Friday, January 24, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 24, 2014: Pre-K for PA Launches

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

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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 24, 2014:
Pre-K for PA Launches

Register Now! EPLC’s 2014 Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters
EPLC’s Education Issue Workshops Register Now! – Space is Limited!
A Non-Partisan One-Day Program for Pennsylvania Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff and Interested Voters
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 in Harrisburg, PA
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 in Monroeville, PA
Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Philadelphia,PA

Pre-K for PA: Groups form coalition to push for early education
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Friday, January 24, 2014, 1:08 AM
Ten education advocacy groups have formed a coalition to push for more funds for early education in Pennsylvania, which currently helps less than 20 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds access high-quality programs, according to Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC).
The coalition wants to "elevate the discussion about high-quality pre-K and how to make it more accessible to kids," said Mike Race, a PPC spokesman.

Pre-K for PA: State campaign pushes pre-kindergarten
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 23, 2014 11:53 PM
In one room at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, adults were kicking off a statewide campaign to seek access to high quality pre-kindergarten education for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state.  In other rooms, 3- and 4-year-olds were living the experience at the JCC's Early Childhood Development Center. They were reading books, playing with blocks, singing, creating art in small groups with a teacher and cleaning up after snack.
"Every child should have access to something like that. It's really going to help them be successful," said Michelle Figlar, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children. The association is the Western Pennsylvania leader in the new campaign called PreK for PA, which was launched Thursday around the state.
According to the campaign, only 20 percent of the state's 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality programs.

Pennsylvania's education leaders call on state leaders to support all schools
PSBA News Release Steve Robinson, Sr. Dir. of Communications 1/23/2014
HARRISBURG, PA -- The leaders of Pennsylvania's major statewide school leadership organizations are calling on the legislature to move swiftly to pass House Bill 1738, now in the Senate, and begin the process of establishing a fair, predictable way of providing adequate funding for education in all communities.  "In many parts of our state, school funding is not keeping pace with education needs and any increase needs to be distributed in a consistent way. District leaders cannot make the best decisions for schools and students without knowing what basic education funding will be," said Nathan Mains, PSBA executive director.
"Pennsylvania must treat public education as a bipartisan issue that has benefits for all children, regardless of where they live and attend school in this commonwealth," said Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. "We haven't had a fair, predictable way of funding education since 1991. It limits our children's futures and it has hurt our state's economy."
Support for changing the way state education funds are distributed is building. Yesterday, Gov. Tom Corbett said he agreed that school funding systems should be changed to "a true funding system" that is fair to all schools. The governor's statement came on the heels of Representative Bernie O'Neil's bill to create a Basic Education Funding Commission being referred to the State Senate.

Pa. offers security grants to schools, area police
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Friday, January 24, 2014, 1:08 AM
Pennsylvania state officials said Thursday that 13 area school districts and police departments and one charter school in Philadelphia were awarded grants for school resource officers and school police officers.  In all, Gov. Corbett and State Sen. Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) said, the state would distribute 81 grants to schools, towns, and police departments totaling $3.9 million to improve safety and security in schools.  Scarnati, the president pro tempore of the Senate, sponsored the legislation expanding the state's Safe Schools grant program.

Governor Corbett and Senator Scarnati Announce $3.9 Million in School Resource Officer and School Police Officer Grants; 81 Entities to Share Funding
PDE Press Release January 23, 2014
Harrisburg – Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) today announced that $3.9 million has been awarded to 81 schools and municipalities for the placement of school resource officers and school police officers in schools across Pennsylvania.
“The safety of our children is of the utmost concern to me, Senator Scarnati and members of the General Assembly,” Corbett said.  “This funding is the first step in providing schools with resources to ensure our students are learning in a safe and secure environment.”
Created through legislation authored by Sen. Scarnati and signed into law last year by Gov. Corbett, the grant program provides funding for programs to address school violence and security.

Woodland Hills schools will be part of national effort to reduce school suspensions, expulsions
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 23, 2014 11:40 PM
Through the past year, Woodland Hills superintendent Alan Johnson has worked to reduce the number of suspensions given to students by lessening the zero tolerance response to discipline in his district.  That effort gained him national attention, and as a result, it was announced Thursday that Woodland Hills is one of 10 school districts around the nation selected to participate in a public-private partnership initiative to explore discipline alternatives to suspension and expulsion. The initiative is a partnership between the American Association of Administrators, a nationwide superintendents group, and the Children's Defense Fund and is being funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies.  "The focus is very specific: That is dealing with the issue of the disparate outcomes of education that results from these lopsided disciplinary statistics particularly when you look at African-American males in schools," Mr. Johnson said.

“If budget cuts have created a sense of doom in Philadelphia, the story is playing out much differently in Pittsburgh. There, just as in Philadelphia, the cuts have done serious damage, but they have also inspired a remarkably vibrant grassroots movement on behalf of public schools.
In early 2013, a crucial opportunity arose to advance the anti-privatization movement in Pittsburgh: Four of the nine Board of Education members announced their retirement. Unlike cities such as Chicago and New York, which have mayor-appointed school boards, the Pittsburgh board is elected by residents. So several labor, interfaith and social justice groups came together to promote candidates who support education justice and to host public forums to help educate the public about the candidates. That coalition subsequently formed Great Public Schools Pittsburgh (GPSP). Throughout the months leading up to the general election, GPSP met with the candidates to share concerns about the trend toward privatization.”
Yinzers Toss Teach for America
An embattled public school system fights back against privatization.
In These Times BY THEO ANDERSON January 22, 2014
Advocates for public education scored a major victory in December, when the newly constituted Pittsburgh Board of Education rejected a three-year, $750,000 contract between Teach for America (TFA) and Pittsburgh Public Schools. TFA assigns recent college graduates to teaching positions in public schools, often urban schools that are considered failing. Critics believe the program does a disservice to children and undermines the foundations of public education.
The victory is part of a broad and bitter struggle that has escalated dramatically in Pennsylvania since Tom Corbett was elected the state’s governor in 2010. A Republican in the Tea Party mold, Corbett made “education reform”—code for defunding public schools and shifting students to charter and private schools—central to his campaign. Once elected, he pushed through a 2011 budget with an estimated $1 billion in cuts to funding for the state’s public schools. The advocacy group Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign described the cuts as “an outrageous assault on children, families and Pennsylvania’s economic future.” One thing that both sides can agree on is the dire condition of Philadelphia’s public schools, which are “facing end times,” as Salon’s Aaron Kase recently wrote, noting that some are doing without “counselors, administrative staff, noon aides, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper.”
If budget cuts have created a sense of doom in Philadelphia, the story is playing out much differently in Pittsburgh. There, just as in Philadelphia, the cuts have done serious damage, but they have also inspired a remarkably vibrant grassroots movement on behalf of public schools.

“We don’t need to “study” this. We don’t need to come up with a new formula. A perfectly good formula is sitting over there on your shelf.  Literally all you have to do to make the funding fair again is take it off the shelf, and start using it again in the FY 2014-15 budget.”
#PAGov: Does Corbett Think It Was Unfair of Him to Scrap Rendell’s Education Funding Formula?
Keystone Politics Posted on January 22, 2014 by Jon Geeting #
Tom Corbett is trolling us hard today, calling PA’s state education funding unfair while ignoring his own starring role in making it more unfair.  Lots of voters don’t know this happened, but I’m old enough to remember that we had a fairer funding formula until Tom Corbett got rid of it for no good reason.  During the Ed Rendell administration, a study was released, known to folks in education as the “costing out study.”

Corbett can't escape schools crisis
Philadelphia Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 01/23/2014
Tom Corbett could not escape the ugly headlines last Friday when he beat a hasty retreat from his planned visit to Central High School. The Republican governor, whose approval ratings have tanked — in part because of his massive cuts to public eduction — needed to make sure his opponents could no longer say that he had never visited a Philly public school. Because he hasn’t. Not once.
But there was a large demonstration outside Central, and students were planning their own protest indoors. That, too, would look bad. So Corbett cancelled the event at the very last minute and, in doing so, turned a difficult political moment into a self-inflicted public-relations meltdown. He told reporters gathered at a relocated press conference in Center City that he had “decided not to engage in the theatrics that have been designed by adults within and outside the system.”

Quakertown schools name interim superintendent who was asked by Gov. Tom Corbett to resign as state ed chief
William Harner will serve as Quakertown schools chief until June.
By Melinda Rizzo, Special to The Morning Call 11:39 p.m. EST, January 23, 2014
Quakertown Community School Board on Thursday narrowly voted to appoint a temporary superintendent who was asked by Gov. Tom Corbett to step down as interim state education secretary.  William Harner of Carlisle, Cumberland County, will replace Lisa Andrejko, who resigned earlier this month for health reasons. His appointment will give the Quakertown district time to find a permanent superintendent.  He was named interim education secretary last June in anticipation of a full appointment. Two months later, Corbett demanded and received his resignation before he could formally be installed.
Allentown School District will open buildings to homeless 'if asked'
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  on January 23, 2014 at 9:01 PM
The Allentown School District has opened its doors to the homeless in the past and would do so again if asked by the city, officials said tonight.
"All we have to do is be asked," school board President Robert Smith Jr. said.
As temperatures have dropped into single digits in recent nights, residents have called upon the city to provide additional emergency shelter space for the homeless on a temporary basis.

“Bill Brasco has been a Jeannette board member for 44 years”

Jeannette school board members honored for years of service

TribLive By Kristie Linden  Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
It's school board appreciation month and this week five current and former board members were honored by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).
Joseph Zupancic, a member of the Canon-McMillan board and the PSBA Southwestern Region 3 director, attended Monday's board meeting to hand out plaques and certificates honoring Jeannette's longest serving board members.
Bill Brasco has been a Jeannette board member for 44 years and Morrison Lewis has been on the board for 28 years. This week they were honored with plaques representing their addition to the PSBA Honor Roll of School Board Service.
Former SRC member Joseph Dworetzky reflects about the job
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Thursday, January 23, 2014, 3:01 AM
Serving on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission was so important to Joseph Dworetzky that even after relocating to San Francisco two years ago he flew back at least once a month at his own expense for SRC meetings. The five commission members receive no pay.
At his final meeting as a commissioner last Thursday, the former city solicitor known for his persistent questioning of district staff, urged SRC members and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. to continue pressing for stable funding for schools.
The financial crisis, he said, must be resolved to prevent recurrence of the shortfall that led to massive layoffs and program eliminations school year.

Philly: Some improvement in District graduation rate in 2013; college success still limited
Notebook by Paul Socolar on Jan 23 2014 Posted in Latest news
A decade ago, it wasn't far off to say that in the School District of Philadelphia, only half the students graduate.  At least now you can say two-thirds.
The District's six-year graduation rate -- the percentage of students who started high school in Philadelphia District schools in 2007 and earned their diplomas by 2013 -- has climbed to 67 percent. That figure includes hundreds of students who don't graduate on time, but persist through a fifth or a sixth year of high school to earn their diplomas.

Philly school to become 'Center for Excellence in Learning'
thenotebook by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jan 23 2014 Posted in Latest news
The Philadelphia School District: It's not all bad news all the time.
Some successes, in fact, are so great that educators from across the nation are willing to book a flight to PHL just to take a peek underneath the proverbial hood.
Take the District-run Science Leadership Academy as a case in point.
Through its partnership with The Franklin Institute, SLA has developed a inquiry-based, project-driven learning environment that's earned high praise from educators across the country.
President Obama himself has acknowledged the school's accolades. When he spoke at SLA's high school graduation in 2012, he predicted that "somebody in this room ... will invent some entire new industry that we don't even know about yet."

Chess clubs raising money to compete on state and national levels
by thenotebook by Jeseamy Muentes on Jan 23 2014 Posted in Latest news
The Minor Threats Chess Club traveled in 2013 to tournaments throughout the city and state, and as far away as Nashville -- for the Chess SuperNationals in April.  Now, Minor Threats and the Philadelphia Chess Society, which include Paul Robeson Elementary Chess Club and Blair Bishops Chess Club, are raising money to participate in even more competitions this year.
The Philadelphia Chess Society is working to raise $20,000 to get 40 students to the Pennsylvania State Scholastic Chess Championships in Carlisle, Pa.; the Junior High National Chess Championships in A

Competition is the Ultimate Performance Test in Education
Citizens Alliance of PA By Dan Truitt Representative, House District 156 Jan 23, 2014
As the new year begins, legislators in Harrisburg are still talking about reforming state laws affecting charter schools in the Commonwealth.  Complicating the discussions are many misconceptions about charter schools, how they operate, how well they perform, and how they are funded.
The most-significant misconception is the belief that charter schools are either “brick-and-mortar” schools or “cyber” schools and that cyber schools have significantly lower costs.  To hear legislators and lobbyists talk about them, one would think that there is nothing between these two extremes.  In reality, cyber schools have added performing arts centers, mobile science labs, learning centers and other hybrid programs that necessitate buildings and other significant assets above and beyond what is needed for IT and administration.  Some charter schools allow their students to attend technical schools just like the students at their resident school districts.  In these cases, the charter schools must use some or all of the per-pupil funds they receive from the student’s resident school district to pay the technical school tuition.

“If charter schools can produce evidence that they consistently do a better job than traditional public schools in educating similar students, they deserve more time. But the clock is running out. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect better outcomes in the 18 years they have been in existence.”
Bad News for Charter Schools
Education Week Reality Check Blog By Walt Gardner on January 22, 2014 7:33 AM
Although charter schools have been controversial since their inception, their supporters have argued that it's too soon to pass final judgment.  I agree with that view, but the latest news is not at all on their side.  I'm referring now to events in Phoenix and Columbus.  Since Arizona was one of the first states to authorize charters, in 1995, I'll begin there ("Arizona Hopes New Charter Schools Can Lift Poor Phoenix Area," The New York Times, Jan. 17).  
The argument has always been that once free of the regulations and unions that prevail in traditional public schools, charter schools would demonstrate their superiority by their test scores. But that has not been the case in Arizona, where the standardized test scores of charter school students are lower than for those in traditional public schools.  (I stress the word "traditional" because charter schools are public schools.)

The Cycle of School Closures
National Opportunity to Learn Campaign Posted Wednesday January 22nd, 2014
Mass school closures have become a popular, "quick fix" for policymakers trying to address struggling schools and budget crises – despite the lack of evidence that closures save money or even improve opportunities for students. Instead, school closures are both a symptom and a cause of perpetuated inequality, and they leave students of color and students from low-income families without access to the educational resources they deserve. To break the Cycle of School Closures we must end the underfunding of our schools and invest in proven alternatives that help every student and every school succeed.

TAUGHT BY FINLAND 01/18/201417 Comments
When I was teaching first grade in the Greater Boston area, my Finnish wife, Johanna, loved to tell me about schools in Finland. Most of what she told me sounded mythical.  According to Johanna, Finnish children started first grade at age seven. Their school days were often just four hours long. Her close Finnish friend, a first grade teacher in Helsinki, worked about 30 hours each week, including planning time.  For years, I refused to believe my wife. My reality as an American first grade teacher was just too different from the one she described.  Many of my first grade students were a full year or two younger than their Finnish peers. Our school days lasted seven hours. Unlike Johanna’s friend, I was pulling in 50-hour weeks of teaching and planning. I just didn’t believe that another way was possible until I started teaching in Finland.

Come to Harrisburg February 4th for the Governor's Budget Address
Show your School Spirit with PCCY!
On February 4th 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

PA House Education Committee Meeting Monday, January 27, 2014 11:00 AM Room 140 Main Capitol
Informational briefing - Recommendations of the Special Education Funding Commission Report.

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.

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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