Saturday, April 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 26, 2014: Waltons: Save more, live better, dismantle democratically governed American public schools….

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 26, 2014:
Waltons: Save more, live better, dismantle democratically governed American public schools….

PSBA members - Come hear former Assistant US Secretary of Education, author and education historian Diane Ravitch.
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.

"In effect, Walton has subsidized an entire charter school system in the nation's capital, helping to fuel enrollment growth so close to half of all D.C. public school students now attend charters, which get taxpayer dollars but are privately operated.  Walton's investments here are a microcosm of its spending across the nation."
Wal-Mart fortune molds charter schools
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette By Motoko Rich / The New York Times April 25, 2014 11:04 PM
WASHINGTON -- DC Prep operates four charter schools with 1,200 students in preschool through eighth grade. The schools, whose students are mostly poor and black, are among the highest performing in Washington.  Another, less-trumpeted distinction for DC Prep is the extent to which it -- as well as many other city charter schools -- relies on the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic group governed by the family that founded Wal-Mart. Since 2002, the charter network has received close to $1.2 million from Walton in direct grants.  One-third of DC Prep's teachers are alumni of Teach for America, whose largest private donor is Walton. A Walton-funded advocacy group fights for more public funding and autonomy for charter schools in the city. Even the local board that regulates charter schools gets Walton Family Foundation funding.

Walton Foundation’s pours $164 million in 2013 education grants. Who won?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS April 2 at 11:00 am
The Walton Family Foundation spent more than $164 million in 2013 to promote its corporate-influenced education reform agenda in 2013, according to a new list (see below) of grants that went to dozens of organizations. The foundation’s priorities are evident in who won the biggest amounts. Among the winners are:
Teach For America, which got nearly $20 million
Charter Fund Inc.,$14.5 million
KIPP Foundation, $8.8 million
Children’s Scholarship Fund (which gives our school vouchers) $8.56 million
California Charter School Association,  $5 million.
While the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the biggest player in the education philanthropy world, the Walton Family Foundation spends an enormous sum to push school choice, vouchers and the privatization of public education. The 2013 grantee amount was higher than the $158 million it gave out in 2012, when Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst got $8 million.

Follow the Money: In the past four years the Walton Family Foundation has invested well over half a billion dollars to privatize democratically run American public schools.
Keystone State Education Coalition February 23, 2013
Are you still shopping at Walmart?
Click on the following links for detailed lists of recipients and amounts for each year:
2009  $ 134,119,354

“The outlook is just as bleak without significant investment from our funding partners,” he said at a news conference Friday after the district published its proposed budget for 2014-15. “Unfortunately, the reality is that we are still trying to get the $216 million that we need to keep the level of insufficient funding that we currently have this year.”
Shortfall May Force More Cuts at Philadelphia Schools
New York Times By JON HURDLE APRIL 25, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — A $216-million budget shortfall could force Philadelphia’s public schools to make further staffing cuts next year, school officials said on Friday.
The superintendent of schools, William R. Hite Jr., said the 131,000-student district would not have the money it needed to maintain existing levels of education that he said were already “wholly insufficient” after a $304-million budget cut at the start of the 2013-14 school year.
The district, which has had chronic budget problems, laid off some 3,800 employees as a result of that cut. Although about a quarter of those employees were rehired as some funding was restored, about 2,350 jobs could be eliminated next year unless the district finds funding to bridge its new shortfall, Dr. Hite said.

Beyond 'doomsday': Philadelphia School District unveils its 'empty shell' budget
If it seems like we've been here before, we have.  But now it's worse.
On Friday, the Philadelphia School District unveiled a $2.49 billion budget that will cause drastic reductions to services and staff unless additional funds are secured.  The district says it needs $440 million in supplemental revenue to begin to implement its vision for student growth, but requires $216 million just to open schools next year with the same bare-bones levels as this one.
If this year's budget is "doomsday," next year's could be that which doomsday has left behind.

"If the district does not get the minimum amount requested, officials said reductions would be made to special education, nurses, school police, alternative education, transportation, facilities and administrative supports, accounting for more than 1,000 layoffs. To absorb the cuts, average class sizes would swell to 37 in elementary schools and up to 41 in high schools."
Hite warns of 1,000-plus layoffs
PHILADELPHIA School District Superintendent William Hite said yesterday that unless the district receives $216 million in new funding, it would be forced to lay off more than 1,000 employees.
That was part of the bad news in the district's proposed $2.5 billion budget, which was as grim as expected.  The district is requesting up to $320 million in new revenue from the city and state, and labor concessions. Of the $320 million, $96.1 million is needed to maintain current service levels, which Hite described as "insufficient."  The district is counting on $120 million from the extension of the extra 1 percent sales tax, which City Council has yet to approve.

Layoffs, bigger classes, if no new $ for schools
Inquirer Philly School Files by Kristen Graham FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2014, 11:21 AM
Philadelphia School District officials introduced their 2014-15 budget Friday morning, and it was just as grim as promised. It projects operating revenues of $2.5 billion and expenditures of $2.8 billion.  The school system needs $440 million in new city and state money to provide just a few more services than they currently do. To maintain the current level of funding, which does not allow for counselors or nurses in every school or adequate supplies, the district needs a total of $216.2 million in new money.  And if it doesn't get the funds? Officials said there was hardly anywhere to cut but where it hurts most.

Harrisburg School District gets 'A' rating from Wall Street
by Donald Gilliland |  on April 25, 2014 at 6:46 PM
Standard & Poor's Rating Services has given Harrisburg School District an "A" rating, which it said "reflects our opinion the district will maintain current reserves and improve its financial performance as it continues through recovery."   The rating is of the district's overall credit worthiness.  School Receiver Gene Veno said, "From what we can tell, the school district has never had an underlying rating.  It has always used state intercept and/or bond insurance.  So this is a first for Harrisburg School District."

Acting Secretary of Education Presents Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to Two Beaver Area Schools
PDE Press Release April 23, 2014
Beaver – Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq today presented the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to two schools in Beaver Area School District, Beaver County: Dutch Ridge Elementary School and College Square Elementary School.
“On behalf of Governor Corbett, I congratulate Beaver Area School District and the local communities for working together to ensure that students are growing academically and being prepared for post-high school success,” Dumaresq said. “These schools are an example of the high-quality learning that is taking place in schools and classrooms across Pennsylvania.”
Based on the 2012-13 School Performance Profile,, Dutch Ridge Elementary School attained a score of 94.3 percent – the highest score in the district and the highest score among all 51 public schools in Beaver County.
College Square Elementary School followed with a 90.3 percent – the second highest in the district and third highest in Beaver County.

First Lady Susan Corbett Recognizes Academic Achievement of Mechanicsburg Area High School; Presents School with a Governor’s Award
PDE Press Release April 25, 2014
Mechanicsburg – First Lady Susan Corbett today presented the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to Mechanicsburg Area High School in Mechanicsburg Area School District, Cumberland County.  “Mechanicsburg Area High School demonstrates the invaluable partnership between students, parents, teachers, administrators and support staff,” Corbett said.  “I commend the high school and the community for their commitment to ensuring that our children receive a high-quality education.”  Based on the 2012-13 School Performance Profile,, Mechanicsburg Area High School attained a score of 91.5 percent, the highest score in the district and the third highest among all 50 public schools in Cumberland County.

Pension Reform Plan Helps to Protect Current Employee and Retiree Benefits, While Saving Taxpayer Dollars Says Tobash
PA House Republican Caucus 4/24/2014
HARRISBURG – Rep. Mike Tobash’s (R-Schuylkill/Berks) pension reform proposal would reduce the costs of both the state (SERS) and teacher (PSERS) pensions for taxpayers, but NOT at the expense of retirees or those who remain enrolled in the current systems, he said today.   “As a result of underfunding, huge declines in the market and previous benefit increases, Pennsylvania is facing a nearly $50 billion debt that will take decades to overcome,” said Tobash. “The enormity of the challenge is matched only by our commitment to protect people already in the pension systems and pay them the benefits they have earned.  “We are committed to protecting the benefits of current retirees and workers,” said Tobash. “Anyone telling people anything different does not fully understand this plan.”

Philly Trib Written by Wilford Shamlin III April 24, 2014
At Tuesday’s press conference at Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ headquarters, union President Jerry Jordan, citing overwhelming public support, emphatically declared, “It is time to return control of Philadelphia public schools to the people.”  The relevancy of the School Reform Commission, which has overseen the city’s public school district since the state takeover in 2001, is being called into question as the district struggles to maintain quality programs and services following the loss of $300 million in public education funding.  However, state legislation that declared Philadelphia public schools in distress, enabling the state takeover, contains language which bars immediate changes in school governance.  The SRC may be dissolved with a majority vote of the SRC and by order of the state’s Secretary of Education. The majority of SRC seats and the Secretary of Education post are named by the governor.

The SRC's uncivil rights movement
thenotebook by Matthew Mandel on Apr 25 2014 Posted in Commentary
Matthew Mandel is a National Board Certified Teacher with the School District of Philadelphia.
When new SRC Chairman Bill Green last month characterized teacher salaries and benefits as “excessive,” he may have won points in Harrisburg. But to those of us who work on behalf our city’s public school children and their families each day, he revealed little more than contempt and disrespect.  “When the [Philadelphia Federation of Teachers] makes that their goal rather than excessive benefits and salary and impossible work rules, those children will have a chance at success," Green said, referring to loosening teacher seniority rights to give principals more flexibility to choose their staff.

Benefits are driving high personnel costs in Philadelphia schools
By Maura Pennington | PA Independent April 24, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — Last spring, six elementary school librarians were laid off in the School District of Philadelphia. Those who remain are being richly rewarded.
Elementary school teachers and librarians will pull in an average $112,000 in combined salary and benefits next year, according to the district’s Guide to School Budgets, which was released in advance of budget hearings this month and details expected costs for the 2014-15 school year.
Including pensions, Social Security, severance pay and other entitlements and perks, benefits for district employees are valued, on average, at 40 percent of the cost of salaries. That means an average teacher making $72,000 per year gets an additional $45,800 in benefits this year, though the exact calculation varies a bit depending on an individual’s position.
One in three students enrolled in the district will not graduate high school on time and only one out of every five students scored proficient or above in eighth grade math, according to the latest Nation’s Report Card. Yet the public is paying an average of more than $110,000 for each teacher’s total compensation package — and more than $7 million for salaries and benefits for the 56 employees in the Office of the Superintendent.

"Until Pennsylvania adopts a fair funding formula for our schools, we will continue to witness the evisceration of our school district and as a result, the ultimate decline of Philadelphia."
Statement from PFT president Jerry Jordan on School District's Budget Projections for 2014-15 School Year
PFT president Jerry Jordan today issued the following response to the district's latest "doomsday" budget, which includes massive school staff layoffs, loss of programs and increasing class sizes.
PFT website 4/25/2014
PHILADELPHIA--"With each passing year, the future of our schoolchildren takes another crushing blow. Today’s budget projections mark the latest chapter in a disturbing story of the intentional dismantling of a school district.  "Our district's budget crisis has created a number of dire questions to ponder: How many more students won't reach their full potential because they won't have access to counselors, librarians and other programs and supports; how many children will become needlessly sick--or worse--because there are no nurses available; and how much more can possibly be asked of our teachers and school employees, who have already stretched themselves beyond reasonable limits to educate our children?

At fiery meeting, SRC moves to revoke charter school's status
PHILADELPHIA At the end of a marathon meeting, the School Reform Commission voted late Thursday to begin the process of suspending the charter of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners School.  It also adopted a new charter policy and renewed the charters of several schools.  Four commissioners supported the resolution to begin shutdown proceedings for Palmer. Sylvia Simms voted no, but did not explain why. Farah Jimenez said she voted yes reluctantly.  The charter policy passed by a 4-1 vote as well. Feather O. Houstoun voted no, she said, because she believes having the charter office report directly to the SRC is problematic. Houstoun said the office should remain under the superintendent.

Blogger Commentary: PDE announces 2014 List of Low Achieving Schools which define eligibility for tax credit scholarships.
  • Pennsylvania's Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program permits businesses to divert tax dollars to private and religious schools.  Total OSTC program funding for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 is $50 million.
  • There are no accountability requirements for either the use of diverted tax dollars or for the academic performance of students using the scholarships.
  • Scholarship organizations are permitted by law to keep up to 20% of the funds for administrative purposes with no transparency or reporting requirements on the use of such retained funds.
  • Several members of Governor Corbett's initial education transition team and a number of the board members of the Philadelphia School Partnership have intimate ties with scholarship organizations.
  • Charter schools and cyber charter schools are specifically excluded from the low achieving schools list regardless of their actual performance.
The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program List of Low Achieving Schools April 21, 2014
PDE website Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program April 21, 2014
The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (OSTCP) was created pursuant to Act 85 of 2012.  This program enables eligible students residing within the boundaries of a low-achieving school to apply for a scholarship to attend another public or nonpublic school. A low-achieving school is defined as a public elementary or secondary schools within this Commonwealth that ranked in the lowest 15% of its designation as elementary for the 2012-13 school year based on the combined Mathematics/Algebra I and Reading/Literature scores from the annual assessments (PASA, PSSA, and/or Keystone) administered in the 2013.  The term shall not include a charter school, cyber charter school or area vocational-technical school.

Click on this PDE link to download the list of 2014-2015 Low Achieving Schools:

Understanding State School Funding
Education Commission of the States, The Progress of Education Reform, June 2012
"Finance policies must be linked specifically to quality improvements (in education)."
This quote, taken from a piece written by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) nearly 30 years ago, demonstrates that researchers have long recognized the relationship between quality education reform and the structure of a state’s school funding system. However, many policymakers continue to view their state’s school funding formula not as a tool for reform but as a barrier to change.   Policymakers tend to view the way that their state funds schools as a byzantine system of rules, regulations, and formulas that is only comprehendible to a handful of people. This perception scares many policymakers away from even trying to grasp how their funding formula works. When policymakers don’t understand the basics of their state’s funding system, it is difficult for them to determine what changes are needed to encourage innovation.  This issue of The Progress of Education Reform sets out to ease some of the confusion by helping readers better understand these complex systems, with the hope that this knowledge will be used to help support education reform in the states.

Stand Up 4 Public Schools unveils Magic Johnson ads
NSBA School Board News Today April 25, 2014 by Joetta Sack-Min
A new “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” ad featuring legendary basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. debuted today in Businessweek magazine.
Stand Up 4 Public Schools is the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) public advocacy campaign that celebrates the good things happening in public schools. In the ad, Johnson notes, “Who I am today began with public education,” the campaign tagline.

"Unless educational services are offered preferential treatment by providers, "schools could find themselves even further challenged to make use of digital learning tools and services," Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, wrote in an email."
Schools Could Be on Internet 'Slow Track' Under Proposed FCC Rules
Education Week Marketplace K-12 By Michele Molnar on April 24, 2014 5:19 PM | No comments
Questions arose today about whether schools will have to stand in line for acceptable speeds of Internet access under proposed new rules floated by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.  FCC commissioners received the rules Thursday, in advance of a May 15 vote. As written, the proposed rules would impact "net neutrality," which refers to the open and free flow of content on the internet, regardless of where it originates. The new rules would leave an opening for broadband internet providers like Verizon Communications, Comcast Corp., and Time Warner Cable, to give preferential treatment to content providers that pay for the privilege of higher priority service, as theWall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Obama Administration Plan Seeks to Rate Teacher Training Programs
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH APRIL 25, 2014
The Obama administration on Friday will announce plans to develop ratings of teacher preparation programs to try to make them more accountable for their graduates’ future performance in the classroom.  Teachers have long complained that training programs often do not adequately prepare candidates for the challenges of teaching children with varying needs and abilities. Prospective teachers, in turn, have no common way of evaluating the quality of thousands of programs across the country, whether they are in colleges of education or based in alternative groups like Teach for America.
Arne Duncan, the education secretary, said he often speaks with teachers about how they trained for the job. “I ask teachers, were they prepared when they entered into that school, or entered the profession, and there’s often a fair amount of nervous laughter,” Mr. Duncan said in a conference call with reporters.  By this summer, the administration will propose rules for evaluating all teacher training programs, using metrics that could include the placement of graduates in schools, pass rates on licensing exams, teacher retention rates and the performance ratings that teachers receive on the job.

Are charter schools monopolizing public resources?
PBS Newshour April 24, 2014 at 6:24 PM EDT
Charter school enrollment has soared from about 300,000 a little more than a decade ago to nearly 2 million students nationwide. But the expansion of charter schools, whose public funding is supplemented with private donations, has created serious competition for limited resources and space. Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports on the ongoing battle in New York.

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.

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. 

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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