Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for September 8, 2013: Where’s the accountability for state and local elected officials responsible for providing a constitutionally mandated “thorough and efficient” education for 134,000 Philly students?

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 8, 2013:
Where’s the accountability for state and local elected officials responsible for providing a constitutionally mandated “thorough and efficient” education for 134,000 Philly students?

Pennsylvanians Want a School Funding Formula
Press Event Monday September 23rd, 11:30 am Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg
Every child in Pennsylvania deserves an opportunity to learn, whether they are from large or small, rich or not-so-rich, urban, suburban or rural school districts, charter schools or cyber schools; whether their legislator is a freshman state representative or a senate officer.
Grassroots Advocacy by Education Voters PA; Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley and the Keystone State Education Coalition
Sign up here if you may be able to join us to represent your schools and community: 

Reuters: Fiscal crisis looms for Philadelphia schools as students return
Reuters By Hilary Russ Sat Sep 7, 2013 9:08am EDT
(Reuters) - A new school year begins on Monday for about 134,000 Philadelphia students even though the school district - one of the largest in the United States - has no guarantees on how the city and state will deliver nearly $100 million it needs to keep operating.
Mayor Michael Nutter and the city council remain at odds over his proposal for the city to borrow $50 million from capital markets and loan the proceeds to the district.
Based on the promise of that cash influx, the embattled district rehired about 1,000 teachers and staffers laid off at the end of the last school term.  The city council meets on Thursday to take up the issue, with both sides vowing to bridge their differences.
The school district is also counting on a $45 million state grant that Governor Tom Corbett's administration won't release unless unionized teachers make concessions in a new labor pact. Their old contract expired on August 31, and talks are under way.
Even if both pieces of financial help arrive soon, they would only put a bandage on a long-festering budget shortfall for the district that serves the fifth-largest city in the United States.

WaPo: Philly Back to school: It’s worse than you think
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss, Published: September 7 at 10:45 am
Philadelphia public schools are opening for the new school year on Monday without many of the basics any reasonable person would expect. Paper, for example. Guidance counselors. Nurses.
Amid an agonizing financial and leadership crisis, the appointed School Reform Commission, which has run the district since the state took it over a dozen years ago, passed a “doomsday” budget this past summer that included cuts so drastic there was no money for schools to open this fall with funding for things such as paper, new books, athletics, arts, music, counselors, assistant principals and more. Teachers were laid off. This came after the closure of a few dozen schools.
How did this happen? The state government has financially starved the district for years, and the city’s public school system has been subjected to one reform experiment after another.
How bad is it? Superintendent William Hite made some accommodations to allow schools to open, but parents say the answer to the question is this: Worse than you think.
Here to explain is Helen Gym, a Philadelphia public school parent and activist. Gym is a founder of Parents United for Public Education, a citywide parent group focused on school budgets and funding to improve achievement and accountability in the public schools.

Inquirer Editorial: Schools open amid angst
POSTED: Sunday, September 8, 2013, 1:09 AM
Fear and loathing shouldn't describe parents' feelings as the first day of school approaches. But in urban districts facing fiscal and staffing issues, they can't help it. Philadelphia's schools open Monday with no guarantee that the district will have enough money to finish the academic year. Promises have been made, but not enough money has been added to the district's budget. Months ago, schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. announced that the district faced a $304 million gap in its $2.7 billion budget and asked the state, city, and employee unions each to kick in something to solve the problem. Their response has been a kick in the rear.

Countdown, Day 2: Tweeting #Philly1stDay experiences
by thenotebook on Sep 07 2013
The Notebook has been counting down the days before schools open. For 40 days, we tried to follow each dramatic twist, every political turn that arose in what many believe is Philadelphia's worst school funding crisis in history.
Though the summer's unofficially over and the school year will start on time, the uncertainty of what schools will look like when they open Monday is of major concern. How safe will they be? What quality of academic instruction will students receive? The question remains to be answered: Will it be a calamity?
We ask that, on the first day of school, teachers and other school staff, parents, and students use Twitter help to keep the public apprised of the successes, surprises and problems or incidents that occur due to a lack of adequate staff and resources.
We encourage you to do this by tweeting issues, events, and images as they arise, using the hashtag #Philly1stDay.

"Last year my largest class was 22 students," said Roxborough High School math teacher Heidi Rochlin. "Now this year we have rostered classes with up to 41." 
Philly Countdown, Day 3: Class-size challenges and split grades loom
The notebook by Paul Socolar on Sep 06 2013
The School District's staff has shrunk by 3,000 since June, with 17,144 employees (full-time equivalents) now on the payroll. That's a 15 percent staffing cut. The District has not yet released information about how many of those eliminated positions were teachers.
But when schools open the doors to students on Monday, classrooms will be feeling the pinch from reduced staff in a few different ways.

Phila. teachers, district still talking . . . and talking
Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer LAST UPDATED: Sunday, September 8, 2013, 1:09 AM POSTED: Saturday, September 7, 2013, 8:10 PM   Contract negotiations between the city's teachers and the Philadelphia School District continued Saturday and were expected to go through the weekend and, possibly, into Monday, when students are scheduled to return to school. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers spokesman George Jackson said Saturday night that he did not know "how much further the negotiators got when they were at the table" but that "the plan is to go through the weekend." "Negotiations will continue until we can reach a deal," Jackson said.

All Pittsburgh students should learn computer programming
Post-Gazette Opinion By Daniel M. Zuckerman September 8, 2013 12:17 am
Daniel M. Zuckerman is an associate professor of computational and systems biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the author of a textbook and the father of a Pittsburgh Allderdice High School student
A Pittsburgh fantasy?
Forward to 2016. A dad from another city asks me, "Did your kid really learn that in a public school?"  I hadn't fished for the question. The guy already knew from national media that Pittsburgh schools had gone totally 21st century -- and not just by providing late-model computers.

Interest rate swaps may be banned in Pa. public sector
WHYY Newsworks By Mary Wilson, @marywilson September 8, 2013
Interest rate swaps are going under the microscope at an upcoming Pennsylvania Senate hearing.  The complex financial deals were legalized for Pennsylvania local governments about a decade ago, but critics say they are gambles unfit for publicly funded entities.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is moving to ban the agreements not just in local governments, but in the city of Philadelphia as well.
State Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, said he expects pushback from Philadelphia, which has been able to use swaps since before they were legalized for local governments in 2003.

Tax Dollars For Private School Tuition Gain In States
Huffington Post By Elaine S. Povich Posted: 08/07/2013 4:13 pm EDT
This piece comes to us courtesy of Stateline. Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.
Opponents called it a “bombshell” and “sleaziness.” Backers said it was “historic” and would free low-income students from failing public schools. Hyperbole aside, the Alabama Legislature’s last-minute move to create a $3,500 state tax credit for private school tuition is emblematic of a growing movement in the states.
Thirteen states created or expanded tuition tax credits, private school scholarships or traditional vouchers in 2013, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states did so in 2012 and seven states in 2011, according to the group.

Public hearing to examine public education funding cuts Tuesday, Sept. 10th in Philadelphia
HARRISBURG, Sept. 5 – House Democratic Policy Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, announced today the committee will hold a hearing about Pennsylvania’s public education and funding cuts from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Franklin Institute, Fifth Floor Conference Center, 222 North 20th St., Philadelphia.
State Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., requested the hearing and will serve as co-chairman. The hearing will focus on the importance of public education and how decreasing state funding is hurting schools all over the Commonwealth.
The current hearing agenda is:
  • 2 p.m. – Welcome and opening remarks
  • 2:10 p.m. – Panel one:
    • Dr. Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology, University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education
    • Jamira Burley, executive director, Philadelphia Youth Commission
  • 2:35 p.m. – Panel two:
    • Laurada Byers, co-founder, Russell Byers Charter School
    • Mark Gleason, executive director, Philadelphia School Partnership
  • 3 p.m. – Panel three:
    • Helen Gym, co-founder, Parents United
    • Jerry Jordan, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
  • 3:25 p.m. – Panel three:
    • Kathleen Melville, communications coordinator for Teachers Lead Philly and teacher at Constitution High School
    • Christine Carlson, founder, Greater Center City Neighborhoods School Coalition
  • 3:50 p.m. – Closing remarks
The hearing is open to the public and media coverage is invited.

Parents as Advocates for Children and Education - EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN Sept. 11th
Next Wednesday, September 11, tune in to the next episode of EPLC's "Focus on Education" series, which will discuss Parents as Advocates for Children and Education and air at 9:00 p.m. on PCN television.  The panel will include: 
  • Ron Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center;   
  • Corinna Vecsey Wilson, PCN Host of the "Focus on Education" programs;  
  • Deborah Dunstone, President, Pennsylvania PTA;
  • Sylvia P. Simms, Founder and President of PARENT POWER and Commissioner, School Reform Commission, The School District of Philadelphia
  • Bonita Allen, Former Member, Pennsylvania Title I State Parent Advisory Council and now a SPAC Parent Involvement in Education Consultant; and   
  • Kurt A. Kondrich, M.Ed., Chair, Pennsylvania State Interagency Coordinating Council and Director of Family and Community Outreach, Early Intervention Specialists
EPLC and PA Cable Network (PCN) have partnered for a monthly program focusing on education issues in Pennsylvania.  The first episodes aired from February to June and covered school safety issuesstudent testingthe work of school boardshow public education is funded in Pennsylvania, and the school dropout crisis.  The program was paused for the summer months.
The episode next Wednesday, September 11 will be broadcast on PCN at 9:00 p.m., and "Focus on Education" will not be broadcast monthly through December.  Tapings of the episodes which aired in February through June are available on the PCN web site.
To learn more, visit PCN's "Focus on Education" web page.

Keystone State Education Coalition Co-Chair and PSBA Pres-Elect Candidate Mark B Miller on tap for Bucks County Town Hall Meeting to discuss possible Property Tax reform, HB 76 on Sept. 12th.
Thursday evening September 12th, 7 to 9 p.m. @ Kings Caterers, 4010 New Falls Road, Bristol

PILCOP 2013 Symposium on Equality September 12, 2013
Privatization: Looking out for the Public Good
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Thursday, September 12, 2013 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
University of Pennsylvania Law School Levy Conference Center
3400 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA
Join us for a day of panels, discussions and presentations on what privatization means for communities and individuals, using healthcare, education and land use as examples.
Details and tickets here:

Education Law Center Annual Event Sept. 18th, 2013
Featuring Morris Dees and honoring education advocates Barbara Minzenberg and the Philadelphia Student Union.  Wednesday, Sept. 18th at 5:30 p.m., Crystal Tea Room, Wanamaker Building 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia

PA Special Education Funding Formula Commission Upcoming Meeting Sept 19th in Reading
Save the date: September 19 tentative meeting date in Reading; no venue announced yet
To consider charter and cyber special education funding

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:

Yinzers - Diane Ravitch will be speaking in Pittsburgh on September 16th at 6:00 pm at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.
5505 Forbes Avenue  Pittsburgh, PA 15217 
Free and open to the public; doors open at 5:00 pm
Hosted by Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh: Action United, One Pittsburgh, PA Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU, and Yinzercation.
Co-sponsored by Carlow Univ. School of Education, Chatham Univ. Department of Education, Duquesne Univ. School of Education, First Unitarian Church Social Justice Endowment, PA State Education Association, Robert Morris Univ. School of Education & Social Sciences, Slippery Rock Univ. College of Education, Temple Sinai, Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Education, and Westminster College Education Department.
Children’s activities provided by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University’s HearMe project. 

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

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).

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