Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PA: Community College slashing the hours of staff to dodge paying for Obamacare

Pennsylvania's Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) is slashing the hours of 400 adjunct instructors, support staff, and part-time instructors to dodge paying for Obamacare.

"It's kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don't have the money to pay for it," said adjunct biology professor Adam Davis.

On Tuesday, CCAC employees were notified that Obamacare defines full-time employees as those working 30 hours or more per week and that on Dec. 31 temporary part-time employees will be cut back to 25 hours. The move will save an estimated $6 million. 

"While it is of course the college’s preference to provide coverage to these positions, there simply are not funds available to do so," said CCAC spokesperson David Hoovler. "Several years of cuts or largely flat funding from our government supporters have led to significant cost reductions by CCAC, leaving little room to trim the college’s budget further."

The solution, says United Steelworkers representative Jeff Cech, is that adjunct professors should unionize in an attempt to thwart schools seeking similar cost-savings efforts from avoiding Obamacare. 

"They may be complying with the letter of the law, but the letter of law and the spirit of the law are two different things," said Mr. Cech. "If they are doing it at CCAC, it can't be long before they do it other places."

Under the new CCAC policy, adjunct professors will only be allowed to teach 10 credit hours a semester. Adjuncts are paid $730 per credit hour.
"We all know we are expendable," said Mr. Davis, "and there are plenty of people out there in this economy who would be willing to have our jobs."


British regulator hails turnaround at schools that outlawed mobile phones

A school has been hailed for improving discipline and cracking down on bullying – by banning mobile phones.  Pupils are forbidden from making calls, sending texts or using online messaging services anywhere on the grounds.

Those who breach the zero tolerance policy have their phone confiscated – and parents have to go into the school to get it back.

The initiative has won the backing of Ofsted, which said the ban at Burnage Media Arts College in Manchester had ‘contributed to a reduction in opportunities for cyber-bullying…or disruption in class’.

It comes after the new chief inspector of schools blamed mobiles for constant low-level disruption which hampered learning and called for them to be barred from classrooms.

The college’s head, Ian Fenn, said: ‘I think mobile phones rather crept up on education – and in our experience it was a nightmare.’

A particular problem has been pupils using messaging services such as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) behind teachers’ backs,  he said.  ‘We used to have kids BBM-ing in lessons or sending each other jokes.

'We tried telling pupils they couldn’t use them in lessons but it didn’t work because it was too much of a grey area.  'When we banned them completely we weren’t sure how it would be received – but the effect has been dramatic.

‘I don’t think there’s any other initiative in the last 12 years I’ve seen that has had the same impact. Apart from getting the best teachers we can, I think it’s the most important thing we have done for pupils to improve learning.’

Mr Fenn said not only had behaviour and concentration levels improved since the ban was introduced a year ago, but reports of cyber-bullying had dropped dramatically.

The ban has meant many pupils now leave their phones at home – with others only using them outside school gates to contact parents once the day has finished.

Staff at the boys’ school say the difference in behaviour has been ‘dramatic’. Parents and governors have also given their full backing.

Local councillor Bev Craig said: ‘The school has continued to see a marked improvement in its results. The latest measure in enforcing a ban on mobile phones in class is a good way of getting young people to give their full attention in class.’

Ex-pupils include architect Norman Foster and National Youth Theatre founder Michael Croft, from its days as Burnage Grammar School for Boys.

Earlier this year Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new chief inspector of schools, told how he was drawing on his experience as head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, East London. Mobiles were banned, ending what he called the ‘disruptive and pernicious’ menace of cyber-bullying.


Top Catholic rejects Gove's free school programme as 'problematic'

Absurd politically correct government insistence that Catholic schools must take 50% non-Catholics!

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s flagship free school programme was rejected as ‘problematic’ by the Catholic Church yesterday.

Greg Pope, deputy director of the Catholic Education Service (CES) for England and Wales, said there was a ‘perverse disincentive’ for the church to launch free schools.

Free schools are state schools  set up by parents, teachers, charities, faith groups and other organisations.

A Department for Education document for groups applying to open free schools with a religious character says that admission on the basis of faith must be limited to 50 per cent of the yearly intake when oversubscribed.

Mr Pope said this 50 per cent issue ‘works against there being a huge number of Catholic free schools’.

At the moment there is only one Catholic free school, St Michael’s Catholic School in Truro, Cornwall.

Mr Pope said: ‘When I discussed this with the Secretary of State earlier in the summer, the point I made to Mr Gove was we would be unlikely to open a new school unless there was demand for a new school.

‘If there was demand for a new 1,000-pupil Catholic school, why would we open a free school if we had to turn away pupils on the grounds that they are Catholic while accepting others on the grounds that they are not Catholic? That’s a perverse disincentive to me.’

Mr Pope said he was not against the idea of free schools and it was an option they would explore further if this ‘barrier’ was not in the way.

He said the Catholic Church does have the option of opening up voluntary aided (VA) schools – state schools run by a foundation or trust, quite often a faith group.

But if they wanted a new school to be an academy – which has more freedom than local council-run schools – they would have to open a VA school and convert.

His comments came as the CES published its annual census looking at the make-up of its schools.

It found that 70.4 per cent of pupils at Catholic schools in England and Wales belong to the Catholic faith, along with 55 per cent of teachers.

It also found that some 33.5 per cent of pupils at Catholic primary schools are from an ethnic minority, along with 28.7 per cent of those at Catholic secondary schools.


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