Education

Morning Must Reads: New Year, Same Old Economic Austerity

From November 2009 to November 2010, Pennsylvania added 63,300 jobs. From November 2010 to November 2011, the state added just 51,000.

Wait, isn't that backwards? Nope. A weak economy, the end of federal Recovery Act funds and state budget cuts slowed the pace of Pennsylvania job growth in the most recent year.

Morning Must Reads: Inequality of Opportunity in Politics and in Erie County

Thanks to the Occupy Movement, inequality has become a major issue in the Presidential campaign. While taking on the recent campaign developments, Paul Krugman does a nice job summing up what is wrong in America today.

Déjà vu All Over Again: Mid-year Cuts and a Budget Shortfall on Tap for 2012

Governor Tom Corbett will announce a new budgetary freeze before the end of the year to help resolve what the administration expects to be a $500 million revenue shortfall, according to Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, who gave the annual mid-year budget briefing on Tuesday. 

Secretary Zogby painted a grim picture, as expected. The current revenue shortfall of $345 million could grow even beyond the $500 million current estimate, according to Zogby, and growth in mandatory spending for pensions, debt service and the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) will contribute to a budget for 2012-13 that is short about $750 million.

The Commonwealth plans to resolve the revenue gap with additional cuts.

Third and State This Week: Corporate Tax Avoidance, Insurance Rate Review and Prevailing Wage

This week, we blogged about a new report on state tax avoidance by some of the largest U.S. corporations, how to really save money on public construction projects, and legislation that undermines the state’s ability to review most health insurance rate hikes.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: The Failure of School Choice and the Food Industry Eats Your Tax Dollars

An op-ed in The New York Times this morning points out that "school choice" has increased educational inequality.

If you want to see the direction that education reform is taking the country, pay a visit to my leafy, majority-black neighborhood in Washington. While we have lived in the same house since our 11-year-old son was born, he’s been assigned to three different elementary schools as one after the other has been shuttered. Now it’s time for middle school, and there’s been no neighborhood option available.

Meanwhile, across Rock Creek Park in a wealthy, majority-white community, there is a sparkling new neighborhood middle school, with rugby, fencing, an international baccalaureate curriculum and all the other amenities that make people pay top dollar to live there.

Such inequities are the perverse result of a 'reform' process intended to bring choice and accountability to the school system. Instead, it has destroyed community-based education for working-class families, even as it has funneled resources toward a few better-off, exclusive, institutions.

On Sunday, another op-ed detailed how food manufacturers and food service companies are allegedly fleecing taxpayers while delivering food with little or no nutritional content. 

The money is ill spent. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has warned that sending food to be processed often means lower nutritional value and noted that 'many schools continue to exceed the standards for fat, saturated fat and sodium.' A 2008 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that by the time many healthier commodities reach students, 'they have about the same nutritional value as junk foods.' ...

Roland Zullo, a researcher at the University of Michigan, found in 2008 that Michigan schools that hired private food-service management firms spent less on labor and food but more on fees and supplies, yielding 'no substantive economic savings.' Alarmingly, he even found that privatization was associated with lower test scores, hypothesizing that the high-fat and high-sugar foods served by the companies might be the cause. In a later study, in 2010, Dr. Zullo found that Chartwells was able to trim costs by cutting benefits for workers in Ann Arbor schools, but that the schools didn’t end up realizing any savings.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette continues its series on inequality this morning with a review of the impact of the recession on African-American households.

Third and State This Week: A $56 million Marcellus Oops, Fiscal Austerity and Why It's Good to Be King

We hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and are ready to take a break from the shopping mall to see what you missed this week at Third and State.

We blogged about the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue's Britney Spears moment, the challenges of reading all the way to the end, and why it's good to be king (or at least a well-paid CEO).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood blogged about a $56 million "oops" by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue in estimates it made earlier this year of Marcellus Shale industry tax contributions in 2010.
  • On jobs and the economy, Mark Price explained why it's a good idea to read to the end before criticizing the work of others. He also highlighted in the Morning Must Reads The Philadelphia Inquirer's series "America: What Went Wrong" and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's series on what happened to the middle class.
  • In other Morning Must Reads, Mark Price shared news stories on the fallout of fiscal austerity across the Commonwealth and wrote about the big bucks the new CEO of Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters will be making. As King Louis XVI of France was fond of saying, it's good to be king.
More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Fiscal Austerity Means Higher Taxes, Job Losses, Fewer Resources to Help Abused Kids

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released new estimates of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's impact on employment and output (the quantity of goods and services in the economy). Commenting on the new ARRA estimates, Paul Krugman argues that the U.S. has been practicing austerity since the middle of 2010.

  • Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal — The Big Drag:

...the U.S. federal government has been practicing destructive fiscal austerity since the middle of 2010 (and that’s not even talking about what’s happening at the state and local level). Here’s the average of CBO's high and low estimates of the impact of the ARRA on the level (not the rate of growth) of [Gross Domestic Product] by quarter:

Failing to do more to boost employment growth means tax revenues remain depressed for state and local governments. And this means higher local taxes and more layoffs at a time when the unemployment rate remains higher in most cities and counties in Pennsylvania than it was even at the worst of the last two recessions.

Morning Must Reads: Frackers Go Shopping, Students See Tuition Rise and the Delaware River Used to Peal Paint Off the Bottom of Boats

A new report sums up campaign contributions from natural gas companies to elected officials in Pennsylvania. I'm sure it is just a coincidence that the state House Finance Committee has settled on a drilling fee that is the equivalent of just 1% over the life of a typical Marcellus Shale gas well.

A four-month study by Common Cause, which calls itself the people's lobby, found that over the past 10 years, natural gas companies have spent more than $747 million across the country on a 'stunningly successful' campaign to win the support of members of Congress and state legislators for 'weak' regulations. The study was released at a news conference in Harrisburg...

For state politicians, Gov. Tom Corbett was far and away the leader, at $1.6 million. Second was state Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati at $282,034; third was state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, at $105,732. House Republican leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, got $79,100. Republican senators Don White, R-Indiana, and Jake Corman, R-Centre, got $69,125 and $65,640 respectively, while GOP House Speaker Sam Smith got $58,000..House Democrat Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, got $53,300...

The groups also criticized a bill that won approval from the House Finance Committee last week and could face a full House vote next week. It would impose a fee on drillers that amounts to 1 percent over the life of a gas well, which could produce $160 million in profits for its company, said Sharon Ward of the Budget and Policy Center.

In totally unrelated news, the Community College of Allegheny County, which provides training to workers in the natural gas industry, has already raised tuition twice this year and looks headed for a third increase if Allegheny County cuts another $7 million from its budget.

Third and State This Week: Income Inequality, Funding Woes for Schools and Transit, and a Citizens' Take on Shale

This week, we blogged about rising inequality, the financial troubles of public schools and public transportation, and the recommendations made by the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the Marcellus Shale, Mark Price blogged about the Citizens Commission report, which found that Pennsylvanians believe gas drilling has moved too quickly and that public officials need to do a better job protecting their communities and environment. Chris Lilienthal also highlighted the report along with a recent press conference where lawmakers from both parties called for drillers to pay their fair share.
  • On inequality, Stephen Herzenberg shared his response to the speech on income inequality that U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor never delivered. The Congressman canceled his planned speech at the University of Pennsylvania last week after learning that the event would be open to the public. Also, Mark Price summarized new data from the Congressional Budget Office showing that the after-tax income of the richest 1% nearly tripled between 1979 and 2007.
  • On jobs and unemployment, Mark Price provided a rundown of Pennsylvania's September jobs report, which showed a loss of just over 15,000 jobs last month.
  • On state budget and taxes, Mark Price wrote about legislators' attempts to create a tax loophole for the sale and service of airplanes, while Pittsburgh's Port Authority remains significantly underfunded. Mark also pointed out that while Philadelphia schools are faced with further budget cuts, elected officials are considering a school voucher program that would drain even more revenue from public school classrooms. 

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Third and State This Week: Rising Unemployment, a Health Insurance Rate Hike and Momentum for a Drilling Tax

This week we blogged about momentum building for a natural gas drilling tax and rising unemployment in Pennsylvania. We also featured a guest post on the need for stronger insurance rate protections in Pennsylvania. And Mark Price kept us up to date with the Morning Must Reads.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On jobs and unemployment, Stephen Herzenberg shared his media statement on the rising jobless rate in Pennsylvania.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Sharon Ward highlighted a recent New York Times article on the problems that have come with Marcellus Shale growth in Pennsylvania. Kate Atkins urged readers to sign a letter to lawmakers in support of a drilling tax that would generate revenue to improve schools, fix roads, train workers, and protect the environment.
  • On health care, Athena Ford of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network penned a guest post on the need for better insurance rate protections in Pennsylvania.
  • Finally, Mark Price had Morning Must Reads on the economic polarization of the 99%, the need for more accountability in charter schools, how we can boost the economy, and what budget cuts and layoffs have in common.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

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