News & Notes February 27, 2014

My throat surgery is scheduled for March 19th.  Health issues are taxing much of time of late.

State House Speaker Sam Smith has announced his retirement.

Highmark has announced it will insure same sex couples in Pennsylvania.  With yesterday’s ruling establishing Texas’ ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional it joins the growing list of states legalizing LGBT marriages.  Last year’s Windsor ruling by SCOTUS is the basis for every state’s bans to fall consecutively.  Pennsylvania is in line.  It’s merely a matter of time.

I applaud Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer who vetoed that state’s bill legalizing religious bigotry.

Chickie’s and Pete’s is yet the latest business to be found guilty of wage theft.  This was a major case costing the chain $6.8 million in wages and tips it stole from employees.

On the charter school front two articles criticize the latest conservative education fad.  The first concerns a Temple U professor whose study shows they turn huge profits while sending our tax dollars out of state.  One of my chief criticisms of charter schools is how many of them (besides underperforming) have lower overhead but drain the same amount of funds from public school districts as brick and mortar schools.  This other Newsworks article is also interesting reading.  An excerpt:

As a group, Philadelphia’s charter schools do only a bit better at educating kids than traditional schools, while draining about $7,000 per child from what’s available to teach kids in traditional schools. Only 29 percent of Philly charters made the federal standard for annual progress. This, even though they mostly work with kids who are in a better home situation than a lot of the children whom the traditional schools serve.

What did Pennsylvania do wrong? it set up laughably weak oversight that indulged poor performance while inviting inside dealing and shady operators. It made no effort to sort good charters (and there are quite a few of those) from bad. It set up an inane funding system that pits charters against their home districts.

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