Wealthy School Districts Saw No Change to State Aid From Corbett

Mikhail Zinshteyn says Tom Corbett made a choice to cut more aid to poor school districts than wealthy school districts:

After looking at budgeting priorities of various states, Baker noticed that more federal funding fed into short comes in dollar streams allocated to wealthier districts than poor districts. Once Pennsylvania’s share of the $48.3 billion states received in 2009 through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) dried up, more money was cut from poorer districts while wealthier ones saw no change in state contributions to their education costs. “They’ve hammered the poor districts with [a] warped shell game,” he said.

By analogy, Baker offered this explanation to The American Independent:

For example, let’s say I have a family assistance program, where poor families get a total allocation of $800 per family per year for food assistance, and rich families still get $100 (even though they don’t need it.) Let’s say we’ve only got two families in the system, one rich and one poor. Because of a recession, my state funding is $200 short this year, but the feds give me a stimulus of $200 to replace it. I could use my $700 in state money for the poor family, and given $100 each in federal money to each family. I’ve still honored my formula which is intended to yield $800 for the poor family and $100 for the rich one.

But, what [Corbett] did was to say that the poor family got $200 in [federal] money and $600 in state money and the rich family got $100 in state money. So, when the fed money is gone, the rich family still gets $100 in state money and the poor family gets $600 in state money – but $200 less than the previous year.

The next twist was to give the rich family $102 in state money the next year, and give the poor family $612 the next year, so each got a 2% increase in state money, but the rich family actually gets a $2 increase and the poor family gets a $188 cut in total funding.

The Grammar Police May Be Wrong, But Knowing Standard English Is Important

Bill White lets his pro-Grammar Police readers respond, and the arguments range from the completely insane (“English is on such a downward spiral, I think people have to defend it.”) to the utilitarian: (“People, rightly or wrongly (I think rightly), make certain judgments about others based on the ability to communicate effectively.”)

I have a lot of sympathy for the second point, despite my distaste for grammar policing. The right way to understand this is that even though there’s nothing to dislike about language qua language (it’s always about who is using the language), it’s still the case that people do judge you based on your language, so that’s got to be our starting point.

The most important thing to do is to teach kids how and when to use the Standard English variant that we expect them to be using for professional communications, job interviews, meeting important people, etc. Teaching them about code-switching in this way will get them thinking about the difference between the variants they use to signal membership with their peers, and the variants to use when they want to be taken seriously by adults. But it shouldn’t be any more prescriptive than that. Different groups are always going to invent new variants to signal membership, and there’s no use losing sleep about that. There’s no moral degradation taking place.

Here’s a fun animated history of English that sheds some light on how languages evolve:

The Kids Are All Right

Even though Jacob Allen lost his primary to a bad dude, he was the only person who applied to fill John Marino’s vacant seat, so he’s in. Eric Mark has the story:

Jacob Allen morphed from student to graduate to school board member — in less than two weeks.

Allen, 18, graduated from Nazareth Area High School earlier this month, and on Monday night became the newest — and youngest — member of the Nazareth Area School Board. He ran unsuccessfully for a board seat in the May primary.

Board members voted unanimously to appoint Allen to the seat formerly held by Dr. John A. Marino, who resigned last month after he moved out of the district’s “Region 1.”

If we’re not letting kids defend their interests by voting in school board elections – a lamentable policy in my view – then the next best thing is getting recent grad voices represented on the board.

25% of State Legislators Don’t Have a College Degree

No wonder state legislatures are such a reliable beachhead of corruption and bad public policy:

For the first time, The Chronicle has looked at where every state legislator in America went to college—or went at all. Starting with data from Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan research organization, and expanding the scope with extensive research into more than 1,000 individual legislators, we set out to see which is the least-educated legislature in America, which is the most educated, where all 7,000-plus legislators went to college, and why it may or may not matter.

In doing so, we got a glimpse of the citizens who hold these seats and how they—so much more than Congress—reflect the average American experience.

Like most American students, the vast majority of state legislators went to public colleges. And most of them stayed close to home. In Louisiana, four out of five legislators never went to college outside the state. Across the nation, many lawmakers attended community colleges. Over all, about one in four don’t have bachelor’s degrees.

Hooray for Sarah Bilotti!

Colin McEvoy’s report on the proposal for in-house child care in Easton’s schools tells us that Sarah Bilotti is a highly valuable, highly capable public servant:

The Easton Area School District is looking into whether it could provide before- and after-school day care at the elementary schools, rather than lease the buildings to outside corporations as has been done in the past…

Until recently, the question has focused on whether for-profit organizations should be allowed to provide daycare in district buildings, with proponents arguing against it due to liability concerns and the additional utilities and maintenance costs it could bring.

But board member Sarah Bilotti suggested last week the district check into providing day care themselves, claiming the revenue from participating households could not only cover the program’s costs, but generate additional revenue for the district.

“Debating what to charge outside agencies seems silly when we could be running these programs in-house,” Bilotti said. “There is obviously a profit to be made or for-profit companies would not be trying so hard to get their foot in the door.”

…A before- and after-school program formed last year at Greenwich Elementary School, where Bilotti works as principal, has generated $50,000 beyond the costs of the six employees hired to run the program, said Superintendent Maria Eppolite.

Allentown Wants in on Summer Hours

Steve Esack:

Under that budget proposal the district would seek to save between $10,000 and $15,000 on energy costs by taking Fridays off during the summer. Chief Financial Officer Trevor Jackson said the savings would come by shutting off air conditioners in all buildings when the four-day work week runs between June 27 and Aug. 12 for year-round administrators, secretaries and maintenance employees.

Joking aside, the plan to start school earlier and end earlier is a terrible, terrible idea:

Allen and Dieruff high schools would go in at 7:30 a.m. and get out at 2:40 p.m. Teachers would begin their work day 10 minutes before students’ arrival.

The biggest changes, however, would be in the middle schools because students would lose a class period.

The start time for sixth- seventh- and eighth-graders would be moved up five minutes to 7:50 a.m. School would end at 2:25 p.m., which means dismissal is 35 minutes earlier than the current schedule. Teachers would start at 7:05 a.m. to give them extra planning time that is needed under the district’s team teaching model, which integrates curriculum across disciplines

Most crimes committed by teenagers happen between when school gets out and when their parents get home. You’re just asking for more gang crimes with a policy like this. Teens also learn better when they’re allowed to sleep longer. What you really want to do is start the school day later and have kids get out at 5, close to when their parents get out of work.

Eating the Seed Corn

Michael Sokolove has a very good NYT piece on how Tom Corbett’s totally unnecessary budget cuts are going to roll back recent education gains in Levittown:

Fifty-one percent of Bristol Township’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch. When schools were first measured under the No Child Left Behind act, the district scored near the bottom of state rankings. Through smaller class sizes and more intense attention given to lagging students, it is now near the middle. “The knock on our schools was you couldn’t get a good education here,” James Moore, the principal at Truman High, told me one recent afternoon. “Nobody can say that anymore.”

It is that progress, though, that is threatened. In a preliminary budget passed by the school board, as many as 28 of the 125 teachers at Truman High could lose their jobs. Double periods for struggling math and English students — credited for the district’s better test scores — would no longer be possible. Advanced Placement courses might be combined with regular honors classes. Art and music at the elementary level would be cut back.