PA

Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Supreme Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional. The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

To read the Court’s Decision, please click here.

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That’s half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.  PA Act 13, Originally an ALEC Model Bill 

To read this excellent reporting that will answer a lot of questions about fracking laws around the country, please click here


Pennsylvania: Cyber charter schools aren’t working — so let’s expand them!

There’s an interesting and worthwhile debate over whether we should be expanding alternative, public-funded charter schools; some, like the Kipp Academies, are clearly successful, although we can argue about the extent of that success. Others have been flat-out scams. Then we have the case of cyber charter schools, which receive public tax dollars to educate children over the Internet, and which seem to be especially popular in Pennsylvania.

What could possibly go wrong with poorly supervised, taxpayer-funded online learning, right? Especially in such an on-the-ball state as this one.

“In an April 2011 study (PDF), the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University reviewed the academic performance in Pennsylvania’s charter schools.  Virtual-school operators have been aggressively expanding in the state for more than a decade, making it a good place for a study; around 18,700 of the state’s 61,770 charter school students were enrolled in online schools. The results weren’t promising.

The virtual-school students started out with higher test scores than their counterparts in regular charters. But according to the study, they ended up with learning gains that were “significantly worse” than kids in traditional charters and public schools. Says CREDO research manager Devora Davis, “What we can say right now is that whatever they’re doing in Pennsylvania is definitely not working and should not be replicated.

To read more about the expansion of virtual schools in PA, please click here