Thursday, December 19, 2013

PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 19, 2013: Quinnipiac Poll: Corbett Approval Falls, Trails Most Dems. On education, negative 34 points (62% to 28%)

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for December 19, 2013:
Quinnipiac Poll: Corbett Approval Falls, Trails Most Dems. 
On education, negative 34 points (62% to 28%)

SB1085: On Monday December 23rd 10-11 am, WHYY’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane will be featuring a conversation on SB1085, the charter school reform bill.  Scheduled guests are school choice advocate State Senator Anthony Williams and school board member/public education advocate Lawrence Feinberg.

Blogger Comment:
Thank you Pittsburgh!!!  We should not be pretending that Ivy-league grads with 5 weeks of training are “highly-qualified” teachers  ready to teach in our most challenging schools.
Pittsburgh school board drops contract with Teach for America
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Bill Zlatos  Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 10:39 p.m.
A new city school board gave Teach for America the boot before its recruits had a chance to set foot in a Pittsburgh school. But the board gave a reprieve to Woolslair School, a building recommended for closure.  “I really don't see Teach for America as a program to help us,” said new Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Sylvia Wilson, a former teacher and former official with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.  By a 6-2 vote with one abstention, the board Wednesday night rescinded a $750,000 contract with Teach for America to hire up to 30 recruits a year for three years.
Pittsburgh school board reverses on Teach for America contract
By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 18, 2013 10:02 PM
New members of the Pittsburgh public school board flexed their muscles at a Wednesday night meeting, reversing previously passed actions by voting to dissolve a contract with Teach for America and to keep doors open at Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5 on the Bloomfield-Lawrenceville border.  Board members voted to rescind a November action approving a contract with Teach for America — meaning 30 teachers from the national program will not fill positions in some of the hardest-to-staff schools in the district.

“It’s no coincidence that federal spending on seniors is seven times the spending on children. Head Start serves less than half the eligible population because of lack of money! The statistics for the elderly prove we know how to reduce poverty. We have chosen to invest in seniors, not in children. Why? Because seniors vote, give money to politicians and are politically organized.”
Invitation to a Dialogue: Children and Poverty
New York Times Letter by MARK K. SHRIVER Sr. Vice President, Strategic Initiatives Save the Children December 17, 2013
To the Editor:  Are you tired of politicians who say “our children are our most precious resource” but vote to cut funding to feed kids and for early childhood development? Representative Paul D. Ryan recently told me that he believed in the importance of early childhood education. Yet earlier this year he proposed a budget that would have maintained sequestration’s cuts — permanently eliminating Head Start slots for 57,000 children — and cut another 20 percent from the Head Start budget, which by some estimates meant another 200,000 children would lose their slots.
I share Mr. Ryan’s frustration that almost one in four children in America lives in poverty today, almost the same percentage as when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty nearly 50 years ago, and appointed my father, Sargent Shriver, to lead it.

New census data: Poverty up in Lower Northeast, down in S. Philly
LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, December 18, 2013, 2:01 AM
POSTED: Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 8:50 PM
Poverty has increased a startling 62 percent in the communities of Lower Northeast Philadelphia since 1999.  At the same time, poverty increased 42 percent in Roxborough and Manayunk, while declining 13 percent in South Philadelphia.  Those findings come from an Inquirer comparison of 2000 census figures with new data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

“On education, negative 34 points (62% to 28%).”
Quinnipiac Poll: Corbett Approval Falls, Trails Most Dems
PoliticsPA Written by Brittany Foster, Deputy Editor and Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor December 18m 2013
The latest Quinnipiac poll has bad news for Tom Corbett. The survey found the Governor’s job approval rating at its largest net negative ever. He trailed all but one of 7 Democratic opponents in head-to-head matchups.  Voters disapproved his job performance 53% to 36%, a net negative of 17 points. Respondents said he does not deserve re-election by 20 points, 56% to 36%.

 “For now, Corbett's plan to plug the hole and free up spending for public schools appears to be centered on the same pension reform plan the Legislature rejected in June.  Zogby said the state and school districts could save a combined $135 million if lawmakers agree to reduce employers' contribution to the school and state workers pension systems, reduce future benefits for existing state employees and put new employees into a corporate-like 401(k) style pension plan.”
State could be in store for another big deficit
Corbett administration projects $1.2 billion deficit for 2014-15 budget.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:12 p.m. EST, December 18, 2013
HARRISBURG ——  The state could be facing a $1.2 billion deficit next fiscal year, Gov. Tom Corbett's administration warned Wednesday.  In his mid-year financial report, Budget Secretary Charles B. Zogby said the projected shortfall is driven largely by mandatory pension increases, a reduction in federal funding for medical assistance programs and increases in Department of Welfare programs for the poor and elderly.  To cover the shortfall, Zogby said, the governor is not "dismissing anything out of hand" — except broad-based tax increases on homeowners.
“He said the administration’s top priority going into next year’s budget-making will be to avoid cuts to basic education funding as well as funding for senior citizens and intellectually disabled individuals.”
Corbett looking at new revenue sources more so than cuts to help balance next year's state budget
By Jan Murphy |  on December 18, 2013 at 4:21 PM,
Even though Pennsylvania appears to be staring down the barrel of a budget gap projected to be as high as $1.4 billion in the coming fiscal year, Gov. Tom Corbett continues to keep increases in the personal income and state sales tax off the table as he prepares to stand for re-election.
Instead, his budget secretary Charles Zogby said at a mid-year budget briefing on Wednesday that Corbett remains focused on finding efficiencies and being more creative in identifying new revenue sources to offset rising costs particularly in the areas of pension and the medical assistance program.
Aside from broad-based taxes, “I don’t think there’s anything we can dismiss out of hand,” Zogby said when asked about where new revenue could be generated.

The state pension reform that wasn't: 13 for '13
By Patriot-News Editorial Board on December 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM
From now until the end of the year, PennLive Opinion will count down the top 13 policy issues of the past year. We get things started today with a look back at the debate over how to fix Pennsylvania's public employee pensions.
The Big Story:
If, as some inside the Beltway argue, legislative effectiveness is measured in terms of bills not passed, 2013, or The Year of Pension Reform as dubbed by State Budget Secretary Charles Zogby in January, can be labeled a smashing success.  Touted by Gov. Tom Corbett in his budget address as one of three key legislative priorities a year before a possible re-election campaign, reforming a public pension system hamstrung by $41 billion in underfunded liability remained in the klieg lights throughout state budget negotiations. Failure to act would doom local school districts to burdensome pension contributions in 2014, larger class sizes, reduced services, and steeper local property taxes.  The legislature failed to incorporate pension reform in its annual budget, and then a solid late-year proposal by state Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland was among several proposals making the rounds.  The end result? A lot of smoke, and no fire.

Latest charter school bid gets feedback from SDL residents
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era Updated Dec 18, 2013 14:19
Charter school hopefuls didn't get much love from Lancaster city residents Tuesday night.
Proponents of the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School pitched their plan to the School District of Lancaster board at a public hearing that drew more than 50 people.
The SDL board rejected the previous ABECS proposal last March. The five-month decision-making process cost the district more than $30,000.  At Tuesday's hearing, 14 district residents urged the SDL board to again reject the application, citing a weak curriculum and inadequate local support.  Three people encouraged the board to approve the charter school. Two of those proponents were not district residents; the third was a district alumnus.

LVenture Charter School proposes inquiry-based learning in Allentown
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on December 18, 2013 at 6:34 PM
Students at the proposed LVenture Charter School won't find traditional desks in their classrooms or receive report cards with letter grades.  The school aims to create a privately run, taxpayer-funded, inquiry-based charter school for sixth- through 12th-graders that turns traditional notions of public school on their head.  "We're trying to create a model school," said Mark Lang, executive director of Charter Partners Institute.  Organizers presented their plans to the Allentown School Board on Tuesday night as part of a hearing on its application. The board will vote on the application at its January regular board meeting.

State auditor general targets Beaver Co. school districts
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Megan Harris  Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 10:27 a.m.
Repeated financial problems at Rochester Area and Aliquippa school districts in Beaver County prompted Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to issue broad warnings on Wednesday.
Auditors determined Rochester Area violated several school codes through a possible conflict of interest involving a former school board member and a severance agreement with a former superintendent that cost taxpayers more than $146,000.  Aliquippa suffers from high real estate tax delinquency rates and payments to charter schools that total more than $1 million annually, which the commonwealth no longer reimburses. Those woes led to a deteriorating general fund balance with deficits that capped out at $1.6 million in the 2008-09 school year.
State education officials in March placed the district on its financial watch list, which is part of an early warning system to identify school districts struggling to maintain fiscal stability.
Commission creates funding formula for special education
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 18, 2013 11:28 PM
HARRISBURG -- For years, Pennsylvania has distributed state funding for special education without regard to the number or needs of students receiving services in particular districts.
But the portion of students receiving special education services varies widely from the statewide rate of 15.2 percent. In some districts, less than 10 percent of students receive special education services. In others, more than 25 percent do.
Now, a commission made up of legislators and Corbett administration officials is recommending the state distribute any increase in special education funding through a formula that considers the number of special education students and the intensity of their needs, along with poverty levels, property taxes and whether the district is small and rural.

Philadelphia NAEP scores lag behind most other urban districts
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 18 2013 Posted in Latest news
Philadelphia students in District-run schools lag 7 to 14 percentage points behind the average for big cities in math and reading achievement in 4th and 8th grades on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the only test that compares students across the entire country. 
NAEP is considered the gold standard of assessment, and is the benchmark that state tests are measured against amid complaints that some of them are not rigorous enough. Higher percentages of Philadelphia students score proficient on Pennsylvania's state assessment, the PSSA. The NAEP results are potentially more reliable because they involve a sampling of students and there are no high-stakes consequences attached.

College applications suffer under Philly school counselor cuts
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 12/18/2013
Students and parents across Philadelphia are scrambling to meet Jan. 1 college application deadlines amid a budget crisis and deep cuts to the ranks of school counselors.
Some Philadelphia high schools reached a counselor-to-student ratio of 1 to 3,000 this fall, according to Philly School Counselors United. That's much higher than the 1-to-250 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association.
The School District of Philadelphia, following budget cuts made by Gov. Tom Corbett that aggravated a long-term fiscal crisis, opened this school year with 3,000 fewer staff members than last year. In September, there were only 126 counselors, down 236 from the 362 on staff the year before. Recently, the District rehired some laid-off counselors after Corbett, facing mounting political pressure, released $45 million in one-time federal funds that he had withheld over demands for concessions from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

State College school board goes for referendum maximum of $85 million
Centre Daily Times BY MATT MORGAN December 16, 2013 
STATE COLLEGE — State College Area School District residents now have a better idea of what might appear as a referendum amount on their May 20, 2014, ballots.
The school board passed a motion 6-3 at its meeting Monday to set a referendum maximum of $85 million to help fund the upcoming high school project. That number could decrease before it is expected to be finalized at the Feb. 10 meeting and a final referendum question is approved in March.
Board member Jim Leous said he wouldn’t want to set the maximum too low at this point and hurt project planning down the road when more numbers come out.
“Tonight we’re setting a maximum value and it can come down as we get better numbers on the overall cost of the project,” he said.

Acting Pennsylvania secretary of education visits Souderton Area School District
By Jennifer Lawson Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Stepping into math teacher Gary McManus’ class Friday, Dec. 13, at Souderton Area High School, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq saw something she liked.  A student asked a question about a calculus problem, and with McManus’ encouragement, another student explained it to her.  “That’s student engagement,” Dumaresq said with a smile when back in the hallway. “They helped each other.”
Dumaresq visited Souderton schools as a result of an invitation from Superintendent Frank Gallagher to show the success of some of their programs, and it allowed Dumaresq the chance to see how decisions in Harrisburg impact students and teachers.
“You sit in Harrisburg and you design and implement, but you don’t always know the impact until you actually see it,” she said. “I want to find out what’s working and what’s not working.”

“Bartoli said her main concerns are property taxes rising as the state cuts public school funding and the quality of education in the face of such cuts.”
Carlisle resident announces run for 199th seat in state House of Representatives
December 16, 2013 9:05 pm  •  By Joseph Cress, The Sentinel
CARLISLE — Jill Bartoli said she took a lesson from wise women in accepting the call to action to run for the state House of Representatives.
A retired college professor living in Carlisle, she will seek the Democratic nomination in next year’s primary election for the 199th Legislative District seat, currently held by Republican Stephen Bloom.  Bartoli said she was first inspired to become a candidate after organizing and attending the Building Common Ground Summit in late October at Penn State Dickinson School of Law. The summit encouraged area residents from different backgrounds and political parties to become advocates as they discussed public school funding, affordable health care and other issues important to them.

Ethics board clears Philly School District deal
So the Philadelphia Board of Ethics staff has decided that the William Penn Foundation did not engage in lobbying as defined by city law when it helped fund a planning effort for the city school district in 2012.  I'm not surprised. The effort didn't quite smell like lobbying to me, but I thought the issue raised by Parents United for Public Education and other groups was a serious one: Is it right to have a consultant engaged in a major study with public officials of policy issues pursuant to a contract the public entity isn't even a party to?

Philadelphia Solar Schools Initiative brings solar power to 20 Philly schools by Nick Vadala WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2013, 1:07 PM
Next year, Philly will be home to more than 5,000 brand new solar panels installed across 20 area schools. A tall order, but luckily the Philadelphia Solar Schools Initiative has already started in on the work.  Currently, the PSSI (made up of partners Solar States and Clean Currents) is seeking a full-time director to head up their efforts, but that hasn’t stopped them from instituting daily classes at YouthBuild Charter School detailing the business side of sustainability, along with entrepreneurship opportunities in the green industry. As-yet volunteer-lead, the PSSI hopes to expand their education output to more schools with the inclusion of a full-time director.
By the end of 2014, the aim is to install solar panels on the roofs of 20 area schools to provide 1.5 megawatts of clean energy. But that, according to a release, isn’t the only goal:

U.S. Senate passes budget deal
Politico By SEUNG MIN KIM | 12/18/13 5:00 PM EST
With little suspense but still a bit of drama, the Senate passed a bipartisan budget deal Wednesday that will help Washington return to some fiscal normalcy after years of gridlock.
The Senate approved the agreement with a 64 to 36 vote and the legislation now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature. It was inked by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) earlier this month, replaces across-the-board spending cuts and will make it easier to hammer out government funding bills the next two years.

How Preschool Impacts Student Scores Shown In One Graph
The Huffington Post  |  By Rebecca Klein   |  Posted: 12/09/13 EST  |  Updated: 12/09/13 EST
If policymakers want to improve students’ scores on international exams, they should start by bettering education options for their littlest learners.
That is part of the story told by a report released on Monday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international group that promotes economic progress. The OECD report used data collected from its international exam, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to compare education patterns around the world.
The PISA results showed that, on the whole, students who attended preschool performed better on the international exam. For example, on average, students from OECD-member countries performed more than 20 points better on the exam if they had attended preschool, even after accounting for socioeconomic differences.
For a full sense of how preschool impacted PISA scores, check out the OECD graphic below:

The New York Times Editorializes on Teachers and PISA, with Multiple Errors
Diane ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch December 18, 2013 //
Once again, we are treated to a New York Times editorial on education that is a mix of good and bad. Bottom line: The Times blames teachers for the U.S. scores on PISA. And once again, the Times assumes that the scores of 15-year-olds on a standardized test predict the future of our economy, for which there is no evidence at all.

“Show me a profession that has been vilified more than teaching in the US,” wrote Peter S. of Portland, Ore. “Real-estate agents and used-car dealers have more status and make more money.” He added: “Our best minds in the US go into hedge funds and high finance, where they figure out how de-fund education. No wonder our schools are places no one wants to be.”
Is American Culture to Blame for Failing Schools?
New York Times By DAVID FIRESTONE December 18, 2013, 6:12 pm
“Americans do not support an egalitarian society.”
That was the response of one reader, Jay David of New Mexico, to the final editorial in our series on science and math education, and in many ways it summed up the bitterness that many others expressed when the American school system was compared to those of other countries.
The editorial looked at some of the reasons students in Finland, Canada and Shanghai do much better in science and math than American students, and concluded that those places care more about preparing teachers and elevating the cultural position of education, while ensuring that more resources go to the neediest schools. In this country, teachers are poorly paid, poorly prepared and generally disdained, while the richest schools and students get by far the most money.

Comcast, Khan Academy Join Forces to Improve Web Access
Education Week Marketplace K-12 By Sean Cavanagh on December 17, 2013 2:56 PM
A major cable and Internet corporation is joining with one of the nation's best-known sources of free, open-education resources to try to expand access to the Web and online content for impoverished students and families.  The partnership brings together Comcast, which describes itself as the nation's largest provider of video, high-speed Web access, and phone service to residential customers, and Khan Academy, a nonprofit that estimates it has delivered 330 million online lessons to date.  Comcast runs Internet Essentials, which provides discounted broadband service, for $9.95 a month, to impoverished families who have at least one child in the National School Lunch Program.  The Philadelphia-based company says 98 percent of subscribers through that program have indicated their children use the Web for homework—which suggests to Comcast officials that channeling materials offered by Khan to those families would hit the mark.

Business of Education Reporter at BuzzFeed in New York, NY
We're looking for an ambitious, scoop-hungry reporter to take on a new beat about the business of education on the Buzzfeed Business team in New York.
The successful candidate will be a focused, aggressive reporter who is interested in understanding and breaking news about how education will be reshaped as corporations race to own the classroom. We're looking for someone who can cover the education efforts at corporations such as News Corp, Amazon, Apple, Discovery Communications, Chegg and others and how those companies are competing with established players such as Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, and McGraw-Hill, to name a few. The right reporter will be able to break news both on visionary new approaches and on outrageous scams, and be able to explain how the moves of these companies influence and interact with government policy at the local, state and national level. Candidates will be as comfortable with SEC filings and corporate balance sheets as they are with legislative bills and student loan documents. Candidates must have a working knowledge of social media and how big news breaks first on the web and spreads across Twitter and Facebook. 
In terms of experience, we're simply looking for the hungriest reporter available to own this beat, so the right candidate can be anyone from a new graduate who has yet to step foot in a professional newsroom to a seasoned veteran of 20 years with a track record of breaking news on the beat. This position will report to the business editor, and work closely with him and the editor-in-chief as the beat takes shape. This position is based in New York. We offer competitive compensation and a stock option program. 

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.

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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