Monday, February 24, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 24, 2014: PA charters: “laughably weak oversight that indulged poor performance while inviting inside dealing and shady operators.”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for February 24, 2014:
PA charters: “laughably weak oversight that indulged poor performance while inviting inside dealing and shady operators.”

Did you catch our weekend postings?
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

“What did Pennsylvania do wrong? it set up laughably weak oversight that indulged poor performance while inviting inside dealing and shady operators. It made no effort to sort good charters (and there are quite a few of those) from bad. It set up an inane funding system that pits charters against their home districts.”
Pa. and charter schools — anything but perfect together
The data will guide you. The data will save you. The data will set you free.  That's the credo of Silicon Valley.  It's why, for example, Netflix greenlighted House of Cards. Its data said its listeners loved to binge-watch political miniseries and that they loved, loved, loved Kevin Spacey.
Now, let's switch our gaze to a place where data goes to die of neglect. I speak, of course, of our beloved Philadelphia.
Take charter schools. Now, be aware that everything you're about to hear comes from someone who thinks charters are a great idea, in theory, and have a huge role to play in improving urban education.  But here's what the data say about the charter experiment in Philly.
As a group, Philadelphia's charter schools do only a bit better at educating kids than traditional schools, while draining about $7,000 per child from what's available to teach kids in traditional schools. Only 29 percent of Philly charters made the federal standard for annual progress. This, even though they mostly work with kids who are in a better home situation than a lot of the children whom the traditional schools serve.

Senator Smucker is the lead sponsor for SB1085 charter reform bill
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.

“If a 5 percent severance tax had been in place when drilling began in 2004, Pennsylvania would have generated $841 million in revenue by this spring, The Morning Call analysis found.”
A tax on fracking would have raised millions
Severance tax would raise millions more than what impact fee brings in.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:19 p.m. EST, February 22, 2014
As he has done during each budget address since taking office, Gov. Tom Corbett this year praised the Marcellus Shale gas industry as the linchpin of his economic and jobs policies.
Pennsylvania, he told the Legislature on Feb. 4, has become the nation's second largest producer of natural gas with the help of an impact fee that was placed on fracking wells in 2012.
"And we were smart enough to welcome that industry, and all those jobs, by working together with local governments, industry and environmental organizations to craft a responsible impact fee that by April will have generated more than $600 million in less than three years," Corbett added.  But that impact fee, which came when the Legislature passed Act 13 in 2012, doesn't generate the kind of revenue a severance tax would.
A third of the collected fee, about $200 million, is expected to be distributed to counties and municipalities in the next two months.  However, that is less than half the amount the state would have collected in revenue this fiscal year had the Legislature adopted a 5 percent severance tax on extracted gas as West Virginia has.
Just saw this on twitter: @SUDA_PAC
SUDA PAC a political action committee supporting pro-public education candidates for the state legislature in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

School District of Lancaster faces tough choices with 2014-15 budget
Lancaster Online BY STACEY MARTEN Special to the Sunday News February 23, 2014 6:00 am
Earlier this week, the School District of Lancaster took a preliminary vote in crafting our 2014-15 budget. While there are many steps between this action and a final fiscal plan on June 30, one thing is already clear: SDL faces a set of circumstances that will make this year's budget process especially difficult. This makes it all the more vital that we communicate candidly with all stakeholders on a regular basis in the months ahead.  SDL has made hard decisions over the past several years to steer our schools through the financial crisis and the resulting state and federal cuts to public education. Our district's staffing levels have been reduced significantly, as student enrollment has increased. While we have been successful in protecting academic programs, we have been forced to curtail and cut valuable services. District staff — recipients of the highest-possible awards for public accounting and finance — have performed meticulous line-by-line reviews of the budget to capture operational savings and efficiencies.
Despite these efforts, SDL faces a deficit of nearly $8 million in 2014-15.  This challenge stems almost exclusively from forces outside the district's control, including:

“The district projects a $5.7 million spike in charter school expenses, a $4.6 million rise in bond payments, a $4.3 million increase in health-care costs and a $2.9 million jump in pension obligations in the next school year. Meanwhile, the basic education subsidy from the state remains flat.”
Allentown superintendent seeks budget help from business leaders
After school layoffs, tax increase, district turns books over to financial experts.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 8:21 p.m. EST, February 23, 2014
They met in relative secrecy, local titans of business and industry assembled for a common cause.  Their summoner: Russ Mayo, superintendent of the Allentown School District.
Their task: To review the district's finances and help stave off a fiscal doomsday.
After Allentown schools slashed more than 350 jobs, raised taxes and spent millions from reserves in the past four years, Mayo went searching for answers from a set of financial experts.
Last fall, he convened a team of about 20 business executives, who met about four times. Some had met Mayo before. Others were strangers referred to him. All were current or former leaders of successful local businesses in and around Allentown, such as Air Products, PPL and St. Luke's Hospital, Mayo said.
Octorara: A fragile school-district truce
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Monday, February 24, 2014, 1:07 AM
Straddling the western border of Chester County where the imposing mansions of the Philadelphia exurbs surrender to rolling hillsides and lush green horse farms, the Octorara Area School District is situated in one of the region's most pastoral settings.  It also has been a battleground, where property owners have learned that open space can come with a price. With thousands of acres designated as "farmland," off-limits to taxation, the district has some of the highest property tax rates in the region.  But after an era of sharply rising levies and taxpayer agitation, administrators have promised something for 2014-15 that residents of the 2,550-student district are not used to: A fiscal cease-fire.

LTE: Our program helps students and parents find a path to success
Post-Gazette Letter by WENDY ETHERIDGE SMITH, Executive Director, Higher Achievement Pittsburgh February 24, 2014 12:00 AM
The Feb. 18 column “Biggest Gap in Black Kids’ Learning: Parents” by Tony Norman asserts it’s going to take more than teacher evaluations to close the achievement gap in Pittsburgh, offering parent involvement as what’s needed. Indeed, we need more parent involvement. But, parents just don’t always realize what they don’t know about supporting educational attainment.
However, there are Pittsburgh students showing what’s possible when we give them and their parents the supports to succeed. Out-of-school time programs like my organization, Higher Achievement, are filling the gap in the exact issue areas that Mr. Norman points out: supervising homework, modeling appreciation for learning and building a positive culture of learning. Higher Achievement scholars spend an additional 650 academic hours annually, closing the gap by participating in homework help, electives (like sports or music), academic mentoring by local community members, summer classes in core subjects — year-round for three years.

Easton parents want district to trim administrative fat but expert says there's little more to cut
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on February 23, 2014 at 7:25 AM
Faced with losing 36 teachers and class sizes of 30-plus students, Easton Area School District parents are calling on officials to trim administrative fat.  Parents point to the 11 principals and assistant principals in the middle and high schools as excessive and question the need for so many administrators.  But Superintendent John Reinhart disagrees.  "I know people would like to believe you don't need administrators, but the truth is, you absolutely need to have administrative direction and leadership to run safe and effective schools," Reinhart said. "We're really running a very tight ship."

Why test-based school reform isn’t working — by the numbers
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS February 23 at 1:00 pm
Award-winning Prinicipal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York has been exposing the problems with New York’s botched school reform effort for a long time on this blog. (You can read some of her work hereherehere,  here, and here.) In the following post she looks at irrefutable data to show that the test-based reforms are taking public education down the wrong road. Burris was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by thousands of principals teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. 

“One reason American antipoverty efforts over the last half-century haven’t been more effective is that they mostly treat symptoms, not causes. To put it another way, we don’t invest nearly enough in helping children in the first few years of life as their brains are developing. If we miss that window, then adult interventions like higher minimum wages can never be fully effective.”

When Even the Starting Line Is Out of Reach

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — JOHNNY WEETHEE, a beautiful and beaming child who at the age of 3 still struggles to speak, encapsulates the shortcomings of our approach to poverty.  As an infant, Johnny was deaf but no one noticed or got him the timely medical care he needed to restore his hearing. He lives in a trailer here in the hills of rural Appalachia with a mom who loves him and tries to support him but is also juggling bills, frozen pipes and a broken car that she can’t afford to fix.

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

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

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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