Friday, June 14, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for June 14, 2013: “This is about budget priorities. There is money, but it’s not going to public education”

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for June 14, 2013:
“This is about budget priorities. There is money, but it’s not going to public education”

Send an email to Harrisburg on school funding
Education Voters PA
In the event that you have a few minutes to spare, please consider contacting the legislative leadership listed below regarding the education budget ; here’s part of their job description:

PA Constitution - Public School System Section 14.

“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.”
PA Legislature Republican Leadership 2013
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman
Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai
House Appropriation Committee Chairman William Adolph
House Speaker Sam Smith
Governor Tom Corbett 
717-787-2500, Fax: 717-772-8284

Here’s a dozen revenue ideas from Jessie Ramey at Yinzercation
Where’s the $$$?
Yinzercation Blog June 13, 2013
As expected, the Pennsylvania House passed a budget yesterday that does next to nothing to help our public schools. The debate now moves to the Senate, but if the strict party-line vote in the House was any indication, Republicans in Harrisburg are sticking to their mantra that the state is broke and can’t afford to adequately fund education. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai from here in Allegheny County claims that this proposed budget “lives within our means, just like families and businesses across the state.” [Penn Live, 6-12-13]  But when Rep. Turzai or Gov. Corbett and others say we have to “live within our means,” what they really mean is that our schools must continue to cut into the bone – ditching art, music, library, tutoring, Kindergarten, books, supplies, field trips, athletics, and thousands of teachers – while families struggle to make up the difference. That’s not living within our means, that’s just mean.
This is about budget priorities. There is money, but it’s not going to public education (or our other public goods). 

“Ward said she believes the defunding of education has less to do with fiscal necessity than the state government’s vision of what education should look like.
“Their education priorities were privatization; they were vouchers and charter schools,” she said. “So they clearly wanted to move in a different direction, and so public education was not and is not the administration’s priority.””
State cuts to education spur Philadelphia school budget crisis
MSNBC by Ned Resnikoff@resnikoff 4:08 PM on 06/13/2013
State and municipal governments across the country have been strip-mining their school districts in an attempt to defray budget deficits. In Michigan, an entire school district temporarily shut down due to lack of funds, while another fired all of its teachers. In Illinois, Chicago’s school board voted to “consolidate” its resources by permanently shuttering 50 schools.
And now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn. There the school district is moving forward with plans to lay off some 3,783 education professionals and scrap 23 schools as part of a plan to reduce its $304 million deficit. Defenders of the new budget have called it regrettable—but necessary.

Helen Gym: Report from Philadelphia Parents on the Front Lines of Destruction
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav June 13, 2013 //
Philadelphia has had a disastrous year of school closings, budget cuts, and a report recommending privatization of large numbers of public schools. Now, as parent activist Helen Gym reports, the situation is even more dire after massive layoffs. The state of Pennsylvania and the mayor of Philadelphia seem content to let private corporations take over public education  in the city. This is an ominous sign, not only for Pennsylvania, but for other urban districts. This is purposeful abandonment of a basic public function.

Hey City Council: You’re Supposed to Be Better than Harrisburg
ParentsUnited for Public Education June 12, 2013 by REBECCAPOYOUROW
City Council’s failure to move a liquor-by-the-drink tax yesterday disappointed parents and school supporters all across the city.
Today over 100 parents, students, and community members packed City Council chambers—in the middle of a workday afternoon—and testified for over three hours to demand movement on the liquor-by-the-drink tax.  For weeks, parents and other community members have made thousands of phone calls, sent hundreds of letters, spent hours on lobbying visits, and gathered countless petition signatures in support of raising desperately needed funds for our public schools.  Opposite us were a handful of lobbyists, whose sole job is to be paid to gain access to City Council members and state legislators.

Philadelphia approves $2 per pack cigarette tax if state will allow
WHYY Newsworks By Kevin McCorry, @byKevinMcCorry June 13, 2013
In an effort to raise funds for the cash strapped public school system, Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a new cigarette tax today that raises prices by $2 a pack.
Before the vote, Shawmont Elementary school music teacher Hugh Williamson — one of the 3,800 district employees to receive a budget-related pink-slip last week — addressed council with the backing of 20 of his students. "Our hope is in the members of council, that you will find a way to adequately fund the schools regardless of the politics, otherwise these students and thousands of students will be silenced," said Williamson.
When Council unanimously passed the measure, loud cheers came from Williamson and the rest of the gallery of onlookers who came to vocalize support for education funding.
But despite the cheers, the tax cannot be implemented without a blessing from lawmakers in Harrisburg, a prospect that at this point seems unlikely.

Are plans to raise money for Philadelphia’s struggling schools unraveling?
WHYY Newsworks By Holly Otterbein, @hollyotterbein June 13, 2013
Philadelphia City Council declined to vote on a bill Wednesday that would generate $22 million for the school district by increasing the liquor-by-the-drink tax to 15 percent from 10 percent. For now, it seems that there is not enough support for it to pass.
But Council President Darrell Clarke said the drink tax proposal is not dead. It is also needs state-enabling legislation to become a reality. If that comes through, he said, Council could theoretically reconsider it.

PUBLISHED: JUNE 13, 2013 12:01 AM EST
Guest Voice: Help Erie youngsters go to preschool BY MICHAEL A. PLAZONY Contributing writer
MICHAEL A. PLAZONY is a senior vice president of Erie Insurance Group.
Businesses and families must allocate their resources carefully, choosing investments that generate the strongest and most solidly measurable returns.
Here in Erie, the Erie Community Foundation, the United Way of Erie County, Success by 6 in Erie County, Erie Together and the Early Learning Investment Commission lead a broad coalition called Erie's Future Fund, dedicated to providing scholarships that give young, at-risk children the benefits of quality early childhood education. It's that important.

“Since Corbett took office, Pennsylvania’s share of funding for public schools has dropped from 44 percent to 32 percent, well below the national average of about 48 percent.”
The Bottom Line on PA Education Funding
Keystone Politics Blog Posted on June 12, 2013 by Jon Geeting #
Starting in 2008, the state’s share of education spending was supposed to keep increasing, and the local property tax share was supposed to keep shrinking.
Via KSEC, that is not what happened:

Pocono charter school founder admits tax evasion
The Rev. Dennis Bloom faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison
By Peter Hall, Of The Morning Call 1:38 p.m. EDT, June 13, 2013
SCRANTON – The Rev. Dennis Bloom, the embattled founder of a Pocono charter school, admitted Thursday in federal court he failed to report a $180,000 transfer of property from his Coolbaugh Township church into his own name.  Bloom, a former police officer turned unordained minister, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani to a single count of tax evasion.

Large urban school districts creating their own virtual schools
by thenotebook on Jun 13 2013 Posted in Latest news
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared at Education Week.
by Sean Cavanaugh 
The Philadelphia school system will open a new, full-time online school this coming fall, a program that the district promises will offer the academic flexibility and customized learning that many students and families demand.
But district officials also see the virtual program as bringing at least one clear benefit to the city school system itself: the ability to compete.
Leaders of the financially troubled district see the online program as a tool to stave off families' temptation to choose "cyber charters" and other options outside the district.

Pennsylvania: Now We Know the Truth About Cyber Charters
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianerav June 13, 2013 //
Rhonda Brownstein, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Education Law Center, says that it is time to stop trusting the claims of cyber charter promoters. For years, they have promised that students would get “innovative” education and that wondrous things would happen when virtual charters became reality, but Pennsylvania now knows that none of that turned out to be true.
Pennsylvania has allowed unchecked growth of cyber charters. They have drained funding away from public schools while providing a low-quality of education.

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District March 2013
Down to the wire on charter talks
by thenotebook on Jun 13 2013 Posted in Latest news
by Connie Langland
With their mandates to operate running out in just a matter of days, leaders of 10 charter schools are deep into negotiations with District officials determined, at least for now, to defer plans by the schools to expand.  Citing the budget crisis, Superintendent William Hite last month announced hewould not recommend any charter expansions in the coming year -- a setback to the publicized ambitions of 21 charter schools to add more than 15,000 students over the next five years. Such expansion would cost the District $500 million.

“But it's not like Pennsylvania does not have the money to fill the debt. Rather,  PA's GOP-controlled Houseof  Representatives recently passed a tax break for corporations that will cost the state an estimated $600 million to $800 million annually.”
Philly Closes 23 Public Schools, Generously Builds $400 Million Prison Where Kids Can Hang Instead
Priorities are out of whack in Pennsylvania.
AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne June 7,, 2013
Philadelphia is so broke the city is closing 23 public schools, never mind that it has the cash to build a $400 million prison.   Construction on the penitentiary said to be "the second-most expensive state project ever" began just days after the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission voted down a plan to close only four of the 27 schools scheduled to die. Facing a $304 million debt, the Commission instead approved a measly $2.4 billion budget that would shut down 23 public schools, wiping out roughly 10% of the city's total. 

“VOYCE found that the expulsion rate is 7.6 times higher at Noble than in the city's noncharter public schools, while another network, Perspectives Charter Schools, had an expulsion rate that is almost 16 times higher than Chicago Public Schools' traditional public schools.”
Chicago Charter School Discipline Policies Protested
Education Week Rules for Engagement Blog By Nirvi Shah on June 13, 2013 8:22 AM
By guest blogger Jackie Zubrzycki. Cross-posted from District Dossier.
A group of students and advocates in Chicago are taking their protest against strict disciplinary policies in some charter schools in the city to the state legislature and the State Board of Education.
The protesters appeared before the Illinois state charter commission earlier this week but got little traction with their concerns, said Emma Tai, a coordinator for Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, or VOYCE, which is supporting the protests.
They want more oversight and consistent regulation of charter schools' expulsion and discipline policies from both the state commission and the Chicago Board of Education—especially as those schools are expanding at the same time the school district is closing almost 50 of its noncharter schools.  "Charter schools can't claim to be 'nonselective' and 'higher-performing' public schools while relying on expulsion to systematically choose which students they will educate with taxpayer dollars," says a VOYCE fact sheet.

Common Core: Raising the bar
A battle over school standards
The Economist Jun 15th 2013 | CHICAGO
HERE’S a multiple-choice question: if the federal government penalises states where pupils do badly in school, but lets the states themselves set the pass mark, will the states a) make the tests harder; or b) dumb them down?
Historically, the answer has been b). The National Centre for Educational Statistics (NCES), a federal body, looked at how the states’ definitions of “proficiency” at maths and reading compared with its own rigorous one. For grade 4 reading in 2009, not one state held its pupils to as high a standard (see map). Fifteen states labelled a child “proficient” when the NCES would have called her skills “basic”; 35 bestowed that honour on children performing at “below basic” level.

CAPS Forum on Community Schools Saturday June 15, 9 am1:30 pm
Kensington CAPA High School, Front & Berks Streets, Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS)
Over the past year, in forums, workshops, listening sessions, and through surveys, thousands of students, parents, community members and school staff voiced their desire for an educational system that provides a well-rounded education parallel to what affluent districts offer, but that also addresses the challenges that come with poverty. We understand that all of our schools must provide:
·          A rigorous academic curriculum
·          Enrichment activities such as sports, art, music, drama
·          Coordinated supports and services that address the social-emotional as well as the academic needs of students and their families.
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) has done our research! After meeting with experts from around the country, we have concluded that the most equitable, effective, financially sound strategy for our city is one that embraces community schools for all children.
Please join us on Saturday, June 15th for the Community Schools Conference (9am-2pm) at Kensington CAPA High School (Front & Berks St.) to learn more from national experts and work with others on a strategy to make this a reality for our city.
Please encourage your networks to attend and feel free to bring a friend! Lunch will be provided. Please RSVP at

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.

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.

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