Monday, May 12, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 12, 2014: Pa. poll highlights public support for fair schools funding

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 12, 2014:
Pa. poll highlights public support for fair schools funding

NYT: Pennsylvania Governor Faces an Uphill Battle for a Second Term
New York Times By TRIP GABRIEL MAY 10, 2014
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since Pennsylvania changed the law in 1968 to allow its governor to serve two consecutive terms, no incumbent has been denied re-election. But Tom Corbett, a Republican, is in danger of becoming the first.  Explanations have turned as much to the governor’s personality as his policies. Even his chief re-election strategist, John Brabender, said Mr. Corbett suffered by comparison to the governor next door, who, for better or worse, captures attention.  “Chris Christie is this dynamic, bantering politician who makes news on all sorts of national programs,” Mr. Brabender said. “Tom Corbett is somebody who goes to work and does their job to the best of their ability and doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about all those things.”
The governor, a direct, no-nonsense former attorney general, has not bounced back from an unpopular first year. Faced then with a $4 billion deficit, he honored a pledge not to raise taxes and presided over cuts that forced thousands of teacher layoffs and fewer services for the poor.

Local reaction: Pa. poll highlights public support for fair schools funding
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/10/14, 9:45 AM EDT |
Suddenly, education funding is a hot topic.
Although the public’s interest in property tax reform here in southeastern Pennsylvania is well-documented, a recent survey by a statewide poll indicates the public is also firmly in favor of a fairer formula for increased funding of public schools.  Released last month, the Terry Madonna Opinion Research Omnibus Survey found more than two-thirds of the 800 adults surveyed in February believe public schools serving populations with higher poverty levels should receive more state funding than schools where household incomes are higher.  Further, the poll found nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those polled favor using a funding formula to ensure “fair distribution” of state aid to schools to carry out that goal.  Perhaps Gov. Tom Corbett sensed the people’s sentiment prior to the poll when, in January, he urged the commissioning of a study to determine a “true funding system” fair to all public schools in Pennsylvania.
Since then, saddled with a reputation for under-funding public schools, he has been campaigning for a second term and stressing his education bona fides.

Did you catch our weekend posting?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 10, 2014: Happy Charter School Week; Choice for Choice Sake?
Keystone State Education Coalition Saturday, May 10, 2014

Modify funding, construction planning for schools
Morning Call Opinion 5:53 a.m. EDT, May 12, 2014
Jim Buckheit is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Nathan Mains is executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association; Jay Himes is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials; Joseph Bard is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools; J. Hugh Dwyer is chair of the Central Pennsylvania Public School Coalition.
Pennsylvania faces a long-term challenge in public education and economic development. Current policies are defining the haves and have-nots statewide. It's not good for students, and it's bad for local economies.  However, the angst being heard in some communities may help to explain the election-year momentum and optimism for changes to public school funding in Harrisburg. With bills moving through the Legislature to address basic education funding and school construction, minds are changing all the way up to the governor's mansion.  There are two foundational state funding streams that schools depend on — basic education funding for operations and school construction dollars.  Both are crippling many schools' ability to deliver on their mission.
The sinister truth about supporting Common Core: Ryan M. Bannister
PennLive Op-Ed  By Ryan M. Bannister  on May 11, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Ryan M. Bannister is the regional coordinator for Pennsylvanians Against Common Core.
Recently, William Bartle of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children made an open and very public statement regarding his support of Common Core.  I offer a public response to Mr. Bartle in order to enlighten him with the facts and further educate him on honesty in communication.
William Bartles’ organization, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, has received three separate grants from the Gates Foundation to sponsor Common Core. These three grants total nearly $1 million.

Pittsburgh Public Schools, state use different formulas to calculate value added by schools
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 11, 2014 11:13 PM
By a state's score, Pittsburgh Liberty K-5 in Shadyside is the highest performing school among Pittsburgh Public Schools.  But by a district score, Liberty is in the bottom half. It ranks 17th of 22 K-5 schools and 34th among 50 district schools.  The difference is the measuring stick -- what it counts and how it counts it.  Such differences increasingly matter. Not only do the numbers shape public perception of a school, but measuring sticks using student test scores are beginning to play a role in teacher evaluations statewide.  As the importance of test scores grows, so does the controversy, ranging from parents opting their children out of state tests to some questioning the ways results are used.

Washington Post ranks McCaskey among state's "most challenging" schools
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2014 4:15 pm 
Student test scores are often used to evaluate schools, but The Washington Post thinks test participation is also worth measuring.  The national newspaper last month published its list, "America's Most Challenging High Schools," which scores schools based on the number of students who attempt college-level exams.  McCaskey High School in the School District of Lancaster ranked 20th on the listing of the most rigorous high schools in Pennsylvania.

"A primary rationale for the creation of charter schools, which are publicly financed and privately run, was to develop test kitchens for practices that could be exported into the traditional schools. President Barack Obama, in recently proclaiming "National Charter Schools Week," said they "can provide effective approaches for the broader public education system."  But two decades since they began to appear, educators from both systems concede that very little of what has worked for charter schools has found its way into regular classrooms."
Traditional and charter schools try to find ways to cooperate, share ideas that work
Post-Gazette By Javier C. Hernandez / The New York Times May 11, 2014 11:30 PM
NEW YORK -- When Neil J. McNeill Jr., principal of the Middle School for Art and Philosophy in the borough of Brooklyn, learned that fewer than 4 percent of his students had passed state exams in math last year, he was frustrated.  It so happened that he shared a building with one of the top-performing schools in the Brownsville neighborhood, Kings Collegiate Charter School, where 37 percent of the students had passed, well above the New York City middle-school average of 27 percent.

State pension funds pose big problem for next governor
Democratic candidates avoid issue that's eating a big piece of the budget.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:32 p.m. EDT, May 10, 2014
HARRISBURG ——  In the world of politics, there is nothing sexy about pensions.
Actuarial valuation. Amortization schedule. Defined benefit. Defined contribution.
Those phrases can't be explained in a 10-second sound bite. Even in a 30-second commercial, the topic is too wonky to tackle. And voters would be clicking off the channel as soon as the word "pension" was uttered.  That's why in the run-up to the May 20 primary election, voters aren't seeing television commercials explaining how the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates would manage the combined $50.5 billion debt being carried by the pension systems for state workers and school employees.  Heck, even Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who will face the Democratic winner in November, isn't talking pensions in his campaign — and his 2014-15 budget proposal is predicated on pension changes.  But make no mistake, with the pensions carrying an unfunded liability that is more than double the state budget, they will remain a powder keg of controversy and financial angst in coming fiscal years for Corbett or one of the Democrats: state Treasurer Rob McCord, former state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and York County businessman Tom Wolf.
A Tom Wolf loss would be stunning, pollsters say
Pollsters say a victory by any Democrat besides Tom Wolf in the primary election for Pennsylvania governor would be shocking.  So far, three polls have shown Wolf leading by at least 20 percentage points, with the most recent one from late April.  Overcoming such a large deficit is certainly possible, but pollsters Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College and Christopher Borick of Muhlenberg College say they can't recall anyone mounting such a dramatic comeback in modern Pennsylvania politics in such a short period of time.

Despite many complaints, crackdown on cheating at Cayuga came slowly
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Sunday, May 11, 2014, 1:09 AM POSTED: Saturday, May 10, 2014, 11:27 AM
Cheating at Cayuga Elementary was no secret.
Staff and parents at the Hunting Park school had alleged for years that principal Evelyn Cortez had ordered testing improprieties - from instructing students to confirm answers with their teachers before entering them in exam books to changing answers herself, according to a grand jury report.  Multiple reports of cheating were made to the Philadelphia School District over several years before officials took it seriously, staff said. And as years passed with no action, Cortez flaunted that she had suffered no consequences.

Erie-area districts get green light to raise taxes
GoErie BY ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News PUBLISHED: MAY 8, 2014 12:01 AM EST
Some local school districts are receiving a bit of budget relief from the state. 
But whether that's good news for taxpayers remains to be seen.  Four districts -- Millcreek, Fairview, Harbor Creek and Wattsburg -- have received exceptions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to raise property taxes above a maximum limit set by the state.
Act 1, the state's property tax relief law, sets an annual tax ceiling, or index, that districts cannot go above without receiving an exception from the state or holding a public referendum. The index varies by district and is based on a complex formula that accounts for inflation and the district's wealth, among other factors.  Each of the four local districts requested and received exceptions based on their projected special education and pension costs. Districts are not obligated to use the exceptions.

Pottstown Schools propose 2.9% tax hike this year, 0% next year
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/09/14, 2:15 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN — School taxes may not rise next year if the school board will approve a budget that raises them 2.9 percent this year, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana said Thursday night.
That was when the proposed $56.4 million Pottstown Schools budget got its first public airing — although few members of the public were in attendance — before the school board’s finance committee.  “This is not the year to tie our hands,” Sparagana told the finance committee.
Pointing to the $1.5 million in additional debt payments that begin this year to pay for the elementary school renovations; the additional $1.1 in retirement/pension payments and the $625,000 the district needs to start setting aside annually for roof replacements, Sparagana said the administration can balance the budget “without cutting programs and hurting students” with the additional $856,000 a 2.9 percent tax hike generates.

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding
New York Times By MATT RICHTEL MAY 10, 2014
MILL VALLEY, Calif. — Seven-year-old Jordan Lisle, a second grader, joined his family at a packed after-hours school event last month aimed at inspiring a new interest: computer programming.  “I’m a little afraid he’s falling behind,” his mother, Wendy Lisle, said, explaining why they had signed up for the class at Strawberry Point Elementary School.
The event was part of a national educational movement in computer coding instruction that is growing at Internet speeds. Since December, 20,000 teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade have introduced coding lessons, according to, a group backed by the tech industry that offers free curriculums. In addition, some 30 school districts, including New York City and Chicago, have agreed to add coding classes in the fall, mainly in high schools but in lower grades, too. And policy makers in nine states have begun awarding the same credits for computer science classes that they do for basic math and science courses, rather than treating them as electives.

The Benefits of Mixing Rich and Poor
New York Times By DAVID L. KIRP  MAY 10, 2014, 2:30 PM 44 Comments
Whenever President Obama proposes a major federal investment in early education, as he did in his two most recent State of the Union addresses, critics have a two-word riposte: Head Start. Researchers have long cast doubt on that program’s effectiveness. The most damning evidence comes from a 2012 federal evaluation that used gold-standard methodology and concluded that children who participated in Head Start were not more successful in elementary school than others. That finding was catnip to the detractors. “Head Start’s impact is no better than random,” The Wall Street Journal editorialized. Why throw good money after bad?
Though the faultfinders have a point, the claim that Head Start has failed overstates the case. For one thing, it has gotten considerably better in the past few years because of tougher quality standards. For another, researchers have identified a “sleeper effect” — many Head Start youngsters begin to flourish as teenagers, maybe because the program emphasizes character and social skills as well as the three R’s. Still, few would give Head Start high marks, and the bleak conclusion of the 2012 evaluation stands in sharp contrast to the impressive results from well-devised studies of state-financed prekindergartens.

Pennsylvania Education Summit Wednesday, June 11, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM (EDT) Camp Hill, PA
PA Business-Education Partnership
Welcome By Governor Tom Corbett (invited)
Remarks Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq (confirmed)
Perceptions & comments of business leaders, educators, college presidents, and advocacy groups

“How Public School Funding Works in Pennsylvania—Or Doesn’t: What You Need to Know” When: Friday, May 30, 2014, 9 am to 12 pm Where: Marriott Hotel in Conshohocken, PA
Session I:  "Funding Schools: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States"

Key Pennsylvania legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Professor Robert C. Knoeppel of Clemson University, an expert on emerging trends and ideas in public school finance.
Introduction: Representative Steve Santarsiero
Moderator: Rob Wonderling, President and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
Charles Zogby, Secretary of the Budget, Commonwealth of PA, Senator Patrick Browne, Senator Anthony Williams, Representative Bernie O'Neill, Representative James Roebuck
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
A discussion with a panel of CEOs who are major employers in the region.
Introduction: Rob Loughery, Chair, Bucks County Commissioners
Panel (confirmed to date):
Michael Pearson, President and CEO, Union Packaging, Philip Rinaldi, CEO, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Bryan Hancock, Principal, McKinsey & Company, and author: "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools"
You can register for this free event here:

PILCOP Know Your Child’s Rights Seminars
Join us on May 15th for one of three training sessions on Assistive Technology and Settlements.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
This training series on special education law teaches parents, attorneys and advocates how to secure education rights and services for students with special needs. These seminars aim to bring together a diverse community of advocates including parents, special education advocates, educators, attorneys, and community members. Each session focuses on a different legal topic, service or disability. Many sessions are co-led with guest speakers.
Next Trainings: Thursday May 15, 2014: Assistive Technology and Other Related Services; Settlements; Settlements (Abbreviated Session)

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.

Saturday, May 31, 2014 - 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM (8:30 Registration)
Keynote Speaker: Dan Hardy – Retired Reporter -Philadelphia Inquirer
Distressed Schools: How Did it Come to This?
  • The State of Education in Pennsylvania 60 Years after Brown
  • Keystones and Graduation: Cut the Connection
  • How Harrisburg Cut District Funding, Poured on the Keystones, and Connected them to Graduation
  • Financing Our Schools: What Does it Cost to Educate a Child in 2014 and How Should We Fund It?
  • Effective Advocacy – How to be Heard in Harrisburg - And - What We Need to be Saying
For more info and registration:

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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