Friday, April 11, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 11, 2014: Possible solution to pension problem? What's your alternative to 30 years of higher property taxes?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 11, 2014:
Possible solution to pension problem?  What's your alternative to 30 years of higher property taxes?



PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties - save the date
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.



A temporary financial transaction tax would solve our pension problem: Tim Potts
By PennLive Op-Ed  By Tim Potts on April 10, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Tim Potts serves on the Carlisle Area School Board.
It has been frustrating to see this year’s gubernatorial candidates largely ignore the most serious problem Pennsylvania faces: our $50 billion pension debt. It’s a debt that must be paid, and it sucks the life out of state and local school budgets.  The debt is the result of our legislature, abetted by both Republican and Democratic governors, being irresponsible stewards of the retirement systems on which hundreds of thousands of seniors depend. First lawmakers increased the pension benefits in 2001; then they refused to pay for it.  In the Carlisle Area School District, where I serve on the board of directors, the share of property taxes going toward pension costs has increased 1,691 percent since 2001. 
Chances are, the increase in your school district is about the same.

"Chairman Colleen Kennedy released a statement saying the endorsement is “the most important endorsement we will make this election cycle.” The statement said the PAC is backing Smith because Davidson previously voted in support of a vouchers amendment and also accepted campaign donations from Students First, a political action committee supporting school choice."
Save Upper Darby Arts endorses Billy Smith for state House
Delco Politics Keystone Kopp Blog by John Kopp April 10, 2014
The political action committee formed by Save Upper Darby Arts announced it is endorsing Billy Smith for state House.  Smith, a lawyer from Lansdowne, is challenging state Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164, of Upper Darby in the Democratic primary. Dafan Zhang, a law student from East Lansdowne, also is running as a Democrat.  Saud Siddiqui, the chief operating officer of Upper Darby Caring Foundation, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Save Upper Darby Arts formed as a grassroots organization two years to prevent drastic cuts to Upper Darby School District’s art, music, physical education, library, technology and foreign language programs.  The group attracted national media attention by producing an online video and gathering more than 22,000 petition signatures. The group’s efforts led the General Assembly to restore $2.726 million to Upper Darby.

SB76: State Legislation Could Cause $2.6 Billion in Cuts to Education Funding Over the Next 5 Years
WESA NPR Pittsburgh By HALDAN KIRSCH April 10, 2014
Opponents of a state bill that would replace school property taxes with a sales tax have voiced their concerns for small businesses and the poor should the bill be passed. According to an analysis by the PA Independent Fiscal Office, this bill would cause $2.6 billion in cuts to funding for school districts in the next five years.  According to PA Education Law Center Executive Director Rhonda Brownstein, the possible effects of this bill would be devastating to school districts across the state.  Advocates including the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, PA Chamber of Business and Industry, PA Education Law Center, and Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in PA have written to the Senate Finance Committee in opposition of SB 76.  The bill would alter funding sources for education by replacing local school property taxes with new sales taxes that would be expanded to include groceries, clothing, and footwear.

SB76: PA lawmakers dueling over alternatives to property taxes
PA Independent By Andrew Staub  /   April 10, 2014
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The issue of property tax reform — a point of conversation that has spanned decades — is percolating again.  Senate Bill 76, a proposal to eliminate school property taxes and replace them with money from personal income and sales taxes, returned to the spotlight Wednesday after 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.  The chamber has teamed with the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and 39 other groups, hoping to make their own noise about the bill, Denisco said. They don’t like it, arguing it could hamstring retailers, hurt poor people and leave schools with a volatile funding stream.

Want a smart investment for kids? Try high-quality preK: Joan Benso
PennLive Op-Ed  By Joan Benso on April 10, 2014 at 9:45 AM
If we could invest tax dollars in a way that reduces public school costs, increases graduation rates, lowers spending on crime and social services and helps build a more competitive workforce with stronger earning power, would you get behind it?  Such an investment opportunity already exists in our region in the form of high-quality pre-kindergarten. Unfortunately, we aren’t doing enough to take full advantage of it here or across Pennsylvania, and that means lost savings for taxpayers and missed opportunities for kids.  A growing body of research shows children who attend high-quality pre-k head to kindergarten better prepared to learn and have improved social and emotional skills throughout school.  They tend to perform better academically and need fewer special education and remedial learning services. As a result, taxpayers and society benefit in all those ways I mentioned earlier. http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/04/want_a_smart_investment_for_ki.html

Officials urge state House to require schools to report abuse
By Cindy Scharr, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 04/10/14, 10:49 PM EDT
PHILADELPHIA — A coalition led by state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-8, of Philadelphia, is urging lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to approve the “Pass the Trash” bill, designed to keep school districts from sending teachers suspected of child sexual abuse to other districts.  Williams, the sponsor of Senate Bill 46, which passed in the Senate last year, was joined Thursday by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan and Darby Township Police Chief Len McDevitt.

Pa. Education Secretary Dumaresq discusses issues during Centre County stop
Centre Daily Times BY LORI FALCE lfalce@centredaily.com April 8, 2014 
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq came to State College on Tuesday to hand out awards, but she took a break to talk about a variety of education issues, including many with specific interest to Centre County.  Dumaresq sat down with the Centre Daily Times editorial board with a folder of information on Gov. Tom Corbett’s Ready to Learn agenda and proposed 2014-15 education budget. Most was not new information, but it did give the secretary a chance to show her passion for the subject.

"Typically, when a district's student population drops, the funds it receives based on enrollment recede. That reality has many observers, and not just conspiracy theorists, wondering if that is the ultimate goal of a nationwide school reform movement: to so starve traditional public schools of funds and students that they go out of business, leaving the education of America's children to publicly supported charters, for-profit companies, and private and parochial schools."
What good is the SRC?
Philly.com Opinion by Harold Jackson, Inquirer Editorial Page Editor POSTED: Friday, April 11, 2014, 1:08 AM
Talk about a tangled web built with deception. That's a pretty good description of the Philadelphia School District and its 13-year relationship with the city's School Reform Commission.  The deception is rooted in the SRC's being a state-empowered institution that tries to play the role of a locally controlled school board. To say that hasn't worked very well is an understatement. The tension between the SRC's dual personalities is on full display now as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considers its petition to invoke a provision of Act 46 allowing it to bypass parts of its collective bargaining agreement with the teachers' union. The SRC says inadequate funding by the state and other sources has made it necessary for it to take this extraordinary step. The teachers' union has responded that the SRC is a state creation and thus a party to decisions that created the fiscal crisis it cites as the reason to invoke Act 46. http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20140411_What_good_is_the_SRC_.html

Retired principal is straightening out Bartram
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, April 10, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 8:00 PM
Rules need to be enforced at Bartram High School, Ozzie Wright said: no hoodies, no cellphones, no showing up late, no lingering in the hallways.  Adults need to listen to students, but students need to listen to adults.  "We need to get this school under control," said Wright, a veteran troubleshooter, retired district principal, and retired Army captain.  Wright, 65, was dispatched last week to calm Bartram, the Southwest Philadelphia school where brawls and open drug use have been common all year, and where a "conflict resolution specialist" was recently knocked unconscious by a student.  First order of business? Getting students to class, and laying down the law on rules that were on the books but applied haphazardly - policies about electronics, lockers, and uniforms, for instance.

Philly Parents Protest Possible Charter School
By NBC10.com - Nefertiti Jaquez Apr 9, 2014 Video runtime: 2:03
The Philadelphia School District announced that Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary School could become a charter school. Now parents of the students are speaking out. NBC10's Nefertiti Jaquez has the details.

Auditor General announces audit of Phila. School District
REGINA MEDINA, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERMEDINAR@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5985 LAST UPDATED: Thursday, April 10, 2014, 1:30 PM
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. at his side, announced this afternoon that his office has begun a performance audit of the city School District.
The preparations began April 1 between the staffs of the auditor's office and the district. The auditors are expected to be inside the district at the end of the month, said Susan Woods, spokeswoman for the auditor's office.

Charter schools taken aback by threats to sports programs
AARON CARTER, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER CARTERA@PHILLYNEWS.COM POSTED: Thursday, April 10, 2014, 3:01 AM
FOR THE FIRST time since the PIAA voiced concerns that charter schools tilt the competitive balance in their favor because of enrollment practices, District 12 charters responded yesterday to the association's executive director, Dr. Robert Lombardi.  And a familiar theme was sounded at a 90-minute meeting at Cannstatter Volkfest Verein in the Northeast, which included District 12 athletic directors.  "We're not doing anything wrong, so why would you take [sports] away from us?" Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter athletic director Ben Brous said. "And that's the big issue, because this blanket statement worries our school."

Measures to prevent violence in schools fall short, experts say
By Mary Niederberger, Rich Lord and Joe Smydo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 10, 2014 11:45 PM
Teaching students alternatives to violence and improving their access to mental health services are among the best ideas officials say they have for preventing the kind of bloodshed that has struck a long list of schools, including Franklin Regional High School.  But they say progress on arresting school violence nationwide has been hamstrung by a lack of funding, deployment of school-safety programs that haven't worked and a failure to properly train school staff and students.  "We're 15 years after Columbine, and you'd have thought we would have solved that problem," said John Matthews, executive director of the Texas-based Community Safety Institute, referring to the 1999 rampage at a Colorado high school in which seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold fatally shot 12 students and a teacher and injured about 20 others before committing suicide.  A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that teaching younger students conflict-resolution skills -- to think before they act -- could be more effective than other techniques for reducing violence

We Need to Talk About the Test
A Problem With the Common Core
New York Times Opinion By ELIZABETH PHILLIPS APRIL 9, 2014
I’D like to tell you what was wrong with the tests my students took last week, but I can’t. Pearson’s $32 million contract with New York State to design the exams prohibits the state from making the tests public and imposes a gag order on educators who administer them. So teachers watched hundreds of thousands of children in grades 3 to 8 sit for between 70 and 180 minutes per day for three days taking a state English Language Arts exam that does a poor job of testing reading comprehension, and yet we’re not allowed to point out what the problems were.  This lack of transparency was one of the driving forces that led the teachers at my school to call for a protest rally the day after the test, a rally that attracted hundreds of supporters. More than 30 other New York City schools have scheduled their own demonstrations.  I want to be clear: We were not protesting testing; we were not protesting the Common Core standards. We were protesting the fact that we had just witnessed children being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading ability and yet had huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools.

NPE Call for Congressional Hearings on Testing
Network for Public Education April 10, 2014 NPE Call for Hearings
On March 2, 2014, The Network for Public Education issued a call for congressional hearings on the overuse and misuse of testing in our public schools.
Together, we have managed to catch the attention of members of Congress. We created a Twitter Storm that sent out over 20K tweets and reached 400K people via social media while trending #1. We flooded the offices of Congress with phone calls from concerned constituents. We continue to bring attention to the plague of over-testing and the media has taken notice!
For the next part of our campaign, we are asking our Friends & Allies to print out and mail a copy of this letter to the offices of our friends at Institute for America’s Future in Washington D.C.. In the coming weeks, we will hand deliver our letters to Congress. Keep an eye out for details!


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.  Just added -- 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.   On day two, participants will start with a breakfast at the Harrisburg Hilton and then hit the ground running with visits to legislative offices in the State Capitol. Space is limited so register early. Click here for more details and to register online.

Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Agricultural Sciences
Deadline to Apply: April 25, 2014
When: July 13 to August 9, 2014 Penn State University
PGSAS provides a broad overview of the diverse fields of agriculture and natural resources. Interested high school students and their parents should review this website to learn more about requirements and the application process.

Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology
Application must be postmarked by April 18, 2014.
July 20, 2014 - August 2, 2014 Lehigh University | Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology (PGSE&T) is a two-week summer residential program for talented high school students of science and mathematics. Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and hosted by the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science at Lehigh University, PGSE&T offers an enrichment experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and emphasizes cooperative learning and hands-on laboratory experiences.

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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