Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Admirable Character Trait

In my opinion, one of the more admirable character traits a person can have is when they are genuinely happy for someone else. It is so great to see our students that are 100% excited for their peers that have success. Nothing is better than seeing the golf team excited for the cross country or tennis team or the football team supportive of the softball team or volleyball team. Life is so much more enjoyable when we can be happy and supportive of others instead of just staying focused on our own all of the time. I've seen the students of YPS come a long way in this regard over the past few years.

When One-Act won the state championship last year, it was overwhelming to see EVERYONE so genuinely excited. That's the true York Duke spirit. Those that can be happy for others and supportive of what they get and don't get are to be admired and respected. I feel for those that can't be happy for others because they're too worried that someone, somewhere might get something they don't get. Too often, they fail to see multiple sides to any issue because they are so blind-sided with thoughts of just their own self-interests. That's a sad way to live life, in my opinion, but to each their own.

Today, I salute all of the York Dukes that can be respectful, supportive, and happy for others. Go Dukes!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

1/2% Sales Tax for York on November 4th Ballot

What is this ½% Sales Tax Issue and How Would it Work for York?

• It provides an opportunity for City governments to form inter-local agreements with other tax supported entities to work on upgrading recreation and infrastructure needs that all communities have and typically can’t afford because of normal budget constraints. The City of York and York Public Schools have partnered up for this.
• If successfully passed during the November 4th election, an extra ½% sales tax would be added to some purchases within York
o Estimated revenue of this extra ½% sales tax is $1,000,000 annually with an estimated 60% of it from travelers that take advantage of our great interstate offerings

 Types of Items that are charged Sales Tax: personal property purchases, prepared food, retail purchases, etc.

 Types of Items that ARE NOT charged Sales Tax: groceries, agricultural/farm purchases, prescription medicine, medical treatment, etc.

• This additional revenue would then be used by the City of York and York Public Schools to build and maintain two major projects that are required to be completed by July 2016 and that would be bonded for 20 - 25 years.
o Quiet zone within the entire city
o Ball field complex

• All FIVE of the railroad crossing areas have to be done before we can have a Quiet Zone at any of them. BNSF requires an all or nothing approach with quiet zones. Right now, we have two of the five done and it will cost at least $2 million to prepare the other three; which will take a long, long time if this extra revenue isn’t available.

• Smaller projects that have been suggested over the life of this 20 to 25-year period:
o Senior Center improvements
o Improving traffic flow at York Elementary with additional roadways
o Enhancing our Trails, Parks, Roads, Tracks, Tennis Courts, Aquatic Center, Community Center, Auditorium and other facilities that improve our quality of life and can help make our town stronger for our current residents and more appealing to those that might be looking to re-locate
o If needed, finish paying off the balance of the Hub Foster Press Box Project at East Hill Field inside Levitt Stadium
o Necessary road work
 Many of these projects will help relieve some current budget constraints of the City of York and YPS and could help lead to property tax relief

What the Funds CANNOT be used for
• This additional revenue can’t buy city vehicles or pay salaries and benefits that aren’t related to the maintenance of these projects.
• It can’t purchase fire trucks and other items not related to recreation and infrastructure.
• By State Law, it must be used for recreation and infrastructure!

Why have many people said they will “vote yes” on November 4th?
• Improve and increase the recreation and wellness options for York residents of all ages
• URGENCY – This sale tax gives us the ability to almost immediately provide what many of our citizens have been asking for over the past several years in the form of a quiet zone, a ball field complex, and sustainable budgetary income to make infrastructure improvements throughout York.
o The community survey conducted in the summer of 2014 indicated that nearly 80% of our citizens were in favor of an increase in sales tax for infrastructure and recreation improvements.
• The City of York and York Public Schools are working together on this exciting venture to better serve our patrons and to maximize our resources
• With the City of York and York Public Schools being able to access the additional revenue from this ½ % sales tax, it gives both entities the possibility of providing property tax relief in the future
o Again, 60% of the estimated $1 million+ annually will come from travelers/non-residents of the City of York
• These additional funds also allow for added personnel costs to take great care of the new ball field complex and other facility additions and improvements that occur

What’s the Financial Impact of this Possibility on YOU?
• If you make a $100 purchase, this ½% sales tax increase will cost you an added 50 CENTS
• If you make a $500 purchase, this ½% sales tax increase will cost you an additional $2.50
• If you make a $1,000 purchase, this ½% sales tax increase will cost you an additional $5.00

• Thursday, October 23rd at 7:00 PM at the York Community Center


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Public Schools are Doing Well and Deserve Support

Public schools seem to get far more than their share of scrutiny. In fact, many organizations go out of their way with scare tactics to belittle our public school systems in an effort to promote charter schools and vouchers.

Let’s start off with some good news about public schools that you may not have seen before. After all, positive facts aren’t as interesting as negative propaganda.


• About 90 percent of the kids in the United States go through the public school system.
• The dropout rate has fallen consistently over the past 40 years.
• The literacy rate in the United States is 99 percent for those age 15 and older.
• Most of our recent presidents—from both parties—were largely products of public education, including Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon.
• Four of the five Americans who have most recently won a Nobel Prize attended public schools. Those winners are David J. Wineland (physics), Robert K. Lefkowitz (chemistry), Brian Kobilka (chemistry), and Alvin Roth (economics). Roth attended a New York City high school, but went to college without graduating from high school.

Public schools in Nebraska are VERY strong. Just look at a few highlights down below.

• Nebraska students outperform national ACT averages and beat national averages on percent of students meeting college-ready benchmark scores.
• Over 200 of Nebraska's districts showed both improvement and growth in reading performance on the last State of the Schools report card.
• The percentage of Nebraska students meeting or exceeding proficient status on the state standards tests (NeSA) has steadily climbed every year they've been given in reading, math and science.
• These standardized assessments are rigorous tests of grade level proficiency on the state standards, and are therefore excellent measures to provide a general indication of student learning.
• Thus on both state and national measures of school efficacy and student learning, it is clear that Nebraska's public schools are getting the job done.

Charter schools are often mentioned as an alternative to our public school system but are they all they claim to be?


• For example, a report on Pennsylvania’s charter schools recently released by a state legislator found that only one in six of the state’s charter schools is “high-performing” and it notes that none of the online charters is “high-performing.”
• These charter schools also serve significantly fewer special education students than traditional students. Only two of these 28 high performing charter schools have a special education student population greater than the 15% average of traditional public schools. Further, as noted in the 2013 Special Education Funding Commission report, charter school enroll significantly less special education students with severe disabilities than traditional public schools.
• Here are a dozen problems with Pennsylvania’s charter schools — which carry beyond the state’s borders — identified by Jessie B. Ramey, the parent of two children in Pittsburgh public schools and a historian of working families, gender, race and U.S. social policy and teaches women’s studies and history at the University of Pittsburgh. This is part of a post on her Yinzercation blog, where you can see the rest of the piece.

Here are the 12 problems, written by Ramey:

1. Most are not helping kids. Rep. Roebuck’s new report shows that for the 2012-23 academic year, “the average SPP [School Performance Profile] score for traditional public schools was 77.1,” but for charter schools it was 66.4, and cyber-charter schools came in at a low 46.8. What’s more, “none of the 14 cyber charter schools had SPP scores over 70, considered the minimal level of academic success and 8 cyber charter schools had SPP scores below 50.” [Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Update, April 2014] The latest national research found that charter students in Pennsylvania cover 29 fewer days of reading material on average, and 50 fewer days of math than traditional public schools. That puts us in the bottom three states in the country. [Stanford CREDO, National Charter School Study 2013] If we’re going to have charter schools, shouldn’t they be helping students?

2. Some are actually hurting kids. Gordon Lafer, a political economist at the University of Oregon, reviewed the growing low-budget-charter sector in Milwaukee, which has the oldest charter system in the country, and found startling results with national implications. Cost-cutting charters such as the Rocketship chain offer a narrow curriculum focused on little more than reading and math test prep, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and “blended learning” products designed to enrich charter school board members’ investment portfolios. Lafer “questions why an educational model deemed substandard for more privileged suburban children is being so vigorously promoted—perhaps even forced—on poor children…” [Economic Policy Institute, 4-24-14] Others have pointed out significant problems with zero-tolerance, strict discipline charters made famous by the “no excuses” KIPP chain of schools. [EdWeek, 2-20-13]

3. Far too many are cash cows. When Pennsylvania is seen by hedge fund managers as prime ground for “investment opportunities” in charter schools, you know something is terribly wrong. And when four of the top political campaign donors in the entire state are connected to charter schools, you have to start asking why. [See “Charters are Cash Cows”] Publicly funded schools should not be serving to line the pockets of private companies and individuals.

4. The industry is rife with fraud and corruption. Who can forget the scheme by PA Cyber Charter founder Nicholas Trombetta, right here in Beaver County, to steal $1 million in public dollars? Federal investigators filed 11 fraud and tax conspiracy charges against him and indicted others in the case. [Post-Gazette, 8-24-13] And then there is the Urban Pathways Charter School in downtown Pittsburgh under FBI scrutiny for trying to spend Pennsylvania taxpayer money to build a school in Ohio. A related investigation by the state auditor general revealed a history of expensive restaurant meals, a posh staff retreat at Nemacolin Woodlands resort, and payments for mobile phones belonging to the spouses of board members. [Trib, 11-11-13] Not to be left out, Philadelphia just had its eighth charter school official plead guilty to federal fraud charges. [Philly.com, 2-10-14]

5. Lack of transparency and accountability. Charter schools are publicly funded, but often act like private entities. Here in Pennsylvania, the largest charter school operator has been fighting a right-to-know request for years in the courts so that he doesn’t have to reveal his publicly funded salary (data that is publicly available for traditional public schools). In 2012, Gov. Corbett and the Republican controlled legislature tried to introduce a bill that would have exempted all charters from the state’s sunshine laws. [See “Where are the Real Republicans?”] In California, charter school operators have even argued in court that they are a private entity and should not be treated as a public institution. [Ed Week, 10-7-13] We desperately need charter reform legislation that emphasizes accountability and transparency, just as we demand from traditional public schools. [See the top 5 reasons the current proposed legislation fails to do both.]

6. Skimming and weed-out strategies. Dr. Kevin Welner, professor of education policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has found that charter schools “can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways.” He has identified a “Dirty Dozen” methods used by charter schools “that often decrease the likelihood of students enrolling with a disfavored set of characteristics, such as students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty.” [NEPC Brief, 5-5-13] Think it’s not happening in Pennsylvania? Consider the Green Woods charter school in Philadelphia that made its application available to prospective families only one day per year, in hard copy form only, at a suburban country club not accessible by public transportation. [Newsworks, 9-12-12] When charter schools overtly, or even unconsciously, urge students to leave – for instance, by not offering services for special education students or English language learners – they send those students back to traditional public schools.

7. Contribute to the re-segregation of U.S. education. For a number of years, researchers have noted the trend towards re-segregation in public education and the role that charters may be playing in that process. A recent report warns, “the proliferation of charter schools risks increasing current levels of segregation based on race, ethnicity, and income.” [Phi Delta Kappan, 2-2014] Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, of University of Texas at Austin, writes about some charter schools that claim they would like to be more diverse, but that it’s “hard to do.” He explains, “Charters have a choice whether they want to be racially and economically diverse schools that serve ELL, Special Education and low-SES kids. Based on the various admissions and management policies … charters choose their students, rather than families choosing their schools— in essence, school choice is charter schools choose.” [Cloaking Inequality, 11-11-13]

A pointed article in the Jacobin last summer took liberals to task for supporting charter schools while failing to fight underlying racism embedded in education: “Advocating charter schools to boost academic outcomes for poor, minority kids presumes that we can provide equal educational opportunity and simultaneously maintain a status quo of segregated housing and schooling. If you are unwilling to wage the unpopular fight for residential and school integration and equalized (and adequate) school funding, charter schools can seem a “good enough” compromise.” [Jacobin, 7-31-13]

8. Drain resources from struggling districts. Charter tuition payments are causing a huge financial drain for many districts – $53 million in Pittsburgh this academic year alone. With the state’s massive defunding of public schools, Governor Tom Corbett slashed reimbursement to districts for charter school tuition payments: that cost Pittsburgh $14.8 million in 2012 and continues to cause mounting financial harm. [See “Charter Reform Now”] And remember, when a couple students leave a classroom to attend a charter school, that classroom still has to keep the lights on, and pay the teacher and the heating bill: the math is not a simple moving of dollars from one place to another. What’s more, there is evidence that charters, especially cyber charters, are enrolling more students who were previously home-schooled, thus increasing costs for school districts. [NCSPE Brief on Cyber and Home School Charter Schools]

9. Closing traditional public schools. Some of the biggest charter school supporters are simultaneously working to close traditional public schools. For instance, a New York Times article this week on the Walton Family Foundation reported that it “gave $478,380 to a fund affiliated with the Chicago public schools to help officials conduct community meetings to discuss their plan to close more than 50 schools at a time when charters were expanding in the city.” [New York Times, 4-26-14] In Philadelphia, charter school proponents have succeeded in getting new charter schools opened while waves of traditional public schools have closed. This year, parents in some schools are being forced to choose between conversion to a charter school, with additional resources for their kids, or staying a traditional public school and losing resources. [Philly.com, 3-13-14]

While Pittsburgh has resisted any large scale opening of new charter schools, the state is now forcing the district to approve new charters, even as it is slashing the budget and promising more school closures. [See “When Charters Cause Harm”] Under state law, districts are not permitted to take into account their own financial situation when approving new charter schools, which means that charter expansion cannot be a rational part of an overall strategic plan.

10. Lack of innovation. Charter schools were meant to be “innovation labs” to test out new ideas and introduce those ideas into the traditional public school system. But that is not happening. We’ve had charter schools in Pennsylvania for 15 years, so where is all this innovation that should be showing up in all of our schools by now? Supporters of the highly problematic Senate Bill 1085 wish to strip the innovation clause out of state law, which is the last thing we should be doing. [See “Top 5 Reasons to Oppose SB 1085”] We need to find ways for the best charter schools to work collaboratively with school districts so that all students benefit.

11. Hard to get rid of the bad ones. Poor performing charter schools do not just go away. Half of all brick-and-mortar charter schools have been around now for over ten years. But Rep. Roebuck’s new report finds that “their results do not significantly improve the longer that a charter school has been open. … Unfortunately, for 2012 – 2013, a majority, 51 percent of the charter school open 10 years or more have SPP scores below 70 [considered the minimal acceptable score].” The report concludes, “these results are not encouraging and it raises concerns about renewing many charters with poor performance over so many years.” [Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Update, April 2014]

12. Charters promote “choice” as solution. I’m not convinced we simply need more “choices” in public education. We do need great public schools in every community (that doesn’t mean in every single neighborhood), that any parent would be happy to send their children to, and that meet the needs of local families. We don’t really have any choice at all if our local public school is not a high quality option. The idea of “choice” is very American, but it’s also at the heart of modern neo-liberalism; free market ideology has turned parents into consumers, rather than public citizens participating in a common good. Markets do a fine job making stuff and selling it. But they also create extreme inequality, with winners and losers. [See “The Problem with Choice”] Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge any family that makes the personal choice to send their child to any school, whether private, religious, charter, or magnet. I’m not advocating getting rid of choices. But I’d be a lot happier if charter advocates stopped using “choice” to promote these schools. Choice alone doesn’t guarantee quality and it hasn’t solved the larger problems facing public education.

Vouchers are another often mentioned “alternative” to public schools but when you look closer at them you begin to see some troubling data as well.

• Vouchers take money from the public schools to support unaccountable private schools. Private schools can deny admission to any student based on, for example, religion, disability, language proficiency or disciplinary record.
• Vouchers do not improve academic performance. Studies of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., reveal that reading and math scores are no better than those of students in corresponding public schools. There was no significant difference in student-teacher ratios or teacher availability for extracurricular activities.
• Saying that vouchers help the poor is suspect. Voucher payments are rarely enough to cover the entire cost of the private school, and only families with money can come up with the cost of tuition balance, uniforms, booksand other supplies.
• In Cleveland, most families who received a voucher did not use it because they could not handle the additional costs. The real story is that vouchers actually hurt low-income families by weakening public schools.
• The only result is eroding a program by making success more difficult to achieve.
• Vouchers can result in speculator profiteers. One school in Milwaukee was run by a man with a long criminal record. In Cleveland, one school was set up in a dilapidated building with inadequate heat and no fire alarms. Another “educated” the children by having them watch videos all day.
• Most public schools do a good job; those that don't should be fixed, not handicapped by further weakening. Politicians pushing vouchers (and charters) offer this as a panacea while ignoring real issues like adequate funding, class size and teacher training.


• Indiana is one of a growing number of states with school voucher programs. These allow public dollars to be used at private schools, including religious schools, including those religious schools that use creationist materials that teach anti-scientific notions such as the idea that the universe is no more than 10,000 years old, and that humans lived at the very same time as dinosaurs.
• Voucher programs have been growing over the last decade, with quiet advocacy by right-wing Republicans, some of whom don’t believe in public education. A 2011 report that reviewed studies on vouchers noted that most of the early programs were aimed at low-income families in large cities or at students attending the lowest-performing public schools in a state, but the newer programs include middle-income families. When Indiana passed its voucher program in 2011, it was then the broadest in the country, including low-income as well as middle-income students. Louisiana’s voucher program surpassed that in size, and it was also challenged, and is now awaiting a decision on its constitutionality by the state Supreme Court.
• The notion is that families deserve to have a “choice” of schools for their children. The reality is that the amount of money provided in each voucher isn’t enough to cover tuition at a great many private schools, especially the elite ones that get most of the media’s attention, such as Sidwell Friends, which the Obama daughters attend.
• Take a look at the voucher program in Washington D.C., which is the only federally funded voucher program in the country at the moment. It was designed to give poor children a chance to attend private schools and, presumably, get a better education than students stuck in failing public schools. Well, a review of the voucher program by my colleagues Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown found this last year:
o A Washington Post review found that hundreds of students use their voucher dollars to attend schools that are unaccredited or are in unconventional settings, such as a family-run K-12 school operating out of a storefront, a Nation of Islam school based in a converted Deanwood residence, and a school built around the philosophy of a Bulgarian psychotherapist.
o At a time when public schools face increasing demands for accountability and transparency, the 52 D.C. private schools that receive millions of federal voucher dollars are subject to few quality controls and offer widely disparate experiences, the Post found.
o Some of these schools are heavily dependent on tax dollars, with more than 90 percent of their students paying with federal vouchers.
o Yet the government has no say over curriculum, quality or management. And parents trying to select a school have little independent information, relying mostly on marketing from the schools.
o The director of the nonprofit organization that manages the D.C. vouchers on behalf of the federal government calls quality control “a blind spot.”
o And this one is in the District, supposedly under the nose of the federal lawmakers who passed the program. One can only imagine the level of oversight in other programs.
• There are arguments made that students in voucher schools do better than their peers who wanted vouchers but didn’t get them and are in public schools. Research shows that that is largely not true. For many voucher advocates, the real problem is public education. Back in 2002, Dick DeVos, who is the son of the co-founder of Amway, made a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a portion of which you can see in this video, laying out a strategy for promoting school vouchers in state legislatures in a way that would not draw too much attention. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” he said, also saying that his supporters should refer to public schools as “government schools.”

Here in Nebraska, we will begin to hear a lot more about vouchers and charter schools. Analyze that info carefully. Public Schools are doing better than they ever have, despite what others say. Look at the facts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Motivational Speaker Coming to York on October 21st and 22nd

Brooks Gibbs, a youth crisis counselor and popular bullying prevention speaker, will give a community presentation in the YHS Theater on October 21st at 7 PM. Everyone is invited to attend.

Brooks will also speak to YMS and YHS students during the day on October 21 & 22. 6th-8th graders at Emmanuel Faith Lutheran and St. Joseph's Catholic have also been invited to come over and listen to Brooks.

Brooks has presented over a thousand school assemblies and has toured internationally reaching over three million people. His passion is to empower victims of bullying with the social skills needed to solve their bullying problems.

As a former victim of bullying that eventually became an authority on the subject, his personal story and humorous teaching style inspire all who listen.

YPS is excited about the message that Brooks will relay to our 6th-12th graders. We take bullying very seriously and always look for creative ways to keep this topic in the forefront in our schools.

We hope to see many parents and community members in attendance on October 21st at 7 pm in the YHS Theater.