Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 25, 2013: HB2 - O'Neill's special ed plan awaits governor's signature

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 25, 2013:
HB2 - O'Neill's special ed plan awaits governor's signature

Online petition calls on PA policymakers to restore education funding to 2010 levels:

PA Students are Waiting: Fund Public Ed

PETITION STATEMENT: PA has an obligation to fund a thorough and efficient system of education for children. Stop shifting the burden to local communities and RESTORE education funding to 2010 levels.

HB2 - O'Neill's special ed plan awaits governor's signature By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer Posted on April 24, 2013
Not quite one year ago, state Rep. Bernie O’Neill was beside himself as his legislation to reform special education funding was rewritten in such a way that he refused to support the measure, and it ultimately collapsed.  “I had such an empty, hollow feeling,” O’Neill recalled Tuesday. “Last year the process was so frustrating. I bit my tongue and just continued plugging ahead.”
That perseverance, nearly seven years worth, is close to paying off as O’Neill’s House Bill 2 and its Senate companion SB 470 passed both chambers without a negative vote. It will become law with Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature, which a spokeswoman said Tuesday is “likely” to happen.

Panel to study community college funding in Pa. gaining momentum
By Jan Murphy |  April 24, 2013
A push to take a fresh look at the five-decade-old funding formula for community colleges got another shove today by the House Education Committee.  It approved legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall, R-Beaver, to form a 19-member task force to examine the sustainability of the current funding model. The panel also will look at accessibility and affordability issues related to community college.

Door locks, security doors, cameras, secure entrance areas – school districts all over the state are spending millions to upgrade building security systems…..
“The locks cost nearly $783,000, but that does not include the cost of installation. District officials expect that the locks will be installed by the end of the year.”
Pittsburgh school board approves buying 4,400 intruder locks
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Bill Zlatos Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
Teachers will be able to lock out intruders from classrooms in Pittsburgh Public Schools as part of the school district's response to the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve the purchase of 4,400 intruder locks in all 59 schools and early learning centers. There was no discussion on the security measure.  The administration proposed buying the locks from Stanley Security Systems Inc. in Indianapolis. The equipment allows teachers to lock classrooms from the inside to prevent an incident like the one in December at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn. A gunman entered the school and killed 20 children and six adults.
Ethics report: Pocono Ex-charter school chief's 'self-dealing' cost taxpayers $1.5 million
Ethics report says former head of Poconos school cost taxpayers $1.5 million.
By Steve Esack, Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau 11:09 p.m. EDT, April 24, 2013
HARRISBURG — The former head of an embattled Monroe County charter school broke state ethics and conflict-of-interest rules by funneling more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money to himself, his family, his businesses and his church, an investigative report made public by Commonwealth Court says.  The Rev. Dennis Bloom, founder of the Pocono Mountain Charter School, engaged in a pattern of "self-dealing," according to the state Ethics Commission report, which also sheds more light on his alleged tax problems.

Common Core: Program brings big changes to class
Common Core standards aim to help students succeed after graduation.
Published: April 21. 2013 12:01AM
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader By Mark Guydish - - 570-970-9161
Local schools are grappling with a dramatic shift in what gets taught at which grades, courtesy of something known as the “Common Core” standards. Critics contend it’s massive overreach by a federal government determined to control education; proponents counter that it’s a voluntary, state-initiated effort to make sure students graduate ready for work, college or the military regardless of where they live.

Save Upper Darby Arts (SUDA) Continues Grass-Roots Public Education Advocacy
In April 2012, our community came together to achieve what no one thought we could. We created a viral video, collected 22,000 petition signatures, earned the recognition of people like Congressman Sestak, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Rosario Dawson, and Seth Green, and in the end, retrieved $2.7 million for Upper Darby School District. We saved our music, art, physical education, library, technology, and foreign language programs through our efforts.
It’s April 2013, and we’re ready to help every community in the Commonwealth to do the same…together.

“In the charter gold rush, cyber schools are veritable diamond mines with, as Roebuck noted, "very little accountability."
Karen Heller: In Philly, the fast track to the cyber-school bottom
Karen Heller, Inquirer Columnist POSTED: Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 3:01 AM
Americans are overwhelmed by choices, not all of them good. In response to struggling public schools, Philadelphia parents have a staggering menu of public and charter options, many offering no improvement in educating children.  Almost a quarter of the city's 84 charter schools have been under federal or state investigation, after some operators viewed their operations as an educational gold rush.
That gold, by the way, would be your tax dollars.

$6 million awarded to grow Philly district schools
Inquirer Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 12:45 PM
A city nonprofit with growing clout will spend $6 million to expand two successful public schools and turn another Philadelphia School District program into a full-fledged high school, officials announced Wednesday.  The Philadelphia Schools Partnership’s money will grow the Hill-Freeman magnet middle school in East Germantown into the high school grades; add a second campus of the Science Leadership Academy; and turn the Workshop School, now in its second year as an alternative senior-year project, into its own high school.
Philadelphia Schools Partnership, which is well on its way to raising $100 million to invest in strong charter, public and nonpublic schools across the city, has also signaled its intent to give away another roughly $2 million to district schools affected by the School Reform Commission’s move to shut 24 buildings. That money will fund grants to schools receiving large numbers of students from closing schools.

Grants to support improvements at Facilities Master Plan receiving schools and expand three high-performing programs could total $8 million or more
School District of Philadelphia Press Release 4/24/13
PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia announced plans today to collaborate with The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) to support school improvements at schools set to receive an influx of students as a result of school closings.  
PSP has indicated its desire to support transformational improvements in Facilities Master Plan receiving schools during the upcoming school year with grants totaling $2 million or more.  The grants are contingent upon school leaders with strong track records making it through PSP’s grant-approval process with compelling school turnaround plans.  

Senate board convenes at Lebanon High School

The state's Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer, held hearings Tuesday on learning programs
By JOHN LATIMER Lebanon Daily News Updated:   04/24/2013 07:57:57 AM EDT
Lebanon High School took on the flavor of the state Capitol on Tuesday as several Harrisburg legislators visited to hold Senate Education Committee hearings.  The four-hour session was divided into two public hearings. The first dealt with innovative competency-based learning programs that strive to provide individualized learning instruction.

Sequestration: 40 Reading school jobs will need new funds
Reading Eagle by David Mekeel April 17, 2013
The Reading School District will have to find new funding for about 40 positions next year because of cuts in federal grants.  The district held its second in a series of budget workshops Tuesday night, working bit by bit through the process of closing an $8 million shortfall in the 2013-14 budget.  This time around the workshop focused on federal grants. According to Robert Peters, chief financial officer, those funds are likely to decline by about 10 percent.
The exact level of federal funding won't be known until next month at the earliest, Peters said, but thanks to the federal sequester and other cuts, funding for city schools will decrease.
Title I grants, which impact economically disadvantaged students, will likely be cut more than $1.3 million.
Title II grants, which are spent for teacher and principal training and recruitment, are expected to drop about $700,000.
And Title III grants, which assist students with limited English skills, will likely be cut more than $500,000.

Yinzercation does school closings…… Overall, school closings:
  • don’t offer better academic outcomes for students, and
  • don’t save significant amounts of money.
Again and Again
Yinzercation Blog April 24, 2013
It’s like a bad case of school closure déjà vu. Pittsburgh has already been through four rounds of closings in recent years, with a total loss of 39 schools. Since 2000, we dropped from 93 to the current 54 schools (that’s a decrease of 41%). And it looks like we will see round five soon, with the district scheduled to run out of money in 2016 and scrambling to find $50 million to address its forecasted deficit.

First Book has Free Books for Students in Need
Education Week Bookmarks Blog By Catherine A. Cardno on April 23, 2013
So many truly awful events have occurred in the last few months, Hurricane Sandy's damage seems like it occurred years ago, rather than a mere 6 months. However, the organization First Book has been busy collecting new books for distribution to homes, community centers, and schools in need in the aftermath of the storm. Due to the generosity of Random House, the organization now has more than 1 million brand-new books to distribute to home, community, and school libraries.  A program or school "in need" (70 percent or more of the students must come from low-income families to qualify, according to First Book) can register to receive these new books if they are located in states affected by the storm.

April 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 7
What Works: How High-Poverty Schools Are Getting It Done
ASCD’s The Principalship Pages 56-59 by Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas
Principals in high-achieving schools with a high percentage of students in poverty share four characteristics.
To anyone who cares about ensuring that all children are educated to a high standard, it is depressing to look at one of those graphs that show schools by percentage of low-income students on the x axis and academic achievement on the y axis. The steep slope down and to the right seems to demonstrate an iron law of probability: High-income schools have high achievement; low-income schools have low achievement. Even more uncomfortable for a country that often prides itself on having eliminated institutional discrimination, the same results can be replicated when race rather than income is used.
But if you take your eye to the upper-right quadrant of that graph, you'll often see an outlier or two—that is, high-achieving schools with a high percentage of students of poverty or students of color.  What are those schools like? Are they there because of a one-time fluke? Are their poor kids the children of impecunious grad students? Are their students of color the children of doctors or lawyers?
After eight years of studying schools in the upper-right quadrant, we can say that their presence there is rarely a fluke. Their poor children are like poor children everywhere, burdened with hardships children should not have to face. Their students of color are not primarily the children of upper-income professionals. And many of these schools have teachers trained in the same local colleges that trained teachers who work in less successful schools nearby.
These schools do, however, have something that helps explain their success: They all have excellent school leaders.

Pennsylvania Think Tank Plans to 'Slay' Unions, Like in Wisconsin
The Nation by Lee Fang on April 23, 2013 - 2:46 PM ET
The Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tanks in Harrisburg, is plotting to go after public sector employee unions. In a letter from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) on behalf of the Foundation, the think tank announced “Project Goliath,” a new effort to make Pennsylvania the next Wisconsin or Michigan. The Commonwealth Foundation is one of a fifty-nine-state network of similar think tanks that have vastly expanded since 2009. The letter makes clear that conservatives believe that right-wing political infrastructure—the organizing institutes, the partisan media outlets, the rapid response efforts—has helped turn the tide against labor unions.

Chicago Public Schools Student Boycott: High Schoolers Skip Required State Exam To Protest School Closures
Huffington Post Posted: 04/24/2013 2:54 pm EDT  |  Updated: 04/24/2013 2:56 pm EDT
On a day they were slated to take a state-required test that directly affects their graduation eligibility, around 100 Chicago Public School students boycotted exams to protest the district's plan to close 54 schools.  Six busloads of students — paid for by community groups, according to CBS Chicago — were picked up at their respective high schools and dropped off at CPS' downtown headquarters Wednesday.
"CSOSOS [Chicago Students Organizing To Save Our Schools] has organized this boycott to show [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] and the CPS school board that we are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up," Paul Robeson High School student Brian Stirgus told NBC Chicago

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

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

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)

Turning the Page for Change celebration, June 11, 2013
Please join us for the Notebook’s annual Turning the Page for Change celebration on June 11, 2013, from 4:30 - 7 p.m. at the University of The Arts, Hamilton Hall, 320 S. Broad Street. We will be honoring a member of the Notebook community for years of service to our mission as well as honoring several local high school journalists. Help us celebrate another year of achievement that included two awards from the Education Writers Association and coverage of other critical stories like the budget crisis and the school closing process.

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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