Wednesday, April 30, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 30, 2014: Norristown School Board passes resolution opposing charter school bill

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 30, 2014:
Norristown School Board passes resolution opposing charter school bill

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.

Norristown School Board passes resolution opposing charter school bill
By Brendan Wills Published: Monday, April 28, 2014
The Norristown School Board approved two resolutions at April 28’s school board meeting, one opposing a piece of charter school legislation and one supporting the Pre-K for PA coalition.  Senate Bill 1085, if passed, would amend the language of the Public School Code of 1949. The new language would change the code’s regulations for charter school funding and allow university or college officials to authorize the creation of charter schools, a function currently reserved for local school boards.  Other school districts across the state have adopted similar resolutions in opposition of the bill citing the loss of local control over the creation of charter schools that currently has public oversight through school boards’ adherence to Pennsylvania’s sunshine laws. Locally, Colonial School District recently adopted such a resolution.
The full resolution, and reasons for opposition, can be found on Norristown’s website,

Property tax burden should be eased but not with proposed legislation
PSBA website 4/29/2014
No one likes property taxes -- or any tax for that matter. No superintendent or school business official enjoys the time spent crunching the numbers to balance the budgets, and no school director enjoys the task of taxing his or her neighbors.  However, no matter how unpleasant they may seem, we can't forget that taxes do a lot of good by providing resources to build and maintain our transportation system, make public parks available, defend our country through the military, keep us safe with police and fire service, and yes, educate our children in our locally governed public schools.
Few will disagree that in Pennsylvania we rely too heavily on school property taxes to fund our children's education. However, Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate this tax, is not the answer for either schools or the taxpayers who foot the bill. The legislation would eliminate school property taxes by shifting the burden of funding public education to individual taxpayers in the form of increased state personal income and sales and use taxes. While some may be heartened by this move, the reality is such a shift would leave an already underfunded public education system in a worse situation, while actually increasing costs for many taxpayers.

Pennsylvania gets more bad budget news in April
Pennlive by The Associated Press on April 29, 2014 at 9:12 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's tax collections during the all-important month of April were badly lagging projections Tuesday, and House and Senate Appropriations Committee officials said the only question was how much deeper the state government's shortfall will plunge.
The poor performance is a sobering development for Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers as they try to craft a budget during an election year. Based on estimates by House and Senate Appropriations Committee officials, the shortfall is expected to be big enough to knock Corbett's $29.4 billion budget proposal out of balance by $1 billion or more.

S&P warns: Time running out for Pa. budget gimmicks
Joseph N. DiStefano POSTED: MONDAY, APRIL 28, 2014, 3:49 PM
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services says it is ready to "lower (Pennsylvania's credit) rating in the next few months" unless state officials replace Gov. Tom Corbett's and legislative leaders' proposed "one-time" budget gimmicks, such as the plan to defer payments to the state's underfunded pension systems, and instead make "a concerted effort to bring revenues and expenditures into alignment," rebuild cash reserves, and pass "meaningful pension reform," S&P analyst John Sugden warns today in a report to investors. The agency wants state leaders to make tough choices even as they face re-election this fall.

Corbett, briefly, on revenue shortfalls, open records, pensions and more
By Jeff Frantz | on April 29, 2014 at 5:26 PM, updated April 29, 2014 at 8:43 PM
After an awards ceremony recognizing state agencies for saving $650 million since he came into office, Gov. Tom Corbett took a few questions Tuesday.
He kept his answers brief.

Dem. candidates for governor to discuss views on education in Philly April 30th
the notebook by David Limm on Apr 29 2014 Posted in Latest news
Perhaps no issue polls more consistently with Philadelphia voters as the issue of greatest importance than the problem of its public schools.
On Wednesday, April 30, the four Democratic candidates vying to become Pennsylvania governor will be in the city for a forum dedicated to the topic of city and state education issues. "The goal of the forum is to enable the candidates to articulate deep and well-thought-out positions on the fiscal and academic challenges of public education in Philadelphia and the state," according to a media advisory release from the forum's sponsors.  Those sponsors -- The Committee of Seventy, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, and the Philadelphia Education Fund -- decided that a forum focused entirely on public education issues would force in-depth discussions from the candidates and make them more accountable for any promises if they win in November.  

More $ for education, but where to find it?
Lancaster Online Editorial Posted: Monday, April 28, 2014 9:36 am
A recent poll of Pennsylvania voters found that more than 70 percent want the state to provide more and fairer funding for public schools.   And two-thirds of voters say high-poverty schools should get more state funding.  Most of the poll’s education questions — paid for by groups representing school administrators, business managers and school board members — are interesting, as far as they go.  With a governor’s race and 228 legislative races on the ballot this year —all 203 members of the state House and half of the 50-member Senate — a discussion of education funding is in order.

Deer Lakes School District considers allowing natural gas drilling on property
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Aaron Aupperlee Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 11:18 p.m.
Drilling for natural gas under Deer Lakes School District property may hinge on whether Allegheny County allows drilling under Deer Lakes Park.  The cash-strapped district is waiting for Allegheny County Council to decide whether to allow energy companies Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill under the 1,180-acre park in West Deer and Frazer before making its decision, school board members said Tuesday.
School report finds 'large inequities' in Pittsburgh Public Schools
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 29, 2014 11:37 PM
In the more vulnerable public schools in Pittsburgh, students have fewer effective teachers, are treated with less respect and are less likely to feel their school is a safe and positive place than in schools with fewer needy students, according to an A+ Schools survey.  “My question is how can students learn if that’s how they feel in school? And whose responsibility is it to see that students’ rights are upheld?” asked Amy Scott, director of research and data analysis for A+ Schools.  Ms. Scott presented the results of the latest School Works report Tuesday to more than 200 educators, parents, students and community members at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

West Chester students to get computers by Tricia L. Nadolny LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 1:08 AM
WEST CHESTER The West Chester Area School District will purchase 5,000 computers over the next four years with the goal of giving a laptop to each student in eighth through 12th grades, officials said.  The new computers - which students will be able to use at school and home - will cost about $3.8 million. But officials said the net cost will be closer to $1.2 million due to cost-sharing for extended warranties and damage insurance, and also the phasing out of shared computers currently used by the district.

Philly school district facing another bleak budget
SNIP, SNIP: Cuts are inevitable for Philadelphia schools next year.
By Maura Pennington | PA Independent April 28, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — The School District of Philadelphia is facing budget cuts.
Superintendent William Hite  previously issued a hopeful Action Plan 2.0 to transform schools at a cost of $320 million. But now that the budget for 2014-15 has been released, it’s looking as if the district will instead be coming up at least $96 million short.  Reductions in staff and services are inevitable in the face of a gap that size.

DN Editorial: Just no funds
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 3:01 AM
NEARLY two weeks ago, we asked where the urgency was on the response to the School District of Philadelphia budget woes from the city and the state. That includes the budget woes for the current school year, which the district anticipates ending with a $29 million deficit.  Last week, the district released its budget for next year, and the shortfall is now $216 million - and that's just to keep treading water. That doesn't include building the district with more programs that Superintendent William Hite wants to add to actually improve education.  Without that money, Hite says the schools will be "empty shells," an even worse version of last year's crisis, when thousands of counselors, librarians and teachers were laid off.

North Philly parents suspicious of postponed charter school election
In meetings over the past four weeks, the Philadelphia School District has been making a case for why it chose Edward Steel elementary in Nicetown and Luis Muñoz-Marín elementary in Fairhill for charter school conversion.  Parents were set to vote on Thursday, but on Monday night, they learned that the district was going to push the election back a month at Muñoz-Marín (but not at Steel), saying some have complained that the process was moving too quickly.
Some parents are suspicious the election is being delayed because voters would have rejected the charter. The school district and proposed charter operator say it's about not rushing the process.

School board leadership DOES matter
NSBA School Board News Today April 29th, 2014
An editorial by Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education:
The Fordham Institute, whose president, Chester Finn, has called the school board “an aberration, an anachronism, an educational sinkhole” that should be put “out of its misery,” recently published a report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?
It definitely contradicts the spirit of Finn’s previous comments.
The document lists information that we have known ever since the original Iowa Lighthouse Initiative was released: School boards, particularly their attitudes on student learning, are an important element of student success. Other information points us to what we must do to ensure that boards are relevant, effective, and beneficial.  The report comes at a critical time for executive directors from state school boards associations who have been involved in attempting to discern what the board of tomorrow will be like. It gives us an idea of what boards need to do to accomplish their primary goal: increasing student achievement and growth.

Indiana: Common Core Replaced With State Standards
One of the first states to adopt Common Core education standards became the first state to formally abandon the national benchmarks, as Indiana’s State Board of Education voted overwhelmingly Monday for a replacement that will guide student learning for years. The board voted 10 to 1 to endorse the new benchmarks for math and English, which were created by a panel of faculty from Indiana universities and representatives from science and technology industries. Indiana adopted the Common Core in 2010; eventually, 44 other states did, too. But states’ rights advocates and Tea Party members later opposed the standards, saying they were created without adequate local input. In response, Indiana lawmakers passed legislation pausing the start of the Common Core and requiring a review to find a replacement. Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, signed legislation in March making Indiana the first state to drop the standards, which are not federally required.

Blogger comment: Here's a surprise - the folks spending over $150 million per year on privatizing democratically governed American public schools have created an organization and funded a study predicting increased demand for skilled labor in their privatized, parallel school system.  I am not aware of the Waltons spending one thin dime to help train leaders for our public schools…(Where do you shop?)………
"The study was supported by the Bellwether Education Partners and the Walton Family Foundation, which also provided the startup funds for EdFuel."
(Walton) Study: Growth in K-12 Education Sector Creates Demand For New Leaders
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on April 29, 2014 7:15 AM
Growth  in the urban education reform movement, characterized largely by an exponential increase in charter schools, will create a need for at least 32,000 senior and mid-level workers over the next decade, according to a report to be released Tuesday by  EdFuel.  The study, "MAP the GAP," which also looked at transformation in urban education in the 50 largest urban cities where education reform is altering the landscape, found that continued growth outside of the traditional school district model,  will create a "talent gap" for noninstructional staff, including for workers who are skilled in business, finance, operations, management, data analytics, and communications.    "As demand for new and innovative schools begins to snowball, there is a real threat of a leadership talent gap," said Jimmy Henderson, the CEO of EdFuel, the Washington-based nonprofit that trains leaders in this sector and which also conducted the study. "MAP the GAP vividly shows that talent is the scarce resource that could define the success or failure of this inspiring movement."

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 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.

Just added - Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq will be the after-dinner speaker on May 5. 
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. 

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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