Monday, May 7, 2012

Thorough and efficient. Federal lawsuit begins in PA this week.

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
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Lawsuit in troubled Chester Upland School District could ripple across state
At issue is whether state is living up to constitutional obligation to fund education.
By Steve Esack and John L. Micek, Of The Morning Call, May 6,2012
Thorough and efficient.
Those three words can be found in Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution: "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
But what that archaic bit of legalese actually means is anyone's guess.
For decades, the Legislature, governor and public school officials have not hashed out a funding formula to meet the obligation to educate students. Likewise, the federal and state judiciary have been reluctant to establish a definition whenever a lawsuit has arisen over Pennsylvania's vague constitutional language.
That ambiguity is expected to go on trial this week in a federal lawsuit that has become Pennsylvania's largest equal education funding complaint in decades.

Corbett turns focus to state pension predicament
The Tribune-Review By The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, May 6, 2012, 8:14 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett has added a new item to his agenda: the increasing costs of pensions covering more than 800,000 retired and current state workers and public school employees.  Aides are analyzing options to deal with the spiraling pension costs as the Republican governor surveys what could be an entire first term — and perhaps second term, too — of difficult budget-making.

City schools seek to base layoffs on teachers' effectiveness

By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 7, 2012 12:25 am
No one disputes that this fall will be a year of unsought change as Pittsburgh Public Schools battles a projected deficit.  About 1 in 4 classroom teachers won't be back in the same school as staffs are reduced and class sizes are increased.  Nearly 1 in 6 classroom teaching positions will be eliminated, leading to what is likely to be an unprecedented number of layoffs, depending on how many teachers retire or resign.
…."We're not that many years away from a system where women were furloughed because they got pregnant," said Ron Cowell, president of The Education Policy and Leadership Center in Harrisburg.  Since November, Ms. Lane has been trying to get the union to allow the district to consider teacher effectiveness in making layoffs.

Upper Darby has company: Tough times in Delco school districts
Published: Sunday, May 06, 2012
Delco Times By VINCE SULLIVAN @vincesullivan
Despite a small increase in education funding from the state for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, many Delaware County school districts are being forced to cut programs, raise taxes or both.

AP surges as tool for schools raising standards
Philadelphia Inquirer by JUSTIN POPE The Associated Press, May 6, 2012
Not long ago, Advanced Placement exams were mostly for top students looking to challenge themselves and get a head start on college credit. Not anymore.
In the next two weeks, 2 million students will take 3.7 million end-of-year AP exams , figures well over double those from a decade ago. With no national curriculum, AP has become the de facto gold standard for high school rigor. States and high schools are pushing AP classes and exams as a way to raise standards across the board, in some cases tying AP to bonuses. And the federal government is helping cover the exam fees.

Participation in AP exams up, especially among minorites

By Dan Hardy Inquirer Staff Writer, Posted: Mon, Dec. 12, 2011

More info on AP Honor Roll from the College Board

Posted: Fri, May. 4, 2012, 6:11 AM
District cuts affect summer meals for children
By Alfred Lubrano Inquirer Staff Writer
Fewer students will be eating free breakfast and lunch in summer school this year because budget troubles are forcing the School District of Philadelphia to reduce the number of academic and enrichment programs it offers.  This year, about 10,000 students will be enrolled in summer programs, nearly half of the 19,000 who attended in 2011, a district representative said. Summer school will be available only to high school seniors who need credits to graduate, special-education students, and students who qualify for education programs funded by federal grants.

Updated postings on ALEC:
Inquirer May 4: Common Cause of PA files complaint over ALEC tax status
Education Week May 1: Ravitch – What you need to know about ALEC

Support Educator-led Turnaround in Philadelphia Now
Sign a petition to be delivered to: Lori Shorr, Chief Education Officer, Executive Advisor to the SRC, Pedro Ramos, Chair, School Reform Commission, Wendell Pritchett, School Reform Commission, Joe Dworetzky, School Reform Commission, Lorene Cary, School Reform Commission, Feather Houstoun, School Reform Commission, Penny Nixon, Chief Academic Officer, and Thomas Knudsen, Acting Superintendent and Chief Recovery Officer

Posted: Fri, May. 4, 2012, 3:00 AM
Private interests vs. school reform: It’s time to fight
Philadelphia Daily News by Marc Lamont Hill
Daily News editor-at-large Marc Lamont Hill is an associate professor of education at Columbia University
LAST WEEK, the Philadelphia School District announced plans to completely overhaul itself and close more than 40 public schools next year. By closing the schools, for what it describes as considerable financial, academic, and safety concerns, the district claims that it will be able to restructure in ways that are more effective and efficient.
While not surprising, given our city’s consistent bungling of education reform over the past two decades, this move was nonetheless disturbing for many reasons.

Destroying our public schools -- it's worse than you think
Philadelphia Daily News Attyttood by Will Bunch

Tax relief from gaming fails to reach predicted mark

By Jeremy Boren  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012
Six years of increasing casino revenue that made Pennsylvania the nation's No. 2 gambling market have done little to increase property tax breaks for most Pennsylvania homeowners, according to state data.
An average property owner receives about a $200 discount on annual property tax bills prepared by the state's 500 school districts. That average has been roughly the same since the 2008-09 fiscal year -- fluctuating year-to-year by $2 to $3 among Western Pennsylvania school districts.

Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest
New York Times By MICHAEL WINERIP Published: May 6, 2012
The idea that a handful of college instructors and student teachers in the school of education at the University of Massachusetts could slow the corporatization of public education in America is both quaint and ridiculous.
Sixty-seven of the 68 students studying to be teachers at the middle and high school levels at the Amherst campus are protesting a new national licensure procedure being developed by Stanford University with the education company Pearson.

“…jobs in education were slashed substantially from August 2008 to August 2011. According to an October White House report: “Nearly 300,000 educator jobs have been lost since 2008, 54 percent of all job losses in local government.”
Teaching Me About Teaching
New York Times By CHARLES M. BLOW
Published: May 4, 2012
Next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t get nearly enough.

Here are more than 400 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:


Has your board considered this draft resolution yet?

PSBA Sample Board Resolution regarding the budget

Please consider bringing this sample resolution to the members of your board.

PA Partnerships for Children – Take action on the Governor’s Budget
The governor’s budget plan cuts funding for proven programs like Child Care Works, Keystone STARS and the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. These are among the most cost-effective investments we can make in education.  Gov. Corbett’s budget plan also runs counter to a pledge he made when he ran for governor in 2010. He acknowledged the benefits of early childhood education and promised to increase funding to double the number of children who would benefit from early learning opportunities.
We need your help to tell lawmakers: if you cut these programs – you close the door to early learning! Click here to tell your state legislators to fund early childhood education programs at the same level they approved for this year’s budget.

Education Voters PA – Take action on the Governor’s Budget
The Governor’s proposal starts the process, but it isn’t all decided: our legislators can play an important role in standing up for our priorities.  Last year, public outcry helped prevent nearly $300 million in additional cuts.  We heard from the Governor, and we know where he stands.  Now, we need to ask our legislators: what is your position on supporting our schools?

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