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"Let no freedom be allowed to novelty, because it is not fitting that any addition should be made to antiquity. Let not the clear faith and belief of our forefathers be fouled by any muddy admixture." -- Pope Sixtus III

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Totalitarian Pennsylvania Update.

The forces of darkness continue their war against Catholics, freedom, and those who actually work for a living. Let us pray the Repansycans grow a spine.


From the Pottstown Mercury:

Amended school choice voucher bill moves forward, but vote delayed

HARRISBURG — A proposal to create a school voucher program for Pennsylvania cleared a major hurdle Monday, but a scheduled Tuesday vote on the bill was delayed until at least April 26 so that the bill could be revised, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the school choice bill Monday afternoon with a vote 15-11.

The committee had amended the measure to address concerns from both sides of the political spectrum about the cost, accountability and eligibility of the voucher program created in S.B. 1.

The major change made by the Appropriations Committee on Monday was expansion of eligibility to allow the parents of middle-class students to take advantage of the proposed voucher program.

Under the new changes to the bill, the state will establish a middle-class scholarship program in the fourth year after S.B. 1 becomes law.

During the first three years of the program, eligibility will be capped at 130 percent of the federal poverty level — equal to $28,665 for a family of four this year. Only students attending the state’s 144 “persistently lowest-achieving schools” would be eligible for the voucher program during the first two years.

With the addition of the middle class scholarship program, eligibility will increase to 300 percent of the federal poverty level — equal to $66,150 for a family of four this year.

The committee also voted to require public schools that choose to participate in the school choice program to accept transfer students by a lottery system, rather than on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Private schools will not be subject to the lottery provision and will be allowed to accept transfer students based on their current enrollment criteria.

“There is nothing in this bill that forces any school, public or private, to participate,” said state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Without the lottery system, some Democrats argued, the bill would allow schools to “cherry pick” the best students and deny others the opportunity for choice.

“This conversation has always been about parents having a choice, but now there is this emphasis on the school’s having the choice,” said state Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia. “A lottery system seems to be the fairest way to do this.”

Among the other changes made by the committee Monday was placing a $250 million cap on the third year of the voucher program, when the eligibility expands from only poor children in failing schools to all low-income children in the state.

The $250 million cap on the vouchers will apply only to poor students who are already attending private schools and wish to take advantage of the vouchers, and there will be no cap on poor students leaving public schools for other public or non-public schools.

In the fourth year, available funds above and beyond the $250 million cap will be used to fund the middle class scholarship program, said Piccola.

The expanded eligibility for the fourth year and beyond aims to address concerns among some on the right about which students can benefit from the legislation. While the majority of grassroots groups on the right support the legislation, some have been critical of S.B. 1 for being restricted to lower income families.

The amendment also requires participating non-public schools to administer annual tests to voucher students so the state can track the performance of those students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 11. All public school students are subject to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in those grades.

The amendment does not require non-public schools to use the PSSA tests, but the schools must administer it or another standardized achievement test and must report aggregate scores to the state and to parents.

Piccola said the law did not include the PSSA tests specifically because that would require regulating the curriculum of the non-public schools.

The bill was voted out of committee mostly along party lines, with Republican state Sens. Lisa Baker, of Luzerne, Stewart Greenleaf, of Montgomery, and Patricia Vance, of Cumberland, voting against the bill.

Farnese and fellow Democratic state Sen. Lisa Boscola, Northampton, supported it.

Earlier Friday, a coalition of more than 20 interest groups unified their opposition to the voucher program. Led by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, the group presented the results of a poll showing 61 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose the voucher idea.

They claimed the voucher bill would cost state taxpayers up to $1 billion and would drain poor and struggling public schools of students and tax dollars while forcing property tax increases to make up the difference.

Piccola said the bill would not cost taxpayers additional funds, since the money used for the voucher program would come from the state’s basic education subsidy, which already exists. Instead of spending more funds, the bill would redirect funds that already are appropriated on an annual basis.

In the proposal passed to the Senate, the state’s portion of the per-student funding for school districts would follow the student to the new school. All local tax revenues still would go to the local school district.

State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19th Dist., supported the bill when it was first voted out of the education committee, mostly, he said, because he was promised concerns he has about it would get a hearing.

Early last month, Dinniman said he supports the purpose of the bill for the first two years of its three-year phase-in period

“I have no problem with the first two years. Those schools are at the bottom of the pile and no one really knows what to do about them,” Dinniman said at the time. “We’ve given them more state money and still, no change, so vouchers make some sense there because we’ve had decades of poor performance and it is immoral and unethical to allow it to continue.”

However, in the third year after the bill is enacted, it would apply statewide for students whose households are at 130 percent of the poverty line and that is not something Dinniman said he can support without some caveats.

“I’ve seen estimates that say this is going to pull $84 million to $1 billion out of public school budgets and no one can tell me where that money is going to come from if the state does not provide alternative funding,” said Dinniman.

Attempts to reach Dinniman Tuesday to find out if he still supports the bill as it stands now were unsuccessful.

He had supported one funding method proposed, the expansion of a tax credit which would allow businesses to donate to schools — public and private — in exchange for a tax break.

State Rep. Tom Quigley, R-146th Dist., said a bill in the House Education Committee would expand that tax break and is likely to be incorporated into the final version.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, was among those protesting the bill during the press conference.

He called the bill an “open ended entitlement” in the third year and beyond, when it opens up to more than the poorest students in the state.

“This bill not only does an injustice to our students and schools by leaving the unluckiest of the lot out to dry, but it also hurts Pennsylvania’s school system by exacerbating the pain dealt by Corbett’s proposed budgetary cuts,” Leach said. “Incorporating vouchers into the mix would only deepen the financial wounds for many schools across the state.”

State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, said the bill was not perfect but created a better opportunity for students across the state.

“I am an opponent of failing public schools, not of public education,” White said. “I cannot sit back and watch us fail these kids again.”



The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review offers an opinion on the corruption inherent in the Government Indoctrination System:

Shafting taxpayers: Stop this perversion
Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts funneled more than $59 million of taxpayer money in 2009-10 to groups whose lobbying against taxpayer interests and those of underserved children belies their innocuous names.

That's the finding of a preliminary analysis by the Commonwealth Foundation of data obtained via open-records requests from 380 districts (120 have yet to respond). The figure includes dues and other payments to teachers unions and state associations for gifted children, curriculum development, principals, administrators, business officials, middle schools, boards and counselors.

That $59 million-plus could have boosted education but didn't. Instead, it went to groups whose common interest is maintaining the union-friendly, tax-and-spend status quo.

Most lobby for ever more state education funding. And most are in a coalition that just protested in Harrisburg against state Senate Bill 1's proposed vouchers for low-income students, according to the foundation's Nate Benefield. He says those members fight for unionized employees, not students.

That school districts enable such groups with tax dollars is one more thing about Pennsylvania's educratic status quo that cannot stand.

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