Friday, March 1, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup For March 1, 2013: Education Law Center: PA One of Only Three States Without an Education Funding Formula

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 March 1, 2013: Education Law Center: PA One of Only Three States Without an Education Funding Formula

Roebuck Seeking Co-sponsors for Comprehensive Charter and Cyber Charter School Reform Legislation

Cuts Roll In as Time Runs Out
No Last-Minute Deal; Spending Reductions Won't Touch Deficit's Biggest Drivers
Wall Street Journal By DAMIAN PALETTA and JANET HOOK February 28, 2013
The federal government enters a controversial new phase of deficit cutting Friday, as an automatic trigger begins slicing budgets in some areas while leaving programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—among the largest drivers of future debt—largely untouched.  The $85 billion in so-called sequester cuts push Washington, and the nation's economy, into uncertain waters. The debate over the across-the-board reductions has added to the already-high level of acrimony between Democrats and Republicans on fiscal matters, lowered even further the public's estimation of the capital's leaders and raised consumer fears about the economy, according to polls.  In the eyes of many budget experts, though, it is doing something worse: By focusing on a proportionally small level of spending, the sequester fight is distracting attention from longer-term deficit issues that need to be addressed.

“It will be, Mr. Obama said Wednesday night, more of a “tumble downward” than a quick descent into budgetary nightmare. “It’s conceivable that in the first week, the first two weeks, the first three weeks, the first month, a lot of people may not notice the full impact of the sequester,” Mr. Obama told a group of business officials.”
Many Steps to Be Taken When ‘Sequester’ Is Law
New York Times By MICHAEL D. SHEAR Published: February 28, 2013
WASHINGTON — At some point on Friday (no one will say precisely when), President Obama will formally notify government agencies that an obscure process known as sequestration is in effect, triggering deep, across-the-board budget cuts that will force federal spending to shrink.  At that moment, somewhere in the bowels of the Treasury Department, officials will take offline the computers that process payments for school construction and clean energy bonds to reprogram them for reduced rates. Payments will be delayed while they are made manually for the next six weeks.

When would school districts be affected? Would any school districts be affected right away? So what will the cuts actually mean in districts? What about early-childhood education programs? 
Sequestration and Education: 12 Frequently Asked Questions
Education Week Politics k-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 26, 2013 6:18 PM
Now that sequestration, that looming, scary, Inside-the-Beltway possibility, is finally upon us, what does that mean for states and school districts? Here's a rundown:

EITC: Welfare for the rich? Private school tax credit programs expanding
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on February 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm
At a time when government budgets at all levels are under enormous strain, families and businesses are struggling and federal agencies are facing dramatic across-the-board spending cuts, you would think lawmakers would be careful about spending public money. So it may surprise you to learn that in a growing number of states, legislators are setting aside public money to pay for private school tuition — and rich people are benefiting.
It’s a school choice option known as tuition tax credits (or private school tax credits or student tax credits or scholarship tax credits and a few other things too.) Whatever they are called, these tax credits are essentially alternatives to vouchers, which give public funds to families so their kids can attend private schools.

"Without an accurate, fair, and transparent system for calculating and distributing education dollars, we're going to have a very difficult time — as public school parents, as taxpayers, as business leaders — knowing if our state is providing an adequate amount of resources to match student and district needs," said Education Law Center Executive Director Rhonda Brownstein. "In other words, is the right amount of money going to the right place — and can legislators and the public see it? In Pennsylvania, the current answer is no."
PA One of Only Three States Without an Education Funding Formula
Education Law Center News Release February 28, 2013
Pennsylvania is a national outlier when it comes to following basic budgeting principles - accuracy, fairness, and transparency - that most states use when it comes to public school funding, according to a new report from the Education Law Center.
The statewide, non-profit organization examined how each of the 50 states calculates and distributes education dollars. The report shows that Pennsylvania is in the minority when it comes to basic budgeting practices used by most states.

Public hearing - Cyber Charter Funding Reform
Thursday, March 14, 201310:00 AM Room 140 Main Capitol
HB 618 (Emrick) and HB 759 (Reese)
Here’s some background on these two bills:
Charter and Cyber Charter Funding Reforms Proposed
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s website 1/25/2013
HARRISBURG – The House Republican Caucus today unveiled a legislative package aimed at reforming charter and cyber charter school funding.

PDE Files Request for NCLB Waiver
PSBA Feb. 28, 2013
Today the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) filed a request with U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for flexibility from certain requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  An overview of the application is posted on PDE’s website. Under The Dome™ Thursday, February 28, 2013 (PAYWALL)
Plenty of debate during Education Department’s House budget hearing. 
Whenever the Department of Education has a budget hearing, you can bet there will be plenty of discussion and debate, and Wednesday’s House Appropriation Committee budget hearing was no exception. State lawmakers and Education Secretary Ron Tomalis tangled during the hearing over the way $90 million in new basic education funding is parceled out;CLICK HERE to read Capitolwire Bureau Chief Peter L. DeCoursey’s story about that. Another lawmaker, Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, said after years of short-changing education funding to step up pension funding, now Gov. Tom Corbett is partially reversing that equation to short-change both. Tomalis defended what he said were the governor’s efforts to reform and fund both. CLICK HERE to read DeCoursey’s report on that debate. And Tomalis also went on the offensive during the hearing, asking House Democrats: if you support your districts getting federal one-time grants for reading and improving student performance, why is the governor’s one-time grant, Passport for Learning, wrong for being one-time money? CLICK HERE to read DeCoursey’s story about that.

Video of February 27th PA House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing for the Department of Education
Video Runtime: 3:15:59

Jeffrey Clay, the PSERS executive director, made the point more emphatically.
"No one thing solves the problem," Clay said. "And the big issue here is we just need more money because we've been shorted, shorted, shorted, shorted. We've been underfunding the system for more than a decade and we continue to do so."
Pa. pension execs meet with lawmakers
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Delco Times By PETER JACKSON, Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Making newly hired school and state employees enroll in a 401(k)-style plan would not seriously affect Pennsylvania's two largest traditional pension funds, so long as a new plan is adequately funded, administrators told lawmakers Wednesday.
"Any plan has to be well-structured and well-funded," Dave Durbin, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System, told the Senate Appropriations Committee.
As part of a package of wide-ranging pension reforms, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett advocates requiring newly hired state and school be enrolled in a plan in which they would contribute at least 6.25 percent of their salary and the state would provide a 4 percent match.

Looming federal cuts an added burden for Pa. schools
Press Release House Education Minority Chairman James Roebuck HARRISBURG, Feb. 27
State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said today that automatic federal funding cuts due to take effect Friday only would intensify the huge impact that Pennsylvania's deep education funding cuts already have had on schools and students – particularly in the state’s poorest communities.  The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the sequestration cuts caused by inaction in Congress could hit neediest students the most, cutting $725 million from federal education grants that help to serve nearly 23 million students in high-poverty areas of the country, Roebuck said.

PA's Senators diverge on sequestration
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 26, 2013 8:19 PM
Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators are at odds over how the country can avoid the worst effects of sequestration.  Republican Pat Toomey isn’t saying sequestration is the smartest way to cut spending, but at a recent banking hearing, he said he doubts the disastrous effects of the scheduled cuts.  ….Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said sequestration will hurt – and the way to avoid the pain is to cut spending while increasing taxes.

2013-14 Corbett Budget Shorts Education
Council for the Advancement of Public Schools February 2013
The new state budget plan presented by Gov. Tom Corbett in February calls for an additional $90 million to the basic education subsidy but is still light years away from September 2010 when economic stimulus funds of $800 million were provided by the federal government. A proposed Passport for Learning block grant, which wouldn't become effective until 2014-15, would require the sale of state liquor stores, a plan that has already been defeated twice.

Which pieces of the closings plan did the Philly SRC seem most concerned about?
by thenotebook on Feb 28 2013 by Bill Hangley Jr. and Dale Mezzacappa
At three days of hearings on school closings, members of the School Reform Commission raised significant questions about several of the District’s school-closing proposals, most in response to points raised by students, parents, community members, and in some cases, principals of the affected schools. As the March 7 vote nears, we are providing a summary of some of the issues that SRC members seemed most interested in.

Allentown school board rejects engineering charter school tied to controversial Gulen group
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  on February 28, 2013 at 8:50 PM
For the fourth time in eight years, the Allentown School Board on Thursday unanimously rejected an application to establish a new engineering charter school in the city.  Board members  previously expressed concerns about whether the group is associated with a controversial movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.  But Superintendent Russell Mayo recommended the charter be rejected not because of any ties to that movement, but due to concerns about its curriculum, budget and lack of community support.

Allentown School Board voices support for liquor store privatization plan
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  on February 28, 2013 at 9:36 PM
The Allentown School Board tonight voiced support for Gov. Tom Corbett's plans to increase education funding by privatizing state liquor stores.  The board voted 7-1 to send the state a resolution in support of the governor's plan, which could give the Allentown district $17 million over four years.

GSA? No Way In PA!: Keystone State School District Risks Lawsuit Over Refusal To Permit Equal-Access Club
Americans United for Separation of Church and State Feb 28, 2013 by Simon Brown in Wall of Separation |
It’s ironic that when Congress was debating the Equal Access Act, conservatives were the ones really pushing for the law. They were eager to see students form Christian clubs, and it’s incredible that they didn’t realize the law makes it easier for everyone to create a club – including those the Religious Right finds offensive.  Most government bodies do everything in their power to avoid lawsuits, but some do things so foolish that they seem to be begging someone to sue them. One entity that apparently welcomes the prospect of a long and costly legal battle is the governing board of the Chambersburg Area School District in Pennsylvania.
Recently, the board voted 5-4 not to allow a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Chambersburg Area Senior High SchoolA news report on the vote did not include any comments from the five who voted against the club, but the story did make one very important point: The 1984 Federal Equal Access Act requires secondary schools to allow a variety of student-run religious and non-religious voluntary clubs that meet during “non-instructional” time. This law was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

Jeff Gelles: The digital divide persists
The teens in Brian Cohen's math classes love to use SketchUp 8 for 3D modeling. They design their dream houses, then dive into the algebra and geometry problems their own imaginations create.  OK, so what's the surface area of the living room walls? How much would it cost to wallpaper them? How much air volume is there in the den? You have to know if you want to heat it.  SketchUp 8 runs smoothly on any of the 33 refurbished ThinkPads, circa 2010, that Cohen raised funds to buy for his classroom. But woe to the student who takes that math work into the school's computer lab, outfitted with Apple iMacs built when George W. Bush was in the White House - not so long ago in people years, but seriously aged in digi-time. On them, SketchUp 8 is too new to load.
Massachusetts Charters Outperform Regular Schools, Study Finds
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Katie Ash on February 28, 2013 6:42 PM
Students in charter schools in Massachusetts outperformed their regular public school counterparts in reading and math in the state, and students in charter schools in Boston experienced significantly higher learning gains in reading and math than students in regular public schools in the city, says a new study released by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

FYI, no, I am not related to Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP.….
“There are lessons here not just for KIPP, but also for our district counterparts in the communities we serve. School districts can adopt elements of our most successful schools by giving principals more autonomy to establish healthy school cultures and to expand the school day to include more time for learning math and reading without having to sacrifice the other core subjects or the co-curricular classes”
How Cage-Busting is Paying Off for KIPP
Education Week Rick Hess Straight Up Blog By Guest Blogger on February 27, 2013 11:01 AM
Guest blogging this week is Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP.
For me, cage-busting is a way of life... unfortunately, according to my wife. When Dave Levin and I created the first KIPP program in Houston with 47 fifth grade students at Garcia Elementary School in 1994, we were cage-busting within the system by extending the school day and putting our underserved students on a different life trajectory. Since then, KIPP has grown to a national network of 125 public charters schools in 20 states serving 41,000 students, 85 percent of them are from low-income families. Today I want to share some brand-new research that's helping KIPP assess how we are delivering on our promises to children and families.

Education Views Blog Posted by Donna Garner Education Policy Commentator on February 28, 2013
This map dated 2.26.13 shows the many states that are pulling back from the Common Core Standards.  Legislators in Alabama today are holding a public hearing on HB 254 (companion bill SB 190) that would repeal Alabama’s commitment to the Common Core Standards.

How much will your school district spend on materials for the Common Core?
New State Academic Standards Are Said to Require $56 Million Outlay for New York City’s Schools
New York Times By AL BAKER Published: February 28, 2013
It will cost about $56 million to buy new textbooks and other materials to help New York City public school students meet rigorous academic standards adopted by most states, city officials announced at a news conference on Thursday.  The costs are not unexpected, because the state signed on for the so-called Common Core standards in 2010. But they drew a round of scrutiny at a time of austere budgeting, particularly as the city is facing a possible decline in state and federal aid.

Experts: Add Counselors, Not Armed Teachers, to Boost School Safety
Education Week Rules for Engagement Blog By Nirvi Shah on February 27, 2013 5:16 PM
A panel of school safety, climate, and security experts quizzed by a House committee today largely agreed that schools need more counselors, better communication between adults on campus and students, and additional, thoughtful emergency planning.
One thing they don't need, according to the experts: Teachers carrying guns to class.

PhilaSoup March 2013 - Sunday Get together
Sunday, March 3, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EST) Philadelphia, PA
Teachers Institute of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Houston Hall (2nd Floor)
3417 Spruce Street, PhiladelphiaPA 19104
Philasoup is a monthly microgrant dinner meant to bring innovative and dynamic Philadelphia-area educators together, highlight the great work they are doing and fund some terrific projects. The vision for PhilaSoup is to be a monthly microgrant dinner that starts and ends with educators but is an access point to education for the whole city.

PSBA officer applications due April 30
PSBA’s website 2/15/2013
Candidates seeking election to PSBA officer posts in 2014 must file an expression of interest for the office desired to be interviewed by the PSBA Leadership Development Committee.
This new committee replaces the former Nominations Committee. Deadline for filing is April 30. The application shall be marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by the deadline to be considered timely filed. Expression of interest forms can be found online at

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!

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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