Friday, February 7, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 7, 2014: “Charter schools also would get $19 million in aid from the grants, the first time state aid would flow directly to the institutions, instead of through school boards.”

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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SB1085: “A review of relevant, rigorous research finds no evidence that higher education authorizers, in particular, correlate with student achievement gains. A comprehensive study of charter school performance in 16 states found lower student achievement in states with multiple authorizers, including non-profit organizations and higher education authorizers.” Research for Action

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for February 7, 2014:
“Charter schools also would get $19 million in aid from the grants, the first time state aid would flow directly to the institutions, instead of through school boards.”

Not on Twitter yet?  Your legislators and the press are.
Make the jump and then follow us at @lfeinberg

Ed Law Center Statement on Governor’s 2014-15 Budget Proposal
Education Law Center February 6, 2014
Governor Corbett’s education budget proposal includes welcome increases for special education and early learning but ignores the need for a stable and comprehensive approach to education funding.

Strings in Corbett's grant proposal gets pushback
Pottstown Mercury By Marc Levy, Associated Press POSTED: 02/05/14, 4:30 PM EST |
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett’s newly proposed grant program for public schools attaches strings to how the money is used, and that’s getting pushback from Pennsylvania schools groups.
Corbett’s administration defended the uses under the $340 million program as proven ways to improve student achievement. The Republican governor unveiled it a day ago as the centerpiece of his budget plan.  But groups including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association say it’s better for the districts to have maximum flexibility over the money to help with difficult financial decisions.  The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials says it’s a bad time to handcuff schools that are dealing with rising costs and program and personnel cuts since 2011.
Charter schools also would get grant money, the first time state aid would flow directly to them.

Pennsylvania's education budget grows; critics unhappy
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Megan Harris Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 11:39 p.m.
Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed $12 billion education budget ties increased support for some learning initiatives to school performance, but critics say the changes don't do enough to erase budget cuts.  Announced in Harrisburg on Tuesday, the proposed 3.3 percent increase drives $240 million in Ready to Learn block grants to Pennsylvania classrooms, including $25.5 million to Allegheny County.  Schools will continue to receive $100 million in accountability grants that support pre- and full-day kindergarten, K-3 class size reduction programs, tutoring, minority learning, professional development, literacy training, teacher recruitment and social and health services.  Special education — funded at $1.027 billion for the past six years — gets a $20 million increase. Districts can apply for $10 million in new hybrid learning grants designed to encourage schools to blend digital and traditional teaching methods.
Not everyone is impressed with Gov. Corbett’s ‘Ready to Learn’ block grant proposal.
Capitolwire Under the Dome February 6, 2014 (paywall)
While most interested parties responded favorably to Gov. Tom Corbett’s intention to spend more money on basic education in 2014-15 – although legislative Democrats and the governor’s other critics on education spending claimed it wasn’t nearly enough – some concerns are being voiced regarding the specifics of his centerpiece proposal, the “Ready to Learn” block grant and the additional $240 million it will distribute to schools. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and the state’s largest teacher’s union – the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) – are in agreement that the proposed block grant is a bit too limiting in how school districts will be able to spend the new money. On Tuesday, Acting Education Secretary Carolyn C. Dumaresq explained the funding is to be used for practices the Department of Education knows will increase student achievement, and that for struggling school districts, there will be less flexibility to ensure the dollars focus in on core areas to improve student performance. But PSBA, PASBO, PSEA and others said the strings attached to the money aren’t to their liking, and they would prefer to decide how best to use the new dollars. They would prefer the money be added to the basic education funding line within the state budget, which they said would allow them maximum flexibility. To read more about the pushback against the “Ready to Learn” block grant, CLICK HERE for a story from The Associated Press.

“But there is a troubling reliance on gimmicks and a failure to raise enough recurring revenue to keep the governor's promises. He would permit natural-gas drilling under state lands to raise $75 million, an estimate that may be overstated. He wants to continue cuts to the capital stock and franchise tax, even though stalling them could yield $75 million.  Corbett also refuses to extract more revenue from gas drillers, who are consuming a nonrenewable resource that could produce up to $600 million more in annual revenues. Nor will he expand Medicaid as other states have, forgoing $400 million in federal funds to pursue his own convoluted alternative.”
Inquirer Editorial: Revenue problem
POSTED: Thursday, February 6, 2014, 1:08 AM
Gov. Corbett unveiled a "let the next guy worry about it" budget proposal this week amid appropriate skepticism about how he would pay for promised increases in spending on education and services for the elderly and disabled.  The governor's plan relies too heavily on putting off the state's bills. He would postpone full pension payments, repeating a mistake that helped the state accumulate unfunded liabilities. He would delay payments to Medicaid providers, straining the health-care industry. And he would again raid the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, which is supposed to offset the impacts of natural-gas drilling, to cover operating expenses.

With Gov. Corbett's new budget - it's deja vu all over again: Nathan Benefield
PennLive Op-Ed  By Nathan A. Benefield on February 06, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Ceremonies in Punxsutawney have come and gone, but every year Groundhog Day reminds me of the film of the same name—in which Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again. Gov. Tom Corbett's state budget address generated a similar feeling of déjà vu.  Pennsylvania faces the same long-term fiscal problems it has for many years, and in some cases, decades.   This isn’t to dismiss the accomplishments of Gov. Corbett (or his predecessors) and state lawmakers, but the persistent fiscal challenges facing our commonwealth—which threaten the prosperity of all Pennsylvanians—cannot be overlooked.

Corbett's education budget: What's in it for your school district?
By Jan Murphy | on February 06, 2014 at 3:30 PM
The following is a breakdown of the total amount of money and the dollar and percentage increase over this year that school districts in Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, Lancaster, Perry and York counties would receive underGov. Tom Corbett’s 2014-15 budget proposal.   This money that would flow through basic education subsidies, the accountability block grant program and a proposed Ready to Learn block grant program would support district operations and classroom instruction. Statewide, the average district increase is 3.9%.

“Charter schools also would get $19 million in aid from the grants, the first time state aid would flow directly to the institutions, instead of through school boards.”
Strings in Corbett's education grant plan draw ire
Education Week by AP Published Online: February 6, 2014
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The centerpiece of Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposal, a big new grant program for public schools, is getting pushback because it attaches strings to the use of the money at a time when Corbett is against giving a general increase in state aid to education.
The criticism from major Pennsylvania schools groups was swift, coming within hours after Corbett outlined the $340 million grant program Tuesday while unveiling his budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The program needs to be approved by lawmakers, who could make changes.  Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller defended the grant program as distributing money through proven methods of improving student achievement.

First Lady Susan Corbett and Acting Secretary of Education Recognize Two Dallas Schools for Academic Excellence
PDE Press Release February 06, 2014
Dallas, Pa. – First Lady Susan Corbett today presented the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to Wycallis Elementary School and Dallas Elementary School in Dallas School District, Luzerne County.  “These schools demonstrate the remarkable commitment and dedication of students, parents, taxpayers, teachers and administrators in preparing students for a bright and successful future,” Mrs. Corbett said.  “Both schools are great examples of the high-quality learning that is taking place in classrooms across Pennsylvania.”  Based on the 2012-13 School Performance Profile,, Wycallis Elementary School attained a 94.2 percent, the highest in the district and   the highest among the 60 public schools in Luzerne County that received a score.  Dallas Elementary School followed with a score of 93.1 percent, second in both the district and among all Luzerne County public schools.

Bill would re-establish PA Governor’s Schools
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader By John DiMaria February 05. 2014 11:28PM
State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, has announced plans for a bill that would re-establish the Pennsylvania Governor’s Schools of Excellence.  Funding for that program was discontinued in 2009, but Gov. Tom Corbett has pledged $350,000 for it in the 2014-15 fiscal year, Boback said in a news release.  “This program provides talented and motivated students with the chance to challenge themselves academically,” Boback said. “Countless students benefited from the program in its more than 30-year existence.”

Charters to cost Philadelphia School District $25 million more than anticipated
The Philadelphia School District has seen its charter school costs soar at the same time it's grappling with a deep financial crisis.  Officials this week said the district may spend nearly $700 million on charter payments by the end of the school year - $25 million more than the district had budgeted.  One of the main reasons for the increase in charter costs is that schools have enrolled 1,600 more students than permitted in their charter agreements.
A total of 67,315 students were enrolled in January in the 86 charters in the city and a handful of cyber and suburban schools.  The charters, however, continue to collect money to educate these students even though their enrollments is higher than agreed to with the district. Other charters have simply refused to sign agreements that would limit enrollment.

With so many snow days, school districts face tough 180-day assignment
The recent rash of winter storms has caused many schools across the region to close their doors more often than usual.  With February only a week old, school districts are going to have to get creative with their scheduling to ensure that they meet their state-mandated 180 school days.
Including three days this week, Lower Merion School District officials have now canceled six school days this year related to bad weather.  They had only budgeted for two.

Kasunic to Retire from State Senate, Ending Distinguished Public Service Career
PASENATE.COM PA Democratic State Senate website February 6, 2014
Capping off a public service career that includes 32 years in the General Assembly, state Sen. Richard A. Kasunic announced today that he will retire at the end of his current term in November.  Kasunic, who previously represented the 52nd House district from 1982 until voters elected him to the state Senate in 1994, said he wrestled with this decision because of his true enjoyment of helping the people of 32nd Senate District, which includes Fayette, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

Activists launch petition to abolish SRC
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir  Published: 02/06/2014
Activists have launched an online petition to abolish the School Reform Commission (SRC), which has governed Philadelphia schools since the 2001 state takeover. The takeover prompted widespread protests. It also left some hope that if the state took clear control it might also finally take responsibility for adequately funding city schools.  Amid the most recent in an ongoing series of budget crises — which, in the wake of deep cuts under Gov. Tom Corbett, has caused mass layoffs of teachers and support staff, and the closing of 24 schools — it is clear that has not happened.

Wharton's Peter Degnan to lead William Penn Foundation
BOB FERNANDEZ, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Thursday, February 6, 2014, 1:01 PM
The $1.9-billion William Penn Foundation has hired Peter J. Degnan, vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, as its new managing director after a lengthy search for a top executive.  Degnan will lead William Penn, the largest regionally focused charity, after the tumultuous and brief tenure of Jeremy Nowak, who was hired by the foundation in April 2010 and resigned in November 2012.  "We are excited about Peter coming on board," David Haas, the foundation's board chair, said in a statement.

Easton Area SD hears application for proposed charter school
Many parents spoke in favor of a charter school in Easton.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call February 7, 2014
Some say because Easton Area School District has slashed so many teachers and programs in recent years, it should have a charter school in the district that will have smaller class sizes and provide more hands-on learning for children.  Others say the cash-strapped school district shouldn't have a charter school that would "drain the district of money" and take some of its children away.  And now it's up to the school board to decide whether it should give the green light to the proposed Strong Foundations Charter School.
ACLU fights Easton Area School District's 'boobies' appeal
School district's bracelets case doesn't merit top court's review, group says.
By Peter Hall, Of The Morning Call 9:26 p.m. EST, February 6, 2014
Easton Area School District lawyers painted a picture of disruption and distraction caused by breast cancer awareness bracelets with the slogan "I ♥ Boobies!" in their bid to defend a ban on the jewelry before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Lawyers for the two girls suspended for defying the ban say the accounts of harassment and lewd comments by other students aren't supported by testimony and contradict the findings of two lower courts that the bracelets were neither offensive nor disruptive.  In a filing Tuesday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania say the district's quest to restore its ban on the popular rubber wristbands isn't worth the Supreme Court's time.

GAO report calls on schools to improve prevention and reporting of child sexual abuse
NSBA Legal Clips February 6, 2014
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says schools need to be more vigilant in preventing and reporting child sexual abuse, according to U.S. News & World Report.  The GAO report also calls on federal agencies to better disseminate information to help schools prevent and report sexual abuse, and to better track and analyze incidents of sexual abuse committed by school personnel.  The GAO report found that even though 46 states have laws requiring school officials to report child sexual abuse and 43 have penalties for not reporting incidents, many states and school districts vary in how they promote awareness and prevention training for school personnel, as well as in how they report suspected abuse.  Those discrepancies in policy and reporting measures have led to many schools being unaware of their responsibilities in preventing abuse, the report says.

Harkin: A High-Quality Early-Education Program Will Cost Money
Education Week Campaign K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 6, 2014 1:08 PM
Federal early-childhood education programs aren't doing nearly enough to meet a tidal wave of demand at the state level, in the view of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the sponsor of a multibillion-dollar dollar bill that seeks to dramatically expand the federal role in early-childhood education.  But his legislation, which is based on a proposal floated by President Barack Obama in back-to-back State of the Union addresses, isn't likely to get enacted anytime soon. That's partly because of its price tag, more $30 billion over the first five years, a tall order in a Congress bent on trimming spending.

A new entitlement? The right to preschool
DAVID A. LIEB, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 1:06 AM
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican governors and lawmakers who now control a majority of state capitols have been pushing aggressively to cut spending and shrink government - with one glaring exception.  Many are pumping new money into preschool programs at a rate equaling or even exceeding the Democratic-dominated capitols stereotypically cast as big spenders.
The push reflects a conclusion among conservatives that one part of the social safety net deserves more government help, not less. If it continues, the move could be a step toward creation of a new educational entitlement at a time when both parties are concerned about the costs of the current programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

Duncan Says Preschool Education Is ‘Ultimate Bipartisan Issue’
Bloomberg News By Janet Lorin and Susan Sawyers  Feb 6, 2014 3:27 PM ET  
Since President Barack Obama first called for expanded pre-kindergarten in last year’s State of the Unionaddress, the issue is gaining momentum from both sides of political aisle, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.  “It has become the ultimate bipartisan issue,” Duncan said in an interview for Bloomberg Radio’s “Bloomberg EDU with Jane Williams.” “We actually have more Republican governors than Democratic governors investing.”
Expanding access to quality early education programs for 4-year-olds isn’t just a goal of mayors and governors, Duncan said. An “interesting and unusual” coalition is growing, from business and military leaders to law enforcement and states’ attorneys. While states have been supportive, getting Congress to act will be more difficult, he said.
“If Congress wants to become less dysfunctional and more functional, there’s no better place than around education,” Duncan said.

Stakes Are High for K-12 Policy in 2014 Elections
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: February 4, 2014
State elections involving three dozen governors and more than 6,000 legislators this year could have major consequences for a variety of education policies, with the Common Core State Standards, school choice, collective bargaining, and early education among the topics most likely to get time in the spotlight and on the stump.  In some states, the 2014 elections may prove pivotal for the fate of controversial education measures enacted as a result of Republicans' strong showing in 2010. The GOP took control of 12 additional state legislatures and six more governorships that year.  The list of state elections includes 36 gubernatorial contests and legislative races in all but four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia). There are also seven elections for state schools superintendent, as well as announced or official ballot initiatives related to K-12 education in a number of states, including Hawaii, Nevada, and New York.

“The Obama administration has set the goal of connecting 99 percent of all students to high-speed broadband — of at least 100 megabits per second, more than five times the speed of the average home broadband connection — within the next five years.  As previously reported, the F.C.C. will double, to $2 billion, the spending on high-speed Internet connections in schools and libraries in each of the next two years. That increase will come primarily from the use of funds collected in previous years but not yet spent.”
F.C.C. to Change Program That Connects Schools to High-Speed Internet Service
New York Times By EDWARD WYATT FEBRUARY 5, 2014, 12:27 PM
WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission will complete changes this spring in the federal program to connect schools and libraries to high-speed Internet service and separately will consider increasing the tax paid by consumers or phone companies to finance the effort, the agency’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, said Wednesday.  In an address as part of Digital Learning Day, a national program focused on online education, Mr. Wheeler said that any increase in the tax would be preceded by a restructuring of how the current $2.4 billion annual program spends its money.

Have you considered signing this petition yet?
Petition by Denise Kurnas
To be delivered to The Pennsylvania State House, The Pennsylvania State Senate, and Governor Tom Corbett
This petition is designed to keep charter school oversight in local district control instead of allowing other entities or the Pennsylvania Department of Education to spend our property tax dollars without input from our locally elected school board officials. 

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center 2014 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Harrisburg Hilton Thu, Feb 20, 2014 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will host its Annual Budget Summit on Thursday, February 20th to provide an in-depth look at the Governor's spending plan and an update on the federal budget — and what it all means for communities and families across Pennsylvania.
As in previous years, the Budget Summit will be at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Harrisburg
Additional information, agendas, and workshops will be posted in the new year.

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.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 – Pittsburgh, PA
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.

PSBA White Paper: The costs of charter and cyber charter schools
Updated January 2014
Research and policy implications for Pennsylvania school districts
White Paper by PSBA’s Education research & Policy Center
This week PSBA’s Education Research and Policy Center issued an update to its charter school funding white paper this week, originally published in October 2010. The net cost to districts for students attending charter schools increased from $434 million in 2006-07 to $1.145 billion in 2011-12. The financial analysis indicates the need for several changes to the current charter law related to funding.

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

RESCHEDULED: PDE chief Dumaresq LIVE budget presentation, PSBA Conference Center; new date Feb. 13
PSBA website Feb 4, 2014
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq will be at the PSBA Conference Center on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2:30 p.m. to present a special state budget overview. The program has been rescheduled in advance of anticipated severe weather conditions.  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, Thu., Feb. 13, 2:30 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.

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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