Thursday, April 3, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 3, 2014: Education Spring? Thousands of Long Island students refuse to take state tests

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 3, 2014:
Education Spring? Thousands of Long Island students refuse to take state tests

"And what does Pennsylvania get for its natural gas? About $50,000 per well.
That pales in comparison to what is being reaped in other gas-producing states such as Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, a recent study by the Independent Fiscal Office, a bipartisan agency that was created by the Legislature to dig into the area of revenue from natural gas, indicated Pennsylvania was literally at the bottom of the well when it comes to revenue derived from gas production. It ranks 11th out of 11 states the produce natural gas. You can’t get much lower than that."
Editorial: Gas drilling tax to help fund education a sound idea
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 04/02/14, 10:10 PM EDT |
Pennsylvania has an old problem. It’s called education funding. Dependent in large part on property taxes, and exacerbated in many areas by a struggling local economy and state funding cuts, education officials increasingly turn to homeowners to bail them out.  Fortunately, it may have an even older solution, one that’s literally right under our feet.  Pennsylvania is home to one of the world’s biggest deposits of natural gas. And we’re not talking about Harrisburg.

After falling short for fourth straight month, Pa. now $176 million behind revenue estimates
By Jeff Frantz | on April 01, 2014 at 5:18 PM, updated April 02, 2014 at 12:29 PM
March and April are traditionally among the biggest revenue collection months for Pennsylvania as people pay their taxes.  After reviewing the receipts from March, the Department of Revenue has to be hoping for a lot of deadline filers. And more shoppers.  Pennsylvania collected $20 million less than it estimated it would in March, the Treasury announced Tuesday. That includes an extra $80 million in money in profits the Liquor Control Board transferred to the general fund. The state hadn't expected the LCB to transfer that money so soon. So really, Revenue Secretary Daniel Meuser said in a statement, the state came in about $100 million below estimates for March alone.  This is the fourth straight month Pennsylvania has failed to meet its revenue estimates. It's starting to add up.  If you adjust for the LCB transfer, the state is now behind estimates by $176 million for the fiscal year.

Subject: Commonwealth Payment of Cyber Charter Schools
COSPONSORSHIP MEMORANDUM  Posted:    April 1, 2014 01:29 PM
From:   Representative Jim Christiana    To: All House members
Pennsylvania’s current charter funding system, by which cyber charter schools receive payment from a student’s local school district, has fueled unnecessary tensions between school districts and cyber charter schools. Because cyber charters are approved at the state level, accept students from all 67 counties and are basically statewide school districts, I believe they should be paid directly by the Commonwealth through an appropriation specifically for this purpose.  For this reason, I am preparing to introduce legislation that will provide for Commonwealth payment of per-student expenditures by cyber charter schools.
Our current Charter School Law sets forth a formula under which school districts must pay all charter schools an amount equal to the district’s budgeted per-student expenditure for the prior school year, minus certain deductions, for each student residing in the district who attends a charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school.  This formula was originally designed for charter schools and regional charter schools, which are approved and overseen by local school districts, and are located within the region of the student’s home school district.  However, cyber charter schools receive their approval and oversight from the Department of Education (PDE); therefore, their funding should come from the Commonwealth’s General Fund -- not from local property taxpayers.

"Greensburg Salem will pay an extra $927,000 in retirement contributions next year because of a 4 percent increase required by the state retirement system. The bad news for school districts is that employer retirement contributions are projected to increase each year for the next five years, Meyer said."
Greensburg Salem operating costs expected to rise by $1.9M
Tribune-Review By Joe Napsha Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
With costs of salaries and retirement benefits projected to rise in the coming school year, Greensburg Salem school directors were told on Wednesday the board will have to weigh the impact of budgetary decisions on the quality of education in the district.  Business manager James Meyer told the board during a presentation of the first draft of the budget for the 2014-15 school year that the cost of operating the district at its current staffing levels and educational programs is projected to increase by about $1.9 million. If the board does not increase property taxes above the current rate of 81.21 mills, revenue is projected at about $40.4 million, Meyer said.

Nine months after Senate vote, House passes its own version of bill to keep sexual predators out of schools
By Jan Murphy | n April 02, 2014 at 3:53 PM
The state House on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at keeping sexual predators out of schools, yet this milestone left the head of a national advocacy group that is championing this issue disappointed.  By passing its own bill by a 199-0 vote instead of a similar one that passed the Senatein June, it leaves more students at risk of being sexually abused or exploited by educators, said Terri Miller, president of the Nevada-basedStop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation.  Now the House bill will go to the Senate for consideration, which could take weeks or months. If the House instead had passed the Senate-approved bill, Miller said it would be heading to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk for enactment.

Pa. bill targets sex-abuse disclosure rules for schools
POSTED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 6:32 PM
Nationally, the practice is known as "passing the trash" - when a school district allows an employee accused of sexual misconduct to resign quietly and might even offer a reference for a job elsewhere.  On Wednesday, Pennsylvania legislators took a step toward making the state one of the few in the nation to require the disclosure of sexual-abuse allegations as part of the application process for school-related jobs.

Help us protect our kids from child predators, say Pat Toomey and Lynn Carson
By PennLive Op-Ed  By Pat Toomey and Lynn Carson on April 02, 2014 at 9:30 AM
Since Jan. 1 of this year,  121 school employees have been arrested across the nation for sexual misconduct with children.   One-hundred-and-twenty-one.  That is more than one per day since the beginning of the year. And 12 of those are from Pennsylvania.   There is another number that is just as disturbing: 73. That is the number of children the average predator victimizes over a lifetime.  We believe the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act is a significant step in protecting our children.  Together, we are working to protect our kids from child predators. One of us is working through the Harrisburg Children’s Resource Center, which helps child victims navigate our legal system and begin the process of healing.  The other is working in the United States Senate, introducing legislation designed to root out these predators and, hopefully, one day reduce the number of children the other needs to help.

F&M poll: Wolf maintains lead in the pack
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 12:01 am
Can anyone stop Tom Wolf?  After injecting $10 million of his personal fortune into his campaign and initiating an early television advertising campaign, the York businessman has some wondering if his competition can keep up.  And a new Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday is one more reason to believe the former state revenue secretary is the candidate to beat in the Democratic primary for governor.  But pollster G. Terry Madonna said the race for the nomination is not over — it has simply stalled for the moment.  When respondents were asked who they will likely vote for in the primary, Wolf leads all candidates with 33 percent of the support.

March 2014 Franklin & Marshall College poll
Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 4:10 pm
"Missing information includes treasurer reports, bills, expenditure approvals, check registers and complete annual financial reports. DePasquale called it a case of "horrible bookkeeping, horrible management, horrible leadership."  "Their books are so bad that our auditors really can't audit them," DePasquale said."
State audit: Serious problems at Erie charter school
BY ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News APRIL 1, 2014 12:01 AM EST
Serious problems highlighted by a state audit of the Erie R.I.S.E. Leadership Academy Charter School could hamper the school's efforts to renew its charter.  State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Monday issued an interim audit of the school that has found fault with school board oversight, the school's academic performance, and its compliance with state and federal laws and the school's charter.  Interim audit findings are only issued by the Department of Auditor General when, during the course of a review, auditors identify issues that require immediate attention. It is the first issued by DePasquale. 
Among the issues identified:

Philly schools caught on funding merry-go-round By Maura Pennington  /   April 2, 2014 
PHILADELPHIA — From 440 North Broad Street to City Hall to the Capitol and back, the School District of Philadelphia is spinning in circles to find money.  The School Reform Commission adopted a lump sum budget last week, resulting in a $320 million gap.  State lawmakers in Harrisburg say the city should approve a higher sales tax to fund the district. The City Council wants the sales tax increase and an increased tax on cigarettes, which Harrisburg has to approve.  All the while, the district seeks to restore services and staff to schools.  Already projected to end fiscal 2014 with a $28.9 million deficit, the SDP is asking for $320 million above what the revenue sources will yield.

Cash-strapped District nurtures outside partnerships
The leader of a new office is building relationships and seeking to remove any red tape that interferes.
the notebook by Dan Hardy April 2014
Beset by massive budget cuts and with more deficits looming in future years, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite has been reaching out to area businesses, nonprofits, and foundations to make up the losses in money and programs.  Last year, he created the Office of Strategic Partnerships to find new allies that would augment the District’s programs and finances, while cementing and enhancing relations with old ones.  Maximizing outside partnerships is a good strategy in any case, but is crucial when a cash-starved district is trying to provide enough quality learning time for students.   “Philadelphia schools are surrounded by a rich array of resources that support the development and learning of students,” the superintendent’s latest action plan says. “These resources are currently underutilized.”   Those resources include the city’s recreation department, which operates a wide range of afterschool and weekend programs for school-age children.  In the new, stripped-down central office, the formidable task of facilitating these partnerships largely falls to one person: Stacy Holland, former head of the Philadelphia Youth Network.

Critics say charters given unfair advantage for Renaissance schools
AS HEAD of the School Advisory Council at Steel Elementary, Kendra Brooks should be one of the first people to learn about major potential changes at the school, which two of her children attend.  Apparently, that doesn't apply when a charter operator is poised to take it over.  Brooks, co-founder of a community organization in Nicetown, said she was blindsided Friday when another parent told her that Mastery Charter Schools had been chosen to turn around Steel - three days before it was announced by the School District of Philadelphia. She was even more surprised to hear that Mastery, which runs other Renaissance charters in the area, had spoken to some Steel parents as early as a year ago about its plans.

Letters: Take a chance on education
Philly Daily News by COUNCILMAN JIM KENNEY POSTED: Thursday, April 3, 2014, 3:01 AM
NOTHING is more important than providing our children with the best education possible - and that costs money. Philadelphia School Superintendent Dr. William Hite estimates that our schools will need another $320 million for the next school year. Although we all continue to fight for a fair education-funding formula from the commonwealth, we must also seek creative alternative sources of revenue to ensure that our children get the quality education they deserve. I have two ideas that could generate an estimated $30 million a year in additional revenue for our schools.

Pennsylvania charter school sports draws debate
Education Week by AP Published Online: April 2, 2014
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A proposal to limit sports programs at charter schools in Pennsylvania drew indignation from charter school advocates at a legislative meeting Tuesday.
Currently, charter school students who want to play multiple sports must play for their charter school teams if that sport is offered and, for other sports, may play on teams at their neighborhood public school.  But Bob Lombardi, director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs scholastic sports in the state, said the arrangement constitutes a "dual enrollment" status for charter school students that is not available to students who attend public school or who are home-schooled.  Charter schools are privately run public schools that are financed with payments from the students' local school districts. Lombardi said some charters use their unique status to build "all-star" boys' basketball teams that steamroller public school teams in state championship tournaments.

"Forty-one school districts in Nassau and Suffolk, in response to a Newsday request sent to 124 districts Islandwide, said about 5,575 students refused to take the test. An additional district lumped together 224 refusals and absences. Other districts did not respond."
Thousands of Long Island students refuse to take state tests
Newsday By JO NAPOLITANO AND JOIE TYRRELL April 1, 2014 8:28 PM
Thousands of Long Island students in grades three through eight refused to sit for the state's English Language Arts exam Tuesday as the so-called "opt-out" movement picked up momentum in districts across Nassau and Suffolk counties.  School administrators said the increase was driven by the state's rushed rollout of the Common Core education initiative and the link between teacher job evaluations and student grades.  Tuesday kicked off three days of the English exam for 204,000 students on Long Island and about 1.2 million statewide. Math tests will be administered to the same grades from April 30 through May 2.

Another Voice: Boycotts of standardized tests protest the harmful effect on our education system
Buffalo News Opinion By Chris Cerrone on April 1, 2014 - 12:01 AM
Chris Cerrone of Springville is co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education.
An editorial in The Buffalo News criticizing families who boycott the New York State assessments mischaracterizes the actions of parents and the testing program. Parents who opt out of the testing do so to protest what high-stakes standardized assessments have done to our education system.  Some families began to boycott the assessments as the No Child Left Behind policies began to narrow the school curriculum. As a result of the rating of schools via NCLB and its test-and-punish philosophy, the focus of many elementary classrooms shifted primarily to subjects of English language arts and mathematics. History and science instruction became limited or ignored as schools focused on building skills in the tested subjects of ELA and math. The arts and physical education have been hit with major cutbacks due to the focus on core topics and misguided budget cuts. As standardized assessments become high-stakes for adults, our children are no longer receiving a well-rounded education in their elementary years

Early Childhood Education: Statement from the White House Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 02, 2014
President Obama applauds Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for the remarkable work accomplished this week in New York, where lawmakers delivered a major victory on early childhood education for middle class families and those working to get into the middle class.  New York’s commitment to invest $1.5 billion over 5 years to begin to phase in publicly-funded preschool across the state will provide opportunity for thousands of children, including 53,000 children who will be able to attend preschool in New York City this fall.  President Obama will continue to call on Congress to enact his plan to partner with states and cities to provide high-quality preschool for every child, and encourage states and cities to take action so children have the chance to enter kindergarten ready for success.

Federal Bill Aims to Boost Growth of High-Quality Charter Schools; Cross-Aisle Support Seen
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on April 1, 2014 4:56 PM
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 rare, bipartisan bill introduced Tuesday 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.
Under the measure, the two main federal programs for charter schools would be consolidated, combining federal grants to help charter school developers open new schools, with money to help charters find and fix up facilities. Overall, it calls for $300 million a year in federal funding for charters, a little more than the roughly $250 million the current Charter School Grants program received in the most recent budget, for fiscal year 2014, which started back on Oct. 1.
The revamped program would provide incentives for states to help develop charter schools and make it easier for those who operate charters with a track record of success to open more schools. Right now, charter operators can get federal grants to open new schools, but not to expand existing, successful models.

The Walton Family Foundation released its list of grantees in the education world, and once again, the foundation put its huge resources into privatizing American public education.
The billions that hard-working families spend at Walmart are used to support privately managed charters and vouchers and to undermine democratic local control and traditional public schools.
Some of the biggest recipients of the Walton family’s largesse are Teach for America (nearly $20 million), which staffs non-union charters; KIPP charter schools ($8.8 million); the Charter Fund, Inc. ($14.5 million); The Children’s Scholarship Fund (which gives our school vouchers) $8.56 million; and the California Charter School Association, $5 million. Parent Revolution got almost $2 million, the Black Alliance for Educational Options got $1.3 million.

Save more, live better, privatize American public education.  Where do you shop?
PA grantees include Philadelphia School Partnership and 50CAN, parent of PennCAN
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.

K12 Inc. Building a New Identity for Part of the Company
Education Week By Sean Cavanagh Published Online: April 1, 2014
As education companies fight for space in the digital learning market, one of the biggest and most controversial players in the school industry is betting that a simple strategy—changing the name of a line of products and services—will give it an edge.  K12 Inc., the publicly traded virtual education provider, says the rebranding move is meant to group a number of similar resources under a single, marketable banner, Fuel Education—and not to distance those offerings from a recent spate of critical news reports affecting the company as a whole.

Cashing In On Kids Blog April 3, 2014
Public dollars used for public services should be publicly visible. It seems like simple logic; however, when it comes to charter schools, the potential for profit often trumps transparency. 
Journalists from the Akron Beacon Journal and the News Outlet joint program called 294 of Ohio’s 393 charter schools to gather basic information – information that is required by Ohio law to be publicly accessible. One school responded with “I don’t trust you with that information.” 
The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools states that by law, Ohio charter schools “must follow health and safety, ethics, public records and privacy laws; and comply with open meetings laws.” As citizens, journalists do not have to give reasons for their requests, but they encountered major obstacles to even benign questions such as “Who runs the building?” and “How does one contact the school board?” Only 1 in 4 of the 294 charter schools contacted gave any information and only 80 provided all the information requested. 

NPE is going old-school - April mail-in campaign; write your letter to Congress now
On March 2, 2014, The Network for Public Education issued a call for congressional hearings into the overuse and abuse of tests in our schools.
Together, we have managed to catch the attention of Congress, we created a Twitter Storm that sent out over 20K tweets and reached 400K people via social media while trending #1, and the offices of Congress members were flooded with phone calls from concerned constituents. We continue to bring attention to the plague of over-testing and the media is beginning to take notice!
For the next part of our campaign, we’re going old school. During the month of April, we are asking our Friends & Allies to print out and mail a copy of this letter to the offices of our friends at Campaign for America’s Future in Washington D.C.. We will deliver our letters to Congress. Keep an eye out for a date and press conference details!

The Pennsylvania PTA 105th annual statewide convention April 4-6, 2014, at the Radisson Valley Forge/King of Prussia.
Pennsylvania PTA Harrisburg, Pa. March 21, 2014
Delegates from local PTA units, councils, and regions throughout the state will gather to give direction to the State PTA on issues of resolutions, bylaws, and timely topics being addressed around education and child advocacy.  The convention format will include a Diversity Leadership Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness and Prevention, twenty (20) workshops on timely issues, networking time with other delegates, an exhibit hall, a Reflections Gallery showcasing student artwork, and the opportunity to hear keynote speakers and representatives from the National PTA and other statewide partnering organizations from Pennsylvania. Complete details for registration may be obtained at the Pennsylvania PTA website at

The PA PTA is inviting you to attend the Diversity Leadership Conference on Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge, King of Prussia, PA.
Registration for this event is free and open to those caring about diversity in leadership for today’s public schools.   Registration is at 8:30 AM and the session will run from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.    Contact Sandy Zelno, PA PTA Consultant for Media, at or 412-370-6141 for further details.  Why not join your colleagues to hear about programs operating that promote diversity and leadership in today’s schools?    In conjunction with this diversity leadership conference, you will find a host of other activities in conjunction with the PTA’s 105th Annual PTA Convention.   This link not only includes information about the Diversity Leadership Conference and it’s nationally lauded speakers, but about the convention which will deal with issues of Youth Suicide, Military Families in Today’s Schools, School Finance, School Libraries, Testing and Assessment in PA Schools, Advocacy, and Arts in Education--among many other workshops and keynote speakers being featured. 

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Democratic candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania
Tuesday, April 8th  at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 515 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15206

Sign up for weekly Testing Resistance & Reform News and Updates!
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

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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