Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For February 20, 2013: Gerald Bracey: “People will believe anything you say about public education as long as it’s bad.”

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 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup
For February 20, 2013: Gerald Bracey: “People will believe anything you say about public education as long as it’s bad.”

“While some young Americans — most of them white and affluent — are getting a truly world-class education, those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates school in developing nations. In reading, for example, although U.S. children in low-poverty schools rank at the top of the world, those in our highest-poverty schools are performing on a par with children in the world’s lowest-achieving countries. With the highest poverty rate in the developed world, amplified by the inadequate education received by many children in low-income schools, the United States is threatening its own future.”
Introduction to “For Each and Every Child” a report issued by The Equity and Excellence Commission for the US Department of Education, February 2, 2013

Pa. officials grilled as budget hearings begin
Amy Worden, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU February 19, 2013, 8:35 PM
HARRISBURG - The annual budget hearings in the Capitol are typically an opportunity for agency chiefs to tout their accomplishments and make their cases for more money in the new fiscal year beginning July 1.  In this particularly contentious budget season, Tuesday's first-round hearings turned into an interrogation of several of Gov. Corbett's top officials.
Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, who are in the minority, grilled the budget and revenue secretaries about Corbett's most controversial proposals not directly related to the budget but linked to it: privatization of the lottery and liquor stores, pension-plan changes, and the decision to forgo Medicaid expansion.

PCN PA Budget 2013-14 Hearings Coverage Schedule
All budget hearings will stream free of charge on PCN Plus, and hearings not shown live will air later on the same day.

Pennsylvania Governor's Education Budget Inspires 'New Pencils'
Education Week State EdWatch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on February 19, 2013 9:56 AM
Though states are beginning to stand steadily on their own feet after years of budget misery, the process of recovery can be difficult fiscally and politically, even in places where significant funding increases for public schools are being discussed.

“Particularly unpopular is the way Corbett's budget hinges on three sweeping proposals. Lawmakers seem willing to debate Corbett's proposed reduction in pension benefits for state workers, privatization of the state lottery's management, and upgrade of state transportation infrastructure through gas tax revenues. But they balk at the budget relying on passage of the initiatives.”
Analysis: What if Gov. Tom Corbett gave up after one term?
By Robert J. Vickers | 
on February 18, 2013 at 8:00 PM, updated February 19, 2013 at 7:20 AM
There's every indication that Gov. Tom Corbett will seek re-election next year and continue Pennsylvania's 43-year penchant for two-term governors.  He's hinted overtly about his intentions.  He's remained the apple of Pennsylvania Republicans' eyes by passing back-to-back, on-time, in-the-black budgets without raising taxes.  And Friday he picked up precious early and unlikely support from a powerful Democratic Party kingmaker.  The nod from Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, a longtime political advisor to former Gov. Ed Rendell, all but cements Corbett's 2014 candidacy in the eyes of commonwealth political watchers.
“The endorsement by David Cohen was huge for the governor,” said Robert Jubelirer, a Republican former lieutenant governor and former state Senate president pro tempore. “A Rendell Democrat as powerful as David Cohen endorsing Gov. Corbett for re-election opens the door to other [big donors] that will follow.”
But what if it didn't?

Democrat David L. Cohen of Comcast to back GOP's Corbett
Amy Worden, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 5:29 AM
Few are more steeped in Pennsylvania party politics than Democratic power broker David L. Cohen.  The Comcast vice president has long been known as the go-to fund-raiser for Democratic candidates. He is credited as the chief strategist behind former Gov. Ed Rendell's successful political career, and President Obama in 2011 described him as a "great friend."
Now, just as the 2014 governor's race is beginning to heat up, Cohen says he will likely back Republican Gov. Corbett's reelection campaign.

Upper Darby SD asks residents to weigh in on school budget cuts
Rita Giordano, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER February 18, 2013, 8:54 PM
The residents came to the meetings by the hundreds, angry that Upper Darby school officials, confronting a $13 million deficit last year, were proposing drastic measures that included cuts to the district's much-loved art and music programs.  This year, the highly diverse, working-class district, whose taxes are among the highest in the region, is peering deeply into another budget hole - $9.4 million. But this time around, the district is taking a different tack: The people are being asked what they would cut.  District officials are working with the University of Pennsylvania Project for Civic Engagement in a series of community forums - the first will be Wednesday, Feb. 27 - that will bring the budget dilemma to the residents.

10 Philly schools spared in revised closing list
Inquirer Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham February 19, 2013, 8:01 AM
Ten schools would be spared closures or program mergers if new recommendations issued this morning by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. are adopted.  The 10 — Meade, Cooke, Duckrey, Morris, McCloskey, Lankenau, Gompers, Overbrook Elementary, AMY at James Martin, Strawberry Mansion High — came off the closing, merger or program relocation list.
Two closures were added: M.H. Stanton and Beeber Middle. 
Overall, there will be 29 building closures, down from the 37 originally proposed.

Closure opponents not satisfied with proposed changes to District plan
February 19, 2013
By Dale Mezzacappa and Benjamin Herold for the Notebook and NewsWorks
While some students and communities were glad to have a reprieve and felt that their voices were heard, supporters of a moratorium on school closings said that they haven't changed their minds as a result of Superintendent William Hite's revised recommendations that would shutter 29 instead of 37 schools.

Nutter: Grants requested by the city do not constitute lobbying
The William Penn Foundation recently suspended grants to city-related agencies after Philadelphia public school advocates filed a complaint alleging the foundation violated the city's lobbying ordinance when it paid a consultant that made financial recommendations to the city school district.  Worried that reports on the William Penn Foundation's decision “could chill grant-making to the City and City-related agencies,” Mayor Michael Nutter Friday wrote a letter to Ethics Board Chairman J. Shane Creamer, urging him "to clarify that the (lobbying) ordinance does not apply to grants that are made at the request of city departments or city-related agencies." In a letter back to the mayor, Creamer said he would present Nutter's request, along with the proposed response, to the Ethics Board at its next public meeting, set for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Out-of-town consultants to scrutinize Pittsburgh Public Schools' issues

Nonprofits to work with community to improve district
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 19, 2013 12:01 am
It's the $2.4 million question: Can an out-of-town consulting firm -- along with its out-of-town partner -- help Pittsburgh Public Schools address its financial and academic challenges?

New system to change the way teachers are graded in Council Rock, other Pennsylvania school districts
By Cary Beavers Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
COUNCIL ROCK - Like all Pennsylvania school districts, Council Rock will be changing the way it evaluates teachers, thanks to a new, Pennsylvania Department of Education-ordered system that will be unveiled for the 2013-14 school year.
The new system, scheduled for a three-year roll out beginning in September, became official last June when Pennsylvania legislators signed the bill into law. It places much more emphasis on student achievement data, said Barry Desko, Director of Secondary Education for Council Rock School District, including standardized test scores (PSSA and Keystone), graduation rates and attendance rates.

How Ohio’s New Teacher Evaluations Will Change Student Teaching
AUDIO (runtime 4:32)
Ohio’s educators have been nervously watching the development of a new way to evaluate teachers.  They’re nervous because half of their evaluations will be based on student test scores. Officials hope the higher stakes will improve teaching performance.  But there could be ripple effects, like big changes in the way student teachers get classroom experience.

Lebanon School District settles truancy suit
The school board admitted to no wrongdoing but nevertheless must return $108K in fines
By JOHN LATIMER Lebanon Daily News 02/19/2013 09:18:19 AM EST
The Lebanon school board on Monday night unanimously agreed to settle a two-year-old lawsuit involving the district's truancy policy and accusations that it excessively fined parents of minority students with multiple unexcused absences.  The agreement does not require the district to admit any wrongdoing but will hold it accountable for repaying $108,000 in truancy fines it collected between 2004 and 2009.

State Sen. Bob Mensch: Pa. faces public pension crisis
Pottstown Mercury by State Sen. Bob Mensch Guest columnist 02/19/13 03:39 pm
More than five years after the sub-prime mortgage collapse, state and local governments and school districts across Pennsylvania continue to struggle with the impacts of the economic crisis. While revenues are slowly improving, the reverberations of the economic crisis are about to hit state and local governments again, this time in the form of the state’s public pension crisis.

Pensions: Pennsylvania Treasury McCord Report as of January 31, 2013
The issue of public pensions in Pennsylvania has received a lot of coverage recently. Pennsylvania faces about $41 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. These are existing obligations that must be paid in the future. There is no quick or easy fix. Even converting the current system for public employees to a 401(k)-style system does nothing to free the state from those unfunded liabilities.
In this edition of The McCord Report, we look at the history and status of Pennsylvania’s two largest pension funds: the State Employee Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). We also look at the issue of municipal pensions – a topic not often discussed in policy conversations regarding these retirement plans for public sector employees.

Early childhood education pays off for businesses
Allentown Morning Call by Bill White 5:08 p.m. EST, February 18, 2013
When President Obama talked in his State of the Union speech about the importance of early childhood education, he offered my cue to complete the last in a series of columns.
It began with a column about The Infant, Toddler and Family Center of the Early Head Start — SafeStart program of Community Services for Children, a pilot program for helping poor, maltreated children from infancy to 3 years.
That triggered a column about Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan organization of law enforcement leaders and crime survivors that talks about the ways society's investment in early childhood education pays off by significantly reducing felony arrests and incarceration rates.
Then I wrote about the national security organization Mission: Readiness, which stresses the importance of early childhood education in ensuring our future military preparedness by producing better-educated, healthier young people.
The third leg of that early education tripod is its importance to businesses.

Wilkinsburg school board discusses borrowing $3 million to maintain cash-flow
By Alex Zimmerman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 19, 2013 10:34 pm
Tensions ran high in Wilkinsburg tonight as the school board, the district's superintendent and about 15 community members discussed a plan to borrow $3 million to get the ailing school district through the rest of the year.

Obama Presses for Delaying Sequester
Wall Street Journal By COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSONJARED A. FAVOLE and DAMIAN PALETTA February 19, 2013, 1:09 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama on Tuesday prodded Congress to act to avoid automatic spending cuts set to kick in March 1, pressing a plan for targeted spending cuts and tax increases.  "These cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls," Mr. Obama said in remarks delivered at the White House.

Schools in crisis, reforms not working, U.S. federal panel declares

Reuters By Stephanie Simon Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:11pm EST
(Reuters) - A federal commission on Tuesday said the U.S. education system had "thoroughly stacked the odds" against impoverished students and warned that an aggressive reform agenda embraced by both Democrats and Republicans had not done enough to improve public schools.
The report from the Equity and Excellence Commission - a panel of 27 scholars, civil rights activists, union leaders and school officials - describes an American public education system in crisis.

Report: U.S. should focus on equity in education
Washington Post  Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on February 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm
When Barack Obama was elected president four years ago, many people in the education world had hoped he would pick as his education secretary Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor who was the head of his first education transition team and who is an expert on educational equity. Pushed by pro-school choice forces to pass over her, Obama selected Arne Duncan, who has presided over a school reform agenda with standardized test-based accountability as its focus. Issues of equity and the role of poverty in student achievement not only got short shrift, but it became popular among school reformers to say that people who insisted that poverty could not be ignored were merely providing excuses for bad teachers.
Today a report on equity in education was released by a congressionally-mandated commission (with Darling-Hammond as a member) that documents how the country has ignored the issue of equity for decades. The report, called “For Each And Every Child,” has important flaws but does serve  to focus on educational opportunity and the role of poverty in student achievement, starting with the first paragraph of the introduction:

The End of the Neighborhood School
The Atlantic by MARTIN AUSTERMUHLE February 2013
There's something romantic about the idea of a neighborhood public school. Not only is it the place where your child can walk or bike on a daily basis, it's where you can meet your neighbors, attend a school play and otherwise build a community.  But that neighborhood school—the school were a child goes as a matter of right—is withering in many American cities. Buffeted by declining enrollment, lagging performance and an education reform movement obsessed with choice, many traditional neighborhood-based public schools are being closed. Students are being shuffled farther away to other facilities or opting for charters (provided they strike it lucky with the lotteries).
In January, New York said it would shutter 17 schools; 117 were closed between 2003 and 2011. This year, Philadelphia unveiled plans to close 37 of its 242 schools. Detroit plans to shut down 28 of 100 schools. Baltimore identified 26 schools it could excise over a decade. Chicago is currently considering emptying 129 of its 681 schools. In Washington, D.C.15 schools are slated to be closed over the next two years; 23 were closed in 2008.

Why the School Bus Never Comes in Red or Green
New York Times City Room By JAMES BARRON February 19, 2013, 6:18 pm
A question came to mind as school bus drivers prepared to start their engines on Wednesday on 7,700 public-school routes in New York City and end their monthlong strike: Why are most school buses yellow?

Published Online: February 19, 2013
Federal Grant Prospect Reignites Kindergarten-Assessment Debate
Proposed federal money reignites policy debate
Education Week By Christina A. Samuels Premium article access courtesy of
A federal grant program in the works to help states jump-start kindergarten-entry assessments is renewing debate among early-childhood educators about the benefits and pitfalls of evaluating young children.  The U.S. Department of Education aims to distribute $9.2 million for the readiness-to-learn initiative through an existing grant program intended to help states devise better tests at all grade levels.

MA Educators Statement - Press Release Feb. 2013
Submitted by FairTest on February 19, 2013 - 11:51am 
More than 136 Massachusetts education professors and researchers today added their voices to a growing national rebellion against high-stakes testing. In a joint statement, the experts called for a new state assessment system that will better evaluate the competencies children need to succeed. The signers also urged an end to the state’s current overreliance on high-stakes standardized exams.

“We’ve pushed standards, testing and accountability for public schools, so why shouldn’t private institutions receiving vouchers have to meet those same requirements? Should private institutions be allowed to ignore state science standards and teach their students creationism while receiving taxpayer money?”
Should Taxpayers Be Funding Private Schools That Teach Creationism?
TruthDig By Zack Kopplin Posted on Feb 1, 2013
According to so-called education reform advocates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education, school vouchers, which allow parents to direct state money to private schools of their choice, are essential because “families need the financial freedom to attend schools that meet their needs.” From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, to Newark, N.J.’s Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, these programs are backed by politicians on both sides of the aisle, and they enjoy the support of powerful interest groups such as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the American Federation for Children.
Voucher programs have been established in 12 states and the District of Columbia, and they are spreading as Texas and Tennessee attempt to create ones of their own. As the use of vouchers has expanded across the country in recent years, new questions have arisen that extend beyond concerns about their appropriateness and legality. We’ve pushed standards, testing and accountability for public schools, so why shouldn’t private institutions receiving vouchers have to meet those same requirements? Should private institutions be allowed to ignore state science standards and teach their students creationism while receiving taxpayer money? Does learning about biblical creation, rather than evolution, really help to meet students’ needs?

How the Waltons could contribute to real improvements in kids’ educations
Walton 1% Blog February 15, 2013 By Cathy
In Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, President Obama proposed making universal preschool available to all American children. Implementation of early childhood education programs doesn’t come without some upfront costs, of course, but research demonstrates that it’s a great investment that leads to positive long-term outcomes in children’s lives. In particular, it benefits poor children, helping narrow achievement gaps that often exist between them and their wealthier peers.  The Walton family is big into education reform—you’d think they’d be major supporters of broader access to preschool, particularly since it would especially help the children of Walmart’s low-wage associates, right? Nope. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
SUBJECT: Governor Corbett's Proposed Education Budget for 2013-2014
"Southeastern Region Breakfast Series" Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Continental Breakfast - 8:00 a.m. Program - 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel - 201 North 17th St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
SPEAKERS: An Overview of the Proposed 2013-2014 State Budget and Education Issues Will Be Provided By:
Sharon Ward, The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Ron Cowell, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
State and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By:
 Mark B. Miller, School Director, Centennial School District
Joe Otto, Chief Operations Officer, William Penn School District
Michael Churchill, Of Counsel, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Dr. Stephen D. Butz
, Superintendent, Southeast Delco School District
While there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.

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.  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.  
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.

Edcamp Philly 2013 at UPENN May 18th, 2013
For those of you who have never gone to an Edcamp before, please make a note of the unusual part of the morning where we will build the schedule. Edcamp doesn’t believe in paying fancy people to come and talk at you about teaching! At an Edcamp, the people attending – the participants - facilitate sessions on teaching and learning! So Edcamp won’t succeed without a whole bunch of you wanting to run a session of some kind! What kinds of sessions might you run?
What: Edcamp Philly is an"unconference" devoted to K-12 Education issues and ideas.
Where: University of Pennsylvania  When: May 18, 2013  Cost: FREE!

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