Friday, August 16, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 16, 2013: “That’s what we’re talking about here: the deliberate starvation of one of the nation’s biggest school districts.”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3000 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, 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

These daily emails are archived at
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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?

Charter School: A school that receives public funds without the inconvenience of accountability to the taxpayers who provide those funds.
There are about 150 members of the press receiving these daily Education Policy Roundups – how many of you have ever attended and covered a charter school board meeting?

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 16, 2013:
“That’s what we’re talking about here: the deliberate starvation of one of the nation’s biggest school districts.”

SRC unanimously passes suspensions of state school codes
REGINA MEDINA, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5985 POSTED: Friday, August 16, 2013, 3:01 AM
IN THE FACE of a fed-up Philadelphia community carrying insulting signs, the School Reform Commission voted unanimously yesterday to suspend school codes that affect employees' seniority rights and wage increases, as well as charter-school growth.

"You are permitting the woeful unprepared opening of schools no superintendent or educator in their right mind would declare fit or ready for children," she said. "You allow this opening of schools in order to provide pathetic cover for a governor who has not only failed to do his duty but has manufactured and exploited a crisis for political gain."  She added, "You talk about a war for education, yet you fire on your own soldiers who are going to fight it for you."
Over jeers and shouts, SRC suspends parts of school code
by Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 15 2013 Posted in Latest news
Teachers and others fill SRC meeting and chant in protest as SRC votes to suspend parts of the school code.  Entering the overflowing room to a chorus of boos, struggling to be heard above the derisive shouts of hundreds of teachers, students, and parents, the School Reform Commission voted Thursday to suspend parts of the Pennsylvania School Code.

“The concept is just jaw-dropping,” said Helen Gym, who has three children in the city’s public schools. “Nobody is talking about what it takes to get a child educated. It’s just about what the lowest number is needed to get the bare minimum. That’s what we’re talking about here: the deliberate starvation of one of the nation’s biggest school districts.”
NY Times: A City Borrows So Its Schools Open on Time
The unusual situation in Philadelphia stems from a combination of politics and long-term structural problems.
New York Times By RICK LYMAN and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH Published: August 15, 2013
PHILADELPHIA — Just a month after Detroit became the largest American city to file for bankruptcy, and with major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles struggling, this former manufacturing behemoth is also edging toward a financial precipice. But here the troubles are centered on the cash-starved public schools system.
The situation is not as dire yet as Detroit’s. There is no talk of resorting to bankruptcy. But the problem is so severe that the city agreed at the last minute on Thursday to borrow $50 million just to be able to open schools on time. Even with that money, schools will open Sept. 9 with a minimum of staffing and sharply curtailed extracurricular activities and other programs.

To the best of my knowledge this is the resolution that was adopted unanimously by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission during its meeting of Thursday afternoon, August 15th:
SRC-1 (Revised) August 15, 2013
Suspension of Selected Requirements of School Code and Related Regulations of the
State Board of Education to Improve the School District’s Financial Condition through
Operational Efficiencies, Flexibility, Controlling Expenses and the Ability to Manage its

Here is Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst take on yesterday’s SRC action:
StudentsFirst FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | AUG 15, 2013
Ashley DeMauro, StudentsFirst State Director in Pennsylvania, issued the following statement regarding suspension of seniority requirements approved by the School Reform Commission:
"Today, the School Reform Commission, exercising a power granted by bipartisan legislation, suspended the School District of Philadelphia’s (SDP) seniority requirements. This is the right decision because it allows the SDP to staff schools in a way that prioritizes students over adults. This decision is a huge win for Philadelphia's students since it will help to ensure that an effective teacher is placed in every classroom—the most important in-school factor for student achievement. We hope policymakers consider giving all school districts the power to take teacher effectiveness into account in staffing decisions. StudentsFirst will continue to support Governor Corbett, Superintendent Hite, Mayor Nutter and other local elected officials who are working to provide resources while advocating for reforms that will set up students in Pennsylvania for long-term success."

PSP/PennCAN statement in support of SRC…..
A way forward for district
 Friday, August 16, 2013, 1:08 AM By Mark Gleason, Jonathan Cetel, and Tony Payton Jr.
Mark Gleason is executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership ( Jonathan Cetel is executive director of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now ( Tony Payton Jr. is a former state legislator from Philadelphia (
 The roots of the Philadelphia school budget crisis stretch back many years. But less than one month until schools open, the city lacks a viable financial plan for running safe, high-quality schools - because leadership, courage, and creativity are lacking on all sides. What is needed is innovative thinking, from both district management and the teachers' union. It's time to agree that money is not the only problem facing our schools, and that the path forward requires policy and contract changes. This is especially true since the state has authorized a one-time infusion of $45 million for schools, but made it contingent upon educational, operational, and fiscal reforms. Adding that money to the $50 million the city aims to borrow for schools, and the $28 million it has pledged from improved tax collections, would bring in a meaningful total of $123 million.
Read more

PennCAN: Corbett anti-teachers union poll intended to help Nutter, Hite
Citypaper by Daniel Denvir  THURSDAY, JUNE 20, 2013, 1:38 PM
PennCAN, the self-described school reform group that paid for the poll and analysis urging Gov. Tom Corbett to exploit the Philly schools crisis and attack the teachers union for political gain, tells City Paper that the plan is intended to support the work of Mayor Michael Nutter and School District Superintendent William Hite.  "The poll found strong support for more state funding if coupled with the kind of meaningful reforms that Dr. Hite has been publicly championing, such as allowing principals to have the flexibility to build their own teams," PennCAN Executive Director Jonathan Cetel emailed CP. "We have been sharing the poll with key decision makers in Harrisburg in order to support Mayor Nutter and Dr. Hite's efforts to secure more state funding for the School District of Philadelphia."

You know the names: Gates, Walton, Yass…..
PennCAN/50CAN Funding

Philadelphia School Partnership Board of Directors

Pa. Faces Potential Lawsuit in School Budget Crisis
NBC10 by Rosemay Connors August 15, 2013 Video Runtime: 2:23
The State of Pennsylvania could face a potential lawsuit if Philadelphia Schools don't open on time due to the budget crisis. NBC10's Rosemary Connors tells us why.

Debunking Reformy “Messaging”: A Philadelphia Story
School Finance 101 Blog by Bruce Baker Posted on August 15, 2013
Let’s take another trip back to Philadelphia for the day, because the reformy conversation around Philadelphia is just so darn illustrative of how reformy thinking works. Here’s a synopsis of the reformy approach to pushing pre-established, fact free, ideological reforms:
·                                 Step 1: Create a story line
·                                 Step 2: Find a poster child (school district, city, etc.)
·                                 Step 3: Conjure some reformy buzz phrases (“failed urban district” & “sector agnosticism”)
·                                 Step 4: Repeat, over and over and over again… with complete disregard for facts or evidence to the contrary

Stop blaming the teachers
Inquirer Opinion POSTED: Thursday, August 15, 2013, 1:08 AM By Christine MacArthur
I have worked for the School District of Philadelphia for 15 years. During that time there have been four different superintendents, and each new leader started various initiatives and programs. Teachers were rarely consulted about these changes. Therefore, I am in awe of the logic of politicians who believe it is up to teachers to provide the additional money needed to keep the schools afloat. Why? What have we done to contribute to this mess? We had no say in the policies, the people hired, or the results. The state has been in control of the School District since 2001, and, under this regime, we are not even allowed to strike - unlike every other district in the commonwealth.

Pittsburgh Public Schools presents first draft of 'envisioning' process for future
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 15, 2013 11:30 pm
In a $2.4 million envisioning process in Pittsburgh Public Schools, the first draft calls for unnamed elementary school closings, fewer magnet programs and the creation of an international-themed elementary school in the North/Central region.
The draft, which focused on the "school portfolio," was presented to an advisory group meeting Thursday as part of the "Envisioning Educational Excellence: A Plan for All of Pittsburgh's Children."

Clarion University to dissolve college of education
Financial pinch forces broad restructuring effort; at least 22 faculty positions cut
By Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 16, 2013 12:11 am
Clarion University plans to let go up to 40 employees campuswide -- including 22 faculty -- and dissolve its college of education under a broad restructuring intended to offset sharply lower state aid, rising costs and enrollment losses.

Pennsylvania School District Reserve Funds Increased to $3.8 Billion in 2012
Mediatrackers By: Sarah Leitner | August 12, 2013
Pennsylvania schools, which are clamoring for more state funding, had reserve funds totaling $3.8 billion in 2012. School districts were widely criticized last year for not dipping into their reserves, which increased from a June 2011 total of $3.5 billion.
“It’s been increasing every year for the past several years,” Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller told Media Trackers. “At least from the state perspective, as we’ve increased, the local efforts have also increased. Taxpayers are putting more money into education than what schools are spending.”  Eller stressed that the state supports the schools having reserve funds.

Rob Gleason Commentary: Corbett governs for all Pennsylvanians
The Tribune-Review By Rob Gleason  Published: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 , 9:00 p.m.
Rob Gleason is the chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.
When Ed Rendell ran for governor in 2002, he made a big splash traveling the commonwealth in a luxury tour bus. He gave lip service to representing all Pennsylvanians, but once elected Rendell often worked out of an office in Philadelphia, where it seemed that he governed mainly for Philadelphia.  That's why it's been so refreshing to see Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican leaders in the Legislature govern with an eye on all of Pennsylvania's working families, not just a few special interests. While so much media attention remains on Philadelphia and its needs, it's important for citizens to fully understand just how much has been accomplished statewide since 2010.  Perhaps most important is the simple fact that the governor and the Legislature have passed three straight balanced budgets.
Right-wing 'God's law' making life hell here on Earth
The right is making itself irrelevant, but hurting Philly in the process.
City Paper by Daniel Denvir Aug. 15, 2013, 12:00 AM
Hostile Witness
Pennsylvania faces vast challenges. Gays are marrying in Montgomery County, schools are teaching evolution, black people are voting and poor folks are squandering tax dollars on their kids’ breakfast cereal. This is reality according to the state Republican Party, led by Gov. Tom Corbett, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who believes SEPTA is “welfare” and homosexuality “open rebellion against God’s law.”
Things look different in the Pennsylvania where school budgets are cut to the bone and property taxes are on the rise. 

Letter: School-based clinics failed once; why bring them back?
WHYY Newsworks Letter By Eileen DiFranco August 15, 2013
Two Philly school-based clinics seeking insurance payments for effective, low-cost care
The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author in response to the Aug. 13 article "Two Philly school-based clinics seeking insurance payments for effective, low-cost care."
There is a danger when any organization lacks an institutional memory. A handful of schools had school-based clinics back in the early to late '90s. I know because I worked at the one located at Stetson Middle School. All of the clinics failed and were eventually closed. There were many reasons for this, and it would be a good thing to investigate these reasons before rushing out to establish clinics in more schools, wasting already scarce medical dollars.

Technology in the classroom provides access, interactivity with local students
Carlisle Sentinel August 10, 2013 8:00 pm  •  By Travis Kellar, The Sentinel
Local school district officials say the possibilities are endless on what students can do with the use of technology inside and outside of the classroom.  Bruce Gordon, technology coordinator at Mechanicsburg Area School District, said the district’s Bring Your Own Device policy is a way to follow trends that are going on outside of the classroom.  “Old school of thought is to make kids ‘power down’ at school, but that’s not what the real world is doing,” he said. “Our educational system must be aligned with real world experiences and expectations.”

School Standards’ Debut Is Rocky, and Critics Pounce
By MOTOKO RICH Published: August 15, 2013 164 Comments
The Common Core, a set of standards for kindergarten through high school that has been ardently supported by the Obama administration and many business leaders and state legislatures, is facing growing opposition from both the right and the left even before it has been properly introduced into classrooms.  Tea Party conservatives, who reject the standards as an unwelcome edict from above, have called for them to be severely rolled back.
Indiana has already put a brake on them. The Michigan House of Representatives is holding hearings on whether to suspend them. And citing the cost of new tests requiring more writing and a significant online component, Georgia and Oklahoma have withdrawn from a consortium developing exams based on the standards.  At the same time, a group of parents and teachers argue that the standards — and particularly the tests aligned with them — are simply too difficult.

(to consider costs of special education)
Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:00 AM     
Board Room  - Allentown School District Central Administration Bldg.
31 S. Penn Street Allentown, PA

Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee Public hearing on Keystone Exams
Monday, August 26, 2013, 9:30 AM, Tredyffrin-Easttown School District
105 W. Walker Rd. Wayne, PA

Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee Public hearing on Common Core
Thursday, August 29, 2013, 9:30 AM Capitol, Hearing Room 1, North Office Bldg.

Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Philly at the Main Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library on September 17 at 7:30 pm..
Diane Ravitch | Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
When: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 7:30PM 
Central Library
Cost: $15 General Admission, $7 Students
Ticket and Subscription Packages 
Tickets on sale here at 10:00 a.m. on August 23, 2013

Yinzers - Save the Date: Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill. 
The lecture is being hosted by Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh, which is a new coalition of community, faith, and labor organizations consisting of Action United, One Pittsburgh, PA Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU, and Yinzercation.  Co-sponsors for the event include the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, the PA State Education Association, Temple Sinai, and First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh Social Justice Endowment.  More details to come.

Join the National School Boards Action Center Friends of Public Education
Participate in a voluntary network to urge your U.S. Representatives and Senators to support federal legislation on Capitol Hill that is critical to providing high quality education to America’s schoolchildren

PILCOP 2013 Symposium on Equality: Privatization
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Thursday, September 12, 2013
This year’s day-long Symposium will be held on Thursday, September 12th and will explore the debate over privatizing government services such as healthcare, land management and education.  The Symposium on Equality annually convenes thought leaders and outstanding advocates  to engage in meaningful discussion and exploration of the day’s most pressing civil rights and social issues. This year’s event will foster conversation, collaboration and exploration of the debate over privatizing government services such as healthcare, land management and education.

PILCOP Know Your Child’s Rights! 2013-2014 Special Education Seminars
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia July 9, 2013
The Law Center’s year-long Know Your Child’s Rights! seminar series on special education law continues in 2013-2014 with day and evening trainings focused on securing special education rights and services.  These seminars are intended for parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and others who are in a position to help children with disabilities receive an appropriate education. Every session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability and is co-led by a Law Center staff attorney and a guest speaker.
This year’s topics include Tips for Going Back to School; Psychological Testing, IEEs and Evaluations; School Records; Children with Autism; Transition Services; Children with Emotional Needs; Discipline and Bullying; Charter Schools; Children with Dyslexia; Extended School Year; Assistive Technology; Discrimination and Compensatory Education; and, Settlements. See below for descriptions and schedules of each session.

PSBA is accepting applications to fill vacancies in NSBA's grassroots advocacy program. Deadline to apply is Sept. 6.
PSBA members: Influence public education policy at the federal level; join NSBA's Federal Relations Network
The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in filling vacancies for the remainder of the 2013-14 term of the Federal Relations Network. The FRN is NSBA's grassroots advocacy program that provides the opportunity for school board members from every congressional district in the country who are committed to public education to get involved in federal advocacy. For more than 40 years, school board members have been lobbying for public education on Capitol Hill as one unified voice through this program. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start!

PSBA members will elect officers electronically for the first time in 2013
PSBA 7/8/2013
Beginning in 2013, PSBA members will follow a completely new election process which will be done electronically during the month of September. The changes will have several benefits, including greater membership engagement and no more absentee ballot process.
Below is a quick Q&A related to the voting process this year, with more details to come in future issues of School Leader News and at More information on the overall governance changes can be found in the February 2013 issue of the PSBA Bulletin:

Electing PSBA Officers: 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates
Details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video are online now
PSBA Website Posted 8/5/2013
The 2014 PSBA Slate of Candidates is being officially published to the members of the association. Details on each candidate, including bios, statements, photos and video are online at

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference
October 15-18, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Important change this year: Delegate Assembly (replaces the Legislative Policy Council) will be Tuesday Oct. 15 from 1 – 4:30 p.m.
The PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference is the largest gathering of elected officials in Pennsylvania and offers an impressive collection of professional development opportunities for school board members and other education leaders.
See Annual School Leadership Conference links for all program details.

PAESSP State Conference October 27-29, 2013
The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA
The state conference is PAESSP’s premier professional development event for principals, assistant principals and other educational leaders. Attending will enable you to connect with fellow educators while learning from speakers and presenters who are respected experts in educational leadership.
 Featuring Keynote Speakers: Charlotte Danielson, Dr. Todd Whitaker, Will Richardson & David Andrews, Esq. (Legal Update).

Pennsylvania charter schools going directly to Corbett for $150 million funding increase
Charter schools asking Corbett administration to change funding formula in their favor.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 10:59 p.m. EDT, August 14, 2013
HARRISBURG — For years, local school district officials have tried to get state lawmakers to pass laws reducing the amount of tax dollars paid to charter schools.
Now charter schools — which since 1997 have evolved from independent, isolated institutions into a united, powerful political force — are fighting back. They have launched a coordinated effort to gain up to $150 million annually in additional funding from local school districts in the Lehigh Valley and across the state.  In hopes of doing it, charter schools are bypassing the House, Senate and state Board of Education and going right to Gov. Tom Corbett's administration in a bid to change the funding formula in their favor.

School Choices: Are your PA tax dollars, intended for the classrooms of Chester Upland, funding this 20,000 sq.ft. mansion on the beach instead?

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School FAST FACTS
Quakertown Community School District March 2013

"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."
Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law
By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.  Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

Keystone State Education Coalition Prior Posting
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny

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