Monday, December 3, 2012

PA Charter school funding reform must address pension double dip

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1700 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

First Monday of December
Although publicly funded with taxpayer dollars, there is no comparable affirmation or oath required of Pennsylvania charter school officials or EITC recipients.
The term of office for Pennsylvania’s 4500 locally elected school directors begins on the first Monday of December (24 P.S. §3-303).
School Director Oath of Office (24 PS 3-321): I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.

 “In the current fiscal environment of school districts faced with exploding pension costs, the notion that charter schools are getting a double-dip advantage is unthinkable.”

Editorial: Charter school funding reform must address pension

There are several reasons why laws regulating charter schools should be examined and addressed by Pennsylvania lawmakers after they failed to accomplish that task this legislative session.  Among the most pressing reason is the need to address excess pension contributions.
As explained in a recent news article by the Pa. Independent, charter schools get excess pension contributions because the current funding formulas provide contributions both through public school allocations and a state reimbursement

 “Education looks to be the biggest area that is impacted. Title I, which is the mean federal education program that targets lower income students, we're looking at potentially [a cut of] $43 million, or $70 per-student. The other big one is special education. We have 271,000 school-aged students who are served by special education in Pennsylvania. They're a potential cut of $33 million.  So the cuts are education and programs within education. The [Women, Infants and Children] program [gets reduced]. Head Start gets hit potentially by $19 million. So those are the biggest areas.”

Sequestration: Pennsylvania's budget held hostage on fiscal cliff

In a Q&A, PA Budget Secretary Charles Zogby talks about impact of Congress' inaction

9:22 p.m. EST, December 1, 2012
HARRISBURG — — There may be no person in state government who's paying closer attention to negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff" than Charles Zogby.
Zogby is the Corbett administration's budget secretary, which means he's in charge of making the numbers add up, even as Congressional leaders and the Obama White House struggle to reach a deficit-cutting agreement before year's end, avoiding a series of mandatory spending cuts and tax hikes that would cut the deficit for them.
A report released earlier this month by the state's Independent Fiscal Office projects a tax increase as high as $22 billion for Pennsylvania taxpayers if the two sides fail to reach an agreement. State spending, meanwhile, could be cut by as much as $300 million, leaving few areas of state government untouched.
Zogby took a few minutes this week to talk about what going off the cliff might mean for the average Pennsylvania taxpayer and the challenges of preparing a new state budget while Washington fiddles.

Saturday, December 1, 2012
Louisiana Judge Rules Voucher Program Unconstitutional
If you missed Saturday’s Keystone State Education Coalition postings…

Editorial: The pension crisis: Gov. Corbett must signal the reforms he wants

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 2, 2012 12:15 am
With the release of a report Monday on the condition of state employee pension funds, Gov. Tom Corbett kicked off an important conversation that is long overdue. It will be up to him to determine whether the discussion leads nowhere or to a long-term resolution of Pennsylvania's long-simmering pension funding crisis.

Keystone exams cause confusion, angst for students and faculty

Some high school students will start taking the state's latest standardized tests this week.

 12:01 a.m. EST, December 3, 2012
Since September, Allen High School has offered after-school tutoring to juniors interested in brushing up on biology to prepare for the state's latest high-stakes standardized tests, the Keystone Exams.  About four have shown up religiously, including Ngan Duong, Emily Cruz and Stephanie Lenner, because the last time they had biology was freshman year.
"It's been two years since we took biology," Emily, 16, said.
"It goes into my transcripts," said Stephanie, 16. "I didn't want colleges to think I didn't try."
Emily and Ngan agreed there could be consequences to not scoring well. But they all were mistaken.
This week, for the first time, students across Pennsylvania will begin taking Keystone Exams in biology, algebra I and English.

Meet Ms. Cook, 2012 teacher of the year, rated unsatisfactory due to VAM scores.
Tweet by Arthur Goldstein ‏@TeacherArthurG

Duquesne School Board accepts chief recovery officer

By Tribune-Review  Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012, 9:04 p.m.
The Duquesne City School Board on Thursday approved the appointment of Paul Long as the chief recovery officer for the financially strapped school district.
Education Secretary Ron Tomalis appointed Long, 63, to the position on Nov. 16. Under Act 141, Long has until Dec. 16 to develop a fiscal and academic plan for the district, which members of the school board can accept or reject. The board will make a decision on his plan at a meeting scheduled for Dec. 30. Tomalis can approve extensions for both those deadlines, if necessary.
In a presentation to the board, Long explained he will spend the next few weeks collecting data and meeting with community members. He plans to form a 15- to 20-member advisory council and encouraged anyone interested to contact him at
If the board rejects Long’s plan, a receiver selected by Allegheny County Common Pleas Court will oversee the district.

What Works: Students get in the groove with Tune Up Philly

Samantha Byles, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:57 AM
For Delia Raab-Snyder, the process of learning and playing an instrument is about community.
"We wanted to make music a social activity," said Raab-Snyder, "because it is."
The director of Tune Up Philly, an after-school music-enrichment program, said: "It shouldn't be something that you sit in your room all day and do by yourself. We want future students to see that their friends are playing and that those friends are playing for the entire school at the concert and then performing for the church next door, and say, 'If they can do it, then so can I.' "
Tune Up Philly is one of five ensembles of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, an independent outreach program.
The concept is adapted from the Venezuelan music program El Sistema. Led by Jose Antonio Abreu, the program was developed to teach low-income children how to play and perform orchestra-style music. Famed conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, attended El Sistema.

"If his agenda is voter ID and killing public education, we're not going to be part of that," said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny.

Corbett talks bipartisanship; Dems wait for proof

MARC LEVY , The Associated Press POSTED: Saturday, December 1, 2012, 11:27 AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is gearing up for his next two years in office and a 2014 re-election campaign by stressing bipartisanship, even though he acknowledges that he needs to do a better job of practicing what he preaches.
Many of Corbett's major legislative accomplishments since he became governor in January 2011 attracted just a handful of Democratic votes, if that, in a Legislature heavily controlled by the GOP.

Corbett still honing relationship with Pa. legislators

By Laura Olson / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 2, 2012 12:08 am
HARRISBURG -- The state Capitol may be under one-party rule, but getting Republicans of differing ideological stripes to support his policy goals continues to be a challenge for Gov. Tom Corbett as he nears the midway point of his first term.
During extended interviews last week, Mr. Corbett described his relationship with the lawmakers as one that still is "learning, growing."
The notoriously tight-lipped prosecutor-turned-chief-executive says he is talking to legislators more, and even indicated that Democrats may be included in the closed-door budget process

5 states will increase some class time

Post Gazette By Josh Lederman / The Associated Press December 3, 2012 12:19 am
WASHINGTON -- Open your notebooks and sharpen your pencils. School for thousands of public school students is about to get quite a bit longer.
Five states were to announce today that they will add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar in some schools starting in 2013. Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in the initiative, which is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level.

“If you’re looking at the competitiveness of a region, the most important thing a region can do is to focus on education. And this use of incentives is really transferring money from education to businesses.”

As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price

New York Times By LOUISE STORY Published: December 1, 2012 670 Comments
In the end, the money that towns across America gave General Motors did not matter.
When the automaker released a list of factories it was closing during bankruptcy three years ago, communities that had considered themselves G.M.’s business partners were among the targets.
For years, mayors and governors anxious about local jobs had agreed to G.M.’s demands for cash rewards, free buildings, worker training and lucrative tax breaks. As late as 2007, the company was telling local officials that these sorts of incentives would “further G.M.’s strong relationship” with them and be a “win/win situation,” according to town council notes from one Michigan community.
Yet at least 50 properties on the 2009 liquidation list were in towns and states that had awarded incentives, adding up to billions in taxpayer dollars, according to data compiled by The New York Times.  Some officials, desperate to keep G.M., offered more. Ohio was proposing a $56 million deal to save its Moraine plant, and Wisconsin, fighting for its Janesville factory, offered $153 million.


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