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Corbett's 'Ready to Learn' education budget favors wealthier schools, advocates say

By the Notebook on Feb 7, 2014 08:03 PM

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Here's an accurate headline you could have written about Gov. Corbett's Pennsylvania budget address earlier this week: Corbett calls for $387 million in increased state education funding.

But many education advocates are quick to say that hardly tells the full story.

They say that most of this proposed funding increase is a one-time influx of cash that's delivered with many strings attached.

Corbett's "Ready to Learn" grant initiative calls for $240 million to be distributed to the state's 500 school districts by way of what the governor's team calls a predictable, transparent, student-based formula.

Districts with more students overall, more English language learners, and higher concentrations of poverty will receive a greater share of the money.

But districts will not have the autonomy to decide how to use the cash. Those with higher School Performance Profile (SPP) scores – which are based in large part on standardized test scores – will have greater leeway in making spending decisions.

Under the plan, the Philadelphia School District will receive $29 million (by far the most of all districts).

But given its overall SPP score of 57.5, it will only be able to spend the money on certain prescribed initiatives.

For schools with SPP scores below 60, the state's top priority is to ensure that schools align their K-3 curriculum to the state standards.

"The department is recommending that there are some very core elements in raising student achievement that need to be addressed first, and one of those is making sure the curriculum is aligned to the state standards," said Carolyn Dumaresq, acting state education secretary.

By comparison, the Lower Merion school district will receive $272,140 under the plan.

With its overall SPP score of 92.5, it will be free to use the proposed money for a host of other "Ready to Learn" initiatives, including expanding pre-K options, extending the kindergarten school day or offering supplemental instruction in biology, English and algebra.

Also, as a district with SPP scores in the 90s, Lower Merion is eligible for Corbett's "Expanding Excellence" grant program. Through this initiative, the state will divvy up $1 million among some of its top-performing schools in hopes that the high performers will pass on best practices to struggling schools.

None of the increased funding will go into the state's basic education subsidy, which will remain at $5.53 billion. Funds from this pot will continue to be distributed through a combination of formula and legislative politics that many education advocates criticize as inadequate and unreliable.

The governor's proposed budget also increases special education funding ($20 million), provides assistance to 1,670 middle- and lower-income families to send kids to pre-K ($10 million), and creates a college scholarship fund for middle- and lower-income high school graduates ($25 million).

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (61)

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on February 8, 2014 9:46 am
Why does the fact that Corbett favors wealthier schools surprise anyone? These people are more likely to vote for him. Plus, I really think Philadelphia likes incompetence and inefficiency in its institutions. I went to my neighborhood school all this week and had no heat till the middle of Friday. I drove on treated roads until I got to Philadelphia and it appeared that not a grain of salt was put down. The road on the side of my school has yet to see a plow. the sidewalks leading to the school were still ice covered on Friday. If this happened in the suburbs the parents would storm the school. Philadelphia parents seem very sanguine about the situation and apparently are OK with this condition. Does anyone think more money given to Philadelphia would be put to good use?
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 9, 2014 9:40 pm
Poogie - Your comments are spot-on. Corbett is smarter than the average bear. Give the money to the weathly school districts. Philly is a democrat town. Has been for 60 years and will always be. Why pander to the low information voter when they will vote against you? Smart move by Corbett.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 10:29 pm
Except it means the death of democracy. Since when do people elected represent only the people who voted for them and not the whole society? The difference should be about policy not dividing society.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 11:06 pm
Ask the Dems in city council that.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 11:01 pm
It's both parties.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on February 10, 2014 12:15 pm
At this point the Democrats in city Council are less help in the state They stole 1% sales tax that Corbett wanted to give us. I am definitely not a fan of Corbett but leadership in this city is bad beyond belief. Why should the state bail us out?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 1:36 pm
The state shouldn't bail Philly out any more than it already does. It doesn't pay its fair share in taxes and uses an inordinate amount of state money in the form of welfare, prison costs, etc. The people in the rest of the state are sick and tired of it.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 10, 2014 9:45 pm
Amen. Every major urban area in this state has been controlled by democrats for decades. You get what you vote for.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 9:11 pm
Please. The Republicans are just as guilty. It's both of them who are beholden to the Chamber of Commerce, the corporations, and the banks.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:08 am
I prefer somebody that is upfront with me than somebody that is a hypocrite. Even though I'm a registered republican, I used to vote democrat if they had the better candidate. I stopped doing it 15 years ago. All a democrat wants is your money with a nice smile. Hey, we are here to help you. Rrriiiggghhhttt.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 26, 2014 8:12 pm
In a way you can blame the parents, but all Philadelphians are to blame, phila politicians have been in office for over thirty years. Corbett is doing what most of our own politicians were doing to phila public school students for over twenty years, no different. Corbett thinks since they made millions and depleted the public schools, why can't he. Their are only a few honest dedicated politicians in Phila who have fought hard. But undercover dictatorship amongst our phila politicians have destroyed the manhood of the phila residents.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 7:23 pm
I am looking forward to the best practices Lower Merion School District can pass on the SDP. Parental involvement, modern facilities, updated technology, extracurricular options, and lower class size all play a part in the success of students.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 9:37 pm
So Philly gets 12% of the money and has a population that is 12% of the state. Sounds fair to me. Corbett should have made it contingent on givebacks by the PFT.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 10:17 pm
While population is 12%, the percentage of revenue generated for the state and then doled out to the rest of the state is still much greater.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 10:29 pm
We need someone to develop the actual figures of what each municipality gives the state and what funds the state sends to each municipality. But then you get into what each corporation is taking from the state and how much revenue the state gets from them. Why is it OK for natural gas companies to take billions from our state through fracking and they are not taxed?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 10:57 pm
That's a lie. The companies pay income tax and all their employees pay income tax.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 11:28 pm
"You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 8:44 am
Lie #2. That article refers to a "severance" of "production" tax. My post explicitly said "Income" tax. That was in response to your erroneous post that the drillers pay "no taxes." That statement is not true and therefore a lie. In fact, the drillers have paid more than $1 Billion in state Income taxes so far and that number is climbing. Yes, you are not entitled to your own FACTS.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 10:46 am
They also have paid several hundred million in'fees' introduced by corbett. The fees go mainly to the communities they operate in. And trust me, when you get a gas lease your property taxes will go up. Philly doesnt share much of this bounty (except for the several hundred union workers at the old sunoco refinery), but then again city council went on record opposing all fracking, so kind of serves them right. I suppport a reasonable severance tax also, but saying the gas companies contribute nothing is a lie.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 12:23 pm
Considering your "facts" are only cited from natural gas company sources, you are a spokes person for this special interest.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 1:31 pm
Huh? Actually I have nothing to do with the gas industry. I think a reasonable severance tax is a good idea. Though given the need to pay for PA's public employee pension largess, there would be surprisingly little left over for more ed spending. Remember back in 2001 when the legislature gave themselves and teachers an unfunded, unearned, multi-billion dollar gift in the form of pension benefits? The irony is that you guys will never pay a dime of taxes on that MULTI BILLION DOLLAR windfall. Yet all you ever do is moan about other people/ organizations needing to pay more. The only fact I cited was several hundred million in impact fees paid. I don't have a link, but you can find it in the budget. Or more likely just live in your own alternate universe of made up "facts" that fit your empty headed rhetoric. Corbett wanted to call it a fee instead of a tax... I guess you are one of the few fools out there that fell for it.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 10, 2014 2:00 pm
Excuse me, but if you are referring to a COLA passed in 2001, that was the first in years and there have been none since. And ALL income, whether it is salary or pension or social security or whatever, is taxed. So disabuse yourself of the notion that there is no tax on it. Meanwhile, the state took a 12 year holiday from funding the pension and in effect raided it to help get the budget over the last recession. The pension is funded through payroll deductions, investments and employer contributions. At one time before ENRON went bust and the economy took a slide, the pension fund was solvent and had a surplus. Do not blame workers for the bad investments and mismanagement of those with fiduciary responsibility.
Submitted by tom-104 on February 10, 2014 3:15 pm
This article details the "bad investments and mismanagement of those with fiduciary responsibility."
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 10, 2014 4:19 pm
Thanks, Tom, as usual you have all the references to back up your argument. I have read about the so called "pension holiday" and it is outrageous. It is just like what Bush did to social security to pay for his tax cuts while funding the war in Iraq. These guys love to play with other people's money while giving breaks to their friends and cronies. Then they blame the workers for expecting what was promised and what they paid for.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 7:41 pm
No, Gloria, you don't pay state income tax on your pension. You pay federal taxes on income, as you should, so your statement is not quite an outright lie, just a deliberate misrepresentation. The irony is that Gloria is part of the biggest class of tax cheats in the Commonwealth, yet all we ever hear from this ilk is moaning about how homeowners, private sector workers, businesses, Comcast, basically everyone else, needs to pay "their fare share." Two words- Greedy. Hypocrite. As if retiring in your late 50's with a nearly six figure check for life isn't enough, you can't be bothered to pay even 3.x% state income tax on what will likely be $1 to $3 million dollars in payments over your life? What is fair about that? PA is one of the few states in the country (keeping high class company with MS) that doesn't tax retirement income when it is paid out. They are also one of the few states in the country that taxes us peasant private sector workers efforts to save for retirement via 401K's. Rigged rules for the benefit of public sector workers at the expense of everyone else. And yes, Gloria you do deserve much blame you for the fiscal mess. Because you paid the lobbyists and politicians to steal billions from the PA taxpayers back in 2001, leading to decades of fiscal crises. A mega-DROP. And you continue to pay them to avoid any reckoning and make sure you don't even have to pay state income tax on your illicit proceeds. Funny you mention Enron. Both Enron and your pension theft are multi-billion dollar frauds that screwed over millions of innocent people. The difference is at least the fraudsters at Enron had a reckoning. People in PA need to wake up and realize how thoroughly they have been screwed by supposed public servants.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:46 pm
Just to clear the air, the state of PA has an impact fee for Marcellus Shale, which generated $204 million in 2012. Most people wanted a severance tax. As a chemical engineer, jobs are plentiful in Marcellus Shale. I know. My phone rings off the hook. I get bombarded with emails. Technical positions for engineers and managers are over $100,000 a year. The riggers are over $70,000 a year. The real jobs are not in the drilling, but handling of the gas through the pipelines (read compressor stations) and the processing of "wet" gas to remove the heavy hydrocarbons used in the plastics industry. You can liquefy the natural gas and sell it overseas. I hope this helps clear the air about Marcellus Shale. No, for the record, I am not tied to the industry and really don't want to have anything to do with it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 10:50 pm
Not on a per capita basis. Philadelphia residents comprise 12% of the state's population but contribute less than 12% in state income tax.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 11:36 pm
Could you provide a source to verify this information or is this just a hunch?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 8:35 am
Here you go: It appears that only 9% of state income tax revenue comes from Philly while Philly is 12% of the state population. Therefore, Philly is not paying its fair share.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 12:06 am
Income tax is based on income - not population. Philadelphia residents make less money than people in Montgomery and Chester County. Therefore, we pay less income tax. You also have to consider the number of people who are retired. (And yes, the number of people no working for whatever reason.)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 8:31 am
That is considered. That doesn't change the fact that Philly contributes less money per capita, as explicitly outlined in my previous post, than other parts of the state, and therefore is not paying its fair share in state income taxes. Now if we went to the expenditure side, I'm sure we would find that Philly residents use more than their share of state resources. Every way you look at it, Philly is not pulling its weight. So don't be surprised when other PA residents seem aloof at the city's call for yet more money from them.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 10, 2014 10:01 am
Come on, Philly pulls its weight in many ways. It is a center for higher education, health care, the arts, as well as being a port city. You cannot build tall office buildings in the middle of Gladwynn. A true education formula is based on needs not head count. And a good budget does not create loopholes for charter school operators to ignore their enrollment caps while charging the state's taxpayers for the difference. We have a choice in this state of supporting education wherever it exists or supporting more incarceration for those who fail and/or have unaddressed issues. We should not act like ancient Greek city states where every township has to fend for itself and pooh pooh with everyone else. We need to fix the bloated charter school industry, support all public systems in the state and think of all children as belonging to all the citizens of the state.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 1:55 pm
If you can't accept the fact that Philly doesn't pay its share of state income taxes, which is a FACT, then don't. Keep living in your fantasy world of union rhetoric. All roads lead back to what is best for the union. To hell with everyone else.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 10, 2014 3:14 pm
I don't get that Philly doesn't pay its "fair share" of State taxes, when it's a flat tax rate (unless you qualify for some "forgiveness" which means you're in the category of "working poor"). It's an argument that denies the fact that salaries and wages have a huge political component. Sure, Philly can pay more in State taxes if they had better paying jobs (now that's another topic that points directly at City Hall which lives in a fantasy self service world).
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 10, 2014 4:37 pm
Ms. Cheng, you say what should be obvious to everyone else. The state income tax is flat for everyone. So if there is not enough per capita income in a district, the result will be less in taxes. How Philadelphia funds its own schools with real estate or other taxes is beside the point. The state has a constitutional and a fiduciary responsibility to fund all the schools in the state. The correct formula for such a budget must not be based on head count alone but on need. Districts like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have more students who are learning English, or have special needs and they are more expensive to educate. The proper state education formula should recognize that fact and appropriate money accordingly. 47 other states manage to do it, so why can't we? The benefits of a well educated citizenry are worth it. And again, Philadelphia would save a lot of money if it could free itself from the constraints of the SRC and all the demands for supporting multiple school systems.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 10, 2014 6:18 pm
I do agree with you Ms. Endres, but I am puzzled at the disconnect between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. It seems to be both a war and co-conspiracy at the same time. We are actively looking to move out of the City, and have noticed that the majority of outer counties use half their earned income tax (which clocks in at 1% for most) in addition to real estate taxes to fund their schools. How is it that Philly which taxes earned income at 4 times this does not feel the need to do the same? How is it that Harrisburg, which has jurisdiction over Philadelphia, won't mandate the use of Philly's EI tax for the schools? Frankly this is a major driver in our exodus.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 4:06 pm
You can't grasp the concept that Philly is 12% of the state's population but only pays 9% of the state's income tax??? And presumably uses the same amount of services? But we all know otherwise, right? If you account for what the state pays to incarcerate criminals from Philly and feed welfare queens from Philly, we are probably a fair bit higher than 12% in expenditures.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 10, 2014 6:58 pm
Yes, and likewise the top 10% of income earners in 2010 paid 70% of the income tax in the U.S., up from 55% in 1986. I do believe there was a tax cut in there for this group too otherwise it might be higher. I guess that makes the rest of us "slackers". Mainstream ref CNN: What don't you get about how this happens? I guess we "slackers" made the income gap?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:35 pm
Actually, you are in the top 10%, so stop griping.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 1:38 pm
You would love that wouldn't you. Shift Philly's costs to everyone else in the state. Forget it. Philly needs to get its financial house in order. That starts with the SDP tightening its belt through concessions from the PFT. Actually, the PFT will be the last ones contributing, since everyone else already has.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 10, 2014 4:56 pm
have a great idea for how the SDP can tighten its belt. Repeal Act 46 and give the governance of the schools back to the city. You want Philly to take responsibility? Great. Help us get the state off our backs, forcing us to fund charter schools that break the rules by going over their limits and charging us for it. As for the teachers, they already are working without a contract and even offered to freeze all raises, while paying their share for health benefits. Asking them to give back 13% of their salaries is unreasonable. Would you take a 13% paycut plus an increase in insurance premiums? The SRC would also ask them to increase class size and stay in the school building longer without any raise. So it is OK with you to demand more work without compensation. You yourself would rebel against such a demand but it is OK to do it to teachers? Would you encourage any of your own children to become teachers and work under such conditions? Who would?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 10, 2014 4:58 pm
The SRC should use its legal authority under Act 46 to impose pay, conditions, etc. That's the only way costs are going to be brought under control. If you can't live with the deal that can be afforded, go find employment elsewhere.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 11, 2014 9:51 am
Since when did we become a dictatorship? The SRC is a poltically appointed group with allegiances to their mentors and special interests. It is beyond outrageous to suggest that they be given unilateral authority to impose wages and working conditions on professional workers. And especially to make up for losses due to mismanagement, corruption and graft. I don't teach but if your suggestions were implemented you would indeed see an exodus of certified teachers and a reduction in the number of candidates for the teaching profession. But that fits ideally into the new paradigm of :"teacher proof" education. Just stick the kids in front of computers all day long and have it all programmed for easy scoring. Just don't call it school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:10 pm
The workplace is not a democracy. You have workers and you have bosses. You don't get to make your own rules. If you don't like the way you are treated, you can leave and find employment elsewhere.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 12:19 pm
Which is what you will say to every worker fighting for better conditions. The result will be lowering of living standards and the deepening of the economic crisis as a result. Your philosophy is a race to the bottom for workers in this country. Look at any underdeveloped country and see the misery the vast majority of their population is in. That is what you want for the United States.
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:40 pm
Sure. Raise taxes on us to line your pockets and our lives will be better.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:13 pm
Check your facts. Act 46 does NOT allow the SRC to impose salary.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 8:33 pm
You better check again, because it does.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 11, 2014 9:46 pm
A contract is a contract is a contract. Then again, the SRC suspended part of the state education code. Ergo, it could probably do anything at this point.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 9:45 pm
Can somebody point out the exact wording in act 46 that says that the SRC may impose salary conditions? All I've seen is it saying it may do so when a district is first determined to be in distress. That time has long since passed, as several new contracts have been agreed to. see: "If upon the termination of a collective bargaining agreement in effect **on the date of the declaration of distress** under this section a new collective bargaining agreement has not been ratified, the School Reform Commission shall establish a personnel salary schedule to be used until a new agreement is ratified." To me, that implies 1 single CBA., the one in effect at the declaration of distress, no? Or am I missing something.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 9:29 pm
The only other section that deals with compensation says that there shall be no increase "solely to fulfill" sub-paragraphs 1 and 2, which deal with the length of the school day/year. I.E., the union could not force a salary bump in exchange for a longer day and/or year. But it does not say they can "decrease" or impose whatever salaries they want, in any situation. To me, the SRC could unilaterally force a longer day/year and call it a day. The union could not force increased compensation for having to work longer. But the SRC could not just say, "here, this is your new pay".
Submitted by Education Grad ... on February 8, 2014 11:33 pm
This Ready to Learn initiative is a bunch of garbage that Corbett pulled out of his butt in order to appeal to suburban voters who have been upset with his cuts to education over the past three years. He may be able to assuage enough of them into voting for him that he will be re-elected. Of course, he knows he won't win over many Philadelphians, so Philadelphia continues to get the short end of the stick. He's a callous, self-interested politician who lacks the moral compass to do what is right for ALL children, instead allowing business interests (e.g. natural gas companies, Vahan Gureghian) and his hatred of unions to dictate his policies. Holding $45 million dollars hostage contingent on union concessions is the same kind of political gamesmanship that Chris Christie is under investigation for with the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Submitted by tom-104 on February 9, 2014 12:43 am
Good point about Corbett holding school funds hostage and Christie's scandal with the GWBridge scandal. Actually, Corbett's holding the $45 million hostage is far worse. Impacting the education of thousands of students is far worse then messing with traffic.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on February 9, 2014 8:45 am
EGS--No, they're NOT the same at all. Annoying people deliberately with traffic issues, is typical garbage of politicians but deliberately abusing children is not typical and is reserved for semi primates of rare form like Hitler and Joey Stalin. Lumping Christie and Corbett together lets Corbett off the hook to a degree. By the way, Gleason was 100% on board too which should haunt him forever. These are NOT regular folks. They are scum bags who have an uphill climb to get to the bottom as they say in South Philly. They even give scum bags a bad name.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 9, 2014 11:14 am
Christie has also harmed public schools - look who he placed in power in Newark and Camden.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on February 9, 2014 12:44 pm
Yes, you are right. JK
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 11:37 pm
Useful money that must be spent on useless programs. REAL HELPFUL, TOM.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 9:05 pm
Obviously written years ago but very helpful:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 11, 2014 9:06 pm
(3) A collective bargaining agreement for professional employees entered into after the expiration of the agreement in effect on the date of the declaration of distress shall provide for the following: (i) A school day for professional employees that is equal to or exceeds the State average .... (ii) The number of instructional days shall be equal to or exceed the State average number of instructional days. (iii) The School Reform Commission shall not increase compensation for employees solely to fulfill the requirements under subparagraphs (i) and (ii). See, it says it shall not "increase", does not say it may decide compensation will be whatever it feels like. Am I missing something?
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