Wednesday, January 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 8, 2014: Has Pennsylvania violated its constitutional requirement to provide a "thorough and efficient system of public education”?

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SB1085 is now listed on the Senate calendar for 3rd consideration.  Have you discussed charter reform with your state legislators?
Debating charter school reform in Pennsylvania
WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane - Audio runtime 52:01

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 8, 2014:
Has Pennsylvania violated its constitutional requirement to provide a "thorough and efficient system of public education”?

The Top Five Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose SB 1085–Reason #4
Language that charter schools be models of innovation has been inexplicably stripped from SB 1085
SB 1085 eliminates longstanding requirements that charter schools be models of innovation for other public schools.  Removal of this key language from the legislation begs the question, If the purpose of charter schools is not to provide something different and better than the traditional public schools, what is their purpose?  As Pennsylvanians certainly cannot afford to fund a second, parallel, costly, and completely duplicative system of public education, it is essential that any charter school reform legislation retain language that requires charter schools to be models of innovation for our public schools.

The Five Top Reasons Your State Senator Should Oppose Senate Bill 1085
Reason #5 to Oppose SB 1085 The Private Authorizer System
The PA Senate is poised to vote on SB 1085, the charter school “reform” bill. Now is the time for Pennsylvanians who care about our public schools to contact our state senators and urge them to oppose this legislation. Over the next 5 days our blog will detail 5 deeply flawed policies in SB 1085. Please take a few minutes, contact your senator each day this week to share your concerns about these flawed policies, urge him/her to oppose SB 1085, and share this information far and wide! If our senators don’t hear from voters, they will likely pass this bill.
Reason #5 to Oppose SB 1085 The Private Authorizer System
SB 1085 creates a private authorizer system for charter schools in PA. More than 100 institutions of higher education, including institutions with no experience, capacity, or faculty in education, would be allowed to authorize an unlimited number of charter schools without input from local communities.  Charter schools will be able to set up shop without community approval, and send us the bill—whether we can afford it or not.

PA House Democratic Policy Committee hears from experts on school funding reform and expanding education opportunities
Rep. Roebuck’s website PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 7
Members of the House Democratic Policy Committee heard from university professors, education organization leaders and child advocates at a public hearing at the National Constitution Center today to explore options for education funding reform and to improve educational opportunities for all students, said Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.  State Rep. Cherelle Parker, D-Phila., chairwoman of the legislature’s Philadelphia Delegation and HDPC vice chairwoman, requested the hearing and served as co-chairwoman along with state Rep. Jim Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee. Testifiers shared with the lawmakers their perspectives as well as material derived from studies regarding education reform and ways to ensure all students have access to opportunities.  "Without a doubt Pennsylvania faces intense budget challenges," Sturla said. "But the choices we make during our economic recovery become even more important. If we fail to invest in all of our students, who will one day be our work force, we shortchange generations of Pennsylvanians to come."

"Now that we have standards, we have the PSSAs, we have the upcoming Keystone Exams, we have a costing-out study, the world has changed," Brownstein told members of the House Democratic Policy Committee. "It's not going to be easy. We have to convince the courts they have to take a new look at this. We think we have a very strong case, but you never know."
Activists: Education funding debate likely to return to court
THE BATTLE OVER fair and equitable school funding in Pennsylvania will soon be headed back to court, activists said yesterday.  Testifying before a panel of state lawmakers, Rhonda Brownstein, executive director of the Education Law Center in Pennsylvania, said her organization, in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, is preparing to file a lawsuit arguing that the state has violated its constitutional requirement to provide a "thorough and efficient system of public education."

“The outcome of that decision could resonate nationwide. Forty-five states have had lawsuits challenging the failure of governors and legislators to provide essential resources for a constitutional education. Litigation is pending against 11 states that allegedly provide inadequate and unfair school funding, including New York, Florida, Texas and California.”
What’s the Matter With Kansas’ Schools?
New York Times OP-ED By DAVID SCIARRA and WADE HENDERSON Published: January 7, 2014
KANSAS, like every state, explicitly guarantees a free public education in its Constitution, affirming America’s founding belief that only an educated citizenry can preserve democracy and safeguard individual liberty and freedom.  And yet in recent years Kansas has become the epicenter of a new battle over the states’ obligation to adequately fund public education. Even though the state Constitution requires that it make “suitable provision” for financing public education, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Republican-led Legislature have made draconian cuts in school spending, leading to a lawsuit that now sits before the state Supreme Court.

Inquirer Editorial: Schoolchildren are the victims
POSTED: Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 2:01 AM
Last year, a group of parents and educators meeting with the Inquirer Editorial Board voiced concerns about the funding crisis facing the city's schools, but they had warm words for local elected officials who they said were fighting for schoolchildren.  The group seemed perplexed when their confidence in the politicians was questioned, but perhaps they feel the same skepticism now. Months later, public officials have yet to take the steps necessary to fix the system's structural deficit - and schoolchildren are suffering as a result.  Inquirer education writer Kristen A. Graham has been detailing the suffering. In articles this week, she reported that the college plans of some of the School District's best students have been unduly delayed by a lack of high school guidance counselors to help them meet application requirements.

Pension challenge looms large as Pa. Senate re-elects its leader
WHYY Newsworks by Mary Wilson JANUARY 7, 2014
Pennsylvania's Senate has convened for the first time this year, with remarks from its newly re-elected president pro tem urging action on a piece of the governor's public pension overhaul proposal.  Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, took to the podium shortly after being unanimously re-elected to his eighth year as Senate president pro tem.
One issue on his mind was pension costs.  The commonwealth's scheduled payments into its vastly underfunded system are going skyward this year, putting pressure on the rest of the state budget.  The issue is just as important now as transportation funding was a year ago, Scarnati said. But he is more inclined to change pension benefits for future employees than change benefits of current workers, as the governor has proposed.

Deficit, time limit subdue educational expectations in Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Megan Harris Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, 11:36 p.m.
Charter school reform and a new special education funding formula top the educational wish list of Pennsylvania's legislative committee leaders, despite a projected budget deficit of up to $1.4 billion.  “Of course, we'd like to think we're going to get more dollars for education,” said Rep. Paul Clymer, a Bucks County Republican and House education committee chair, “but we're less than 30 days from a budget proposal. Whatever happens, we'll have to use what we're given wisely.”  Gov. Tom Corbett presents his budget on Feb. 4, opening a four-month debate some legislators say is unlikely to sway toward education. The 2014-15 session will open on Tuesday.
Mapping Project Shows Philadelphia Pre-K Needs, Prompts Funding
Education Week Early Years Blog By Julie Blair on January 7, 2014 9:15 AM
Advocates of early-childhood education have long suspected that Philadelphia had a terrific need for investment in public preschool programs. But it wasn't until the at-risk population and its educational venues were mapped geographically that those programs were awarded a total of $1 million to improve facilities.  "We knew anecdotally where the absence of quality was, but we wanted an accurate picture," said Suzann Morris, the assistant director of public policy for the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, an advocacy organization based in Philadelphia, which conceptualized the maps.

Meehan cheers bill that would support special-needs students
By Danielle Lynch, Delaware County Daily Times  01/07/14, 10:21 PM EST |
UPPER DARBY — U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, visited Primos Elementary School Tuesday morning to learn about the school’s autism support program in light of a bill the House passed that will direct funds to children with special needs.
The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act was approved last month. Meehan said the bill will divert about $12 million dedicated for political conventions and redirect it to support children with special needs, such as those with autism and pediatric cancer. The House is now calling on the Senate to pass this bill and Meehan said he hopes the Senate will take up the bill promptly.

For three Catholic schools, 'Cyber Days' replace old snow days
January 7, 2014 11:33 PM By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The digital age giveth and it taketh away.
For students in northern climes, the ritual of turning on the TV or radio on winter mornings, aquiver with the anticipation of a snow day declaration -- indeed the snow day itself -- may be threatened by the inexorable march of technological progress.
Several local Catholic schools have substituted "Cyber Days" for snow days, taking advantage of ubiquitous Internet access among their students to avoid losing instructional time to winter weather.  With temperatures plunging to record lows Tuesday, Seton-LaSalle Catholic High School in Mt. Lebanon experimented with the concept for the first time, Principal Lauren Martin said.  All 510 students at the ninth-12th grade school get a Chromebook, a relatively inexpensive laptop computer that uses Web-based applications, with their tuition, which runs about $9,000 a year for Catholic students and $9,500 for non-Catholics.

Stepped-up mediation in Philly contract talks
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 07 2014
With the start of the new year, the two sides in the ongoing labor talks between the School District and the teachers' union have jointly agreed to stepped-up mediation, a development that both sides described as an effort to reach some conclusion -- but not a sign that they are at an impasse.  The high-stakes negotiations have been going on since last spring with no public sign of progress. The contract expired Aug. 31, more than four months ago. Talks were scheduled for every day this week.

“But some states have lingering, fundamental fiscal problems to grapple with. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican facing a tough re-election campaign, announced last month that his main goal for 2014 was to avoid cuts in basic K-12 funding after several years of cuts or largely flat spending levels.  A poll last month from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., showed that on education, 62 percent of Pennsylvania voters gave Gov. Corbett unfavorable ratings.  "On the local level, I'm not planning to see a dime more in our local budget. If we do, it'll be a pleasant surprise," said Larry Feinberg, a school board member in Haverford Township, Pa., and a co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition, which lobbies for increased K-12 funding.”
State Lawmakers Face Tough Choices on Common Core
Common core likely flash point
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa January 7, 2014
State legislators begin their 2014 sessions this month grappling with the best way forward on the Common Core State Standards in a tricky political climate, with a majority of governors and lawmakers up for election in the fall.
For many states, this year will be a key juncture for decisions about the standards—and related exams—before their full weight is felt in classrooms, district offices, and state education departments in the 2014-15 school yea

“A draft action plan by the advocacy group FreedomWorks lays out the effort as a series of stepping stones: First, mobilize to strike down the Common Core. Then push to expand school choice by offering parents tax credits or vouchers to help pay tuition at private and religious schools. Next, rally the troops to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. Then it’s on to eliminating teacher tenure.”
For right, Common Core fight prelude to bigger agenda
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 1/7/14 5:05 AM EST
National advocacy groups powered by the Koch brothers and other conservative megadonors have found a new cause ripe with political promise: the fight to bring down the Common Core academic standards.  The groups are stoking populist anger over the standards — then working to channel that energy into a bold campaign to undercut public schools, weaken teachers unions and push the federal government out of education policy.  The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in 45 states plus the District of Columbia, are meant to guide rich and rigorous instruction in math and language arts. They have substantial bipartisan support. But they have also drawn sharp bipartisan criticism as Big Government overreach.

A sobering way to start 2014
Washington Post The Answer Sheet BY VALERIE STRAUSS January 7 at 11:00 am
In the current issue of The American Prospect, Richard Rothstein reviews Patrick Sharkey’s “Stuck in Place,” a 2013 book that helps explain the persistent failure of educational policy to spur the upward mobility of low-income African American youth. Here’s a piece on the findings in the book by Rothstein, research associate at the Economic Policy Institute,  a non-profit organization created to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. This appeared on the EPI website.

Joanne Barkan: How Rich Folks Will Overcome (Public Education)
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch January 8, 2014 //
Joanne Barkan has written a series of brilliant articles about the corporate reform movement and its wealthy supporters for “Dissent” magazine. She wrote this article for this blog. In it, she reflects on the venture capitalists’ belief that they are leaders of a new civil rights movement.

Chicago’s Arctic Freeze Brings Up the Question: What is the Purpose of Schools?
Ms. Katie’s Ramblings Blog by Katie Osgood Tuesday, January 7, 2014
An interesting discussion broke out over the recent announcement by the Chicago Public Schools to keep schools open despite a dangerous extreme cold snap hitting the city, a decision which they later reversed thanks in part to pressure from the Chicago Teachers Union.  On social media, many worried that closing schools would be detrimental to the neediest families.  Many claimed, rightfully-so, that school was often the only place where kids could get a hot meal and a warm, safe environment.  And this controversy really hit home for me how much we have come to view schools as the only comprehensive form of poverty alleviation in our society.  This argument regarding schools has become so second-nature to many, that we never stop and think about what this really means.

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 November 24, 2013
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.
In the coming weeks, we will release more details. In the meantime, make your travel plans and click this link and submit your email address to receive updates about the NPE National Conference 2014.

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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