Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 16, 2014: Money Talks: Are the wealthy entitled to "more speech" in politics?

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 16, 2014:
Money Talks: Are the wealthy entitled to "more speech" in politics?

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.

"The state Department of Education has not said when it will distribute the money it owes to districts, but that doesn't let the districts or their local property-tax payers of the hook for the construction financing. Unless the state government meets its obligations, the districts will have to get the money somewhere else - from taxpayers through higher property taxes, or from students through reduced programs and services."
State should pay districts what it owes
Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial Published: April 15, 2014
State lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett already have demonstrated that they have scant interest in helping distressed cities such as Scranton, unless tightening recovery deadlines and limiting options can be considered to be helpful.  Why should school districts be any different?
Three local school districts - Carbondale Area, Mid Valley and Western Wayne - are among many statewide awaiting promised reimbursements from the state government for construction projects that the state government approved. The local districts alone are due $2.6 million for projects, including several that were completed as long as three years ago.  All of those districts established budgets to pay down the debt resulting from those projects, with guaranteed state reimbursements figured into the repayment schedules. 

PA-Gov: Corbett Releases New Education-Focused Ad (Video)
PoliticsPA Written by Jordan Krom, Contributing Writer April 15, 2014
Governor Tom Corbett, fighting to keep his gubernatorial position, released a new ad in his Corbett-Cawley campaign touting the increase in education funding under Corbett’s leadership.
The video, which stars his wife Susan Corbett, focuses on the $1.5 billion in education spending that Corbett signed off during his time as governor. Both Corbett and his wife are former public school teachers.

A Good Start
Politically Uncorrected Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young April 15, 2014
Still more than a month away, the hotly contested Democratic primary is finally moving into high gear. Over the next several weeks, Pennsylvania voters will be treated (if that’s the word) to a veritable barrage of political ads, press releases, debates and other assorted arcana of political campaigns heading for the wire.  So far, it’s been a set piece campaign. Although it has turned a bit negative, the four surviving candidates have mostly agreed on the big issues. They all advocate ambitious agendas in education and economic development as well as protection of the environment and job creation.  As challengers, they’ve mostly avoided dealing with the precarious fiscal situation faced by the state. None favor, for example, increases to the currently structured sales tax or the income tax or in fact any broad based revenue measures, except for a severance tax on the natural gas industry.  Abundantly clear is that whichever Democrat wins the nomination he or she is going to wage a vigorous and energetic campaign in the fall. The Democrats intend to win in 2014, and they intend to govern aggressively, if they do win. 

A prior KEYSEC posting noted below details how a handful of wealthy individuals funded PA's Students First PAC which advocates for vouchers, charters and tax credits.
Supreme Court campaign finance case silenced the voices of average Americans: Kyle L. Kreider
By John L. Micek | on April 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM
By Kyle L. Kreider
On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision in an important campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, that will have profound negative consequences for the participatory democracy that our framers envisioned.  This decision will hamper the voice and power of average Americans in the political process, perhaps even leading to a further decline in participation and interest in voting and politics.

Blogger 's note: PSP also has a strong link to the Students First PAC via board member Janine Yass
When Ed Reformers speak: “Schools shouldn’t have a right to exist”
Parents United for Public Education Posted on April 14, 2014 by PARENTSUNITEDPHILA
The Philadelphia School Partnership was founded with a mission “to accelerate” the pace of education reform in Philadelphia and to raise $100 million to wield its agenda. So why has PSP in its short tenure here become such a polarizing institution? Hmm . .  could it be the fact that they:
In addition to all that, let’s not forget that the Philadelphia School Partnership convenes and is fiscal agent for and staff to the Great Schools Compact which brings together top level Distirct, SRC and City officials in regular private meetings with assorted school operators to press its ideas.

"State Rep. Brendan Boyle, who is running against Leach, also received $11,300 from PSEA in 2012, and nearly five times that amount from Students First, a group that advocates for expanded school choice, including charter and magnet schools."
Largest teachers union endorses Leach in primary
LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 1:08 AM
ELKINS PARK Pennsylvania's largest teachers union has endorsed state Sen. Daylin Leach in the Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District.  The Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association are backing Leach over three other Democrats vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz.  The district straddles southern Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. In a poll this summer, education topped the list of concerns for Philadelphia voters.

Here are prior Keystone State Education Coalition postings on Pennsylvania's Students First PAC money trail:

School advocates file brief to support teachers union
THE ALLIANCE for Philadelphia Public Schools has filed a brief in support of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' legal fight to block the district from eliminating teacher seniority.
The advocacy group said that as citizens of Philadelphia, they "will be most affected and impacted by any decisions of the School Reform Commission to unilaterally impose working conditions and work rule changes upon the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers," according to the filing.  "Simply stated - the working conditions of Philadelphia's teachers are the learning conditions of our schoolchildren," the filing read.

Philly poll indicates unhappiness with SRC, Corbett's positions on education
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 1:07 AM POSTED: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 11:59 PM
Most Philadelphia voters disagree with the way the School Reform Commission is handling its responsibilities.  They're dissatisfied with Gov. Corbett's positions on public education.  And they side with teachers in an ongoing contract dispute with the Philadelphia School District by a ratio of 4-1 - or so says a poll commissioned by the teachers union.  The findings come from a new survey of 554 registered voters commissioned by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and conducted by a Democratic polling firm, Washington-based Hart Research Associates.  Philadelphia School District officials had no comment on the results.  PFT president Jerry Jordan said he was not surprised at the large margins by which city voters appeared to support the union, and disapprove of the governor and SRC's performance.

High and low points from the AERA education conference
the notebook by James H. Lytle on Apr 14 2014 Posted in Commentary
I had to go to a national conference to find out what was happening in my own city’s schools. Conveniently, the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting was held in Philadelphia this year, the first time this gathering of 15,000 academics and policy folks has met in our city.  The conference lasted for five days, and at any time there may have been as many as 50 different sessions going on. In deference to the host city and in recognition of how much experimentation is going on in our public schools, a number of the sessions focused on Philadelphia, covering such topics as portfolio management and parent engagement. There were also planned visits to local schools and communities to meet with locals and plan or share research.  My own highlights and "low" lights:

Easton Area School District looking at 29 to 100 staff reductions
District will raise taxes by at least 2.7 percent.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 11:19 p.m. EDT, April 15, 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.  Superintendent John Reinhart presented the school board with four budget scenarios Tuesday night. Each involved staff reductions and at least a 2.7 percent property tax hike.  Reinhart said he prefers an option that would cut nine staff positions in 2014-15 and 20 in 2015-16. Those cuts would be made through attrition, and taxpayers would see a 2.7 percent increase every year. The district is waiting to hear from the teachers union on that option.
'What they did before didn't work,' new Saucon Valley teachers' negotiator says as meeting set
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  April 15, 2014 at 6:28 PM
Saucon Valley teachers and the school board will sit down May 19 and start negotiations anew.
The Saucon Valley Education Association will have a new chief negotiator, attorney Andrew Muir, and a new team of association members representing the union's interests.  It will be a fresh start with new proposals, said Muir, who has been hired to represent the association during negotiations.  "What they did before didn't work," he said.  Teachers have been working under an expired contract for almost two years. It seemed a settlement was near in January when the two negotiating teams announced they'd reached a tentative deal.

Exeter school board plans vote on possible merger with Antietam
Reading Eagle By Becca Y. Gregg  Tuesday April 15, 2014 12:01 AM
If Exeter School Board President Robert H. Quinter Jr. had his way, a decision on a merger with the Antietam School District would be held off until after the numbers come in for next year's state budget.  Then, he said, district officials would have a better idea of how much funding each district stands to receive, and what, if any, the state would contribute to the formation of a new district.  With pressure looming, though, from a growing opposition movement of Exeter residents against the merger, the school board has moved up the vote.

Duquesne school fact-finder rejects achievement as a salary measure
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A state fact-finder's report shows that Duquesne City School District teachers are being asked to agree to something no other district has: salary increases based on an improvement of 10 percentage points in student achievement.  The report by fact-finder Thomas L. Hewitt, made public Tuesday, sided with the teachers and threw out the requirement for the 10 percent achievement increase in his proposal to end the 2-year-old contract dispute.  "Salary based upon test scores is an issue which has been approached in contract negotiations statewide without any acceptance in any of the school districts in the state," the report said. Instead, Mr. Hewitt proposed a wage freeze retroactive to the 2012-13 school year along with a $900 "off-scale" bonus for all teachers, and step increases and $500 off-scale bonuses for teachers at the top of the scale for 2013-14 and 2014-15. The previous contract expired in June 2012.

SAT exam undergoes an intense makeover
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
To use a sample word offered by the College Board, interest in the redesigned SAT college entrance exam -- coming in spring 2016 -- is likely to be intense.  The word "intense" shows up in a sample test question illustrating the idea of understanding words in context, with a passage using intense in a sentence referring to "more intense clusterings of jobs, innovation and productivity."  The correct answer for the nearest meaning of intense is b. concentrated, but the other three choices -- emotional, brilliant and determined -- might describe some students preparing for the new exam.  While the College Board announced the new test in March, it released today more detailed explanations and test specifications, including sample test questions in a draft form. The test is still under development.

Federal Charter Measure Clears Hurdle in House
Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: April 15, 2014
States and districts would be encouraged to help grow high-quality charter schools—and ensure that they enroll and retain English-language learners and students in special education—under a bipartisan bill approved overwhelmingly by the House Education and the Workforce Committee last week.  The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel, was approved by a vote of 36 to 3 on April 8.  During debate on the bill, a number of committee Democrats lambasted charter schools for siphoning off resources from other public schools—before voting for the legislation anyway.

"This is why “no excuses” policies and demands that students be tougher or grittier ring false to me. My students are already tremendously tough, unbelievably gritty. The problem is not that they need to be tougher or that I need to make fewer excuses. The problem is that they already have too many reasons to be tough — lack of food, relatives in prison, threats of eviction or deportation, parents sick or addicted, caring for younger siblings — and that adults at school rarely see the full picture. I spend fifty hours a week at school and I still don’t always see the full picture. It’s hard to imagine how policymakers, who are so distant from my students’ day-to-day realities, can claim to see them better than I can."
No Excuse for Hungry Students
Moyers & Company by Elaine Weiss and Kathleen Melville April 12, 2014
It’s easy for me to forget the hardships my students face every day. I maintain an almost fanatically upbeat presence in the classroom and most of my ninth graders oblige me by joining in. We sing, dance, tell stories, make jokes. It’s my way of avoiding the tedium that can so easily overtake a school day. But every once in a while, a crack opens and I get a glimpse into my students’ realities.  Recently, students were dismissed early so faculty could meet for professional development. One of my students, Carina, went to the cafeteria for lunch and found that it was not being served. She went home hungry — and angry. Later, she did something rare and brave. She proclaimed her hunger by venting on social media. She railed against the cafeteria staff for not serving lunch (which they are indeed supposed to do on half days) and against our school and district in general. Another student, Chris, responded with a comment: “What do you expect? They all make 50K and go home to a fridge full of food.”

FYI….K12, Inc. runs Pennsylvania's Agora Cyber Charter school.  Prior to assuming the role of PA Budget Director, Charles Zogby was a senior executive with K12, Inc.
Investor Lawsuit Targets K12 Inc. and Stock Sales of Former CEO
Education Week Marketplace K12 blog By Sean Cavanagh on April 14, 2014 3:00 PM
A recently filed federal lawsuit accuses the publicly traded company K12 Inc. of misleading investors by putting forward overly positive public statements during much of last year, only later to reveal that it had missed key operational and financial targets.  The lawsuit also alleges that former K12 CEO Ronald J. Packard "reaped the rewards" of the bullish company projections by selling millions of dollars worth of stock in the months before an October announcement of disappointing news sent its stock price plummeting.  The legal action, filed in January in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is seeking class-action status. It says that Packard sold 43 percent of his personally held K12 common stock, for gross proceeds of $6.4 million, during those months, when the plaintiffs contend that the stock price was "artificially inflated."

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.  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.

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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