Friday, May 9, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 9, 2014: Yes, property taxes need to be fixed. But SB76 isn't the answer

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 9, 2014:
Yes, property taxes need to be fixed. But SB76 isn't the answer

Please consider signing this petition in support of pending Special Education Legislation
Protect Students with Disabilities: Support HB 2138
Thousands of families and advocates for children with disabilities spent tireless hours over the past several years urging members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to address the critical need for special education funding reforms.  The first step toward those reforms — the creation of a legislative Special Education Funding commission to examine and propose system-wide changes — was approved three different times by the full Senate and twice by the full House of Representatives, and was signed by the Governor last year

SB76: Yes, property taxes need to be fixed. But the Senate bill isn't the answer: As I See It
PennLive Op-Ed  By Nathan Mains, Jim Buckheit, Jay Himes and Joseph Bard on May 08, 2014 at 2:00 PM, updated May 08, 2014 at 2:03 PM
Nathan Mains is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association Jim Buckheit is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators 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
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, legislation before the state Senate which would eliminate this tax, is not the answer for either schools or the taxpayers who foot the bill. 

Jazz buff Sen. Vince Hughes riffs his way through the state budget: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek |  on May 08, 2014 at 4:50 PM
On one wall in state Sen. Vince Hughes’ state Capitol office, jazz legends stare down from framed, black-and-white prints.  Miles. Bird. Lady Day. Duke. They cast their shadow over a conference table in the Philadelphia Democrat’s suite on the building’s “E” floor (for “entropy” maybe?).    And they’re as an apt a metaphor as any to describe the experience of talking with Hughes, whose jazz solo rhetorical style is marked by digressions and explorations that eventually return him to the original theme of the conversation.  And on a rainy Wednesday this week, a looming $1.2 billion budget gap — and how to fill it — was topic No. 1. It’s something that Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has spent a great deal of time thinking about. 

"But he said he considers the money for early childhood “the best investment going.”  He said each dollar invested in early childhood saves $17 in later costs, including incarceration. He said it also improves lives."
Corbett pushes more money for early childhood education
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-GAzette
In what he termed a tight budget year, Gov. Tom Corbett came to Pittsburgh today to promote his proposal to spend an additional $25.5 million on early childhood programs in 2014-15.
Mr. Corbett visited the Small World Early Learning and Development Center 2, Downtown.
Small World offers a classroom of PreK Counts in each of its two Downtown Centers. The proposed additional money for early childhood includes $10 million for PreK Counts that would enable 1,670 more children ages 4 and 5 to attend quality preschool programs statewide, including about 160 in Allegheny County.

"No more funneling tax dollars to testing corporations.  Instead let’s invest in child health care, nutrition, and books.  Why these?  Because unlike standards and tests we have more than 30 years worth of research that these investments actually help children experience success in school."
“It’s poverty stupid!”
At the Chalk Face MAY 4, 2014 BY TIMOTHY D. SLEKAR
What follows below is nothing original.  It’s simply another reminder.
I know this is an unpopular thing to say in certain education circles but someone has to say it: Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments will do little to nothing to help eliminate the achievement gap!  Why? Because the achievement gap is really an opportunity gap.  Standards and tests just measure the opportunities that we fail to provide our most vulnerable students.  Since 1983’s false education crisis alert (A Nation at Risk) our public schools have been subjected to a 30-year barrage of standards and tests.  Some of those standards have been extremely well written and some of the testing carried out with extreme care.  Some of the standards were poor in quality and the testing atmosphere was problematic.  However, good and bad, both demonstrated one thing consistently—race, socioeconomics, and geography predict the test scores of test takers.  In other words, standards and tests measure the historic inequities, and racial disparities our society fails to address.  Standards and tests are racially biased tools that measure systemic poverty!

Mastery drops out; Steel to stay in District
thenotebook by Bill Hangley, Jr. on May 08 2014 Posted in Latest news
Following a spirited campaign and a decisive parent vote, Mastery Charter says it is withdrawing from contention to run the Edward T. Steel School in Nicetown, leaving it in the hands of its District staff.  “The parents said they don’t want to partner with us, and we respect that,” said Mastery spokesperson Sheila Ballen.  Mastery officials made the announcement in a statement this morning, shortly after meeting with Steel’s principal. District officials soon followed with a statement of their own, saying they will recommend that the school remain under District control, pending a vote by the School Reform Commission later this month.

At Council hearing, parents, students plead for more money for schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, May 8, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 6:08 PM
PHILADELPHIA Adam Bachmann is George Washington High School's only counselor, one adult responsible for the emotional needs and college hopes of 1,800 students.  On Wednesday, he took to City Council an urgent message: Fund Philadelphia public schools.  "A lot of lives have been lost because of the budget, and we haven't seen the worst of it yet," said Bachmann, referring to students who he said will not attend college this year because of a lack of adult guidance.  Continuing Council's hearing on the Philadelphia School District budget, dozens of students, parents, and teachers trooped to the microphone and sounded similar pleas.

State presses criminal charges against 5 Philadelphia educators in cheating scandal
thenotebook on May 08 2014 Posted in Latest news
by David Limm and Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook and Kevin McCorry for Newsworks
Five School District of Philadelphia educators who worked at Cayuga Elementary have been criminally charged in connection with the state's investigation into widespread cheating in city schools on standardized tests.  Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced today that school's former principal, Evelyn Cortez, and four teachers -- Jennifer Hughes, Lorraine Vicente, Rita Wyszynski, and Ary Sloane -- have been charged with fostering a culture of cheating on the state's standardized tests, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, over a period of five years.

Harrisburg schools may not be out of the woods in state test cheating investigation
By Jan Murphy | on May 08, 2014 at 6:19 PM
The five Philadelphia educators who are accused of changing student answers on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment might not be the only ones who find themselves facing charges related to cheating on state tests.  View full sizeHarrisburg schools remain under investigation for suspected cheating on PSSAs, a source familiar with the probe said.Shutterstock
The Attorney General’s office, which filed charges on Thursday against those educators at Philadelphia’s Cayuga Elementary School, indicated its investigation is ongoing into widespread cheating in other school districts as well.  Harrisburg School District, which was under investigation by the Department of Education for cheating in 2012, is among those that remain in investigators’ crosshairs, said a source familiar with the investigation.

Allentown School District may require 29 more teacher cuts
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  on May 08, 2014 at 11:48 PM
The Allentown School District presented a revised budget proposal tonight that raises taxes 5.85 percent and taps into $3.9 million in reserve funds.  But Superintendent Russell Mayo said that budget depends on the district getting a $5.2 million state grant that he said is in jeopardy due to the state's own financial woes.  If the district does not get the grant, Mayo said the district may have to cut 29 more positions, in addition to the 100 layoffs they already announced in March.

Seneca Valley considers another tax increase
Post-Gazette By Laure Cioffi May 8, 2014 7:25 AM
School board members will vote Monday, May 12, on the proposed 2014-15 budget that includes a 3.7 mill tax increase. The increase would mean the tax rate would be 116.45 mills.  A resident living in a home with a market value of $175,500, with a current assessment of $23,690, will pay an extra $88 in taxes if school board members approve the 3.7 mill increase.  School board president Eric DiTullio said about half of that tax increase will go toward the district’s $2.4 million payment into the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System this year.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Brown
Yinzercation Blog May 8, 2014
Next week marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision desegregating schools. To be sure, much has changed since 1954 here in Pittsburgh and across the country. The Steel City now regularly tops the list of “best” cities to live in, raise a family, buy a house, and see public art. We have the best views, most dramatic entry to the city, and even the best tree canopy! [Post-Gazette, 4-28-14] But “best” for whom?
Despite our many successes, Pittsburgh remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States with trenchant social, economic, health, and educational disparities. Consider this:

One-size-fits-all fails in education
Lancaster Online LTE by Carl D. Keener Posted: Friday, May 9, 2014 3:30 am
Kurt Hoffman asks in his column (Sunday News, May 4), “Are mandated education standards fair?”  No, they are not. If we assume that educational achievement follows a distribution that is roughly unimodal and symmetric (i.e., the bell-shaped curve), then no matter where one draws the arbitrary line that indicates proficiency, there will always be students, regardless of effort, who will never attain that level of achievement. The highest standards and all the educational mandates in the world won’t change that fact.

School boards disapprove of Congress’s attempt to expand charter schools
NSBA School Board News Today Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2014
The National School Boards Association (NSBA), the leading advocate for public education representing more than 90,000 local school board members, is opposed to H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which is scheduled for a floor vote this week.  Decisions regarding charter schools should rest with the state and the local school board, not federal lawmakers, NSBA contends.  The legislation also fails to recognize that to protect student outcomes, charter schools should be authorized exclusively by the local school board.
“Charter schools absent school board oversight have far less accountability for student achievement than traditional public schools,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director.  “The school board governance model protects student outcomes for the many, not the few, and strives to resolve inequities in educational delivery and service.”

"But while the president may have a view of teaching that involves more than test results, his administration's policies have arguably failed to focus attention beyond that aspect."
Obama Administration Sends Mixed Messages on Teachers and Testing
Education Week By Ross Brenneman Published Online: May 6, 2014
Baltimore teacher Sean McComb is beginning his first full week as the newly minted National Teacher of the Year, timed conveniently to coincide with Teacher Appreciation Week.
In a ceremony held in the White House East Room last week, President Barack Obama praised McComb and other Teachers of the Year representing every state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories as the "best of the best."  "Students know that what teachers give them stays with them for a lifetime," the president said. He noted that great teachers take on the role of counselor, that they become the inspiration for their students to do big things, and that they do more than "going through the motions of teaching to the test."
That "teaching to the test" line, and similar statements, have made their way into the president's remarks before. In this year's State of the Union address, for instance, Obama called for "better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test."

Mixed messages? Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to you too Mr. President…..
Presidential Proclamation -- National Charter Schools Week, 2013
…."NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 5 through May 11, 2013, as National Charter Schools Week. I commend our Nation's charter schools, teachers, and administrators, and I call on States and communities to support charter schools and the students they serve."

Chicago Teachers Union votes to oppose Common Core
CTU cites concerns over testing, curriculum, and "an overreach of federal power" in opposing new, more rigorous learning standards.
Chicago Public Media WBEZ By: Linda Lutton May 8, 2014
In a vote that seemed to take education observers, school district officials, and even many teachers by surprise, delegates to the Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution Wednesday evening saying the union formally opposes the Common Core State Standards, which are being implemented in schools across Chicago, Illinoisand some 44 other states.   In a statement released to the media, the union said the resolution “enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.”

PA Charter Schools: Opportunities and Questions -
EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - May 11 at 3:00 p.m. 
The next EPLC "Focus on Education" episode will air this coming Sunday, May 11 at 3:00 p.m. on PCN television.  This May 11 panel will discuss what charter schools are, where they're located, what parents need to know when considering a charter school, how charter schools are funded, how they are held accountable for student performance, who charter students are, what charter school "reform" efforts are being considered by state legislators, why charters are so controversial in some places, and other issues related to charter schools.
The panel will include: 
  • Ron Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and Host of the "Focus on Education" programs;  
  • Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr., Democratic Chairman, PA House Education Committee;
  • Maurice "Reese" Flurie, Ed.D., CEO, Commonwealth Connections Academy;
  • Lawrence F. Jones, Jr., Founding CEO, Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School and President, Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools; and
  • Nathan G. Mains, Executive Director, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Visit the EPLC web site for resources on charter schools.

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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