Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For January 30, 2013: Pension reform, Charter reform, NSBA's FRN

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For January 30, 2013

“Gov. Tom Corbett will "very likely" propose cutting future pension benefits for current school employees and state workers in the state budget plan he will present to lawmakers next week, his chief budget adviser said Monday”
Pa. budget chief says pension reforms essential
PETER JACKSON , The Associated Press
POSTED: Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 6:04 AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Gov. Tom Corbett will "very likely" propose cutting future pension benefits for current school employees and state workers in the state budget plan he will present to lawmakers next week, his chief budget adviser said Monday.
Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, all but confirming a cost-cutting approach that the administration first floated last fall despite questions about its legality, said decisive steps must be taken to rein in taxpayers' fast-growing share of pension costs.

Pa. Senate leader says he doesn't want to see linkage of key budget issues By Charles Thompson | 
on January 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM, updated January 29, 2013 at 3:24 PM
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, responding to remarks from Gov. Tom Corbett's budget secretary a day earlier, said he hopes that Corbett doesn't stress a link between big issues like public pension reform and school funding in his upcoming budget proposal.
"I understand that doing budget negotiations, we all want this for that and we try to make sure that we get a vey well-rounded budget... But we don't need to start linking issues together now.
"That's Washington-style politics, and we don't need that."
In a Monday appearance, state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby stressed the need to wring major new savings out of the state's pension plans. He said if significant reforms aren't forthcoming, state aid to public schools could be sacrificed.

“On pension reform, Mr. Scarnati expressed skepticism about tying public school funding too closely to finding savings in state retirement contributions, an approach that has been indicated by the governor and his budget secretary in recent days. Mr. Scarnati said any potential cut to public education would be "a very sensitive issue" that would make a budget agreement more difficult.
"I don't see the likelihood of this body going along very well in reducing funding for public schools," he said.”
Corbett getting resistance from Pennsylvania GOP leadership
Cautioned on pensions, LCB plans
January 30, 2013 12:13 am
By Laura Olson and Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett's soon-to-be-unveiled plans for overhauling the public pension systems and privatizing liquor sales are being met with a critical eye in the state Legislature, where top Republican lawmakers raised questions Tuesday about backing for both proposals.  As the governor prepares to roll out his budget next week, he has been met with blowback on issues he hasn't fully articulated to the public, or, apparently to the leaders of his own party.

“The discrepancy in the charters' scores cries for state lawmakers to make an overhaul of the 1997 charter law a priority. A more equitable funding formula and better oversight for all charter schools are needed.”
Inquirer Editorial: Truth revealed about charters
POSTED: Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 3:01 AM
The latest numbers on charter school performance in Pennsylvania give new meaning to the term fuzzy math.  After the state Department of Education was forced by federal officials to recalculate performance rates, the percentage of charters that met academic benchmarks plummeted.

Harrisburg schools saddled with debt and growing exodus to charter schools, says Veno By Donald Gilliland | 
on January 29, 2013 at 8:55 PM, updated January 29, 2013 at 10:32 PM
HARRISBURG — Two trends threaten Harrisburg School District's future financial success, said state-appointed chief recovery officer Gene Veno: increasing payments for past debt and a growing exodus of students to charter schools.  Veno presented an overview of the district's situation — as he sees it — during a public meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 29.

Legislators propose reform to charter, cyber charter school funding
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online 01/29/2013 12:36:31 PM EST
HARRISBURG - House Republicans are proposing legislation to reform charter and cyber charter school funding. "Every school district in the Commonwealth can save money under this plan and lessen the burden on property taxpayers," said Rep. Joe Emrick, R-Northampton. "We have heard the concerns from school districts and are responding, while protecting the very important educational options available for parents and students."

Pennsylvania’s 4500 locally elected, volunteer school board members are directly accountable to their taxpayers and their students
PSBA responds to House Republican charter school reform proposal
PSBA website 1/28/2013
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is pleased the House Republican Caucus has taken the first step of introducing a legislative package aimed at reforming charter and cyber charter school funding.  While all the details of the package have not yet been released, there are some promising pieces in it that could benefit school districts across the commonwealth.

Chester Upland expected to reveal surplus
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
CHESTER — The Chester Upland School District has a surplus in its accumulated fund balance after years of being in the red.  Chief Financial Officer George Crawford said an audit of the 2011-2012 budget is expected to reveal Chester Upland finished the year with a surplus of about $1 million in its accumulated fund balance. Final figures have not been tabulated, Crawford said, but there is enough information to estimate the surplus.
The surplus becomes more significant when the district’s troubled financial history is considered. According to its last audit, Chester Upland had a $15.8 million deficit in its accumulated fund balance on June 30, 2011, the result of years of debt. To now reflect a $1 million surplus means the fund improved by nearly $17 million in one year.
“That’s quite a turnaround in one fiscal year,” Crawford said.

“It's hard to wrap our mind around the concept of a black mayor, a black superintendent and a School Reform Commission headed by a Latino public-school graduate conspiring to commit acts of racial discrimination. It's harder still for opponents to face the reality of the closings, It's not discrimination, but powerful demographic forces that are at work.”
Closing schools is painful, but it's not discrimination
Philadelphia daily News Editorial Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 3:01 AM
OPPONENTS OF the school district's plan to close 37 schools have come up with another argument against the proposal. At a news conference this week, the group - which includes the local NAACP - accused the district of unfairly targeting predominantly black schools in poor neighborhoods.  According to an analysis done by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, 81 percent of the roughly 15,000 students who would be affected by this year's proposed closings and mergers are African-American. Across the district, 55 percent of students are African-American.

At NSBA’s FRN conference on Monday I asked Secretary Duncan if he was aware of successful higher ed/public ed partnerships like the Penn Alexander program and Boston College’s City Connects…..
A premium-public model” If nothing else, the 11-year-old Penn Alexander experiment has proven conclusively that, under the right conditions, middle- and upper-middle-class parents will quite happily send their kids to public school. Indeed, they are willing to pay a big premium in real estate to do so.
Urban education’s breadline problem
thenotebook on Jan 29 2013 by Patrick Kerkstra
Around 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 18, a small clutch of parents wearing thick coats, scarves and gloves were milling around the entrance to West Philadelphia’s Penn Alexander School, eyeing each other warily.  They were obviously there for one reason, but they preferred not to admit it. “We’re just talking,” they told me as I dropped my children off at the neighboring daycare. “We’re not in the line.”

“the Open Campus PA initiative that allows students to take online classes offered by any of the three school districts”
Secretary of Education Previews Open Campus PA Initiative
Penn Manor School District  on January 28, 2013
The Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Ron Tomalis, visited Hempfield SD on Tuesday, January 29 to observe students and educators demonstrating the Open Campus PA program, a unique collaboration between Penn Manor, Manheim Township, and Hempfield School Districts. Joining Tomalis were Representatives Ryan Aument, Keith Greiner and Steven Mentzer as well as Hempfield School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda Becker, Manheim Township School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman and Penn Manor School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Leichliter. The superintendents explained the Open Campus PA initiative that allows students to take online classes offered by any of the three school districts. Students have more choices in the courses available to them and may choose a flexible schedule that fits their needs with Open Campus PA. Mr. Tomalis and the legislators were able to talk with students and teachers currently involved with courses through Open Campus PA.

Common Core Is Horrible for K-3
Diane Ravitch’s Blog January 29, 2013
There is growing evidence that the Common Core standards are absurd in the early grades. They require a level of academic learning that is developmentally inappropriate.
Little children need time to pay. Play is their work. In play, they learn to share and to count, to communicate, to use language appropriately, and to figure things out.

School Closures Violate Civil Rights, Protestors Tell Arne Duncan
Posted: 01/29/2013 7:01 pm EST  |  Updated: 01/29/2013 11:59 pm EST
WASHINGTON -- The standards-based education reform movement calls school change "the civil rights issue of our time." But about 220 mostly African American community organizers, parents and students from 21 cities from New York to Oakland, Calif., converged on Washington Tuesday to tell U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan he's getting it backwards on school closures.
Members of the group, a patchwork of community organizations called the Journey for Justice Movement, have filed several Title VI civil rights complaints with the Education Department Office of Civil Rights, claiming that school districts that shut schools are hurting minority students. While most school closures are decided locally, the Education Department's School Improvement Grant gives underperforming school districts money for shakeups or turnarounds, including closures.

School boards ask Congress to revamp regulatory process and prevent overreach
NSBA School Board News by Joetta Sack-Min January 29th, 2013
More than 700 school board members and state school boards association leaders are meeting with their members of Congress today and urging them to co-sponsor legislation, developed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education.

See NSBA’s draft legislation here:

National school boards group blasts U.S. Education Department
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on January 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm
The National Schools Board AssociationTuesday blasted the Obama administration’s education policies, saying that the Education Department under Secretary Arne Duncan has pushed “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion” onto local school districts.

School board members need to be aware of ALEC, other anti-public education groups
NSBA School Board News by Lawrence Hardy January 28th, 2013
Once upon a time there was a rather odd North Carolina school board member who proposed that all purchasing orders in his very large district — from pencils, to books, to paper clips, to cleaning supplies — be posted online. It was a move that, not surprisingly, would have required the cash-strapped district to hire several additional central office staff, just to keep up with the paperwork.
If this sounds like a very bad fairy tale, well, it isn’t. The board member in question was no ordinary public servant, but a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ultraconservative advocacy group whose main tactic is to introduce literally thousands of bills each year in state legislatures across the country, many aimed at privatizing public education. Three years ago, ALEC called for the abolishment of school boards, so you have some idea where it stands.

Pittsburgh Feb. 10th Rally for Public Education!
Yinzercation Blog January 28, 2013
Come RALLY FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION on Sunday, February 10, 20133PM at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty (5941 Penn AvenuePittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15206). This is about equity, social justice, and a great public education for all our children.

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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