Friday, April 29, 2011

Official Data on Senate Bill 1 Anticipates Most Vouchers Going To Students Already Enrolled in Private and Religious Schools

Official Data on Senate Bill 1 Anticipates Most Vouchers 
Going To Students Already Enrolled in 
Private and Religious Schools

Few Students in Failing Schools Expected to Use Voucher

The Education Law Center has analyzed an official Senate report detailing the cost of tuition vouchers for private and religious schools under Senate Bill 1.
The “Fiscal Note” for SB 1 anticipates only a small percent of the vouchers will be used by students currently attending the 144 public schools identified as failing by the bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee officially attached the Fiscal Note to the bill on April 11, revealing that most of the vouchers are expected to go students already attending private and religious schools.
The Education Law Center has closely examined the data in the SB 1 Fiscal Note, which for the first time allows the public to see official details about the number of students expected to utilize vouchers and the cost of the voucher program:
• The cost of vouchers for tuition at private and religious schools will be more than $1 billion in total over the first four years.
• Only 7.6% of all vouchers will go to students from the 144 “worst” public schools.
• 65.3% of all vouchers will go to students already enrolled in private and religious schools.
• Only 9% of eligible students from the 144 “worst” public schools will be able to gain admission to a private or religious school and actually use their voucher. The annual cost will be $50 million.
• 100% of eligible students currently enrolled in private and religious schools will be able to use their voucher dollars, since they are already admitted. The annual cost will be $225 million.
Senate Democrats say that the Fiscal Note still underestimates these costs and that even fewer students at failing public schools will gain admission to a private or religious school in order to actually use the vouchers.
The battle over vouchers in Pennsylvania has focused for months on claims repeatedly made by voucher supporters that Senate Bill 1 will not be costly and will help students get out of failing public schools.
Opponents of SB 1 have disagreed, emphasizing that the bill will cost more than $1 billion and transfer most of these tax dollars to private and religious schools for children who are not enrolled in a failing public school. The April 11 Fiscal Note shows that SB 1 opponents were correct.
“SB 1 is not really about school choice for families trapped in failing public schools,” said Baruch Kintisch of the Education Law Center. “Instead, the bill is an expensive gift of taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools for the tuition of students who are already enrolled in those schools.”
Joseph Bard of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools said, “In this time of billion dollar budget deficits, our state cannot afford a massive giveaway program to private and religious schools. Public money should be used to improve public schools, not to pay for the tuition of students currently attending private and religious schools.”
The full Senate is expected to vote on SB 1 in the next week or two. Negotiations are going on behind the scenes to win the votes of senators who are on the fence. The latest changes being made to the bill divert even more of the voucher program away from needy students in struggling schools. For example, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended SB 1 to create a new kind of voucher for middle class families.
“The first priority of state policy for education should always be the best interest of disadvantaged students and their public schools, not political favors for private interests,” said Kintisch.

Governor Corbett Pays Homage to Mr. Gureghian in Chester Today

Governor Corbett Pays Homage to Mr. Gureghian in Chester Today

Today the Governor is coming to visit the state's largest charter school, Chester Community Charter School, owned by Vahan Gureghian, one of his largest campaign donors.


It is noteworthy that the Governor is NOT visiting any of the school districts in Delaware County, which are collectively slated to lose over $44 million in state funding under his budget.


The Governor should go visit Chester Upland SD, look them in the eyes and explain to the good people there how reducing their budget by $19 million will help their children, or to William Penn SD, which stand to lose over $4 million, or Upper Darby at $5.7 million or Southeast Delco at $2.9 million.


Chester-Upland SD
Southeast Delco SD
Upper Darby SD
William Penn SD

15 Delco Districts


Here's a December 2010 Post-Gazette article that describes Mr. Gureghian's relationship with the Governor:


Corbett's team jingles with donors
Two-thirds of members have financial ties to campaign
Sunday, December 19, 2010
By Tracie Mauriello, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
"The transition team member who provided the most to Mr. Corbett -- $334,286 over the past three years -- was Vahan Gureghian, a Gladwyne lawyer who operates the state's largest charter school and owns a billboard company.
Mr. Gureghian was tapped to serve on the education committee and to lead the 27-member transportation committee, along with two former PennDOT administrators."

Read more:


The Heron's Nest: Mr. Corbett goes to Chester

By Phil Heron,
Gov. Tom Corbett is coming to Chester today. That's a good thing.
The governor, who just completed his first 100 days in office, will visit the Chester Community Charter School. It's part of what Corbett says is an ongoing review of the effectiveness of both public and charter schools across the Commonwealth.

Concerned about the Education Budget? Let Governor Corbett Know
Governor Tom Corbett Phone: 717-787-2500, Fax: 717-772-8284, Email:

We’ve been sold an expensive bill of goods on vouchers

We've been sold an expensive bill of goods on vouchers

I sat through over 20 hours of Senate Ed Committee and House Policy Committee hearings listening to the same parade of voucher supporters tell us over and over how "SB1 will help kids from disadvantaged families escape their failing schools"

Remember the old bait and switch?  With the latest Corbett-Piccola version of SB1,  the "disadvantaged families" have now become those with incomes up to $78,255.

And "escaping failing schools"?  That has become any private or parochial school that the "poor" kids are already attending, even if they have never set foot in a public school and even if they live in the best performing school districts in the state.

A new analysis of the Senate's Fiscal Note on SB1 by the Education Law Center anticipates that most vouchers will actually end up going to students who are already enrolled in private and parochial schools - not to disadvantaged students from failing schools.

“SB 1 is not really about school choice for families trapped in failing public schools,” said Baruch Kintisch of the Education Law Center. “Instead, the bill is an expensive gift of taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools for the tuition of students who are already enrolled in those schools.”

Click here for the ELC Analysis:

Thanks to your grassroots efforts, StudentsFirst PAC spending over $6 million to buy votes wasn't enough for SB1 to come to a vote in the Senate last week.

But they have very deep pockets and they have enlisted John Brabender,  Governor Corbett's top PR confidant:  StudentsFirstPAC and the Commonwealth Foundation are continuing a full court media press to Privatize Public Education in Pennsylvania.

In addition to targeted mailings, Facebook ads, robo-calls and ads attacking voucher opponents they are running a heavy radio campaign in western PA.

Please keep up your contacts with your Senators and encourage your networks of public education stakeholders to do the same.

Why voucher advocates are allergic to standardized tests
8:58 am April 28, 2011, by Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal Constitution Blog
In Pennsylvania, Republican legislators are pushing through a school vouchers bill that would divert increasingly scarce state education dollars to private and parochial schools. The move itself is controversial, but at the moment I'd like to focus on one particular aspect of the debate, as reported by the Hazleton Standard Speaker:
"The panel defeated an amendment by Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, to have choice students who attend a private or parochial school take the Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment given periodically in public schools. That way there would be an equitable standard to measure academic performance, he added."

Philly Cuts/ Vouchers - National/ House Bill EITC

Phila. schools to see 16 percent layoffs
By Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer, Posted on Thu, Apr. 28, 2011
Facing an "unprecedented" fiscal crisis, the Philadelphia School District could shed 3,820 employees - 16 percent of its workforce - and is planning for more painful cuts, including losing full-day kindergarten, officials said Wednesday.
At a hearing on the district's $2.7 billion budget, Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch told the School Reform Commission (SRC) that to close a $629 million gap, the district must also make painful trims in areas ranging from gifted and alternative education to transportation and counselors. Class sizes will go up; individual school budgets will go down.

Education Week, Published in Print: April 27, 2011

State GOP Lawmakers Push to Expand Vouchers

Some legislation would extend eligibility to middle-income families

Republican governors and lawmakers are pushing for a major expansion of voucher programs, efforts that in some cases seek to give taxpayer money for private school tuition to a much larger swath of the population, including middle-income families.

Pennsylvania School Choice Bills

Much attention and controversy have been focused in recent months on Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1, which would create a government-funded school voucher program.  Less attention, and far less controversy, accompanied the passage yesterday of an expansion of the state's existing education tax credit program out of the House education committee. The vote was 21 to 4.

School choice tax credit bill advances

Hazelton Standard Speaker, Published: April 27, 2011
HARRISBURG - The scope of a state business tax credit program that promotes school choice would expand greatly under legislation approved Tuesday by a House committee.
By a 21-4 tally, the Republican-controlled Education Committee voted to make more state tax credits available to businesses and expand student eligibility for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program into the range of middle-class incomes.

Posted on Wed, Apr. 27, 2011
Teachers, students bring their fears against budget cuts to NAACP-sponsored rally in Harrisburg
By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - Eliminating music and Spanish, increasing class sizes, scaling back full-day kindergarten to half days.  That is what may lie ahead for Cook-Wissahickon School in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia if it loses an estimated total of $600,000 in funding under Gov. Corbett's budget plan.  Fear of such cuts spurred assistant principal Karen Lash to lead 180 students and teachers to the steps of the Capitol on Tuesday for an NAACP-sponsored rally.
Concerned about the Education Budget? Let Governor Corbett Know
Governor Tom Corbett Phone: 717-787-2500, Fax: 717-772-8284, Email:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

John Micek Capitol Ideas Blog: Senate Repubs, Corbett Reach Agreement On Voucher Bill.

Allentown Morning Call Capitol Ideas Blog

John Micek, April 27, 5:49 p,m,

Senate Repubs, Corbett Reach Agreement On Voucher Bill.

Senate Republicans And Gov. Tom Corbett have apparently resolved their differences over a stalled school vouchers bill,  Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said this afternoon.

Because we have friends in all the wrong places, here's the amendatory language that's under consideration (this part is strictly for the Trainspotters amongst you):

·         Effective date of Implementation of Opportunity Scholarships and EITC increase/changes delayed until July 1, 2012.

·         New timeline as a result:

·         2012-2013 – Year One – Low-income children in failing schools eligible for Opportunity

·         Scholarships;

·         2013-2014 – Year Two – Low-income children in attendance boundaries of failing schools;

·         2014-2015 – Year Three – All low-income children statewide.

·         As a result, there will be no significant budgetary costs in the upcoming fiscal year.

·         Year Three Opportunity Scholarship recipients will be capped at 3% of the previous year's Basic Education Funding (BEF) appropriation – projected at approximately $163 million in 2014-2015.

·         PDE will administer the program.

·         The Education Opportunity Board will remain in place in an advisory capacity and to approve the guidelines issued by PDE.

·         The Governor will appoint the initial three members of the Education Opportunity Board with successor appointments confirmed by the Senate (modeled after the Philadelphia School Reform Commission).

·         PDE's definition of "LOW-ACHIEVING SCHOOLS" will be utilized with a separate ranking of elementary and secondary schools focusing on the bottom 5% of combined math and reading scores on most recent PSSA.

·         In Year Four (2015-2016):

·         Entire amount in the Excess Fund will start funding the Public School Choice Demonstration Grants for school districts to establish their own tuition grant programs (Public to Public) and for funding the Middle-Income Scholarship Program;

·         Middle-Income Scholarship Program eligibility will increase to 350% of Federal Poverty ($78,225 for a family of four).


Read more:

Voucher Roundup/Budget/Pensions

Rural lawmakers should oppose school voucher bill
New Bethlehem Leader Vindicator Editorial Wednesday, April 20, 2011
As this was written, lawmakers in Harrisburg late last week continued to wring their hands over the passage of Senate Bill 1, which if approved, would establish a school voucher system in the state for children of low- and middle-income families.
The bill was expected to fly through the state Senate last week, but a lot of second-guessing apparently took hold as senators wisely slowed down the process to give some thought to what is a major and expensive overhaul to education as we know it in Pennsylvania.
And we think they should not only continue to research the matter, but ultimately scrap plans to siphon funding away from our public school system and to give taxpayer money to private schools that are not held accountable to state standards.

Here's the latest in focused PR efforts against lawmakers opposing SB1, funded by the deep pockets of the StudentsFirst PAC.  They are an American Federation of Children partner organization; follow that thread in the two articles below this one….
John Braebender, Gov. Corbett's chief campaign strategist; working hard for StudentsFirst PAC against SB1 opponents

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett to Keynote National School Choice Summit, May 9, 2011

Corbett to Speak at Event of American Federation for Children (AFC)

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will deliver a major policy address on school choice at the second annual National Policy Summit of the American Federation for Children on Monday, May 9, 2011, in Washington, D.C., the organization announced today. (
Corbett, who made education reform one of the hallmarks of his 2010 campaign for governor, is a supporter of school choice, charter schools, scholarship tax credits, and school vouchers for disadvantaged children.  "We are honored that Governor Corbett will join us to discuss the future of education reform in Pennsylvania and the need for enhanced school choice across America," said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. "

Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools
Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 11:28:44 PM EST
The DeVos family crusade to eradicate public education has targeted Pennsylvania, and a voucher bill may come to a vote in the PA Senate as early as Tuesday.  It's being marketed as a solution to save public schools, but the big donors are tied to right-wing think tanks that openly advocate, and strategize, the end of public education.  How can vouchers improve public schools if the people mobilizing the movement intend to eradicate public education?  Regardless of your personal stance on "school choice," it's important to know who is behind the voucher movement and the agenda they don't share with the public or advertise in their media campaigns.

The Heron's Nest: Schools of hard knocks

By Phil Heron,
The beat goes on.  Or maybe that would be better stated the "beat-down" goes on.
Another Delaware County school district is trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Last week it was Chichester; this week it's William Penn.
School directors there find themselves staring at a $9 million budget gap.

Pennsylvania undercut pensions, study finds

By Debra Erdley, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Pennsylvania shortchanged its state and school pension systems more than any other state in 2009, according to a study released on Tuesday.
The state paid only 31 percent of the $2.4 billion needed to keep the funds healthy, the study by the Pew Center for the States found.

Public Pensions, Once Off Limits, Face Budget Cuts

New York Times, By MICHAEL COOPER and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, Published: April 25, 2011
When an arbitrator ruled this month that Detroit could reduce the pensions being earned by its police sergeants and lieutenants, it put the struggling city at the forefront of a growing national debate over whether the pensions of current public workers can or should be reduced.

Concerned about the Education Budget? Let Governor Corbett Know
Governor Tom Corbett Phone: 717-787-2500, Fax: 717-772-8284, Email:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SB1 Letter to Legislature/ Conservative group threatens wavering Republicans on SB1/ PLBC: Corbett budget will do great damage

Three rich guys from Bala Cynwyd want to pay you to privatize public education in Pennsylvania and they have already spent $7 million to do just that.

Conservative Group Threatens to Primary Wavering Republicans Over Vouchers Vote
Politics PA, By Laura Bonawits, Contributing Writer
After PA Senate Republicans showed they weren't yet sold on a school vouchers program, the conservative organization Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) today vowed to recruit and fund primary challengers to any Republican who votes against the bill.

State Rep. Ronald Waters, D-191, of Philadelphia, serves as the chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.
Guest Column: Corbett's budget plan will do great damage
Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
By RONALD G. WATERS, Delco Times Guest Columnist
When he unveiled his budget for the commonwealth, Gov. Tom Corbett said, "If government is here to share the taxpayers' wealth, then everyone needs to share in the sacrifice."

Concerned about the Education Budget? Let Governor Corbett Know
Governor Tom Corbett Phone: 717-787-2500, Fax: 717-772-8284, Email:

SB1 Letter to PA Legislature April 26, 2011

April 26, 2011
Three rich guys from Bala Cynwyd want to pay you to privatize public education in Pennsylvania and they have already spent $7 million to do just that.

But you don’t to have to listen to the Students First PAC, or, for that matter, PSEA, PSBA, PASBO, REACH, BAEO, the Catholic Conference, the Foundation for Educational Choice or the Commonwealth Foundation; well over 90% of Pennsylvania school children attend public schools and their parents vote.  Before you vote in favor of SB1 go meet with the parents of those 1.8 million students in your own school districts and ask them what they think.

Explain to them why, when we are cutting back funding for their public schools and they are listening to discussions of their own kids’ programs being cut, you would support the creation of a massive new entitlement program to fund the state’s financially struggling parochial schools.

Explain to them why their kids are subject to a state curriculum, incessant standardized testing, AYP reporting and sanctions but voucher schools getting their tax dollars would not be.

If you are in an urban school district explain to them how SB1 will do anything whatsoever to help the over 90% of kids in their schools who won’t receive vouchers.

If you are in a suburban district explain to them why middle class kids who have never set foot in a public school, living in the best school districts in the state should get private or parochial school tuition paid out of the local school district’s budget using their tax dollars.

If you are in a rural school district explain to them how SB1 will not do anything at all to help their kids; they have no private or parochial schools.  They will only see their own state education subsidies reduced when the state funds voucher schools under SB1.

Explain to them why we would hand over their tax dollars to voucher schools without even the slightest accountability measures (no public budgets, no public audits) when their public schools are required to plan budgets in public over several months and make all spending information available to the public, complying with public bidding, Sunshine Laws and Right-to-Know Laws.

Explain to them why their schools are required to accept and retain all students regardless of family income, race, religion, English language proficiency, disability status, behavioral issues or academic performance (after all, that’s why they are called public schools and receive public funds) but voucher schools would receive their tax dollars without any expectation, requirement, obligation or responsibility to do likewise.  No school code, no NCLB, no IDEA; no accountability - just tax dollars, free and clear, no strings attached. 

And then, explain to them why they should vote for you after you have voted for SB1.

Keystone State Education Coalition Co-Chairs:
Lawrence A. Feinberg, School District of Haverford Township, Delaware County
Shauna D’Alessandro, West Jefferson Hills School District, Allegheny County
Lynn Foltz, Wilmington Area School District, Lawrence County
Mark B. Miller, Centennial School District, Bucks County

Monday, April 25, 2011

Join today's discussion of SB1 impact on taxpayers from 1-2 pm

Start the conversation here

Join the upcoming PA School Talk live discussion!

Today (Monday, April 25), we continue our PA School Talk live discussion series with a discussion on the taxpayer impact of the proposed Senate Bill 1. 

Join us from 1 - 2 p.m. EST this afternoon, as co-hosts Susan Gobreski from Education Voters of Pennsylvania and Christine Stone from the National Council of Jewish Women, Inc., field your questions about how the proposed voucher bill will affect Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Please jump in the conversation here:

You can submit a question by replying to the thread, either in advance or when the chat is live. We hope to see you online!
Visit PA School Talk at:

Voucher Contributions/ Budget Cuts/ Performance Pay/ Common Core

Voucher opponents, proponents donated heavily to candidates
By Brad Bumsted and Mike Wereschagin
Monday, April 25, 2011
HARRISBURG -- Two main combatants in the clamor over whether to use public dollars for private schooling donated a combined $8.3 million to legislative and gubernatorial candidates, state campaign finance records show.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which opposes school vouchers, spent $1.9 million last year. Students First, the leading proponent of them, spent $6.4 million, although $3.4 million went to an unsuccessful candidate for governor, state Sen. Anthony Williams, in the Democratic primary.

Read more: Voucher opponents, proponents donated heavily to candidates - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


William Penn facing tough decisions with budget cuts

By LAURA WISELEY , Delco Times Correspondent
LANSDOWNE — William Penn School District officials are weighing nearly $4 million in budget cuts — including the elimination of about two-dozen staff positions — as it faces an "unprecedented" $9 million budget gap for the 2011-12 school year.  Gov. Tom Corbett last month announced sweeping cuts to state education funding that eliminate the accountability block grants that fund full-day kindergarten programs in the district, as well as the Education Assistance Programs that fund district tutoring programs.

Schools' arts programs threatened by budget cuts

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011, 12:00 AM
 By DAVID N. DUNKLE, The Patriot-News 
Add it up, and it's not a pretty picture for the arts as public school districts prepare to tackle one of the toughest budget seasons in memory, facing the prospect of cutting thousands or even millions of dollars from their 2011-12 budgets.

More schools assess fee to play sports
Levies on students due to tight budgets
Monday, April 25, 2011
By Anya Sostek and Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
High school sports are an integral part of many Western Pennsylvania communities. But increasingly, they're coming with a price tag.  In its preliminary budget passed earlier this month, the Seneca Valley school board approved a $75 fee for students per athletic activity, not to exceed $225 per family. Wednesday night, the West Mifflin school board voted to delay hiring coaches for fall sports while it investigated similar "pay-to-play" fees.

Programs seek teacher pay system that works
Monday, April 25, 2011
By Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On the surface, the concept is simple: Pay teachers based on their performance.
As a practical matter, the idea is so complex that many such systems come under criticism for being unfair or unproven to improve the quality of education for children.
But there is no shortage of people trying to find a performance pay system that works.

A Trial Run for School Standards That Encourage Deeper Thought

New York Times, By FERNANDA SANTOS, Published: April 24, 2011
In three years, instruction in most of the country could look a lot like what is going on at Hillcrest, one of 100 schools in New York City experimenting with new curriculum standards known as the common core.
Forty-two states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have signed on to the new standards, an ambitious set of goals that go beyond reading lists and math formulas to try to raise the bar not only on what students in every grade are expected to learn, but also on how teachers are expected to teach.