Friday, September 30, 2011

Hazleton Area School District- Poor Performance Continues For Years

In today's Standard Speaker veteran reporter Mia Light writes a story that Hazleton Area School District students failed to meet standardized testing benchmarks according to results released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessments test is administered every spring to every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 in reading and math; students in grades 5, 8 and 11 are assessed in writing; and students in grades 4, 8 and 11 are assessed in science.

The test scores, from the 2010-11 school year, are part of the data used to determine whether schools have achieved Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Other data used to determine AYP includes percentage of student population that takes the test, school attendance rates and graduation rates.

In the Hazleton Area School District, where data from the 10 individual schools are combined to determine whether the district as a whole achieved AYP, the results were split 50/50 - results met the mark in five district schools and failed to make the grade in five others.

Hazleton Area schools that made the AYP grade include Freeland Elementary/Middle School, McAdoo-Kelayres Elementary School, West Hazleton Elementary/Middle School and, by default, Arthur Street Elementary School and its annex.

The state Department of Education classifies Arthur Street and the annex as a "feeder school," which means it contains only students below third grade and does not get tested for AYP. Because Arthur Street and the annex feed into schools that are held accountable for third grade PSSA results, the Arthur Street school and annex receive AYP results based on overall district results. Because the district's third grade met the thresholds in math and reading overall, Arthur Street and the annex are identified as having met AYP.

The five district schools where the AYP requirements were not met include Drums Elementary/Middle School, Hazleton Elementary/Middle School, Heights-Terrace Elementary/Middle School, Valley Elementary/Middle School and the high school.

At Drums, AYP was achieved in attendance and test participation but not in academic performance. Students there did achieve AYP in math and reading overall, but students in the special education sub-group failed to meet the mark in mathematics, which cast an AYP failure on the school's final grade.

According to the Department of Education, this is the first time the Drums school did not meet all AYP measures. In the first year of not meeting AYP, a school is placed in "Warning" status, meaning it fell short but has another year to achieve the standards before any consequences are imposed.

In July the Times Leader ran a story about teachers' ratings in area school districts.  As part of the federal stimulus reporting the teachers ratings were released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education according to school district.  The federal stimulus program poured billions into education and required measures be taken to reform the decline in student test scores witnessed nationwide.

The following charts, produced by Gary Visgatis and Mark Guydish of the Times Leader, show that teachers in the Hazleton Area School district received a 100% approval rating but student acheivement was not one of the measures used to evaluate teachers.

On July 16, 2011 the Standard Speaker published an article written by Mia Light about An investigation is under way into why test scores at several Hazleton Area School District buildings in the 2008-09 school year were "statistically atypical" and highlighted in a state report that questioned whether they were earned fairly.  Subsequently HASD personnel suggested that a reporting error may have skewed that data although a full report has never been filed or reported to the public.

Hazleton Area School District was ranked 402nd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on five years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for math, reading, writing and three years of science.  The HASD was rated 368 out of 500 in 2007 by the same publication and went down to 401 out of 498 in 2010.

Hazleton Area School District board members and administrators need to stop the intense bickering, partisan degradations, and outright bullying of each other and get back to educating our children.

At the same time 94% of all Pennsylvania school districts made the grade on performance standards according to Mary Niederberger and Eleanor Chute of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  These facts should be an eye opener for the public.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama's Claim On Jobs A Myth

Obama plan would make small dent in jobless rate

Even if Congress heeds President Barack Obama's demands to "pass this bill right away" and enacts his jobs and tax plan in its entirety, the unemployment rate probably still would hover in nosebleed territory for at least three more years.

Why? Because the 1.9 million new jobs the White House says the bill would produce in 2012 falls short of what it's needed to put the economy back on track to return to pre-recession jobless levels of under 6 percent, from today's rate of 9.1 percent.

That's how deep the jobs hole is. The persistent weakness of the U.S. economy has left 14 million people unemployed and more than 25 million unable to find full-time work.

More on the Obama Campaign and A Stimulus Recipient Hosting a $25,000.00 Fundraiser

Missouri stimulus beneficiary hosting a $25,000-a-head fundraiser for Obama

Tom Carnahan is at the helm of Wind Capital Group, an investment firm that received a $107 million federal tax credit to develop a wind power facility in his home state of Missouri. In October, he’s scheduled to host a $25,000-per-person fundraiser to aid Obama’s reelection effort.

“At a time when Barack Obama is under fire for steering hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funds to a failed company linked to a major campaign donor, it is stunning that he would come to Missouri and raise money with another recipient of stimulus cash,” Smith said in a statement to POLITICO. “Sadly, Missourians have come to expect this kind of pay-to-play from the Obama administration. November 2012 can’t come soon enough.”

Please tell me how this scheme is all that much different than what Mericle did with Ciavarella and Conahan.

Democrats Block Disaster Aid Bill

Just last April Democrats were excoriating House Republicans asserting they were holding government hostage during the contrived government shutdown debacle. In a tit-for-tat move the Senate Democrats are now the "stonewallers" on keeping the government going by failing to pass the stopgap CR(continuing resolution).

In this latest saga the government is holding disaster relief hostage. Up and down the Wyoming Valley political pundits took jabs at Congressmen Lou Barletta and Tom Marino during the first showdown. It remains to be seen whether they voice the same opinion against the likes of Harry Reid and his cohorts in the Senate. Senate Blocks House Disaster Aid Bill

The Democrats are holding out for funding what they call an "Energy Department Loan Program".  Well twist my britches in a knot and send me over the edge.  The White House embarassment over the  Solyndra bankruptcy announcement after backing it with loans(Obama administration agreed to Solyndra loan days after insiders foresaw firm's failure) this past week and charges it inflated the claim of green jobs (Fly a plane or drive a bus? Then Obama says you've a GREEN job: White House accused of massaging eco-employment figures) shows genuine chutzpah to make this issue a stumbling block to disaster aid.

Administration Defends Half Billion Dollar Loan to Bankrupt ‘Clean Energy’ Firm

Obama administration officials told U.S. lawmakers Wednesday that a contributor to the president’s 2008 campaign played no role in pushing the $535 billion federal loan to the bankrupt solar panel firm Solyndra, Inc., raided by the FBI last week.

However, one Energy Department official did not answer directly when asked whether he had direct communications with the White House over the loan provided through stimulus money.

Emails obtained by the House Energy and Commerce Committee appear to show that Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Department of Energy (DOE) employees had expressed concerns that the process was being rushed – even as President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu were touting the California-based “clean energy” company as the wave of the future.

The Administration was warned back in 2009 about Solyndra but they threw caution to the wind with taxpayer money.

There's an even bigger problem that has been put on the back burner.  Our government has not passed a budget in 900 days making these CR's a necessary evil.

Is it any wonder why this nation is so colossally screwed?  Right now party leaders on both sides of the aisle are using this nation as a pawn in their political brinksmanship.

The amount of disaster aid needed to re-fund FEMA is a drop in the federal budget bucket at $ 7 billion when we are racking up multi trillion dollar deficits.  Everyone in Washington knows that FEMA is going to get its money so get on with it. 

Did anyone tell the leaders that 1 in 4 children in Northeastern Pennsylvania live in poverty? 

One in every four children in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton metropolitan area lived in poverty in 2010, a dramatic increase over the previous year that came even as median household income in the region edged up slightly, new U.S. Census Bureau estimates indicated Thursday.

The jump was accompanied by a rise in the number of regional households that received food stamps, according to the American Community Survey, a census sampling of counties with population of at least 65,000.

"We are really talking about a huge portion of residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania who have trouble putting food on the table," said Teri Ooms, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a Wilkes-Barre-based think tank.

Families have lost everything, children are living in poverty, and Washington is quamired.  They got molasses in their britches in a time when this nation needs action and compromise.  The Democrats know they can't keep spending and the Republicans know that the government still has responsibilities.  In that statemen

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clinton Tells Obama His Plan Won't Work

Foxnews is reporting that Bill Clinton stated raising his taxes won't solve the current economic problem.
Both sides in the debate on job growth and deficit spending are claiming an ally in Bill Clinton, the multimillionaire former president who has declared his willingness to pay more in taxes, but said that it won't help get the economy moving.

Clinton, in interviews over the weekend, touted President Obama's $447 billion jobs package as a smart move. But speaking with Newsmax, he criticized the president's deficit-reduction plan, which calls for $1.5 trillion in tax hikes to be collected by raising the rates on people making $200,000 or more and adding an additional calculation for people making more than $1 million.

"It's okay with me. I'll pay more. But it won't solve the problem," Clinton said, adding that the country shouldn't deal with increased taxes or spending cuts "until we get this economy off the ground."
Clinton also said that Obama "knows perfectly well the Republicans aren't going to be for" a debt-reduction package that raises taxes. He said he would advise Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to "go work it out. Meanwhile, focus on putting America back to work now, because it just confused Americans."

Following the interview, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said he hopes Obama will "heed" Clinton's advice

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Barletta Fights For FEMA Help Desperately Needed In His District

This Morning Call blog reports Congressman Lou Barletta has joined 70 Democrats in asking Republican Leadership to give FEMA a larger relief pool of funds.

Around 70 House Democrats sent a letter to House Republican leadership urging them to accept a larger funding pool for FEMA disaster relief. Among those Democrat signatures one name sticks out: Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta.

Barletta, whose 11th district was ravaged by recent flooding, said he has joined the Democrats because his constituents need the extra help. He described grown men and women crying on their front porches, their homes destroyed, possessions lost, wondering if anyone will help.
How much to supplement FEMA's disaster relief fund in the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Lee has become a major sticking point in passing a resolution to keep the government funded through November. At issue is this: The House Republicans want to pass a "continuing resolution" with $3.65 billion for the fund with offsets. The Senate has already passed a stand alone measure providing $6.9 billion for FEMA. Majority Leader Harry Reid has said if the House passes its funding bill and sends it to the Senate he will attempt to amend it with the larger FEMA pot. House Democrats are also planning to vote against the bill.

Barletta said he has not yet decided whether he too will vote against the House Republican version.
In the letter, the members write that "FEMA cannot begin full recovery efforts in areas recently devastated because of the lack of adequate resources." The fund is expected to run out of money before the end of the month. "We have an obligation to fulfill to our fellow citizens," they write. "FEMA and other federal agencies need the entirety of the Senate's bill to help suffering Americans today. Please prevent disaster aid from getting caught up in budget brinksmanship by bringing the bill passed by the Senate up for a vote.

In related news, Reid secured a handful of Senate Republican votes to pass the $6.9 billion FEMA funding bill. Among those Republicans was Pennsylvania GOP Pat Toomey. Reid will need those votes again if he wants to amend the House bill and there's no guarantee Toomey and the other will vote for it a second time around.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vinsko The Country Cluber- Insensitive During This Crisis

If Congressman Lou Barletta put out a press release like this one the local media would be all over him. Pundits local and afar would be chastizing him for insensitivity in this time of such devastation and destruction to homes and lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania.   He would be called a rich country cluber.

The Citizen's Voice announced on the VINSKO COCKTAIL PARTY.

The Bill Vinsko for Congress Committee will host a cocktail party from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Wyoming Valley Country Club, Hanover Township. Tickets are $125 per person. For information and tickets, call (well you didn't think I would really publish the number did you?).

Nice timing Attorney Vinsko. While he is enjoying the caviar and martinis at the Club people a few miles away have no heat, electricity, water, or sewer.  Kanjorski built a campaign around Frank Harrison's junket while the giardiasis crisis hit the region.  Look's like Tropical Storm Lee may show Vinsko what happened to General Lee in Gettysburg.

BTW Mr. Vinsko, this one is on me.  Why don't you have the mandatory federal disclaimer notice at the end of this political ad?  One would think an attorney would be up on federal laws concerning campaign notices but then again anyone who is part of Tom Leighton's machine seems to be able to skirt those laws.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paul Kanjorski Are You Done Gloating??

Citizens Blame Levee For Damage To Town

Many residents said they now plan to move because they’ve suffered enough.

SHICKSHINNY – Residents’ emotions in this borough of less than 1,000 ran the gamut Monday as they began recovery from Friday’s flood devastation.

One was resentment.

“I’m going to go to the dike (in the Wyoming Valley) and put a big sign on it that says ‘Happy 150th Anniversary, Shickshinny. Here’s your gift.’ I don’t care what the politicians say. These people know what that dike is doing to them. It’s killing this town,” Shickshinny Fire Chief/Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Morris said.

Mayor Beverly Moore estimated 80 percent of the town was affected by flood waters that in lower-lying areas rose to the roofs of houses when the Susquehanna River crested at 42.66 feet.
Morris and others believe the Wyoming Valley Levee System north of them did its job – keeping the water within the river banks.

That is, until the waters pass through the system and hit downstream communities such as Shickshinny with greater force than ever because they can no longer spread out upstream.

“This may be the death of the town and it’s mainly due to that dike,” Morris said.
If it’s suggested that the Wyoming Valley would have been flooded without the levee, Morris believes fair is fair. “Let them share the pain. Why is Mrs. Smith on Main Street in Wilkes-Barre any better than Mrs. Smith on Main Street in Shickshinny?”

“I think this is the end of the line. I hope not and I’m trying to be optimistic, but there are a lot of homeowners who just said, ‘I’ve had enough,’ ” Morris said.

Cynthia Beach, 53, has lived with her husband, Doug, 54, at their 10 N. Susquehanna Ave. home for about 30 years, but they don’t plan on staying there much longer. Hit by flood waters five times before, the past weekend’s disaster was the final straw.
“We’ve been through it enough. We’re just tired. We’re not getting any younger,” Cynthia said. “The neighbors next door are leaving. They’re tired too.”

The Beaches and their children, Andrew, 22, and Joseph, 19, were able to get some belongings moved out before the midnight evacuation, but they still lost a lot.

“The government keeps promising this and promising that, and they’re never going to do anything,” Doug Beach said. “They don’t want to raise (a levee), so we’re just going to leave.”
“Or let them tear (the house) down and give us the money,” Cynthia Beach said.

A couple blocks north, Lillian Kresge, 85, sat in a lawn chair across the street from her home of 45 years watching her nephew, Aaron Jones and his son, Aaron Jr., wash her porch with a high-pressure sprayer.

As she looked at her mud-covered belongings on the sidewalk, her voice cracked as she fought back tears. “You think you’re all right until you sit down, and then you fall apart.”

Kresge has been hit by smaller floods before and has recovered. Can she do it again?
“I don’t want to. I love my house. I hate the thoughts of having to leave it. But at this point, I’m going to have to, I guess. We’ll see,” she said.

Kresge, too, thinks Shickshinny deserves a levee. She and other residents feel slighted, ignored, even in TV news coverage, Kresge said. “You never see anything much about Shickshinny. It’s like we don’t exist.”

Morris, the fire chief, said he and other officials began assessing the damage on Monday.
“Normally that happens a lot quicker because the fire hall and the borough building aren’t affected,” Morris said. But both took on 4 to 6 feet of water.

The borough set up an emergency command center a few lots up from the fire hall on West Union Street in the garage of Bob McDaniels. American Red Cross representatives made their first appearance in Shickshinny on Monday. “Everything we got up to this point has been private donations. Shickshinny area takes care of Shickshinny when it comes to something like this,” Morris said.

Holly Morris, fire company president, said there would be food and supplies at the command center and the Methodist church on South Main Street.

Mayor Moore, a nurse at Berwick Hospital, said she expected a tetanus clinic would be set up in the borough this week.

As far as relief in the form of a levee, Moore said she doubts Shickshinny will ever see one. “I honestly think they would buy out the town before they would put a dike down here,” she said.

Read more:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Biden, Clinton, Car 54 Where Are You!!!

August, 2008 Now Vice President Joe Biden told us how his childhood left a lasting impression.

Joe Biden left blue-collar, bare-knuckles Scranton for the greener pastures of Delaware when he was only 10 years old. But Scranton, it turns out, left an indelible impression on him. Barack Obama's running mate has returned again and again to the city of his youth, where he attended grammar school at St. Paul's, learned politics at his Irish-Catholic grandfather's knee, and made friendships that have lasted 60 years. He's such a familiar presence here and in the Philadelphia media market -- which includes Delaware, his political base for more than 35 years -- that he's known as Pennsylvania's third senator.

That may be one reason Biden's on the Democratic ticket. In choosing a lunch-bucket Democrat, Obama hopes to capitalize on Biden's appeal to the socially conservative, working-class voters who populate Scranton and many other regions of Pennsylvania. Named for the late governor from Scranton, so-called "Casey Democrats" are a critical voting bloc -- and they largely spurned Obama in the primary, handing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a 10-point victory.

March, 2008 Hilary Clinton returns to her roots in Scranton.

Hillary Clinton begins her six-week siege of Pennsylvania today with an afternoon rally in Scranton, where her rough-hewn father, Hugh Rodham, was born to Welsh immigrants almost 97 years ago. Once a major mining community, the city now is best known as the setting television types picked for NBC's sitcom "The Office." Scranton, nestled in state's northeast corner, has embraced this reflected glory; as noted in a New York Times article last year, the publicity is a welcome change for a city "whose name never seemed to appear in print without the words 'hardscrabble former coal-mining town.' "

Paul Kanjorski thumps his chest over what he did for Wilkes Barre and the levee system. He failed to acknowledge the devastation and destruction the citizens are presently suffering at the fate of Tropical Storm Lee downstream because of that same system. Instead this tragedy was all about him.

Wilkes Barre gives thanks to God, Levees and Paul Kanjorski.

And Todd Eachus protege Edddie Day Pashinski had this to say.

But everyone should be thankful that it never failed, said state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, who represents the city. "I hope that people take a moment tonight and say a prayer and thank the Lord that that dike held," Mr. Pashinski said. "Those of you that experienced 1972 know what kind of devastation we experienced in Wilkes-Barre and throughout the entire valley. Ladies and gentlemen, we dodged a major bullet."

Oh yeah?  Ask the residents in West Pittston and Duryea if they feel like they "dodged the bullet".  How about West Nanticoke??  Downtown Shickshinny look below:

Flood ravages Shickshinny.
Doesn't look like the representative knows what dodging the bullet means.  The bullet wasn't dodged Mr. Pashinski; it was fired at other communities.

And pandering Tom Leighton had this to say about Paul Kanjorski.

Mayor Tom Leighton ordered an evacuation of homes in flood zones near the river and the unpredictable creeks that run through the city. About 20,000 people fled as Wilkes-Barre prepared for a worst-case scenario similar to the wrath of Agnes, which flooded the city from River Street to Wilkes-Barre Boulevard almost 40 years ago. Had the city sustained a similar flood, the waters would not only have devastated homes, but also would have closed businesses that employ the 15,000 people who comprise the state's fourth-largest downtown workforce, Mr. Leighton said. But that never happened, thanks in part to former U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski's work to raise the levee system in the Wyoming Valley, Mr. Leighton said. "Without his hard work in Washington over the years, this valley would have been ruined," Mr. Leighton said.

Let's get back to the beginning of this post.

Where is Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton in this crisis? I know where Lou Barletta and Tom Marino are. Nough Said.

Friday, September 9, 2011

FEMA Disaster Aid The Real Story Electric Cars

As the flood waters start to recede in the Wyoming Valley the political pundits will start their typical barrage of misinformation against Congressman Lou Barletta about his position on disaster aid and budget cuts. Nancy Kman already took a shot when she interviewed Barletta yesterday. Here is the real story about federal disaster aid. So Gort, why don't you ask your fellow Democrats including Senator Robert Casey why THEY are the ones playing politics with federal disaster aid.

From the Wall Street Journal

Democrats Hold Disaster Relief Hostage Until Republicans Approve Electric Cars

Rahm Emanuel may have decamped to Chicago, but Democrats in Washington still won’t let a good crisis go to waste. Their current gambit is to use Hurricane Irene as a pretext to prevent spending cuts to one of Washington’s most notorious boondoggles.

This week the left-wing press has been attacking House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for holding disaster relief funding “hostage.” A more accurate way to put this is that Senate Democrats won’t approve new funding for disasters unless they get the funding they want for corporations that make electric cars.

Here’s the story: In June, House Republicans passed the 2012 Homeland Security appropriations bill, which included an amendment adding $1 billion to the Disaster Relief Fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In a sensible move for taxpayers, the amendment offsets this new disaster funding by cutting spending on the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. This may ring a bell with readers as the funding conduit for one of Washington’s adventures in crony capitalism.

In 2009, the Department of Energy announced that it would loan more than half a billion dollars through this program to a California-based company, Fisker Automotive, to make luxury electric cars. About a month after the loan package was conditionally approved, CEO Henrik Fisker and Joseph Biden appeared in the Vice President’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware to announce that Fisker would now be making some of its cars at the city’s old General Motors factory.

At the event, Mr. Biden described many “long talks” he’d had with Mr. Fisker. The Vice President’s office later said that Mr. Biden didn’t make any direct appeals to Energy before the loan was approved, but Delaware’s chief of economic development told the Journal that Mr. Biden was the state’s “secret weapon, except there is nothing secret about Joe Biden.”

All of this is background to say that the GOP has found the federal program that is arguably the most deserving of a cut to free up funds for disaster victims. But Senate Democrats refuse to pass the House bill and Mr. Cantor has earned their ire this week by continuing to press for cuts in corporate welfare.

Perhaps unwilling to defend the indefensible, some have taken to claiming that the Republican bill cuts cherished liberal entitlements. In an email seeking donations for an anti-Cantor advertising campaign, the group Democracy for America exalted, “We’re hitting Eric Cantor hard—exposing his call to hold Hurricane Irene disaster relief hostage to more cuts in vital programs, like Medicare and Social Security—with in-district ads all next week.”

In the Senate, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin seems unwilling to accept even the idea that the government might set priorities and choose to fund disaster aid instead of other claims on the federal fisc. “If [Mr. Cantor] believes that we can nip and tuck at the rest of the federal budget and somehow take care of disasters, he’s totally out of touch with reality,” said Mr. Durbin.

One reason the House bill has less funding for Democratic priorities is because, even before the hurricane, Republicans had decided that the President’s budget didn’t have enough money for the Disaster Relief Fund. So they funded it at $850 million above the President’s request. Then as they realized that the damage in places like Joplin, Missouri would put additional strain on the fund, the GOP added the amendment that provided still more disaster assistance and cut funding for Mr. Biden’s beloved electric cars.

The White House hasn’t asked for more funding, though White House budget director Jacob Lew wrote to lawmakers Thursday suggesting it could be well north of $5 billion. But so far Mr. Cantor is being blamed for opposing disaster relief because he has been trying to spend more than the President, and to place that above other spending priorities.

By the way, this political theater is having no impact on victims in need of help. The MSNBC gang may like to pretend that Mr. Cantor is stealing blankets from homeless flood victims, but the Washington debate is largely about funding for construction projects that may be years in the future.

Yes, FEMA has warned that its disaster fund is running low, a warning it issues almost annually. And the agency has said it won’t approve new municipal construction projects until it gets more funding. But rebuilding, for example, a bridge in Vermont likely couldn’t happen for months or years anyway as the locals debate designs, approve plans and conduct environmental reviews. The agency’s emergency assistance—water and generators, or money for new windows or clothing—continues without interruption.

To have any hope of controlling spending, Congress has to make choices. That means having the fortitude to give up more corporate welfare to finance more urgent disaster relief.