Friday, April 19, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 19, 2013: PA School Funding: Senate Dems, Ed Cmte Chair Folmer, Sec’y Tomalis, PSFC, PBPC’s Sharon Ward, Yinzercation, Philly doomsday budget….

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 19, 2013:
PA School Funding: Senate Dems, Ed Cmte Chair Folmer, Sec’y Tomalis, PSFC, PBPC’s Sharon Ward, Yinzercation, Philly doomsday budget….

“Democrats said that priority details include a three-year phase in of new monies to restore education dollars and key student-performance based initiatives that were cut by the Corbett administration in the last two budgets.”
PA Senate Democrats Seek Job Creation, Education, Safety Net Dollars in Budget Discussions
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa’s website April 17, 2013
Harrisburg, April 17, 2013 – Senate Democrats’ 2013-14 budget priorities are heavily weighted toward job creation, education investments, strengthening the social-services safety net, modernizing liquor sales and refocusing Pennsylvania’s business tax menu to help small businesses, they announced today at a Capitol news conference.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said that Senate Democrats will go into this year’s budget negotiations with a clear purpose and “are resolved that the state’s economy must be jump-started. New jobs must be created and we have to reverse the negative course that the Corbett administration has plotted for Pennsylvania on education and protecting our most vulnerable.”

Pennsylvania's education debate must focus on kids, parents
Lebanon Daily News Guest Opinion By SEN. MIKE FOLMER 04/15/2013 11:49:07 AM EDT
Senator Folmer is Majority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee
Article III, Section 14 of Pennsylvania's Constitution, "Public School System" requires that: "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
Through the generosity of taxpayers, we spend nearly $27 billion in federal, state and local tax dollars in pursuit of a "thorough and efficient" public education system.  This amount is more than 70 other nations' Gross National Products, and spread out evenly among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts, equals $54 million per district. The catch - and an issue surrounding the state's school funding formulas - is that districts receive widely varying amounts of state dollars.

State education secretary Tomalis discusses school funding

Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) Published: April 18, 2013
Gov. Tom Corbett did not cut $1 billion in education funding, and instead, increased state funding, the secretary of education said Wednesday.  During an editorial board meeting with The Times-Tribune, Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis explained that districts statewide saw cuts in funding because federal stimulus dollars ran out - not because the governor cut the funding. Former Gov. Ed Rendell used the federal stimulus money to increase district allocations.
Regardless of where the dollars originated, the education budget saw a cut of about $1 billion in 2011-12, and those cuts were not restored for 2012-13. Under Mr. Corbett's proposed 2013-14 budget, districts would receive a 1.7 percent increase in state funding.
Superintendents, who have lamented the cuts in total funding and say it has led to the elimination of jobs and programs, should have known the funding would end, Mr. Tomalis said.
During Wednesday's meeting, Mr. Tomalis addressed many issues in education.

PA 1 of only 2 states in booze biz; 1 of only 3 states without an education funding formula
Help spread the message of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign for the 2013-2014 State Budget:
Increase state funding for basic education for academic programs and services to students in 2013-2014 by $270 million (first installment of three-year plan to restore nearly $900 million of 2011-2012 cuts).
Distribute funds to districts with a formula that accounts for the number of students, includes “weights” for the additional costs for educating students with special needs (including students in poverty, gifted students, and English language learners), and provides sustainable and predictable funding for districts.

Pa. school districts struggle with higher costs, less funding
It's not just the Schuylkill Haven Area and Blue Mountain school districts that are struggling to balance their budgets.  Data from the Pennsylvania State Education Association show the effects of state budget cuts since Gov. Tom Corbett took office in 2011.
"Education has not been a priority for this governor," Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Harrisburg, said Wednesday.  Ward said basic education subsidies were first cut in the 2010-11 state budget.  "When those cuts occurred, a lot of school districts drew down those reserves," she said, referring to districts' unreserved fund balances.

“Perhaps Rep. Metcalfe needs to actually talk to the families he represents, where kids are now missing over $6 MILLION from their schools. Here’s a breakdown of the cuts since 2010-2011 to the five school districts in his 12th PA congressional district. [Data from Save Pennsylvania Schools]”
Butler Area School District
Freeport Area School District
Mars Area School District
Seneca Valley School District
South Butler County School District
Black Holes
Yinzercation Blog April 18, 2013
Could someone fetch Rep. Daryl Metcalfe back from outer space? Earlier this week, the Cranberry Republican co-sponsored a bill in the state house to send the proceeds of liquor store privatization to infrastructure improvements, rather than to education, as Gov. Corbett had initially proposed. [See “Kids or Booze”] Pennsylvania certainly needs to support all of its public goods – including infrastructure – but what is appalling about Rep. Metcalfe’s bill is that it rests on a shameful disregard for public education.
At a news conference with several other Republican legislators, Rep. Metcalfe complained, “When you give the money to the education establishment like this, it’s like throwing it into a black hole.” Wow. This man thinks our children’s future is a black hole. He calls our schools “the education establishment” as if our kids are somehow the problem. Of course, what he really means is that our teachers are somehow the problem, as he makes clear in his next sentence: “All it will be used for is to drive those salaries up that are continuing to be one of the main drivers for our pension problem.” [Post-Gazette, 4-16-13]
Actually, we do have a pension problem – but the blame for that lies heavily with Pennsylvania legislators themselves who have kicked the can down the road to this point.

Doomsday budget for Philly schools
Inquirer Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham April 18, 2013
Prior year's budgets have been tough, but the 2013-14 spending plan is shaping up to be the worst anyone has seen.  We had already heard of a deficit of $304 million, unless the state came forward with $120 million, the city with $60 million, and the district got $133 million in labor concessions.  But according to multiple individuals briefed in the past week, the district has acknowledged it can't build its budget around funds that are not guaranteed, and is ordering everyone to brace for the worst.
What's the worst?  Layoffs - about 3,000, including teachers. Schools that feature no counselors, librarians, aides, extracurriculars, sports (that's none - no Public League, for instance), etc. Many of those things are required either by contract or by state law, but leaders have said that without new revenue, there just isn't money to pay for what's required.

Hite: Philly school budgets down 25 percent without more funds
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 18 2013 Posted in Latest news
Facing a $300 million structural deficit and still uncertain whether it will get the increased revenue and labor concessions it is seeking, the School District is asking schools to prepare to operate next year with a principal and a bare-bones allotment of teachers – and just about nothing else.
That means the contractual maximum class size in every classroom – 33 students in grades 4-12 and 30 in K-3. It means no dedicated money for guidance counselors, interscholastic sports, extracurricular activities, librarians, art or music.
No money, even, for secretaries.

DN Editorial: Please, sir, more

Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013, 3:01 AM
Without help, Superindent William Hite said Thursday, the district will have to adopt a scorched-earth policy on remaining programs, including an end to all extra-curricular activities - including sports - the end to all art and music programs, laying off guidance counselors and virtually all support staff in the schools.  It's not unusual for Harrisburg to meet these pleas with skepticism. Philadelphia has cried wolf before, predicting dire consequences if it can't get additional state aid. This time, though, it genuinely appears that the wolf is real and it's at the door.

Chester Upland plans school closings, other moves
Rita Giordano, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013, 3:01 AM
Two Chester Upland School District buildings would be closed, students would be transferred, and the Chester High School building would be renamed and redefined under a consolidation plan unveiled Thursday.  The plan is intended to go into effect in September, district officials said.

Roebuck’s legislation withstands harsh criticism  by  Damon C. Williams Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:11
State Rep. James Roebuck, who recently submitted legislation aimed at reforming the finances and accountability for charter and cyber-charter schools, has withstood withering criticism from the charter school community — particularly from longtime educator and charter school operator Veronica Joyner — for submitting statutes that they say cripple charters while not addressing the parallel issues in the traditional public school system.
While Roebuck understands the criticism, and to some degree has come to expect and welcome it, he will not tolerate misperceptions about his bill, particularly the assertion that he is somehow trying to limit school choice for those that need it most – the poor and minority families trapped in the cycle of school closings and spiraling in-school violence permeating traditional public schools.
“That [assertion] is simply not true. My intent is to ensure that we develop good educational opportunities for all students. The bill I offered is not aimed at any way toward the charter school community,” Roebuck said, noting that nearly ten similar charter school reform bills have been introduced and will be considered by the House. “My intent is to try and identify problems where they exist, be it in traditional, charter or cyber charters, and resolve them.

How to enrich public education Opinion By Gamal Sherif and Larissa Pahomov Thursday, April 18, 2013, 3:01 AM
Gamal Sherif is a member of Teachers Lead Philly. Larissa Pahomov is with Teacher Action Group-Philly 
We are delighted that the Coalition for Effective Teaching (CET) in Philadelphia wants to improve public education. However, we think a more responsible approach would have been to consult with teacher leaders before publishing a position statement.  As practicing teachers, we have a few suggestions about how CET can truly enrich public education:

Mars Area High School students to get laptops
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette By Sandy Trozzo April 18, 2013 5:46 am
Each student at Mars Area High School will receive a laptop next year in hopes that the school eventually can go paperless, placing all textbooks and writings online.  The school board April 9 approved the One-to-One Computer Initiative, including leasing the laptops through Lenova Financial Services for three years at an annual cost not to exceed $280,000.
"We are taking a look at how we are going to bring our district more into the 21st century as far as technology is concerned," superintendent William Pettigrew said.

Capitol Watch for Children April 2013
An update on state and federal policies affecting Pennsylvania’s children by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children

“It’s time to replace our high-stakes test-and-punish strategy with what the Finns call “intelligent accountability.”  We need new assessments that are designed to reflect important skills, and we need to use them to improve teaching and learning, rather than to dole out sanctions, in a system that provides equitable opportunities to learn. Without major changes, we will, indeed, be testing our nation to death.”
‘Test-and-punish’ sabotages quality of children’s education
MSNBC by Linda Darling-Hammond 5:40 PM on 04/10/2013
There is a saying that American students are the most tested, and the least examined, of any in the world. We test students in the U.S. far more than any other nation, in the mistaken belief that testing produces greater learning: since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2002, public schools have been required to test every child every year in third through eighth grade. Students face additional tests in high school, almost all of them primarily multiple-choice.
Policymakers have tied more and more decisions to test scores. They factor into whether students will be promoted or graduated, how much teachers will be paid, and whether they will remain employed, whether schools will receive rewards or sanctions–including, with recent policies, whether their staffs will be fired or whether they will be closed entirely. Recent cheating scandals, like those in Atlanta and Washington DC, are one result of this pressure. But cheating is rare, and there are far more wide-reaching negative consequences of this obsession.
Rather than improving education, the current desire to attach scores from a burgeoning battery of tests to student, teacher, and school decisions actually undermines the quality of education in at least three ways.

Common Core Standards attacked by Republicans
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss on April 19, 2013 at 4:00 am
Republicans have launched an attack on the Common Core State Standards, an initiative that more than 45 states and the District of Columbia signed onto but that has been facing increasing opposition in recent months from both right and left.
This new effort could undermine what has largely been bipartisan cooperation on the Core and is coming even as some states are already implementing the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and math, and giving students high-stakes Core-aligned standardized tests.
Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has just started a bid to to eliminate federal funding for the effort, which has come out of the Education Department budget. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has supported the standards, and gave $360 million to two multi-state consortia to develop standardized tests.
Grassley’s Wednesday letter to colleagues comes a few days after the Republican National Committee passed a resolution bashing the standards, calling them an “inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children” and saying that  the RNC “rejects this CCSS plan.” The resolution says:

Walton Family Foundation Supporting Mass School Closings in Chicago
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav April 18, 2013 //
The Walton Family Foundation has an overriding interest in school pro privatization. They commit about $160 million each year for charters, vouchers, Tech for America, think tanks, and media. Everything they do has the singular goal of dismantling public education and opening the schools to untrained, uncertified teachers. 
Here is news from the Chicago Teachers Union about the role of Walton in the proposed closing of 54 public schools.

“According to the report, the United States has the second highest share of children living under the relative poverty line, defined as 50 percent of each country’s median income, and the second largest “child poverty gap” (the distance between the poverty line and the median incomes of those below the line).”
The Kids Are (Not) All Right
By CHARLES M. BLOW Published: April 17, 2013 55 Comments
The United States has done it again — and not in a good way.
According to a Unicef report issued last week — “Child Well-Being in Rich Countries” — the United States once again ranked among the worst wealthy countries for children, coming in 26th place of 29 countries included. Only Lithuania, Latvia and Romania placed lower, and those were among the poorest countries assessed in the study.

Top Ten List: Why “Choice” Demonstrates That Money Matters
National Education Policy Center/Cloaking Inequity Blog by Julian Vasquez Heilig April 18, 2013
I recently had a conversation with a conservative Harvard-trained attorney last Saturday in Houston. We were discussing Finland (I blogged about Finland a few weeks ago) and her point was that the United States and Finland are not comparable. I noted that Finland was discussed by school reformers because of their turnaround over the past few decades, but you know what, you don’t have to go to Finland to find model schools and for an example that money matters. There are those that are always arguing the meme that “money doesn’t matter” for US schools. What is interesting is that we have to look no further than the “choice” movement for evidence that money DOES matter. Without further ado, a top ten list of evidence from the “choice” movement that money does matter.

Superintendents, Business Managers, School Board Members, Union Leaders, Any Others interested in PSERS and wanting to learn more about Pension Reform . . .
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 Registration: 6:30 p.m.  Presentation: 7:00 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit  475 East Waterfront Drive  Homestead, PA  15120  McGuffey/Sullivan Rooms
Jeffery B. Clay, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Schools Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) will present on the topic of pension reform.  Mr. Clay’s presentation will review the increases in retirement contributions and the Governor’s proposal on pension reform.  As one concerned about public education, we are sure that you will find this meeting enlightening and a valuable investment of your time.
In order to accommodate those attending and prepare the necessary materials for the meeting, please register using the following link:  by May 7, 2013.
If you have any questions regarding the registration process, please contact Janet Galaski at 412.394.5753 or

Sign Up Today for PILCOP Special Ed CLE Trainings
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Spots are filling up for the final three trainings in our 2012-2013 Know Your Child’s Rights series with seminars on ADAAA, Pro Se Parents and Settlement Agreements.
April 30, 2013: ADAAA, 504 and Chapter 15: Services Needed, Discrimination Avoided
May 29, 2013: PRO SE Parents: Doing It on Your Own
May 30, 2013: Settlements: Signing on the Dotted Line (OR NOT)

NAACP 2013 Conference on the State of Education in Pennsylvania
A Call for Equitable and Adequate Funding for Pennsylvania's Schools
Media Area Branch NAACP
Saturday, May 11, 2013 9:00 am2:30 pm (8:30 am registration)
Marcus Foster Student Union 2nd floor, Cheyney University of PA, Delaware County Campus

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny; Proposed statewide authorization and direct payment would further diminish accountability and oversight for public tax dollars

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