November 21, 2011

PSEA President: Stop Gov. Corbett’s attacks on public education

November 21, 2011

As Gov. Tom Corbett redoubles his attacks on public education in the final days of the General Assembly’s fall session, PSEA President Mike Crossey strongly cautions legislators that these proposals will hurt Pennsylvania’s public school students and drain resources from public schools still reeling from $860 million in funding cuts.

Crossey reminded legislators that public school students are suffering from funding cuts and that tuition voucher schemes, unaccountable charter school expansion, and wrong-headed teacher evaluation plans would make the situation even worse.

“This is an attack on Pennsylvania’s public schools and the students who learn there,” Crossey said. “Legislators can stop it if they stand up and say ‘enough.’

“There is a reason why the governor’s initiatives are so unpopular,” he said. “The people see how their public schools are struggling because of the governor’s funding cuts. We need to stop the governor’s bad policies.”

Crossey pointed out that tuition voucher plans would take nearly $200 million more from the public schools and that expanding charter schools makes no sense until public school funding is restored.

“Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose tuition voucher schemes, because they don’t make sense,” Crossey said. “You don’t help students in struggling schools by cutting their funding. That just forces school districts to cut programs that are working. That is happening right now, all across the state.”

In addition, Crossey strongly criticized a radical new bill authorizing untested, high-stakes teacher performance evaluations based on a single standardized test that is not valid or reliable for that purpose. The bill was introduced on October 31 and fast-tracked by the House Education Committee, which approved it on November 16. The rapid movement of the bill ignores the fact that a 100-school district pilot program on teacher evaluations has not even begun. The pilot program starts in January, 2012.

PSEA has included reforms to the teacher evaluation system in its Solutions That Work package. For years, PSEA has engaged policymakers in dialogues about evaluation proposals. Those recommendations were ignored by the House committee.

“Using a single test to evaluate a teacher’s performance, without accounting for other factors that affect student performance, doesn’t give a full or accurate picture of how well a teacher teaches or how well students learn,” Crossey said. “We need to take the full measure of student and teacher success. We shouldn’t scrap real standards for a ‘one-size-fits-all,’ high-stakes test.”

Crossey added that PSEA’s Solutions That Work initiative includes research-based education reform ideas that educators know work in their classrooms. These ideas, like individualized attention and tutoring, full-day kindergarten, and school safety programs also enjoy wide public support. A survey released in October indicated that more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support each of these ideas.

Crossey pointed out that the Governor’s bad policies are much worse when viewed in the context of his unprecedented school funding cuts.

“All across the state, school districts have cut programs, increased class sizes, and eliminated 14,000 educators’ jobs,” Crossey said. “Who gets hurt by these program cuts? Our students do. They are the ones suffering the consequences.

“These ideas are bad ideas. The people oppose them, they don’t help students, and we should stop them – now.”



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