Friday, March 8, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 8, 2013: Coverage of Philly School Closings

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 8, 2013: Coverage of Philly School Closings

“because the closings would create education deserts in areas of the city with the highest concentration of minority and low-income residents….Who would stay or move into a neighborhood that doesn’t even have a school in which parents and community members can invest their energies?” 
thenotebook by Elaine Simon on Mar 04 2013

PA House Education Committee Public Hearing:
Cyber Charter Funding Reform
Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:00 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.

Roebuck: Taxpayers could save $365 million with charter/cyber school reform bill
Amount could be higher if increased transparency requirements unmask more overfunding
Press release HARRISBURG, March 7 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, today unveiled his new charter and cyber charter school reform bill, which could save school districts an estimated $365 million per year. The estimate is largely based on a 2012 report from the auditor general's office.
"While I do support charter schools, I believe major revisions are needed regarding the governance, financing and accountability of charter and cyber charter schools. These revisions will result in significant savings to our school districts, and I believe this is the most far-reaching reform bill of its kind introduced in Pennsylvania in this session," Roebuck said. 

Philly SRC votes to close 23 schools, spare four
Kristen A. Graham and Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writers
POSTED: Friday, March 8, 2013, 3:01 AM
In a tense, dramatic conclusion to a months-long battle, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to close 23 schools across the city - and spare four it had considered shutting.  Taylor and T.M. Peirce Elementaries in North Philadelphia, Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown, and Robeson High School in Southwest Philadelphia were all on the chopping block but will stay open.  The vote capped a long series of protests, rallies, and public outcries against what appears to be one of the largest mass school closings in the nation's history. And it happened after 19 people, including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, were arrested when they tried to block SRC members' entrance into the meeting.

School Reform Commission votes to close 23 Philadelphia schools
WHYY Newsworks By Benjamin Herold March 8, 2013
After an excruciating day of protests and pleas for mercy, Philadelphia's School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to close 23 city schools and merge or relocate five others.
Four schools – T.M. Peirce and Bayard Taylor elementary schools, Roosevelt Middle, and Paul Robeson High – were spared.  All told, the SRC approved a total of 28 recommendations put forth by Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite, including three program relocations and a merger of the city's two high school military academies. A total of 25 school programs will be shut down as part of the complicated set of proposals.
"It's heart-wrenching," said SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos. "Nobody wants to do this, much less have to do it at this scale."

School Reform Commission shuts down 23, saves 4 schools
REGINA MEDINA & SOLOMON LEACH, Daily News Staff Writers, 215-854-5985  POSTED: Friday, March 8, 2013, 3:01 AM
THE SCHOOL Reform Commission voted Thursday night to close 23 district schools, opting at the 11th hour to keep four schools open during an emotional meeting highlighted by human barricades, 18 arrests and plenty of pleas to save public schools.
Many audience members wept when the SRC voted to close their schools.
"I think they shot them down as if they were in a firing line," said Colleen Grelis, a teacher at George W. Pepper Middle School, which, like the others on the closure list, will close at the end of the school year. "No one on the SRC has come to Pepper to see what we had.

RadioTimes today: Philadelphia's controversial school closures
WHYY RadioTimes with Marty Moss-Coane March 8, 2013 Hour 1
We'll respond to the school closures announced last night, and the politics and process that led the School District of Philadelphia to the extremely controversial management strategy. Joining guest-host MAIKEN SCOTT for the hour is BENJAMIN HEROLD, education reporter for WHYY's NewsWorks and the Public School Notebook. And we'll start off the hour with a short interview with School District of Philadelphia Superintendent WILLIAM HITE JR. and we'll close the hour with an interview with LORI SHORR, Mayor Nutter's chief education officer and director of the Office of the Public School Family and Child Advocate.

Philadelphia Officials Vote to Close 23 Schools
New York Times By JON HURDLE Published: March 7, 2013
PHILADELPHIA — Officials on Thursday night approved closing 23 public schools, about 10 percent of the city’s total, largely backing a plan by the school district to erase a huge budget deficit and reduce the number of underused schools.

Philadelphia to close 23 public schools; Randi Weingarten arrested at protest (update)
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on March 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted tonight to close 23 public schools at a meeting where American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was arrested along with 18 other activists during a protest at the entrance to the hearing. Four schools originally slated to be closed were given a reprieve and will stay open

Allentown School District may cut 161 jobs
Superintendent announces potential layoffs at Thursday night meeting. Many cuts would be in the arts.
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call 11:09 p.m. EST, March 7, 2013
The Allentown School District is considering eliminating as many 150 teaching positions and 11 administration jobs, according to Superintendent Russ Mayo.
He made the announcement at the end of a school board Education Committee meeting Thursday night that drew a standing-room-only crowd. Mayo acknowledged the cuts would be difficult but said districts like Allentown no longer have the money to be all things to all students.
"This has been personally excruciatingly painful," Mayo said.  The district is facing a budget gap of $22.5 million. The cuts would reduce the deficit by $11 million.

Where Kids Go When Neighborhood Schools Close
NPR March 06, 201312:00 PM Audio runtime 11:24
A rash of public school closings in some U.S. cities has parents and teachers reeling. School officials say the closings are needed to save money, but some argue it's a form of discrimination. Host Michel Martin talks with a Chicago reporter and a Philadelphia activist about how the closings could affect students and local communities.

Gym: Where is the vision for public education?
by Helen Gym on Mar 07 2013 Posted in Commentary
Thursday's School Reform Commission vote on the recommended closure of nearly 30 schools will undoubtedly have a major impact on the future of the city's public school system. In advance of the vote, the Notebook asked prominent Philadelphians to offer their thoughts, using new data and maps on school attendance patterns in the city as a starting point.

One of the biggest challenges our schools face has as much to do with a lack of vision around public education as it does with a lack of resources.

Chicago Public Schools School Closing Report: Commission Claims District Has Capacity To Consolidate 80 Schools
Huffington Post Posted: 03/07/2013 11:10 am EST 
Chicago Public Schools' Commission on School Utilization late Wednesday released its final report on the district's plan to shutter dozens of its schools.  The report claims the nation's third largest school district has the capacity to consolidate 80 schools over the next two years, an astoundingly unprecedented move for a district that has never before closed more than 11 schools in one year, Catalyst Chicago notes.

“According to Education Week, there are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States enrolling about 4 percent of all students. Since 2008, the number of charter schools has grown by almost 50 percent, while over that same period nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed.[i] This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded, but privately managed charter sector. These trends raise concerns about the future of public education and its promise of quality education for all.”
It’s time to refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all
New Jersey Education Association Written by Stan Karp March 2013
Somewhere along the way, nearly every teacher dreams of starting a school. I know I did.
More than once during the 30 years I taught English and journalism to high school students in Paterson, I imagined that creating my own school would open the door to everything I wanted as a teacher:

Schools examine, distribute new Keystone Exam test results
Keystone scores show which students need extra help.
By KATY PETIFORD The Evening Sun Posted:   03/06/2013 10:27:04 PM EST
Earlier in the school year, administrators were concerned the new Keystone exam would not accurately reflect students' progress. They're about to find out if their nervousness was necessary.  Results have been released for the test that replaced the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment for 11th grade students, and at first glance, administrators say they are pleased with what they see.  "We held our own, certainly," Principal Mark Blanchard said to the Gettysburg Board of Education Monday.  However, school officials are waiting for information from the Department of Education regarding when and how the scores will be distributed to students.

Building on Success by Expanding Pre-K Opportunities
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Blog Posted At : March 7, 2013 6:32 PM
In case you missed it amidst news coverage of snowstorms and sequestration, U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) on Wednesday stepped up efforts to make the benefits of high-quality pre-kindergarten available to more kids.  Pennsylvania's senior senator announced plans to introduce the "Prepare All Kids Act" to provide at least a year of pre-k to every child, particularly children who come from low-income families or who have special needs.
"Having at least one year of pre-k will better prepare our children in an increasingly competitive global economy," Casey said. "Every child deserves a chance to develop their talents, and a year of pre-k is essential to doing that."
Casey's plan would create a pre-k funding partnership between the states and the federal government – a partnership similar to the federal CHIP program (enacted in 1997) that fueled a large expansion of health coverage for children in our state and around the nation.

Zogby on the agita of projections
Post-Gazette Early Returns Published by Karen Langley on Thursday, 07 March 2013 7:25 pm.
If there's one thing that makes Charles Zogby nervous, it's revenue projections, the Corbett budget secretary told a House panel today.  It was the last day of appropriations hearings, in which lawmakers have questioned administration officials about Gov. Tom Corbett's $28.4 billion proposal before beginning their own work on a plan for the fiscal year starting July 1.  "If there's one area that has given me agita over the past couple of years, it is in the revenue projections," Zogby said. "We're in a very volatile economy. I think that's kind of played out in the revenue projections this year."

Williamsport Area School district expects tight federal purse strings
By JOSEPH STENDER - , Williamsport Sun-Gazette March 6, 2013
The Williamsport Area School District presented preliminary revenue figures Tuesday as it continues to look at its 2013-14 school year budget.  "The governor is proposing an increase (in basic education subsidy)," Business Manager Jeffrey Richards told the school board.
Richards said if Gov. Tom Corbett's budget was passed as proposed, the district would see an increase of about $353,000 in the basic education subsidy. But Richards said he heard that the increase in basic education is tied into the proposed state pension reform.
"So if nothing goes through, we won't see that much (of an increase)," he said after the meeting.

Teachers Make Handy Scapegoats, But Spiraling Inequality Is Really What Ails Our Education System

Stanford University scholar Linda Darling-Hammond explains the connection.
AlterNet / By Joshua HollandLinda Darling-Hammond March 4, 2013  |  
No shortage of ink had been put to paper pondering what it is that ails America's education system. We know that, on average, our kids' educational outcomes lag behind those of other wealthy countries, but why is that? But one of the core problems, if not the core problem, is only rarely discussed: the staggering, and increasing inequality that marks the American economy today.  That's the conclusion Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, has drawn from her research. AlterNet recently spoke with Darling-Hammond -- below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion.

Rhee Candidate Crushed in W. Sacramento School Board Race
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Lesli A. Maxwell on March 7, 2013 11:45 AM
Though Michelle Rhee's name was not on the ballot this week in a race for a school board seat in West Sacramento, Calif., voters there indirectly turned down the former District of Columbia schools chancellor.  Francisco Castillo, a spokesman for Rhee's Sacramento-based StudentsFirst organization, was trounced in his bid to fill a vacancy on the board that oversees nine schools, despite a campaign treasury of nearly $60,000. More that half that war chest came from StudentsFirst, according toThe Sacramento Bee. The winner, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, was backed by the local teachers' union, which kicked in most of the $30,000 she raised for her campaign, according to The Bee.

Diane Ravitch Launches New Education Advocacy Counterforce
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Michele McNeil on March 7, 2013 1:10 PM
Education historian Diane Ravitch, a fierce critic of current education reform trends, is launching a new advocacy organization that will support political candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, and what her group calls the "privatizing" of public schools.
The new Network for Public Education is meant to counter state-level forces such asDemocrats for Education ReformStand for Children, and Students First—all of which are promoting their own vision of education reform and supporting candidates for office, including with donations. That agenda backs things such as charter schools and teacher evaluations tied to student growth. Other powerful outside groups are also pushing such an agenda, though without the political donations, including former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education and Chiefs for Change.

Advocacy Group to Monitor Reform Efforts in Public Schools
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: March 8, 2013
Diane Ravitch, the historian and former assistant education secretary who has become an outspoken critic of those who favor high-stakes testing, tenure reforms and other controversial measures aimed at the public schools, has joined with other education advocates to form a group that will grade and endorse political candidates.  Diane Ravitch said her group “wants to be a sane voice.”  The group will be called the Network for Public Education and is co-founded by Anthony Cody, a former teacher and now a blogger on education issues. It will try to bring together parents, teachers and other local interest groups from across the country through social networking.

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students. We will accomplish this by networking groups and organizations focused on similar goals in states and districts throughout the nation, share information about what works and what doesn’t work in public education, and endorse and rate candidates for office based on our principles and goals. More specifically, we will support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, and we will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children.

On Tuesday evening, PanSTARRS will lie to the south, or left, of the crescent moon, which can serve as a guide in finding the comet. The next night, it will be found to the moon's lower right.
Comet PanSTARRS will appear in skies above Pittsburgh this month, but will we see it?
Clouds, sunset may obscure good look at PanSTARRS
By Pete Zapadka / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 8, 2013 12:06 am
A bright comet is coming to the skies over Pittsburgh, but cloudy weather or lingering light from the sunset could dim the view of PanSTARRS, which may resemble a plane contrail.
Comet PanSTARRS has been visible from the Southern Hemisphere for the past few months, where it exhibited a comet's signature tail and could be seen with the unaided eye. It initially gained star status shortly after it was discovered in June 2011, showing promise that it would become dazzling.  But earlier this year, its brightness was not meeting expectations.

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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