Wednesday, April 9, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 9, 2014: The "Public Good" Is Not a Dirty Word: Rebuilding Our Collective Responsibility

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 9, 2014:
The "Public Good" Is Not a Dirty Word: Rebuilding Our Collective Responsibility

EPLC Education Notebook Monday, April 7, 2014
Education Policy and Leadership Center

SB1085: Pa. charter school reforms are long overdue
Pottstown Mercury LTE by George Bonekemper 04/07/14, 4:25 PM EDT 
George Bonekemper of Pennsburg worked for 33 years in public education in positions ranging from classroom teacher to superintendent and spent 12 years in higher education as a coordinator of professional development schools. He also served 12 years on a local school board.
After 16 years without significant change, reforms to the Pennsylvania’s charter school laws must be made immediately. Current Senate Bill 1085 increases the problems by extending charter schools to higher education institutions without providing any safeguards for the local taxpayers and students in terms of financial and academic accountability.  The net cost for school districts for students attending charter schools increased from $434 million in 2006-07 to $1.15 billion in 2011-12. According to the auditor general’s special report in 2012, education funding reform would save taxpayers a million dollars a day. The flawed funding formula had Pennsylvania spending over $3,000 more per student compared to the national average, making it the highest spender of the five states with the highest charter enrollment.

"If school district schools are achieving better academic results, even if those results are also below state standards, nonrenewal of the charter will place students in schools that better satisfy state educational requirements," writes Senior Judge Colins.
Commonwealth Court denies York charter school's appeal
WITF by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 8, 2014 9:49 AM
(Harrisburg) -- In a decision posted this morning, the Commonwealth Court has affirmed the York City School District Board of Directors's decision to revoke the charter for New Hope Charter School.  Writing for the Court, Senior Judge Colins says the charter was properly denied for "failure to meet state academic performance requirements."  The Court strongly affirms the use of PSSA standards to determine proficiency, and potentially, to revoke a charter's license in the future.  The Court's decision also allows for considering local school district performance in revoking a charter.

In Pittsburgh forum, Dem guv candidates give Corbett an 'F' on public education
Penn Live By John L. Micek | on April 08, 2014 at 9:20 PM
PITTSBURGH _ He wasn’t on stage on Tuesday night, but Gov. Tom Corbett  -- and his cuts to public education -- was target No. 1 as this year’s crop of Democratic gubernatorial candidates touted their policy prescriptions for Pennsylvania’s cash-strapped public schools.  The Republican governor’s name was never far from the mouths of candidates Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty, Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord during a televised, one-hour, education-only forum held on the campus of a magnet school in the city’s East Liberty section.  Each of the hopefuls heaped blame at Corbett’s feet for a litany of offenses ranging from what they said was his lackluster support for early childhood education programs to the absence of an equitable funding formula for the state’s 500 school districts.

Dem gubernatorial candidates pledge boost in education funding
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Melissa Daniels Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 9:39 p.m
The four candidates fielded questions on the state's funding formula, testing, charter school accountability and teacher performance Tuesday night during the first issue-based debate of the Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial primary.   Many of the approximately 300 people in attendance at Pittsburgh Obama Academy in East Liberty wore stickers boasting the names of their candidate of choice during the 90-minute education debate, hosted by the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and education activism collective Yinzercation.  The platforms of state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Department of Environmental Protection secretary Katie McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Philadelphia and York County businessman Tom Wolf are similar.
All support a new state formula to equalize school district funding. All support reforming charter school funding, and all say they would boost funding for early childhood education.

PA Senate Education Committee Unanimously Advances Special Ed Funding and Basic Ed Commission Bills
April 8, 2014 Read bill summaries here:

Blogger commentary: There is a profound and marked contrast between the views expressed by Helen Gym in this White House blog posting and the views manifested by "education reformers" such as the Waltons and the Philadelphia School Partnership.
The "Public Good" Is Not a Dirty Word: Rebuilding Our Collective Responsibility
The White House Blog posted by Helen Gym on April 04, 2014 at 10:17 AM EDT
Helen Gym is being honored as a Cesar E. Chavez Champion of Change.
I was raised in Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of immigrants. Like most immigrant families, my parents did not have that much. As a child, my life revolved around the public institutions in my neighborhoodthe parks, the libraries, the local recreation center, and of course my public school. These public spaces opened up the world around me to new opportunities, a diversity of people and ideas, and a chance to really engage and participate.  My parents and I relied on these public resources to give me the kind of education that our family couldn’t provide on its own. These public spaces were great equalizers, places where people from all backgrounds came together and understoodin a personal waywhat it means when a society provides opportunities to its citizens.  I think a lot about the fragility of our public spaces today.
There is no question that our collective spaces are becoming increasingly diminished. In Philadelphia, our drastically underfunded public school systemwhere my three children attendis in virtual freefall from spiraling political and financial disinvestment. Our school district has closed dozens of public schools and stripped essential services from each and every school community.

In 2013 the Walton Family Foundation provided $1.87 million in grant funding to the Philadelphia Schools Partnership

"Dump the losers"  With Walton funding in the mix, PSP's O'Neill (BLOCS), Bravacos (REACH Foundation), Yass (Center for Education Reform) have Mark Gleason as their point man to privatize Philadelphia public education.  Here's some background……
"Jerome V. Kramer, the editor in chief of Book since its inception, said in an interview that he understood Barnes & Noble's motivation. ''If you're a public company beholden to your shareholders and you're responsible for providing good quarterly reports, experimenting in the magazine publishing industry is not the best place to be,'' he said.  Because the magazine was so dependent on Barnes & Noble, Mr. Kramer and Book's publisher, Mark J. Gleason, said they had little hope it could be saved. A venture started by Mr. Gleason and Mr. Kramer is Barnes & Noble's partner in Book."
Book Magazine Will Be Closed
New York Times By JACQUES STEINBERG Published: October 22, 2003
Book magazine, which profiles authors and their works in much the way that People magazine reports on celebrities, said yesterday that it would cease publication after its November/December issue because its co-owner, Barnes & Noble, was withdrawing financial support.  The magazine, which was founded in 1998, has lost more than $1 million this year and needed more cash. Barnes & Noble, which invested $4.2 million in the publication in 2000 and gave the operation a loan of $2.5 million a year later, has decided to make no further investment.
At its peak, Book had nearly 1.4 million subscribers, but only because Barnes & Noble offered a free, one-year subscription to customers who signed up for its Readers Advantage program. After Barnes & Noble ended the free subscription program in March 2002, Book's circulation declined to 150,000.

PA House Rs seek pension sponsors
Post-Gazette early Returns by Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 3:58 pm.
A sign of possible movement on pensions here at the Capitol: House Republicans say they are about to circulate a request for co-sponsors for a plan they have been discussing with the Corbett administration.  "It is reflective of a bicameral effort between the House, the Senate and the administration," said Jay Pagni, who serves as a spokesman for Budget Secretary Charles Zogby (as well as for Gov. Tom Corbett).  Legislative language is being drafted, said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans.

Philly Parents weigh prospect of turning schools over to charter operators
the notebook by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Apr 08 2014
Tara Magras has close ties with Edward T. Steel Elementary in Nicetown.
She lives a block from the school, volunteers there almost everyday, entrusts her three young children to the faculty and staff.  Although she concedes that the school's "test scores are low," the prospect of Steel becoming a charter school makes her uneasy.  "I don't have anything against charters," she said in an interview outside of the school. "It's just that I like the teachers here."  Magras' reaction comes on the heels of the Philadelphia School District's announcement last week that it would like to add Steel, as well as Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Fairhill, to its portfolio of "renaissance" charter schools.  Right now, both schools are neighborhood preK-8 elementary schools that the district considers among its lower performers.  As renaissance charters, the schools would continue to be required to serve all kids from the existing neighborhood catchment boundaries, but would be run by charter organizations that employ non-union staff and have less central administration overhead – creating greater flexibility in how the schools spend money.

City Controller Faults Secrecy Amid School District’s Financial Mess
CBS Philly By Mike Dunn April 8, 2014 12:17 PM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Controller says a culture of secrecy pervades the School District, making it difficult for anyone to get to the root of the district’s massive deficits.
At a city council budget hearing on Tuesday, Controller Alan Butkovitz was questioned by Councilman David Oh, who voiced frustration that council is rarely given a true sense of the school district’s financial books.  “We try to get information from the school district about their finances, what’s working, what’s not working,” Oh said. “And we can never get that information. And we end up in a crunch situation, having to try to get money, squeezing blood from a stone out of the citizens of this city. And there’s a real issue about whether we’re putting good money after bad.”  Butkovitz agreed and said the secrecy goes back decades.

Scream all you want, caring about Philly schools isn't optional
Philly Daily News by HELEN UBINAS POSTED: Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 3:01 AM
"SCREW YOU!"  That, generally, was the chord that was struck by last week's column about Bartram High belonging to all of us.  Last I checked there were more than 600 comments in response to the column where I suggested that collective negligence and complicity and - yes - racism helped turn a city school into a war zone.  In case you missed it, besides recent lunchtime brawls and an assault on a conflict-resolution specialist by a 17-year-old student, teachers and students described an environment where chaos reigns.  Since, the district has added police and implemented other policies at the school to reduce violence. Great, but as I said, unless we own our part in disastrous urban schools, the efforts will amount to nothing more than a Band-Aid.

Standardized curriculums are stifling creativity
Lancaster Online Opinion BY APRIL KELLY-WOESSNER Correspondent Posted: Sunday, April 6, 2014 6:00 am
This week, my 10-year-old will finish his seventh school day marked by PSSA testing in the past two weeks. I have told my children that I consider these tests to be a very poor measure of what I believe to be important. My son rebuts that if he doesn't do well, his school will lose money or his teacher will get in trouble. He confides that this is a source of anxiety. Somewhere along the line, someone conveyed to him that his test performance has dire consequences for people he cares about.   I send my children off to school these days with a sense of dread. I know that they are in the hands of caring and capable teachers and administrators.  Yet, I know that something is seriously amiss and that these people don't have the power to change it.

York school district drafts budget with $4.9 million deficit
Plan calls for reopening Hannah Penn, hopes for salary concessions
York Daily Record By Angie Mason   04/07/2014 10:11:31 PM EDT
A draft 2014-15 budget for the York City School District includes reopening Hannah Penn school and expanding prekindergarten, among other initiatives, but also includes a $4.9 million deficit that would have to be closed, according to information presented to the school board.  At a committee meeting Monday, administrators discussed the initiatives the district wants to undertake next year and where finances stand. The district is also still trying to negotiate new employee contracts that include wage and benefit cuts called for in the district's recovery plan.
"The budget is not just a collection of numbers," Supt. Eric Holmes told the board. "The budget is an educational philosophy – what you want to do as a school district."

“The work of Benjamin Herold and his colleagues in this series asks — and answers — all the right questions about Philadelphia’s school closures. This series does this  without taking the easy way out — neither vilifying the school district for closing schools nor parroting opponents talking points without asking hard questions first. The data mining that shows how Philly got to a city full of hollowed-out schools and the even-handed look at the too-real possibility of gang alliances crossing at certain schools show a deep understanding of Philadelphia schools today and historically. Their work appears to have even played a role in sparing two schools from closure.”
Education Writers Association Single-Topic News or Feature Medium Newsroom
FIRST PRIZE: Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Coverage of Philadelphia School Closings

Network for Public Education's Anthony Cody won an award for entries in his Living in Dialogue opinion blog on about the Common Core State Standards.  "This is by far the best and most rational coverage I've seen on Common Core in a long time," a judge wrote of Cody's entry.
Education Writers Association Awards Honor Range of Outlets
Education Week By Mark Walsh on April 7, 2014 5:43 PM
Reports about special education, charter schools, and school closings are among the first-prize winners in the annual contest of the Education Writers Association announced on Monday.
Some 260 news organizations, ranging from as small as a three-person operation to newspapers and broadcast outlets with hundreds of employees, submitted some 430 entries in 26 categories in the 2013 National Awards for Education Reporting. Out of those, 72 entries were chosen for awards of first, second, or third prizes. (The links below are to EWA's collection of each submission.)

Toomey touts bill aimed at protecting students from sexual predators
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 04/07/14, 10:59 PM EDT
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is trying to get a child abuse prevention bill to unanimously pass the Senate by the end of the month.  The Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act would require schools to perform criminal background checks on all employees and contractors who have contact with students. It also would prevent schools from knowingly transferring employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct.  The legislation unanimously passed the House of Representatives last year. Toomey sponsored a companion bill that has sat in committee since being introduced in late October.

Putting Student Data To The Test To Identify Struggling Kids
NPR from WLRN by SAMMY MACK April 08, 2014 5:46 PM ET
All Things Considered 5 min 45 sec
At Miami Carol City Senior High in Florida, a handful of teachers, administrators and coaches are gathered around a heavy wooden table in a conference room dubbed the "War Room," looking through packets of information about several students.  There are others at the table, too: analysts from the group Talent Development Secondary, which monitors student data; City Year, a nonprofit that provides mentors; and Communities in Schools, which connects kids with health care and social services.  It's a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but they're all here to help students who are just starting to show signs of trouble.  The process works like this: analyst Jennifer Savino gathers information on attendance, behavior and performance in math and English. Then, based on some dropout risk studies from Johns Hopkins University, she flags kids who are on a downward trend. Those names show up on PowerPoint slides at these weekly War Room meetings.

Congress: Bipartisan Charter, Research Bills Sail Through House Education Committee
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on April 8, 2014 1:06 PM
After months of gridlock on a range of K-12 issues, the House education panel gave swift, bipartisan approval Tuesday to two education bills. One, a reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, is aimed at making education research more timely, relevant, and accessible. It was approved by a quick, unanimous vote.  The other, a charter school bill, is aimed at growing more high-quality charters and encouraging them to better serve students with disabilities and English-language learners. That bill also won swift approval, but not before a number of committee Democrats lambasted charter schools for siphoning off resources from other public schools—before voting for the legislation anyway. The bill passed 36 to 3. 

Is the Stress of Poverty to Blame for Academic Failure?
Education Week  FInding Common Ground Blog  By Peter DeWitt on April 8, 2014 6:39 AM
Today's guest blog is written by Pamela Cantor, M.D.  Pam is the President and CEO of Turnaround for Children.
Every three years, 15 year-olds from around the world take a test to measure proficiency in reading, math and science, and every three years, the results for American students disappoint. Here are the latest: 36th place in math (behind Slovakia but just ahead of Lithuania), 28th in science, and 24th in reading (5 notches below Vietnam). Disappointing, but not the whole story.
In US schools where the poverty rate is less than 10% our students finish at or near the top of the world. However, in schools where the poverty rate climbs past 75% the US drops toward the bottom of the pack, (after Cyprus and Kazakhstan).  What does that tell you? One thing it tells me is that schools with high concentrations of poverty are at high risk for academic failure.  Dig deeper and discover what is at the root of this risk: a predictable, recurring set of cognitive, social, and emotional obstacles to learning that stem from the stress of poverty. The good news is that knowing this enables us to design schools to address these obstacles and help all children, no matter their zip code, succeed.

Chicago charters do no better than traditional public schools, new study finds
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS April 7 at 5:38 pm
An examination of every score that Chicago students earned on state-mandated standardized tests last year reveals that charter schools — which Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) has been promoting — don’t perform any better than traditional public schools.  The analysis, conducted by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University, reviewed the 2013 scores of nearly 173,000 students in the traditional school district as well as more than 23,000 students in charter schools and a very small group enrolled at contract schools.  (Contract schools are run by private organizations under a contract with the Chicago Public Schools system, while charter schools are considered public schools that are run by private entities under a contract with a school district.)  The results are especially interesting in light of the big push Emanuel has made to increase the number of charter schools in the city even after he closed nearly 50 traditional schools last year in the largest mass school closing in U.S. history. Today there are more than 130 charters in Chicago and more are scheduled to open this year, and nearly one of every seven Chicago public school students attends charters or other schools run by private entities, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties - save the date
PSBA Buxmont Region 11 and Penns Grant Region 15 Combined Region/Legislative Meeting -- Thursday, May 15, at William Tennent High School
- Buffet dinner/registration, 6 p.m. ($8 charge for dinner)
- Program, 7:30 p.m. -- Minority Senate Education Committee Chair Hon. Andy Dinnimann will introduce guest speaker Diane Ravitch, author and education historian, and former Assistant Secretary of Education.

Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Agricultural Sciences
Deadline to Apply: April 25, 2014
When: July 13 to August 9, 2014 Penn State University
PGSAS provides a broad overview of the diverse fields of agriculture and natural resources. Interested high school students and their parents should review this website to learn more about requirements and the application process.

Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology
Application must be postmarked by April 18, 2014.
July 20, 2014 - August 2, 2014 Lehigh University | Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology (PGSE&T) is a two-week summer residential program for talented high school students of science and mathematics. Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and hosted by the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science at Lehigh University, PGSE&T offers an enrichment experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and emphasizes cooperative learning and hands-on laboratory experiences.

Educating the Voter: A Forum on Public Education featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidates - April 30th 6:00 pm Phila Central Library
Presented by Committee of Seventy, Congresso and Philadelphia Education Fund
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:00PM 
Philadelphia Central Library 1901 Vine Street, 19103 215-686-5322
Join Democratic gubernatorial candidates Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord for a discussion on public education. Montgomery Auditorium at 6:00 P.M.
Please click here to register.

PSBA nominations for offices now open!  Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA.  Complete details on the nomination process, links to the Application for Nomination form, and scheduled dates for nominee interviews can be found online by clicking here.
How the Business Community Can Lead on Early Education
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Join business and community leaders to learn about how you can help make sure every child arrives in kindergarten ready to succeed. On April 29th, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will host a forum featuring business leaders from around the country talking about why they’re focused on early childhood education and how they have moved the needle on improving quality and access in their states.
Featured Speakers
  • Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus of The Vanguard Group
  • Phil Peterson, Partner, Aon Hewitt and Co-Chair of America’s Edge/Ready Nation
  • And more to be announced! 
  • Date & Time Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | 5-7 PM
Registration begins at 5 PM; program from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Location Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
10 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Tuesday, April 29th, 12-4 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th, 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

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