Monday, March 31, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 31, 2014: PA charter school funding debate no closer to resolution

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 31, 2014:
PA charter school funding debate no closer to resolution

Did you catch our weekend posting?
Keystone State Education Coalition Saturday, March 29, 2014
PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 29, 2014: Does this sound like "thorough and efficient" to you?

Pennsylvania's charter school funding debate no closer to resolution
Trib Live By Megan Harris Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
The contract that ousted PA Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta brokered with its curriculum provider remains in place months after prosecutors indicted the former school chief on 11 counts of mail fraud, bribery, tax conspiracy and filing false tax returns.  Lawmakers pointed to the Trombetta case as a high-profile opportunity to overhaul the charter school laws passed in the early-Internet days of 1997 and address criticisms that cyber schools pocket too much money compared to their operational costs.  While legislation sits in limbo, many educators agree no one has hard data on how much money cyber schools should receive.
Schools follow strict rules in administering PSSA
Students at one Bethlehem school nervously await start of PSSA.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:47 p.m. EDT, March 30, 2014
It's 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and Jodi Frankelli is alone behind a locked door inside Governor Wolf Elementary School.   Classes begin in five minutes and Frankelli, the Bethlehem school's principal, is getting ready in a small room with a table, a half dozen chairs and an old TV.
With one entrance from the hallway and another from the main office, this space is usually a conference room for Frankelli and her teachers.  Today, it's a vault. Four signs, on the fronts and backs of each door, warn teachers to stay away.
"On average, school districts pay $14,750 per student who leaves a district to enroll in a cyber school, regardless of whether they require regular or special education services. These payments far exceed actual costs to cyber programs, which don't face the capital, operational, and other expenses borne by traditional public schools. This funding system ignores the fact that costs to districts (e.g., staffing classrooms, heating and cooling buildings, maintaining grounds) continue when an individual student attends a cyber charter school."
Public schools need fair funding formula
Lancaster Online BY STACEY L. MARTEN Special to the Sunday News March 30, 2014 6:00 am
Stacey L. Marten is the president of the Board of School Directors for the School District of Lancaster.
This is in response to the letter to the editor, "Cuts in cyber school funding are opposed," dated March 7.  As a public school district, the School District of Lancaster supports student programs which provide a high-quality education in a setting that best suits individual needs.
We open our school doors each day to the most diverse student body in our area, and arguably, one of the most diverse in the commonwealth. We pride ourselves not only on our diversity, but on the vast programs and opportunities that are readily available for all students who fill our classrooms.

Study: Pa. gets "D" in civil rights teaching
Lancaster Online by Associated Press | Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 5:02 am
BEAVER, Pa. (AP) — Imagine Pennsylvania students not being taught about the Revolutionary War, the Great Depression or World War II.  Sounds unbelievable, right?  But, according to a new Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) study of state teaching standards, that's exactly the case with the civil rights movement.  In "Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States," the SPLC graded states on what they "expected teachers to teach and students to learn."  Pennsylvania, while receiving praise for linking resources and materials to standards as a guide for teachers, still received a D, as did 13 other states, including neighboring Ohio.

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials cautious despite surplus
Some expect district to be broke by 2017
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 30, 2014 11:47 PM
When 2013 began, Pittsburgh Public Schools expected to run an operating deficit of $9.8 million, but by November things were looking up.  Instead of a deficit, an operating surplus of $2.7 million was predicted. By early March, the estimate grew to a surplus of $10.2 million.  When the year-end numbers for 2013 were released last week after an additional round of earned income tax revenue was received, the surplus was $20.8 million.  Now the question is: What does the surplus mean for a district that expects to run out of money in 2017?

"The new 2014-2018 investment plan, which was unveiled last month and will take effect July 1, will expand education funding but limit that support to programs assisting children who attend 22 "priority" elementary and middle schools in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Bangor. The overarching goal is to increase by 50 percent the number of third-graders regionwide reading at grade level by 2022."
New United Way funding formula shifts money to select city schools
Some nonprofits feel left out as top fundraiser targets early education.
Adult Literacy Center director says less classes are inevitable.
By Sam Kennedy, Of The Morning Call 9:35 p.m. EDT, March 29, 2014
The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is launching a new investment plan that narrows its focus to 22 hand-picked, mostly urban elementary schools, creating some winners and some losers among recipients.  Though some nonprofits that stand to lose grant money say they have been caught unawares, the United Way describes the change as an incremental step in a transformation that began more than a decade ago.  "We are using the investment plan to sharpen our approach," said David Lewis, president of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. "How can we have the greatest impact in the Lehigh Valley where it's most needed?"
In years past, the United Way — the region's preeminent charitable fundraising organization — dispersed education funding to partnering nonprofits throughout the Lehigh Valley that, collectively, served people of all ages.
Notebook editorial: Nightmare scenario
the notebook editorial April 2014 print edition
Spring has arrived – and with it the recurring nightmare: the School District again confronting a catastrophic budget situation. Superintendent William Hite said he needs $440 million in new revenue to operate schools at an adequate level next fall. The first $200 million of that figure will merely head off another round of cuts. That’s because the current budget was balanced using one-time funds and because costs for pensions, benefits, and charters climb each year.
So far, just a fraction of the money needed to avert more cuts is committed. Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget increases education spending but steers much of the new money to less needy districts. His proposal disregards the dire plight of Philadelphia and other struggling systems. But it will be a heavy lift to get the legislature to alter that plan. Many advocates are turning their attention to electing a new governor committed to addressing the state’s gross school funding inequities.

Network for Public Education Endorses Daylin Leach for Congress in Pennsylvania!
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch March 29, 2014 //
The Network for Public Education has endorsed Daylin Leach for the U.S. Congress.  Daylin Leach is running for the 13th Congressional district in Pennsylvania.  He is a strong supporter of public education, and we need him in Congress.  I urge you to send whatever you can to help Daylin Leach get elected.

A national honor for Philadelphia activist Helen Gym
Spend a few hours with Helen Gym, Philadelphia's famously feisty community organizer, and you see a rabble-rouser on the run, dashing from a TEDx talk rehearsal at Temple University to a rally for public education, where she revved up the crowd.  Gym speaks "truth to power," said State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), who introduced her at the rally Thursday after first teasing her for "troublemaking."  At a White House ceremony Monday, Gym, 45, a cofounder of Parents United for Public Education, a parent-led school watchdog group; and a board member of Asian Americans United, which advocates for ethnic diversity, will add another label to her brand: Cesar E. Chavez Champion of Change.

Teacher indecency can get lost in state's system, Trib analysis reveals
By Kari Andren and Kate Wilcox Published: Saturday, March 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
When Tracy A. Bergen stepped before a Columbia County chemistry class in the fall of 2010, state education officials were investigating her alleged sexual relationship with a female student in another district where she taught, records show.  No one knew — not students, parents or Harry C. Mathias, the superintendent who unwittingly hired her at Central Columbia High School in Bloomsburg. Neither a criminal background check nor calls to her references turned up anything unusual.  “We potentially put our kids at risk, and I think that's ridiculous,” said Mathias, still angry that the state did not make available to him information about Bergen's problems in Susquehanna Community School District, about 100 miles north of Bloomsburg.  “It was like talking to the CIA,” he said. “If you know something I should know, I think you have a moral obligation to tell me that.”

"On this week’s Moyers & Company, Diane Ravitch tells Bill Moyers, ”I think what’s at stake is the future of American public education. I believe it is one of the foundation stones of our democracy: So an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.”
Public Schools for Sale?
Moyers & Company March 28, 2014
Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.” As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”  Education historian Diane Ravitch says the privatization of public education has to stop. As assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, she was an advocate of school choice and charter schools; under George W. Bush, she supported the No Child Left Behind initiative. But after careful investigation, she changed her mind, and has become, according to Salon, “the nation’s highest profile opponent” of charter-based education.

In the battle that undid testing in Texas, a grass-roots group formed in Austin played an indispensable role
The Dallas Morning News By Jeffrey Weiss | Staff Writer March 2014
When Texas public school students start their STAAR tests this week, they’ll face a far different testing and accountability system than was set at the beginning of the prior school year.
For 13 legislative sessions across 34 years, every time Texas passed laws about school testing, the numbers and stakes had grown. That ended in 2013, when a series of laws passed that not only demanded changes in testing, but also challenged the legitimacy of the test-based accountability system. All without a single dissenting vote.
That enormous shift in attitude is still raising echoes nationally. And as legislators prepare for the next session, they’re discussing ways to further reduce the number and influence of tests.
How did that happen? This is the story of how the Texas testing bubble popped.

"The underlying question remains: How did a privately managed school franchise that serves a tiny portion of New York’s students manage to hijack the education reforms of a new mayor with a huge popular mandate?"
New York Schools: The Roar of the Charters
New York Review of Books by Diane Ravitch March 27, 2014
In his speech at Riverside Church last Sunday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to end weeks of attacks on his schools policies by striking a conciliatory tone toward the city’s privately managed charter schools. He used the charter sector’s own rhetoric of “crisis” and “failure” to describe the school system that he inherited from Mayor Bloomberg. He spoke of parents eager to escape failing schools and condemned the “status quo” without noting that it was Bloomberg’s status quo. He opposed the idea that public schools and charter schools are competing and called for a new era “in which our charter schools help to uplift our traditional schools.” According to The New York Times, he called some of the financial leaders on Wall Street, the billionaires who have paid millions of dollars for the ads attacking him, to plead for a truce.
De Blasio decided he could not win this war. The other side had too much money and proved it could drive down his poll numbers. He said that the charter schools could help public schools, but in reality, charter schools could learn a few things from the public schools, like how to teach children with disabilities and second-language English learners. Contrary to popular myth, the charter schools are more racially segregated than public schools and have performed no better than the public schools on the most recent state tests. But what they have behind them is vast resources, and de Blasio capitulated.

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 4): Misleading the World
Yong Zhao's Blog 29 MARCH 2014 262 NO COMMENT
How Does PISA Put the World at Risk: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Part 4
These are some of the most recent sensational headlines generated by PISA with a 4-page report entitledDo parents’ occupations have an impact on student performance released in February 2014. These headlines exemplify the secret of PISA’s great success as a masterful illusionist: effective misdirection of attention by exploiting human instinct for competition.
From the start, the entire PISA enterprise has been designed to capitalize on the intense nationalistic concern for global competitiveness by inducing strong emotional responses from the unsuspecting public, gullible politicians, and sensation-seeking media. Virtually all PISA products, particularly its signature product—the league tables, are intended to show winners and losers, in not only educational policies and practices of the past, but more important, in capacity for global competition in the future.  While this approach has made PISA an extremely successful global enterprise, it has misled the world down a path of self-destruction, resulting in irrational policies and practices that are more likely to squander precious resources and opportunities than enhancing capacity for future prosperity.

The Pennsylvania PTA 105th annual statewide convention April 4-6, 2014, at the Radisson Valley Forge/King of Prussia.
Pennsylvania PTA Harrisburg, Pa. March 21, 2014
Delegates from local PTA units, councils, and regions throughout the state will gather to give direction to the State PTA on issues of resolutions, bylaws, and timely topics being addressed around education and child advocacy.  The convention format will include a Diversity Leadership Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness and Prevention, twenty (20) workshops on timely issues, networking time with other delegates, an exhibit hall, a Reflections Gallery showcasing student artwork, and the opportunity to hear keynote speakers and representatives from the National PTA and other statewide partnering organizations from Pennsylvania. Complete details for registration may be obtained at the Pennsylvania PTA website at

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Democratic candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania
Tuesday, April 8th  at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 515 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15206

Sign up for weekly Testing Resistance & Reform News and Updates!
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

PSBA nominations for offices now open!  Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA.  Complete details on the nomination process, links to the Application for Nomination form, and scheduled dates for nominee interviews can be found online by clicking here.
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
Tuesday, April 29th, 12-4 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th, 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

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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