Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 22, 2014: Snowed in? Here’s some warm PA Ed Policy News for you….

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 Network for Public Education Press Release January 19, 2014
NPE National Conference at University of Texas at Austin March 1 & 2

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 22, 2014:
Snowed in? Here’s some warm PA Ed Policy News for you….

Pennsylvania Auditor General to hold public meeting in Bucks County on ways to improve charter schools; March 7 1-3 pm
Bucks Local News Published: Monday, January 20, 2014
HARRISBURG – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will hold 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.
Locally, a public meeting will be held in Bucks County from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 7 at the Falls Township 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 other school cheating scandal: A PennLive editorial cartoon
By Signe Wilkinson January 21, 2014

“By contrast, the Philadelphia School District does not bar a student from reporting to school with a court-ordered ankle monitor.  When asked whether the district or an individual principal could do so, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said: "Absolutely not. The student has the right to attend the school with the device. We've never had that problem."
Catholic school gives student the boot over court-ordered ankle monitor
MENSAH M. DEAN, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER DEANM@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-568-8278  POSTED: Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 3:01 AM
CHAD, A JUNIOR at West Catholic Preparatory High School, is in a predicament similar to that of Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia official released from prison last month.
Chad was ordered by a Juvenile Court judge to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet as part of his sentence for a December arrest. Lynn, whose child-endangerment conviction was overturned on appeal last month, also was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet as a term of his release from prison.  But the Archdiocese's responses to both court orders have been as different as night and day.

Bill Green’s Education Views: Way More Reasonable Than Tom Corbett’s Views
Keystone Politics Blog Posted on January 19, 2014 by Jon Geeting #
As someone who is interested in weakening the power of the Building Trades Council over Philadelphia politics because of their inflationary contribution to Philly’s construction costs, I want to share Sean Kitchen’s hit on Johnny Doc’s long-standing support for education privatization while quibbling mightily with his bottom line.
Sean does a good job of contextualizing the Bill Green nomination within recent news events, and makes it all sound very sinister. But it seems to me that whether or not this is a sinister thing hinges critically on your opinion of Bill Green’s stated views on public education, which Sean blockquotes at length nearthe bottom of his post.

Bill Green: plus and minus
Axis Philly by Tom Ferrick, Jan. 19, 2014
When it comes to figuring out decisions, sometimes the best thing to do is to get out a legal pad, draw a line down the middle, put a plus sign on one side, a minus on the other, and see how it adds up.  Take Gov. Corbett’s decision last week to appoint Councilman Bill Green as chair of the School Reform Commission (SRC). So far, I have found only two people who were delighted with the decision.  One is Gov. Corbett. The other is Bill Green.

Inquirer Editorial: Take a good look at Green
POSTED: Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 1:08 AM
The state senators who will individually interview Bill Green about his nomination for chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission should be as thorough as if they were questioning him in a formal hearing - which, unfortunately, they won't.  A huge flaw in the SRC appointment process is that it offers little or no opportunity for public input after the mayor and governor make their choices. That can reduce the required Senate confirmation to a rubber stamp.
But that should not be the Senate's approach to any SRC nomination, and especially not when it comes to Green, whose past statements in favor of charters and vouchers have some in the education establishment questioning his commitment to traditional public schools.

Bill Green is a difficult man for a difficult job
KAREN HELLER, INQUIRER COLUMNIST  Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 1:08 AM
Bill Green is a smart but difficult man. He does not play well with others, and the difficulty often arises when he shows them how smart he is.  Then again, Green's a member of City Council, where there's not much competition for summa cum laude and Penn Law graduates, and veteran members view themselves as royalty and expect reverence. Green managed to annoy most of them in no time flat, for which I am eternally grateful.  But Green might have achieved more with less arrogance. He had only to consult Michael Nutter's similarly difficult history with Council.

What recourse do taxpaying voters have when a charter school ignores an auditor general’s report?
“My big stick is the public … [using] the bully pulpit,” he said. In cases where other school districts have ignored an auditor general’s report, DePasquale noted, voters have decided to elect new board members.”
Auditor general has widened the investigation into Susquehanna Township schools
By Matt Zencey | on January 21, 2014 at 1:29 PM, updated January 21, 2014 at 2:33 PM
The state auditor general’s investigation into the Susquehanna Township School District has been expanded to include reviewing Superintendent Susan Kegerise’s contract, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Tuesday. His office was already looking into the controversial contract extensions that Kegerise proposed giving to two assistant superintendents.
DePasquale expects the final report on Susquehanna Township schools to be ready sometime in “early spring,” he said in a meeting Tuesday with the PennLive/Patriot-News editorial board.

Wilkinsburg consultants may be out
School board questions value vs. money spent
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 21, 2014 11:21 PM
The Wilkinsburg school board will vote next week on canceling its contract with two educational consultants from Louisiana who have received nearly $500,000 since 2010-11.
At its meeting Tuesday, the board decided to place a motion on the Jan. 28 legislative agenda directing the business manager to stop paying the consultants immediately and directing the solicitor to seek reimbursement for services that were not provided this year and in past years.

Editorial: Include all contracts in school law
Scranton Times-Tribune Published: January 21, 2014
High-profile corruption prosecutions of the "kids for cash" judges in Luzerne County and of county commissioners there and in Lackawanna County over the past decade overshadowed a less spectacular wave of public corruption.  Numerous local school directors and some administrators were rounded up for enriching themselves at public expense, often by manipulating vendor contract awards for rewards ranging from cash to clothing to carpeting.
Those cases make plain the need for the Senate to vastly expand the scope of a bill that was passed last week by the House.  The legislation is fine as far as it goes. It requires public notice of no less than 48 hours before a school board votes to approve a labor contract with unionized teachers or other employees, or a professional educator employment contract with a superintendent or other administrators.

North Hills district has tentative accord with teachers union
Post-Gazette By Sandy Trozzo January 21, 2014 10:58 PM
The North Hills School District has reached a tentative contract agreement with its teachers union, according to a statement on the district website Tuesday night from Superintendent Patrick Mannarino.  District administrators and representatives of the North Hills Education Association began negotiations in mid-2013

“She had been urging members of the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass a bill requiring public middle and high schools in the state to provide Holocaust and genocide education, but for a while she got nowhere.”
Woman puts Pa. students' Holocaust knowledge to the test
Holocaust education is mandatory in New Jersey and New York high schools, but not in Pennsylvania. And Rhonda Fink-Whitman is trying to change that.  She is a TV and radio personality, Jewish educator, and first-time novelist whose book, "94 Maidens," tells a fictionalized version of her mother's Holocaust story and Fink-Whitman's attempt to trace her family history.

Lancaster school, city officials oppose proposed business charter school
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era By KARA NEWHOUSE Staff Writer Updated Jan 14, 2014 23:06
Just say "no."
That's the message School District of Lancaster administrators sent the school board at a second hearing for the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School on Tuesday.
"This applicant clearly does not have a working concept of what a school requires to be successful. We respectfully advise that ... you do not invest our children in a plan that is dangerously underdeveloped and dramatically flawed," said Director of Elementary Education Lynette Waller during an hour-long review of the application.  Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray and city council members also voiced disapproval of the charter school proposal.

“This is taxation without representation because the funding requirements would remain with the local school district.”
Letter: SB1085 Charter school bill hurts public education
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era Jan 17, 2014 16:11 by Thomas R. Hassler
State Sen. Lloyd Smucker's charter school reform bill, Senate Bill 1085, needs to be defeated because, in my opinion, it does more harm to public education than it helps.  There is no doubt that the state Legislature needs to address charter- and cyber-school accountability and funding issues. I applaud attempts to do that, as the deficiencies in the current law are well known. However, SB 1085 also would permit the following:
Governing boards of institutions of higher education would be permitted to authorize charter schools and regional charter schools.  As such, any Pennsylvania university or college or community college with 2,000 students would be eligible to authorize an unlimited number of new charter schools. This would take the authorization review process out of the hands of our elected local school boards.

“Perhaps most undemocratic about this bill's intention to expand charter schools in the state is that these institutions have no accountability to anyone but their boards of directors and investors -- not the taxpayers who fund them, nor to the school boards who are elected representatives of the taxpayers, parents and citizens.”
Letter: SB1085 Charter school funding
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era Jan 16, 2014 17:16 by Roger L. Cohen
I urge Sen. Lloyd Smucker to rethink his support of Senate Bill 1085, which would erode what little accountability and public input that now exists over charter schools in Pennsylvania.
The charter school network has become an unaccountable, private parallel system of education that is paid for by local and state taxpayers, but does not answer to them.
Moreover, the taxpayer funds the charter schools consume are not in addition to public school funding but instead of it. A dollar to a charter is as good as a dollar cut to public education.

Letter: Lancaster ABE Charter school concerns
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era Updated Jan 14, 2014 18:57 by Danene Sorace
Setting aside the lack of a proposed curricula, local business partners and letters of support from the Lancaster community, the costs associated with the proposed Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School application should give every School District of Lancaster resident pause.  In year one, the proposed budget is $2.7 million to serve 220 students. It grows to nearly $5 million with a total projected enrollment of 400 students. As the School District of Lancaster stares down yet another budget deficit of $8 million -- largely the result of increasing pension costs -- compounded by unpredictable state support and unsustainable property tax increases, where will this money come from?

Letter: Vote on school taxes
Inquirer letter to the editor by State Rep. Dwight Evans January 22, 2014, 1:08 AM
I recently introduced House Resolution 613, which seeks a nonbinding resolution on the May 20 ballot asking voters whether they would support increasing the state sales, income, and business taxes - or any combination of taxes - to support public education.  Gov. Corbett's reported backing of an election-year funding boost for schools reeks of pandering, not passion, for public education. After all, education funding - like transportation infrastructure funding - is a core function of state government, and perhaps even more critical to the commonwealth's future.

Letters: Parents, beware of school plans
Daily News letter to the editor by Gloria C. Endres Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 3:01 AM
THE PLAN recently discussed at a School Reform Commission meeting for a universal system of enrollment proposed by multieducation providers Great Schools Compact and its facilitator, the Philadelphia School Partnership, sounds on the surface like a simplification of a complex system. The idea is for families to provide on a single application a list of school preferences, including public, charter and diocesan schools. Using a formula supposedly meant to match the student with the best choice, the decision about which school to attend is made for the family.
Parents are right to be suspicious of a system that allows a student's personal information to be shared by special interests with a stake in privately operated competitive schools. Furthermore, we have a state constitution that strictly forbids using public money for private and religious education, yet more and more such blended arrangements are permitted. All with no accountability.

Letter: Pittsburgh school officials undermine city teachers
By NINA ESPOSITO-VISGITIS, President, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers South Side
January 22, 2014
Pittsburgh’s teachers give their all every day to nurture and develop our children. So why is the school district — based on arbitrary standards pulled from thin air — so eager to fire them?
The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the district invested five years developing a model teacher evaluation and growth system. We were close to creating a system that builds positive, collaborative and meaningful teacher supports when the district abandoned collaboration. It decided, arbitrarily and unilaterally, to place 15 percent of Pittsburgh’s teachers on a path to termination.

Letter The Pittsburgh PFT is wrong
By ALAN LESGOLD, Dean, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh Oakland
January 22, 2014 12:00 AM
Recently, almost all states have decided that we need more out of our schools than ever before. The Common Core State Standards are a substantial step toward remaking schools to be able to teach all students the combination of problem solving, self-learning and self-management skills needed to do well in the information age.
Just as the new standards demand much more of students, they also demand more of teachers. They demand much more of parents, too, but that’s a story for another day. It’s unfair to tell teachers that, effective immediately, they must be able to teach the Common Core State Standards effectively, even if they were not trained to do so.

Commentary: Teacher union's lesson plan for failure
The Tribune-Review By Richard Berman Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offered Pittsburgh Public Schools $40 million, it was a godsend to the cash-strapped school system. But to the American Federation of Teachers, the city's teachers union, and AFT President Randi Weingarten, the idea that school funding might be tied to improving children's education was anathema. The grant had to go.
The Gates foundation's criteria were straightforward: The school district and teachers needed to agree on a method to evaluate classroom performance and to hold teachers accountable for their performance. The union and the district agreed on a metric, but now the AFT and its Pittsburgh local are retroactively arguing that the grading scale is too hard.
“I don’t know how there aren’t fatalities every month,” Ohstrom, who shared her photos with The Huffington Post, said over the phone. “It seems like there’s something lucky going on because after spending so much time in these schools and the nurses' offices, I would say probably every single school nurse over their career has saved multiple lives.”
Philadelphia School Nurse Shortage Causing 'Crisis,' Says Documentarian Posted: 01/17/2014 12:54 pm Updated: 01/21/2014 8:10 pm
When 12-year-old Laporshia Massey died this past October after not having the option of visiting a school nurse at her cash-strapped Philadelphia school, media outlets and education advocates were stunned. How could a school district, entrusted with keeping its students safe, fail to provide children with even the most basic of health care services?  Philadelphia-based photographer Katrina Ohstrom, on the other hand, was not shocked. Before Massey’s death, Ohstrom spent time in the Philadelphia school system, documenting the district’s school nurse shortage with photographs and interviews for an informational booklet. She says the only thing that surprises her is that more Philadelphia students have not died preventable deaths in recent months.

OECD Chart: U.S. ranks 25th in public spending on early education

Commission: Early Childhood Investment Key to Healthier America
Education Week Early Years Blog By Christina Samuels on January 13, 2014 8:00 AM
Investing in early childhood through high-quality preschool programs and community support programs is an essential element to creating a more healthy country, says a commission convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—the nation's largest philanthropy devoted solely to health issues. 
The report, Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities, is a followup from the Commission to Build a Healthier America, which first released 10 sweeping recommendations in 2009. One of its recommendations then was "ensure that all children have high-quality early developmental support (child care, education, and other services)."

Expanding school choice: An education revolution or diversion?
NSBA Action Center The Edifier by Patte Barth January 21, 2014
House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) Cantor was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”
Not “a solid education.”  School choice.
The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance ofNational School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”  
Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

On Assignment for DianeRavitch.Net: Rewriting Thomas Harkin’s Teach For America Constituent Letter
Cloaking Inequity Blog January 21, 2014  byJulian Vasquez Heilig |
I am on assignment today. Diane Ravitch asked me to rewrite Tom Harkin’s email to a constituent that extols the virtues of TFA. I will begin with the letter that was forwarded to me that was apparently written by Harkin’s office and then follow the official letter with my rewrite.

Connecticut Judge rejects state's request to delay school funding trial
Connecticut Mirror By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas Thursday, January 16, 2014
Hartford Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay summarily rejected the state's request Thursday for a lengthy postponement of an education-funding lawsuit over whether the state is meeting its constitutional responsibility of providing a "suitable education" for every child in Connecticut.
The attorney general's office had asked the judge to reschedule a trial now set to begin this summer until October 2015, a move that the plaintiffs, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, claimed was intended to delay the proceedings until after the 2014 gubernatorial election.  "Fortunately, it didn't work, and nine years from the time CCJEF filed this case, schoolchildren will finally have their day in court," said Dianne Kaplan deVries, the founder and executive director of the coalition. The attorney general's office had no comment.

Reaction to Ravitch: A different view of Common Core
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS January 21 at 1:15 pm
published the text of a speech that education historian and activist Diane Ravitch gave this month about the past, present and future of the Common Core State Standards to the Modern Language Association. (You can read it here.) Here’s a response from Professor Gerald Graff, a former president of the Modern Language Association who teaches English and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and who heard Ravitch give her speech.

COMMENTARY: Questionable Education Lessons From China
Education Week By Xu Zhao, Helen Haste, and Robert L. Selman January 22, 2014
In 2010 and again in 2013, American journalists and educators, stunned by Shanghai's high scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, searched for factors that could explain the apparent success of Chinese education. However, they largely neglected to report the fact that the Chinese education system is widely criticized by its own educators and parents for producing graduates with poor academic abilities and poor health. Many also do not seem aware that, in 2011 alone, 150,000 Chinese citizens emigrated to other countries. For many of the middle-class families, the primary reason for leaving was to free their children from the perceived cruelty of the Chinese education system.

“Lately, most new Gulen charter schools have been approved by alternative authorizers.  This way there is a better chance of using political or inside connections, and minimizing public input.”
Gulen Charter Schools Blog
Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools January 21, 2014
Hearings on new applications, expansions, etc

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:

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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