Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 6, 2013: Cuts in Kindergarten: In-depth PennLive Series

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 2650 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

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for August 6, 2013:
Cuts in Kindergarten: In-depth PennLive Series

NSBAC’s Friends of Public Education: New national grassroots public education network launches (are you a member?)
Friends of Public Education, a new national grassroots network launched by the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), will bring together local leaders and concerned citizens from across the country to speak out on federal legislation to strengthen public education. The network, which can be accessed NSBAC website’s, www.nsbac.org, will help bolster support for a strong public education for all students.

DN Editorial: INADEQUATE: That describes Philly school rescue efforts - and future schooling itself
Philly Daily News Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 3:01 AM
SCHOOL opens in 34 days. And since our editorial last week enumerating the many things that must happen for schools to get the money they need to open - a total of $304 million from the state, the city and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers - zero progress has been made.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20130806_DN_Editorial__Inadequate__That_describes_school_rescue_efforts_-_and_future_schooling_itself.html#fcCOt8V8Cxs4HSeo.99

Education Policy and Leadership Center

“Gibbons said he refuses to support the new standards at a time when schools are not being adequately funded. Rather than pour dollars into new standards, new materials and training for teachers, the state could hire teachers, reduce class sizes and invest in early childhood education,  “I would rather see them spend the money on things we know work,” Gibbons said.
Common Core issues overblown, lawmakers told
Johnstown Tribune Democrat by John Finnerty CNHI Harrisburg Bureau August 5, 2013
HARRISBURG — State education officials told a House panel Monday that fears about changes to state educational standards are largely based on misconceptions about what the changes mean.  Most lawmakers on the Education Committee seemed to buy the argument, but critics remain unconvinced.  Pennsylvania is in the midst of adopting Common Core standards, modeled on national standards developed under the leadership of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief School Officers, spurred by funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Education official offers primer on Pa.'s new 'Common Core' standards
WHYY Newsworks By Mary Wilson @marywilson August 6, 2013
Corbett administration officials are waging a cleanup campaign to try to dispel some of what they call false claims about new Common Core educational measures Pennsylvania plans to implement this fall.  The new measures will bring no mandated curricula or reading lists, and no nationally dictated tests, said Carolyn Dumaresq with the state Department of Education.
She spoke to state lawmakers Monday in an attempt to explain the new standards, which she says received the most intense public feedback on the standards in the past few months.

Roebuck backs Common Core standards – but calls for fair school funding
HARRISBURG, Aug. 5 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, made these opening remarks at today's committee hearing on the proposed Common Core standards: 

Cyber school founder Trombetta’s kin charged
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Brian Bowling  Friday, August 2, 2013, 11:50 p.m.
Federal prosecutors on Friday charged the sister of the founder of a Beaver County cyber charter school with filing a false tax return.  Elaine Trombetta Neill of Center claimed income on her 2010 tax return that “was properly attributable to a relative” and deducted $90,600 in business expenses for “One 2 One,” which had “almost no legitimate business expenses,” the criminal information says.
“Research shows that for every dollar spent on a quality pre-k education, there is as much as a $16 return to society.”
Business, Gov. Corbett realize better education for children has to start early: PennLive letters
PennLive By Letters to the Editor  on August 05, 2013 at 1:44 PM
By JIM HOEHN, Central Region President, PNC Bank, Camp Hill
Fundamental to the American experience is the belief that our children, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, have the opportunity to reach whatever heights to which they aspire. The surest, most-effective way to provide children with the opportunity to reach their full potential is to create a pathway to success through early childhood education.
Gov. Tom Corbett's recently passed budget increased support for early education by $11.4 million, which included $5 million more for Early Intervention, $4.5 million more for Pre-K Counts and $1.9 million more for Head Start Supplemental Assistance. We thank the governor for pledging increased resources on behalf of the commonwealth's youngest learners and doing so in a difficult budget time. 

Fight For Philly takes on Comcast, Philly school funding with bologna sandwiches
WHYY Newsworks By Shannon McDonald, @sacmcdonald August 2, 2013
There's no such thing as a free lunch. Unless you were outside the Comcast Center in Center City Philadelphia Friday afternoon.
Fight for Philly handed out bologna sandwiches "to symbolize Comcast giving out baloney to Philadelphia citizens while taking their own free lunch in the form of tax breaks like a building abatement and loopholes like the Delaware loophole."  The sandwiches were part of a rally to demand fair funding for Philly schools, and a shot at Comcast exec David Cohen.
Per the Fight for Philly press release about the rally, "Comcast Executive VP David Cohen, a top donor to Gov. Corbett, was involved in negotiations with the city and state that led to a bad school funding deal with inadequate money from Harrisburg."

Swaps: Philly schools consider suing Wall Street banks for fraud-induced losses
City Paper Naked City Blog by Daniel Denvir MONDAY, AUGUST 5, 2013, 10:41 AM
The School District of Philadelphia is considering filing suit against Wall Street banks, City Paper has learned, for illegally manipulating a major interest-rate index underpinning complex derivatives that have cost cities and schools billions of dollars.   "The School District is currently in the process of analyzing whether or not the agency has a sufficient basis for pursuing claims against financial institutions which may have been involved in the manipulation of Libor," a district spokesperson wrote in a short statement issued to CP.  Philadelphia and other cities have filed similar lawsuits, contending that such "interest-rate swaps" — billed as a protection against rising borrowing costs — were tilted in banks' favor through the fraudulent rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. 

PennLive examines reasons for district spending choices, impact on families: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 03, 2013 at 9:00 AM
The future of kindergarten and the education of these children appear to be a function of money.
With state money, school districts chose to fund kindergarten, but that money has dwindled, leaving districts to cut back or eliminate kindergarten so they could pay mandated costs.

School districts, state balance budget on backs of children: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 04, 2013 at 6:00 AM
UPDATE: While some school districts have shifted from full-day kindergarten to half-day programs, no districts eliminated kindergarten in the 2012-13 school year, and the state Department of Education has not received notification of any eliminating it for 2013-14 said spokesman Tim Eller.  Five-year–olds are at the center of a statewide spending controversy, pivoting on kindergarten.  Pennsylvania doesn't require kindergarten. So some school districts, facing declining revenue and mandated costs, are choosing to reduce kindergarten to a half day or even consider eliminating altogether this academic year where students receive their first formal lessons and learn to socialize.

Should Pa. money support kindergarten?: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 04, 2013 at 7:00 AM
PennLive spoke with state Reps. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, and Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, about their views on whether kindergarten should be required by law and how and who should fund it.
ISSUE: Former Gov. Ed Rendell authorized state block grants for school districts to use for full-day kindergarten or other initiatives but Gov. Tom Corbett has tried to eliminate this funding stream. Many school districts have relied on state aid to fund full-day kindergarten, but they are cutting back or eliminating kindergarten over the past couple years.

Should Pa. make kindergarten required by law?: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 04, 2013 at 8:00 AM
PennLive spoke with state Reps. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, and Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, about their views on whether kindergarten should be required by law and how and who should fund it.
ISSUE: Because kindergarten is not a state-mandated program, school districts can cut this program when budgets are tight. This reduction in kindergarten from full day to half day or its elimination has been increasing as state funding has dwindled and mandated costs take precedence.

Why have Pa. grants been reduced?: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 04, 2013 at 9:00 AM
PennLive spoke with state Reps. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, and Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, about their views on whether kindergarten should be required by law and how and who should fund it.
ISSUE: Former Gov. Ed Rendell apportioned an average of about $350 million each year in block grants that could be used for full-day kindergarten other initiatives, such as reducing class sizes and providing tutors.
When Gov. Tom Corbett was elected in 2011, the grants were reduced to $100 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Should Pa. give more money to kindergarten?: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 04, 2013 at 10:00 AM
PennLive spoke with state Reps. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, and Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, about their views on whether kindergarten should be required by law and how and who should fund it.
ISSUE: During the Rendell administration, block grants of about $350 million each year were provided for full-day kindergarten other initiatives, such as reducing class sizes and providing tutors. In the Corbett administration, the block grants have been reduced to $100 million.
In the 2013-14 state budget, funds for PreK Counts programs serving low-income and at-risk students were increased $4.5 million, another $1.9 million was allocated for Head Start, and $5 million more for early intervention services.

Expert says kindergarten is critical to learning experience: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 05, 2013 at 11:50 AM
When the upcoming school year begins, several children will enter kindergarten for only half a day of instruction.   The decision to cut back kindergarten from a full day occurred in East Pennsboro and Steelton-Highspire school districts for reasons ranging from cost savings to questions surrounding the effectiveness of kindergarten in preparing children for future academic challenges.  We spoke with Marcia Nell, an expert in kindergarten education about the intellectual and emotional impact of reducing classroom instruction on these children. She is an assistant professor of elementary and early childhood education at Millersville University with 25 years of teaching experience in kindergarten through grade 2 in public schools.

Who has full-day kindergarten and who doesn't: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 05, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Last year in Pennsylvania, 455 of 501 school districts offered some type of full-day kindergarten program.  That’s despite reductions in about 19 programs statewide, because of budget pressures from rising pension and health care costs and declining state revenues. While some schools reduced kindergarten, none eliminated it in 2012-13 or so far for 2013-14, said Tim Eller, state Department of Education spokesman.
For 2012-13, 455 of the 501 school districts in the state operated a full-day kindergarten program, said Tim Eller, state education department spokesman. And 59 districts offered a full-day or half-day preK program.

Upping the ante in Pa. kindergarten standards: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 05, 2013 at 1:50 PM
Kindergarten today lays the framework for students' future success, and is more academically rigorous than in the past, said Superintendent Lisa Brown of Palmyra Area School District.
"We are really laying the framework for basic academic skills in kindergarten – kids grasping numbers sense, beginning reading and writing, in addition to how to get along responsibly in a group," she said, adding that high-level thinking skills need a good foundation.

Studies reveal pros, cons of kindergarten: Cuts in kindergarten
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 05, 2013 at 2:50 PM
Here are some reports and stories that explore the disadvantages and advantages of kindergarten:

Five absurdities about high-stakes standardized tests
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: August 6 at 4:00 am
Barely a day goes by when the education world isn’t treated to some new story involving high-stakes standardized tests, the chief metric of “accountability systems” in the modern era of school reform.  It might be about how student test scores went up or down or all around; about how standardized tests were incorrectly scored by giant companies that make millions from testing contracts; that some questions on the test don’t make any sense; that the high stakes being attached to the results — which are being used to evaluate students, teachers, principals, schools, districts and states — have gone from being unfair to preposterous.
Against this backdrop, here are five absurdities about all of the current standardized testing frenzy. Feel free to add your own and I can publish a more complete list.

An Involuntary Union of Football Rivals for Philadelphia High Schools
New York Times By JERÉ LONGMAN Published: August 3, 2013 31 Comments
PHILADELPHIA — The football players at Martin Luther King High School gathered in a semicircle like a tired and rain-soaked choir. They placed their arms around one another’s shoulders and began swaying to a call and response.

Benign neglect is taking its toll on the nation’s poor children
Denver Post Opinion By Stephen Berman Guest Commentary
Our country faces many challenges. Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise and scientists are warning us of the catastrophic consequences of inaction.  The Boston Marathon bombings elevate the threats of both home grown and foreign terrorism.  The Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Aurora theater shootings and our high adolescent suicide rate all highlight the problem of gun violence. Congress is grappling with immigration reform and border security.
But the greatest threat to the future of our country is receiving almost no attention in the media or halls of Congress: our growing rate of child poverty. One in five children lives below the federal poverty level in the United States and almost one in two are poor or near poor.

School grading questioned with Florida chief’s exit
Politico By NIRVI SHAH | 8/1/13 10:09 PM EDT
Education reformer Tony Bennett’s resignation from the state superintendent seat in Florida leaves the post vacant for the third time in about three years — and could have repercussions for the broader education reform movement, including the trendy policy of grading schools on an A-F scale.  Bennett resigned Thursday after about seven months as state chief, a move triggered by revelations this week that as the elected public schools leader in Indiana, he changed accountability measures to boost the grades of several schools. Emails uncovered by the Associated Press indicate Bennett had a hand in changing the grade of an Indiana charter school run by and named after a campaign donor.

Teach for America criticized for apparent stance on education policy
Critics say Teach for America has strayed from a core mission of helping needy urban schools, favoring efforts seen as anti-teacher union.
Los Angeles Times By Howard Blume August 3, 2013, 7:40 p.m.
Over its 24-year history, Teach for America has won accolades for taking top college graduates and putting them to work in some of America's toughest schools, creating what it regards as a national model of nonpartisan service in education.  But some former participants and academics, among others, have recently accused the Peace Corps-like organization of taking sides in the education policy wars. They criticize the nonprofit for aligning too closely with its largest private donors and high-profile alumni who have gone into politics. They say the group has diverged too far from a core mission: addressing a teacher shortage with top college grads primed to inject energy and success into low-income, urban campuses.
The key backers of Teach for America include foundations that support efforts to expand charter schools, limit teacher job protections, weaken union clout and evaluate instructors by using student test scores.

No moon: Perseid meteor shower set to put on a great show before dawn August 12
You can expect to see up to 100 “shooting stars” per hour when 2013’s best meteor shower peaks before dawn August 12.
Astronomy By Richard Talcott — Published: May 27, 2013

(Cost Categories in Special Education Funding)
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 9:30 AM
William Pitt Union Ballroom, University of Pittsburgh

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, September12, 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 www.psba.org. 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 http://www.psba.org/elections/.

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 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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