Wednesday, December 11, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 11, 2013: …state increases have gone largely to pay for state-mandated contributions to the pension system, not services for students. “The reality is that school districts opened their doors this Sept 2013 with about $700 million less from the state in support of academic programs and services for students than was the case in Sept 2010”

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 11, 2013:
…state increases have gone largely to pay for state-mandated contributions to the pension system, not services for students.  “The reality is that school districts opened their doors this Sept 2013 with about $700 million less from the state in support of academic programs and services for students than was the case in Sept 2010”

SB1085 would create an 18-member Charter School Funding Advisory Commission, consisting of the secretary of education; six legislators, four of them from the majority party; and, appointed by the governor, 11 representatives of charters, school districts, and a university.  ….the commission is not bipartisan. Sixteen of the 18 members come from, or will be appointed by, the majority party."

Prosecution urges jury to convict in Dorothy June Brown fraud trial
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 2:01 AM POSTED: Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 6:19 PM
A federal prosecutor Tuesday asked jurors in the fraud trial of charter school founder Dorothy June Brown to recall the testimony and evidence presented over 15 days.
In a three-hour closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank R. Costello highlighted the statements made by phantom members of charter school boards, fabricated minutes for meetings that had never occurred, and phony contracts with Brown's management firms - documents that had been backdated, that no boards had ever approved, that contained forged signatures.

SB1085: Pa. Charter-School Bill Cuts Cyber-Charter Funding, But Angers District Advocates
Education Week State Ed Watch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on December 10, 2013 2:46 PM
One of the relatively long-running state K-12 policy battles has been the fight over how to overhaul Pennsylvania's charter-school law. The existing law has been on the books since 1997, and it hasn't been altered significantly since then. I reported on a bill that would have revamped charter-school regulations last year, but it ultimately flopped. Once again, there's proposed legislation making its way through the Keystone State legislature that would dramatically alter the law, but it creates clear winners and losers in the process. 

Here’s the description and purpose of SB1085 in relatively clear narrative
Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Note for SB1085
Pennsylvania General Assembly

“From his point of view, Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said state support of public schools has increased by $1.17 billion since Mr. Corbett took office.  “Unfortunately, the AFT, as well as other traditional public education establishment organizations, continues to misinform the public about the governor’s record of education funding in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Eller said.

Ron Cowell, president of the Harrisburg-based Education Leadership and Policy Council, who was not part of the National Day of Action event, said in a phone interview, “I very much agree with those who argue that state financial support to districts to support academic services for students has been cut and cut substantially.”

He said state increases have gone largely to pay for state-mandated contributions to the pension system, not services for students.  “The reality is that school districts opened their doors this September 2013 with about $700 million less from the state in support of academic programs and services for students than was the case in September 2010,” he said, noting that takes into account about $160 million of lost funding that was restored.
He said the cuts had the biggest financial impact on the poorest districts.”
Demonstrators seek more education funds from state
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 9, 2013 11:43 PM
Pittsburgh teachers, parents and community members were among demonstrators in one of 60 rallies nationwide for what the American Federation of Teachers called a National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.  More than 100 people listened to speakers, chanted slogans such as “Tom Corbett’s got to go” and marched Monday, some holding signs that said “Education Not for Sale” and “Support Funding for Public Education.”  The Pittsburgh rally took place at Wood Street and Fifth Avenue outside the regional office of Gov. Tom Corbett.

Who’s Crazy?
Yinzercation Blog December 10, 2013
There were at least 117 people standing on a downtown street corner yesterday in the freezing cold to tell Governor Corbett what his budget cuts have done to our schools. Parents, students, teachers, and community members stood shoulder to shoulder, huddled against the wind, while speaker after speaker rattled off the devastation we’ve witnessed over the past two years right here in Pittsburgh. The gutting of art, music, library, tutoring, and other education programs. Increased class sizes. Cuts to sports, activities, transportation, field trips, textbooks and supplies. School closures. Hundreds of furloughed teachers.
Yet the Governor’s office says we must be seeing things, since it claims to have increasedstate support for public schools by $1.17 billion. [Post-Gazette, 12-10-13] So are we crazy?
After two years of devastating cuts, this year’s budget did increase the “basic education” funding line (one of many education funding categories) by 2%. But overall funding for public schools remains far below where it was a few years ago. Compared to the 2010-11 budget – the year before Gov. Corbett’s historic attack on our schools – this year’s budget is still short over $681 million. [See “Budget Failure” for details.]

Updated Pa. school report cards to be unveiled Wednesday
Bucks County Courier Times By Natasha Lindstrom Staff Writer
Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 6:35 pm | Updated: 7:54 pm, Tue Dec 10, 2013.
HARRISBURG -- After fixing data reporting errors, the state Department of Education is set to release Wednesday the statewide results of Pennsylvania's new school report card system.
The state has developed a formula-based method of grading schools that replaces the former No Child Left Behind system and assigns schools a rating on a 100-point scale.
In October, the state launched a website,, to showcase the new scores -- but school reporting problems caused officials to withhold results for 626 schools, or about one-fifth of Pennsylvania's 3,000 public schools.
The partial results made it difficult to make any statewide findings about how schools were measuring up. The department also limited temporarily several of the website's functions, including a tool to compare up to four schools side by side and downloadable files to access complete data sets.

The perpetual funding crisis for Philly public schools By Chris Brennan POSTED: December 06, 2013
THE PHILADELPHIA School District is caught in a funding-crisis cycle - and that is likely to be a factor in the 2015 race for mayor.
Nobody has more to gain or lose from that than state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, an expected candidate in the Democratic primary election and proponent of alternative options for students in failing schools.
Consider the fuss this week from education activists about pending state Senate legislation that would impact the management of charter and "cyber" schools.
Nothing happened with the legislation - Williams is the only Democratic co-sponsor - which is not expected to be acted on until next year.

Pa. board rejects proposed K-6 charter school in Duquesne
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 10, 2013 5:00 PM
The state Charter School Appeal Board today rejected a proposed K-6 charter school in Duquesne on a 5-0 vote.  The board voted today against a school that had been proposed by Connie Lucas, who resigned from the Duquesne school board to submit the application to the former state board of control that oversaw the district. The board of control did not act on the request before it was discontinued and a chief recovery officer was named for the district.

Governor Corbett Congratulates Delaware County Educator for Earning Pennsylvania’s 2014 Teacher of the Year
PDE Press Release December 09, 2013
Hershey – Governor Tom Corbett today announced Anthony Grisillo, a teacher in the Rose Tree Media School District, Delaware County, as Pennsylvania’s 2014 Teacher of the Year at the Keystone Awards of Excellence event in Hershey.
“As a former teacher, I extend warm congratulations to Anthony for achieving this significant honor. Anthony’s ability to inspire creativity, encourage innovation and engage his students has had a positive impact on all who have spent time in his classroom. Our children deserve great teachers, and I appreciate all Pennsylvania educators who share Anthony’s commitment to both the education profession and their students,” Corbett said.

Martin Schmotzer at center of Baldwin-Whitehall school controversy
Quit Baldwin-Whitehall board for paid job, then reversed stand
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 10, 2013 11:42 PM
Martin Schmotzer is no stranger to Democratic politics. He's served as a committee member, school board member in Baldwin-Whitehall and even eight months as a state representative when Chelsa Wagner resigned to become Allegheny County's controller.
But now Mr. Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall is at the center of a firestorm over some controversial actions taken by himself and fellow Baldwin-Whitehall school board members recently.
At a special school board meeting Nov. 19, the board accepted Mr. Schmotzer's resignation and promptly appointed him to a newly created, $120,000-per-year position of supervisor of projects for the school board and special assistant to the superintendent. They did so with no public discussion or input, outraging residents who say the district can't afford such a position, especially one that was never advertised or placed on an agenda.

Second Opinion: Power of PISA
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 3:01 AM
THE standardized tests known as the Program for International Student Assessment are considered so important that, when the latest results were released last week, the U.S. Department of Education participated in a so-called PISA Day.  The leaders of the nation's teachers unions immediately fired off news releases asserting that the mediocre PISA scores of American students showed that more than a decade of testing-based reform had failed our schools. Prominent reform leaders, by contrast, concluded from the test results that the U.S. was failing to change schools radically enough to aid its most disadvantaged students. Still others predicted that the U.S. economy would crash and burn because of our students' unimpressive math scores.
A saner interpretation of the PISA results came from researchers who have studied international rankings in great detail, and their message goes something like this: Calm down, everyone. The results on this and other international tests are more complicated than they look, and in this case, nuance makes a difference.

“If we are committed to evidence, though, there's one area where we ought to be able to agree: early-childhood education.”
WSJ: Pre-K Education Is a Long-Term Winner
At $10,000 per child yearly, high-quality early education is a bargain.
Wall Street Journal Opinion By AUSTAN GOOLSBEE Dec. 8, 2013 (PAYWALL)
Most of us watching the looming budget showdown do so with a sense of dread. The last one left congressional approval at 9%, the president's popularity at a new low, and consumer confidence at levels not seen since the 2008 financial crisis. The trouble, of course, is finding common ground on a 10-year budget framework or even on a six-week punt. Hopefully, they will find common ground.

“In the majority of OECD countries, more than three quarters (79%) of 4-year olds are enrolled in early childhood education programs. And according tothe report on 2012 PISA scores released last week, across OECD countries, students who attended early childhood programs performed better—a full year ahead of their peers.”
The link between early childhood education and PISA scores
Washington Post The Answer Sheet BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 10 at 11:15 am
There’s an interesting connection between early childhood education and the results released last week from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, on which American 15-year-old students performed about average in reading, math and science among some 65 countries and school systems. Here to explain is Kris Perry , executive director of the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates for comprehensive, high-quality early childhood education systems, programs and supports.

Budget Deal Could Offer School Districts Relief from Sequestration
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 10, 2013 8:45 PM
School districts would get some relief from the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration under an agreement announced Tuesday by a bipartisan pair of House and Senate negotiators.
The plan would roll back most of the so-called sequester cuts for the next two years, leaving the door open for federal lawmakers to boost spending on disadvantaged children and students in special education.  The proposal, which was crafted by the top budget lawmakers in each chamber, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would restore about 87 percent of total spending on domestic discretionary programs, the giant category that includes education, according to an analysis by Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington lobbying coalition. The coalition began trying to get rid of the sequester cuts to education programs even before they were implemented last March. 
"Obviously, this isn't the ideal situation we'd hoped for, but to be honest, it's better than we could have expected," Packer said

This One Chart Shows Why Congress Needs to Step Up for Special Education
National Center for Learning Disabilities By: NCLD Editorial Team, December 5, 2013
Want to see why Congress needs to step up for special education? The chart below from NDD United shows how sequestration has cut the federal share of special education funding to its lowest level in 12 years. That's a result of Congress cutting $579 million from the Individuals With Disabilies Education Act (IDEA) this year. Because education funding is being cut, local schools are having an even a harder time providing services for Individualized Education Programs.
When Congress passed IDEA, it promised to pay for 40 percent of the extra cost of education for children with disabilities. But Congress has never fully funded IDEA and, as the chart shows, the situation is getting even worse. In fact, if nothing changes, sequestration will cause more cuts. It's time for you tell Congress that you've had enough. Join more than 3,000 other users in saying: No More Cuts! 

“A study of a million users of massive open online courses, known as MOOCs,released this month by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education found that, on average, only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.”
After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought
New York Times By TAMAR LEWIN Published: December 10, 2013
Two years after a Stanford professor drew 160,000 students from around the globe to a free online course on artificial intelligence, starting what was widely viewed as a revolution in higher education, early results for such large-scale courses are disappointing, forcing a rethinking of how college instruction can best use the Internet.

'Hour of Code' Aims to Get Students Programming
Education Week Teaching Now Blog By Liana Heitin on December 10, 2013 10:59 AM
A new campaign for Computer Science Education Week is attempting to get 10 million K-12 students to spend an hour learning how to code.
According to, a nonprofit founded by Ali and Hadi Partovi and the event's sponsor, 90 percent of K-12 schools do not currently teach computer science. The "Hour of Code" aims to raise awareness about the importance of computer programming skills—and seemingly to make code-writing cool. A high-profile cast of characters has come out to support the campaign, including President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg,, Ashton Kutcher, and Shakira. The pump-you-up PSA is below.  The site has tutorials for drag-and-drop programming (for beginners as young as 6), Javascript, Python, and app-building, among other coding skills. Microsoft and Apple are offering in-person tutorials at their stores as well.

Chicago Public Schools Adding Computer Science To Core Curriculum
Huffington Post No byline Posted: 12/10/2013 1:33 pm EST
The Chicago Public School district is elevating computer science from an elective to part of its K-12 core curriculum while simultaneously laying groundwork to become the first urban school district in the nation to add the subject to its elementary core.
Components of the five-year plan include adding a survey course in computer science to every CPS high school (at least half of which will ultimately offer AP Computer Science); creating a computer science pathway for elementary students (K-8) and allowing computer science to count as a graduation requirement, potentially for subjects like math, science or foreign language.
CPS is getting the new computer science curriculum as well as professional development for staff free of charge thanks to a partnership with the non-profit group,, the Tribune reports.

New Orleans leads nation in percentage of public charter school enrollment
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton, Tuesday, December 10, 3:51 PM
New Orleans led the nation last year as the city with the greatest percentage of students enrolled in public charter schools, followed by Detroit and the District of Columbia, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
According to the non-profit organization, 79 percent of public school students in New Orleans attended charters in the last school year, followed by 51 percent in Detroit, 43 percent in D.C., 36 percent each in Flint, Mich. and Kansas City, Mo. and 35 percent in Gary, Ind.
The school district with the largest number of students enrolled in public charter schools was Los Angeles, where more than 120,000 students attended charters. L.A. was followed by New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago, the survey found.

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

PBPC Webinar: Investing in a 'Thorough and Efficient System of Education'
What It Will Take and How to Get There
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Join our next webinar on Thursday, December 12 at 12 p.m.
The only service that Pennsylvania is required to provide in the state Constitution is a “thorough and efficient system of education.” Yet in recent years cuts in state funding and the abandonment of an equitable school funding formula have undermined that principle.
Join our next webinar on Thursday, December 12 at 12 p.m. to hear the latest from experts on school funding and to find out what parents, teachers, and all Pennsylvanians can do to fully fund our schools and ensure that every child can be successful after graduation.

Parents as Advocates for Children and Education -
EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - December 11th at 9 p.m. 
Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 11, tune in to the re-airing of the EPLC's Parents as Education Advocates episode of its "Focus on Education" series, which will air at 9:00 p.m. on PCN television.  This very successful show initially aired in September.  The panel included: 
  • 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.  Past episodes have covered School Safety IssuesStudent TestingThe Work of School BoardsHow Public Education is Funded in Pennsylvania, the  School Dropout Crisis,Parents as Education AdvocatesArts Education, and Special Education.  
Recordings of all past episodes are available on the PCN web site.

Public Meeting, 12/11/2013, 10:00 AM  Hearing Room 1, North Office Building
Public hearing to consider final recommendations and release final report)

The DCIU Google Symposium is an opportunity for teachers, administrators, technology directors, and other school stakeholders to come together and explore the power of Google Apps for Education.  The Symposium will be held at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.  The Delaware County Intermediate Unit is one of Pennsylvania’s 29 regional educational agencies.  The day will consist of an opening keynote conducted by Rich Kiker followed by 4 concurrent sessions. 

NPE National Conference 2014

The Network for Public Education November 24, 2013
The Network for Public Education is pleased to announce our first National Conference. The event will take place on March 1 & 2, 2014 (the weekend prior to the world-famous South by Southwest Festival) at The University of Texas at Austin.  At the NPE National Conference 2014, there will be panel discussions, workshops, and a keynote address by Diane Ravitch. NPE Board members – including Anthony Cody, Leonie Haimson, and Julian Vasquez Heilig – will lead discussions along with some of the important voices of our movement.
In the coming weeks, we will release more details. In the meantime, make your travel plans and click this link and submit your email address to receive updates about the NPE National Conference 2014.

Congratulations! Getting elected to the school board was the easy part…..
PSBA New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
November 2013-April 2014 Register Online » Print Form »
Announcing School Board Academy’s New Board Member Training: Great Governance, Great Schools!
You will need a wealth of information quickly as you jump out of the starting block and hit the ground running as a newly elected member of the board of school directors. New board members, as well as veterans who might like a refresher, will want to make the most of the opportunity to attend PSBA's New Board Member Training Program: Great Governance, Great Schools! .

EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns 
EPLC is recruiting current undergraduate or graduate students to serve as part-time interns beginning January or May of 2014 in the downtown Harrisburg offices. One intern will support education policy work including the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign. The second intern position will support the work of the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network. Ideal candidates have an interest/course work in political science/public policy, social studies, the arts or education and also have strong research, communications, and critical thinking skills. The internship is unpaid, but free parking is available. Weekly hours of the internship are negotiable. To apply or to suggest a candidate, please email Mattie Robinson for further information at

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.
·                             Register now! – Register for both the conference and housing using our online system.
·                            Conference Information– Visit the NSBA conference website for up-to-date information
·                             Hotel List and Map - Official NSBA Housing Block
·                             Exposition Campus – View new products and services and interactive trade show floor
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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