Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 16, 2013: Reaction/Background on William Harner replacing PA Education Secretary Tomalis

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PSBA Region 15 Members (Delaware and Chester Counties) May 30
Jeffery B. Clay, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) will present on the topic of pension reform.

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 16, 2013:
Reaction/Background on William Harner replacing PA Education Secretary Tomalis

“A budget bill will not move out of committee until June 3 and will not be considered by the full state House until June 10, Adolph said.
The House had initially expected to have a budget bill ready this week, but Adolph said the complexity of the negotiations will require more time.  The state House is not in session for the next two weeks due to the Memorial Day holiday.
Corbett’s plan also used $175 million in savings from a proposed overhaul to the state public pension systems, but there has been little legislative action on that front.
Adolph said the House budget would not take into account any savings from legislation that has not been passed – a not-so-subtle nod to the pension bill.
“You can’t put together a budget that is based on proposed legislation, so I have to deal with the figures that are in front of me,” Adolph said.”
WATCHBLOG: House sees Gov’s $28.4 billion budget as “ceiling”; no plans to include pension savings
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent May 15, 2913
HARRISBURG – House Appropriations Committee chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, said Wednesday that the House will not add more spending to Gov. Tom Corbett’s $28.4 billion spending plan, and will not count potential pension savings into budget calculus.
In February, Corbett announced a $28.4 billion spending plan that was pegged on higher revenues that have not materialized.  In light of the state’s revenue situation, Adolph said there is no chance to increase spending above that point.  “I think we’re all agreed that is probably the ceiling,” Adolph said. “We’re not spending more than we’re taking in.”

Bill to Close Tax Loopholes Doesn’t Get the Job Done
PA Budget and Policy Center May 14, 2013
A recent proposal to close corporate tax loopholes that drain millions of dollars annually from Pennsylvania schools, colleges, and other vital services would fall far short of its goal and aggravate our state’s financial problems. While House Bill 440[1] aims to prevent corporations from unfairly shifting profits earned in Pennsylvania to Delaware and other low- or no-tax states, it would be ineffective at stopping the practice and even creates new tax loopholes corporations could exploit.  Because the bill’s loophole-closing measure would be largely ineffective, its cuts in corporate tax rates would end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars per year in lost tax revenue and force further cuts to the assets that make Pennsylvania a good place to do business in the first place. 

Pennsylvania Office of the Governor PRESS RELEASE May 15, 2013, 11:56 a.m. EDT
Governor Corbett Announces Changes at Pennsylvania Department of Education
Tomalis Leaving, Cumberland County School Superintendent to be Nominated
HARRISBURG, Pa., May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Governor Tom Corbett today announced that Ronald J. Tomalis will leave his post as Secretary of Education on May 31 to become Special Adviser to the Governor on Higher Education.
Tomalis, who has been with the administration since January 2011, will be responsible for overseeing, implementing and reviewing the recommendations made by the Governor's Post Secondary Advisory Commission.

“Jim Buckheit, head of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, said he's glad to see the governor's nominee for education secretary has had hands-on experience running schools and school districts. Tomalis, the outgoing secretary, had a background in education policy, but not as a school administrator.
"I think it's important to have somebody who has served in the trenches so to speak, and can relate, and actually has firsthand experience about how schools work and what the needs of children are," said Buckheit.
Sources said Wednesday that a search for "in the trenches" experience is exactly what the administration was seeking - and others call the turnover an attempt to change the way the governor's policies are received by educators -- in part, to better position the governor for re-election.”
Turnover at the top of the Dept. of Education
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 15, 2013 1:53 PM
The nominee to replace Education Secretary Ron Tomalis was plucked from just across the river: William Harner, superintendent of the suburban Cumberland Valley School District near Harrisburg, will assume the top slot at the Department of Education in June.
Gov. Corbett announced the change Wednesday. Secretary Ron Tomalis will step down at the end of the month.

Harner, a retired Army officer, will bring public school experience to an administration stacked with advocates for private, parochial, charter and cybercharter schools. In an interview Wednesday, he said the public school teachers in Cheltenham Township outside Philadelphia, where he grew up, "changed my world and my opportunities."
Superintendent tapped as Pa. as education chief
By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Updated 10:53 am, Wednesday, May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The superintendent of a large suburban Harrisburg school district will be Gov. Tom Corbett's nominee for education secretary and replace Ron Tomalis, who after a busy and rocky two-year tenure will move into an advisory role in the administration, Corbett said Wednesday.

With Tomalis leaving, latest shake-up in Corbett administration has some wondering what's going on
By Jan Murphy |  on May 15, 2013 at 8:09 PM
At a time when a sweeping educational initiative that has been three years in the making is on the verge of falling apart and the state budget deadline is six weeks away, Gov. Tom Corbett announces he is letting his education secretary go.

Corbett nominates new education secretary
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau May 15, 2013 11:50 pm
HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett is putting a new face on his often-unpopular education policies -- nominating a new secretary of education -- while keeping the current secretary in a newly created position as a special adviser on higher education.
Nominated to become the new secretary of education is William Harner, superintendent of Cumberland Valley School District in Cumberland County in Central Pennsylvania. He faces confirmation by the state Senate and will start as acting secretary June 1. Several Pittsburgh-area education officials said they are encouraged by the fact that Mr. Harner is a superintendent.

PSBA applauds choice for secretary of education nominee
PSBA Press Release by Steve Robinson, Dir. of Publications and PR 5/15/2013
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association applauds Gov. Tom Corbett's selection of Dr. William E. Harner as nominee for secretary of education.

Harner expected to be named Pa. education secretary
HARRISBURG - A central Pennsylvania school superintendent who worked briefly as a Philadelphia School District administrator has emerged as the favorite to succeed Gov. Corbett's outgoing education secretary.  Administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said William Harner, superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District just outside Harrisburg, is the front-runner to replace Ron Tomalis, who has run the Education Department since Corbett took office in 2011.  Harner, 56, a retired Army officer turned educator, who worked for onetime Philadelphia schools chief executive Paul Vallas, did not respond to a request for an interview. Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley could not be reached for comment.

AP: Corbett to tap new education secretary
WHYY Newsworks By Associated Press May 15, 2013
Gov. Tom Corbett's administration is telling lawmakers that he'll name a central Pennsylvania public school superintendent as his new education secretary, with outgoing Ron Tomalis becoming an adviser on post-secondary education issues.
Administration officials said in an email that Corbett will nominate Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent William Harner as his new education secretary Wednesday.

In 2007 Harner was a finalist for Florida Education Commissioner.  Here’s a bio that the Tampa Bay Times published at that time…..Broad Academy Graduate……
GRADEBOOK: Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida
Tampa Bay Times Friday, September 14, 2007 9:30am
Seven people remain in the hunt to become Florida's next education commissioner. On Tuesday, the State Board of Education will trim the list further. Leading to that Sept. 18 meeting, the Gradebook will provide mini-profiles, one each day, on the candidates.
Today, meet William Harner.
Harner's resume makes one want to stop and take a breath. It has two parts: His first career as a military officer, and his second as an on-the-rise educator.

“In PA today huge numbers of poor, tired, hungry kids go to public schools that have seen massive cuts in state funding under Governor Corbett. These children have lost after-school tutoring, they are in crowded classes, they no longer have reading teachers or intervention specialists, many have lost music, art, and phys. ed. and many barely get recess, if they get it at all.
Add to that a brand new Common Core test, no money for new textbooks that will align with the test, and already-overworked teachers, and we have the perfect storm.
Corporate school reform folks can’t wait for Common Core tests to be implemented so that they can claim that more public schools are “failing.” They will swoop in with fancy plans for new, for-profit charter schools and start stuffing their pockets with public funds that were supposed to be used educating our children.”
Susan Spicka: The Case Against Common Core
Keystone Politics Blog Posted on May 15, 2013 by Jon Geeting #
(Susan Spicka, one of our favorite candidates from 2012, sent me this guest column a few weeks ago and I’ve been waiting for Common Core to get back in the news for maximum relevance.  The growing cross-partisan backlash against Common Core from left and right groups this week provides a good backdrop – Jon )
My daughters just finished up their ninth day of PSSA testing in their elementary school. They will spend 5% of their school year filling in bubbles, and this doesn’t include the weeks of class dedicated working on test prep before these very stressful testing days. My fifth grader cried every night before she had a test, worrying that if she didn’t do well her school would not make AYP.  As a parent, I am very troubled by the impact that these high-stakes tests have on Pennsylvania’s children and on the public education they receive.

Dinniman: Common Core Costs Local School Districts
Senator Andy Dinniman Press Release May 14, 2013
State Senator Andy Dinniman today said the West Chester Area School District and the Downingtown Area School District are spending a combined more than $1 million in funding to implement Common Core standards.  “We’ve already heard from the West Chester Area School District and the Downingtown Area School District that they are each spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in terms of staffing needs, substitutes and program restructuring to implement Common Core standards,” Dinniman said. “And keep in mind we are only talking about two of the county’s twelve school districts!”

Triad Strategies Press Release WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2013
Military & Business Leaders Support Pennsylvania Common Core Standards to Ensure Future National and Economic Security
New Report Shows Common Standards and Aligned Assessments Are Key to Education Reform and a Strong Military
HARRISBURG, PA (May 14, 2013)  Pennsylvania’s Common Core Standards will help ensure that students are better prepared for success in postsecondary education, the workforce and the military, if they choose to serve, said military and business leaders from Pennsylvania today. They released a new report from the nonpartisan national security organization MISSION: READINESS  at the State Capitol that shows that one in five high school graduates in Pennsylvania who tries to join the military cannot score highly enough on the military’s exam for math, literacy and problem solving to qualify for service.
Speakers at the news conference included Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General Major General Wesley Craig (US Army) and other Administration officials; Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, III (US Navy, Ret.); decorated veteran State Representative Ryan Aument; and David Patti, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business Council along with several members of the Council, including Michael Springer, Director of Human Resources for Pennsylvania American Water company, and Peter Trufahnestock, Director of Government Affairs for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania.

Groups on right and left oppose Common Core standards in Pa. schools
Pottstown Mercury By Eric Boehm PA Independent Posted: Tuesday, 05/14/13 05:24 pm
HARRISBURG — They don’t always agree on education policy, but when they do, it’s to oppose an unfunded mandate on school districts.
The implementation of the so-called Common Core standards in Pennsylvania public schools is facing united opposition from teachers unions and tea party groups — two political factions that rarely, if ever, play on the same team.Though they have different reasons for opposing the Corbett administration’s phase-in of the new academic standards and the testing that comes with them, both groups agree that the Common Core represents a new, unfunded mandate on the state’s 500 school districts.

Philly school tax plan: Drinks, smokes
Nutter said revenue collections would also get a push.
To raise money for the desperate Philadelphia School District, Mayor Nutter proposed Wednesday to tax cigarettes at $2 a pack and raise the city's liquor-by-the-drink tax from 10 percent to 15 percent.  Alongside School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and others at City Hall, Nutter also pledged to improve city tax collections.  The mayor estimated that his plan would raise an additional $95 million for schools in 2013-14 and $135 million in the second year.

SRC renews five charters; recommends non-renewal for Imani
by Paul Socolar on May 15 2013 Posted in Latest news
 [Updated 12:59 a.m.] The School Reform Commission approved staff recommendations Wednesay night, voting to renew five charter schools and beginning the non-renewal process for one, Imani Education Circle in Germantown. Late in a six-hour meeting, the commission also approved providers for two new Renaissance charters.  Although 16 Philadelphia charter schools have applied for renewal this year, only six of those came up for a vote Wednesday.
The five renewed are: Antonia Pantoja, Christopher Columbus, Eugenia de Hostos, Maritime Academy, and Universal Institute charters.  One thing these five schools have in common is that they have all agreed to abide by an enrollment cap throughout the duration of the five-year charter. District officials have explained that it is impossible to manage its budget crisis without predictable enrollment at charter schools.
With that concern in mind, this year was the first time charters were asked to sign their renewal agreement before the SRC vote, and only these five had signed their agreements prior to the SRC meeting.

Inquirer Editorial: Pension solution looks like a problem
POSTED: Thursday, May 16, 2013, 3:01 AM
In the guise of a solution, Gov. Corbett's pension reform plan would make the problem worse. It would weaken employee retirement funds, eventually cost taxpayers $179 million more a year, and add $5 billion to unfunded pension liabilities by 2019, and even more afterward.

Clairton High robotic team funded for U.S. competition
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 15, 2013 12:15 am
Thanks to the generosity of strangers -- some as far away as California and Florida -- the five-member robotics team at Clairton High School will be able to attend the National BotsIQ Competition in Indianapolis this weekend.
The team members were crowned the grand champions of the Western Pennsylvania competition held last month at California University of Pennsylvania. That earned them the chance to compete at the national level, but a lack of funds threatened their ability to attend. Clairton, one of the smallest and poorest school districts in the state, did not have the funds to cover the minimum $4,000 cost for transportation, fees, lodging and meals for the competition.

Does Arts Education Matter?
Education Week Finding Common Ground Blog By Peter DeWitt on May 15, 2013 7:00 AM
The public education system is at serious risk of only focusing on numbers, and we all know there are more important things in life than numbers.
Does everything in education need to be measured? Do we need some sort of proof that everything taught in schools has to lead to student achievement? Not everything in the public school system needs to be tied to a number. There are numerous ways to show whether a program or subject is successful. Unfortunately, due to accountability, all subject areas are held under the same microscope and only the strong will survive.

How Cyber Charters Waste Taxpayer Dollars
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav May 15, 2013 //
Cyber charters are profligate in wasting taxpayer dollars. A recent articleon the Huffington Post reported that they spent nearly $100 million on advertising over a five year period. The biggest cyber charter, K12, spent more than $20 million in the first eight months of 2012.

Navigating School Funding Decisions in Harrisburg |
Webinar for School Boards & Superintendents Wed, May 22, 2013 3:00 PM - 3:30 PM EDT
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
This spring marks the third year that superintendents and school boards are struggling to put together budgets with deeply reduced state funding levels. So what is Harrisburg doing about it?
Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center on Wednesday, May 22nd at 3pm for a webinar on the latest in the state budget debate and what it means for education funding in Pennsylvania

Search underway for PSBA Executive Director
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is a nonprofit statewide association of public school boards, pledged to the highest ideals of local lay leadership for the public schools of the commonwealth.  Founded in 1895, PSBA has a rich history as the first school boards' association established in the United States. Pennsylvania's 4,500 school directors become members by virtue of election to their local board -- the board joins as a whole. Membership in PSBA is by school district or other eligible local education agency such as intermediate unit, vocational school or community college……..
Search by Diversified Search, 1990 M St NW, Suite 570, Washington, DC. Questions may be directed to Interested parties should email their resume and cover letter to Please apply by June 1, 2013 for best consideration.

Sign Up Today for PILCOP Special Ed CLE Trainings
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Spots are filling up for the final two trainings in our 2012-2013 Know Your Child’s Rights series with seminars on ADAAA, Pro Se Parents and Settlement Agreements.
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 March 2013

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight Keystone State Education Coalition (updated May 2, 2013)
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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