Monthly Archives: June 2013

New Poll: School Funding Cuts Are Top Concern for Pa. Voters…

PRESS RELEASE June 24, 2013 from Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (download at PBPC)

New Poll: School Funding Cuts Are Top Concern for Pa. Voters Who Believe New Revenue from Individuals and Corporations Is Part of the Solution

HARRISBURG, PA (June 24, 2013) — Education and funding for public schools is a top concern among Pennsylvania voters, outpacing other issues like transportation, taxes and jobs that have dominated debate in Harrisburg, according to a new poll of Pennsylvania voters commissioned by Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

“Elected officials should carefully examine the fact that all voters, and especially women who vote, are as concerned about the cuts to public schools as they are about the economy,” said Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. “That’s a remarkable change in public opinion and speaks to a very high level of public concern for what’s happening to our schools. Small funding increases that force up local property taxes to protect schools are not going to satisfy Pennsylvania voters.”

The poll finds Pennsylvania voters have a favorable impression of public schools, particularly those in their own neighborhood, and have serious concerns about cuts in school funding. Voters remain deeply concerned about schools even after hearing statements that education funding has increased and restoring more funding is unaffordable.

Majorities of those polled said they are willing to support increases in income or sales taxes to restore cuts to public schools and are more willing to do so if lawmakers hold off planned corporate tax reductions next year.

“Pennsylvanians are worried that our schools are in crisis,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “Across the commonwealth, schools have had to increase class size, cut full day kindergarten, music and the arts, all changes that the public doesn’t like and would be willing to pay more to avoid.”

“With so many of our schools facing catastrophic cuts, now is not the time to enact new tax cuts for businesses.” said Cooper. …

continue reading in the download and download the full report at PBPC

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New Charter Study Shows Improvement, Raises Questions

Diane Ravitch’s blog, June 25, 2013

CREDO, the organization at Stanford University that analyzes charter performance, released the results of its latest national study.

Its earlier report (2009) showed disappointing results for charter schools, with only 17% outperforming traditional public schools. This was especially disappointing for the Walton Family Foundation, one of the main backers of CREDO.

The new study shows that charters are doing better than in 2009. They typically get about the same results as public schools, with some performing better, others performing worse.

I will do my own analysis later but meanwhile this is the best review I have seen, by Stephanie Simon of Reuters.

Key quote: “25 percent of charters outperformed nearby schools at teaching reading, while 19 percent did worse, and 56 percent were about the same. In math, 29 percent of charters did better, 31 percent did worse, and 40 percent were on par.”

The report raises many questions, implicitly, to a critical reader. Why is it that charter schools are not vastly outperforming public schools? They have the ability to skim and exclude. They have the benefit of “peer effects,” since they can expel troublesome students and send them back to their public school. Nearly 90% are non-union. They can fire teachers at any time and offer performance bonuses if they wish. They do everything that “reformers” dream of, yet they are hardly different in test scores overall from public schools, which typically must take all children and do not have the support of the Obama administration, major corporations, big media, big foundations, and hedge fund managers. The fact that charters serve large numbers of black, Hispanic, and poor students does not mean they serve a representative sample of students with disabilities and English language learners (they don’t). To compare a school that can select its student body with one that cannot is inherently unfair. The fact that the public schools do as well as the charter schools, despite their advantages, is remarkable.

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Top Ten American Steps toward a Police State

by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 6/23/13

The police state, a term first coined in the mid-19th century in German (Polizeistaat), is characterized by a standing political police, by intense domestic surveillance and by restrictions on the movements of citizens. Police states are on a spectrum, and unfortunately in the past decade the Unite States has moved toward police-stateness in small but key ways. Here are the signs:

1. The United States National Security Administration recently requisitioned all Verizon phone records in the US for a period of 3 months. Your telephone records (who you called and for how long) say a great deal about you. This is a form of mass surveillance.

2. The US has assigned 250 NSA agents to sift through a massive further British database of US telecommunications and email, derived from attaching packet analyzers to transatlantic fiber optic cables.

3. The Federal government claims the right to examine the contents of the laptops of US citizens whenever the enter the United States, in contravention of the Fourth Amendment. Some 60 million Americans travel abroad annually.

4. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Those in prison have grown from 220 per 100,000 population to over 700 per 100,000 population since 1980. The US holds over two million inmates, and has 6 million people at any one time under carceral supervision– more than were in Stalin’s Gulag. State spending on prisons has risen at 6 times the rate of spending on higher education.

5. Some 6 million persons convicted of felonies have been disenfranchised and cannot vote. Most are not in prison. Because of the ‘war on drugs,’ many of these persons are not actually guilty of serious crimes. The practice hits the poor and minorities. Some 7 percent of African-Americans is ineligible to vote, but less than 2 percent of whites is.

6. Police can take DNA samples of all arrestees on serious crimes, whether they are proven guilty or not. Even Justice Scalia believes the ruling opens the door for DNA sample collection for all arrests. Some 13 million Americans are arrested annually, 1.6 million on drugs charges and half of those on marijuana charges.

7. American police are becoming militarized, with SWAT teams proliferating, and use of drones, GPS tracking devices, and military equipment, as well as participation of National Guards in the ‘war on drugs.’

8. Legislators are increasingly attempting to criminalize public protest, as with a current bill that would make it a crime knowingly to ‘trespass’ in security zones where persons are found who are under secret service protection. Authorities have sometimes also attempted to restrict public protesters to “protest zones”, thus keeping them out of the view of news cameras.

9. The USA PATRIOT Act institutes gag orders that are a violation of the 1st Amendment,forbidding persons and companies from revealing that the government has secretly asked for surveillance records.

10. The same act allows government agencies (including the Pentagon) to issue “National Security Letters” without any warrant, making broad and unspecific demands for records on large numbers of persons.

See Informed Comment for links

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Filed under Rights, Justice, Law

The Fight over Gun Control: Tracking Delaware County’s illegal firearms

By JOHN KOPP, Delco Times, 6/25/13

Third in a six-part series on gun issues in Delaware County.

Jonathan Abdur Rahim King spends portions of his day seeking out youth in Chester, providing a listening ear and, at times, a guiding hand.

As part of the Brothers of Concern, a grassroots organization that leads various anti-violence efforts, King is trying to reach troubled youth in hopes that he can help steer them toward a productive lifestyle.

“My targeted crowd is the worst ones out there in the streets,” King said. “The ones that have been expelled from school. The ones that don’t have a job. The ones that are borderline homeless and on their way to jail (or) coming home from jail. That’s my targeted crowd.”

His targeted crowd also includes many people who illegally brandish firearms and engage in the gun violence that annually leaves 20-plus Chester residents murdered.

The national gun control debate primarily has focused on background checks, assault weapon bans and ammunition limits. At the county level, however, officials are taking a closer examination at the role illegal firearms play in the gun violence that persists in Chester and other hotspots throughout Delaware County.

King said illegally owned guns are “very prevalent” in the city. He likened guns to tattoos in that they are stylish demonstrations of stature. Big guns bring the owner more clout, he said.

“The bigger the gun, the bigger you are,” King said. “They got guns out here I have no clue how they got them. We’ve got all kinds of guns on the streets, but the big gun is always the gun that people are impressed with….

continue reading at Delco Times

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Filed under Guns, violence, crime