Monday, May 27, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 27, 2013

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1900 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.

The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?

These daily emails are archived at
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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 27, 2013:

Help spread the message of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign for the 2013-2014 State Budget
Contact your state legislators during the Memorial Day recess

Did They or Didn’t They? Education Funding Cuts in Pennsylvania
Get the Scoop on Education Funding in Pa.
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Join us for our next webinar at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28
With Pennsylvania entering the final weeks of the state budget process, the conversation is once again turning to school funding. Many have voiced concerns about state cuts to schools, while the Governor talks about unprecedented education spending.
Join our panel of experts to make sense of it all. The webinar will feature Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Beth Olanoff, Director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools; Kelli Thompson, Government Relations Director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children; and Michael Wood, Research Director for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
Register to join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's webinar on Tuesday, May 28 at 4 p.m.

“…The above options total more than $700 million, and would require no tax increases. They would fix a tight budget environment, help us reinvest in Pennsylvania's education system, provide money to create jobs, and put the state in the right direction. And it can all be done by midnight on June 30.”
Shift priorities for Pa. budget opinion By Vincent Hughes May 27, 2013
State Sen. Vincent Hughes, who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties, is the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Tough decisions will have to be made as state lawmakers draft next year's budget by June 30. With revenues lagging and belt-tightening a possibility, we must reset our priorities to take the commonwealth in a new direction.
Three issues loom: revenue is projected to be off by about $500 million; school districts, which have lost about $1 billion in funding from Harrisburg, are hurting badly; and job creation is at a standstill.

Not hearing anything about linkage between liquor stores and education grant programs…
Linkage becomes a dirty word in the Capitol: Friday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 24, 2013 at 7:53 AM, updated May 24, 2013 at 8:25 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
When state lawmakers return to Harrisburg on June 3, fresh from a badly needed vacation brought on by nearly two consecutive weeks of work, they'll start the sprint toward the June 30 deadline to pass a new budget.
As sure as the return of rising hemlines and seersucker suits, Capitol denizens will engage in another time-honored rite of the season: Speculating on which issues will be tied together as the spending plan moves towards approval.  This year, it appears inevitable that privatization of the state liquor stores and new funding for roads and bridges will be the policy equivalent of Siamese Twins, joined together inextricably and each dependent on the other for survival.

“Pennsylvania is actually spending far less now on education than it did in 2008, before the stimulus even started.”
As lawmakers consider education budget, some things to remember: As I See It
Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Susan Spicka on May 24, 2013 at 9:15 AM
Dear State Lawmakers: I am a parent of two little girls who attend a public school in Shippensburg. In a few weeks, you will make decisions in Harrisburg that will have an impact Pennsylvania’s children for the rest of their lives. I respectfully ask that you consider the following points before you vote on a budget.
Stop Insisting that you’ve increased state funding for our public schools. Accounting gimmicks that claim we are spending more state funding on public education than ever before are both desperate and insulting. Home and business owners have seen their school tax bills go up and parents have seen program after program cut from our children’s schools. 

WHAT WORKS: Early Education: Capitalists for Preschool
New York Times Opinion By JOHN E. PEPPER Jr. and JAMES M. ZIMMERMAN Published: March 1, 2013
John E. Pepper Jr. is a former chairman and chief executive of Procter & Gamble and a former chairman of the Walt Disney Company. James M. Zimmerman is a former chairman and chief executive of Macy’s.
IN his State of the Union addressPresident Obama called for making preschool available to every 4-year-old in America, opening a welcome discussion on whether and how to make the investments needed to realize this vision.
As two longtime corporate executives who have been engaged in education for decades, we have no doubt about the answer to this question. Children who attend high-quality preschool do much better when they arrive in kindergarten, and this makes an enormous difference for their later success. The data on preschool is overwhelmingly positive. Although some studies suggest that the positive impact decreases over time, this is mainly attributable to differences in the quality of preschool and of the schooling that follows — not a deficiency in preschool itself.

“In Cincinnati, the Community Learning Centers initiative is being credited with stemming flight to the suburbs, helping to spur academic achievement, and increasing the graduation rate – now above 80 percent.”
Community schools bring services under one roof
Advocates here are educating the public about the concept, which has taken off in other cities.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa Summer 2013
The idea of community schools, long discussed in Philadelphia but never quite a reality, takes to a whole different level the notion of maximizing time and optimizing resources for children.
More than just a place for students to have something stimulating to do in the afternoons, community schools integrate services for families right in the building. Other cities have developed the idea in ways that have been transformative, prompting a movement to bring community schools here.  Advocates in Philadelphia, in the wake of the widespread school closings, see community schools as not just an educational strategy, but as a way to revitalize neighborhoods.   “Community schools is not just afterschool, but the total integration of a neighborhood and city’s assets in the schools,” said Quanisha Smith of Action United. 

Want more info?  Here’s our background posting on Community Schools……
Keystone State Education Coalition May 5, 2013
WHAT WORKS: Community Schools: real reform without vouchers, charters, tax credits or closing neighborhood schools

This is a powerful piece – substitute Philly, Aliquippa, Harrisburg. Chester Upland or York for Chicago…..
“Unlike the teachers in Moore, Chicago teachers’ schools are not gone because of some capricious act of nature.  They are gone because of decades of very deliberate decisions by public officials, corporate interests and ordinary citizens that have eviscerated the neighborhoods of Chicago, displacing people with the demolition of public housing, gutting communities with foreclosures and the elimination of jobs.  The schools are gone because they have been replaced by charter schools, the darlings of politically well-connected school reformers making a profit on tax money while public officials eliminate the inconvenience of teachers unions.  The schools are gone because poor African Americans and Hispanics in Chicago are disenfranchised by school governance that is appointed by the mayor with limited accountability to the communities.  The schools are gone because public funding in this country remains tied to real estate taxes that benefit wealthy suburbs at the expense of the urban core.  The schools are gone because years of school reforms imposed from the latest outside savior have left front line teachers abused and demoralized.  And the schools are gone because white flight that began decades ago has left the cities brown and black and poor.”
The Rev. John Thomas: No act of God caused Chicago schools closings
By Valerie Strauss, Published: May 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm
Chicago officials are going ahead with the largest mass closing of public schools in the country’s history despite polls showing that a majority of city residents oppose it and looming questions about the rationale offered for the action.  The final decision was made Wednesday by the Chicago Board of Education, which decided to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program because, the board said, they are underutilized (though critics argue that point).
Here is an eloquent piece on the closings, by the Rev. John Thomas, the former general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, who is now a professor and administrator at the Chicago Theological Seminary.

“Crawford said the deficit is mostly the result of increased charter school payments. He said the district projected about $39 million in charter payments last year, but likely will finish the year paying about $51 million.”
Chester Upland SD sees $22.5M shortfall in preliminary budget figures
By JOHN KOPP @DT_JohnKopp Thursday, May 23, 2013
CHESTER — The Chester Upland School District faces a $22.5 million shortfall in its 2013-14 preliminary budget, which Receiver Joseph Watkins approved Thursday.  The spending plan estimates the district’s expenses at $123.9 million, a $22 million jump from the 2012-13 budget. It also includes a 2.7 percent tax hike, the maximum allowed under Act 1.

Seven years later this Right-to-Know case is still in play…..

Charter school should reveal deal, court says

By Dan Hardy INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: February 17, 2006
The management contract between the Chester Community Charter School and a for-profit charter-management company headed by Main Line lawyer and businessman Vahan H. Gureghian should be made public, Commonwealth Court has ruled.  In its ruling, the court said Pennsylvania's charter school law makes clear "that charter schools are generally governed by statutes applicable to public schools," including the Right to Know Law.  The school has asked the court to reconsider. A decision on that request is expected within the next 60 days.

As Rev. Thomas stated above: “deliberate decisions by public officials, corporate interests…”  BTW, Mr. Gureghian was Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor.
Pennsylvania Couple Building 20,000 Square Foot Palm Beach Mansion on $28.9 million lot
Homes of the Rich Posted by Kenny Forder on January 27th, 2012 
Philadelphia attorney and entrepreneur Vahan Gureghian and his attorney wife, Danielle, are planning to build a 20,000 square foot mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Boulevard in Palm BeachFL. The plans were submitted late last year to the town for review. If built, the house will stand on two lots, with a total of nearly 240 feet of oceanfront, which they acquired last year for $28.9 million (the year’s second-largest Palm Beach residential purchase by a single buyer). The most amazing part? The Gureghian’s main house is even BIGGER than this! They live in a 30,000 square foot mega mansion in Gladwyne,PA. Pennsylvania-based architect Frederick L. Bissinger Jr. designed thePalm Beach house as well as their Pennsylvania house. Smith and Moore Architects of West Palm Beach are also involved in the project, and Lang Design Group of West Palm did the landscape plan.
Check out the plan:

Allentown School Board approves cutting 154 jobs
Average bill rises $150, 154 positions eliminated under proposed budget.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:05 p.m. EDT, May 24, 2013
Allentown School Board approved a curtailment of programs Thursday that eliminates 132 teachers and 12 administrators, pushing the financially challenged district to more than 400 jobs slashed over the past four years.  The district's second curtailment in three years cuts 61 elementary, 27.5 middle school and 43.5 high school teachers along with a combination of assistant principals, instructional supervisors and central administrators.
Under state law, school districts cannot eliminate teaching positions for economic reasons but they often circumvent that by saying it's for a curtailment or alteration of programs.
Ten maintenance/custodial jobs will also be eliminated if the district formally approves its 2013-14 budget next month, bringing the cuts to 154 this year and 404 since the end of the 2009-10 school year.  After approving the curtailment, the board adopted a proposed final budget that raises taxes 8.5 percent and taps about $9 million in savings to balance the budget. The tax hike means the average property owner would pay about $150 more than last year, according to district projections.

A major motive behind Common Core is profit, not education
by thenotebook by Susan Spicka on May 24 2013 Posted in Commentary
Susan Spicka lives in Shippensburg, where her two daughters attend a public elementary school.
In Pennsylvania today, huge numbers of poor, tired, hungry kids go to public schools that have seen massive cuts in state funding under Gov. 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.

Pa. searching for more equitable way of funding special education
WHYY Newsworks By Mary Wilson, @marywilson May 26, 2013
Pennsylvania lawmakers intend to consider how the state can create a better way to fund special education.
State Rep. Bernie O'Neill, who will co-chair the panel, has pushed to create the Special Education Funding Commission for years.
He says the current funding formula doesn't account for school districts with special education needs that continue to exceed what the state will cover.

“If it’s truly about the children’s performance and the future, then you need to find a way. If you don’t like this bill, then you need to come up with whatever plan you come up with, because you can’t have a public school, be it charter or district, without an assistant principal, without art, without counselors, without sports … so whatever the differences are with this proposal, if you don’t see vision of this plan, you better come up with another one. Schools will not operate in the fall upon whimsical comments, theatrics, protests or even strikes. “
Nutter, Hite push liquor, cigarette bill Written by  Damon C. Williams Thursday, 23 May 2013
Mayor Michael Nutter, flanked by Senator Anthony Williams, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite Jr., School Reform Commission members and roughly a dozen charter school operators, reaffirmed his call for supporting the twin tax bill aimed at reducing the district’s $304 million budget gap.  The gathering of elected and academic officials at Boys’ Latin Charter School on Thursday looked to underscore a main, albeit forgotten, theme, as the district tries to right its financial ship — that all schools, both public and charter, will suffer if the district doesn’t come up with the $180 million it has requested.

Update: What's going on with the District's closings plan?
The notebook by Wendy Harris on May 23 2013 Posted in Latest news
In June, the District will close 24 schools for good, displacing about 14,000 students. Since the School Reform Commission voted in March in favor of the closings, many parents and students have been concerned about whether transition plans will go smoothly.
The Notebook asked the District’s Chief of Student Services Karyn Lynch, by email, for an update about the closings process regarding safety plans, teacher placement, student placement, and the preparation at receiving schools. 
South Philadelphia High School principal Otis Hackney also gave his perspective about the safety concerns that some have expressed regarding Southern as the receiving school for Bok Technical, which is closing.

Fresh thinking for city schools
Inquirer by LARRY PLATT POSTED: Sunday, May 26, 2013, 3:01 AM
The headlines coming out of the School Reform Commission meeting a couple of weeks ago were predictable: five charter-school renewals approved, one denied; protesters urging the SRC to halt charter-school expansion; others decrying the closing of public schools. All this against the backdrop of another multimillion-dollar funding shortfall and the specter of a "doomsday" budget.
But closing schools is not reform - it's arithmetic: When you're drowning in red ink, you just try to stay afloat. But we also know that those who innovate - those to whom failure is an option - turn out to be the winners in the long run. So reform of the plodding tanker that is our school system ought to look highly experimental, with hundreds - no, thousands - of out-of-the-box pilot programs throughout the district.
Until now, that has not been our ethos, but that may be changing.

Methacton board ramps up legislative advocacy efforts
By TONY FIORIGLIO Wednesday, 05/22/13 02:16 pm
WORCESTER — Over the past several months, Joyce Petrauskas, the president of the Methacton Board of School Directors and legislative liaison for the board, has been discussing the possibility of increased legislative advocacy, not just by the board but by the general public, as well. At Tuesday night’s action meeting, the board took the first steps towards that when it passed two resolutions urging state legislators to support legislation for both pension reform and charter and cyber charter school funding reform.

States' Rift on Taxes Widens
Minnesota, Others Move to Raise Revenue as Cuts Remain Popular Elsewhere
Wall Street Journal By MARK PETERS
Minnesota's move to raise $2.1 billion in new taxes, largely from the wealthy, to fund government programs puts it among a handful of states controlled by Democrats that are adopting more liberal fiscal policies at a time when many Republican-dominated statehouses are pushing to cut taxes.  The Minnesota tax package, which Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Thursday, aims to raise the revenue largely for expanding early-childhood education programs and freezing tuitions at state universities, as well as closing the state's budget deficit and funding some jobs initiatives and property-tax refunds.

Ten Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav May 26, 2013 //
This is a marvelous summary of the hidden secrets of charter success.
And the best part is that it appears in a financial journal, not in the newsletter of the Network for Public Education or on this blog.

“Another concern, the report says, is that 44 percent of school administrators report slashing big chunks of time from physical education, arts and recess since the passage of the No Child Left Behind law in 2001 in order to boost classroom time for reading and math.”
Report: Nation's Kids Need To Get More Physical
Huffington Post By JENNIFER C. KERR 05/23/13 11:19 AM ET EDT
WASHINGTON -- Reading, writing, arithmetic – and PE?
The prestigious Institute of Medicine is recommending that schools provide opportunities for at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for students and that PE become a core subject.
The report, released Thursday, says only about half of the nation's youngsters are getting at least an hour of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day.

“What’s the least bad option going forward? Who should bear the brunt of this legacy of fiscal irresponsibility? Current retirees? Today’s teachers? New teachers? School districts? Taxpayers? The students themselves?”
No Way Out? How to Solve the Teacher-Pension Problem
Live or Webinar June 6, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. EDT
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 1016 16th Street NW, 7th Floor Washington, DC 20036
America’s teacher-pension systems (with up to a trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities according to some estimates) present a raging public-policy dilemma. Career teachers absolutely deserve a secure retirement, but lawmakers promised them benefits that the system cannot afford, as those promises were based on short-term political considerations and bad math. Now the bill is coming due, and someone’s going to get soaked.
  • Sandi Jacobs, vice president and managing director of state policy, National Council on Teacher Quality
  • Josh B. McGee, vice president of public accountability, Laura and John Arnold Foundation
  • Charles Zogby, secretary of the budget, Pennsylvania
  • Leo Casey, executive director, Albert Shanker Institute
Moderator: Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
This event will be webcast. Visit our website,, at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday, June 6, to watch the proceedings live.
Register now to join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality for a timely look at the teacher-pension crisis and various state efforts to address it.

“Many studies show that parents' incomes are the best predictor of students' academic performance, which results in a wide "achievement gap" between affluent and low-income students. Wal-Mart contributes to this gap. It is not only the nation's largest private employer, with well over 1.3 million employees, but it also has the largest number of poverty-level jobs in the country. The Waltons could end to the company's longstanding practice of keeping its employees in poverty, with low wages, poor benefits, and unpredictable schedules that make parenting even harder than it already is.  If instead of funneling their fortune into failed movements like StudentsFirst, Wal-Mart and the Waltons paid their workers a fair wage, they could improve the lives and economic standing of Walmart employees and their children. Paying a living wage at Walmart would be a much more effective "education reform" strategy - one that would lift working families out of poverty while improving educational outcomes for our children.”
How Can Wal-Mart REALLY Help Improve Our Schools?
Huffington Post by Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, Occidental College Posted: 05/24/2013 5:53 pm
Last month, the Walton Family Foundation, led by heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, announced an $8 million grant to StudentsFirst, headed by Michelle Rhee, the ousted chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system. This grant came on top of the $3 million the foundation had already donated to the group since 2010.
Rhee's tempestuous tenure as head of the DC schools between 2007 and 2010 left behind a legacy of alleged cheating on standardized tests, a demoralized teaching staff with high turnover, and an increased achievement gap between low- and upper-income children. Soon after she left that job, she started StudentsFirst, which is now based in Sacramento, and has operations in 18 states. It recently donated $350,000 to LAUSD school board races, backing candidates who support its agenda of high-stakes testing, private charter schools, and school vouchers. Nicholas Lemann's devastating profile of Rhee in the current issue of the New Republic exposes her misguided and hypocritical educational agenda.

State bans new online charter schools in Illinois for 1 year
By Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune reporter 6:29 p.m. CDT, May 24, 2013
Illinois has put a one-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools outside Chicago at the urging of a handful of west suburban school districts.  Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation Friday. It also directs a state commission to study issues such as student performance and costs associated with virtual charter schools.
"This legislation will allow the state more time to better evaluate and understand the impact of virtual charter schools in Illinois," Quinn's office said in an e-mailed statement.
Earlier this year, nonprofit Virtual Learning Solutions proposed starting the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley in the western suburbs. The online school would serve students in kindergarten through high school and would be managed by K12 Inc., a for-profit company that runs similar schools around the country, including in Chicago.

EPLC Education Policy Fellowship Program – Apply Now
Applications are available now for the 2013-2014 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).
With more than 350 graduates in its first fourteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.
Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.
The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 12-13, 2013 and continues to graduation in June 2014.

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.

Building One America 2013 National Summit July 18-19, 2013 Washington, DC
Brookings Institution to present findings of their “Confronting Suburban Poverty” report
Building One America’s Second National Summit for Inclusive Suburbs and Sustainable Regions will involve local leaders and federal policy makers to seek bipartisan solutions to the unique but common challenges around housing, schools and infrastructure facing America’s metropolitan regions and its diverse middle-class suburbs. Participants will include local elected and grassroots leaders from America’s diverse middle class suburban towns and school districts, scholars and policy experts, members of the Obama Administration and Congress.  The summit will identify comprehensive solutions and build bipartisan support for meaningful action to stabilize and support inclusive middle-class communities and promote sustainable, economically competitive regions.

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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