Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Student/teacher ratio at Romney's Cranbrook School (Bloomfield Hills, MI) is 5.5:1 
Student - teacher ratio at Arne Duncan's high school, Univ of Chicago Lab School, = 10:1

Posted: Sat, May. 26, 2012, 3:01 AM
Romney sparks a debate on school class size
By Jeff Gammage and Rita Giordano Inquirer Staff Writers
For years, teachers and parents have insisted that smaller class sizes are crucial to children's educational success.  On Thursday, Mitt Romney visited Philadelphia and politely said they were mistaken.  And on Friday, passions erupted among partisans and professionals, from city classrooms to City Hall to Cherry Hill.

Parents Across America
An open letter to President Obama about Romney’s class size
By Leonie Haimson, public school parent and Executive Director, Class Size Matters.

Special-needs education is battleground for charters, other districts in Pa.

May 27, 2012 12:59 am
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Charter schools, the vanguard of the educational choice movement, haven't drawn their shares of special-needs students, especially those with the most challenging disabilities. The result: Public school officials fear they are being left with the most challenging students, but with dwindling resources to educate them.
Pittsburgh Public Schools, for instance, has seen 11 percent of its students opt for charters, but has held on to more than 97 percent of its hearing impaired, visually impaired, mentally retarded and autistic students. In two less resource-intensive special-needs categories -- learning disabled and orthopedically impaired -- more than 10 percent of Pittsburgh district students have left for charters.
By contrast, the Midland-based Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School educates 11,300 kids from all over the state, and has a student body that is 12.2 percent special-needs kids -- lower than the statewide average of 15.1 percent, and the Pittsburgh Public Schools' figure of 17.3 percent. It gets more than its fair share of autistic students, but far fewer mentally retarded children.

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012 5:50 am
Reserve Funds: Are schools hoarding or planning responsibly?
Phillyburbs.com By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer
When the Corbett administration and Republican lawmakers criticized school districts for raising taxes while sitting on fund balances, they were pointing fingers at a district like Bensalem.
The district in the southwest corner of Bucks County with a $121 million budget will have a fund balance of just under $30 million when the 2012-13 school year begins. The money is held in different accounts to pay for things like debt service, future severance and the pension spike that districts were advised to save for.
There’s also an “uncommitted” fund that some people describe as “rainy day” money. Jack Myers, Bensalem’s business director, calls that one-time cash “to help you out of a real jam that is not going to recur.”

Is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's administration due for a big shakeup?

Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 10:54 AM
Republican lobbyists, legislators and power brokers welcomed Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to change his top aide.   But they’re also hoping he doesn’t stop there.
Corbett announced Thursday that he was replacing Bill Ward, his chief of staff since becoming governor. He nominated Ward to a post on the Allegheny County bench.
Corbett named Stephen Aichele, previously his chief counsel, as his new chief of staff.
Though close advisers say the governor decided to make the change about two weeks ago, the switch comes days before he is scheduled to meet with a handful of his most influential party patrons.   And the timing has caused many party figures — who mostly spoke on condition of anonymity — to speculate that further shakeups are imminent. 

Posted: Sun, May. 27, 2012, 6:39 AM
Cuts threaten Upper Darby schools’ legacy of arts
By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer
Upper Darby High School maintains a collec­ion of impressively large trophies, showcasing decades of excellence. This spring, to no one’s surprise, several more were added, top prizes at a national competition.  All this is not a boasting of athletic achievement; Upper Darby High’s trophies are found in the chorus room and represent its outstanding success in music.
Down the hall is the 1,650-seat Performing Arts Center, home to Summer Stage, a theater partnership with the township whose founder, Harry Dietzler, won a prestigious Barrymore Award last fall. Among his proteges: Tina Fey, of 30 Rock and Sat­ur­day Night Live.

Posted: Sun, May. 27, 2012, 3:00 AM
It's Personal: Tina Fey, the arts, and big dreams
Maria Panaritis, Inquirer Columnist
Tina Fey was Frenchie, I was Rizzo. But the real star of our sold-out performances of Grease in high school was the Upper Darby School District — a place where kids like us from humble homes were taught not just English and algebra, but how to dream big, think big, and make big things happen.
Posted: Fri, May. 25, 2012, 8:19 AM
Philadelphia school funding crisis not high on Harrisburg's agenda
By Patrick Kerkstra For the Inquirer
  From Corbett, only words
Relax, Philadelphia! Gov. Corbett's got this.
Sure, those dire headlines and the protests in the street might lead you to think city schools are careering down a seemingly endless fiscal mine shaft. But thanks to an update this week on Corbett's Twitter feed, we now know otherwise: "the number one priority in the #pabudget is education."

What's next for Pennsylvania's public schools?
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012, 5:00 AM
Already, local districts are slashing programs, furloughing teachers, making students pay for sports, getting rid of tutors, eliminating pre-kindergarten, foreign languages and librarians, and making other changes which West Shore School Board member Ron Candioto said could “chip away at the foundation of what a school district is supposed to do.”
It doesn’t look like it will get better. The pension crisis that is one cause of the budgetary woes is going to get worse. Gov. Tom Corbett is determined to hold the line on taxes, and although Senate Republicans are talking about restoring some of his proposed cuts, district officials don’t expect to get much more from the state.

“… the proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year is nearly $220 million, cutting 364 jobs, including 170 teaching positions. That amounts to 14% of the district's teaching staff.”

Reading's preliminary budget cuts 170 teachers, closes 5 schools

WFMZ Berks County Regional News by Kimberly Davidow May 23 2012
The Reading School Board has signed off on a preliminary spending plan that eliminates several programs and nearly 15% of the teaching staff.  The vote Wednesday night came after lots of emotional feedback from parents who are against the massive cuts.
The decisions the board has had to make have been the hardest ever, said member Karen McCree.  "If any of you walk out of here today and think that we're okay with this, then something's wrong with every last one of you," said McCree.
It was a packed house at the meeting as members signed off on a preliminary budget that is loaded with job cuts. Parents, teachers and staff were standing for more than two hours just to hear what the potential cuts involved.
As it stands, the proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year is nearly $220 million, cutting 364 jobs, including 170 teaching positions. That amounts to 14% of the district's teaching staff.

Neshaminy teachers call strike for June 4
Phillyburbs.com By Christian Menno Staff writer Posted on May 27, 2012
The Neshaminy Federation of Teachers has informed the school district that the union intends to strike June 4.  The work stoppage would be the second this school year, as the bitter contract dispute with the school board approaches the four-year mark.
But according to union officials, the strike could be averted if progress is made at an upcoming negotiation session.  State law mandates that teachers must complete 180 days of service, so depending on the length of the strike, the end of the school year could be pushed back as far as June 30, officials said.

LTE: A third-grader’s view of the budget
LehighValleyLive.com May 25th Letter to the Editor
My name is Zachary. I’m in third grade at Francis A. March Elementary school in Easton. My mom and my dad always told me to fight for what I believe in. I believe the school budget is wrong.

Huffington Post by Sen. Daylin Leach State senator from Pennsylvania's 17th District
Posted: 05/24/2012 3:45 pm
Do you remember the song "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" It was very catchy. The song "How Do You solve a Problem Like Chronically Under-Funded Schools?" is less catchy (except for the Moody Blues version) but still raises an important question. After all, Maria was fine. She de-nunned herself and married Captain Georg Von Trapp. Sadly, marrying into fictional Austrian royalty is rarely an option for Pennsylvania kids whose schools the state has abandoned.
As anyone who cares about public education (plus the Corbett administration) knows, Pennsylvania has a lot of school districts in grave financial distress. You could blame it on the massive budget cuts this administration has pushed through, although, to be fair, you could also blame it on the rain, if you don't care about and facts, and you are a huge Milli Vanilli fan.

Commentary: Put the Boston Consulting Group where it belongs - before the public
The Notebook by Helen Gym on May 24 2012
It’s hard to imagine a worse debut in Philadelphia for the Boston Consulting Group.
The Massachusetts-based multinational firm scored $1.5 million for a six-week gig that produced the publicly and academically scorned “Blueprint for Transforming Philadelphia’s Public Schools.” The hardline rhetoric in the plan around school closings, charter expansion, and so-called “achievement networks” has drawn out thousands of upset parents and community members to gatherings around the city.
And yet, as Dale Mezzacappa reported this week, BCG is continuing its role in Philadelphia for $1.2 million more, money raised specifically from private donors and funneled through the United Way outside public scrutiny.

FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2012 12:26 PM EDT

Cheating runs rampant

No Child Left Behind has unleashed a nationwide epidemic of cheating. Will education reformers wake up?

On the Thursday, Mitt Romney made a visit to a West Philadelphia charter school to tout his education platform, which, as it happens, looks pretty similar to President Obama’s: more privately managed schools and a reliance on high-stakes standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
But on the ten-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind, the school-reform movement that both candidates have embraced is in crisis. Rampant and widespread cheating on high-stakes standardized tests has been uncovered in districts nationwide.

Published on May 21, 2012 by SaveUDArts
Sign the Petition http://ow.ly/b3rR2
This isn't just about the Upper Darby School District. All over Pennsylvania and in many other states as well, WAR has been declared on Public Education, on children.  Our children deserve the very best that we can give them, no matter what test scores say. Help us take a stand and stop school districts from being forced to cut programs which cultivate who our children become.
We will be in Harrisburg on June 6th, 2012 to gather support for the proper funding of education. All are welcome to join us!
Please visit www.saveudarts.org to learn more and join the fight.

Here are more than 700 articles since January 23rd detailing budget cuts, program cuts, staffing cuts and tax increases being discussed by local school districts
The PA House Democratic Caucus has been tracking daily press coverage on school district budgets statewide:

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