CF’s work in education focuses on promoting opportunity and improving children’s lives though incentive-based reforms. Instead of repeating the failed attempts to reform education through new rules or additional funding, such reforms use competition to improve education. Incentive-based reforms include providing choice within the public school system through charter schools and cyber schools, providing families with private school options through vouchers or tax credit-funded scholarships, and measuring and rewarding success in education for both schools and teachers. Only when parents are able to choose the best school for their child, have an abundance of educational choices and ample information, and schools are forced to compete for students will we provide the best education to Pennsylvania’s youth.
Gov. Tom Wolf today chose to side with teachers’ union leaders over high-performing teachers by vetoing the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act (HB 805). The bill, championed by Rep. Stephen Bloom, would have ensured that during furloughs, teachers are retained based on performance rather than on the number of years they have been teaching.
Thousands of teachers go above and beyond mere job descriptions because they see teaching not simply as a profession but as a calling. If Governor Wolf carries through on his threat to veto a bill protecting these teachers, their jobs could be at risk.
In a victory for public school students and teachers, the state Senate today voted to end Pennsylvania’s last-in-first-out policy and finally give excellent teachers the protection their performance deserves.
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“I want to put more education dollars in our classrooms, not our school buses,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, while releasing an analysis of 19 school districts that exceeded their state busing allowance.
According to the report, 95% of overspending districts do not make use of competitive bidding. DePasquale says it’s time to make contract bidding for transportation services mandatory:
Some school districts simply don’t believe what the audits showed. In fact, six of the 19 districts indicate either in response to their audit or in their action, that would be Scranton, that they have no intention of seeking bids for transportation services. Even though the audits showed, and they agreed, that they were paying too much. . . they offer some type of justification as to why they don’t seek competitive bids. It will range from well there isn’t any competition out there, it’s not a requirement. And the list goes on and on and on. And I just view them as lame excuse, after lame excuse, after lame excuse.
DePasquale indicates school districts could save nearly $55 million without raising taxes or cutting programs. Making use of competitive bidding to save public funds should be standard operating procedure. This is a critical step school boards must take to ensure education dollars are spent in the classroom, where they belong.
Teacher Linda Misja is a religious objector to unionism, and as such, can donate the equivalent of her fair share fee--otherwise owed to the union--to charity. But four years ago, the Pennsylvania State Education Association rejected Linda's charity of choice and instead has been holding her money in a union-controlled escrow account.
Today, the House State Government Committee voted in favor of HB 267 to protect religious objectors, like Linda, by eliminating a legal loophole that lets union leaders roadblock employees’ charitable contributions.
Under current law, public employees who object to union membership on religious grounds must donate the equivalent of their “fair share” fee, otherwise owed the union, to a non-religious charity they and the union agree upon. The PSEA, however, has repeatedly rejected teachers’ charities of choice simply because they don’t support the union’s political ideology.
Yet, a list of charities pre-approved by the union spent $27 million on political activity, according to the Fairness Center, which has filed lawsuits against the PSEA on behalf of Linda and two other Pennsylvania teachers.
Unfortunately, the law gives no clear instructions in the event that a union refuses to accept the employee’s charity of choice. If a dispute ensues, the money may be placed in a union-controlled escrow account indefinitely.
HB 267, sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence, would protect the right of religious objectors to give their money to a recognized 501(c)3 of their choosing--even if it doesn't align with the ideology of the PSEA.
CF President and CEO Matt Brouillette explains the treatment of religious objectors is just one more instance of teacher unions putting their interest before the interests of teachers:
Government unions already enjoy the perk of using taxpayer funded payroll systems to collect their union dues, which they then use for political purposes. And unions already trap their members, letting them leave the union only during short windows of time. As if this weren’t enough, union leaders also want to control nonmembers’ paychecks.
Today’s vote is an important first step in protecting the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania’s public employees.
Such a believer is Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney in universal preschool that he supports a punitive tax on low-income residents to pay for it. During his stint on City Council, Kenney twice voted against soda taxes—but now, as mayor, Kenney favors a 3-cents-per-ounce sugary drink tax.
Although Kenney maintains a soda tax will only hit corporations, the experience in Berkeley, California—the lone American city to enact a sugary drink tax—tells a different story. A University of California-Berkeley study found that 50 to 70 percent of the tax is passed on to consumers.
Kenney estimates raising taxes on low-income residents could generate $400 million in new revenue over the next five years—with $256 million earmarked for universal pre-K.
Does publicly-funded preschool have a good track record in other cities? Not exactly. The evidence on pre-K effectiveness is mixed, according to a report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) which examines the body of research on early childhood education.
Children enrolled in universal pre-K often see no significant learning gains by the time they reach third grade, compared to students not enrolled in pre-K. This was the experience in Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K Program, as well as the Head Start Impact Study, where students not enrolled in preschool caught up to their preschooled peers by third grade.
From the “Key Findings” section of the Head Start Impact Study:
There were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.
Other studies purporting to show “pre-K works” are narrow in scope. For example, the Perry Preschool Program, commonly cited by defenders of universal pre-K, only studied 123 students. It also included weekly home visits by teachers to participating families—which would be nearly impossible to scale up on a city-wide basis across Philadelphia.
To recap: the most prominent item on Kenney's first-year agenda is a large tax on low-income Philadelphians to fund a program with poor outcomes in other cities.
What’s not to like?