Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For February 2, 2013: Budget Prognostications and Weekend Update

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1850 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.

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For February 2, 2013

Pa.'s Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Early Spring
By KEITH SRAKOCIC and RON TODT Associated Press
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. February 2, 2013 (AP)
An end to winter's bitter cold will come soon, according to Pennsylvania's famous groundhog.

PCCY’s Donna Cooper: “The administration is likely to conflate pension increases with education increases because pension increases will be for teachers. We should meet our obligations to pension commitments made to teachers, but that is not the same as spending in classrooms.”
BUDGET: A new state budget proposal, another fight for education aid
Notebook by Wendy Harris February 1, 2013
Even before making the annual February budget proposal to the legislature for 2013-14, Gov. Tom Corbett said that this year he would not slash funding for basic education. 
Still, public education advocacy groups like Public Citizens for Children and Youth are preparing themselves for what could be another difficult fight to increase state funding for school districts. A key question is how the Corbett administration handles the one factor which could absorb revenues that would otherwise go to fund classrooms – public employee pension costs. 
“My hope would be that the administration would restore the education cuts that were imposed in 2010,” said Donna Cooper, PCCY’s new executive director. “But I don’t think that is likely because the demands on the budget as a result of rising pension obligations will overshadow efforts to restore those cuts.

BUDGET:Education Facts from The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has compiled publicly available data on enrollment in public, private and charter education in the commonwealth as well as information about education funding and school poverty.  Click on the menu links to the left to access education one-pagers, charts and graphs, and links to more detailed data.

BUDGET: Corbett trades budget ax for carrot-and-stick
Morning Call by Steve Esack, February 1, 2013
In his first two budget proposals, Gov. Tom Corbett wielded an ax that cut both ways. He used it to slice spending across departments, but those cuts cleaved his approval ratings in the polls.

BUDGET: State budget: Tea leaves suggest more money to be proposed for public schools
PennLive By Charles Thompson and Jan Murphy February 01, 2013 at 11:15 AM
It's hard to read the tea leaves about what Gov. Tom Corbett has in store for education in his 2013-14 budget proposal to be unveiled on Tuesday.  But one thing that his administration has made apparent, Pennsylvania's public pension ogre is still out there, ready to pounce on any additional funding schools might receive.

BUDGET: Educators want more money for schools in Gov. Tom Corbett's budget
By Jan Murphy | on February 01, 2013 at 11:20 AM
After two years of little to no increases in funding to cope with rising costs, public school officials are hoping for some good news in Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2013-14 budget proposal that will be unveiled on Tuesday.
Simply put, they said they need more money.

“First, this proposal only provides funding for four years. This is not a sustainable model. As we here in the grassroots have been saying, Pennsylvania’s students deserve adequate, equitable, and sustainable public funding for their schools. A one-time sale of public assets does not provide ongoing and reliable funding for our schools and the Governor knows it.”
BUDGET: Kids or Booze
Yinzercation Blog February 1, 2013
Wednesday morning we asked, “How low can he go?” We were thinking about Governor Corbett’s rock-bottom poll numbers as well as his attempt to unfairly tie public school funding to the teacher’s pension issue. By Wednesday afternoon, we had the answer to that question: “Apparently, lower.”
In an announcement right here in Pittsburgh, Gov. Corbett tried a new approach to his goal of privatizing liquor stores. This time he proposed tying the sale of the state system to education funding. The plan estimates collecting around $1billion in revenue from the sale of licenses and auctioning off wine and spirit retails stores over four years. [Post-Gazette, 1-30-13] Ironically, this is precisely the amount that Gov. Corbett and the legislature cut from public education in 2011, then locked in again in the 2012 budget, compounding the damage.

Education Policy and Leadership Center
EPLC Education Notebook Friday, February 1, 2013

“Over the next 45 minutes, we talk about the foundation’s vision for the city. We talk about watersheds and charter schools and the Zoo. Nowak answers all my questions with care and precision. I ask how he wants to be viewed after several years—what will his legacy be?—and he jokes, “If I last that long. We’ll see after your story comes out.”
I laugh.
Eight days later, before I can write a word, he’s gone.”
Jeremy Nowak’s Vision for a New Philadelphia
Armed with a $2 billion endowment, visionary William Penn Foundation president Jeremy Nowak wanted to bring to life a new Philadelphia. Old Philadelphia, it seems, has other ideas.
Philadelphia Magazine By Jason Fagone February 2013
The lobby of the William Penn Foundation, on the 11th floor of a skyscraper two blocks north of Market Street, is a quiet place. It may be the quietest place in the high-rise corridor of Center City. It may be the quietest room in any office in the country that c­ontains actual working people. When I walk in on this autumn day, a woman behind a reception desk directs me to a couch. Next to the couch is a glass table piled with copies of the Inquirer and the Wall Street Journal and also Grid, a local magazine about sustainable living.
I sit under the soft, warm lights. I look up at the painting of John C. Haas, son of Otto Haas, the co-founder of Rohm and Haas, the chemical company. Otto created the forerunner of the foundation in 1945. I can’t hear anything from the offices that line the hallway that stretches away in both directions. When a staffer walks past reception, it is a moment—the sound of displaced air, of shoes shuffling on carpet—and then the noise fades, the room reasserts itself, and there is utter silence once again.
After a few minutes, one of the most powerful people in the city appears. 

William Penn Foundation: Overview of Strategic Priorities and Application Process

“More Philadelphia public schools will be given to charter organizations in September, the district's fourth go-round in its "Renaissance Schools" process.”
More Philly public schools to be given to charters
Inquirer Friday, February 1, 2013, 2:24 PM Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham
More Philadelphia public schools will be given to charter organizations in September, the district's fourth go-round in its "Renaissance Schools" process.   The district on Friday released a request for proposals for 2013-14 charter operators, no big surprise since officials have been saying for months that while they won't be authorizing any new standalone charters for next year, they like the Renaissance charter model and will continue to use it as a way to improve failing schools.
Officials said they would release the details of this year's crop of Renaissance schools on Feb. 11.  A spokeswoman declined to say how many schools will be given to charters this year.

PDE Press Release February 01, 2013
EITC 2.0: Department of Education Releases List of Low-Achieving Schools
Harrisburg – As required by law, the Department of Education today published the list of low-achieving schools in which students, who live within the schools’ boundaries, may be eligible to apply for a scholarship through the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program.
Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program to provide low- and moderate-income students in low-achieving schools the opportunity to obtain a scholarship to attend a participating public or nonpublic school.
As required by the law, the list of schools contains the lowest-achieving 15 percent of elementary schools and the lowest-achieving 15 percent of secondary schools, based on combined math and reading scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment from the 2011-12 school year.
Career and technology centers as well as charter schools are not included on the list.

Here’s $50 million that is not available in this year’s budget….
List of PA schools (mostly religious schools) eligible to receive $50 million diverted tax dollars with virtually no fiscal or performance accountability under PA EITC 2.0 Super Voucher program

Lawmakers focus on charter school reform
York Dispatch By ANDREW SHAW 505-5431 / @ydblogwork February 1, 2013
Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying once again to reform charter school funding.
The House failed to vote on a charter school-focused reform bill last fall, and now Rep. Mike Turzai, the House Majority Leader from Allegheny County, has introduced a new package he said is more of a jumping-off point to finding common ground for charter reform.

School lottery hurts families
Inquirer Letter to the Editor by Christine Carlson Friday, February 1, 2013, 3:01 AM
Last week, the School District of Philadelphia announced that admission to the much-desired Penn Alexander School would be determined by lottery. This decision came after families had lined up outside the school four days in advance of the official kindergarten registration date.
District officials say that a lottery is the most equitable way to fill the available slots. But because Penn Alexander is a neighborhood school with a set boundary, this policy has far-reaching implications that jeopardizes neighborhood stability, economic development, and the opportunity for economic diversity in schools in many areas of the city.

Pa. students need to have education choices
Post-Gazette Letter to the Editor by KRISTA MENDICINO, Learning Support Teacher, Commonwealth Connections Academy February 2, 2013 12:11 am
This year more Pennsylvania families than ever have a reason to celebrate School Choice Week, Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, and Digital Learning Day on Feb. 6. As a teacher at the virtual public school Commonwealth Connections Academy's Seven Fields office, I celebrate both proudly, as I see firsthand the benefits of choice and technology in learning every day.

“Only 16 of the 1,928 publications described experiments done within actual classrooms.  The other 12 experimental studies were done outside of the classroom in laboratories.”
Are education school profs observing teachers and students in classrooms?
National Council on Teacher Quality 02/01/2013
We welcome this guest post by Dr. Robert Presbie, an indefatigable advocate for improved teacher training. 
It seems reasonable that in order to effectively and efficiently improve education, education researchers should directly observe teachers and students.

“If the movement is to maintain its credibility, the charter authorizers must shut down failed schools quickly and limit new charters to the most credible applicants, including operators who have a demonstrated record of success.”
More Lessons About Charter Schools
New York Times Editorial Published: February 1, 2013 58 Comments
The charter school movement gained a foothold in American education two decades ago partly by asserting that independently run, publicly financed schools would outperform traditional public schools if they were exempted from onerous regulations. The charter advocates also promised that unlike traditional schools, which were allowed to fail without consequence, charter schools would be rigorously reviewed and shut down when they failed to perform.
With thousands of charter schools now operating in 40 states, and more coming online every day, neither of these promises has been kept. Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better — and often are worse — than their traditional counterparts, the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end.

To grow the economy, invest in early childhood education

The Hill Congress Blog By Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Kris Perry, executive director, First Five Years Fund - 01/28/13 12:00 PM ET
In Washington there is much discussion about how to address the nation’s long-term fiscal situation, but very little about how to grow the economy and ensure we are meeting the needs of the next generation of Americans. To achieve both of these objectives, Congress and the administration should start the new year by making a strong investment in high-quality early childhood education.
Holding Education Hostage
New York Review of Books by Diane Ravitch February 1, 2013
For weeks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers have been battling over the issue of teacher evaluation. Governor Andrew Cuomo set a deadline for them to reach an agreement, but they failed to do so, potentially costing the city schools hundreds of millions of dollars. The state education commissioner, John King, jumped into the fray by threatening to withhold over a billion dollars in state and federal aid if there was no settlement between the parties. Now, Governor Cuomo says that he may intervene and take charge of the stalemated negotiations.
What’s going on here? Why can’t the mayor and the union reach an agreement? Why does Commissioner King intend to punish the city’s children if the grown-ups don’t agree?

Has testing reached a tipping point?
SmartBlog on Education By Sam Chaltain on January 30th, 2013
It wasn’t that long ago that suggesting America’s schools had become test-obsessed was a lonely endeavor. Although organizations like FairTest and campaigns like Time Out From Testing have been decrying the flawed logic behind high-stakes tests for years, the reality is that for the past decade, many of us kept our complaints reserved for the privacy of the parking lot.
People vented. Policymakers nodded. And absent any real noise, the tests continued.

Growing number of educators boycott standardized tests
Greg Toppo, USA TODAY1:05a.m. EST February 1, 2013
Since 2002, standardized tests have taken on more significance because of federal mandates.
The decision by a group of Seattle teachers to boycott a standardized test this winter could spill out to other cities as a decade of frustration over testing simmers.

Skeptics: Profit and education don't mix
US News on By Sarah Carr and Annie Gilbertson, The Hechinger Report Feb 1, 2013
JACKSON, Miss. -- When state officials here tried last year to recruit a for-profit company to manage schools in rural Tate County, the community outcry was swift. Concerned residents spoke out in the media, argued their case to lawmakers and circulated a petition against the “privatization” of Tate County Schools.
Patricia Johnson, whose son attends a public high school in the county, described the proposal as “crazy.” For-profit companies, she said, shouldn’t be “getting paid” to run things when parents are having to buy copy paper for teachers in cash-strapped schools.
At first glance, Mississippi would seem an unlikely source of resistance to school privatization. But this year, a coalition of lawmakers and community groups is fighting vigorously against the prospect of for-profit companies opening up charter schools.

This Week in Poverty: Time to Take On Concentrated Poverty and Education
The Nation by Greg Kaufmann on February 1, 2013 - 10:26 AM ET
Co-authored with Elaine Weiss
Researchers know a lot about how various factors associated with income level affect a child’s learning: parents’ educational attainment; how parents read to, play with and respond to their children; the quality of early care and early education; access to consistent physical and mental health services and healthy food. Poor children’s limited access to these fundamentals accounts for a good chunk of the achievement gap, which is why conceiving of it instead as an opportunity gap makes a lot more sense.
But we rarely discuss the impact of concentrated poverty—and of racial and socioeconomic segregation—on student achievement. James Coleman’s widely cited 1966 report Equality of Educational Opportunity has drawn substantial attention to the influence of family socioeconomic status on a child’s academic achievement. However, as Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation, notes: “Until very recently, the second finding, about the importance of reducing concentrations of school poverty, has been consciously ignored by policymakers, despite publication of study after study that confirmed Coleman’s findings.”

Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools
Huffington Post by Steve Horn 02/01/2013 1:33 pm
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- known by its critics as a "corporate bill mill" -- has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing "models bills" mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.
January has just ended, yet ALEC has already planted its "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" -- which mandates a "balanced" teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms -- in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.
In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of "big government" this "free market" organization decries in its own literature.

Challenging evolution: 4 US states consider controversial educational bills Published: 01 February, 2013, 18:04
Four US states have put forward bills encouraging the teaching of theories of the origins of life other than evolution. Montana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Colorado are advancing curricula that have been dubbed a creationist plot by many scientists.
Six so-called ‘anti-evolution’ bills have been introduced in the four states since the beginning of the year, reported the National Center for Science Education, a group monitoring the teaching of science in the US.

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.  
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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