Donna Cooper - "Current status of Pennsylvania children's education with an emphasis on the public education crisis in Philadelphia"
At our October 16, 2014 meeting Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) and former Secretary of Policy and Planning for Governor Rendell, addressed the subject that continues to dominate the political scene in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania: the education of our children.
The State's General Fund financial statements were presented for YR 2010-11 and YR 2011-12, with yearend balances of $1,072,863 and $ 695.051 respectively. Despite this surplus, the allocations to our public schools were cut. The expiration of the Stimulus Funds has been stated for the reason for these cuts. This was the first statewide cut in funds to our education system in 40 years.
This past term the State legislature passed a budget which failed to restore the $1 billion in cuts to public education. In order to make up for the lack of funds from Harrisburg it has been necessary for districts to phase out important programs and basic services such as school counselors and nurses as well as adequate text books and supplies. At the present time, despite the new $ 2.00 cigarette tax in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia School Districts has $2,500 less per student than the average students in neighboring districts. Estimates indicate to adequately cover this statewide defunding could be as high as $3 billion.
Ms Cooper reviewed the outcome of a Charter School performance audit on those seeking renewal and it was found "wanting". Studies have shown that while they receive a larger proportion of funding per student, accountability and oversight is lacking,
PCCY has launched a new campaign 'Fresh Start' to level the playing field. It is a comprehensive approach involving fair school funding, fair taxes , pre- k education for all, and adequate training and support for educators to equip them with the skills necessary for the 21st century.
Donna spoke to some specifics of the funding (or lack of) in Philadelphia and remarked it is time to recognize that it takes 43% more to teach 'a poor kid' and 80% more to teach a non English speaking child. She advocated for a formula that represents what it actually costs a school district, per child, to provide the services which will ensure that we meet the State Academic Standards, better oversight of our Charter Schools, identifying new sources of revenue, decreasing pressure on the Districts by dropping the yearly student testing and going to a two year model, and provide better educational and professional development support to our teachers.
PCCY is also calling on all PA citizens to become better informed and involved to insure a quality public education for our children. For more information on the steps PCCY is taking to advocate for children and youth in Philadelphia, and across the State, and how you can become involved, visit their website: pccy.org
- 16 Oct 2014
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