Monday, January 27, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 27, 2014: “parents did not care how the $1 billion disappeared. All they know is that they were seeing favorite teachers laid off, class sizes balloon, music and arts eliminated, and fees instituted to play sports”

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
NPE National Conference at University of Texas at Austin March 1 & 2

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 27, 2014:
“parents did not care how the $1 billion disappeared. All they know is that they were seeing favorite teachers laid off, class sizes balloon, music and arts eliminated, and fees instituted to play sports”

“Since Corbett has been in office, the number of voters who rank "education, school" as Pennsylvania's top priority has skyrocketed by 17 percentage points to 21 percent, according to a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll.  Education is now the top issue for voters, far outpacing unemployment, economy, taxes and crime, the poll found.  At the same time, the number of voters who say Corbett is doing an "excellent or good job" has gone down similarly, to 19 percent.  Corbett has 10 months to turn it around before voters go to the polls Nov. 4.”
Corbett dogged by 2011-2012 Education Cuts
Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau January 25, 2014
A helicopter circled high above the Philadelphia magnet high school, the thump of its propellers drowned out only by the voices of protesters expecting to see Gov. Tom Corbett.  The governor was scheduled to present Central High with an academic award for high math and reading scores. But the protesters, who included students, did not want him there.
They proclaimed Central has succeeded despite losing programs and staff after $1 billion in federal and state money was cut from Corbett's education budget in 2011-12 to help close an anticipated $4.2 billion deficit.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 25, 2014:
Prospects brighten for new Pa. schools funding formula

“The challenge they face is that the cost to maintain the state government pension system, and to pay the state’s share of public school workers’ pensions, is about to increase by $600 million.”
Next move Corbett's in long-running pension saga
Delco Times By MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press POSTED: 01/26/14, 6:24 AM EST |
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett and his budget secretary have used stark terms to discuss the state of Pennsylvania’s public-sector pensions, a topic that many expect to be addressed when their 2014-15 budget proposal is unveiled in a little more than a week.
The challenge they face is that the cost to maintain the state government pension system, and to pay the state’s share of public school workers’ pensions, is about to increase by $600 million.
Corbett proposed dealing with it a year ago, saying that “resolving our pension crisis will be the single most important thing we do for decades to come,” and pushing for a 401(k)-style plan for new employees and “some adjustment in the way future benefits are calculated” for current workers.

“School leadership organizations, led by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, also issued a statement last week calling for passage of House Bill 1738 to create a Basic Education Funding Commission for Pennsylvania.”
Editorial: School funding formula factors in election year
Delco Times POSTED: 01/25/14, 8:33 PM EST | UPDATED: 53 SECS AGO
Gov. Tom Corbett, tuning up for this year’s re-election challenge, last week urged the commissioning of a study to determine a “true funding system” fair to all public schools in Pennsylvania.  That’s a new one for Corbett, but it’s a case of deja vu for Pennsylvania.
In 2006, then-Gov. Ed Rendell spearheaded and the Legislature authorized a costing-out study to determine a fair funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools. The study was released in November 2007, resulting in a formula implemented in 2008.
The formula took into account the number of students in each district, community poverty levels, and local tax effort, allocating relatively more funding to districts that are larger, are poorer, and have higher property taxes.  The formula also recognized the additional costs associated with educating students in poverty and English language learners, distributing relatively more funding to districts with higher numbers of these students.
The system was abandoned in 2011 after Corbett took office.

Bonnie Squires: The governor is coming? Not!
Main Line Times Opinion By Bonnie Squires Thursday, January 23, 2014
Governor Corbett had a very bad week last week. And the week before that was not too terrific, either. We don’t know who is advising him, but he certainly could use a new group of advisors. Ones who can read the minds of Delaware Valley residents in particular.
Let’s start with what happened on Friday, January 17. The Corbett schedule for that day had listed a visit to Central High School in Philadelphia to commend students from Central and two other schools who had achieved honor. The governor thought, mistakenly, that demonstrators who are angry about his having cut so much money from public schools would invade the school.
As it turned out, the students were dressed in their finest, looking forward to meeting with the governor. And alumni, which include elected officials and law firm presidents and many other outstanding citizens, regardless of how they feel about some of the Corbett administration policies.

“I’m already on record saying I think Corbett gets re-elected. Go ahead and laugh. Just remember where you heard it. This one is going to be interesting.”
Letter From the Editor: Corbett could use a friend in Delco
By Phil Heron, Delaware County Daily Times: 01/26/14, 10:43 PM EST 
About the only thing left for Gov. Tom Corbett to do is shut down the Commodore Barry Bridge in a fit of political retribution.  Corbett is in serious need of some friends. Republican, Democrat, doesn’t much matter. His poll numbers are in the toilet. And he’s staring down the gun of a gubernatorial election in November.  Corbett’s name will be on the top of the state ballot when we go to the polls to elect a congressman, as well as every member of the state House of Representatives and some state Senate seats.

Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls begin to find their feet at Harrisburg forum: column
By Robert J. Vickers | on January 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM,
Five of the eight Democrats angling to become governor this year brought some long overdue heft to their campaigns Friday night during a candidate forum at the Harrisburg Hilton.  But that weight came with a dash of dissention.

“The candidates restated their frequent criticisms of the Corbett administration's education funding policies, with a consensus on the need to provide more education funding and to revise the formula for how state funds are distributed among school districts.”
Democratic candidates for governor unite against Corbett, UPMC in Pittsburgh debate
By James O'Toole / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 26, 2014 11:59 PM
UPMC was nearly as prominent a pinata as Gov. Tom Corbett as UPMC's employee relations and its standoff with Highmark were repeatedly denounced during a debate Sunday among eight Democratic candidates for governor.  In the 90-minute forum at Carnegie Mellon University, the candidates were united in criticizing the Republican administration's education policies. Most voiced support for easing prohibitions against marijuana use in the state, and for stricter regulation and taxing of natural gas fracking.  But some of the more affecting moments of the encounter came as the hopefuls were asked to describe failures in their lives.

Corbett's numbers guy
By Tribune-Review Published: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Who: Charles Zogby; Age: 51
Residence: Mechanicsburg, York County
Occupation: Pennsylvania Secretary of the Budget
Influential because: He prepares Gov. Tom Corbett's annual budget and implements the spending plan once the Legislature adopts it. He also maintains the state's accounting, payroll, debt insurance and financial reporting systems and programs.
Blogger’s note: The state budget line for Special Education funding in Pennsylvania has been flat for 6 years running.  However, mandated services provided by schools between 08-09 and 11-12 increased by $453 million.
East Penn School District's proposed preliminary budget includes 4.57 percent tax hike
By Precious Petty | The Express-Times  on January 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM
East Penn School District administrators on Monday night plan to present a proposed preliminary budget that would raise property taxes 4.57 percent in 2014-15.  Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger earlier this month warned school directors that the tax increase would likely outstrip the state-set index of 2.1 percent.  He said rising special-education costs, pension contributions and uncertainty about state funding would be obstacles that district officials will have to overcome as they prepare next year's spending plan.

Last week, by a vote of 187-9, the House passed House Bill 1738 (Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-Bucks County), to establish a commission to study and make recommendations for a new formula for distributing state funding to basic education. The commission would work with school districts and charter operators to develop a funding formula based on the school district’s market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support and other factors.
What’s Happening in the PA House – Week of January 27, 2014
House Returns to Session as Budget Address Draws Near
PA House GOP Blog January 26, 2014
The House of Representatives returns to session next week with a variety of items on the agenda both on the House floor and in committee.
With the governor’s annual budget address just over a week away, the House Education Committee will look at how special education programs are being funded in the Commonwealth by holding an informational briefing on recommendations made by the Special Education Funding Commission. In December, the commission recommended adopting a new formula based on three cost categories – low (category 1), moderate (category 2) and high (category 3). The formula would also include factors reflecting community differences such as market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate and small and rural school districts.

Ex-head of Pa. teachers union sentenced for theft THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Saturday, January 25, 2014, 11:26 AM
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - The former president of a northeastern Pennsylvania teachers union will serve a year behind bars for embezzlement.  Authorities say 48-year-old Lisa Barrett stole nearly $60,000 from the Wyoming Area Teachers Union. They say she spent it on personal shopping, traveling and dining.

Union to hit Olney Charter with unfair labor practice charge
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Monday, January 27, 2014, 1:08 AM
PHILADELPHIA A union that has been involved in organizing teachers at Olney Charter High School is set to file an unfair labor practice charge Monday over a new social-media policy the union said was an attempt to silence staff.  The Alliance of Charter School Employees, a local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, alleges that Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, the nonprofit that runs Olney, bars workers from making negative comments about their employer on social media, including in blogs and online forums.  Union representatives allege the policy violates national labor law by infringing on the rights of employees during an organizing campaign. The charge will be filed with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board in Center City.

"There's nothing more important to the future of this city than providing a free, quality public education and I think that is the highest and best use for me over the next five years," Green said.
If Green goes to SRC, how will he and Council colleagues get along?
A Philadelphia city councilman is waiting to be confirmed as the new head of the School Reform Commission.  What will Council be like without Bill Green if he's confirmed to the SRC?

Teacher drug testing included in Bangor Area School District contract negotiations
Lehigh valley Live By Lynn Ondrusek on January 26, 2014 at 8:15 AM
A policy that could make Bangor Area the only school district in Pennsylvania to randomly drug test its teachers is a negotiating point for a new teachers contract, the teachers union president and a school board member said.  As the talks stand now, according to union president Kevin Lilly and school directorMichael Goffredo, teachers wouldn't need to approve random drug testing to get a new contract.  But the contract under discussion would require the teachers to at least bring the drug-testing policy to a vote, Lilly said.

Science- and technology-focused charter school hopes to open Easton location
By Peter Panepinto | The Express-Times  on January 25, 2014 at 5:36 PM
The Strong Foundations Charter School already has 150 signed up to attend, according to a school organizer.  Now all the school needs is permission to open from the Easton Area School District, its possible CEO says.  Vincent Ford, president of the Citizens for Education Coalition, is proposing the school for about 200 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. He hopes to open it in August at 283 E. St. Joseph St. in the building that formerly housed the Easton Catholic Elementary School.  The school would "increase by one grade every academic year until we get up to 12th grade," and in four years, the charter would seek an additional building to accommodate more students, he said.

Philly Outsider candidate with insider friends?
APPEALING TO those who want an "outsider" candidate to run for mayor in 2015, Bright Hope Baptist Pastor Kevin R. Johnson generated a lot of buzz earlier this month when he told the Daily News that he's exploring a run.  Johnson, a political neophyte who moved to Philly seven years ago, seemed a refreshing change from the typical political insider with friends in high places.
Not so fast.

“Its website lists these partners: American Federation for Children; Black Alliance for Educational Options; Children's Scholarship Fund; Choice Media; Education Reform Now; Families Empowered; Foundation for Excellence in Education; Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options; Institute for Justice; KIPP Foundation;, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; New Schools Venture Fund; StudentsFirst; Students for Education Reform; Center for Education Reform; the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice; and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.”
National Catholic Schools Week celebration emphasizes school choice
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 26, 2014 11:59 PM
For 40 years, Catholic schools have been celebrating National Catholic Schools Week, for many years starting the last Sunday in January.  But, as a reflection of the growing school choices available across the country, the Catholic schools now share the week with a relative newcomer, National School Choice Week, which started in 2011.

POSTED: Monday, January 27, 2014, 3:01 AM
IT WILL take awhile before the book is closed on the investigation into test cheating in Philadelphia - and a sad book it will be.  Last week, the district fired three principals for their role in rigging tests results. In all, district investigators identified 138 educators working in 27 schools, including three charter schools, as being involved in cheating.
The district's internal investigation continues in 19 other schools. In addition, it was disclosed last week that the state attorney general is investigating, a sign that criminal charges may someday be leveled.  The past 12 months have been challenging for supporters of public education, but this news is more cringe-worthy than the typical deficit news, coming as it does amid momentum for more educational options, like charters and vouchers, and less appetite for funding the traditional system. The cheating scandal provides more ammunition for public-school detractors.

Here are a couple prior postings that sketch out how the Chester Community Charter School, run by the Governor's largest individual campaign donor, was left to investigate itself.....
Two of Pa.'s largest charters part of test score probe
Notebook/NewsWorks by Benjamin Herold on Jul 21 2011 Posted in Latest news
Two of the largest charters in Pennsylvania, Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) and the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber), are among the89 schools across the state that are to be investigated for statistical irregularitieson 2009 standardized tests.
In all, 10 Pennsylvania charters were found to have 2009 test scores warranting further inquiry, according to a recently revealed state report meant to identify "potential test results that may have been earned unfairly."  The rest of the 89 schools are spread over 38 school districts. State Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis has directed those districts to conduct investigations in all their traditional public schools that were heavily flagged in the study. The charters with unusual results will investigate themselves, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) spokesperson Tim Eller. 

“Two years ago, however, during an April 2011 visit, Corbett was effusive: The school’s test-score success “needs to be reported to all the people ofPennsylvania,” he said, so they could witness school choice in action. At the time, Corbett was under fire for proposing massive cuts to education. ……A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself.”
How Pennsylvania Schools Made a Cheating Scandal Disappear
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running schools into question.
City Paper by  Daniel Denvir Posted: Thu, Jul. 18, 2013, 12:00 AM
The odds that 11th-graders at Strawberry Mansion High School would have randomly erased so many wrong answers on the math portion of their 2009 state standardized test and then filled in so many right ones were long. Very, very long. To be precise, they were less than one in a duodecillion, according to an erasure analysis performed for the state Department of Education.
In short, there appeared to be cheating — and it didn’t come as a total surprise. In 2006, student members of Youth United for Change protested being forced out of class for test-preparation sessions and won concessions from the district. In 2010, principal Lois Powell-Mondesire left Strawberry Mansion; after her departure, test scores dropped sharply. 

“New Jersey began offering universal prekindergarten in 31 of its poorest school districts, including Union City, after a court ruling in 1998 demanded more funding for early education.”
Lessons for de Blasio in New Jersey’s Free Pre-K
New York Times By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZJAN. 26, 2014
UNION CITY, N.J. — Teddy Lin’s teachers were worried.
For the first few weeks of preschool, Teddy, a 3-year-old Chinese immigrant, cried nearly every day. While his classmates recited stories in English about dogs and elephants, he talked in Mandarin. Some days, he sat quietly and refused to play.
His teachers responded with a radical plan. They began learning Mandarin, tutored his parents in reading, and paired Teddy with older classmates to teach him about topics like woodland animals. Within a few months, Teddy was performing on a par with his peers.
Officials across the country, including Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, are looking to efforts like those in New Jersey as they seek to broaden access to free, full-day prekindergarten. President Obama embraced the policy last year, and politicians in several states, including Maryland, Texas and Washington, are considering ambitious expansions.

“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.”
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.

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

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:

Auditor General DePasquale to Hold Public Meetings on Ways to Improve Charter Schools
Seeks to find ways to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
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:

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
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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