Tuesday, November 5, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 5, 2013: Vote today – defend democratically governed American public education

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, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, 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 and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
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?

Keystone State Education Coalition:
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for November 5, 2013:
Vote today – defend democratically governed American public education

“ corporate money and power threaten the integrity and possibly the very existence of public education. Public schools uphold collective values, break down racial and religious barriers, and are integral to the concept of citizenship. Without them, democracy would be jeopardized. Local communities, not hedge fund managers and entrepreneurs, must remain financially and socially invested in public education. That's a back-to-basics lesson not to be forgotten.”
In Vermont, a Brave Call for Public Education
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on November 3, 2013 11:54 AM
I visited the great state of Vermont last week, and traveled through its rugged mountains. Today I read an editorial in a Vermont newspaper that reminds us why that state is a bastion of independence and democracy.    The editorial in the Valley News reviews the career and viewpoint of Diane Ravitch, and reaches this conclusion:

Community Schools: City Connects: A Systemic Approach to Student Support
Youtube video runtime 6:22 Published on Oct 31, 2013
Our mission is to have every child engage and learn in school by connecting each student with the tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services he or she needs to thrive. Learn more at http://www.CityConnects.org or on Twitter @CityConnects, http://twitter.com/CityConnects.

“And a provision allowing colleges to approve charter applications would remove decision-making power from local education officials, who still would be left holding the bag if the school underperforms, he said.
"Universities . . . don't have any financial skin in the game…”
Charter-school bill draws ire
Critics: Proposed reform 'devastating'
Philly.com by ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: November 5, 2013, 12:16 AM
A BILL TO overhaul Pennsylvania's charter-school law would gut local control of the alternative schools by eliminating enrollment caps and giving universities the power to authorize new charters, opponents said yesterday.  The criticism from the Education Law Center comes after a state Senate committee recently voted to advance the legislation, which supporters say will provide greater accountability and stronger standards for charter schools.
Nearly 119,500 students are enrolled in Pennsylvania's 176 charters, which are publicly funded but operate independently of local districts.

GOP figures asked Corbett to forgo 2014 bid: party sources
Though Gov. Tom Corbett is slated to launch his re-election campaign Wednesday, well-connected Republican sources say the poll-weary incumbent has been approached informally about not running and that top members of the state's congressional delegation have been sounded-out about running in his stead.  Speculation has been rife for months that Corbett might not seek a second term. Last week a Franklin & Marshall College poll highlighted the cause of the conjecture.   Just 20 percent of poll respondents said the governor should be re-elected.
And reliable GOP sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, say prominent party figures have broached the subject of withdrawing from the race with the governor.

Pa. taxpayers foot growing bill for gas subsidies
CharlotteObserver.com By MARC LEVY Associated Press Posted: Nov. 03, 2013
HARRISBURG, Pa. The discovery five years ago that the Marcellus Shale, the nation's largest natural gas reservoir, could spew big profits and cheap, homegrown energy has, in turn, spurred gas-friendly state officials to run up a growing taxpayer-funded tab to encourage the use of the hydrocarbons.  Bills pending in the Republican-controlled Legislature could deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies over a decade — possibly approaching $1 billion — and that's in addition to the expanding number of checks being written by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Philadelphia's Northeast High School Releases New AP® Results
SchoolCIO.com October 29,2013
Despite recent news of the budget woes plaguing the school district of Philadelphia, a bright spot has been the success stories coming out of Northeast High School, located in one of the lowest income areas of the city. As part of a rigorous Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program overhaul that began in the 2010 - 2011 school year, Northeast High School incorporated Shmoop, digital publishers of test prep materials and educational guides, and saw the number of college eligible AP scores (3+) triple in three years.

Cash balance plans threaten retirement security: Stephen Herzenberg
By Patriot-News Op-Ed  By Stephen Herzenberg on November 04, 2013 at 5:15 AM,
Stephen Herzenberg is the executive director of the Keystone Research Center.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is considering a new public-sector pension proposal that offers up some ideas worth exploring but is flawed at its heart, costing taxpayer more while deeply cutting retirement benefits for teachers, nurses, and other public employees.  The plan, advanced by state Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland), recognizes the need for an alternative to Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to put new public employees into 401(k)-type individual accounts. 
The Legislature rejected the Governor’s approach in June after actuaries confirmed what the Keystone Research Center said months earlier: his plan digs a deeper pension hole for taxpayers – $40 billion deeper.  By shifting new employees out of existing pensions, the Governor would starve these plans of resources needed to invest and return them to financial health. 

Pa. pension reform plan hinges on union support
By the numbers: Pennsylvania pensions
• $47.3B — Pennsylvania's total unfunded pension liability
• $29.5B — Unfunded liability of Public School Employees Retirement System
• $17.8B — Unfunded liability of State Employees Retirement System
• $13K — Amount each Pa. household would have to pay to fully fund pension liability
• $25,000 — Average annual pension benefit paid to school and state retirees
Sources: PSERS, SERS
Note: Figures are based on actuarial reports completed Dec. 31, 2012 and published in June.
The Intelligencer By Natasha Lindstrom Staff Writer Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013 8:00 pm | Updated: 6:28 am, Mon Nov 4, 2013.
HARRISBURG — As Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts and the state Legislature brace for looming spikes in retirement costs, a Cumberland County Republican lawmaker is hoping his proposal emerges as the front-runner in resolving the state’s pension woes.
State Rep. Glen Grell’s so-called “three buckets plan” uses a combination of borrowing, voluntary concessions by current employees and a new cash balance plan for future employees to reform Pennsylvania’s public pension systems. He touts his pension proposal as the only one pitched this legislative session that addresses an unfunded liability that’s approaching $50 billion.

Pre-employment drug tests of school employees likely to end up in court if it becomes law
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on November 04, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Legislation advancing in the state House that would subject prospective school employees to pre-employment drug tests is already drawing a threatened legal challenge if it becomes law.
A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said such a law would violate the constitutional protection for a person’s privacy.
“As soon as anybody would object to a drug test, we’d be challenging it, I think. I’d be really surprised if we wouldn’t,” said Mary Catherine Roper, ACLU staff attorney.

Pennsylvania’s Education Funding Doesn’t Redistribute Wealth Enough
Keystone Politics Blog Posted on November 4, 2013 by Jon Geeting #
That’s really what the headline should’ve been on PA Independent-alumJim Panyard’s post at the conservative Media Trackers site.  In many other states, per-pupil funding is either equal, or per-pupil funding is higher in districts with more challenging socio-economic profiles.
In Pennsylvania, per-pupil funding in higher-need districts is lower than in whiter, more affluent suburban districts, as Panyard’s piece shows:

Susan Corbett addresses education
Pa.’s first lady says Keystones, funding issues impact schools
By Russ O’Reilly (roreilly@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror November 3, 2013
First lady Susan Corbett has been working on decreasing the high school dropout rate in Pennsylvania. Her efforts have produced a technology-based system to detect middle-school students who may later drop out and provide them with interventions.  Meanwhile, she recognizes that the state's public education funding and focus on high-stakes testing have been criticized as factors that could increase dropouts.  The first lady told the Mirror that she accepts research that says high-stakes testing like Keystone Exams can increase dropout rates. But she does not oppose plans of her husband, Gov. Tom Corbett, and the Legislature to make Keystones a graduation requirement beginning with the Class of 2017.

Pittsburgh teenagers push to present, ratify student bill of rights
After document is approved, it will be sent to school board
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 3, 2013 11:19 PM
The TeenBloc students of A+ Schools today expect to reach their goal of student ratification of a proposed student bill of rights for Pittsburgh Public Schools.  TeenBloc, which kicked of its campaign with a rally three weeks ago, set a goal of 25 percent of students in grades 9-12 -- about 1,600 -- voting for the bill, which includes 10 rights, such as equitable academic resources and positive school disciplinary policies.  That's their first step in what they hope ultimately will be approved by the school board.

In God We Trust bill called a “pandering piece of puffery”
Originally Published: 11/3/2013  
Reading Eagle Editorial: Legislation would offer no benefit to schoolchildren
The Issue: Bill would require all schools to post the national motto, "In God We Trust."
Our Opinion: It would do nothing to close the education gap between U.S. students and those from other nations.  While school districts across the commonwealth are struggling to make ends meet without raising taxes and taxpayers are screaming for relief from the onerous property tax, the members of the Legislature will consider the National Motto Display Act.  The measure would require each school building in the state to post "In God We Trust" within 60 days should the proposal pass both chambers and be signed by the governor.
So this is what passes for meaningful legislation in Pennsylvania these days.

Platt, Bissinger, Nowak launching news outlet
Peter Van Allen Reporter-Philadelphia Business Journal Nov 4, 2013, 12:55pm
The former editor of Philadelphia Magazineand the Daily News will lead a new publication.
Larry Platt is CEO and editor for the Philadelphia Citizen, a publication that claims it will offer “solutions-based journalism” intent on “changing Philadelphia for the better.”  Its brief Web page said the city’s journalism has gone from “dire to absurd.” It does not have any content yet.  Among those involved in the project are Ajay Raju, managing partner of the Philadelphia office of the law firm Reed Smith LLC;Jeremy Nowak, former president of the William Penn Foundation; and Buzz Bissinger, an outspoken magazine writer and commentator.

Charter schools are hurting urban public schools, Moody’s says
Washington Post BY NIRAJ CHOKSHI October 15 at 12:42 pm
In 1997, Philadelphia’s first four charter schools opened. Fifteen years later, there are more than 80 — and they’re straining the city’s public schools.  Philadelphia is one of several urban public school districts where the rise of charter schools poses a threat to district finances, according to Moody’s, the credit rating agency. In 2003, the Philadelphia district spent 7.9 percent of its general fund on charters. By fiscal 2012, the schools ate up 23.7 percent of the fund.
“While the vast majority of traditional public districts are managing through the rise of charter schools without a negative credit impact, a small but growing number face financial stress due to the movement of students to charters,” a team of analysts write in a new Moody’s report.

Children from poor families lag in cognitive development and other areas, report says
Washington Post By Michael Alison Chandler, Updated: Monday, November 4, 12:01 AM
Less than one in five third-graders from low-income families score at or above the national average in math, reading and science assessments, and only about half maintain a healthy weight and are in “excellent” or “very good” health.  That compares with about half of children from higher-income families who are scoring above average on standardized tests and 62 percent of children from wealthier families who are in very good health.  Such disparities in early achievement and health are ­illustrated in a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation called “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.” The report, which is being released Monday, tracks children’s well-being across multiple areas and in every state.

The 10 books whose images are displayed here are the winners of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Awards for 2013.
New York Times Sunday Book Review October 31, 2013

An Open Letter To The Board And Management Of K12
Seeking Alpha by Whitney Tilson Nov 4 2013, 07:00
To the board and management of K12 (LRN):
Since I went public with my presentation and article detailing the many reasons for my short position in K12's stock, I've had the pleasure of both meeting and speaking extensively with CEO Ron Packard and also having a call with Executive Chairman Nate Davis. It's very unusual for senior management of a company to speak with a short seller (full disclosure: I continue to have a short position in the stock, as I discuss in this article), so the fact that they were willing to do so is a credit to K12.  I found Packard and Davis to be refreshingly candid about K12's challenges and what the company is doing to address them, and believe that both of them are genuinely sincere in wanting to do right by the students who enroll at the company's schools. As I discuss below, however, I think their words are inconsistent with many things K12 is doing. In particular, I don't think they fully appreciate the tension and trade-offs between their desire to maximize growth, profitability, and the share price vs. doing their best to ensure that every one of K12's nearly 130,000 students is engaged and learning.

A Plea for Catholic Schools to Ignore New Common Core Guidelines
New York Times By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA Published: November 4, 2013
A group of Roman Catholic scholars has called on Catholic schools to ignore the new educational standards known as the Common Core, a set of guidelines on what students should know and be able to do from kindergarten through 12th grade, opening a front with parallels to the fight over using the guidelines in public schools.
In a letter to the nation’s bishops last month, the group, including more than 100 professors and university administrators, argued that the Common Core would actually lower standards, that it would move parochial schools away from their grounding in the church, and that its emphasis on increased nonfiction reading across many subjects would translate into less focus on literary and philosophical classics, and moral teaching.
With more than half of the nation’s dioceses saying that their schools will adopt curriculum informed by the Common Core, the critics asked bishops to repudiate the guidelines.

Chris Christie’s demented “you people” movement: The right’s school-for-cash obsession
New data proves conservatives and moguls are spending huge sums to turn schools into Wall Street profit centers
Salon.com BY DAVID SIROTA MONDAY, NOV 4, 2013 01:49 PM EST
It is easy to think of the concept of oligarchy as something distant and fantastical – something that involves exotic destinations like Manhattan, Monaco, Macau and Moscow but not the Middle America locales that you’d never see in, say, a glitzy Jason Bourne flick. I guess the assumption at work is that in a place so often derided as Flyover Country, there’s not much that any true oligarch might covet.  Of course, there’s a good case to be made that oligarchy is actually more of a powerful social, political and cultural force out here than anywhere else. From yesteryear’s Copper Kings in Montana to today’s epic land and water grab all over the Midwest and Rocky Mountain region, the heartland has always been the oligarchs’ playground. It is also their laboratory – the place where the ruling class brutally imposes its hare-brained schemes on the population, as if we are guinea pigs.
You can see what this local version of oligarchy looks like most clearly in education. Indeed, in the last few days, the national media momentarily reported on such oligarchy when the GOP’s prospective 2016 presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, publicly berated teachers with the ugly “you people” epithet. The headline-grabbing exchange came after an educator dared to question him about his efforts to turn his state into a laboratory for the destructive ideology of anti-public-school oligarchs. Christie, who has slashed public school funding and worked to divert public education resources into private schools, responded to the question with the oligarch’s let-them-eat-cake attitude, saying of teachers “I’m tired of you people.”

When the IRRC considered the Keystone Exams in 2009, school districts all over PA passed resolutions in opposition; was your district one of them?
School Board Resolutions Opposing Keystone Exams Submitted to IRRC - 2009

Common Core/Keystone Exams: The PA State Board of Education (Board) has submitted the final-form regulation entitled “Academic Standards and Assessment."
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) plans to meet and act on this regulation at our public meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Regulation #6 – 326: Academic Standards and Assessment
Amends existing regulations to reflect Pennsylvania's Common Core Standards in English language arts; address test security concerns; and require students to demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone Exams in order to graduate from high school.
The agenda and any changes to the time or date of the meeting will be posted on IRRC’s Web site at www.irrc.state.pa.usPlease note that any comments should be submitted to the Board prior to the 48-hour blackout period, which begins at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday,November 19, 2013. Please provide IRRC with a copy of any comments submitted, as well. Please note that all correspondence and documents relating to a regulation submitted to IRRC are a matter of public record and appear on IRRC’s Web site.
For a copy of the regulation or if you have any substantive questions regarding the regulation, please contact the Board at (717) 787-3787. You can also download the final-form regulation from IRRC’s Web site using the following link:

Mark B. Miller to speak at Nov. 12th conference on school violence
Congratulations to PSBA First Vice President Mark B. Miller for presenting at an upcoming conference related to school violence. Miller will offer a presentation titled “Breaking the Circle of Violence: Bullying, Duty of Care, and Deliberate Indifference” in Linthicum Heights, MD on Nov. 12. For more details, click here

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, 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. BuildingOnePa.org

The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition April 5-7, 2014 New Orleans
The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.  Our first time back in New Orleans since the spring of 2002!
General Session speakers include education advocates Thomas L. Friedman, Sir Ken Robinson, as well as education innovators Nikhil Goyal and Angela Maiers.
We have more than 200 sessions planned! Colleagues from across the country will present workshops on key topics with strategies and ideas to help your district. View our Conference Brochure for highlights on sessions and focus presentations.
Questions? Contact NSBA at 800-950-6722 (NSBA) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST

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

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