Saturday, May 17, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 17, 2014: Lawmakers urge parents to form coalition on 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 May 17, 2014:
Lawmakers urge parents to form coalition on schools

Thanks to the over 80 school board members, Superintendents and administrators from Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester Counties who attended this PSBA combined region meeting Thursday evening.  Thanks to the board, administration, staff and students at Centennial School District for hosting.  Many thanks also to Budget Secretary Zogby, Senator Dinniman and Reps Cylmer, O'Neill, Petri, Harper and MCCarter, and to the PSBA team.
Lawmakers urge parents to form coalition on schools
Doylestown Intelligencer By James Boyle Correspondent Thursday, May 15, 2014 11:05 pm
The public education system in Pennsylvania is under attack from several different fronts, and it will ultimately be up to parents, educators and administrators to come together and build a stronger defense.  That was the running theme of a state legislative meeting organized by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and hosted at William Tennent High School in Warminster on Thursday night.  “More and more people are waking up and finding their voice,” said state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19), the minority chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “We have to continue building a coalition that believes in teaching, not testing and that a student is more than what they score on a test.”
Dinniman was joined at the forum by five state representatives, including House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer, R-145, who is set to retire from the General Assembly in December.  The evening played like a greatest hits album of the longstanding issues impacting local school district budgets, including the federal government imposing “one size fits all” testing, for-profit charter schools chewing off large sections of local school district budgets and the continued struggle to pay the cost of pensions.

Great collection of news coverage and reaction to the Auditor General's Charter School Report
Time to Tune-Up Charter Schools
PA Auditor General's Newsletter May 16, 2014
Good afternoon,  Earlier this week I released a special report, Pennsylvania Charter School Accountability and Transparency: Time for a Tune-Up., which is a follow-up to a series of public meetings I held earlier this year to identify ways to improve accountability, effectiveness and transparency of charter schools.  The report makes numerous recommendations as to how we can better serve students and taxpayers by creating an independent charter school oversight board, improving communication between school districts and charter schools, updating requirements for professional staff, clarifying procedures  admissions and enrollments, encouraging transparency and improving special education assessments, to name just a few.

Turzai tells Trib that natural gas extraction tax isn't answer
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Tom Fontaine  Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 11:24 p.m.
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said on Thursday that he opposes using revenue from a proposed natural gas extraction tax to balance the state budget.
Turzai didn't say whether he'd use his leadership post to block a proposal from being voted on in his GOP-controlled chamber. A severance tax on gas extraction has support from all four Democratic candidates for governor and some members of Turzai's caucus.
"The evidence that political competition is disappearing is abundant. Fewer and fewer state legislative and congressional districts feature serious competition between the Republican and Democratic parties. Within these one-party districts, incumbents today typically face little or no opposition.  Once elected, they stay in office as long as they wish, rarely attracting serious challengers. Since the mid 1960s, at least 85 percent of U.S. House members running for re-election have won and at least 75 percent of Senate members running have won. Indeed, some years at state level the re-election rate exceeds 95 percent. In this year’s Pennsylvania primary, for example, only two members of Congress face opposition."
Elections and Choices
Politically Uncorrected by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young May 15, 2014
Many Republicans who show up on May 20 to vote in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary will confront a familiar situation in American politics: they don’t have any choices.  Apparently, a few counties will have political GOP gadfly Bob Guzzardi on the ballot because a Supreme Court decision barring him from running came too late. But let’s not kid ourselves. There is no competition in the Republican Party for governor.  And that’s really too bad because as polls and other anecdotal evidence suggests, many Republicans would have preferred choices this year.

"A total of 67,315 city students attend charters. The district pays the charters $8,419 per student, $22,312 for those who receive special-education services.  Officials say the district expects to spend $700 million on charter payments through June, about $25 million more than budgeted. One reason for the higher bills is that charters have enrolled 1,600 more students than permitted in their agreements."
Pa. Supreme Court enters dispute over SRC powers
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, May 17, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Friday, May 16, 2014, 5:27 PM
The state Supreme Court has granted a temporary restraining order that bars the Philadelphia School Reform Commission from taking action against a charter school.
It marks the first time the top court has entered the dispute over the powers the commission has to ignore state law in order to protect its finances by managing charter enrollment.
On Thursday, the court approved West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School's request to decide whether the law that led to the state takeover of the district in 2001 permits the SRC to suspend parts of other laws to deal with the district's financial crisis.
The SRC has threatened to revoke West Philadelphia Achievement's charter because the school has refused to sign a new agreement that includes an enrollment cap.

Upper Dublin, Wissahickon, Jenkintown, Lower Moreland in top 4 percent for SAT scores
Ambler Gazette By Linda Finarelli Thursday, May 15, 2014
Two local school districts are among the top 3 percent of high schools in the state for SAT scores, and two others were close on their heels, being ranked among the top 4 percent.
The rankings were made by the Philadelphia Business Journal, which released a list of the top 50 high schools in the state for SAT scores last month. The Journal based the rankings on the recently updated Pennsylvania Department of Education database showing average SAT test scores for public high schools statewide for 2013.  The state provides each public high school’s verbal, math and writing scores. PBJ added up the scores and ranked schools, according to the journal’s website.  The highest ranking high school locally was Upper Dublin at No. 18, with Jenkintown a close second at No. 20, placing both schools in the top 2.8 percent of the 696 high schools in the state.  Neighboring Wissahickon High School ranked 24th, with Lower Moreland 27th.  Taking the No. 1 spot in the state was Philadelphia’s Masterman.

Upper Dublin School District support staff could lose jobs to outside vendors
By Linda Finarelli Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014
About a dozen Upper Dublin Education Support Personnel Association members donned matching red T-shirts and stood in the back of the room at the school board’s May 12 meeting.
“We don’t want to interfere; we just want the board to see us,” UDESPA President Matt Toner said outside the cafeteria, where students were being recognized for various achievements at the start of the board meeting. “We just want to educate people,” he said, handing out post cards explaining the union’s position to people as they entered.
The approximately 200 members of UDESPA — bus drivers, custodians, educational assistants, nurses, secretaries and other support staff — are facing an uncertain future with their contract set to expire June 30. While continuing to bargain with the union, the district has solicited proposals from third-party vendors for custodial, education support personnel and transportation services “in the hopes of reducing significant operation costs associated with these services,” according to a statement issued by the school board at its May 12 meeting.

Easton Area teachers accept salary freeze
Still, 29 jobs lost through attrition and a 4 percent tax hike are expected.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 10:14 p.m. EDT, May 16, 2014
Easton Area class sizes will increase next year and taxpayers will see a 4 percent tax hike, but the impact of a district budget crisis won't be as bad as feared.   That's because on Thursday night, the teachers union voted to accept a two-year salary freeze that will save 72.6 positions from being eliminated.  Now 29 positions will be lost in the 2014-15 school year, all through attrition.  At a news conference Friday morning, school board President Frank Pintabone said the teachers union's acceptance of the salary freeze will help balance the district's budget. The district is facing a $5 million deficit, and Pintabone said the board is looking to raise taxes by 4 percent.

Where Gates money is going in education world this year
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS May 16 at 4:00 am
Where in the education world has Bill Gates been putting his foundation’s money this year?
A look at some of the biggest grants awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — by far the largest philanthropy in the world — shows millions of dollars being spent to foster “cooperation” between traditional public schools and charter schools in Chicago. Significant money grants were also given to institutions seeking to improve higher-education access and success for underserved students. Half a million dollars was given to help improve communications around the Common Core State Standards, but this is less support for Common Core than the foundation has given in previous years.  For well over a decade, the foundation plowed billions of dollars in K-12 reform (first creating small schools and then teacher evaluation systems, both of which were less than successful), helping to drive the public policy agenda. More recently, it has expanded into higher education. Articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education detailed the nearly half a billion dollars the foundation has spent to help remake the higher education world into one that focuses on getting more students degrees faster through technology and what is called “competency-based learning,” and which is wrapped around an accountability system based on standardized testing.
Here are some of the largest Gates grants for education-related purposes since January 2014:

How School Closures Across The Country Are Failing Black And Latino Children
The Huffington Post  | by  Inae Oh Posted: 05/14/2014 2:26 pm
In some of the country's largest cities, public school closures have become a familiar occurrence -- a phenomenon some community groups have blasted as coming at the expense of minority students.  A new report from the Journey For Justice Alliance is airing those concerns, specifically calling out charter school advocates and so-called school reformers for proliferating widespread shutdowns which have disproportionately affected black and Latino children.
The grassroots education civil rights consortium has partnered with the Advancement Project to file three federal complaints with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights, alleging that the impact of school shutdowns is racially discriminatory and thus violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The complaints are also backed by the nation's two largest teachers' unions.

NCLB Was A Failure: PBS Reporter John Merrow Condemns Myopic Fixation on Testing
Network for Public Education by janresseger 15 May 2014
This week John Merrow, the PBS education reporter and columnist, insists that we tell ourselves the truth, even though some of our leaders want to keep pretending that test-based school reform is our path to universal academic prowess.  You’ll remember of course, that 2014 is the year the No Child Left Behind Act projected all American children would be above average.  Except it didn’t work.  Writing about the flat, unimproved scores among high school seniors released last week by the National Assessment for Education Progress, Merrow challenges our society’s complacent, bipartisan support for test-and-punish accountability—the school reform philosophy enshrined in federal law in January, 2002.  He writes: “Any thinking person, Republican or Democrat, looking at those numbers squarely in the face would have to question the path we are on.  No one in power seems to want to do that.”

PCCY invites you to get on the School Spirit Bus to Harrisburg on Tuesday June 10th for Fair and Full School Funding!
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
On Tuesday June 10th, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be going to Harrisburg.  Join committed parents, leaders, and community members from around state to make it clear to Harrisburg that PA students need fair and full funding now!  We are providing free transportation to and from Harrisburg as well as lunch.   Please arrive at the United Way Building located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway no later than8:15am.  The bus will depart at 8:30am sharp! Reserve your seat today by emailing us at or calling us at 215-563-5848 x11. You can download and share our flyer by clicking here. We hope to see you there!

Dinniman: Roundtable Discussion on Education in Pa. set for May 21
Senator Dinniman's website  MAY 13, 2014
WEST CHESTER (May 13)  – State Senator Andy Dinniman announced today that he is bringing together education professionals and advocates from throughout the region for a roundtable discussion on critical issues in education on Wednesday, May 21 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Technical College High School – Brandywine Campus.
“Parents, teachers, students and education professionals from suburban and urban school districts across Pennsylvania recently united against the expansion of the Keystone Graduation Exams,” Dinniman said. “Now, another pressing issue will bring together suburban and urban schools from throughout the region – the need to adequately support and sustain public education for the future.”  The panel will feature education professionals from Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Philadelphia counties as well as representatives from major education organizations, including:
·         Joe Ciresi, President, Spring-Ford Area School District Board of Directors.
·         Helen Gym, Parents United of Philadelphia.
·         Bill LaCoff, President-Elect of the Pennsylvania School Board Association, Owen J. Roberts School District Board of Directors.
·         Larry Feinberg, Keystone State Education Coalition, Haverford Township School District Board of Directors.
·         Joe O’Brien, Executive Director, Chester County Intermediate Unit.
·         Joan Duvall-Flynn, President and Education Committee Chair of the NAACP, Media Branch.
·         Hillary Linardopoulos, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
·         Korri Brown, President, Southeast Region, Pennsylvania State Education Association.
·         Mike Churchill, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
·         Mark Miller, Director, Network for Public Education, Vice-President of the Centennial School District Board of Directors.

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:

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:

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

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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