performance standards as traditional public schools. In her comprehensive education plan she stresses the importance of quality early childhood education (see www.katiemcginty.com/issues/education)
Tom Wolf a York businessman and former secretary of the state Department of Finance wants charters to be audited every year, high education standards, a state office to improve financial and academic oversight and a cap on enrollment.