Sunday, February 23, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 23, 2014: Pre-K for PA: High Quality Pre-K: Families Need it, Voters Want it

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3100 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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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for February 23, 2014:
Pre-K for PA: High Quality Pre-K: Families Need it, Voters Want it

Senator Smucker is the lead sponsor for SB1085
LTE: Find middle ground to fix gaps in charter school law
Lancaster Online Opinion BY SEN. LLOYD SMUCKER Special to the Sunday News Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2014 6:00 am
Pennsylvania is frequently knocked for being slow to adopt policy innovations. Ironic, then, how much criticism is heaped on one of the true innovations of the past generation —charter schools.
On the plus side, charter schools have proved every bit as creative and popular in practice as the originators believed. On the minus side, this form of education was untested, so experience has revealed significant deficiencies in the law, such as not anticipating the rise of cyber charters.
My surpassing interest in education involves having as many strong and accessible options for students and families as possible. Thus, I decided to introduce a charter school reform bill. Not to pick a side. Not to end the debate. To bring reason and common sense to problem-solving.

Acting Secretary of Education Announces $2.6 Million in Safe Schools Targeted Grants
PDE Press Release February 21, 2014
Harrisburg – Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq today announced that $2.6 million in competitive grants have been awarded to 110 public schools through the Safe Schools Targeted Grant to establish and implement programs to prevent and reduce incidents of violence.
Pennsylvania’s schools should be a safe haven for students, where their focus is on academics and reaching their highest potential,” Dumaresq said. “The Safe Schools Targeted Grants will provide schools with the resources they need to ensure that our schools will continue to be the safe learning environments that students, parents and teachers expect.”

To download a pdf with the list of awardees and amounts:

“Here’s a suggestion. The Senate should vote on House Bill 1738, which would put in motion the commission to address school funding, as soon as possible.”
Delco Times Editorial: Micozzie isn't giving up school funding reform fight
Delco Times POSTED: 02/22/14, 11:50 PM EST | UPDATED: 8 SECS AGO
Nick Micozzie is not going away quietly.  Good for him.
The longtime state representative from Upper Darby recently announced he will not seek another term after serving his constituents for more than three decades in Harrisburg.  But Micozzie, R-163, knows his work in the Capitol is not done, and this week he reminded his colleagues of some very important unfinished business that he would like to see addressed before he takes his leave.  No one should be surprised that Micozzie once again is raising his voice against an education funding formula that so blatantly discriminates against students in less well-to-do regions like the ones he has represented for 36 years.

“An overall increase of 5.3 percent, $8.8 million, from the current school year budget, a miniscule increase in revenue could not cover a rise in expenditures in four areas: $3.8 million in gross retirement payments, $2.3 million for salaries, $1.3 million in charter school tuition (majority listed under special education programs) and $1.2 million for benefits.”
Preliminary Upper Darby School District budget calls for 5.5 tax increase
Delco Times By KEVIN TUSTIN, Special to the Times : 02/22/14, 10:37 PM EST
The Upper Darby Board of School Directors Tuesday night unanimously passed a $174 million preliminary budget for the 2014-2015 school year that would increase taxes 5.5 percent and add 16 new staff members throughout the district.
The tax increase will raise the total millage to 35.678, an annual increase of $186.30 for each $100,000 a home is assessed at, and would cover a $7 million shortfall.
For comparison, the current year’s $165.5 million budget included a tax increase of 2.94 percent to makeup a $9.7 million shortfall.
The final budget must be adopted by the board by June 30.

Without change, audit suggests state takeover lies ahead for Steel-High School District: auditor general
By Jan Murphy |  on February 21, 2014 at 3:45 PM, updated February 21, 2014 at 6:21 PM
Faced with a deteriorating financial situation, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Steelton-Highspire School District is “on life support” and headed for a state takeover if the fiscal situation there doesn’t improve.  A recently completed audit of the 1,306-student Dauphin County district conducted by his office that covered 2009 to 2013 raised concerns about the district’s failure to keep spending in line with its budget.

“Nutter's plea to the business community was appropriate. But if he truly believes what he told the Chamber about the importance of public education, he will prove it when he sets the priorities for spending in his next budget.”
Inquirer Editorial: Do more locally to help schools
POSTED: Sunday, February 23, 2014, 1:10 AM
Mayor Nutter's plea for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to do more to help city schools was another sad reminder that the system still hasn't closed a funding gap that threatens to create yet another fiscal crisis next year.  "Solving the education problem must become a business and economic imperative," Nutter said Tuesday. "If we don't address this problem now, in 10 years, we won't have a competitive workforce, meaning you won't have a qualified pool of workers to fill available positions."  Of course, Philadelphia is not the only financially struggling district. Inadequate school funding is a statewide problem that can't be solved with emergency grants. Gov. Corbett and the legislature must devise a new appropriations formula that more accurately matches a district's needs to its funding.

Phila. revamps its charter school policy
PHILADELPHIA Amid mounting financial pressure from charter schools, the Philadelphia School District Friday unveiled a revised charter policy proposal that uses a carrot-and-stick approach.
The draft calls for giving greater autonomy to charter schools that comply with district rules and cracking down on those that do not.   The district intends to weigh the financial impact of new charter applicants and existing charter schools' requests to expand enrollment, limit expansions to high-performing schools, and assess charter schools' performance each year.
"The purpose of this is to ensure that all charter school options in the city are high-quality options for parents of students," Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn said.  ….The revised charter proposal can be found at

“The task force also will include three Pittsburgh Public Schools students who have yet to be selected. Those interested can apply at and also should submit a resume and one-page letter as to why they want to serve on the task force. Application materials are due by March 7.”
Peduto appoints task force to recommend changes in Pittsburgh Public Schools
By Moriah Balingit / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 21, 2014 11:02 PM
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Friday announced the formation of a 21-member task force to study the beleaguered Pittsburgh Public Schools and develop recommendations to overhaul the district, which is projected to go broke in 2016.  The task force comes as the result of a city council resolution passed last fall. In October, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith sponsored a resolution to call for a moratorium on school closings, which raised ire among school board members who felt the city was overstepping its bounds. Mr. Peduto, then a councilman, helped to craft the new resolution that included the creation of the task force.
The task force is part of the mayor's effort to bridge the gap between the city and the school district, whose officials have not met regularly for years. Mr. Peduto has taken a keen interest in public education, hiring a former Penn State University chancellor, Curtiss Porter, to serve as a liaison with the district and to work on public education issues citywide.

Facing deficit, Northwest Area raps charter cybers
By Tom Huntington Times Leader Correspondent February 20. 2014 11:44PM
UNION TWP. — With a preliminary budget deficit of $790,000 staring them in the face, Northwest Area School Board members on Wednesday questioned the legality of $113,500 in bills from charter cyber schools.  The board voted to authorize Solicitor John Audi to research the legal aspects of withholding payment to these online schools. Audi said he would investigate and prepare a report for presentment at the March meeting.
The board voted to table payment to Agora Cyber Charter School ($101,814.46), Bear Creek Charter School ($4,916.38), Commonwealth Connections Charter School ($4,916.37) and Pa. Leadership Charter School ($1,854.19).  Chairman Randy Tomasacci raised the issue of charter cyber school expenses when he asked Audi if the board could vote no on making payments to these schools. Tomasacci also asked, “Can they retaliate by subtracting payment from our state subsidy?”  Audi said he would research the matter.

LTE: Easton should maintain school music programs
Morning Call Letter to the Editor by Nicholas Hamel 6:09 p.m. EST, February 21, 2014
The Easton Area School Board has been thinking about cutting music lessons for fourth through eight grades.  I am really upset because I am in seventh grade, and what this could mean to me is that I will no longer be able to enjoy the music program as an eighth-grader. I will lose a whole year before possibly joining the high school band and orchestra.  My music career began when I was a third-grader at Palmer Elementary School. I learned to play the viola so I joined the orchestra and began lessons. In fourth grade, I was given the opportunity to also join the band and started playing the trumpet. It has given me a sense of responsibility, taught me self-discipline, and instilled time management into my life.
Readington Middle School students try out virtual high school courses
Lehigh Valley Live By John Sievers on February 22, 2014 at 5:00 PM
Readington Middle School officials are test-driving an online program that allows students to take courses with others from around the world.  A handful of middle school students have been enrolled since Jan. 29 with peers from around the country and the globe through a nonprofit organization called Virtual High School. The online program offers more than 400 courses per semester, according to company officials.  Courses run 15 weeks and students at the middle school say they spend about three to four hours a week on the course in addition to their other school responsibilities. Students said the first few sessions are used to become familiar with online courses and how to use the website through which the courses are taken.

Twitter is taking to the classroom in Lancaster County schools
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Friday, February 21, 2014 2:30 pm
When Hempfield teacher Terry Chmil asked an Olympic-themed history question a few weeks ago, his students clamored to answer first.  But none of them raised their hands, and they weren't even in his classroom.  Instead, they tweeted him their reply from their mobile phones.
The students were joining in Chmil's weekly Tuesday Twitter Trivia game.
At a random time on Tuesdays, he tweets a question about something mentioned in his world history classes or an event in the news. The first student to answer correctly wins two bonus points for that week's current events quiz.  Chmil is one of a growing number of Lancaster County teachers using Twitter to engage students in classroom thinking beyond the school's walls.
So far, it's working.

Philadelphia Suburbs Lacking High-Quality Pre-K, Studies Say
Education Week By Julie Blair on February 11, 2014 1:37 AM
High-quality preschool education isn't lacking only in Philadelphia, but also in their neighboring suburbs—some of which are considered higher-income, four new reports state.
A series of studies done by the Philadelphia-based advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth found that only 13 percent of pre-K programs in Pennsylvania's Delaware County were considered to be of high quality in 2013. A mere 15 percent were awarded that accolade in Pennsylvania's Chester County, while 18 percent received it in Bucks County, and 20 percent were given it in Montgomery Country.

High Quality Pre-K: Families Need it, Voters Want it

PCCY February 21, 2014
Only 16% of children in southeastern Pennsylvania have access to publicly funded high quality early learning programs.  Statewide analysis from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children echoes the findings of PCCY’s Bottom Line Report on Early Care and Education that shows access to high quality early learning programs remains out of reach for many children and working families.  A recent poll of likely voters finds 63% of Pennsylvania voters support investing more public funds in high quality pre-k, even 58% say they are willing to pay higher taxes to pay for it.  With proven research and strong voter support, the Pre-K for PA campaign is working to make sure that every candidate running for office in Pennsylvania sees the political wisdom and social benefits of making access to high quality preschool a top priority in their campaign.  YOU can help build momentum for making Pre-K a defining issue in the 2014 elections, join the Pre-K for PA campaign.
Help This Campaign Succeed.  Join the County Organizing Meetings:
Delaware County Weds. Feb. 26 at Upper Darby High School
Bucks County Thurs. Feb. 27 at Middletown Township Public Hall
Montgomery County Weds. March 5 at Montgomery County Community College

“She said one of her biggest concerns is the underfunding of public schools. She said the last couple of decades have been difficult on public schools with skyrocketing costs, depleted resources from cyber and charter schools, and underfunding from the state.”
Jill Sunday Bartoli running for 199th District House seat
By Steve Marroni |  on February 20, 2014 at 3:09 PM
A retired college professor and lifelong Cumberland County resident is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 199th District state House seat up for election this year.
Jill Sunday Bartoli, 68, of Carlisle, announced her candidacy this week for the seat currently held by state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-North Middleton Township.  Bartoli said she is making her first run for public office because she is discouraged with some of the policy choices coming out of Harrisburg.  “It’s getting very hard hearted and mean spirited, like people don’t care about each other,” Bartoli said. “I think we’re better than this.”

A Viable Common Core?
New York Times Sunday Review Letters to the Editor FEB. 22, 2014
Educators and others take part in a national debate over the new learning standards.

The Common Core Is Tough on Kids With Special Needs
The standards don't allow enough flexibility for students who learn differently.
The Atlantic by KATHARINE BEALS FEB 21 2014, 7:46 AM ET
In a recent discussion board thread on reading comprehension challenges in autism, a special-education teacher commented that her students can’t understand the assigned reading passages. “When I complained, I was told that I could add extra support, but not actually change the passages,” she wrote. “It is truly sad to see my students’ frustration.”
Why must this teacher’s students contend with passages that are too complex for them to understand? She attributes this inflexibility to the Common Core, new standards—created in 2009 by a group of education professionals, none of them K-12 classroom teachers or special-education experts—that have been adopted by 45 states. Though most Common Core goals are abstract and schematic, collectively they constitute a one-size fits-all approach that, in practice, has severely straightjacketed America’s special-needs students.
The teacher I quoted above—one of the many special-ed instructors I teach at the Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania education schools—is hardly alone. She’s echoing the concerns of dozens of other special-education teachers I’ve spoken with, most of whom have already gotten the message from their supervisors or superiors that they must adhere to the standards and give all their students the designated grade-level assignments.

Infographic: Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools
Where’s the big money in privatization? Take it from the teachers.
by YES! Editors posted Feb 21, 2014

Workshop: For the Love of Schools: Be a Public Education Advocate  
Join us in Philly at Arch St. United Methodist Thursday, Feb 27, 6-8 pm OR Saturday March 1, 10 am - 2 pm in the chapel of the church.
Public Citizens for Children and Youth and Education Voters PA is  offering two  duplicate workshops designed to support parents, community members, and advocates in their efforts to improve public education.  The workshop will provide leaders with information on the state of public education  funding in our region and what they can do to get involved.  Participants will learn advocacy best practices and develop individualized action plans.
Participants should enter through the door on Broad St.
This event is free and open to the public.. Childcare and light refreshments will be provided. 

Register Now! EPLC’s Education Policy Forums on Governor Corbett’s 2014-2015 State Budget Proposal for Education
The next EPLC education policy forums will be held on the following days and in the following locations.  These forums will take place shortly after Governor Corbett’s February 4th presentation of his proposed 2014-15 state budget and will focus on his plans for education.
Monday, February 24, 2014 – Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 – State College, PA
Thursday, February 27, 2014Harrisburg, PA
Space is limited for each event and an RSVP is required. Anyone wishing to receive an invitation should inquire by contacting The Education Policy and Leadership Center at or 717-260-9900.

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

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.

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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