Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wall Street Journal: School-Test Backlash Grows

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

Please take 5 minutes to join parents and community members across the Commonwealth in calling their legislators and Governor Corbett on Wednesday and urge them to change the direction we are heading and INVEST IN PUBLIC EDUCATION!  Use our Call to Action Guide for all the information you'll need to participate.  It's that easy!
Spread the word Forward this email to your friends, post on Facebook and Twitter or do what others are doing, encourage parents and neighbors by passing out flyers.

The pendulum might finally be starting to swing back towards commonsense after 10 years of out-of-control testing……

Wall Street Journal: School-Test Backlash Grows

Some Parents, Teachers and Boards Rebel, Saying Education Is Being Stifled

Wall Street Journal Online By STEPHANIE BANCHERO Updated May 16, 2012

The increasing role of standardized testing in U.S. classrooms is triggering pockets of rebellion across the country from school officials, teachers and parents who say the system is stifling teaching and learning.
In Texas, some 400 local school boards—more than one-third of the state's total—have adopted a resolution this year asking lawmakers to scale back testing. In Everett, Wash., more than 500 children skipped state exams in protest earlier this month. A national coalition of parents and civil-rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, signed a petition in April asking Congress to reduce federal testing mandates.
In recent weeks, the protest spread to Florida, where two school boards, including Palm Beach County, signed on to a petition similar to the one in Texas. A parent in a third, Broward County, on Tuesday formally requested that school officials support the movement.


Corbett to public school districts: Use reserves to avoid cuts
By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday that school districts could be dipping deeper into their reserves to avoid cutting programs next year, but public school advocates say most districts are already using the money and others are worried about being able to afford rising pension costs.
Corbett suggested during a regular appearance on the Dom Giordano Program on WPHT-AM in Philadelphia that school boards that are discussing reducing full-day kindergarten for half-days or getting rid of music or art programs are not using reserves to the extent they could.


Editorial: Corbett boxes himself in with no-tax stance

Turns out Upper Darby is not the only place where Gov. Tom Corbett is not all that popular.
You might remember that parents, educators and some community members are pointing the finger at Harrisburg for the funding shortfall that is leading to teacher layoffs, tax hikes and a very unpopular curriculum change in the Upper Darby School District. “Special” classes in arts and music at the elementary level, and language and technology in the middle schools, are being curtailed. Those lessons will now be handled in regular classrooms. Parents are not happy.
District administrators say their hands are tied as they try to keep their heads above a $4 million sea of red ink. And, they warn, without these drastic actions, the school would topple into the fiscal abyss. They warn of an instant replay next year.
And they believe they know who the culprit is in this financial saga. They also look to the capital, and the austere budgets of the Republican governor, along with special education and charter school regulations that siphon off needed funds from district schools


Missed Another view of the Upper Darby school crisis and discussion of public school funding, cyber charter funding and PSSA testing on Live from the Newsroom? Here is the replay

This week on Live from the Newsroom, we offered another view of public education as we were  joined by Larry Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition and a member of the Haverford School Board; Joe Batory, a former Superintendent of Upper Darby; Daily Times columnist Gil Spencer and State Senator Ted Erickson.  If you missed the show, or want to watch it again, here is the replay:
Video in 4 parts; runtimes 11:24, 8:12, 13:15 and 7:41


Harrisburg School Board member Brendan Murray: Without extra state funding, kindergarten, sports and transportation will get axed

By ERIC VERONIKIS, The Patriot-News Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 1:49 PM  
If the state doesn't dole out more money for Harrisburg School District than Gov. Tom Corbettproposed in his 2012-13 budget plan, kindergarten, sports and all transportation services will be axed next year, said Brendan Murray, a member of the district's school board.
The district has not adopted its preliminary or final budget yet, but there is no doubt about it, without extra state funding, kindergarten, athletics and transportation will go away, and the district still would be left with a $7 million to $8 million budget gap next school year, Murray said.
"Unless the legislature will come through with money for us, it’s going to happen," Murray said. "This is absolutely insane, I never thought running for office we would have to say those are off the table."
The district is facing a $15.8 million budget gap next school year.


Posted: Wed, May. 16, 2012, 3:00 AM

Gambling on pensions

John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist

Once in awhile something gets dropped into the state legislative hopper more interesting than the usual bridge-naming and nonsense.

Take Rep. Paul Clymer’s bill to address the public pension crisis by charging casino-goers a $2 cover charge.


Pa. education chief Tomalis talks of stress to system

  — State College - Centre Daily Times
Posted: 12:01am on May 16, 2012
COLLEGE TOWNSHIPPennsylvania’s educational system is facing challenging times, Gov. Tom Corbett’s lead man on the issue said at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County on Tuesday.
Ron Tomalis, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education, said a recession-dented state budget and the expiration of federal stimulus funds had created a financial crunch. In coming years, the commonwealth’s schools will have to do more with less, Tomalis said — even though Pennsylvania’s public education system will spend about $26 billion next year.
“Everyone wants to invest more in public education, and I get that. I understand why we need to do that,” Tomalis said. “But we also need to balance that with what our expectations are. ... We need to get it so that the impact of the labor is such that we’re getting a good (return on investment) on our $26 billion. I don’t think we are.”

The Governor’s Rash
Yinzercation Blog — MAY 16, 2012
Our grassroots movement for public education is like a bad case of poison ivy over at the Governor’s office: we won’t go away and he just has to scratch. We are forcing him to pay attention. And you know what your mother told you would happen if you scratch that poison ivy rash – yep, it spreads.
Yesterday Governor Corbett repeated his “no-new-taxes” line to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce over the sound of hundreds of protestors outside. Our colleagues in the public education movement there report that he slipped down an alley before his talk to avoid having to see the massive demonstration, but he could still hear them as he told the business crowd, “public schools that receive taxpayer financing need to cut costs.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5-16-12]


Pa. Education Department defends its treatment of Chester Upland

May 15, 2012 By Dan Hardy, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Lawyers for the state Department of Education began their defense Tuesday in a federal special-education lawsuit brought by the Chester Upland School District, saying that no law had been violated and that the district had done too little to solve its own problems.

In testimony last week and Monday, Chester Upland’s lawyers sought to show U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson that the district faces a large funding shortfall in providing legally required services for its 735 special-education students. The district may have too little money to open schools in September, they said, much less provide for special-needs children.


Pittsburgh Rally urges keeping teachers based on ability, not seniority

By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 16, 2012 1:45 am
With an unprecedented number of teacher layoffs expected in Pittsburgh Public Schools, A+ Schools -- along with support from nine other community organizations -- led a rally Tuesday demanding: Keep Pittsburgh's best teachers.
A+ Schools called on the school district and the teachers union, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, to come up with a plan that would consider teacher effectiveness, not just seniority, in deciding which teachers get laid off.


Stephen Krashen on Common Core Standards and Tests

Schools Matter Blog May 16, 2012

“There’s no reason on earth for common core standards and these tests that we’re wasting billions of dollars on,” said Stephen Krashen, an emeritus education professor at the University of Southern California. “The rationale for the standards and national tests is the belief that our schools are broken. The only evidence for this is our mediocre scores on international tests. But middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well on international tests, scoring at the top of the world. Our overall scores are unimpressive because we have so many children living in poverty, about 22%, the highest percentage of all industrialized countries. This shows that the problem in American education is poverty, not a lack of standards and tests and not teaching quality. Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and little access to books. The best tests and the most inspiring teachers will have little impact when children are hungry, sick, and have little access to books.

The Night the Lights Went Out on Friday

Huffington Post by Timothy D. Slekar Posted: 03/ 7/11 05:37 PM ET

"I oppose the closing of public schools for a simple reason. ... They are a public service, a public good. It is the obligation of public officials to provide good public schools in every neighborhood, not to privatize them or to act as an umpire whose role is to judge them defective and shut them down." Diane Ravitch

Last Friday I went to my first middle school dance in 32 years. I felt a little out of place but what was I supposed to do? My wife and I "volunteered" as chaperons, however, somehow I ended up at the dance alone (just like 32 years ago). I had a very important job to do. I had to stand around for two hours and make sure that all the kids were safe and the building was used appropriately (I refused to look under the bleachers). I guess I did my job, however, after about 30 minutes I started to think about Arnie Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and the current school reform movement. I was overcome with anger and sadness.


A Dozen Education Policy Questions the Press Should Ask
Nieman Watchdog ASK THIS | February 07, 2012
By Diane Ravitch                                  

Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign Education Funding Advocacy Week May 21-25
Education Funding Advocacy Week is not a single event but a series of activities sponsored by individuals and organizations that oppose the Governor’s proposed Budget for 2012-2013 because it reduces learning opportunities for students in Pennsylvania 
·         Education Voters of PA “Call to Action for Public Education” Day  on May 23rd.  Get involved! Learn how, click here.
·         Harrisburg public school supporters will hold a rally for increased state funding for public schools at the State Capitol on May 23 at 10:00 AM.
·         The Media Area NAACP and CU Keystone Honors Program is hosting 2012 Conference on the State of Education in Pennsylvania “Calling for a Trauma-Informed Education System” on Friday, May 25.  Click here for registration details.

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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