Thursday, April 17, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 17: SB76: Protests could doom action on property tax reform legislation

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 17, 2014:
SB76: Protests could doom action on property tax reform legislation

PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties
PSBA Buxmont Region 11 and Penns Grant Region 15 Combined Region/Legislative Meeting -- Thursday, May 15, at William Tennent High School
- Buffet dinner/registration, 6 p.m. ($8 charge for dinner) - Program, 7:30 p.m. -- Minority Senate Education Committee Chair Hon. Andy Dinniman will introduce guest speaker Diane Ravitch, author and education historian, and former Assistant Secretary of Education.  Retiring House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer will also be honored for his long time (1981) public service.

SB76: Protests could doom action on property tax reform legislation
West Chester Daily Local Editorial  04/16/14, 8:15 AM EDT |
The property tax reform movement is picking up steam in Harrisburg, as Senate Bill 76 gets increased attention.  Last week, that attention translated into protest, as 41 organizations joined forces to speak out against the legislation, known as the Property Tax Independence Act.
“We’re getting wind that this is getting legs,” said Sam Denisco, vice president of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, reported Andrew Staub of PA Independent.  According to the PA Independent report, the coalition of business groups is voicing concerns about Senate Bill 76, “arguing it could hamstring retailers, hurt poor people and leave schools with a volatile funding stream.”

"It's also true that when Corbett claims higher spending on education, he includes larger pension contributions, which past governors didn't count in their calculations of education spending. The Corbett team says those contributions are real money and will contribute to the long-term stability of schools.  The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center calculated that Corbett's first budget left schools with $860 million less than the year before. You can read their analysis here. You can read the Corbett administration's explanation for its claim of a $1.5 billion overall education spending increase here."
Pa.'s Tom Corbett runs like a Democrat
Is Tom Corbett still a Republican?  No doubt, but his latest campaign ad would play well if he were competing in the Democratic primary.  It's a soft and warm 60-second spot which casts Pennsylvania's governor is a big booster of education and education spending. The ad places the governor among an ethnically diverse mix of schoolchildren and pictures him and his wife, Susan, with the African-American child their daughter adopted.  Maybe I shouldn't bring that up, but pros well tell you none of the images in political commercials are left to chance. This is an ad that seems designed to play well among Philadelphia Democrats and independents.  "Tom and I were both teachers, and so education is really important," Susan Corbett says in the ad, "and we know that's the key to success. He's increased spending in the education department $1.5 billion over what it was when he came into office."

PILCOP Analysis: Half of PA’s Schools Fail to Meet State Proficiency Targets
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia April 16, 2014
A Law Center analysis of the 2013 state proficiency exam testing results shows a widespread and growing inability of public schools to prepare a significant portion of their students to meet the state’s educational standards in reading and math.  The analysis includes all public schools, including those that are district run, charters, and a few other non-district schools reporting results on the PSSA and Keystone proficiency exams. The results are significant because these failures are not confined to a relatively few “ineffective” districts and because the number and percentage of schools unable to meet the current state standards for proficiency has increased over the last three years.  This analysis shows Pennsylvania has a long way to go before it is able to provide an adequate education in all schools so that students can meet state standards.

Bartram's troubles: Not about funds?
thenotebook by Bill Hangley Jr. on Apr 16 2014 Posted in Latest news
As news of violence and disarray at Bartram High School dominated Philadelphia headlines, national education researchers were downtown at the Convention Center, discussing the theory and practice of a “portfolio” school reform strategy that relies on management changes – converting low-performing schools to charters or closing them.  And while many have tied Bartram’s troubles to the budget cuts that sharply reduced staff levels at the school, Philadelphia School Partnership head Mark Gleason does not agree.  “It’s not about funds,” said Gleason, whose organization controls millions in private dollars that it distributes to replicate, improve, or expand well-performing schools. He made his remarks as he talked informally with a group of educators at the American Educational Research Association convention earlier this month.

'Election season' in North Philly: parents hear pitches on charter conversion
The stump speeches have begun, and with them, the partisan divide.  Parents at two North Philly elementary schools are fast approaching an election that could forever alter the academic trajectory of their children.  Here the distinction is not Democratic or Republican, but "district-run" or "charter."  Nestled in the bright, beautiful auditorium at Luis Muñoz-Marín elementary school in Fairhill, parents heard the first round of pitches Tuesday night from both the existing school leadership and ASPIRA — a charter organization with roots in Muñoz-Marín's heavily Latino section of North Philly.

Teachers at Mt. Airy charter vote to allow strike
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, April 17, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 6:25 PM
MOUNT AIRY After 18 months of frustration over their inability to obtain a new contract, teachers at Khepera Charter School in Mount Airy have unanimously voted to authorize negotiators to call a strike if necessary.  Teachers said they hope they won't go on strike. If they do, it would be a first. None of the handful of charter schools that are unionized in Pennsylvania has had one.
The 26 teachers and counselors at Khepera represented by the Alliance of Charter School Employees, Local 6056, voted April 2 to give negotiators the power to call a strike.

Pocono Mountain Charter School seeks advisory members
Criteria for the volunteers includes being free of any conflicts of interest
By Jenna Ebersole Pocono Record Writer April 14, 2014
The Pocono Mountain Charter School is in the early stages of reconstituting its board, but those with conflicts of interest need not apply.  The charter school, under the court-appointed custodianship of Alan Price Young, is circulating a draft of new bylaws for comment. Young said the school is also accepting applications for volunteer advisory positions. People selected will be trained and could possibly become part of a future new board.  The embattled school remains locked in a fight for survival with Pocono Mountain School District. The state's Charter Appeal Board voted once to keep it open and once to shut it down, citing entanglement between the school and its landlord, the Shawnee Tabernacle Church.  The school's founder, the church's Rev. Dennis Bloom, is imprisoned on separate tax fraud charges.

Easton Area School District looking at 29 to 100 staff reductions
District to raise taxes by at least 2.7 percent, see class sizes increase.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 5:32 a.m. EDT, April 17, 2014
The Easton Area School District could see staff reductions as high as 100 or as low as 29 over the next two school years.  But one thing is certain: Class sizes will increase in the district, with as many as 35 students in some middle and high school classes.  Superintendent John Reinhart presented the school board with four budget scenarios Tuesday night. He also held a news conference Wednesday morning to discuss the options. Each scenario involves staff reductions and at least a 2.7 percent property tax hike.  Reinhart said he prefers an option that would eliminate — through attrition — nine staff positions in 2014-15 and 20 in 2015-16. And over the course of the next two school years, taxpayers would see a 2.7 percent tax increase each year.
Conestoga Valley laptop initiative gets high marks from students
Lancaster Online by DONNA WALKER/Correspondent Wednesday, April 16, 2014 5:18 pm
Even though it means lugging a couple of extra pounds in an already loaded backpack, the one-to-one laptop initiative is receiving high marks from students at Conestoga Valley High School.
Members of the superintendent's student advisory committee gave school board members an update at on Monday, April 15, on the educational technology program, which is in its first year of implementation.

Revised SAT Won’t Include Obscure Vocabulary Words
New York Times By TAMAR LEWIN APRIL 16, 2014
The College Board on Wednesday will release many details of its revised SAT, including sample questions and explanations of the research, goals and specifications behind them.  “We are committed to a clear and open SAT, and today is the first step in that commitment,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, the College Board’s chief of assessment, in a conference call on Monday, previewing the changes to be introduced in the spring of 2016.  She said the 211-page test specifications and supporting materials being shared publicly include “everything a student needs to know to walk into that test and not be surprised.”

SAT Changes Include Fewer Answer Choices, Shorter Mandatory Test Time
Huffington Popst by Joy Resmovits and Rebecca Klein Posted: 04/16/2014 12:01 am EDT Updated: 04/16/2014 10:59 am EDT
The College Board on Wednesday released blueprints for a redesigned SAT test, giving an early ffirst look at what's in store for many students with college aspirations. Among the changes: Multiple choice questions will have four possible answer choices, instead of five, and reading passages will contain significantly more nonfiction than fiction.  The roughly 250 pages of test blueprints -- which the College Board stressed are a draft and "not a full reflection of what will be tested" -- offered new details about the redesigned test, slated for 2016, which the not-for-profit company announced in March.

States' Rollout of Common Core Goes Under the Microscope
State strengths, challenges eyed from various angles
Education Week State Ed Watch Blog by Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: April 15, 2014
Organizations tracking implementation of the Common Core State Standards praise state education agencies for collaborating well with local officials and across state borders, and for developing a strong base of materials to help with the transition to the standards.
But states still face hurdles, analysts find, including finding adequate funding to make the common core a reality at the classroom level and assuring that the rollout goes smoothly amid other significant policy shifts.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will Host an Education Funding Forum in Delaware County on May 7th
On May 7th,  PCCY will host a forum that discusses the state of school funding  in Delaware County. As many of you all know, state budget cuts have impacted districts beyond Philadelphia. The event will be held at the Upper Darby Municipal Branch Library, 501 Bywood Avenue, Upper Darby PA 19082 from 6:30pm-8pm.  Attendees will get a budget update from Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, hear from School Board members representing Upper Darby, William Penn, and Haverford School Districts and learn how they can get  involved.  Contact Devon Miner at for any questions or concerns.

PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill
May 5-6, Mechanicsburg & Harrisburg
Make an impact on the legislative process by attending PSBA’s Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill, May 5-6. Day one will provide legislative insights on pensions, training on being an effective advocate, and media relations. Dr. G. Terry Madonna, leading Pennsylvania political analyst, will discuss the legislative landscape in his usual lively and informative style.  How to Be an Effective Advocate -- Hear from former Allwein Advocacy Award winners Larry Feinberg, Roberta Marcus and Tina Viletto on how to successfully support your issues.  At noon, Rep. Dave Reed, Majority Policy Chairman, will address participants.
On day two, participants will start with a breakfast at the Harrisburg Hilton with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley as guest speaker  and then hit the ground running with visits to legislative offices in the State CapitolSpace is limited so register early. Click here for more details and to register online.
Registration fee of $50 includes lunch and dinner on May 5 and breakfast on May 6. 

Educating the Voter: A Forum on Public Education featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidates - April 30th 6:00 pm Phila Central Library
Presented by Committee of Seventy, Congresso and Philadelphia Education Fund
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:00PM 
Philadelphia Central Library 1901 Vine Street, 19103 215-686-5322
Join Democratic gubernatorial candidates Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord for a discussion on public education. Montgomery Auditorium at 6:00 P.M.
Please click here to register.

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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