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 have 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.
Pennsylvania’s AFL-CIO union boss Rick Bloomingdale is absolutely right that there is a “war on workers” here in Pennsylvania—he should know, because he is waging it. His recent opinion piece on PennLive tries, and fails, to defend the indefensible, getting the facts wrong in the process.
What if I told you that regardless of your political beliefs, several hundred dollars will be deducted from your paycheck each year to support politicians whose views you may not support and political issues you oppose—and that there’s nothing you can do about it? You’d probably be pretty upset. But for many teachers, it’
Given our still-sputtering economy, Americans have grown used to their public schools facing tight budgets. This fiscal squeeze has drawn out a hidden crisis in public education: How do we keep our best teachers in the classroom? The short answer is, we don't.
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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) took out full-page, color ads in several major state newspapers last week proclaiming Gov. Corbett "closed neighborhood schools" and laid off teachers in Philadelphia through massive education funding cuts. In the western part of the state the ad warns, "Don’t let Allegheny County be the next Philadelphia."
These ads were grossly misleading. State funding for public schools is at an all-time high. The $1 billion in "cuts" was the expiration of temporary federal stimulus money.
So we ran our own ad today correcting the record.
AFT claims Gov. Corbett and state lawmakers "cut $1 billion" in education spending in the state budget. But the real facts about education spending are something else entirely.
The 2013-14 budget spends nearly $10 billion and the proposed 2014-15 budget calls for $10.1 billion for PreK-12 schools—an all-time high, even exceeding when the state budget included federal stimulus funds. As you can see in the chart below, the AFT's claims are simply untrue.
But the worst part of the AFT's misleading campaign is how it was funded—by teachers' dues collected using taxpayer resources. It’s time unions are held accountable for dishonest political ads they run at the expense of educators and taxpayers across the state.
We should stop this practice which gives government unions an unfair political privilege to engage in politics.
Students in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh had their hopes dashed last week when they lost out on the chance to land one of the few vacant openings in charter schools.
In Pittsburgh, more than 500 applied for openings at Environmental Charter School, but only 28 spots were available. The school, as required by law, held a lottery to determine the lucky winners and the unfortunate families who would be denied the opportunity this year.
The same story—even magnified—took place on the other side of the state. Philadelphia's Math and Science Technology charter schools (MaST) received an incredible 5,000 applications for 98 slots. The school earned a 90 on the new School Performance Profile, which Newsworks reports as the highest score for a non-magnet school in Philadelphia.
As Anastasia heard her daughter's name– Nicole Ratkova– called over the speakers, her heart pounded and tears welled in her eyes.
Nicole had been selected for the top spot on the 9th-grade waiting list – an outcome tied in part to the fact that her younger brother attends kindergarten at the school. Siblings of MaST students get a boost in the lottery.
Waiting list was the best news for which the pair could hope. The only new students MaST admitted in the lottery were those applying for kindergarten. For the 4,219 students hoping to get into grades 1-12, the ride on the wait-list was predetermined. The parents were there to jockey only for order.
According to the PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools, 44,000 students currently are on waiting lists to get into charter schools. Why are so many students dependent on a lottery to determine their fate?
Currently, charter schools must apply to a local school district to get approval. As many school districts view charters as unwanted competition, this can be a difficult process. Indeed, it is akin to requiring McDonald's to approve any new Wendy's in the same area.
In Philadelphia, the situation has gotten worse. The School District of Philadelphia is demanding that all charter schools agree to caps on enrollment. Effectively, they are trying to set up a wall to keep students trapped in schools they want to leave.
These caps are illegal in every other district, but Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has broad exemptions from the law. Unfortunately, by limiting charter schools, they are simply limiting the opportunities available for student and denying families the choices they are demanding.
Pending legislation would help alleviate this logjam, giving universities the ability to authorize new charter schools. At least 16 states allow multiple authorizers, including 13 states that empower universities to approve charter schools' application.
Pennsylvania should follow their lead and open up new avenues for school choice, rather than continue to write sad stories of doors being closed on bright futures because of how a ping pong ball bounces.
There are many myths circulating about how much Pennsylvania spends on public education. One such myth is that the state government used to provide 50 percent of all revenue for public schools, equaling the local share. State records indicate otherwise.
The state's share of education funding has never been as high as 50 percent. Records from the Pennsylvania Department of Education show that the state's percentage of education revenue reached an all-time high of 45 percent in 1974-75.
While the state share declined from 45 percent to 36 percent of total school district revenue, this was not due to a reduction in state subsidies for education. State aid—adjusted for inflation—increased by 41 percent since 1974. The state share only declined because local tax revenue—also adjusted for inflation—increased 98 percent over that frame.
Moreover, claims about the percentage of education revenue coming from the state is often used to advocate for more state spending.
However, according to NCES data, Pennsylvania’s state aid per student is about the national average, and we rank middle-of-the-pack in state revenue per student. The "state share" is lower because Pennsylvania’s local education revenue is nearly $3,000 per student more than the national average, ranking Pennsylvania 7th in the nation.
Indeed, Pennsylvania taxpayers spend significantly more per student—about $3,000 above the U.S. average—and more than most other states.
|Per Pupil Revenue||Total||Federal||State||Local|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 235.20. Revenues for public elementary and secondary schools, by source of funds and state or jurisdiction: 2010-11, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_235.20.asp|
Who are We?
The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.
Last night, I spoke with ABC 27 about polling that shows the vast majority of union household support ending taxpayer collection of union political money. See the video below: In response, Rep. Mike Sturla makes the claim that union dues aren't used on politics. As we've explained before, there ...