Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 11, 2014: Still think that CCSS was a teacher and state-led endeavor?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 11, 2014:
Still think that CCSS was a teacher and state-led endeavor?

Still think that CCSS was a teacher and state-led endeavor?
Follow the Money: How Bill Gates Bought the Common Core (in one Graphic Image)

Pittsburgh part of national conversation on education
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 10, 2014 11:48 PM
Mayor Bill Peduto is among 14 mayors nationwide whose cities were chosen for "community conversations" focusing on early childhood education, after school and postsecondary education.
Announced Monday in Washington, D.C., the effort is part of a partnership with the National League of Cities and the U.S. Department of Education. Mr. Peduto is a member of the league's committee overseeing education and advocacy.  The date of the conversations has not been set but may take place over a couple of days in the summer. The U.S. Department of Education will send expertise but not money.  The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education is the lead on the community conversations, according to the department.

"On Monday, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center joined tax groups in Ohio and West Virginia in calling for uniform severance taxes in the states, and released a joint letter to the governors seeking their adoption.  ...“We believe that cooperation will strengthen our respective governors' hands in dealing with the energy industry,” said the center's director, Sharon Ward. She and other group leaders said states should reap the industry's benefits to pay for roads, education and impacts from drilling."
Gas tax could factor into Pennsylvania gubernatorial race
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By David Conti Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:12 p.m.
A debate over how to tax the plentiful gas from Pennsylvania shale is intensifying and will remain prominent this election year as Democrats use it to attack Gov. Tom Corbett, observers say.  There's no question this will be a very strong issue. It's a populist issue, arguing that corporations are not paying their fair share,” said Joseph DiSarro, chair of the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College. “It fits the Democrats' set of values.”
All seven candidates for governor in the May 20 Democratic primary say they support some form of a severance tax based on the value or volume of gas and liquids from wells.
Corbett, a Republican running for re-election, opposes a tax and opted for an impact fee based on a per-well formula that took effect two years ago. Corbett's primary opponent, Bob Guzzardi of Montgomery County, said he is against any new taxes or fees, including targeted taxes on specific industries.

U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Easton's appeal on boobies bracelets
By not acting, justices left intact a court ruling that says breast cancer awareness bracelets are protected by the First Amendment.
By Peter Hall, Of The Morning Call 10:44 p.m. EDT, March 10, 2014
For students, a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday means frank classroom conversations about sensitive subjects are less likely to lead to discipline.  For teachers, it means they'll face new challenges in maintaining decorum while allowing their students to express themselves.
Declining to hear Easton Area School District's appeal to reinstate a ban on breast cancer awareness bracelets with the slogan "I [heart] Boobies," the Supreme Court ended more than three years of fighting in the federal courts between the district and two students.
The high court's decision leaves intact a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August that the bracelets — worn to middle school by Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez on Breast Cancer Awareness Day in October 2010 — are protected by the First Amendment.

Video clip: Auditor General's Bucks County Charter School Hearing

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale holds public meeting to explore ways to improve accountability, effectiveness and transparency of charter schools.

Rep. Glen Grell talks pension reform at Camp Hill School Board meeting
By Allison Dougherty | Special to PennLive  on March 10, 2014 at 11:04 PM, updated March 10, 2014 at 11:23 PM
CAMP HILL – The Camp Hill School District’s 2013-14 PSERS contribution is expected to be about $746,000, by 2017-18 that amount could be $1.434 million, according to state Rep. Glen Grell, R-Hampden Township.  Grell has a proposal to reform public pensions, which he presented on Monday to the Camp Hill School District School Board. The plan addresses both SERS and PSERS financial issues, but Grell primarily spoke to school board members about how the plan relates to school employee pensions.  Grell’s proposal, which he called a three bucket plan, includes a cash balance plan for new employees, strategic borrowing to address ten years of pension underfunding and voluntary current member modifications for current employees.

Pa. teacher misconduct bill stalls
Legislation would make districts aware of problems
Wilkes Barre Times Leader By Mark Guydish - mguydish@civitasmedia.com March 09. 2014 11:32PM
It’s called “passing the trash.” A teacher faces discipline for misconduct, resigns before repercussions, and ends up teaching in another district, the suspect history left behind and undisclosed to the new employer.  A state bill designed to eliminate the practice sailed unanimously through the state Senate and the House of Representative’s education committee, but has stalled.   “I can’t believe this isn’t already current law,” state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Hughestown, said. Carroll, who sits on the House education committee, said he voted to move the bill out of committee but no action has been taken. Why?  “I can speculate, based on an announcement that the House education committee is going to consider, on March 12, House Bill 2063,” Carroll said. “Which looks like an identical bill, as far as I can see.”

PBPC: Pennsylvania Taxpayers for Good Public Schools
Legislative proposals to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania have gained steam in the Legislature, posing a serious threat to stable, predictable education funding. Most of the proposals currently before the General Assembly do not address the primary issue with property taxes in Pennsylvania — that too few state dollars are used to support public schools in the commonwealth.  Pennsylvania can help seniors and working families having trouble paying their property taxes with better targeted strategies while still protecting critical investments in public education.  Done well, property tax reform can make it easier for Pennsylvania to finance our schools more equitably for both students and property owners. Done poorly, reform efforts could create larger inequities in the system and reduce school funding.

13 ways high-stakes standardized tests hurt students
Washingtonn Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 11 at 4:00 am
It’s time for March Madness — not the famous college basketball tournament but the start of high-stakes standardized testing season in many school districts around the country. I’ve published many posts on how standardized test scores are inappropriately used to evaluate students, educators and schools, but there are plenty of other costs to students as well. Here are  13 ways that high-stakes standardized testing harms students, from the Yinzercation blog by Jessie B. Ramey. She is the parent of two children in Pittsburgh public schools and a historian of working families, gender, race and U.S. social policy and teaches women’s studies and history at the University of Pittsburgh.

Pension woes push A-K Valley school districts to seek higher tax limits

TribLive Valley News Dispatch By Mary Ann Thomas Sunday, March 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Four out of 15 school districts in the Alle-Kiski Valley have sought special approval to raise real estate taxes above state limits for the 2014-15 school year.  That's down from five school districts applying for that approval — known as an “exemption” — for this school year.  Statewide, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, known as Act 1, has tamped down the number of school districts going for hefty tax increases in a single school year, according to Department of Education statistics.  However, the escalating cost of funding school pensions means that the number of districts seeking exemptions is unlikely to stay down, according to education officials.
After hitting a high watermark of 228 exemptions in 2011-12 approved by the state Department of Education, the number declined by 25 percent to 171 exemptions in the 2013-14 school year.

Springfield Township (Montco) School District approves preliminary budget

The Springfield Township School Board has approved a preliminary budget of $50.4 million for 2014-15.  The board voted 7-0 on the budget March 4, and it was passed without any public discussion at the meeting.  According to the version of the budget available on the district’s website, www.sdst.org, about $43.2 million of revenue was anticipated from local sources, including almost exactly $38 million from current real estate taxes. Revenue from state sources was projected at $6.3 million, including $2.5 million for Pennsylvania’s share of retirement contributions. Slightly over $900,000 was expected from federal revenue sources.  Using the township’s “typical” home assessment value of $175,400, owners could expect to pay about $5,470 in real estate taxes under the preliminary budget or a $215 tax increase. By comparison, that same homeowner paid about $5,255 in real estate taxes this year.

Easton Area School District Community Coalition gathers volunteers, solutions to stem layoffs

By Rudy Miller | The Express-Times on March 08, 2014 at 4:32 PM
Some prominent members of the community are on the Easton Area School District Community Coalition. Clockwise from top left, Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr., school board member Robert Fehnel, former state Rep. Richard Grucela and school board member Dominick Buscemi.
If it can save the job of one teacher, her group's efforts will be worth it, according to Marisa McFadden.   The PTA parent is one of the organizers of a citizens group called the Easton Area School District Community Coalition. The group's goal is to find ways to roll back a projected 36 teacher layoffs before the school board approves its 2014-15 budget. The preliminary budget also calls for a 4.9 percent tax hike.  Cutting that many teachers will make class sizes too big, McFadden fears. She also worries art and music classes could be cut.  She came to the school board with 600 signatures to an online petition in January, asking board members to find ways to prevent the potential layoffs. By early February, she had 900 signatures. Since then, her group has met twice. It's hosting a community night Thursday to encourage more participation.

Haverford School District prelim budget ups taxes by 3.59 percent

HAVERFORD TWP--The school board at a recent meeting voted unanimously to adopt a $102.6 million preliminary budget for 2014-15 that includes a 3.59 percent millage rate increase, from 27.6784 to 28.6707 mills.  With the average residential property assessment valued at $162,858, the average residential property tax increase will be $162 annually, for a total $4,669.
Business Manager Richard Henderson noted that the school district plans to apply for two referendum exceptions, for special education and PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System), which will allow the tax increase to exceed this year’s 2.1 percent Act 1 index.
Driving a 4.72 percent increase in total expenditures is an 11.78 percent hike in benefits and fringes, projected to reach $25.6 million next year. Officials at a prior meeting said the lion’s share of that increase is due to PSERS.

Phila. students soar at state chess tourney

Philadelphia students, including an eighth grader with a nationally certified master rating, captured 110 awards at the Pennsylvania State Scholastic Chess Championships this weekend.
It was a big haul for the group of more than 130 youths, sponsored by After School Activities Partnerships, whose trip to the tournament in central Pennsylvania was paid for by the family of the late Philip Lindy, a longtime supporter of the chess program at ASAP.  "We have 3,200 kids playing chess every week in Philadelphia," said Marciene S. Mattleman, founder of ASAP, which promotes after-school recreation and enrichment in the city's most underserved neighborhoods.

New money, new plans for 2 troubled Phila. schools
Khyrie Brown stood outside his school and enumerated the things he was going to tell School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green on a tour of Blaine Elementary on Monday.  The school lacks adequate supplies, said Khyrie, an eighth grader. Its equipment is old, its classes are too big, and it doesn't have enough staff.  "They need to restore what they took from us," said Dawn Hawkins, Khyrie's mother, who also took the tour with Green. She said the school is so underfunded that teachers solicit small change for copier paper, and parents are asked to send in toilet paper and hand soap.
Green had news, though.  Blaine and W.D. Kelley, another public school in North Philadelphia, will use $3 million in grant money from the private Philadelphia School Partnership to transform themselves. Though the grants were made last summer, teachers at both schools were informed last week that they will need to reapply for their positions, with no more than half permitted to remain on the job in September.

2 N. Phila. schools explore new turnaround models
TWO NORTH Philadelphia schools that were awarded grants last year to create their own turnaround models are revealing their plans to the community.  James G. Blaine Elementary and William D. Kelley Elementary will become district-run turnaround schools in September. The schools will keep their principals, unlike Promise Academies - another district-run turnaround model - but teachers must reapply for their positions, with no more than half being brought back.
After receiving additional students due to nearby school closings, both schools won a $1.5 million grant in July from the Philadelphia School Partnership, a controversial nonprofit group that funnels philanthropic dollars to schools.

Two North Philly grade schools to undergo massive staffing changes in hopes of 'turnaround'
Two elementary schools in North Philadelphia will undergo massive staffing changes before the 2014-15 school year in an attempt to transform school culture and student performance.  Blaine Elementary in Strawberry Mansion and W.D. Kelley Elementary in Brewerytown have been selected for what the Philadelphia School District is calling a "district-led renaissance turnaround."
Teachers at both schools must reapply for their jobs. At least 50 percent of the teaching staff at each school won't be recalled.  The move is designed to give increased flexibility to the schools' principals.  "We basically believe in the autonomy of the principals and the school design teams to develop the transformation plan that they think is going to work best given the students that are in their buildings," said Paul Kihn, assistant district superintendent.  Kihn rejected the view that this move would cause more tumult and upheaval to an increasingly fragile system.

SB1 Voucher vote a factor in PA-4 Senate primary challenge...
"The one overriding reason that Haywood and Gralnick cite for their run against the seemingly well-entrenched incumbent is her vote for education vouchers, which passed the Senate but never reached the House in late 2011. The Democratic votes by Anthony Williams (D-Phil.) and Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), in addition to Washingtons’, put the bill over the top, 27 to 22. Five Republicans opposed it. (Williams’ run for governor in the 2010 Democratic primary was almost solely bankrolled by more than $3.3 million from a single PAC organized by some hedge fund financiers committed to “school choice.”)
Sen. Washington, identifying herself as a former high school drop-out, teenage parent and survivor of domestic violence, underscored her work around issues of children and women. She pointed to her bill, SB 20, which overhauls the definition of child abuse, as the first to be passed coming out of the Task Force on Child Protection. Arguing for creating new tax revenue sources from big businesses like a Marcellus shale drilling tax, she said, “When we talk about finding money for education . . ., we can’t go to Harrisburg and find that money – because there’s no money.” She asked to be returned to the Senate to continue her efforts.
Many public school advocates believe tax payer funding for students moving to private schools would dangerously erode the resource base for public schools. Haywood said explicitly last night that he was running to oppose the incumbent who co-sponsored and voted for the school voucher bill. “School vouchers would eviscerate the financial support for public schools,” he declared. Similarly, Gralnick ended his presentation saying that he thought “we had representation that was in the best interests of ourselves, our students and our children. That was until three Democrats voted for a voucher bill . . .” Among Washington’s non-supporters, there were comments about her alleged unwillingness to even discuss the voucher issue prior to her vote."
Montco Dems Stay Clear of Endorsements in Most Primary Races; Looks Like a Split on the PA-4 Senate Contest
Posted on February 26, 2014 Leave a Comment
Montco Democrats apparently decided last night that discretion is the better part of valor (or fill in your own cliche of choice) to avoid party infighting and let the voters decide on their nominees in contested races on the May 20 primary ballot.  The party regulars at the well-attended Montgomery County Democratic Nominating Convention in Whitemarsh, although enthusiastic, apparently had no stomach for taking sides as an organization, even if it meant letting a familiar incumbent do battle with insurgent candidates minus the cloak of an endorsement.
State Sen. Leanna Washington of the 4th District, a veteran of two-plus terms in the Senate and 12 years in the House before that, is pitted against two-term Cheltenham Township (Ward 2) Commisioner Art Haywood and activist Brian Gralnick of Elkins Park.

Congrats to Palisades School District's Rich Kiker who has been selected for this list
National School Boards Honors Ed Tech Innovators
The Journal By Dian Schaffhauser 03/10/14
Those who use technology in the classroom and school operations in innovative ways share three characteristics: They're willing to take risks; they share what they learn with their colleagues; and they inspire others to believe that they can be effective too. This from the National School Boards Association, which has just designated 20 people as educators "to watch."  Each year this non-profit representing state and local school boards recognizes education leaders who motivate others to try new technology approaches to make a difference in the learning and school environment.

NSBA webinar to showcase successful case studies for community-school partnerships
NSBA School Board News Today by Staff March 10th, 2014
Join school board members Eve Bolton from Cincinnati, Ohio and Jody London from Oakland, Calif. as they discuss the important role of school board members in promoting the community school strategy, and the successful outcomes they are seeing in their districts through support of this strategy.  Participate in this webinar from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 11. Reserve your webinar seat now.
Aaron Dorsey, Manager of Equity and Achievement Programs at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Mary Kingston Roche, Public Policy Manager at Coalition for Community Schools will be on hand to answer questions and provide specific steps on implementing community school strategy for success in your district.

AFT Says It Will No Longer Accept Gates Funding

Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Stephen Sawchuk on March 10, 2014 12:00 PM
The American Federation of Teachers, to date the recipient of more than $11 million in Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation largesse, will no longer accept Gates funding, Politico hasreported, citing increasing criticism from members.  AFT officials said the union's President, Randi Weingarten, made the announcement at the Network for Public Education conference last week in Austin, Texas. NPE is an advocacy group begun by Diane Ravitch and other critics of so-called "corporate education reform." 

The Common Core Is Driving the Changes to the SAT

The recently announced redesign will bring the test in line with the standards.
The Atlantic by LINDSEY TEPEMAR 10 2014, 10:36 AM ET
The SAT and ACT—the premier college admissions examinations–have “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” This proclamation by David Coleman, president of The College Board (the developer of the SAT), came during his announcement of forthcoming changes to the SAT that will aim to address this issue. And while this news has touched off a flurry of headlines, the national media and higher education outlets are missing a huge piece of the story: the role the Common Core has played in driving these changes.  The major content and procedural changes the SAT will undergo have been well documented by news outlets—the New York Timesthe Chronicle, and Inside Higher Education, to name a few. The announced changes move the SAT closer to ACT’s content-based method of assessment, an achievement test seen as more connected to the work of high schools. Wonkblog pointed out that ACT’s increased market share (up to 54 percent) is no doubt driving these changes to the SAT.

Study: Virtual Schools Lack Diversity

Education Writers Assoc. Latino Ed Beat Blog by KATHERINE LEAL UNMUTH MARCH 7, 2014 
Virtual schools are less diverse than traditional public schools, new research reveals. The online schools tend to have few Latino, limited English proficient, black and poor students.  The 2012-13 ”census” by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) identified 338 full-time virtual schools in the country that enrolled 243,000 students. The Colorado-based center published the study entitled, “Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy and Research Evidence.”  Virtual schools also tend to perform lower on adequate yearly progress measures, according to the report. Most students attendschools run by private education management companies, while still others are charters or run by school districts.

"We will continue to see more and more state litigation on this issue of what it takes to ensure that all students can meet standards and placing a legal obligation on the state legislature to adopt financing systems that provide both adequate funding and equitable funding to ensure that those standards are actually achieved," said Dianne Piche, a former U.S. Education Department attorney who leads education initiatives at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights."
Kansas School Funding Declared Unconstitutional By State Supreme Court
By Joy.resmovits@huffingtonpost.com Posted: 03/07/2014 6:52 pm EST
The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled the state's funding of public schools to be unconstitutional, a declaration likely to have effects beyond the state's borders.  The decision ordered the immediate reversal of recent education cuts, but told a lower court to reconsider the potential $1 billion question of whether Kansas provides enough education funding to adequately prepare students for the future.  The 110-page opinion's immediate effect on schools isn't clear. Much depends on the actions of Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who after the ruling promised to work with the legislature to "fix this." Earlier, conservative state lawmakers had threatened to defy the court, arguing that school funding is the business of the legislature, not courts.

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia

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
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 the last of five public meetings will be held:
  • 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: swoods@auditorgen.state.pa.us.

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.

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