Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 29, 2014: Pa.denies all applications for cyber-charter schools in 2014

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 29, 2014:
Pa.denies all applications for cyber-charter schools in 2014

Changing PA’s charter law: What is at stake in SB 1085?
Education Voters PA website January 2014
Download this fact sheet: What' s At Stake in SB 1085
After 17 years, the PA legislature is considering making major changes to Pennsylvania’s charter school law.  Improvements to the law are long overdue, but unfortunately, the legislation in the Senate (SB 1085) will not improve PA’s charter school law.  Instead, it would take local control away from communities and create massive new costs and new financial risks for taxpayers. It is taxation without representation: communities would have no means of approval, negotiation, oversight or accountability but would still have to fund schools that have been authorized by a private or state entity.  The “charter” is supposed to serve as the agreement with the community, laying out how the school will add value and innovation to the community’s public education system and creating a contract for services – which allows a community to plan its financial obligations and assure that it is getting the services it is paying for.  Communities must have the final word on whether and how a charter school is appropriate for that community.
What is wrong with SB 1085?

“I especially worry that charter schools are another factor that’s destroying American neighborhoods, especially in our cities. Whether intentional or not, charters send a message that families can’t expect a good education in their own neighborhood, especially if that neighborhood is urban.”
Tale of two schools
PDK By Joan Richardson 01.28.14 | Learning on the EDge | 0 Comments
Whenever I visit a school, one question always guides me: Would I want my own child in this school? If it’s good enough for my children, then it’s a good school; if not, then it’s a bad school. Plain and simple.  I’ve always applied my test in equal measure whether the school is a traditional public school, a charter school, a parochial school, a private school, or even a home school. The standard should be the same, regardless of the structure of the school or who’s paying the bills.
I’m still not convinced that charter schools are delivering enough quality to justify trashing an entire system of public education that has long served this country well.
And that’s part of why the charter debate is so difficult for me.

Pa.denies all applications for cyber-charter schools in 2014
There will be no new cyber-charter schools opening this year in Pennsylvania.
The state Department of Education rejected proposals from each of the six operators that applied last November.  The state's 14 existing cyber-charter schools – which educate students via computers in students' homes – have thus far produced dismal academic results for their 35,000 students statewide.  Judging by the state's new school performance profile scores, the 11 cyber-charters for which information is available scored well below state averages.
Pennsylvania's cyber-charters have also drawn criticism from academics and the state auditor general regarding their use of public funds.

Governor Corbett Presents Governor’s Awards to Two Red Lion Area Schools; Previews Education Initiative in Upcoming Budget
PDE Press Release January 28, 2014
Red Lion – Governor Tom Corbett today presented the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to two schools in Red Lion Area School District, York County.
Pleasant View Elementary School and Locust Grove Elementary School each were presented a banner for their academic performance.  ……The Governor also previewed of one of his education proposals for the upcoming 2014-15 state budget.  The Governor’s Expanding Excellence Program would provide competitive funding to schools that have attained a 90 or higher on the School Performance Profile and are willing to analyze and share best practices that have proven to raise student achievement.  Grant recipients will be responsible for supporting schools across the state that strive to replicate these strategies and techniques.

Dorothy June Brown retrial expected this summer - maybe
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 3:30 PM
The retrial of charter school founder Dorothy June Brown on multiple federal fraud counts is at least four months away - and perhaps longer.  In documents filed Monday, U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick said Brown's counsel is involved in a trial in Camden and is not expected to be available "for four to six months."  Earlier this month, a jury acquitted Brown of six counts but said they were deadlocked on the remaining 54. Jurors said the panel was split 9 to 3 in favor of convicting Brown on charges she defrauded the four charter schools she founded of $6.5 million and then engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice to cover it up.
Prosecutors have said they plan to retry the case.

"If we want to get the people in Harrisburg to move, we have to make them. Call, email, be relentless," she said, later adding, "We have to put pressure on our political leaders, the people we voted in, to do their job, do due diligence, to fix this problem now."
Tuscarora school board, officials discuss PSERS impact on district finances
MERCERSBURG >> Tuscarora school board hosted a town meeting Monday night to discuss the school district's financial situation, including a possible 8.7 mill tax hike.
Officials and school board members said upcoming increases to the Public School Employees Retirement System are the biggest contributor to the scenario. The contribution rate will increase to 21.4 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year from 16.9 percent this year, and is expected to raise to 30 percent in about three years.  This is true for every district in the state. As of June, the system had a deficit, or unfunded liability on benefits earned already, of $33 billion, according to information presented by Richard Dreyfuss, a business consultant and senior fellow with The Commonwealth Foundation. This is due to underfunding, low investment returns, reduced future investment expectations and retroactive benefit improvements.

Wilkinsburg board fires consultants
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 28, 2014 11:27 PM
The Wilkinsburg school board decided unanimously Tuesday to halt all payments to two educational consultants from Louisiana who have been paid more than $500,000 since the 2010-11 school year.  The vote followed a discussion held last week in which board president Ed Donovan and school director Debra Raubenstrauch said they did not believe the district was getting the services that were promised in the contract with Bel-Mor Associates.

Easton Area School Board reverses vote, will seek state exception from tax hike cap
School board reverses earlier vote, will ask state to exceed 2.7 percent limit.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of the Morning Call 10:47 p.m. EST, January 28, 2014
Easton Area School District parents and students say they're fed up with teacher cuts, large class sizes and program eliminations year after year.  And as a result of the large numbers of parents and students that showed up Tuesday to tell the school board that, the district will seek an exception from the state to possibly raise property taxes more than the 2.7 percent cap.
Next school year, the district is considering cutting 56 positions, which would save $4.5 million. The staffing cuts could include 18 high school and middle school positions, eight special education positions, four gifted/English as a second language positions, seven positions in the intervention department,16 elementary positions and three music positions.  The proposed 2014-15 budget is $141 million, a more than $6 million increase from 2013-14. The district is also looking at an almost $5 million deficit — and that's with a 2.7 percent property tax hike.
Philly SRC-appointee Green says Shyamalan's education-reform book 'shaped thinking'
Before being nominated by Gov. Tom Corbett to chair the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, City Councilman Bill Green released two policy papers outlining his views for how to "repair public education."  In them, he envisioned a "recovery school district" model (similar to what's currently in place in Louisiana) that, in effect, would create two distinct landscapes of public education in Philadelphia.  One landscape would include the district's well-performing schools and the other would comprise the district's "failing" schools  The former would be managed by a local school board appointed by the mayor, and the latter would be managed by a intensive turnaround team overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
In comparing his proposal to Louisiana's recovery school district model, Green championed the idea of allowing a large portion of the Philadelphia School District to be "managed through nontraditional means, such as charter operators or private managers."
Since those papers were released, Green said his views have evolved. He now believes that positive change can occur by keeping schools under the management of the Philadelphia School District.
So what changed his mind?

Solanco eyes 2.5% tax increase for 2014-15
Lancaster Online January 28, 2014 6:03 pm | Updated: 6:05 pm, Tue Jan 28, 2014.
Solanco School District property owners will most likely see a tax increase, but it should be lower than any hikes implemented in the past few years.  Board members announced Monday, Jan. 27, that they will not exceed the state's Act 1 cap of a 2.5 percent real estate tax increase.
"I feel very comfortable with this resolution," Timothy Shrom, business manager, said.
Board members have tentatively approved a $50.44-million 2014-15 budget that includes the 2.5 percent increase in real estate taxes. Final adoption of the budget will take place in June. The budget year begins July 1.

Obama on education in SOTU — text
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS January 28 at 9:30 pm
 (By Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)
Here’s the part of President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address that deals with education, from prepared remarks provided by the White House:

Obama on education: Rhetoric vs. reality
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS January 29 at 12:01 am
President Obama giving 2014  State of the Union speech (By Larry Downing/Pool via Bloomberg)
There’s nothing new about President Obama giving speeches in which he talks about school reform in ways that have little to do with reality (see, for example, hereand here), but there was something especially disconnected about the education rhetoric in his 2014 State of the Union speech.

Obama Sells Race to Top, Early-Childhood Education in State of the Union
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on January 28, 2014 9:44 PM
President Barack Obama placed education at the center of a broad strategy to bolster economic mobility and combat poverty—calling on Congress in his State of the Union speech to approve previously unveiled initiatives to expand preschool to more 4-year-olds, beef up job-training programs, and make post-secondary education more effective and accessible.
"Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old," said Obama, whose education agenda in his second term has shifted away from K-12 toward prekindergarten and college affordability. "As a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, 30 states have raised pre-K funding on their own. They know we can't wait."  Obama used his speech to mount an indirect defense of the common-core standards and a more spirited, direct defense of the program that spurred states to adopt them: Race to the Top. This, too, from an administration that has been blamed for threatening the future of the Common Core State Standards by supporting them—and from a president who hasn't talked much at all about Race to the Top in recent major speeches. He credits his Race to the Top competitive-grant program with helping raise standards—and performance (which many may argue it's too soon to tell).

Following State of the Union, NSBA calls for prioritization of public education issues
NSBA School Board News Today by Joetta Sack-Min January 28,2014
The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following statement following the 2014 State of the Union:
The National School Boards Association, working with our state school board associations and the 90,000 school board members across the country, looks forward to engaging with President Barack Obama and his administration on the education priorities raised in the State of the Union. We welcome the President’s proposals on early childhood education and high-speed Internet access for schools and we ask that the President work closely with local school boards as these initiatives are developed.  We share the President’s commitment to guaranteeing that every child has access to a world-class education and NSBA believes every community should have great public schools.

NSBA touts public schools as strong choices
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling for public schools to be schools of choice during National School Choice Week. It is warning lawmakers not to divert funds away from public schools in favor of unproven educational experiments.
Getting lost in the hype around National School Choice Week, school voucher legislation, and calls for expanded options for low-income students is the fact that public education already offers many options—including magnet schools and district-authorized charters. Further, some states are using taxpayer-funded vouchers and tax credits as an excuse not to fund their community public schools that educate all children, NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said in a conference with reporters on Jan. 27.

Deficit Reduction Declines as Policy Priority
Just Half of Democrats Rate Deficit as ‘Top Priority’
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press January 27, 2014
For the first time since Barack Obama took office in 2009, deficit reduction has slipped as a policy priority among the public. Overall, 63% say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for Congress and the president this year, down from 72% a year ago. Most of the decline has come among Democrats: Only about half of Democrats – 49% – view deficit reduction as a top priority, down 18 points since last January.  The Pew Research Center’s annual survey of policy priorities, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds that the public’s agenda continues to be dominated by the economy (80% top priority), jobs (74%) and terrorism (73%). As in past years, the lowest-rated priorities are dealing with global warming (29%) and dealing with global trade (28%). (Click here for an interactive showing the public’s priorities since 2002.)

Backlash Grows Against Common Core Education Standards
NPR by ERIC WESTERVELT January 28, 2014 5:00 AM
Listen to the Story Morning Edition runtime 5 min 26 sec
Supporters of new education standards say Common Core will hold American students to much higher expectations, and move away from the bubble test culture that critics say too often pushes teachers to focus on test prep. But opposition to Common Core is spreading across the political spectrum.

Louisville's Children Challenged to 'Read' 1,000 Books By Kindergarten
Education Week Early Years By Julie Blair on January 24, 2014 5:13 PM
The mayor of Louisville, Ky., and its librarians are challenging children ages 5 and under to "read" 1,000 books by the time they enter kindergarten, part of an initiative to boost literacy skills in a city where just 35 percent of incoming kindergarteners start school with what experts there deem basic skills.  The so-called "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge," sponsored by the Library Foundation and the Community Foundation of Louisville, kicks off Jan. 25, and includes any book read to children--even multiple times.  "It is absolutely essential, on many levels, that we prepare our children to learn and succeed from day one," said Mayor Greg Fischer in a statement.

Great graphic following the money for charters in Washington State…..
Tweet by Sahila ChangeBringer ‏@Kiwigirl584h on January 29, 2014
money, money, honey, it's a rich man's world; on buying elections, getting charter schools in

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

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
  • NEW: Philadelphia: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 14, City Council Chambers, Room 400, City Hall
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 Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools invites you to a screening and discussion of "Standardized: Lies, Money, and Civil Rights".
Thursday, February 6 - 6:00 p.m.Ritz East - 125 S. 2nd St. Philadelphia, PA

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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