Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 26, 2013: If PA funded its fair share of education we probably would not need tax reform.

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

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Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 26, 2013:  If PA funded its fair share of education we probably would not need tax reform.
Pennsylvania contributes a smaller share of the cost of educating its students than most states, leaving local taxpayers to contribute more.

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.

House Bill 618 “Charter School Reform” approved by the House 133-62.

“The ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. James Roebuck of Philadelphia, has said the bill does not include enough taxpayer savings or financial reforms. He argues the change in pension funding should be extended to brick-and-mortar charter schools, not just cyber charter schools, and that charter schools should be banned from using public money for advertising.”
Pa. bill proposes review of charter school funding
House plan calls for commission to study regulations
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau September 26, 2013 12:05 am
HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania House on Wednesday sent the Senate a package of revisions to charter school regulations, including a temporary change in payments to cyber charter schools while a commission examines charter funding.
The funding structure for cyber charter schools is frequently criticized for delivering disproportionate reimbursement for pension costs and for including expenses, such as cafeteria costs, that do not apply to online learning.
The House proposal, which passed 133-62, would allow school districts for the next two school years to deduct the full cost of their pension contributions and food service when calculating their per-pupil expenses for the purpose of tuition to cyber charter schools. The change would not apply to tuition payments to charter schools that students attend in person.

Clymer Applauds Passage of Charter, Cyber Charter School Reform Bill
PA House Republican Caucus website 9/25/2013
HARRISBURG – State Rep. Paul Clymer (R-Bucks), chairman of the House Education Committee, today applauded House passage of legislation aimed at instituting much-needed reforms for Pennsylvania’s charter and cyber charter schools in order to ensure greater accountability, transparency, academic performance and cost savings to Pennsylvania taxpayers.
“With the rapid increase in the amount of charter and cyber charter schools available to students in Pennsylvania, we are now facing some very real and challenging funding issues,” said Clymer. “Basically, the state provides a per-pupil funding amount which follows the student, whether he or she attends a traditional public school, charter school or cyber charter school. However, not all schools are created equal. Cyber charter schools most of the time do not provide transportation or food services and do not have facility maintenance obligations like traditional public and charter schools have. It is because of these types of expenditure differences that modifications to the funding formula are needed.”
House Bill 618 would create a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission to explore funding issues related to charter and cyber charter schools and make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor by March 30, 2014.

“The scores are so bad, especially at the largest and most high-profile cyber schools, that even fervent advocates of online learning have begun to worry.”
Cyber schools flunk, but tax money keeps flowing
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 9/25/13 11:14 PM EDT
Taxpayers send nearly $2 billion a year to cyber schools that let students from kindergarten through 12th grade receive a free public education entirely online.
The schools, many managed by for-profit companies, are great at driving up enrollment with catchy advertising. They excel at lobbying. They have a knack for making generous campaign donations.  But as new state report cards coming out now make clear, there’s one thing they’re not so good at: educating kids.

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

Property Tax Elimination Bill Threatens Long-term Public School Funding
PA Budget and Policy Center Posted by Sharon Ward on September 25, 2013
Pennsylvania contributes a smaller share of the cost of educating its students than most states, leaving local taxpayers to contribute more. This makes the resources available to public education highly dependent on local wealth and property taxes burdensome for some individuals.
Restoring the state’s commitment to fund 50% of the cost of public schools would go a long way toward solving both problems — ensuring that students who live in modest and lower-wealth districts get the same high-quality education as their wealthier counterparts, and reducing the pressure on property taxpayers.

"The majority of funds distributed for the current school year were based upon statistics from the 1989-90 school year. An additional $30 million was distributed to just 21 of our 500 school districts. Thirty-three of the 37 lawmakers who represent those 21 districts are legislative leaders, committee chairs, vice chairs or secretaries," said KSEC's Larry Feinberg.”
Advocates press for Pennsylvania public education funding formula
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online September 25, 2013
Parents, teachers, administrators, community members and other advocates of education on Monday urged state lawmakers to consider a data-driven, transparent school funding formula that is appropriately funded to ensure student success.  Those gathered at the Capitol reminded lawmakers that the only service Pennsylvania is required to provide per the state Constitution is a "thorough and efficient system of education." Supporters came from a wide range of school districts, including local Greencastle-Antrim, Shippensburg Area and Fannett-Metal, as well as Camp Hill, Cumberland Valley, Gettysburg, and others around the state.
The school funding formula in place was set aside in 2011, and the Keystone State Education Coalition contends that state legislators now allocate funding to school districts based on deal among themselves rather than a formula.

“They worry, as we all should, about the quality of education programs. Said Mark Miller, vice president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, “Some school districts have closed libraries, some school districts have ... cut athletics. The sizes of classes are going up, extracurricular activities are going down.”
Courier Times Editorial: Finding a fair funding formula
Bucks County Courier Times Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:00 am
When people in Harrisburg sit down in a back room to cut deals, you know nothing good will come of it — at least not for the folks missing from the table.  And so it was that 21 Pennsylvania school districts recently were awarded a split of $30 million in so-called “supplementary funds.” Lucky them.
Not so lucky were the 479 districts that didn’t get a nickel.
And that’s why Pennsylvania needs a school funding formula that “fairly” divvies up state education money — what little there is. And “little” is an accurate description considering the state has long stiffed school districts by failing to meet its constitutional obligation of providing enough funding for a “thorough and efficient” school system. That, in part, is why local school taxes are out of control

“Sharon Ward, with the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, opposes efforts to eliminate the property tax, arguing that it incorrectly regards rapidly rising property taxes as the fault of school districts, when the indirect cause is that they are receiving less money from the state. She warns that replacing the property tax with other levies could "lock in" low state funding levels for education.”
Anti-property tax sentiment passionate, but diffuse
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 24, 2013 7:27 PM
Calls to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania stretch back decades, but the latest effort is moving at cross-purposes with other bills.  More than 100 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday in support of a plan to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania once and for all.

Sen. Dinniman calls for eliminating property taxes
By Frank Otto, The Pottstown Mercury POSTED: 09/24/13, 8:29 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — When supporters of legislation aimed at eliminating school property taxes stepped onto their Harrisburg-bound buses early Tuesday morning, they believed they were three senators away from achieving a majority.  Before lunchtime, state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19th Dist., told The Mercury he was ready to sign on by the end of the week.
“My key thing is I wanted to understand whether things were revenue neutral,” Dinniman said. “And it appears they can be.”

PlanCon: Franklin County school districts face dwindling state reimbursement
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online By JIM HOOK @JimHookPO
Paying for school construction projects is falling squarely on the shoulders of local taxpayers.
The state Department of Education has frozen reimbursement for school construction projects.
School districts are looking at how to do major construction without an estimated 25 percent reimbursement from the state. They are already paying out of pocket what they thought the state would cover for the $14 million Franklin County Career and Technology Center. Some are footing the total bill for projects in their own districts.

Pa. lawmaker proposes to create website to increase transparency of school spending
By Jan Murphy | on September 25, 2013 at 6:23 PM
Citing the charges filed against officials associated with the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Schools as a call for action, Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, wants public schools to put be more transparent about how they handle taxpayer dollars.  Christiana is proposing legislation that would create a SchoolWATCH website that would allow the public to sift through district and building-level data detailing revenues and expenditures.

Pew: School crisis defining Nutter's term as mayor, depressing the hell out of Philadelphians
CityPaper By Ryan Briggs Published: 09/25/2013
According to a study released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphians' love for their city and their mayor has plummeted, erasing years of positive momentum built on political reforms and population gains. A survey of 1,605 city residents revealed that despite a locally robust housing market and a recovering economy, only 37 percent of Philadelphians thought the city was headed "in the right direction," the lowest percentage recorded in five years. Only 25 percent of those surveyed thought the city "had become a better place to live in the last five years".    Mayor Michael Nutter's approval rating also hit an all time low of 39 percent, down from a high of 60 percent, with decreases recorded in every racial and socio-economic demographic surveyed.  City Council's approval rating also fell to 30 percent, although this was not as dramatic of a decrease over past years.

Philadelphia Seeks Salvation in Lessons from Model School
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: September 24, 2013
In little more than two years, the Philadelphia school district has stripped $400 million out of its annual budget, closed 30 schools, eliminated nearly 7,000 jobs, and lost more than 20,000 students.  The teetering city system, said Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., desperately needs "to show a win."
So Mr. Hite is placing a controversial bet: Although scores of schools opened here this month without regular guidance counselors, nurses, or basic supplies, the superintendent is pouring millions of dollars into expanding what he considers to be three of the city's most innovative schools. They include Science Leadership Academy, an acclaimed magnet high school at the forefront of the national effort to marry educational technology with so-called "deeper learning."  "We have to have an investment conversation about the types of schools we would love to see in our district," Mr. Hite said in an interview. "This whole conversation cannot just be about what we're taking away, what we are starving, what we are eliminating."

Drexel eyes purchase of University City High School by JARED BREY , PLANPHILLY  September 25, 2013, 2:50 PM
Drexel University has its eye on University City High School. The school at 36th and Filbert streets in West Philadelphia was just one of 23 Philadelphia public schools shuttered in June, but it may be the one that’s least likely to sit empty for very long. The Office of Property Assessment put its value at nearly $23 million, and according to a number of sources, Drexel is not the only entity ready to make an offer on the empty property.  But it may be the only entity ready to make an offer that includes opening a new public school. Last year, the Philadelphia School Partnership made a grant to Powel Elementary, a small K-4 school near 38th and Poweltown Ave., to plan for its expansion and possible relocation. The planning involved Drexel University and Science Leadership Academy, a public high school that is itself a partnership between the School District and the Franklin Institute.

Now on PennLive Opinion: Susquehanna School Strife
By Patriot-News Editorial Board  on September 25, 2013 at 10:09 AM
From allegations of mismanagement to concerns about declining academic standards and the criminal charges filed against an administrator, it's been a controversial couple of weeks for the Susquehanna School District.  To make it easier for you to find our op-Eds, letters, columns and editorials about this ongoing story, we've created a special section "Susquehanna School Strife." That's where you'll find all of the ongoing coverage by PennLive's Opinion section.

Nobody's talking about Midland superintendent's role in Trombetta probe
By J.D. Prose Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 8:00 pm
MIDLAND -- Although he is quoted and mentioned several times in the affidavit related to Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta's indictment, Midland School Superintendent Sean Tanner is not publicly talking and neither are other district officials.
Tanner, who is not charged, has not responded to requests for comment made by The Times since Friday, and Midland School Board President Richard Corradi and district solicitor Robert Masters have not returned calls. That silence leaves Tanner's status with the district, where he has been superintendent since 2006, unclear.
His photo on the school district's website was gone as of Thursday, but a school board member and Tanner's secretary both said Friday he was still the superintendent.

¡Turn it Around! Blog Posted on September 23, 2013
What if there was a way to turn schools around without turning them upside down?
It’s field trip time, reader — and today we’re off to visit a real live school success story. FYI: it’s not the Massachusetts miracle turnaround school that got a shout-out at the Democratic National Convention, merited a visit by Yo Yo Ma, or whose students recently traveled to theWhite House in order to recite a Martin Luther King speech to President Obama. In other words, we’re NOT headed to Orchard Gardens, which has received more adulatory press coverage than any other public school in Massachusetts… 

Business Leaders Rally Around Early Childhood Education
First Five Years Fund SEP 25, 2013
The chairman of PNC Financial supports it. The former CEO and chairman of Macy’s backs it. The former CEO of Procter & Gamble is for it. And so is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. So what is it that all these business industry leaders support? Early childhood education.
Business leaders are finding that employees entering the workforce have not learned many of the skills necessary to succeed. Too many employees lack the essential capabilities that allow an individual to be persistent on the job and collaborate effectively with a team––skills that are fostered in the first five years of life and developed through high-quality early learning. 

New SAT Results Show No Change in Average Scores
Education Week By Caralee J. Adams Published Online: September 26, 2013
SAT scores remained flat for students in the class of 2013, with just 43 percent performing well enough to be considered college-ready­—the same proportion as last year, according to new results issued Thursday.  Yet, African-American and Latino students in this year’s graduating class saw slight gains. Also, a record share of students taking the college-entrance exam (46 percent) were minorities.

The Federal Fiscal Face-Off
Education Week September 25, 2013 Reporting & Analysis: Alyson Klein | Visualization & Design: Megan Garner and Doris Nhan
The budget uncertainty that education advocates and school districts have lived with for the past two years doesn't seem likely to go away anytime soon. The across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration" that went into effect last March are still in place. And now, a spending showdown driven by conservative Republicans in Congress over whether to defund the president's landmark health-care law means a government shutdown could be in the offing. Plus, there's likely to be yet another fight in October over raising the federal debt ceiling. Here's a handy guide to what's happened so far and what to watch for.

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. 

Philadelphia Education Fund 2013 EDDY Awards November 19, 2013
Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm WHYY, 150 North 6th Street, Philadelphia
Invitations coming soon!

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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