Saturday, January 12, 2013

KSEC Weekend Update: Seattle Testing Boycott Spreads; Corbett talks pension/budget

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1800 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, 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

“School Choice Week”, a marketing/media campaign for privatization of a public good, is coming around again at the end of January.  Here are 2 pieces that provide some context for it….
Selling Schools Out
The Nation by Lee Fang, November 2011
Under the banner of high-tech progress, corporate lobbyists have rammed through legislation privatizing K-12 education across the country.
Education reform as a business
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on January 9, 2013
Did you know that the education sector now represents nearly 9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product? That for-profit education is valued at $1.3 trillion, and is one of the largest U.S. investment markets?

Standardized test backlash: Some Seattle teachers just say 'no'
Resistance to standardized tests has been simmering for years, but now a group of Seattle teachers is in open revolt. No longer will they administer the tests, they say, citing a waste of public resources.
Christian Science Monitor By Dean Paton, Correspondent / January 11, 2013
Forty-five minutes after school let out Thursday afternoon, 19 teachers here at Seattle's Garfield High School worked their way to the front of an already-crowded classroom, then turned, leaned their backs against the wall of whiteboards, and fired the first salvo of open defiance against high-stakes standardized testing in America's public schools.

Seattle standardized testing boycott spreads

(Update: Second school joins protest, more background)
Nearly all of the teachers at a Seattle high school have decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they say, the exams don’t evaluate learning and are a waste of time.
Now teachers at a second Seattle school, Ballard High, said they were joining the boycott, according to the Seattle Education website.

Seattle Ballard High School teachers have followed suit: No MAP test!
Seattle Education Blog Posted on January 11, 2013
25 teachers at nearby Ballard High School signed a letter today against continuing to use the MAP test, and in support of their Garfield colleagues.

Support Seattle Teachers
Schools Matter Blog Monty Neill at FairTest January 11, 2013

Delco Times Heron’s Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Friday, January 11, 2013
A visit to the Governor's Mansion & lowdown on Pa.'s pension crisis
I spent yesterday at the Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg and I can bring back this report to the people of Delaware County.  As public housing goes, it’s a pretty nice joint.  Those aren’t my words. Those come from Gov. Corbett himself.  So much for the frivolity.
Now for some serious news. Brace yourself, folks. The governor is about to tackle the pension mess this state finds itself in. It’s not going to be pretty.

“In a sit-down meeting with members of the media in the governor’s mansion Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett called the pension crisis “a tapeworm in the budget” and laid the groundwork for the pension reform plan that he will announce in his budget address on Feb. 5.”
Corbett hosts pension crisis meeting for media
North Penn Reporter By JENNIFER LAWSON Posted: Thursday, 01/10/13 10:44 pm
HARRISBURG — North Penn School District and Souderton Area School District are both trying to balance their budgets for the next school year, but a big expense is their payments — in the multimillions — into the Public School Employees’ Retirement System.
To continue funding PSERS and avoid cutting programs, the districts are both considering applying for exceptions that would allow them to raise property taxes beyond the 1.7 percent increase normally allowable by law.  It’s a problem across the state, and it’s been brewing for years.

What does the pension crisis mean to school district budgets and taxpayers?
My district of 5700 students anticipates a PSERS increase of $2.28 million for the next school year.  Upper Dublin has an enrollment of about 4200 students and expects an increase of $1.9 million……

“In December, district Business Administrator Brenda Bray warned of a “substantial increase,” from 12.36 percent to 16.93 percent, or about $1.9 million, in the district’s contribution to PSERS.”
Upper Dublin School District faces 'difficult' budget
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Ambler Gazette By Linda Finarelli
Dire warnings regarding the 2013-14 budget for the Upper Dublin School District were issued at the school board’s Monday night workshop.  An announcement regarding the budget will be made at the board’s meeting next Monday, district Superintendent Michael Pladus said, noting the district was “bracing for what appears to be a very difficult year.”
A combination of an increase in the district’s contribution to PSERS, the teachers’ retirement trust fund; contractual salary increases for teachers, administrators and support staff; and depletion of the district’s fund balance to balance budgets the last two years are expected to create a sizeable budget gap for 2013-14.
She also noted the district might face settlement of a “significant” assessment appeal next year.

Budget Forecast
Yinzercation Blog January 11, 2013
On Wednesday, Governor Corbett gave us a sneak peak at his proposed education budget for this year, which he will formally announce in a few weeks. Speaking of the millions of Pennsylvanians worried about further cuts to their public schools, he said, “I think they’re going to be happy” with the budget. But then he immediately tempered that with: “I think you know not everybody's going to be pleased with the budget address, but I think a number of people are and will be at least satisfied.” [Republican Herald, 1-10-13]

Retired state troopers hired to guard Butler Area schools

Post-Gazette By Eli Saslow / The Washington Post January 12, 2013 12:09 am
Four hundred miles from Sandy Hook Elementary, a Pennsylvania superintendent named Mike Strutt left a morning meeting Dec. 14 and decided to place his schools on "threat alert." He was concerned about a copycat attack on the day of the Connecticut shooting. But, as he read reports of the massacre, he started to worry more about something else.
For 20 years he had specialized in school safety, filling three binders with security plans and lockdown drills -- all of which felt suddenly inadequate. In the case of an attack, would a "threat alert" do him any good?

The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC): Dedicated to Increasing Literary Programs for Young Students in Philadelphia
Senator Hughes website January 11, 2013
Volunteers needed to continue to expand services and the number of participating schools.
The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC) is one of the premier nonprofits in Philadelphia. It provides critical literary programs to young students in the community.
More than 80 percent of Philadelphia public schools lack a functioning library. Some 40 percent of our students will drop out of school without graduating. WePAC asserts that a child’s reading ability at the end of third grade is a key predictor of dropout risk.
It is clear that there is a real need for literary programs in Philadelphia. Iis working diligently to fill that need by opening previously closed school libraries and providing literacy programs to students with the help of a number of dedicated volunteers who read stories with children and help them select and check out books.
Since 2009, WePAC has opened 16 previously closed elementary school libraries, and is currently running 12 libraries in West and Southwest Philadelphia, providing library services in schools with more than 5,000 students. WePAC and its volunteers have also been donating thousands of books to schools and circulating more than 2,500 books per month. Through these endeavors, WePAC is bringing school libraries to life!
WePAC is the only nonprofit in Philadelphia systematically working to open closed school libraries.

Committee of Seventy
PA 2013 Election Calendar

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
SAVE THE DATE: 2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit Feb. 21st
Many Pennsylvanians have sent a clear message to Harrisburg in recent months: The state budget cuts of the past two years were too deep. It is time to once again invest in classrooms and communities.  Next month, Governor Tom Corbett will unveil his 2013-14 budget proposal. Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center for an in-depth look at the Governor's proposal and an update on the federal budget -- and what they mean for communities and families across Pennsylvania.
2013 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hilton Harrisburg, 1 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA
Registration is free and lunch is included.


The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2013 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Registration is $45 and includes coffee/donuts, lunch, and materials.  
Philadelphia Region Saturday, February 2, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 1605 W. Main Street, Norristown, PA 19403
Harrisburg Region Saturday, February 9, 2013– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 23, 2013 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh/Monroeville, 101 Mall Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146
To register, please click here.

2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues
April 6, 2013 The Penn Stater Convention Center Hotel; State College, PA
Strategic leadership, school budgeting and advocacy are key issues facing today's school district leaders. For your school district to truly thrive, leaders must maintain a solid understanding of these three functions. Attend the 2013 PSBA Leadership Symposium on Advocacy and Issues to ensure you have the skills you need to take your district to the next level.

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