SB1 Middle Class Vouchers Addition Seems A Small Bone Thrown

SB 1, the school choice bill pending in the Pennsylvania legislature, was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, yesterday, April 11, on a 15-11 vote with the  addition of it now providing vouchers to “middle class” students starting in the 2014-2015 school year. These “middle class” vouchers, however, would be funded by part of an excess scholarship fund so it seems a rather small bone to be thrown to the Tea Party groups looking out for the middle class.

And the latest version of the bill, PN 1031, also now limits the aggregate amount of all opportunity scholarships awarded to low-income children  starting in the 2013-2014 school year to $250 million

The vote was generally party-line although Democrats Lisa Boscola and Lawrence Farnese voted for it and Republicans Lisa Baker and Stewart Greenleaf voted against it.

Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, whose 9th District includes large parts of Delaware and Chester counties and is an ex-officio member of the committee, voted for it.

The latest version, also among other things, changes  the methodology for defining the lowest performing five percent of schools; changes some of the reporting requirements; removes specific dates on the timeline;  penalties for misuse of scholarships, which includes disqualification from future eligibility for an opportunity scholarship; and requires participating non-public schools to  annually a standardized achievement test.

The new version also would create a “public school choice demonstration grant program”, which would let a school district establish a program of tuition grants for resident students who wish to attend a nonresident public school.

Kennedys Make The Kennedys Heroic

Kennedys Make The Kennedys Heroic — I spent a bit of Sunday watching a good bit of The Kennedys on Reelz. This was the series developed by conservative Joel Surnow and Stephen Kronish, and forced from the History Channel after complaints from the Kennedy family.

What were they complaining about? It makes Bobby and Jack and even Old Joe look positively heroic.

And, in truth, JFK had better Supreme Court appointments than either Nixon or Ike  and a better economic policy than Nixon. With regard to foreign policy let’s say he just had a better one than LBJ.

Mobsters and Marilyn aside, the Kennedy legacy would still shine but for Teddy and Bobby’s kids.

Kennedys Make The Kennedys Heroic

Pa Leadership Panel Provokes Tea Partyers On SB1

Statements made regarding conservative skeptics of SB 1, the pending school choice legislation in the Pennsylvania legislature, at the 2011 Pa. Leadership Conference has those skeptics seeing blue.

An email blast sent by Lisa Esler of the Delaware County Patriots notes that critics of SB1 were not represented on a panel aimed at discussing the bill and that those on the panel were insulting to the critics and painted a false picture of their motives.

Mrs. Esler, in her email, said that Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks called the critics “bedwetters” while State Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-15), who is one of the authors of the bill, implied that racism was what was driving them.

The truth is that the Tea Party groups who are criticizing SB1 are for the most part strong supporters of school choice. Their objections to the bill are not that it helps kids from destitute families in failing school districts but that it fails to help struggling families in overrated suburban districts who may have a child stuck for a year with one of the many incompetent, union-protected teachers that fill those districts.

These Tea Party groups are filled with people who strongly supported helping destitute “inner-city” kids escape bad schools when it “wasn’t cool” so it is a rather serious smear to accuse them of racism.

Mrs. Esler also noted that unlike other panels, questions regarding SB1 were  pre-screened.

The conference, held April 9, brought A-list conservative speakers to the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Conference Center in Camp Hill including Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Sen. Pat Toomey, columnist John Fund and activist Herman Cain.

Hooray! Budget Deal Would Cut Deficit To $1.606 T

Hooray! Budget Deal Would Cut Deficit To $1.606 T — A deal was approved in Washington last night averting a shutdown of the federal government and cutting $38.5 billion in federal spending through Sept. 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year.

Great job and all but how is this comparatively miniscule amount of savings going to make much difference with the federal deficit that was projected in February to be $1.645 trillion at year’s end. Should we start cheering now that the deficit will $1.606 trillion?

OK, it might be a little less than that since, according to Congressman Pat Meehan, the continuing resolutions cut about $10 billion in spending but the point stands.

The debt by the way remains schedule to close near $15 trillion at year’s end which is 100 percent of our GDP. Would you make a loan to someone whose entire annual income was owed to someone else?

Don’t blame John Boehner and the Republicans for this lack of action. It’s clear the GOP congressmen recognize the crisis and they did the best they could considering the willingness by Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats to hold military personnel in harm’s way hostage for even the smallest concessions.


Hooray! Budget Deal Would Cut Deficit To $1.606 T

Public School Budgeting Burdens Revealed

Public School Budgeting Burdens Revealed — The Springfield School Board’s Finance and Audit Committee gave, tonight, April 7, a detailed update of the district’s preliminary budget to a dozen or so persons most of whom were part of a Tea Party contingent led by Regina Scheerer. Public School Budgeting Burdens Revealed

The budget  now calls for spending $62,479, 521 for 2011-2012 which is $544,000 less than the initial budget proposed in February but still $2,192,822 more than the budget approved last year.

The district’s actual expenditures for this year are projected to be $59,172,082 which is expected to leave the district with a $1.09 million surplus, which is a good thing since as of now revenue is  $206,000 less than expenses.

Real estate taxes are expected to provide $46,456,313 of the new budget, which would be an increase of $2.033 million from the last one and translate to a tax hike of $128 for the average homeowner.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed state budget would cut $750,000 in assistance to Springfield noted Don Mooney, the district’s executive director of operations although the state is still expected to provide $8,635,330 to the district. Mooney pointed out, however, that pending legislation may result in another $847,000 being cut to the district.

The meeting before the small group lasted over two hours, and Mooney and Committee Chairman Doug Carney described the ways that the board is trying to save money and the ways in which their hands are tied.

Carney said that the biggest constraints facing the district, in descending order, were special education mandates, contributions to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), and employee contracts.

It was noted that there was one special education student for whom the district was paying $125,000 annual tuition to an outside facility as per a court order.

One way the Committee said the district was fighting to keep taxes down for homeowners was by  using innovative ways of keeping non-residents from using its services
and that these have resulted in the removal of 10 students from classes
so far this year.

It also said the District was aggressive and generally successful in fighting real estate tax assessments — it was pointed out that the Springfield Mall is trying to lower its valuation from $84.7 million to $64.96 million despite the addition of the successful new Target store.

Claude de Botton, the township’s biggest landowner, was singled out for praise as being someone who never fought his assessments.

The Committee also noted that the District was considering increasing walking radius by a half-mile, which would still be within the mandated guidelines, and that this would greatly curtail the use of buses. It noted that it had eliminated early dismissals which meant that it was no longer required to provide buses for early dismissal at Cardinal O’Hara and other schools. The Committee said the District will be eliminating three crossing guards next year, and will begin charging for the summer wood shop program.

The Committee expressed specific concern over SB 911 now pending in the state legislature that would remove existing exemptions from the calculation as to when a proposed tax increase triggers the requirement for a referendum. Those exemptions, Mooney explained, were for Special Education obligations, PSERS contributions and contracted obligations. Since the obligations would remain it was expected that  just about every budget would end up being decided by referendum and be invariably voted down leaving the district no choice but to end unprotected programs like music and shop, and jamming students into classrooms of 40.

Carney expressed opposition to the referendum plan noting that the nation was founded as a representative republic. He said people will always vote to cut taxes and increase services.

Major looming expenses unveiled at the meeting were the replacement of the District’s six-year-old bus fleet, and, hold onto your hats, the replacement of the high school.

And of course the District’s PSERS contribution is going to increase from $2.3 million this year to $6 million in 2014-2015. It was $1.075 million in 2005-2006.

Springfield School District has 23 administrators — whose combined salaries are $2.1 million; 260 certified staff which is expected to increase by two next year; 217 other staff, which is expected to decrease by four; and 3,684 pupils which is expected increase by 116.

Public School Budgeting Burdens Revealed

Reform Bills Clear Senate Committees

Reform Bills Clear Senate Committees — Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) tweeted, 4 p.m., April 6, that four pieces of legislation that he supports have received committee approval.

The bills are:

SB 101 that hikes the penalty for violations of the state Sunshine Act from $100 to $1,000 for the first offense and $2,000 for subsequent offenses, and prohibits the offender from being reimbursed with tax money.

SB 104 that mandates that all state-owned vehicles have an office use license plate and that all users of such vehicles be listed on state websites.

SB 106 that prohibits lame-duck voting sessions, which means votes would not be allowed from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November through Nov 30 in even numbered years, unless a special session has been convened.

SB 109 that requires paid advertising by any Commonwealth agency include the statement “Paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars.”


Reform Bills Clear Senate Committees

Curt Weldon Resurfaces In Libya

Curt Weldon Resurfaces In Libya — Former Congressman Curt Weldon, the Republican who represented Pennsylvania’s 7th District from 1987 to 2007, is leading a small, private delegation to meet with the Libyan leader Co. Muammar el-Qaddafi and  attempt to get him to surrender power.

Weldon, in an op-ed article in today’s (April 6) New York Times, says the meeting is at the invitation of Qaddafi and is being done with the full-knowledge of the Obama administration.

Weldon was part of a Congressional delegation that meet with Qaddafi in 2004 to show support for Qaddafi’s abandonment of a nuclear weapons program.

Weldon says in the article headlined “Time’s Up Qaddafi” that the Bush and Obama administrations “squandered many opportunities” to build a new Libyan government without bloodshed.

Weldon notes that he visited Libya last summer and met with an engineer named Ahmed Gadi who told him that the money from recent $500 million contract awarded by the Libyan government to an American engineering company was kept between the government and the company. Weldon did not name the company.

Weldon recommended that the United States identify and engage with leaders of Libya “who if not perfect are pragmatic and reform-minded”. He cited Qaddafi’s son, Saif, as a possibility noting that Saif had pushed his government to accept responsibility for the bombings, which killed Americans, of a Pan Am flight over Scotland and a disco in Germany and to provide compensation of the families of victims. Weldon also said that Saif led the effort to free a group of Bulgarian nurses from Libya who had twice been sentenced to death by his father’s government.

Weldon also suggested that Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi and rebel leader Mustapha Abdul Jalil meet with United Nations envoy Abdel Ilah al-Khatib to work out a schedule for fair elections.

Weldon’s congressional career ended following his defeat to Joe Sestak in November 2006, a race which involved one of the dirtiest tricks every played in an election to national office by federal law enforcement agencies.

Curt Weldon Resurfaces In Libya

Looming Disaster Explained

Looming Disaster Explained — Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, an investment firm,  is getting some notice and causing some controversy on the World Wide Web with a video warning of an impending collapse of the dollar which it claims will usher in 1,000 percent inflation and months of domestic turmoil.

If you get to  the very end of it you’ll find it to be a sales pitch. Still, Porter Stansberry makes some points worth considering:

–If all Americans paid 100 percent of their income in taxes it would still not pay off the national debt.

–That our government owes more money to more people than anyone else in the world — and that was before the financial crisis.

–That we are repaying this debt by printing trillions of dollars and that our creditors will either stop accepting dollars in repayment or greatly discount their value.

–That Mexican banks are no longer accepting dollars for deposits and that there are 150 legal alternatives to U.S. currency being circulated in the United States, such as BerkShares.

One free bit of advice he gives that is probably worth taking as best as one can is that one should have at least a six-month supply of food, water and medicine on hand.

Here’s the latest link.

Here’s a more user friendly one on youtube.


Looming Disaster Explained

Springfield SB Seeks $3 M In New Spending

The Springfield School Board is considering a $3 million spending hike paid for in part by a $2 million real estate tax increase, according to taxpayer watchdog Regina Scheerer.

Ms. Scheerer is seeking $1 million in spending cuts and a $1 million reduction in the proposed tax hike. She notes that $1.7 million of that increase is contractual for salaries and benefits.

The school board has a budget meeting 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 7, at the McLaughlin Education Center on Leamy Avenue next to the high school.

This meeting and a meeting scheduled for May 5 will determine the budget.


AARP Sweet Scam On Seniors

AARP Sweet Scam On Seniors — Tea Party activist Bob Guzzardi pointed out the other day that the AARP  is a “very profitable insurance company pretending to be do-gooder.”

Bob notes that organization, which claims to be an advocate for seniors, has $2.2 billion in total assets and generated over $1.4 billion in revenue in 2009.

AARP, through its sale of “Medigap” insurance policies is going to benefit greatly from Obamacare which guts the Medicare Advantage program by $200 billion and which the AARP polices are being written to replace.

AARP Sweet Scam On Seniors