Friday, March 14, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 14, 2014: DOES PENNSYLVANIA ALLOW PARENTS TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE PSSAs AND KEYSTONE EXAMS?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 14, 2014:
DOES PENNSYLVANIA ALLOW PARENTS TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE PSSAs AND KEYSTONE EXAMS?


Happy Pi Day!
Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.  Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

DOES PENNSYLVANIA ALLOW PARENTS TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE PSSAs AND KEYSTONE EXAMS?
FACT SHEET: OPTING/OUT OF STANDARDIZED TESTS
Education Law Center March 13, 2014
Yes, Pennsylvania allows parents to opt their children out of standardized testing for religious reasons.  First, a parent or guardian must contact the school and ask to review the assessment.  The review must take place at the school, but the school must have a policy that allows review during convenient hours for the parent or guardian.  This includes evening hours.  If after the inspection the parent or guardian determines that the exam conflicts with their religious beliefs they may opt their child out of the assessment.  The proper procedure is for the parent or guardian to make a written request to the school district superintendent that states the objection. This request will not be denied by the school.

What’s the State of Pre-k Where You Live?
Pre-K for PA Mar 13, 2014
Young children get one chance to benefit from high-quality pre-k, and delayed investments mean not only lost opportunities, but higher costs to our children and our society for missing those opportunities. Pennsylvania should put the needs of our children first by making high-quality pre-k accessible to every 3- and 4-year-old in the commonwealth. Use the profiles below to learn about the need for greater high-quality pre-k opportunities in your county. Let’s make sure all children in your county and across the commonwealth are ready to succeed.
Below is a list of the counties with download links for PDF Fact Sheets.

Hanger quitting Democratic race for Pa. governor
Times Leader By Peter Jackson Associated Press March 13. 2014 10:37AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — John Hanger is dropping out of the race for Pennsylvania governor.
His political director, Roger Cohen, confirmed Thursday that the Democrat will announce his decision at a Capitol news conference.

"A total of 67,315 city students attend charters. Under the state's latest calculations, the district pays the charters $8,419 per student, $22,312 for those who receive special-education services.  Officials say the district expects to spend $700 million on charter payments through June, about $25 million more than budgeted. One reason for the higher bills is that charters have enrolled 1,600 more students than permitted in their agreements."
Philly charter lawsuit challenges SRC suspension of School Code
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, March 14, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, March 13, 2014, 5:57 PM
A charter school is taking aim at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's efforts to rein in soaring charter costs.  The West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School has asked the state Supreme Court to rule that the SRC illegally suspended parts of the state School Code covering charters and to bar the commission from moving to close those that refuse to limit enrollment.  And in a direct challenge to the SRC's authority, the charter has asked the court to find that the law that led to the state takeover of the district in 2001 and created the SRC is unconstitutional.  The outcome could have repercussions for the district and all 86 charter schools in the city.

Advocates call for City Council to change thinking on sales-tax plan for Philly schools
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MARCH 13, 2014
A coalition of eight education advocacy groups swarmed City Hall Thursday, urging City Council to follow a sales-tax extension plan already authorized by the state, which would send $120 million in increased sales-tax revenue to schools.  Under the existing plan, anything more than $120 million raised from extending a 1-percent city sales tax would go to the pension system. Current city projections show sales-tax revenue could be as much as $140 million this year.
Mayor Michael Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke have been hoping to split the sales tax proceeds 50/50 between schools and pensions, and make up the difference by pushing the state to pass a tax that would raise the cost of cigarettes in Philadelphia by $2 per pack.
Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said it puts schools at risk to think that Harrisburg is both going to pass a cigarette taxand redo the sales-tax plan that it already authorized.

Act now on city schools
Philly.com Opinion By Christine Carlson POSTED: Friday, March 14, 2014, 1:08 AM
Christine Carlson is a public school parent and the founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition.
Putting Philadelphia public schools on par with their suburban counterparts is a huge task, but dramatic improvements can be made almost immediately if City Council acts and the School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers compromise.
In the city and suburbs, schools are posting teaching positions for next year, and teachers are considering their options now. But, even if they wanted to, these teachers can't consider potential jobs in the School District of Philadelphia because most positions are not posted or filled until August or September. As a result, Philadelphia schools are at a significant competitive disadvantage when retaining and attracting the region's best and brightest teachers. We can change this scenario.

Allentown schools propose 100 job cuts
They're among 100 cuts Allentown school officials propose to save $5 million.
Allentown School District Superintendent Russ Mayo explains proposed job cuts at schools.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call  11:10 p.m. EDT, March 13, 2014
The Allentown School District, which has eliminated more than 350 jobs over the past four years, proposed 100 more cuts Thursday — 74 teachers, 12 clerical positions, 10 paraprofessionals and four administrators.  The job cuts would save about $5 million without eliminating any programs, Superintendent Russ Mayo said at the school board's Education Committee meeting. Mayo is hopeful, but not optimistic, that the district can cut the positions without layoffs, he said.
The potential cuts come from across the elementary, middle and high school levels and hit special education as well as English as a second language. They do not touch music, art, gym or library.
Manheim Township community, school board, discuss fate of Spanish immersion
Lancaster Online By RYAN MELLON | Staff Writer Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014 1:00 am
Ana McKenna built the Spanish immersion program at Manheim Township from the ground up.
At the school board work session Thursday, wearing a sweatshirt with the handprints of her first immersion class in 1994, McKenna defended the program that could be eliminated by a vote of school board members on March 20.  At the Feb. 20 school board meeting, the district’s K-12 administrative team recommended the program be phased out of the curriculum. The team cited difficulties in finding and retaining qualified staff, finding grade-level appropriate material and scheduling.  The 20-year-old Spanish immersion program was supported Thursday by about 50 parents and community members attending the work session. For more than 30 minutes, supporters spoke in favor of the program.

Want to know what the Left really thinks of minorities? Look at NYC's attack on charter schools:
PennLive Op-Ed  by Thomas Sowell on March 13, 2014 at 9:45 AM
If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left's avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now -- and the place would be New York City, where far left Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an attack on charter schools, cutting their funding, among other things.  These schools have given thousands of low income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only shot at a decent life. 
Last year 82 percent of the students at a charter school called Success Academy passed city-wide mathematics exams, compared to 30 percent of the students in the city as a whole.
Why would anybody who has any concern at all about minority young people -- or even common decency -- want to destroy what progress has already been made?

"The State Senate, which Republicans and a faction of Democrats control, on Thursday proposed spending $540 million a year for five years on free full-day prekindergarten and after-school programs in the city."
NY: De Blasio Closes In on Pre-K Funding, but Not From a Higher Tax
New York Times By THOMAS KAPLAN and AL BAKER MARCH 13, 2014
ALBANY — Even as he came under escalating attacks from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature for his stance toward charter schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday stepped closer to securing state financing to expand prekindergarten in New York City.
The progress came with a caveat: Instead of a tax increase on wealthy residents that he said was the only reliable source of funding, the mayor’s prekindergarten plan appears almost certain to be financed with state money. At the same time, he came under heightened pressure over charter schools from lawmakers, whose budget proposals threaten to erode his powers under mayoral control of the public schools.

No Easy Task in Bid to Find Seats for Pre-K
New York Times By JIM DWYER MARCH 13, 2014
Let us leave Albany to its machinations, and for today’s discussion of universal prekindergarten, turn to the principles of the hydraulic power of toddlers.  If New York City is going to meet its aim of putting 21,000 more 4-year-olds into full-day prekindergarten classes next fall, the toddlers’ hydraulic power is on a par with every other law of physics.
The concept is familiar to anyone who has ever been visited in the middle of the night by a small child, climbing one knee at a time into bed. It works like this: Simply by driving a little foot in the rib of one parent, and laying his or her head on the nose of the other, a 30-pound child can soon have 300 pounds’ worth of adults teetering at the edges of the mattress. Game, set, match.
A few weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that a survey had found 9,000 possible seats in public schools for 4-year-olds who would attend full-day prekindergarten, beginning in the fall of this year. Private groups, “community-based organizations,” offered to provide 20,000 seats.
Altogether, 29,000 seats, at least on a piece of paper.


Live Chat with PA's Major Education Leadership Organizations on Twitter
PSBA website 3/11/2014
On Tuesday, March 25 at 8 p.m., Pennsylvania's major education leadership organizations will host a live chat on Twitter to share the opinions of school leaders from throughout the state and invite feedback.  Join the conversation using hashtag #PAEdFunding and lurk, learn or let us know what you think about the state of support for public schools.  If you've never tweeted before, join us. It's a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. Here are directions and a few tips:

How the Business Community Can Lead on Early Education
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Join business and community leaders to learn about how you can help make sure every child arrives in kindergarten ready to succeed. On April 29th, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will host a forum featuring business leaders from around the country talking about why they’re focused on early childhood education and how they have moved the needle on improving quality and access in their states.
Featured Speakers
  • Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus of The Vanguard Group
  • Phil Peterson, Partner, Aon Hewitt and Co-Chair of America’s Edge/Ready Nation
  • And more to be announced! 
  • Date & Time Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | 5-7 PM
Registration begins at 5 PM; program from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Location Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
10 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106

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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