Saturday, March 15, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 15, 2014: PA Auditor General concludes statewide series of charter school hearings in Philly

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 15, 2014:
PA Auditor General concludes statewide series of charter school hearings in Philly

A stronger region, strong schools and a clean environment: PennLive's 2014 Editorial Agenda
By PennLive Editorial Board on March 14, 2014 at 12:32 PM
In late January, as part of our effort to improve PennLive's Opinion and Editorialpages, we asked you what issues you wanted us to tackle in 2014.  From global warming to healthcare reform to spending and taxes, in vigorous discussion in the comments and in e-mails, you sounded off on a variety of issues. And in equally vigorous internal discussions, we evaluated your opinions and put them alongside our own agenda as an Opinion Page.   Part of any newspaper’s mission is to reflect — and respect — the broad tapestry of voices and opinions in the community it serves. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll always agree. But it does mean making room for as broad an array of opinions as we possibly can.  With that in mind, here are some of the core components of PennLive’s Editorial Agenda for 2014:

Dumaresq talks education budget in Erie
BY ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News MARCH 13, 2014
There's a growing awareness that more pension reform is needed to help struggling schools across the state, Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said.  That awareness needs to turn into action, she said.  "It's got to happen soon," Dumaresq said after a meeting Wednesday with the Erie Times-News Editorial Board. "Everyone's aware of the problem. There's a growing interest in doing something. I haven't seen a coalescing picture of what people would like to do, but people are talking about it. I take heart in that."  Most school boards wrestle with rising pension costs. The Erie School District's pension contribution rose from 16 percent to 22 percent this year, contributing almost $1.5 million to the district's projected $5 million shortfall for 2014-15.

Advocates debate charter school accountability at A.G. hearing
EDUCATION ADVOCATES CALLED for increased oversight and transparency of the state's charter schools, while sparring over a state Senate proposal that would allow universities to authorize new charters during a public hearing yesterday at City Hall.  The hearing was the last of five held across the state by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on the topic of charters, which have grown sharply during the last decade. DePasquale, who took office last year, has chided state education officials for not holding charters more accountable.
Some advocates yesterday suggested that all charters should undergo yearly reviews, either by the state or their authorizing districts, to ensure the schools are up to par academically and financially.
Read more at 

Hearing on charter schools brings out varied opinions
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  LAST UPDATED: Saturday, March 15, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Friday, March 14, 2014, 7:40 PM
PHILADELPHIA State Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale got an earful during a daylong meeting in Philadelphia on Friday on ways to improve the accountability and effectiveness of charter schools.  Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, warned that if Harrisburg passed pending legislation that would permit the unlimited growth of charters, the cost to the district would be so devastating that it might not be able to manage its own schools.  Lawrence Jones Jr., head of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School in Southwest Philadelphia, said the state needs to provide equitable funding for both district and charter schools.  "This grand experiment is one that is about to collapse under its own weight, because we are doing such a poor job in oversight," said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
Read more at 

Letter: Pa. needs to invest in its future: Pre-K funding for more kids
Delco Times LTE by RICHARD F. DUNLAP Jr., EdD, Superintendent, Upper Darby School District POSTED: 03/14/14, 11:28 PM EDT |
Most of us believe that expanded investment in early learning is essential, because it helps ensure that every child has the best chance possible for academic and social success.
The good news is that support for high-quality Pre-K is reaching a tipping point in Pennsylvania. This is one issue that has bipartisan support in the state legislature’s 127-member Early Childhood Education Caucus.  However, we have much further to go. Too many three and four-year-old children in Pennsylvania still miss the opportunity to arrive at kindergarten with the same learning skills as their peers.  Just under one in six preschool-age children have access to publicly supported, high-quality Pre-K, leaving behind many families who may have difficulty affording or finding a good preschool for their child.

NAACP wants U.S. to probe Coatesville school complaints
MICHAELLE BOND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, March 14, 2014, 9:00 PM POSTED: Friday, March 14, 2014, 7:23 PM
COATESVILLE Citing allegations of bias against minorities in student discipline and special education, the Pennsylvania NAACP has recommended that the U.S. Justice Department monitor the Coatesville Area School District and investigate whether it is complying with federal law.
The NAACP report, released publicly Friday, also called on the school district to do a better job of evaluating children with special needs, transporting them, designing their school year, and providing alternative instruction.
Read more at 

ASD union president: Teacher cuts likely to come from layoffs
Union president says there won't be enough retirements to save 74 jobs.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:39 p.m. EDT, March 14, 2014
Allentown School District's proposed 74 teacher cuts are unlikely to come through retirements and vacancies, making layoffs probable and leaving young elementary school teachers most in jeopardy of losing their jobs, teachers union President Debbie Tretter said Friday.
The district has had an unusually high 85 teacher retirements over the past two years and retirement incentives previously offered by the district expired at the end of last year, Tretter said.
The district has fewer teachers who have reached retirement age and many of them willing to retire to help a younger teacher keep his or her job have already done so, Tretter said.
Duquesne Elementary School gets a reprieve
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 13, 2014 10:59 PM
The 375 students in grades K-6 in the Duquesne School District will stay in place for another year.  State-appointed receiver Paul Long said plans are being made to have elementary classes at the Duquesne Elementary School for the 2014-15 school year.  A year ago, Mr. Long was busy writing to 11 school districts within a 10-mile radius of Duquesne asking them to voluntarily take the Duquesne Elementary students on a tuition basis, in the same way that students in grades 7-12 attend either East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area schools.  Of the 11 districts, only the Pittsburgh Public Schools indicated an interest in discussing the possibility.  However, those plans did not come to fruition for the 2013-14 school year, and no recent talks between Pittsburgh and Duquesne have been held.

Scranton School District: Stop funding religion
Justin Vacula's Blog March 14, 2013
The Scranton School District recently entered into a lease agreement with the Scranton Diocese stipulating that school activity not violate Church teaching.
Sarah Hofius Hall, writing for the Scranton-based The Times-Tribunereports that on Monday — March 10, 2014 — members of the Scranton School District school board unanimously voted to approve a $3000/month lease agreement allowing the district to use property owned by the Diocese of Scranton to potentially house elementary school students. Further, a portion of the lease stipulates the school district must refrain from “any activity that violates any teachings or policies which in any way is contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith and the Diocese of Scranton.”

Follow this new group on twitter: @CaucusofWE
New group hopes to save Philly public education
Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2014, 11:07 AM
Fighting back against reforms they feel harm traditional public schools - and hoping to envigorate the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with "more ground-up help" - a new group of teachers, counselors, nurses and other school employees has formed.  The group, the Caucus of Working Educators, announced its launch on Friday.  "We're working to save public education in Philadelphia, one school at a time," the group announced on its website.   "Our vision is just to strengthen and inform the work of the union with the concerns of the people who are in the schools every day," said Kristin Luebbert, a teacher at Bache-Martin Elementary School in Fairmount and a founding member of the coalition.   The voice of teachers and other school staff is "not taken seriously by the SRC," Luebbert said in an interview. "We ask questions, and they say, 'We're not going to answer it.' We have this passion and innovation, and we want to take this to another level."

Veteran educators form a caucus and call for member-driven teachers' union
the notebook by David Limm on Mar 14 2014 Posted in Latest news
Seeking to fortify the ranks of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which is currently waiting out contract negotiations with the School District, a number of veteran teachers and school staff have announced the formation of a group within the union called the Caucus of Working Educators. The caucus, which also includes nurses, counselors, librarians, and other support staff, says it wants to make clear to a district seeking major salary and work-rule concessions that teachers' working conditions translate as students' learning conditions.  The group's platform lists six guiding ideals, the first of which is a union empowered by a strong member base, not by top-down leadership. Other principles include educational equality, transparency, and teacher autonomy.   "The objective of the caucus is to support and further the mission of the PFT by tapping into the energy of its members," said a Friday press release announcing the group's launch.

Philly education activists ask Council to hike school funding
AS CITY COUNCIL gaveled into session yesterday, a group of education activists gathered across the hallway to call on the lawmakers to increase funding for the School District of Philadelphia.  To make his point, Bright Hope Baptist pastor Kevin Johnson, representing the interfaith group POWER, quoted the prophet Hosea, who said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."  "Today our children are destroyed not just because of a lack of knowledge, but also because of a lack of funding," said Johnson, who earlier this year briefly flirted with running for mayor. "We will continue to apply the pressure on the governor and all of our state and elected officials. However, home must take care of home, and now it is time for the City Council to do what is needed."
Read more at 

Rep. Chaka Fattah, Diane Ravitch, Helen Gym Added as AERA Annual Meeting Speakers
alt="Rep. Chaka Fattah, Diane Ravitch, Helen Gym Added as AERA Annual Meeting Speakers" class=justimagebox v:shapes="_x0000_s1026">Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) March 13, 2014
Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa), ranking Democrat on the House science appropriations subcommittee; noted education historian and researcher Diane Ravitch; and Philadelphia public education advocate Helen Gym join a compelling line-up of major speakers at the American Educational Research Association 2014 Annual Meeting, April 3-7, in Philadelphia, Pa.
Fattah, whose district covers much of the Philadelphia metro area, will address "Congress and Connecting Research to STEM Education and Innovation." In a session titled "Rising to the Challenges of Quality and Equality: The Promise of a Public Pedagogy," Ravitch will speak about the unanticipated consequences of educational innovations, while Gym will discuss what educational research means for the lives of school children in Philadelphia.
Ravitch is a research professor of education at New York University and author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. Gym is cofounder of Parents United for Public Education.  All three join a program that features an impressive array of speakers, sessions, and original research presentations.

"Pennsylvania’s campaign finance law — which allows lawmakers to raise unlimited sums and only bans direct corporate contributions — are among the most porous in the country. Other states take a much stricter approach. Montana, for instance, requires lawmakers to empty their coffers before the start of a legislative session, drawing a bright line between campaign and policy seasons.  Voters have come to realize that their voices may not be as loud “as someone who sits next to a lawmaker every day,” and meets them for drinks after work, Edwin Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics in Helena, Mont., said in an interview last fall."
In one potty-mouthed tirade, a senator reveals all that's wrong with Harrisburg: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek | on March 14, 2014 at 10:54 AM
So here’s all you need to know about what’s wrong with Harrisburg:
“I’m the [expletive deleted] senator. I do what the [expletive deleted] I want, how I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”  The architect of that deathless prose was state Sen. LeAnna Washington. That 2012 outburst came in response to an entirely sensible suggestion from her then chief-of-staff, Sean McCray, who thought it might not be such a great idea to have Washington’s taxpayer-funded staff — in the middle of the work day — send out invitations to a birthday fund-raiser.  What, with that kind of activity being illegal and all.  For his troubles, McCray, who’d been protesting steadily for a month about Washington’s habit of using her staff do political work on the taxpayer’s dime, had his pay docked by $10,000. And it eventually got him fired.  According to a grand jury presentment, which includes Washington’s outburst, McCray went to law enforcement in Montgomery County and told his story. 

Netflix’s Reed Hastings has a big idea: Kill elected school boards
BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 14 at 6:00 am
There seems to be no end to the expertise that America’s billionaires possess and are happy to share with the rest of us about public education. Apparently making a fortune in the business world makes them experts on how to educate children.  Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg, various Waltons — these are just some of the prodigiously wealthy who have decided that they know how public education can be “fixed” and have plowed big money into it. And after billions of their dollars have been spent for their pet projects, the real problems facing public schools remain.  The newest bit of “wisdom” for public education comes to us from Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings, who is a big charter school supporter and an investor in the Rocketship Education charter school network. At a meeting of the California Charter Schools Association on March 4, he said in a keynote speech that the problem with public schools is that they are governed by elected local school boards. Charter schools have boards that are not elected and, according to his logic, have “a stable governance” and that’s why “they constantly get better every year.”

Google under fire for data-mining student email messages
by thenotebook on Mar 14 2014 Posted in Latest news
by Benjamin Herold for Education Week
As part of a potentially explosive lawsuit making its way through federal court, giant online-services provider Google has acknowledged scanning the contents of millions of email messages sent and received by student users of the company’s Apps for Education tool suite for schools.
In the suit, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company also faces accusations from plaintiffs that it went further, crossing a “creepy line” by using information gleaned from the scans to build “surreptitious” profiles of Apps for Education users that could be used for such purposes as targeted advertising.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is hearing the complaint, which alleges that the data-mining practices behind Google’s Gmail electronic-messaging service violate federal and state wiretap and privacy laws. 

Big business takes on tea party over Common Core
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 3/14/14 5:00 AM EDT
Tea party activists have been waging war for months against the Common Core academic standards. Now, in a coordinated show of muscle, Big Business is fighting back — and notching wins.  The urgent effort stems from a sense among supporters that this is a make-or-break moment for the Common Core, which is under siege all over the country.  A coalition including the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch a national advertising blitz Sunday targeted at Republicans skeptical about the standards. Spots promoting the Common Core will air on Fox News and other conservative outlets.

Bill Gates Tries to Fashion Teacher Support for His Beloved Common Core
deutsch29 Blog by Mercedes Schneider March 14, 2014
One would think that if teachers supported the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), then teachers would take the initiative to rally around said CCSS.  Not so. It seems that we need Bill Gates to tell us that we need CCSS. He did so today (Friday, March 14, 2014), in Washington, DCBill Gates is rallying teachers to support an embattled cause, the Common Core State Standards.
Got that? Teachers support CCSS to such a degree that they need Bill to tell them to do so.
It seems that Gates has once again bought himself an audience; he offered his CCSS-indulging speech to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) at its Teaching and Learning conference.  Why is Gates, a non-teacher, offering his non-expertise to an audience of nationally-certified teachers?  Consolation prize for millions donated.
Gates has paid NBPTS $5 million in the form of two grants, one in 2010, and one in 2013:

School Board Members interested in running for PSBA officer positions must file applications no Later than April 30th
PSBA's website Electing PSBA Officers
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall file with the Leadership Development Committee chair during the month of April, an Application for Nomination on a form to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day." (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Details and position descriptions:

Live Chat with PA's Major Education Leadership Organizations on Twitter Tuesday March 25th at 8:00 p.m.
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

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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