Friday, April 25, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 25, 2014: Poll: Pennsylvanians want a school funding formula and more state funding for public education

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 25, 2014:
Poll: Pennsylvanians want a school funding formula and more state funding for public education

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 earlyClick here for more details and to register online.
Registration fee of $50 includes lunch and dinner on May 5 and breakfast on May 6. 

“The majority of legislators, and I can only speak for the Senate, are not aware of the feelings that you are expressing, are not aware of all the intricacies of this task,” Dinniman said. “So what you’re doing today is essential to that education.”  Dinniman shared his plans to propose a bill by May that would remove the exams as a requirement for graduation.  …State Rep. Dan Truitt said students need to have specific skills to be prepared for college, the work force and the military. He said while he would support the bill, he needs guidance on a replacement measure for the graduation requirement in order for it to gain support to pass.  “We have to have some alternative,” said Truitt, R-156th of East Goshen. “We can’t just say no Keystone Exams.”
Keystone Exams: School officials raise concerns of new state graduation requirements
Daily Local News By Ginger Dunbar, POSTED: 04/24/14, 11:19 PM EDT
DOWNINGTOWN – During a briefing Thursday concerning the new state Keystone Exam regulations, a panelist of superintendents, state legislators and others shared their concerns, including costs to schools, time away from classrooms and parents’ lack of awareness of the graduation requirement.  The panelist members, from Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties, focused on the new requirements of all students to pass the Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts in order to graduate from high school. This requirement, which was implemented in March, will affect the class of 2017, students who are currently in ninth grade.

"The key question is whether and how a new “funding” commission approaches the “funding” side of the equation. Support for a new formula is widespread, even in the General Assembly. The critical question is whether Pennsylvania gets back to a cost-based assessment of student educational needs and makes plans to meet those needs.  If the new commission wants to take a look at funding adequacy, members can do so knowing the public has their backs."
Third and State Blog Posted by Sharon Ward onApril 24, 2014 9:27 am
new poll out confirms the public’s support for more education funding and a new education funding formula.  The poll, conducted by Terry Madonna, was released at a press conference Tuesday in the state Capitol, sponsored by associations representing Pennsylvania school boards (PSBA), school administrators (PASA), business officials (PASBO), and rural schools (PARSS).  The key takeaway is that Pennsylvanians want more state funding for public education. More than seven in 10 (71%) respondents believe the state’s investment in public education should be larger. The poll finds that:
·         More than eight in 10 Pennsylvanians (84%) surveyed said they believe public schools have a "Very Strong" or "Some" effect on economic development;
·         More than two-thirds of Pennsylvanians (67%) said schools with a greater number of students in poverty should "Definitely" or "Probably" receive more state funding; and
·         Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvanians (72%) said they "Strongly Favor" or "Somewhat Favor" using a school funding formula to ensure fair distribution of funding.

"Part of the new message is an effort to push back against criticism from school groups and the four Democratic candidates for governor of his budget-balancing cuts to aid to schools in his first budget year, 2011, amid rising public pension costs and the expiration of the federal government's recessionary budget aid to states."
Corbett ramps up pitch to education, women voters
Lancaster Online by Associated Press Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:38 pm
MEDIA, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett is attacking two of his weakest polling points, his job approval by women voters and his efforts on education, with possibly just token opposition in the Republican primary and the general election looming less than seven months away.  On Thursday, he attended the kickoff of a women's committee that will be tapped to help lead efforts to attract women supporters to Corbett's re-election campaign.  Corbett attended with his wife, Susan, who told a crowd of about 60 gathered in a dimly lit restaurant in Media, a Philadelphia suburb, that her husband has a strong record on education. The appearance comes a few days after the campaign released a statewide TV ad in which Susan Corbett does the talking and stresses her husband's commitment to education. 

EDITORIAL: Fight for school funding reform
York Dispatch Editorial  04/23/2014 07:46:57 AM EDT
If this makes you mad, good.  If it makes you litigating mad, even better.  We're starting to think the only way lawmakers will fix Pennsylvania's outrageously inequitable school funding formula is if districts and taxpayers take the state to court.  It worked in other states when their legislatures couldn't or wouldn't deal with similar issues.  And there's no way an impartial judge or jury could look at Pennsylvania formula and do nothing.  Here's what York Dispatch education reporter Nikelle Snader found when she crunched numbers provided by the state Department of Education (you might want to sit down):

Cheltenham School Board urges state to provide a fair funding formula
Glenside News Globe Times Chronicle By Jarreau Freeman Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Cheltenham School District is one of many districts in the area contemplating a tax increase for its 2014-’15 budget. However, the board is taking steps to increase state funding to public schools to combat higher taxes in the future.  The Cheltenham School Board passed a resolution at the April 8 board meeting urging legislators to create a new funding formula that would provide “fair and equitable” state funding for all public schools so students’ needs are met, said the district’s Business Affairs Director Matthew Malinowski during an interview April 22.  According to the resolution, the state contributes less than 35 percent of its budget to public education; other states contribute approximately 44 percent. Pennsylvania ranks 47 among 50 states that contribute funds to support elementary and secondary education and ranks eighth out of 50 states that depend on taxes to fund education. In the mid-’70s, the state provided more than 50 percent of its budget toward education funding.

Pa. might lend Wilkinsburg district a hand, but not necessarily money
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Megan Harris  Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 11:15 p.m.
State-sponsored support could be one facet to improving Wilkinsburg schools, Carolyn Dumaresq, acting secretary of education for Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday.
In a meeting with reporters and editors of the Tribune-Review, Dumaresq said district administrators will meet with students, parents and teachers to craft a curriculum that better promotes fiscal and academic health.  Recent Wilkinsburg woes run the gamut from poor tax collection rates and terminations to criminal charges levied by and against district employees.
Dumaresq made no pledge of money, but she said the state could help in an advisory capacity.

Charter school advocates warn new special ed funding in Pennsylvania will decimate system
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on April 23, 2014 at 7:28 PM
Proposed changes to Pennsylvania's special education funding for school districts and charter schools will put some of the state's charters out of business, according to charter school advocates.  The switch to a tiered funding formula for charter schools would cut the 2,700 student Collegium Charter School's funding by $3.9 million, said Bill Winters, CEO of the Exton, Pa.-based school.  "We literally cannot exist next year with this kind of cut," Winters said.
Charter school advocates and operators hosted a conference calls with reporters this afternoon to outline their objections to two identical bills in the Pennsylvania House and Senate that would overhaul the state's special education funding. 

Is there a second term in Office of Open Record's director Terry Mutchler's future?
By Jan Murphy |  on April 23, 2014 at 6:50 PM
Thursday marks the six-year term of office for Terry Mutchler, the first executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records that was established in a rewrite of the open records law.
She was tasked with setting up the office, hiring staff, and educating government agencies and the public about the revamped open records law at the same time her office was expected to handle the abundance of appeals of record request denials that were generated.
The author of that revamped law, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, credits Mutchler with turning the office into “one of the most respected agencies of its type in the nation.”

SRC votes to terminate Palmer charter, approves 4 others, adopts new charter policy
by Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 25 2014 Posted in Latest news
The School Reform Commission approved a resolution Thursday night calling for closure of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, ignoring pleas from two City Council members, a state legislator and Palmer himself to "let calmer heads prevail" and postpone any action.  Prior to the 4-1 vote for closure, SRC Chair Bill Green pointed out that hearings must still take place before the school can be closed. Commissioner Sylvia Simms opposed the action.  It was a packed and noisy meeting that took more than six hours, with more than 60 people signed up to give testimony.  The SRC also renewed four charter schools -- all for five years and all with conditions.

Team up with schools for arts education Opinion By Joe Neubauer and Deirdre Connelly Friday, April 25, 2014, 1:08 AM
Joe Neubauer is chairman of the board of trustees of the Barnes Foundation. Deirdre Connelly is president of North America pharmaceuticals, GSK
Painting involves chemistry. Sculpture requires an understanding of geometry, gravity, and - in the case of the human form as subject - anatomy. Music is math brought to life. Why then, do we sometimes view arts education as less than essential to developing well-rounded students?
A solid education in the arts helps children learn how to debate, exchange ideas, and discover new ways of seeing, thinking, and perceiving the world around them. We need more inquisitive and creative minds in the workforce. We want multidimensional thinkers pursuing careers in public service. That's why investing in arts education is more than a "nice to have" - it is critical.

"Under the budget presented Thursday, the district is increasing spending on its own operations by 0.31 percent. A projected 47 percent increase in charter school tuition is to blame for the district's budget woes, Superintendent Joseph Roy said.  "I can't say too often that there is a price to school choice," Roy said. "And the price is manifested right here in our school district."
Bethlehem schools expect 4.9 percent tax increase
Big increase in charter school tuition blamed for district's budget crisis.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 10:48 p.m. EDT, April 24, 2014
Bethlehem Area School District is proposing a 4.9 percent tax increase, the highest the district can raise taxes for next school year.  The tax hike would raise the Northampton County rate to 50.99 mills and Lehigh County's to 15.77 mills. Though school directors don't want to raise taxes, most said they will support the increase because the district has already made substantial budget cuts.  "I hate my tax bill going up 5 percent," board President Michael Faccinetto said at Thursday's budget workshop. "It's not easy for me, it's not easy for anybody sitting behind this table, and it's certainly not easy for senior citizens. But we don't have a choice, in my opinion."
"Roy again drove home the financial impact of students enrolling in charter schools.
When a student goes to a charter or cyberschool, Bethlehem must pay the school tuition for that child. The district expects to spend $20.3 million in 2014-15 for 1,820 students; that's a $6.7 million increase over this school year."
Bethlehem Area School District tax bills set to rise by almost 5 percent
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on April 24, 2014 at 8:30 PM
Bethlehem Area School District tax bills may increase by almost 5 percent next year.
At a budget workshop tonight, the administration stated for the first time how much it needs to increase taxes to close its $7.4 million budget hole. The district also plans to cut 22 jobs.
Bethlehem needed several exceptions from the state to exceed its cap of a 2.6 percent tax hike without putting the tax hike up for a voter referendum. The preliminary budget calls for a 0.36 mill hike in Lehigh County and a 2.63 mill increase in Northampton County.

"A 2.1 percent tax increase is permitted under the Act 1 index for next year, but a 0.9 percent exception for the PSERS (retirement fund) increase going up from 16.93 percent to 21.4 percent next year, takes it to 3 percent."
Upper Dublin School Board looks at 3 percent tax increase
Ambler Gazette By Linda Finarelli Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
A 2014-15 Upper Dublin School District budget calling for a 3 percent, rather than previously proposed 4.5 percent, tax increase was presented at the school board’s April 21 meeting.
Several board members had previously asked that the proposed tax increase for next year be no higher than 3 percent. What the final budget and tax increase will be is yet to be determined.
The budget update, Business Administrator Brenda Bray said, was based on better estimates for expenditures for the current 2013-14 school year, now estimated to be $687,057 less than budgeted.

"Some of the factors driving increased costs are special education increases and employee retirement contributions."
Radnor School Board adopts 2014-15 $85.9 million preliminary budget
By Linda Stein Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Radnor Township School Board Tuesday unanimously adopted an $85.9 million preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year with no new taxes included.  Board President Eric Zajac emphasized that the budget remains a work in progress and could change before its final adoption on May 27. The budget will be discussed again at a May 6 finance committee meeting.
While all nine board members approved the preliminary budget, several members said they are not comfortable with adopting it as a final budget because of the five year forecast provided by the district administrators shows that there will be a $1.4 million deficit as soon as the 2015-2016 school year.  Zajac said there was uncertainty about whether the assumptions in the five-year forecast were “realistic” or “overly conservative.” 

Holocaust Education: A Tale of Two States and Different Mandates
Jewish Exponent APRIL 24, 2014 By: Barbara S. Rothschild
Living in the Bucks County suburb of Richboro and teaching about genocide and the Holocaust in South Jersey, Paula Mann knows both the mandated and voluntary sides of Holocaust education.  As a language arts teacher at Bordentown Regional Middle School in Burlington County, Mann is required by state law to teach lessons of the Holocaust and has easy access to Power-Point programs, videos and other resources from the N.J. Commission on Holocaust Education.  As a Jew living in Pennsylvania, she feels driven to get a similar mandate passed in her home state.

"Though computer science can lead to high-paying technology jobs and boost skills for a variety of fields, many students get little exposure to the subject in class. Across the Washington region’s school systems, fewer than one in 10 high school students took computer science this academic year, according to district data."
High school students are all about computers but get little instruction in computer science
Washington Post By Donna St. George, Published: April 23
Their lives swirl in technology, but the nation’s high school students spend little time studying the computer science that is the basis of it all. Few are taught to write lines of code, and few take classes that delve into the workings of the Internet or explain how to create an app.
In a world that went digital long ago, computer science is not a staple of U.S. education, and some schools do not even offer a course on the subject, including 10 of 27 high schools in Virginia’s Fairfax County and six of 25 in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

"Angry Philadelphians have also protested the tax breaks lavished on the company — at a time when the city’s underfunded school system is in dire crisis. The gleaming Comcast Center was subsidized by $42.75 million in state grants and other assistance, and the project is reaping millions of dollars from the city’s property-tax abatement for new construction. A planned second tower will stand 1,121 feet tall.  Mr. Rendell describes the upside to Philadelphia’s Comcast fealty as “incalculable.” And so are the costs, considering Comcast’s many subsidiaries based in the great American onshore tax haven of Delaware and by the corporate tax secrecy in Pennsylvania; Comcast has opposed efforts to close the “Delaware loophole.” According to Citizens for Tax Justice, Comcast paid an estimated average state corporate income tax rate of just 4 percent from 2008 to 2012."
Welcome to Comcast Country
New York Times Opinion By DANIEL DENVIR APRIL 23, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — COMCAST’S executive vice president, David L. Cohen, did not seem fazed when Senator Al Franken warned at a recent Judiciary Committee hearing that the company’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable would “result in fewer choices, higher prices and even worse service for my constituents.” Comcast argues that the merger will not decrease competition among cable television or broadband Internet providers because the two companies do not directly compete — though the reason for that is that they already maintain virtual monopolies in many of their service areas.  In Comcast’s case, that monopoly is predicated upon exerting overwhelming political control. Just ask anyone who lives in Philadelphia, where the shiny 975-foot Comcast Center looms over the skyline. As buttons at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia proclaimed: “Welcome to Comcast Country.”

Are charter schools better than public schools?
Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Economic Policy Institute By Gordon Lafer | April 24, 2014
During the past year, Wisconsin state legislators debated a series of bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with privately run charter schools. These proposals were particularly targeted at Milwaukee, the state’s largest and poorest school district.

Head Start, Meet Accountability
Since 2011, more than 350 Head Start providers have had to compete for federal grant money. That’s a huge change.
The Atlantic by SOPHIE QUINTON APR 24 2014, 11:07 AM ET
BALTIMORE—St. Jerome's Head Start, a plain building in a gentrifying Baltimore neighborhood, looks as solid and unchanging as a block of concrete. It's an unlikely setting for a big shift in how early-childhood education is provided. But here and across the city, Head Start teachers are grappling with new rules for educating children. Staffers are under pressure to make sure program finances are airtight. And centers are waiting to hear the final details of a plan to change the way early-childhood services are delivered citywide.  Head Start, the federally funded preschool program for low-income children, has experienced more change in the past three years than in the previous 40. After years of debate about the program's quality and value, there's an accountability revolution coming to preschool.

Deadline for PSBA officer nominations is 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.

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.

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 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.

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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