Friday, March 15, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 15, 2013: Money talks, privatization marches on in Philly; Cyber Update; Keystone Exams; Budget

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1875 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 15, 2013:  Money talks, privatization marches on in Philly

Do you have a colleague who would like a nice slice of warm PA public education policy with their coffee in the morning?  Please pass along their name, email address and affiliation.
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“Fresh off of "cheerleading" the District's controversial school-closings push, said Gym, the Philadelphia School Partnership is now "circumventing public process and District oversight to independently help finance a massive expansion of charter schools."
"I think there is a clear intent here to influence and drive the District's decision-making," she said.
Gleason agreed that his group is trying to influence the School Reform Commission, but said that PSP's investments do not amount to improper interference.”
Nonprofit gives $3.4 million to expand two Philadelphia charters
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold March 14, 2013
The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced Thursday that it will give $3.4 million to charter school operators KIPP Philadelphia and Scholar Academies so they can expand by a combined 1,500 students.  The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) announced Thursday that it will give $3.4 million to charter school operators KIPP Philadelphia and Scholar Academies so they can expand by a combined 1,500 students. The moves could mean as much as $10 million a year in unplanned expenses for the struggling Philadelphia School District.

Purchasing public policy? Money talks - In Philly the same folks who brought us the EITC bailout of parochial schools via millions of diverted tax dollars and spent millions on voucher candidates are apparently now just buying more charter schools….meanwhile, Wm. Penn Foundation has significantly cut funding to public ed advocacy groups
Philadelphia School Partnership Board of Directors
You know the names: O’Neill, Bravacos, Yass…..
In addition to a $15 million grant from the William Penn Foundation in July, the partnership has received $5 million from the Maguire Foundation and $31.9 million from a group of twenty donors that includes the Samuel S. Fels Fund and school reform advocate Janine Yass.

Allentown schools consider 150 teacher job cuts in face of $22 million budget deficit
By Gregg Bortz | The Express-Times  on March 14, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Allentown School District is proposing to cut 150 teachers jobs, to help plug a $22.5 million shortfall, in what the superintendent calls a "worst-case scenario" budget for 2013-14.
The school board's finance committee reviewed the initial $248.7 million budget tonight, and was told jobs could be restored by the final vote in May if the financial outlook improves.
An overflow crowd packed the administration center's auditorium, with about 50 people in the lobby watching on a television screen.

Back to the Budget
Yinzercation Blog March 14, 2013
The governor is talking about education funding again, so it’s time to check back in on our state budget. Yesterday Gov. Corbett visited the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce to tout his liquor privatization plan, which he estimates will yield $1 billion that he will require school districts to spend on science and technology initiatives. [Delco Times, 3-13-13] I’m all for getting schools money after the draconian cuts they have suffered these past two years – totaling $2 billion now – but this plan has some serious holes in it.
First, you may have noticed that the dollar amounts don’t quite add up. This plan only talks about half the amount that schools are currently missing (after the nearly $1 billion cut in 2011 and the budget freeze in 2012 that locked in those cuts for a second year in a row). The governor believes that the state will collect around $1billion in revenue from the sale of licenses and auctioning off wine and spirit retails stores over the course of four years. [Post-Gazette, 1-30-13] As we pointed out before, that’s not a sustainable model. [See “Kids or Booze”.]

PCN March 13: Education Funding: Benso, Bard, Himes
By Francine Schertzer on Mar 13, 2013 with Comments 1
Wednesday night’s Call In Program looked at how education funding will be impacted by the proposed state budget.  Panelists were:  Joan Benso, President & CEO of PA Partnerships for Children, Joseph Bard, Executive Director of the PA Association for Rural and Small Schools, and Jay Himes, Executive Director of the PA Association of School Business Officials.

Letter to Governor Corbett: PA's Lack of Education Funding System Failing Constitutional Requirement
Education Law Center Press Release March 14, 2013 
Pennsylvania's lack of an education funding system is failing the state's constitutional requirement for "maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education," according to members of advocacy groups throughout the state.
In a letter to Governor Corbett, attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia were joined by Education Voters PA, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools, and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools in writing that "the current scheme for funding education bears no reasonable relation to the constitutional requirement that the state provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient public education."

I attended the morning session of yesterday’s House Education Committee hearing  on two cyber charter reform bills.  My takeaways?
(1)There was general consensus among legislators, cyber advocates and traditional public school advocates that Pennsylvania needs an education funding formula. That’s great.
(2) Although AYP is used early and often to condemn traditional public schools that do not perform, cyber advocates do not believe that it should apply to their schools and their students.  This is convenient since most have never made AYP.
(3) Although PA has legislated and is implementing a teacher evaluation program cyber advocates do not believe it should apply to their schools and their teachers.
(4) The House Majority caucus Room and the Capitol rotunda were packed with cyber students, parents, teachers and executive directors.  Unfortunately, the tens of thousands of regular public school students whose underfunded school budgets are impacted by overpayments to cybers (and who have lost things like art, music, gym, sports, counselors, nurses, safety officers) were in class and unable to attend the hearing.
(5) I did not see K12, Inc. CEO Ron Packard in the room to defend his $5 million compensation package.
In cyber-charter funding debate, educators on predictable seesaw
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 14, 2013 7:52 PM
If school districts are up on an idea, cyber-charter school groups are down. If the cyber-charter groups swing skyward, the traditional school boards careen to the ground.
That was the trend at a recent state House Education Committee hearing, where everyone underscored their commitment to children, but no one could agree on how to reform their funding models.  One of the more tense exchanges on proposals that would mean less funding for cyber-charter schools – and slightly more leeway in how they’re overseen – came during a back and forth on the quality of the education provided at the publicly-funded, privately-run schools (cyber-charter schools, unlike their brick-and-mortar charter counterparts, provide mostly online instruction).
Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia) pressed a cyber-charter school CEO on why she called such schools high quality in her testimony. According to the most recent calculations, none of the state’s cyber-charters met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on statewide exams.

PSBA did a great job here summarizing the charter reform bills that are in play…
PA Charter School Reform Bills for the 2013-14 Legislative Session
PSBA website March 14, 2013
Listed below is current legislation that has been proposed for consideration. Each bill number is linked to a bulleted summary, with the more detailed description below the summary. A printable version of ALL the bill summaries also is available, below. This list will be updated as items are announced or eliminated.

PSBA supports legislative efforts to reform charter and cyber charter school funding
N E W S R E L E A S E Steve Robinson, Publications and PR Director 3/14/2013
Stuart L. Knade, interim executive director for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), told members of the House Education Committee school districts across the state are concerned with the current funding formula for charter and cyber charter schools, which is not equitable or accountable to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.  Many of the provisions in House Bill 618 and House Bill 759 would go a long way in correcting these issues.

My Bill is One Step Toward Important Cyber School Reform
YouTube Video runtime 5:22 Published on Mar 14, 2013
Rep. Mike Reese (R-59, Part Fayette, Part Westmoreland) testifies before the PA House Education Committee on his cyber school reform bill, HB 759

“As required by the new regulations, the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards in English language arts and mathematics must be implemented in all public schools across the state by July 1, 2013.  ….Beginning with the class of 2017 – this year’s 8th-grade class – students will be required to pass three Keystone Exams – algebra I, biology and literature – or a comparable assessment to obtain a high school diploma.”
Keystone Exams: PA State Board of Education Finalizes Adoption of Pennsylvania Common Core State Academic Standards and High School Graduation Requirements
PDE PRESS RELEASE: March 14, 2013
Harrisburg – The State Board of Education today voted to adopt final-form regulations to amend Chapter 4, Academic Standards and Assessment, of Title 22, the Pennsylvania Education Code, said Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.  Specifically, the board’s action puts into place the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards and requires students to demonstrate proficiency on a Keystone Exam, validated local assessment or a comparable Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate exam.

Interview with NSBA Conference speaker Diane Ravitch: ‘Schools belong to the people and not to corporations’
NSBA School Board News Today Lawrence Hardy March 14th, 2013
From 1991 to 1993, Diane Ravitch served as Assistant Secretary of Education in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Today, the author and education historian says the institution she served at the federal level is under an unprecedented threat from powerful interests intent on privatizing public schools.  In 2010, Ravitch published The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education. A keynote speaker at the 2013 NSBA Annual Conference in San Diego, she recently talked with ASBJ Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy.

Alabama: Governor Signs Law Granting Private School Tax Credits
New York Times By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON Published: March 14, 2013
Gov. Robert Bentley signed a law on Thursday granting tax credits to families who want to send their children to private schools or better-performing public schools. The act was passed amid heated controversy, not only about its substance, but about the way it was passed: A conference committee that was to reconcile versions of a school-related bill already passed by the House and Senate added the tax credit, and more than tripled the original bill’s length. The new version was then voted on quickly by both houses.

How to Join the Network for Public Education
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav March 13, 2013 
Several readers have contacted me asking how they can join the Network for Public Education.
Some read about it but don’t know how to find the website.
Here it is:

Teachers Lead Philly Spring Dinner/Workshop
Thu, Mar 21, 2013 ~ 5pm-7pm Franklin 1075 @ SDP/440 N. Broad Street
Register HERE!

Children with Specific Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Calls for Reforming Special Education
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia March 19, 2013, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Session will take place from 12:00-4:00pm on the listed day at the United Way Building, located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Sessions also available via webinar.
Cost: Pay What You Can! (Minimum payment of $5 Requested)
This session is designed to address the legal aspects surrounding the needs of children with dyslexia, and other learning disabilities (ADHD, non-verbal learning disabilities). An expert in dyslexia will join Sonja Kerr to explain dyslexia/learning disabilities, the research and what we can do about it.

Honoring Valor: National History Day Student Competition
Letters of intent due by April 1, 2013
The Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Army Heritage Center Foundation, and the Pennsylvania State Museum are pleased to announce a competition for students in Middle and
High School to demonstrate how and why societies honor valor. Inspired by the valor exemplified by Soldiers at Gettysburg in 1863, citizens on September 11, 2001, and the responses of individuals battling disease or injustice, the competition will recognize students who demonstrate
excellence in identifying and describing how and why societies honor their valiant men and women.

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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