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CONGRATULATIONS, CANDIDATES! THANKS, VOTERS! ON TO 2018!

To view Week or Agenda (list) format, click at top right. To see details, click on event; to close details, click on the x or (Agenda view) click again on event. Submit events or changes here. Plans can change; check before attending. These are events organized by CCDC and its zones, campaigns and elected officials. (See separate progressive calendar here.)

Plenty to reform around here!

Excerpt from “The Best- and Worst-Run States in America: A Survey of All 50” by Samuel Stebbins and Evan Comen, 24/7 Wall St., December 6, 2017. Sad to say, only Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico and Louisiana rank lower than our own once-fair Commonwealth, which is described thusly:

46. Pennsylvania
2016 Unemployment: 5.4% (9th highest)
Pension funded ratio: 55.8% (5th lowest)
Credit rating and outlook: Aa3/Stable
Poverty: 12.9% (23rd lowest)

Pennsylvania is one of only three states with no money saved to close budget gaps in the event of declining tax revenue. And this will likely be a problem in the coming years as the state’s tax base is eroding. Nearly 11,000 more people left Pennsylvania in 2016 than moved in.

A dwindling population does little to spur economic growth. Pennsylvania’s GDP expanded by only 0.6% in 2016, even as the U.S. economy grew by 1.5%. The Keystone State’s need for improved economic conditions is more dire than most states’ as evidenced by the relative the share of workers out of a job. Pennsylvania’s 5.4% unemployment rate is higher than the 4.9% U.S. rate and among the 10 worst of all states.

Moore, Trump put local Republicans at severe risk

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times of Chester County, Dec 9th, 2017

As we head into the 2018 election season, we see that the two major political parties find themselves at crossroads, with one party seemingly finding its roots after years of wandering and pandering and another so lost, to as be unrecognizable from just a few years ago.

For Democrats, heading into 2018 with a wind at their back — and locally, the biggest series of wins in party history — it seems like a party that had been co-opted by corporate America has found its roots, grabbing back the mantle of populism (thanks to a giant assist from Republicans), blue-collar workers, the middle class, minorities and so on. Basically, everyone but rich white folks.

Democrats will likely continue excessive navel gazing — as is their wont — but seem to have found a foundation in embracing the old-time ethos of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson of lifting up and protecting the least of our citizens to build a stronger, fairer America. A new generation of leaders seems to be emerging — more and more quickly would be better – that better represents America.

They’re also backstopped by organized labor, which seems to be finally making a comeback after four decades of erosion (which, with some validity, they point to as the beginning of the assault on the middle class). Unions are again beginning to get toe holds in places where they had previously been shut out — and at the same time seem to be working to stem the tide of rank and file members voting for Republicans such as Donald Trump, such votes being a key factor in Trump winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the 2016 elections.

They appear to be raising more money and looking to put more resources into the 2018 election cycle. We’ll see how effective that is, but it is worth watching.

Meanwhile, there’s the Republican Party.

Just a few years ago, the GOP stood for fiscal conservatism, social conservatism and family values.

Now? Not so much….

keep reading at The Times of Chester County

Tell your state lawmakers to OPPOSE SB 2, legislation that would bring a new generation of Betsy DeVos’s school vouchers called education savings accounts (ESAs) to PA

[The Senate Education Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, December 12th at 10:30 am in Room 8E-A in the East Wing of the Harrisburg Capitol to vote (again) on a very disturbing bill. From Chester County, that Committee includes Sen Andy Dinniman; share your thoughts with Sen. Dinniman on his site or at 717-787-5709 (your thoughts do count, and get counted and cited).

This bill is part of an ongoing Republican effort to sabotage public education (of which the ballot question that passed last month was an integral part). SB 2 would take money away from the school districts that most need it and turn it over to non-public schools. If legislators want to help students, they should adequately fund public schools, not take away their money! And let us not think that Chester County, whose schools are among the best in the state, would be unaffected; rather, any student from anywhere in the state could bring ESA (voucher) status to Chester County and attend a private or religious school at the expense of the very public school system that could be meeting the student’s needs. See the part in red below.]

Below is from Education Voters of PA at The Action Network

SB 2 proposes to create a new and costly government entitlement program that will take taxpayer money out of public schools and give it to parents to spend on private school tuition and other educational expenses. Under SB 2, families whose children attend or have attended a low-performing school* will receive an education savings account (ESA) filled with taxpayer money if they withdraw their child from public school. Funding for ESAs would be subtracted from the state funding a student’s school district receives and put into an ESA for that student’s family to spend.

ESAs will drain desperately-needed funding from public schools and reduce access to educational opportunities for all students in order to fund the private education of a few.

ESAs enshrine discrimination against Pennsylvania’s children into law. ESAs enable the resegregation of public schools and allow private schools accepting taxpayer dollars to discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, and disability status. Students with disabilities, if they are permitted to enroll in a private school, must give up their rights under Federal law to an appropriate education.

ESAs are designed to benefit wealthy families, not families with low or modest incomes. The amount of funding a family receives in an ESA in many cases will not be enough to cover the full tuition at a private school.

ESAs are expensive to administer and financial oversight and accountability are limited, leaving taxpayer dollars ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse. Arizona, which has had ESAs for 6 years, has seen families use ESA funding to make non-educational purchases and other fraud. Once families spend these taxpayer dollars, it is almost impossible to recover them.

ESAs can impact any school district, not just districts with low performing schools. A student who receives an ESA is eligible for an ESA for the rest of his K-12 school career, regardless of school district he lives in. When students with ESAs move, their new school districts will have state funding reduced by the amount that is deposited into the student’s ESA.

There is no academic oversight or accountability for private schools that would receive public funding. SB 2 does not require private schools to administer state assessments or require any regulation or oversight over the education that private schools provide students.

It is deeply troubling that instead of focusing on adequately funding public schools, which educate 90% of PA’s students and are open to every child, many lawmakers are instead working to advance the agenda of the school privatization lobby, which will create more costs for taxpayers and even deeper deprivation for students in public schools.

Please contact your legislators today and urge them to oppose SB 2.

*Low performing schools are those that are in the bottom 15% of performers based on PSSA and Keystone exam scores. These do not include charter schools or career and technical education centers.

Grad students say GOP provision will tax them out of school

by Aubrey Whelan, philly.com, 12/8/17

Katie Warczak has had a productive first year in her graduate program at Penn State University.

She taught a class of undergraduates, landed a coveted spot on a research project, and got accepted into her department’s Ph.D. program. But these days the student of 20th century American literature is focusing more and more on something far afield from her area of expertise: the tax bill moving through Congress.

That’s because, if a single provision in the House version of the bill makes it into the final law, Warczak says she’ll likely have to leave school. She won’t be able to afford the taxes.

Large universities’ infrastructures depend in part on the work of graduate students, who pay taxes on the small stipends they get for teaching classes and conducting research. But competitive schools like Penn State generally sweeten the deal by waiving their tuition fees, too.

It’s money that grad students say never actually makes its way into their wallets. But it’s money the House has proposed taxing as income, in a move that tax experts say would upend the finances of students who, in many cases, are cash-strapped as it is.

A doctoral student with a $15,000-per-year stipend and a tuition waiver of $40,000 could end up paying as much as $5,000 more in taxes….

keep reading at philly.com