Thursday, December 12, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 12, 2013: The state budget line for Special Education funding in Pennsylvania has been flat for 6 years running. However, mandated services provided by schools between 08-09 and 11-12 increased by $453 million.

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 12, 2013:
The state budget line for Special Education funding in Pennsylvania has been flat for 6 years running.  However, mandated services provided by schools between 08-09 and 11-12 increased by $453 million.

…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.

Blogger’s note: The state budget line for Special Education funding in Pennsylvania has been flat for 6 years running.  However, mandated services provided by schools between 08-09 and 11-12 increased by $453 million.
State panel: Change special education funding formula
East Penn schools chief says the commission's plan doesn't go far enough.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 10:13 p.m. EST, December 11, 2013
HARRISBURG — It's been six years since the state Legislature gave school districts more money to cover special education costs.  The state's special education funding to 500 school districts has been capped at about $1 billion since 2008-09, while the number of special education students has risen about 3 percent to 268,466 — one in every seven public students in the state.  "It doesn't take a mathematician to prove that's really a loss," East Penn School District Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger said.
More money could flow to districts via a new special education funding formula unveiled Wednesday if the Legislature does decide to lift the cap in the 2014-15 budget as state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, would like his fellow lawmakers to do.
Special Education Funding Commission Final Report - December 11, 2013
Special Education Funding Commission, Senator Pat Browne & Representative Bernie O’Neill, Co-Chairs
Thank you for your interest in the Special Education Funding Commission. The commission recommended today (December 11) that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for special education in excess of 2010-11 levels.
The new formula will include factors reflecting students’ needs based on three cost categories – low (category 1), moderate (category 2) and high (category 3). The formula will also include factors reflecting community differences such as market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate and small and rural school districts.

Roebuck: Special education report a first step toward fair, adequate funding for all Pa. schools
Pennsylvania News & Buzz December 11,2013
HARRISBURG, Dec. 11 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., said the report the Special Education Funding Commission released today is a first step toward fair and adequate funding for all Pennsylvania schools.  “This bipartisan agreement is a positive first step in making education funding more fair for students in Philadelphia and across the state,” said Roebuck, who served on the commission and is Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee.
“If enacted, the recommendations in this report would more closely match state special education funding with the actual costs of providing that education. I would still like to see the state resume using a school funding formula for basic education, and I would like to see the restoration of education funding that was cut in recent years. But this is a welcome first step and I will continue working with legislative colleagues from both parties to pass these changes.”

“Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have pursued about a half-dozen criminal cases involving charter schools, which began operating in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. Authorities say the fraud deprives the perennially broke Philadelphia School District and Pennsylvania taxpayers of needed education funds.”
Philly charter founder's lawyer: U.S. obsessed with client
By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Of The Associated Press
POSTED: 12/11/13, 7:40 PM EST | UPDATED: 56 SECS AGO
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia charter school founder defrauded the city and state of $6.7 million by earning multiple salaries at four schools she ran, and taking millions more in consulting fees, federal prosecutors argued Wednesday after several weeks of trial.
Dorothy June Brown, 76, allegedly paid herself $4 million through her various titles in a two-year span alone, then created and forged documents as federal investigators closed in, authorities said.

Brown's lawyer: There is plenty of reasonable doubt
PHILADELPHIA Defense lawyers in the Dorothy June Brown charter school fraud trial told jurors Wednesday that the prosecution's case was so flawed and full of holes that there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit her and her codefendants of all charges.  Attorney William M. McSwain said federal prosecutors were so obsessed with how much money Brown made that they had to "make up a criminal scheme."

SB1085: Letter: Senate bill offers charter schools less accountability for spending public funds
Delco Times LTE by Will Richan POSTED: 12/11/13, 10:06 PM EST |
To the Times: Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1085 would in effect give free rein to charter schools, with even less accountability for the way they spend public funds than they have at present. State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9 of Chester, who has signed on as a co-sponsor of SB 1085, needs to hear from his constituents.
The Chester Community Charter School is a prime example of why SB 1085 should be defeated. This school has repeatedly been in the news for things ranging from physical abuse of young students to allegations of widespread cheating on standardized test scores (as cited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education), to many questions raised by the state Auditor General’s recent scathing report about its use of taxpayers’ money by this school. If SB 1085 is passed, there will be little to stop such practices regarding possible misuse of taxpayers’ money nor limits on the school’s expansion.
But it’s not just Chester Upland that needs to be concerned. Every school district in Pennsylvania would be affected.

Pa. measure requiring drug tests of prospective teachers, school workers advances
A bill calling for drug testing of prospective teachers and school employees in Pennsylvania has passed in  the state House.  If passed by the state Senate, it would affect all candidates offered positions by traditional district schools, charter schools and cybercharter schools. Applicants would be barred from employment if the screening revealed the presence of illegal drugs.

Acting Secretary of Education Announces Updates to School Performance Profile
PDE Press Release December 11, 2013
Harrisburg – Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq today announced that the School Performance Profile website has been updated to include scores for the more than 620 schools that had their information suppressed in October.  In addition, the data used to calculate the profile scores as well as federal accountability reports for public schools, local education agencies and the state are available.  “Today’s update completes the School Performance Profile for the 2012-13 school year,” Dumaresq said.  “Students, parents, educators and the general public can now view academic performance of all Pennsylvania public schools as well as compare results to neighboring schools and schools across the state.”
The results indicate that 2,181, or nearly 73 percent, of public schools received a 70 or higher.
“The majority of public schools across the commonwealth are doing well and preparing their students to be successful adults,” Dumaresq said.  “I am confident that we will see schools improving year after year now that a new educator effectiveness system and meaningful academic standards and assessments are in place.”

Pennsylvania updates PSSA and Keystone scores for schools statewide
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 11, 2013 3:05 PM
The state Department of Education today filled in the blanks for public school test scores across the state in an updated release of the new School Performance Profiles and results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone Exams.
…..“The majority of public schools across the commonwealth are doing well and preparing their students to be successful adults," said Carolyn Dumaresq, acting state secretary of education. "I am confident that we will see schools improving year after year now that a new educator effectiveness system and meaningful academic standards and assessments are in place."
Ms. Dumaresq was referring to a new teacher evaluation system that takes effect this school year and includes student test scores as part of the evaluation. She also was referring to the state standards known as the Pennsylvania Core, which is based on the Common Core and is aimed at improving academic achievement.
In the School Performance Profiles, the academic score combines factors such as test scores, growth in test scores and rates of attendance and graduation.
When the first round of results were released in October, some schools were still questioning certain growth numbers, so the scores of more than 620 schools were suppressed. Now all of the scores are being released.
The data now show how the scores were calculated.
The results can be found at

“In suburban Allegheny County, about 82 percent of schools operated by school districts met or exceeded the 70 mark. 
Of bricks-and-mortar charter schools in Allegheny County, including the city, about 39 percent scored 70 or better.”
New assessment shows fuller picture of Pa. schools
Over 70 percent of public schools received positive scores
By Eleanor Chute and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 11, 2013 11:12 PM
The release of the remaining new School Performance Profiles completes a picture showing a wide variation in how the state's public schools and their students are doing.
Most of the School Performance Profiles -- which for the first time give each school a single academic score based on test scores, growth of test scores, graduation rates and other factors -- were released in October.
However, the state suppressed the scores of more than 620 schools -- mostly high and middle schools -- after concerns about accuracy.
The state Wednesday released all of the profiles, including information on how each was computed and statewide test scores.
Overall, 2,181 schools -- nearly 73 percent of public schools -- received an academic score of 70 or higher. In Allegheny County, about 71 percent did so.

Pennsylvania releases remaining school report cards
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on December 11, 2013
Academic scores were released for many schools today.Express-Times File Photo
Withheld in October's release of Pennsylvania's new school evaluation system scores,updated report cards of 600-plus schools were released today.  Building-level academic scores under the new Pennsylvania School Performance Profiles were not released for 626 of Pennsylvania's roughly 3,200 schools because of reported errors in those schools' Keystone Exams student growth measurements, the Pennsylvania Department of Education said in October.

"We feel that teachers with no experience is the last thing our district needs," she said.
Teach For America contract faces skeptical Pittsburgh School Board members
By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 11, 2013 11:58 PM
A Teach for America representative faced some pointed questioning by Pittsburgh school board members following a presentation on the school district's plan to bring in up to 30 new teachers from the federal program next year to take hard-to-fill jobs at some of the city's most challenging schools.  The outgoing school board voted 6-3 last month to approve a contract with Teach for America, despite a petition asking them to delay the decision until four new members were sworn in.
However, the contentious contract, which has drawn fire from city teachers and some board members, could come up again.

Bar association chief targets school funding
Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer December 11, 2013, 2:01 AM
Incoming Philadelphia bar chancellor William P. Fedullo, in his inaugural address at the annual meeting of the city bar association Tuesday, called on the city's legal establishment to work to ease the funding crisis plaguing Philadelphia schools and said he would lead an effort to propose potential fixes.  Fedullo said funding shortfalls for public schools, a gap that was closed only when the state signed off on $45 million in emergency funding in October, effectively deny equal educational opportunity to city school students, and suggested the disparity between suburban schools and the city had created a two-tier system.

Report: Preschool literacy gains fade by 3rd grade
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 11 2013 Posted in Latest news
Children who enter District schools after having a District-affiliated preschool experience have better literacy skills starting school and through 2nd grade, but much of that advantage "fades" by 3rd grade, according to the latest report from the Accountability Review Council (ARC).
ARC, a watchdog group created during the state's takeover of the city schools, did a statistical analysis of students in 2011-12 who had attended one of four different preschool programs in 2007-08.

West York school board to vote on first step in filing for exceptions
York Dispatch By NIKELLE SNADER UPDATED:   12/10/2013 09:11:34 PM EST
The West York Area School District's preliminary budget shows a deficit of $1.5 million, despite incorporating savings of $2.2 million from upcoming teacher furloughs.
The West York school board will vote at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17, to take the first step to file for tax exceptions by advertising the preliminary budget.
By advertising the preliminary budget, district Business Manager George Fike will be able to file for exceptions from the state for costs beyond the district's control. The district qualifies for exceptions to help offset the expense of rising pension and special-education costs.

Harrisburg school recovery grades: 'B' on finances; 'Incomplete' on academics
By Matt Zencey |  on December 11, 2013 at 6:37 AM,
Harrisburg school district is six months into the plan crafted by recovery officer Gene Veno and unanimously approved by the school board. In a 29-page update issued Tuesday, Veno indicated the district is definitely making progress on the financial side. On the academic side, though, it’s too early to tell what difference, if any, the plan is making in students’ learning.

NPE News Briefs Podcast: Mark Miller Discusses the Importance of Local School Boards
The Network for Public Education 11 Dec 2013   | NPE Podcasts (runtime 10:17)
Mark Miller, a member of the Centennial School Board in eastern Pennsylvania is on the Board of Directors of the Network for Public Education. Mark came to the NPE Board of Directors in August and brings to the organization experience as an elected official who knows firsthand the responsibility of a local school board. Mark talks to use today about school funding issues in Pennsylvania as well as the importance of democratically elected local school boards.

Switch from Mac to Chromebook Puts Acclaimed Philly High School at Center of Ed-Tech Debates
Education Week Digital education Blog By Benjamin Herold on December 11, 2013 9:00 AM
Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy, one of the country's most prominent technology-infused high schools and the subject of our year-long "Innovation Gamble" series, will be the first school in the nation to roll out Dell's newly unveiled Chromebook 11.
The switch—SLA has used Mac laptops for the past seven years, winning awards and national recognition along the way—sends interesting signals about both the business and pedagogical battles taking place in the world of educational technology.

Education Reform or Privatization?
Education Week Reality Check Blog By Walt Gardner on December 11, 2013 7:14 AM
When Noam Chomsky told an audience at Columbia University recently that education reform is "a euphemism for the destruction of public education," he stated a provocative view that other public intellectuals have expressed before ("Scholarship and Politics: The Case of Noam Chomsky," The New York Times, Dec. 10). But it is the timing of Chomsky's remark that is noteworthy.
I say that because of the growing power of giant foundations engaged in education reform. They direct about $1 billion annually to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations' policies ("Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy," Dissent, Fall 2013).  Since then, the voices of stakeholders in public education have been muted. Some of the names in the game are familiar: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.  But there are others as well.

Secret policymaking on school reform is on the rise
The Answer Sheet BY VALERIE STRAUSS December 12 at 5:00 am
Education reform policy around the country is increasingly being made in secret or without public input — and with a lot of private philanthropic money.
A number of  recent stories reveal the extent to which policy makers and school reformers are going to push their reform agenda to expand charter schools and vouchers in an effort to step up the privatization of public education.

Mercedes Schneider: Who Wrote the Common Core Standards?
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch December 10, 2013 //
Mercedes Schneider has dug deep into the IRS 990 forms of the various organizations that wrote the Common Core standards and is piecing together the history of that effort.
Although its advocates portray CCSS as “state-led,” that was not quite true.
The creation of the CC was the work of a handful of influential individuals associated with inside-the-Beltway organizations, plus testing companies.

Common Core Unrest Obvious in 17 States
Deutsch29 Mercedes Schneider’s Blog November 23, 2013
Proponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are fond of saying that CCSS “has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.” However, it seems that they refuse to mention the CCSS resistance that has found its way into state offices–often resulting in formal hearings.  Below I offer the latest in CCSS unrest from 17 states, compliments of my esteemed fellow teacher, Vicky Johnston. Each of the following CCSS, “state of the states” articles is from September-November 2013, thereby representing fresh unrest.
For each state, I include an excerpt from the linked article. Follow the link for additional details.

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.

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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