Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PSEA Report: Low-Income Students Hit Hardest by Education Cut

September 3, 2014 - Tom Joseph, Public News Service (PA)

PHOTO: A new report from the state's largest public employees' union says Pennsylvania schools with the fewest resources have taken the biggest hits in terms of state education cuts. Photo credit: George Hodan/Publicdomainpictures.net.
PHOTO: A new report from the state's largest public employees' union says Pennsylvania schools with the fewest resources have taken the biggest hits in terms of state education cuts. Photo credit: George Hodan/Publicdomainpictures.net.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The impact of budget cuts on education in Pennsylvania is being felt in schools across the state - but most notably in districts with the highest needs and lowest incomes, according to a new report from the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

PSEA president Michael Crossey said the findings reinforce evidence that the fallout from trimming $1 billion from education during the Corbett administration includes drops in reading and math scores on state tests across all schools in grades 3 through 6.

"In the years right before Gov. Corbett took office, funding for education was up 39 percent and test scores went up 54 percent," Crossey said. "Now, we're looking at school funding is down significantly, and we're starting to see drops in test scores. There is a correlation."

Corbett has defended education cuts, blaming a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall that existed when he took office.

Crossey said a major stumbling block for education in Pennsylvania is the lack of a formal blueprint on how education dollars are divided among districts.

"We need to create a funding formula for our schools that, one, drives more adequacy to funding; and also, we need to talk about more equitable funding," he said.

Crossey said the report concluded that the Corbett approach to funding has undermined progress made in education in Pennsylvania. He said he believes future strategies should work to reverse that trend.

"We need to, as a state, decide that we're going to educate every child," Crossey said. "No matter how poor they are, they deserve an education and they deserve a chance at a good life, no matter where they live."

The report also found cuts to the most impoverished school districts averaged three times the size of cuts to higher-income districts, and that the student-to-teacher ratios are higher in the poorest districts as well.

The full report is online at psea.org.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Report Indicates State of Working PA Isn’t Working So Well

 
Tom Joseph, Public News Service

Job growth and economic growth remain major challenges for Pennsylvania, according the 2014 State of Working Pennsylvania report from the Keystone Research Center. Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net.
Job growth and economic growth remain major challenges for Pennsylvania, according the 2014 State of Working Pennsylvania report from the Keystone Research Center. Photo courtesy ofpublicdomainpictures.net.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania isn't making the grade in terms of job growth and economic growth in a just-
released study from the Keystone Research Center.

The 2014 State of Working Pennsylvania report gives the state a D-minus for job growth. Dr. Mark Price, labor economist with the KRC, says cuts to education in recent years have played a major role in Pennsylvania's struggles.

"You're trying to recover from a deep recession, like the Great Recession," Price says. "And then right in the middle of that recovery you get these waves of layoffs that end up being a drag on job growth; it was a drag on consumer spending and ultimately on economic growth."

The report also gave the state a B-minus for the drop in its unemployment rate since 2011, and a D-plus for its dip in underemployment. Pennsylvania received a grade of C-minus for its change in  median-hourly earnings from 2010 to 2013.

Price says passage of the $2.3 billion transportation bill helped spur job growth in the first six months of the year, but he says the move could have, and should have come earlier as timing has been an issue in the state's efforts to gain economic traction.

"There have been a lot of policy missteps, from just deliberately bad things that were done," Price says. "Laying off public sector workers, but also delays that really hurt us because we could have had faster growth earlier."

Moving forward, Price says state lawmakers need to bear in mind policies, such as Medicaid expansion, that hold huge upsides for the economy.

"That is going to be a windfall for the state, and that's certainly going to boost job growth," says Price. "We certainly would like to see more investment in infrastructure and focus on things like shale extraction and raising the tax so it's equal to what is charged in other states."

That, he says, is a good way to raise revenue.