Thursday, January 16, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 16, 2014: “Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Because members of these private organizations are neither elected by, nor accountable to, those affected most by their decisions”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3060 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
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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?

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085

NAACP Public Discussion on PA Charter School Expansion Bill SB1085. 
January 18th, 12:30 pm Campbell AME Church 3rd&Olive Streets Media PA.

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 16, 2014:
“Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Because members of these private organizations are neither elected by, nor accountable to, those affected most by their decisions”

House OKs school funding commission
Public school advocates say commission is needed but fear it is political cover for embattled governor.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 5:45 p.m. EST, January 15, 2014
HARRISBURG — With education funding becoming one of the hottest topics in the 2014 election, lawmakers moved with uncharacteristic speed Wednesday to show they are doing something about it.  The House overwhelmingly passed a bill to set up a commission to study whether the state can better distribute roughly $10 billion in taxpayer money to schools.
Typically, bills sit for months, if not years, in the concept stage or committee before reaching a floor vote.  Wednesday's 187-9 House vote came in the first week lawmakers returned to session after their winter break and a month after the bill was first broached in committee by Rep. Bernie O'Neill, R-Bucks. It now moves to the Senate.
After accusing each other for causing school funding problems, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House hailed the commission as a sign of good government.
But public school officials and advocates are wary.

After finger pointing, House overwhelmingly votes for a commission to study Pennsylvania's education funding formula
By Jeff Frantz | 
on January 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM, updated January 15, 2014 at 2:23 PM
It was quite a contentious debate before a bill that passed 187-9.
The state House voted Wednesday for a bill that would create a commission to study Pennsylvania's funding formula for basic education. If HB 1738 passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, the commission would look at how the state's $10 billion in support for public education is divided between school districts.
Republicans liked it. Democrats liked it. They just didn't like each other.
But voting, members took turns pointing across the aisle to blame one another for why a commission is needed in the first place.

PA Auditor General DePasquale to Hold Public Meetings on Ways to Improve Charter Schools
Seeks to find ways to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
HARRISBURG (Jan. 15, 2014)– Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today announced a series of public informational meetings in late February and early March to explore ways to improve accountability, effectiveness and transparency of charter schools. 
“In my first year as auditor general we released audit reports for more than 300 school entities including charter schools, many of which are relatively new to Pennsylvania’s educational system,” DePasquale said. “We hope to use these public meetings to identify potential improvements to charter school oversight so we can be sure that Pennsylvanians are getting the best value for our tax dollars and that our children are receiving the best education possible.”
DePasquale said he hopes to hear from a wide cross-section of experts and advocates, including representatives of school districts, charter schools, educational associations, business and industry groups and citizen organizations.
The public meetings will be held:
  • Allegheny County: 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25, Commissioners Hearing Room, Ross Township Municipal Center, 1000 Ross Municipal Rd., Pittsburgh
  • Northampton County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 27, City Council Chambers, 6th Floor, City Hall, One South Third St., Easton
  • Cambria County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, March 6, Commissioners Meeting Room, Cambria County Court House, 200 South Center St., Ebensburg
  • Bucks County: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 7, Township of Falls Administrative Building, Suite 100, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills
Time is limited to two hours for each meeting. Comments can be submitted in writing by Wednesday, Feb. 19, via email to Susan Woods at:

“The state's 162 charter schools and 14 cyber-charter schools enroll 120,000 students; Philadelphia has 86 charters and three cyber schools.”
Pa. auditor announces public meetings on charters
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Wednesday that his office would hold public meetings on improving the "accountability, effectiveness, and transparency" of charter schools across the state.  During DePasquale's first year in office, his staff released audit reports for more than 300 school entities, including charters. His office found several instances of administrative problems at charters and some improper state payments.

“While the two sites are similar in concept, the back-end would be very different, said Dan Egan, a spokesman for the Office of Administration, which oversees PennWATCH.
The PennWATCH website, he said, is fairly easy to maintain, since state data, like payroll, tends to be centralized. At most, he said, the website must span about 80 agencies.
By contrast, the SchoolWATCH site would be responsible for 500 school districts and numerous other charters, cyber-charters and vocation-technical schools -- all of which could be submitting data in various forms.”
Plan for website listing Pa. public school expenses goes to Senate
A proposal to make a searchable website of Pennsylvania public school expenses is now before the state Senate for consideration following passage in the House.  The measure would require public schools to submit their expenses annually to the Department of Education.Eventually, the agency would display the information in a searchable website online.
The site, to be called SchoolWATCH, was inspired by the roughly year-old state website PennWATCH, which displays various state expenses, said Rep. Jim Christiana, who sponsored the bill.

“Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Because members of these private organizations are neither elected by, nor accountable to, those affected most by their decisions. Money should be given to further the best interests of the students, not to buy a seat at the table.”
The way we're funding schools is too high a price to pay Opinion by LISA HAVER POSTED: Thursday, January 16, 2014, 3:01 AM
Lisa Haver is a retired teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
IN PHILADELPHIA, watching our schools scrounge for money is a yearly event. Our schools are without full-time nurses and counselors, without librarians, without extracurricular activities; some are so overcrowded they don't have enough desks. When the city is tapped out, and Harrisburg shrugs, Philadelphians are forced to explore other paths. Those paths, however, can be fraught with unexpected consequences.

Highlights and lowlights from Harrisburg school district audit: Matt Zencey
By Matt Zencey | on January 15, 2014 at 4:55 PM
For those of you who are curious or concerned about the financial struggles at Harrisburg School District, I have read the district’s most recent audit, all 121 pages, so you don’t have to.
Digesting it took a while, but these highlights (and lowlights) will spare you from trying to figure out how SIFMA is different from LIBOR, or why it may (or may not) be important that the “GASB 53 measurement of change in fair value of ineffective SWAP” was $73,889.

Easton Area School District looks at more staff cuts, closing elementary school
The proposed 2014-15 budget calls for a $6 million increase, with a $5 million deficit.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 3:19 p.m. EST, January 15, 2014
The Easton Area School Board glanced into the crystal ball to envision the next five years.
Its predictions? Nearly 60 staffing cuts in one year. At least one closure of an elementary school. Selling the administration building and moving offices into an existing building. Eliminating music lessons for some students.  "Some of these aren't going to be easy or popular," Superintendent John Reinhart said at Tuesday night's school board meeting.The proposed 2014-15 budget is $141 million, a more than $6 million increase from 2012-13. The district is also looking at an almost $5 million deficit — and that's with a 2.7 percent property tax hike.  Chief Operating Officer Michael Simonetta said salaries, pensions and medical premiums are the primary reasons for increases in the planned budget. If there is a 2.7 percent tax hike, a homeowner would pay about $88 more, Simonetta said.
Philly high school teacher: Personal relationships, small classes are keys to student success
Forging relationships. Building rapport. Being human enough to show you care.
Whatever you call it, it's the educational philosophy that Philadelphia School District teacher Sydney Coffin has lived by as he's traversed some of the toughest high schools in the city.
"Kids need to know that there's an adult who cares enough about them to listen," the 15-year district veteran said.
Coffin, now at Edison High School in North Philadelphia, spent the previous seven years teaching English at the now-shuttered University City High School – a school once ranked as the 22nd most violent school in the country. It was eventually given special attention by the district when it was made a Promise Academy in 2010.

Central alums call on students to protest Corbett visit
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 01/15/2014
Central High School alumnus Philip Lindsay posted an open letter tonight on the Philadelphia Student Union website calling on students to protest Gov. Tom Corbett's visit this Friday.
"His administration has done great harm to public schools like Central throughout Pennsylvania," writes Lindsay, in a letter signed by more than 30 alumni. "You should never be ashamed to speak your mind or ask difficult questions to those in authority, especially when you feel betrayed or taken advantage of—and do not be fooled, the Governor is visiting Central to take advantage of you."  Lindsay also cites rumors that Central has threatened to discipline students if they protest Corbett's visit. I sent an e-mail inquiring as to whether or not this is true but have not yet heard back from the School District. Two sources at Central say they do not believe that disciplinary threats have been issued.

SRC to vote to close Arise charter, renew three others with many conditions
thenotebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 15 2014 Posted in Latest news
The School Reform Commission will vote Thursday on a resolution to close Arise charter school, established to educate foster children but plagued by difficulties since its establishment almost five years ago.  It will also vote on resolutions to renew two charters founded by Dorothy June Brown, Laboratory and Planet Abacus, as well as the Philadelphia Electrical and Technical (PE&T) charter.  Brown is awaiting retrial on federal fraud charges after a jury acquitted her on some but deadlocked on most of the counts against her for bilking the schools of $6.7 million. At PE&T, which is affiliated with the electrical workers union led by John Dougherty, an assistant principal was dismissed and his credentialstemporarily suspended as a result of a cheating scandal.

Landmark changes to discipline guidelines are a bold, long-awaited move forward
thenotebook on Jan 15 2014 Posted in Commentary by Harold Jordan
Harold Jordan is a community organizer at the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the author of "Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Public Schools."
Last week, in a major announcement, the federal government issued new guidelines for all K-12 public schools with the goals of reducing discrimination in the administration of school discipline and improving school climate without overly relying on measures that remove students from school. I was at the event at which Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder presented the federal discipline guidance, “Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline,” and materials promoting best alternative school-disciplinary practices. Appropriately, it was held at Justice Thurgood Marshall’s alma mater, Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore.  It is well known that different groups of students are removed from schools – by suspension, expulsion or police action – at dramatically different rates. Duncan opened the gathering by sharing the federal government’s most recent data:

Online Schools Prove Tough Rivals in Quest for Students, Funds
Virtual education is prodding many districts to ramp up their own cyber offerings
Education Week By Michelle R. Davis Published Online: January 3, 2014
The Wilkes-Barre school district in Pennsylvania is surrounded by cyber charter schools: There are 16 in the state, all trying to lure new students. So the 7,000-student district is trying to call attention to its fledgling virtual school to keep on its rolls students who might be attracted to online education.  "We need to compete with these cyber-charter schools," said Bernard Prevuznak, the superintendent of the Wilkes-Barre district. "We have to do a better job of attracting these students back so we don't have to pay for them out of our budget."
As in many states, funding in Pennsylvania follows public school students wherever they enroll. Wilkes-Barre loses $2 million a year solely to virtual charter schools that enroll district students, Mr. Prevuznak said. This school year marks the second that the district has had its own cyber school, which is run by an outside company, but the program is still small, he said.

Should Mayor de Blasio Unravel Bloomberg’s Reforms?
New York Times Room for Debate JANUARY 15, 2014 4:05 PM
Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio named Carmen Fariña schools chancellor. The appointment of this 40-year veteran of the New York City school system signals a “sharp departure from the education policies” of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who focused on test scores, closed low-performing schools and brought in charters.
Is she what the city needs?

Children’s Literacy Foundation website
We also strive to provide parents and adults with the necessary tools to inspire a love of reading and writing in children who are at a high risk of growing up with low literacy skills across New Hampshire and Vermont.
This is how we help:
  • We provide access to books at home, at school, and at libraries.
  • We show children that reading is fun and interesting.
  • We empower children to choose their own books.
  • We involve parents in reading with their children.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the role of books and reading in children’s lives. All the answers are taken from national research studies.

“After spending his career in computers, he was troubled by one fact: In this digital age, only about one in 10 U.S. schools teach computer science.”
Successful ‘Hour of Code’ computer tutorials prompts effort to change school policies
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton, Published: January 14
Hadi Partovi, retired at 38 after working for Microsoft and creating other tech companies, was figuring out what to do with the rest of his life.  After spending his career in computers, he was troubled by one fact: In this digital age, only about one in 10 U.S. schools teach computer science.   “I thought, ‘Why isn’t computer science being taught?’” said Partovi, who lives in Seattle and is an investor in a number of companies, including Zappos and Air­bnb.

Come to Harrisburg February 4th for the Governor's Budget Address
Show your School Spirit with PCCY!
In 25 days the Governor will introduce his budget plan for 2014-2015.  Based on past performance, the next budget may do little to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s public school students.  School districts in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery remain underfunded by the state by a combined $161 million.  That is why we need YOU to stand up for your school in Harrisburg on February 4th to demand equitable funding for our schools.  To really make our point, please wear local school colors, jackets or sweatshirts to show your school spirit!  
Click here to sign-up and get details.  For more information please email Shanee Garner-Nelson at

PDE chief Dumaresq LIVE budget presentation, PSBA Conference Center, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m
PSBA’s website 1/13/2014
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq will be at the PSBA Conference Center on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. to present a special state budget overview.
Find out how the proposals of the fiscal year 2014-15 Pennsylvania budget impact your school district the day after the governor delivers his address to the General Assembly. Secretary Dumaresq will review the governor's plan and answer your questions. In addition to the live presentation, members across the state also can participate through streaming media on their computers.
To register for the LIVE event, Wed., Feb. 5, 2 p.m., at the PSBA Conference Center, Mechanicsburg:

NAACP: Public Discussions Scheduled on PA Charter School Expansion Bill – SB1085. January 18th, 12:30 pm Media PA.
NAACP Press Release January 9, 2014
Open and public discussion of PA Senate Bill 1085, a charter school expansion plan now due third consideration in the PA General Assembly, will be held on January 18, 2014 in the community room of Campbell AME Church, at 3rd  and Olive Streets in Media, PA.  The event is free. The discussion will last from 1:00 – 2:00 PM.  A light lunch will be available between 12:30 and 1:00 PM    “Local control of public education through the elected school board is under threat for each of the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania,” stated Bettie McClarien, a member of the Media Area NAACP Education Committee, and coordinator of this event.  “Senate Bill 1085 is specifically structured to allow charter school authorization by colleges and universities or by the Department of Education and without local school board input. The bill is written so as to eliminate tax payer participation in approval of the opening of charter schools in their school districts,” McClairen said.    “Even voters in successful suburban districts such as Radnor, Garnett Valley, Nether Providence and Rose Tree Media will be subject to an influx of charters run by educational management organizations with no knowledge of or concern for the community.”
A panel of informed education experts has been assembled to enlighten the public concerning the contents and implications of SB 1085. Sue Tiernan, school board member from West Chester Area School District and David Lapp of the Education Law Center will serve on the panel.  Other officials knowledgeable on the bill have been invited to the panel as well.
More info contact:  Bettie McClairen at

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.

Representatives from winning schools and partner organizations are invited to join us for the grants award ceremony on Monday, January 27, 2014 at the World Cafe Live3025 Walnut Street from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.  RSVP to or call 215-563-5848 x11.

January 24th – 26th, 2014 at The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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
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.

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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