Someone has made off with our money again. Is there no end to the need to screw taxpayers and children in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Most people say that there are always two sides to every story. This time there are two faces (see Batman).
The legislature and the Governor of Pennsylvania have been trying to shovel money to the many private and religious schools for many years. It is especially true of the Catholic schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Commonwealth has actually gone to court over this issue and has lost. Now they have found a great way to shovel truckloads of dough into the private schools and religious schools and charter and cyber schools, but pretending that they are helping public schools.
They call this initiative, Choice, and they are looney about it. Actually the choice is for privateers in education, large companies in Pennsylvania and private and parochial schools. They believe that parents of students will vote with their feet and leave for these other entities.
Here is the way the new EITC 2.0 works. In 2001 a law was passed that allowed private companies to give donations to 501c3’s around the Commonwealth to distribute millions of dollars to private schools to use to tutor students among other things. Actually, some public schools got some of that money. This dough was than written off as a tax credit for the companies. Here’s the new one. You can donate as much as $450,000 and get a 90% state tax break. The money is doled out to the foundations that have been established and they can give out the new money, $50 mil in clumps of $8,500 for a regular education student and $15,000 for a special ed. youngsters.
Now let’s see who is eligible for these “Scholarships ( Vouchers Lite or Supervoucheers). You have to be in a family with earnings of 185% of the poverty level. That would be about $70,000 plus an additional $12,000 for each dependent above that family of four. You must also live in a “failing school” of which there are 412 in the state. Where could you go? Students who are already in private and parochial schools are eligible. Students in regular public schools who want to transfer (because they are in one of the failing schools) will have a hard time going anywhere. Receiving schools do not have to take you. There enough excuses in the law for not taking a student that you could drive a large truck through.
So, once again, where could you go? How about back to your failing school? Now if you are a company that can afford to donate $450,000 (and $750,000) next year, you are in hog heaven. Besides the 90% off the top of your state tax, you may deduct contributions on your federal income tax. That seems like a great idea. Not sure if the IRS is aware of this stuff yet.
Sounds like you are being made-off with to the tune of $50,000,000 and moneyfor the original program EITC 1.0 ( Education Investment Tax Credit). How much more can we have our state government steal from us? You figure it out.
At the end of the movie Things to come (based on HG Wells’s book The shape of things to come), there is a very prescient scene that applies to our modern times. In the book and movie, the world is destroyed by war (a prediction of WWII in the mid 1930’s). The scientists take over the world leadership and make a beautiful world. At the end of the story, the scientists decide to send a rocket to the moon with two young people in it. Crowds of demonstrators don’t want this to happen. Their leader asks if we need any more of this progress. Why are we continuing to do all of these things? Hasn’t there been enough progress?
“Hofstadter’s signal work on Anti-intellectualism in America 1964(Pulitzer Prize) described three kinds of anti-intellectualism that still exist today. (1) “religious antirationalism,” the view that emotion is warm (that is, good) and reason cold (bad), an outlook often complemented by absolute systems of belief (primarily conservative Protestantism); (2) “populist anti-elitism,” public skepticism first of the patrician class of “gentlemen politicians” and old money (which still flares up, as against George H. W. Bush) and later public hostility toward progressive politics and support of such figures as Joe McCarthy or George Wallace; and (3) “unreflective instrumentalism,” beliefs and behavior indicating that knowledge is worthless unless it immediately and directly leads to material gain, such as profits or higher salaries and wages.”
Are these not still around today? How about the raft of religious fervor that exists in many parts of the country today. Isn’t it true that it is hard to combat this kind of “anti-rationalism” when your whole life is based on your faith? It is the never ending argument of St. Thomas Aquinas of truth of faith versus truth of reason. It is the religion of John Calvin brought into the 21st century. Rational thought is wrong. It is now being banned in Texas. There will no longer be any curriculum that teaches the higher order of thinking like; synthesis, analysis, creative thinking and so on. Yes it is now a mandate.
Think of the states and communities that have banned the teaching of evolution in favor of the teaching of “creationism science or intellectual design.” This is not the first time that this has happened. Remember the three presidential campaigns of Williams Jennings Bryan. He almost became president. The Scopes Monkey Trial maybe 100 years ago, but it is till the battle cry of many people.When Henry Ford made his famous statement, “History is bunk,” he had many supporters around the nation.
The 1950’s were rife with suspicion of the intellectualism of people like Adlai Stevenson, and later of Eugene McCarthy. They more preferred the iconic Joseph McCarthy who unearthed communists in every part of our society. George Wallace also attracted those kinds of adherents in the 1960’s, although he spoke to a crowed of avowed racists. Strange that so many of these “communists “were members of the intellectual elite. Those kinds of feelings still exist today. President Obama is seen as too professorial, uses too many big words. The strange thing is that Mitt Romney is seen as a patrician, with blue blood flowing through his veins. He is not trusted by the Tea Partiers or those who see themselves as anti-intellectuals.
Unreflective instrumentalism, the labeling of knowledge as worthless as long as it does not lead to something productive, inventions that affect or day to day life, a health giving product, material wealth, or a new electronic device or time saver. IN the race to the moon, the aftermath is littered with “How come we spent so much money going to the moon?” Where did it get us? Now there are even those who believe we did not go there. Each discovery or invention, such as the Higgs Boson has to have some practical meaning. Why else would you do something like that- just to do it?
I guess I have been going to flea markets since 1963. Growing up on the lower East Side of Manhattan, I had never encountered one. When I moved to Cheltenham in 1963, I became aware of signs along certain roads that told of flea markets. I truly had no idea what they were. I am still not sure why they call them that.
As I grew older (not necessarily wiser), I began to notice a distinct difference in the kinds of flea markets that there were. They seemed to fall into distinct groups depending on their locations, and the kind of goods that they had for sale.
The first category is an outside flea market that is so large that you cannot get through it in one day. I have seen these in Virginia, Western North Carolina, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They are the good old folks selling everything that they can get their hands on- old toilet bowls, cracked pottery, baseball cards ( with little value), rusted tools and the like.
These flea markets are manned by just plain folks, who need a couple of bucks and want to clear out their front or back yards. They may even need the money for their day to day living expenses. The clientele at these places are usually local people who think that they can get a good bargain and not have to buy anything new. There also the collectors, who get there at 6:00 a.m. to steal all the good junk available.
Suburban flea markets are divided into two categories- the upscale and the downscale. The downscale is much smaller and has kind of 2nd hand city stuff that might not find their way into an upscale suburban dwelling. It consists of some farm goods, maybe some baked goods, moderate household goods, some tires, a large amount of second hand clothing and shoes and low end knick knacks.
The upper end flea has vendors dressed in nicer clothes. They are usually frequented by women who are looking for specific things for their children or their homes. There are many children’s things, like buggies, strollers, cribs, toys and boxes to Huggies. They also have major cosmetics, aftershave, and a number of quilts and other handmade things.
The large indoor flea market, such as those in Washington and Baltimore are the most upscale of all. They are mostly indoors and have many jewelry stands, antique furniture, coins, and handmade rugs from Middle Eastern Americans. These vendors are themselves, looking for things to buy and they leave their own stands to look for interesting things. The prices of each of these things are way above the standard for a flea market. You better have a good credit card of cash to come to one of these things.
It’s a long way from the original idea of the flea market. Some fleas even have people selling small personal items that are new, off brand and low cost. The vendors are normally Asian Americans. We have stratified flea markets and you can tell as soon as you walk around
Not sure what it’s like in your state, but here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we are suffering from the most unmitigated form of thievery since the days of Willie Sutton, the Robber Barons and Bernie Madoff. There was no excusing the aforementioned, but even now they have their supporters. The Robber Barons helped to move us into the modern age. Willie Sutton could not be held in jail and eventually became a legend. Bernie Madoff’s supporters blame the victims as being too stupid to know that they were getting too much in monetary rewards.
Now we have the most loathsome of all the crooks and I do mean crooks. They have wormed their way into the halls of government (described at the national level by Jack Abramoff) on our state level and probably yours. They disguise themselves as educational reformers. They are truly wolves in sheeps’ clothing. There is little that they will not do to put themselves at an advantage in placing taxpayers’ money in their slimy pockets. They claim that they are offering a “choice’ to parents of children that they claim are in inferior public schools.
Yet, they themselves also claim to be public schools. The only public that they are can be described as taking public monies and using them to their own benefit and profit.
Can you imagine how surprised I was when taking my daughter to the Popcorn Hat player’s rendition of “Stone Soup,” and seeing a full page advertisement for a cyber charter school on the back of the page. Can you believe that on the donations page was a gift of, at least $5,000 dollars to the foundation that runs the theater? If they are really public schools, how can they do that?
How can they do that? Well here’s how, the management company that runs them is not subject to the laws that govern public schools. Want to know what else they are exempt from- how about accountability, transparency, auditing, Sunshine laws and so many more. Even though the legislature just passed new teacher evaluation laws, the teachers in cyber and charter schools are exempt.
An auditor general’s report, recently make public says that cyber and charter schools should be audited with no exceptions and that these entities should be treated at public schools. There are so many things wrong with these places that there are currently 19 state and federal investigations going on right now.
The latest news from these investigations is the FBI raiding the offices of the PA Cyber School (one of the state’s oldest, if not THE oldest). The school was run by a former school superintendent of a Beaver County school district. He has been getting dough from many districts in PA for his “education program.” He also built a 23million dollar performing arts center. There is so much wrong with this activity that it will take years to unravel it.
So it is with many other of these cyber and charter schools. The costs are now over 1 billion dollars to the taxpayers (a word I am not fond of, because so many people are not taxpayers, as are kids). There is even double dipping in pension costs, and a severe lack of any oversight.
The state ( current administration) does not want to change any of this and, in fact, wants to take over the approval of cyber and charter schools at the state level( I wonder why) and make direct payments to these entities, bypassing any kind of local control.
How can this be? All we need to know is who the largest donators are to our legislative leaders, the Governor, and other important folks. That would be the management companies who run these “schools.” Are they really public schools? This question was asked of Diane Ravitch (see her blog) and she also thinks the only public component is the public money that they get.
Let’s assume that all of this falderal results in innovative education that gives students the ability to succeed in their studies. Le t us assume that children are coming out of these “schools,” with higher SAT scores and better scores on state tests. That would be wonderful if it is true. Yes, that is true for a precious few of these schools (some of which are run by school districts and Intermediate Units), but the overwhelming majority of them are doing poorly.
Many of the SAT scores are in the 300’s on both reading and Math. Can you believe we are being jocked out of one billion dollars worth of taxpayer money and the results are worse than the schools where these kids come from?
How about labeling of kids? If the kids are special education youngsters, there is more money attached. So what do you think these entities do? How about taking more labeling and more special education children? We have always had the best special education programs in the nation up to this point. We pioneered special education. The PARC consent decree was the landmark case in special ed. in the nation. Now we will take those kids out of award winning programs and send them to schools without those kinds of credentials.
Yes, folks, you are being screwed royally, by an administration and leadership in the legislature who can be proud of their leadership. The last two speakers of the House of Representatives share a cell at the Camp Hill prison.
We have five grandchildren, each one as different as you can imagine. We spent one week with our eldest, visiting schools and discovered that he is older than his sixteen years would signify. He now has a license and drives by himself with no supervision.
Our other grandchildren, Jack (10), Paige (12 almost) and Logan (13) are at sleep away camp and are doing fine. That means, that Miss Cassidy was given an opportunity to go to Camp Grandma-Grandpa for four days.
Cassidy tends to take after my side of the family. She is a pleasant wise guy (“Focus Grandpa, focus) and a real extrovert. She loves to meet new people and then asks us a million questions afterward about where they come from, their job and their family situation.
She is also a clever craftswoman. She draws nicely, invents all kinds of cards and designs and loves to work with Grandwa (the spelling is a long story ) on cooking- jello molds, zucchini bread, tacos and such, as well as general household chores ( such as making the bed).
When one of our neighbors came to our Passover service, she was shocked at this seven year old’s ability to read some of the Passover story and to clear the table.
She is not always a perfect child. She is so aware of her surroundings that she is wont to be somewhat critical of the happenings. She is not fond of my singing or my Gene Kelly-like dancing. When she is really in a good mood, she emulates me and grandwa as we portray the lighter side of our personality.
She loves silly poems and Danny Kaye songs, especially the poison in the pellet in the vessel with the pestle and not in the chalice with the palace or the flagon with the dragon. That’s the kind of stuff that send her into paroxysm of laughter.
Above all, like our other grandchildren, she is a good soul and very caring. We congratulate our children for the wonderful job that they have done with their children. Carol and I are very proud of them all.
Just came back from a week in Chatauqua, N.Y. It’s the kind of place that we should all go to once a year to get out our frustrations. It is a kind of summer camp for older people. It was created in the latter part of the 19th century by a preacher and a businessman. It was meant to entertain, to educate and to bring spirituality to those who attended.
The first Chatauqua (known as the mother) is set on a lake in Northwestern New York State. A friend and his wife had been there a number of times before and invited us this year. It really was a blast. We saw Jim Lehrer there for five of the seven days, heard jazz, took a course on constitutional issues, ate some good food, heard a great jazz singer and musician and generally got away from the humdrum world.
What struck me about the week was the almost complete absence of criticism of our country. Jim Lehrer and his guests were not bashing the U.S. on any level. We had no protest singing, no mudslinging, no discourse about how our children will never reach our own economic levels and that sort of thing.
What the heck is wrong with us on a daily basis? How come we do so well in comparison to most countries and still think we are going down the tubes. At Chatauqua, I learned that our constitution is the model for 100 countries in the world. Isn’t that something to be proud of? Ours was the first constitution and it has lasted 225 years. That’s not too bad.
Who has fomented all this self hatred and for what reason? There is no real need to be a Pollyanna about the U.S., but by darn, we are doing quite well, thank you, in comparison to everyone else. Are we now emulating some of Mao’s self criticism camps of the 1950’s and 60’s?
There have got to be people who profit from all of these negative remonstrances. They probably have something to sell- programs, products, services, goods and so on. I think I have a way of countering this negative feeling about our country. I can tell you that I tried it and it worked. Turn off your t.v., or go somewhere where it is not on. Turn of your computer and the browser and email section of your phone. Don’t read any newspapers, blogs or listen to any news or talk radio. Listen to some music, or read some mind flush books.
Best of all- get together with your family- children, parents, grandchildren, cousins, aunts and uncles. They will do more than comfort you. They will put you on an even keel even if some of them are psychotic.