Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 25, 2013: Ed Policy Roundup Hiatus

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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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 25, 2013:  Ed Policy Roundup Hiatus

Good morning folks – just a quick heads-up that after publishing the Keystone State Education Coalition’s Education Policy Roundup 6 days a week since November 2010 we will be taking a brief hiatus beginning this Friday morning.

Pennsylvania 2013 Blue Ribbon Schools
September 24, 2013
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced 286 schools as the 2013 cohort of National Blue Ribbon Schools, based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in improving student academic achievement.  Here are the 15 Pennsylvania schools that were recognized.

HB618 Charter School reform bill being considered in PA House
You can follow status/comments on twitter using the hashtag #HB618

PA Special Education Funding Formula Commission Public Meeting Sept 26th at Alvernia College in Reading from 9:30 am3:00 pm
To consider charter and cyber special education funding

Wind behind alternative property tax bill
Scranton Times-Tribune BY ROBERT SWIFT (HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF) Published: September 24, 2013
HARRISBURG - A House Republican leader gave a strong plug Monday for a new optional school property tax reduction bill shortly after a key committee approved it.
The statements by Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh, at the Pennsylvania Press Club reflect ongoing pressure on lawmakers from constituents in some parts of the state, including Northeast Pennsylvania, to tackle the perennial property tax issue.
Mr. Turzai described the measure giving school districts the choice of shifting partially or completely away from relying on property taxes to a mix of an additional earned income tax and a tax on business gross receipts as a very good bill that's getting real wind in the House.

PBPC Statement: Tax Shift Proposal Would Hurt PA Students
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on September 24, 2013
HARRISBURG, PA (Sept. 24, 2013) — Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, issued the following statement in response to today’s Capitol event on property tax legislation (HB 76):   “This property tax plan will do irreparable damage to a generation of Pennsylvania students. It pulls the rug out from under our public education system and ignores the real problem — that too few state dollars support our schools.
“Years of state funding cuts have already diminished the long-term prospects for Pennsylvania students. Schools have had to lay off 20,000 teachers and staff, which has resulted in increased class sizes and cuts to full-day kindergarten, music, and the arts.

Taxpayers swarm Harrisburg to demand property tax relief
By Frank Otto, The Mercury POSTED: 09/24/13, 3:15 PM EDT 
HARRISBURG — Hundreds of frustrated taxpayers boarded buses Tuesday morning to take their demand for property tax relief to the people who can make it happen — the members of the Pennsylvania Legislature.  Gathering early in the morning in empty parking lots across Pennsylvania, residents geared up for the trip to the state Capitol hoping to sway a few more legislators into supporting a bill that eliminates funding public education through property taxes.

Turzai: Cyber charter school formula should be scrutinized
By Natasha Lindstrom Calkins Media September 23, 2013 5:31 pm
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers should consider taking action this fall to address flaws in the way cyber charter schools are funded and held accountable, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-28, Bradford Woods, said Monday.  The Allegheny County legislator's remarks come a month after the U.S. attorney's office filed charges against Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta for allegedly funneling public money from the Midland school to organizations under his control. If convicted on 11 counts involving tax fraud, Trombetta could face up to 100 years in prison, a fine of $3.25 million or both.

Education Policy and Leadership Center

Schools wonder: If they build, will state reimburse?
The Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer September 24, 2013
A state moratorium on reimbursements for approved school construction costs has some districts concerned the money might not come.  “You kind of worry about the future,” said Bob Riegel, Quakertown’s business manager, “and whether the money’s going to really be there for reimbursement.”  The worry stems from a moratorium of the state’s so-called PlanCon reimbursement. PlanCon refers to the Education Department’s $300 million a year “Planning and Construction Workbook,” a complicated review that runs from justifying the need for a project to designing it, acquiring the land, building it and paying for it.
Schools, under financial pressure from growing pension obligations, are concerned the moratorium could lead to the program’s elimination.

Harrisburg appeals board rejects renewal for Lawrenceville's Career Connections Charter High School
By Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 24, 2013 3:48 pm
HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania Charter School Appeal Board this afternoon upheld a Pittsburgh Public Schools decision against renewing the charter of Career Connections Charter High School in Lawrenceville.  The Pittsburgh school board voted in March 2012 against renewing the charter. Acting education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, who chairs the state appeals board, recommended the board deny the appeal effective Jan. 24, the end of the school's first term.  "Career Connections violated terms of its charter, made changes to its charter commitments without the school district's approval and failed to meet student performance requirements," Ms. Dumaresq said.
The state appeals board vote was unanimous.

“When philanthropists pour money into alternatives, like individual charter schools or the privately run Philadelphia School Partnership, they erode the development of a healthy public system that equitably serves all. Funding private alternatives supports small-scale interventions that do nothing to address the root causes of inequality. It also weakens the democratic process. Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.”
Letter: Philanthropy won't save Philly schools; rich people should pay more taxes
WHYY Newsworks Opinion SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 ESSAYWORKS
With our severely underfunded public schools now open, it is important to examine the causes of this crisis.  We are a group of people in our 20s and 30s with inherited wealth and class privilege who believe that philanthropy has played a role in contributing to the crisis. Current forms of philanthropy are not leading to the transformation of public schools our city needs.
Will Bunch wrote a blog post recently critiquing philanthropic efforts to "fix" Philadelphia's public education. We agree: When philanthropists pour money into alternatives, like individual charter schools or the privately run Philadelphia School Partnership, they erode the development of a healthy public system that equitably serves all. Funding private alternatives supports small-scale interventions that do nothing to address the root causes of inequality. It also weakens the democratic process. Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.

Grable Foundation gives another $5M to Pittsburgh Promise
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 24, 2013 12:16 pm
The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program is about two-thirds of the way toward its goal of $250 million, with its latest large gift coming from the Grable Foundation.
Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Promise, Tuesday announced Grable has pledged another $5 million, bringing Grable's total contribution to $10 million.

Parkland among nation's best high schools, U.S. News says
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call 10:10 p.m. EDT, September 24, 2013
Parkland High School won a silver medal as one of U.S. News & World Report's Best High Schools in America.  The magazine ranked Parkland 55th out of 687 high schools in Pennsylvania based on class-size ratios, state standardized test scores in math and reading, and the percentage of students who take and pass Advanced Placement courses and tests.
Nationally, Parkland High was 1,834th out of more than 21,000 schools reviewed by the magazine, according to Rodney Troutman, assistant superintendent of the Parkland School District.
Column: Quiet voices heard on improving education
Delco Times Opinion By JOSEPH P. BATORY, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 09/24/13, 9:29 PM EDT | UPDATED: 6 HRS AGO
Joseph P. Batory of Philadelphia is a former Upper Darby School District superintendent.
Politicians and media talking heads now have become the “self-anointed” experts on public education improvement. However, conclusions are often over-simplified and filled with half-truths and inaccuracies. And in most cases teachers and school administrators — those closest to reality — have been allowed little or no input into this discussion.
With 50 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools in our diverse American society, analysis is not simple.  Below are five commonly heard but questionable statements about public education. Each statement is followed by some commentary which is not usually heard.

To save our schools: Improvement districts? Opinion by KEN STEIF POSTED: Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 3:01 AM
Ken Steif is a Doctoral Fellow in the City & Regional Planning Department at the University of Pennsylvania
ONE OF the motivations for then-Mayor John Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) was that blight removal would increase the value of land in struggling neighborhoods and spur new investment. While this may have been the case, recent evidence shows that providing increased local-school quality can play an even greater role in the process of neighborhood revitalization.  Philadelphia floated a $300 million dollar bond to pay for NTI, convinced that the benefit of blight removal in the form of new real-estate values and tax revenues would outweigh the costs of the bond. Although no one actually did the comparison, belief among planners and the media is that the benefits of the program were marginal at best. Research I conducted in West Philly, however, showed that the real-estate benefits of the Penn Alexander School outweighed the costs by a factor of 3 to 1.

Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools protests Eric Cantor’s charter school speech in Philadelphia
El Sol on 9/24/2013, 11:40 p.m.
Ralliers chant “Public schools yes, austerity no” and hold signs giving Cantor an “F” for failing to support public schools and social programs. Thirty activists and parents with the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools protested House GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s visit to a Philadelphia charter school on Monday. Cantor delivered a speech at the Freire Charter School calling for “school choice” that would take money from public schools and redirect it towards unproven charters. He also called on the Department of Justice to cease a suit against New Orleans schools for a voucher program alleged to violate federal desegregation orders.

Philly's Top Tax Deadbeats
NBC Philadelphia By Karen Araiza Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013  |  Updated 7:25 PM EDT
The NBC10 Investigators look at how much the top property tax scofflaws owe the city of Philadelphia.  Property owners across the City of Philadelphia owe about $200 million in unpaid taxes.  That's enough to prop up the School District of Philadelphia financially this year and hence enough to make education advocates like Gerald Wright downright angry.
"We have to be clear that the city has not done its job in collecting the taxes," says Wright, who is with the group Parents United for Public Education. "We are beyond crisis. We are at the point where some schools just can't do any of what they used to do."

Was Budget Secretary Trying to Stir the Pot?
Inquirer by Troy Graham @troyjgraham POSTED: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2013, 6:16 PM
Charles Zogby, Gov. Corbett’s budget secretary, said he wasn’t really expecting to make news when he told a reporter earlier this week there was talk of giving taxing authority to the unelected members of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
He said the idea had arisen because of the stalemate between Mayor Nutter and City Council over extending the city’s extra 1 percent sales tax for the benefit of the schools.
Council has refused to even introduce the mayor’s bill to extend the tax. If Council won’t act, Zogby said, maybe the taxing authority should go to the members of the SRC.

Southmoreland Elementary recognized as National Blue Ribbon School
Tribune-Review By Paul Paterra Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 12:46 a.m.
National recognition has come the way of Southmoreland Elementary School.
It was announced Tuesday that the school was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School — one of just 286 schools in the country to be so recognized and one of just 15 in Pennsylvania.
The announcement was made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in student levels of academic achievement.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Announces 286 National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2013
Press Office, (202) 401-1576,  SEPTEMBER 24, 2013
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced 286 schools as the 2013 cohort of National Blue Ribbon Schools, based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in improving student academic achievement. Secretary Duncan made this year's announcement live via the Department's USTREAM channel, viewed by recognized principals, teachers, and students assembled across the country.
The Department will honor 236 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony on Nov. 18-19 in Washington, D.C. In its 31-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on nearly 7,500 of America's schools.

NSBA president wins Bammy Award for school board leadership
NSBA School Board Mews Today by Alexis Rice|September 24th, 2013
The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences presented David A. Pickler, President of the National School Board Association (NSBA), with a Bammy Award in the school board category.
….According to the organizers, “the Bammy Awards were created in response to the relentless national criticism of America’s public schools. The negative perception of public education has led to a decrease in public confidence, calls for reductions in financial support and intense scrutiny of educators, while all that is right in American education is largely ignored.”

Hedge Fund Manager to Investors: K12 Inc.'s Stock Is Overvalued
Education Week Marketplace K-12 Blog by Sean Cavanaugh September 24, 2013
Whitney Tilson, a hedge fund manager with a strong interest in school issues, had this message for investors recently: Don't bet on the for-profit, online education provider K12, Inc.
In a presentation last week at the Value Investing Congress, Tilson, who manages Kase Capital, offered a sweeping dissection of why he believes the publicly traded company is overvalued.

Interested in keeping the “public” in public education?  Sign up for text grassroots alerts from the Network for Public Education.
Join NPE's NIXLE Group by texting "4NPE" to 888777.  After sending the initial text, NIXLE will ask for a "zipcode" - providing a zipcode will limit messages to local interest of each subscriber. Leave the zipcode blank if you want to receive all grassroot alerts from NPE.

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).

PASCD Annual Conference ~ A Whole Child Education Powered by Blendedschools Network November 3-4, 2013 | Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
We invite you to join us for the Annual Conference, held at an earlier date this year, on Sunday, November 3rd, through Monday, November 4th, 2013 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.  The Pre-Conference begins on Saturday with PIL Academies and Common Core sessions.  On Sunday and Monday, our features include keynote presentations by Chris Lehmann and ASCD Author Dr. Connie Moss, as well as numerous breakout sessions on PA’s most timely topics.
Click here for the 2013 Conference Schedule
Click here to register for the conference. 

Building One Pennsylvania
Fourth Annual Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 6:00-8:00 PM
IBEW Local 380   3900 Ridge Pike  Collegeville, PA 19426
Building One Pennsylvania is an emerging statewide non-partisan organization of leaders from diverse sectors - municipal, school, faith, business, labor and civic - who are joining together to stabilize and revitalize their communities, revitalize local economies and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.

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

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

Proposed Amendments to PSBA Bylaws available online
PSBA website 9/17/2013
A special issue of the School Leader News with the notice of proposed PSBA Bylaws amendments has been mailed to all school directors and board secretaries.
This issue also is available online in the Members Only section by clicking here. Voting on PSBA Bylaws changes will take place at the new Delegate Assembly on Oct. 15, 2013, at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center from 1-4 p.m. All member school entities should have appointed their voting delegates and submitted names to PSBA. Details on selecting an entity's voting delegate can be found in previous issues of the School Leader News.

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