Tax break could help kids go to private schools but Kentucky’s budget may suffer

A little over a year ago, school choice supporters scored a major victory in Kentucky when Gov. Matt Bevin signed a law allowing charter schools in the state.Now, before charter schools have even opened their doors, lawmakers are bracing for a new school choice battle. Only this time, it’s for private schools.Bills filed in both the House and Senate this month would create a statewide scholarship tax credit program. Under such a program, Kentuckians would be encouraged — through tax breaks — to donate money to organizations that provide private school scholarships. In turn, those organizations would have more money to dole out to students. Already, the bills have stoked controversy.Critics argue that the program would cost the state millions of dollars at a time when it can't afford to lose a single penny. But supporters say it would help kids with special needs, in foster care or from low-income households move to the front of the line to get scholarship help. “I think certain kids need options and we want to provide those,” said Rep. John "Bam" Carney, a Campbellsville Republican and primary sponsor of the House bill.Carney and other proponents of the program argue that wealthy families already have choice when it comes to their kids’ education: they can either afford to pay for private school tuition or can move to an area with high-performing public schools. They say the proposal would level the playing field by giving more students from low-income households access to the benefits of a private education.Under both bills, $25 million in tax credits would be up for grabs in the first year, allowing individuals and businesses who donate to qualifying scholarship organizations to subtract up to $1 million from their state tax bills on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Read this: Charter schools haven't opened in yet. This bill would keep it that way More: Bevin blasts JCPS for Continue Reading

Hire Me! Former Marine now homeless after being laid off as building superintendent

Andre Davis, East Williamsburg, BrooklynPositions sought: Building superintendent, maintenance supervisor or porterExperience: Seven years as building superintendent or porter; five years as incinerator operator and building maintenace worker; nine years as licensed street vendorContact: [email protected] Andre Davis has seen better times. He traveled around the globe as a member of the Marine Corps and also worked at an East Harlem apartment building as the superintendent. But when Davis lost that job in January 2008, he lost the apartment that came with it, too. His safety net soon collapsed, and Davis now lives in a homeless shelter in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "I have experience - I'm ready to work," he insisted. "I can't wait to get back on the job." Because of his military service, Davis, 49, has been getting help since last fall from America Works, a job-placement organization that assists homeless veterans. The group goes beyond the usual advice about résumé writing and mock job interviews. Staffers work with employers with job openings to interview veterans with skills that are a good fit. Davis made a plea for himself and others in his situation. "If anyone out there is looking for employees, hire a homeless veteran," he said. "It's not that we're lazy. We have bills to pay. We need to earn a living." Davis grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and signed up for the Marines in 1978 after graduating from All Hallows High School, a South Bronx Catholic school. "It was time to get out of the house and see what it was like to be on my own," he said. He served for more than three years at bases in the U.S. and in Japan. He was trained to install telephone wires and cables, and also served as a switchboard operator. Though he didn't work for a phone company after returning to civilian life, some skills he learned in the military are useful to this day. "Being a Marine teaches you to be calm under pressure - Continue Reading

As date for Stella Maris’ closure nears, athletes begin to look for new homes

When Stella Maris travels to Christ the King HS for the CHSAA cheerleading and step competition on Saturday, it will mark the final athletic event in the school's 66-year history.The Catholic school for girls, located on the beach in Rockaway, is closing in August due to declining enrollment. Stella Maris, whose enrollment has dwindled to less than 300 students, told students and teachers about the closure in October."It's an extremely sad feeling," said Ellen Faughnan, the school's athletic director. "I've been here for 33 years. It's a family. It's our home away from home, so to speak, especially for the girls that played soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball."Enrollment had gotten smaller over the last few years, and it's just not feasible to keep it going," she continued. ". . . It's just heartbreaking."The enrollment has fallen even more drastically since the announcement that the school had to pull the plug on the softball team a week before Easter."As soon as they heard the news, a lot of parents made their move and started transferring their kids out of the school," said Jim DeAngelo, who had expected to be coaching the softball team for the 10th year. "We had a good number, but they started dropping off one by one. I thought we were at least going to be able to go out with one last bang. I put four daughters through that school. When we found out, we were all kind of devastated in my home."He's not the only coach who's feeling the pain. Maureen Gigliello wrapped up her 16th season as  basketball coach last month. Liz Conte finished her first season as volleyball coach, but taught art for the past 10 years. Michelle Raaf was a 2007 graduate of Stella Maris and, at 21, the youngest soccer coach in the CHSAA."It's really sad on so many levels because Stella was such a big part of Rockaway," Raaf said. "It kind of molded me, and I owe a lot to Stella."Raaf's younger sister, Ashley, a sophomore guard on Stella Maris's basketball team, is one of the Continue Reading

TV deals cause for High School anxiety

Jayvaughn Pinkston? Jennifer O'Neil? Isiah Yim?Ever heard of these names? If you're a casual sports fan, probably not, and you're not alone, for now. For the record, Pinkston and O'Neil are two of the city's top high school basketball players, and Yim is a top scholastic fencer. In a few days, however, these kids just may be coming to a flat screen near you.It's all part of a growing interest in broadcasting high school sports. Verizon has been televising high school games in New Jersey and Long Island this summer on Fios1, the company's local channel. And on Thursday, MSG Varsity, a channel dedicated to high school sports, will begin airing for Cablevision subscribers. Sounds great, right? You're sick of watching the overpaid pros with diva attitudes, and the college game with its endless corruption, right? Can't wait to see your son/daughter/niece/nephew/neighbor's kid get the SportsCenter treatment for that game-winning bucket, right?Wrong. These stations just may give rise to a new era in high school sports, one filled with wannabe divas, and all about TV companies making more dough."Here we go again," says Columbia University's Dr. David Klatell, who has co-authored two books breaking down the relationship between television and sports. "The pattern is pretty clear, as we've seen in professional and college sports. Will this push down into the high schools?"MSG Varsity and Fios1 reps promise that won't happen, vowing to create an experience that merely gives local athletes the chance to excel in crystal-clear HD. They talk about televising cricket matches as aggressively as they air basketball games. Sure, that'll get folks tuning in during sweeps week."We're not pinpointing our coverage toward the biggest and the best," says Fios1 rep Rich Young. "Our goal is to air a wide variety of sports."But there's a bottom line, and somebody's watching that, tracking the ratings, set to pull the plug if the numbers aren't keeping up with the Kardashians. And let's be Continue Reading

11 New York Catholic schools need saving

Nearly a dozen Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens are slated to close this summer because of plummeting enrollment, diocesan officials said Monday. The proposal would shutter 11 schools and merge nine others to form three new schools. "I'm sad," said 8-year-old Alvin Acheampong, a third-grader at Flatbush Catholic Academy in Brooklyn, among those scheduled to close their doors in June. "I like my school. I make new friends and I learn a lot. "I don't know how they could close my school." As at most Catholic schools across the nation, enrollment has been steadily declining in New York. The number of kids attending Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens has dropped about one-third over the past decade: In 1998, 55,000 students were enrolled, compared with 37,000 children in 209 schools this year. "It's a surprise to me," said Rachel Connolly, president of the parents' association at Our Lady of Angels in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She was on the verge of tears as she spoke. "I've had a very positive experience over here," said the mother of a third-grader and a kindergartener. In 2005, the diocese closed 25 schools and seven have closed since then. This year's closure and consolidation process, dubbed "Preserving the Vision," began last September. Meetings were held with parents and community groups. Officials will take feedback from parents on the proposal in the coming weeks. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will make the final decision before registration opens for the 2009-2010 school year on Feb. 23. "I am committed to ensuring that our Catholic schools are accessible geographically and financially to the people of our Diocese," DiMarzio said in a statement. "When we determined that our schools are operating at only 85% of capacity, it became clear that we had to consider why this was happening and how we might reverse the trend." The diocese is hoping not to lose too many students in the consolidation process. About 80% of Continue Reading

Church needs non-Catholic partners

The Pope's recent visit to New York highlighted the vibrancy of the Catholic Church. In a city where change is the only constant, the church's success has hinged on its ability to transform itself as a way to remain vital.Over the nearly 50 years that I have been a priest in the Brooklyn Diocese, I have seen the four parishes in Bushwick where I was pastor have a weekly worship attendance between 1,500 and 2,000 people. This, for me, is just one indication of how vital the church is even in the city's poorest neighborhoods. Catholic schools, while struggling financially, continue to provide excellent education to young people all over the city, and thousands of low-income families receive financial assistance to keep their children in these schools. The church also continues to provide a variety of social services through various Catholic Charities offices, including seminars to aid families affected by the subprime mortgage crisis; orchestrating new construction of low-income housing; building low-rent apartments for the elderly, and operating Head Start Centers for preschool children from low-income families. Recently, 18 Catholic churches in Brooklyn put together a powerful coalition to assure that all new construction along the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront includes a substantial amount of affordable housing. The church also offers legal assistance to immigrants through Catholic Migration offices. Vital work, indeed. Despite its extraordinary record, the church faces real challenges, some of which were raised by Pope Benedict during his visit. There was nothing more important for the Pope than his meeting with the victims who were sexually abused by priests. But Pope Benedict must go one step further. Bishops still in charge of a diocese who regularly transferred abusive priests from one parish to another should be asked to resign. Also, the critical shortage of ordained Catholic priests is making the work load of the excellent priests we have almost Continue Reading

Joba Chamberlain cherishes every moment after nearly losing father Harlan

It's a cherished Father's Day memory, Harlan Chamberlain coming home from another stressful day as an inmate counselor at a Nebraska prison, to find the perfect present from his son, Joba, and his daughter, Tasha. A glass of sweet pineapple juice. "He loves pineapple," Joba Chamberlain says, smiling at the memory. "We poured pineapple juice in a cup and put a piece of pineapple on the rim. He loved it. It was kind of corny, but when he got home, it was great." Father's Day is a big holiday for Joba and his sister, considering that Harlan Chamberlain raised them both mostly by himself. He shared a bed with Joba for 11 years in their two-bedroom house so Tasha could have her own room and pawned his prized possessions to get the family through difficult times. Harlan Chamberlain did it all while battling health problems linked to a childhood case of polio that left him paralyzed on his left side and needing a motorized scooter to get around. And Sunday might be Joba's most treasured Father's Day, in light of the drama he and his family experienced in April when 56-year-old Harlan collapsed at home while the Yankees played in Boston. A distraught Joba got the news after the April 13 night game at Fenway and sobbed in the clubhouse while Joe Girardi consoled him. He left the team immediately and went home to Lincoln to sit at his father's side. The man who Joba still talks to twice a day. The man who had sacrificed everything for his children, lay in a hospital bed on life support after collapsing from respiratory failure due to pneumonia. Joba, with his youth, his fortune and a fastball that have made him a star in New York, could only pray. Chamberlain spent nearly a week at home while his father, who had escaped another life-threatening episode about 18 months ago when his appendix burst, healed. "It was scary because he said he never wanted to be put on a ventilator again and it came to that," Chamberlain says. "And you've got to be that person that Continue Reading

Parochial schools offer tuition help

For Bronx parents anxious about paying Catholic school tuition, help is just a phone call away. Thousands of dollars in scholarships are still available, particularly for students starting kindergarten and for those transferring from public schools. "Sometimes because of costs and economics, parents really don't have a choice when it comes to educating their children. These scholarships will guarantee that choice," said Jacqueline Lofaro, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New York. Nearly 33,000 students attend 77 Catholic schools across the Bronx, with an average tuition of $3,000 per year. Forty-seven of those schools are participating in the scholarship programs. "Many of our schools in the Bronx have parents who truly sacrifice to be able to afford to send their students to Catholic schools," Lofaro said. "So we are always encouraging donations for these scholarships." That effort got a huge boost in late spring after Wall Street tycoon Robert Wilson donated $22.5 million for a special scholarship program to help inner-city youth. Susana Fernandez, 25, of Pelham Bay, has been taking advantage of the extra funds. Her daughter, Kaylin Abreu, 6, is about to enter the second grade at St. John Vianney in Castle Hill. This year, Fernandez got just over $2,000 toward the $3,850 tuition. "For me it really helped a lot," said Fernandez, who chose not to send her daughter to public school. "There are flaws in the public school system. I feel like in Catholic school, she'll get the attention she needs in smaller classes." On average, Catholic schools have a 95% graduation rate which eclipses the city rates, put by state officials at 43.5%, though city officials argue it is more like 58.2%. Fernandez, who went to a city high school, acknowledged that not all city schools are bad, but said her daughter's future is more secure in Catholic school. "I just want her to have a good education and to feel like if she has a problem, she can go to her teacher Continue Reading

Readers sound off on school reform, the Israeli election and Hillary Clinton

A holy serious schools solution Manhattan: The solution to public education’s problems is simple: Contract running the public schools out to the Catholic Church. While public schools applaud an increase in the graduation rate from 62% to 65% as a tremendous improvement, New York City’s Catholic schools regularly graduate 98%. And when public schools boast of raising college enrollment levels to 37%, every year Catholic high schools send 95% of their graduates to college. The best part is, they do this at half the cost per pupil. Of course, it is far more important to preserve teachers’ benefits than to provide our city’s children with a superior education at a savings of $10 billion. Joseph McCluskey Flunked the spelling test Port Chester, N.Y. : I found it both interesting and ironic that a chart accompanying the “Fight for their future” series (March 17), addressing proficiency in the school system, could not spell the word “eighth” correctly. I give the editor an “F”! Lucy Keck Get to the truth Brooklyn: Regarding the Senate committee report on the torture of Guantanamo prisoners, the question left open for the public is what motivated the Bush White House and the CIA. They claimed to choose torture to guard against an impending second attack. This assumes that there was no other alternative, but there was one. During World War II, when the Allies or the Germans captured high-ranking military officers, the most efficient means of obtaining vital information from them was to administer a drug called scopolamine — an aggressive form of sodium pentothal. I can only conclude that the waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc. at Guantanamo was used solely for sadistic pleasure, in violation of U.S. and international law. I hope that the people who approved and administered this torture will be tried in the U.S. or at The Hague, and that President Obama will be impeached for obstruction of Continue Reading

Michigan girl, 12, kicked out of school after missing too many days of class while receiving cancer treatment

A 12-year-old girl who fought off cancer has been kicked out of school because she did not attend enough classes while she was having treatment. Rose McGrath from Battle Creek, Michigan, who has been receiving lengthy treatment since being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012, was recently told she could no longer attend St. Joseph's Middle School, reports WWMT. The private Catholic school cited her low attendance record and poor academic performance. "I didn't do anything wrong, but they still got rid of me," a tearful Rose said. The letter said that the school had tried to reduce Rose's workload. "They were extraordinary circumstances, but so many accommodations were made we felt eventually it became a point where we really had to help Rose, by being able to make sure that she was getting the assistance that she needed and to learn," said Battle Creek's Father John Fleckenstein. But Rose's family say the school have not done nearly enough. Her father Tom said the provisions made for Rose were "woefully inadequate." Mom Barbara said: "It's not like she's out at the mall having fun, she's in her bed, sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain. She's not having fun, she's sick. She'd be at school if she could." The McGraths have filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. Rose is no longer receiving cancer treatment. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading