Friday, May 30, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 30: Here's a school choice: markets do not ensure equity, social justice, civic engagement, and opportunity for all.

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 30, 2014:
Here's a school choice: markets do not ensure equity, social justice, civic engagement, and opportunity for all.

Blogger's note - Stark contrasts in the news today: Philly underfunding; suburban districts passing budgets; New Orleans closing last public school for a system of separate and unequal charters…..

"On the one hand, proponents of school choice would be thrilled – a major American city leads the way. In the eyes of national educational reformers, Philadelphia would now be their neoliberal poster child posed in front of Independence Hall. Most parents would be satisfied, although their children might not always be able to attend their first-choice schools. But regardless, individual preference would be the hallmark, and the books would be balanced.  On the other hand, we are all citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which should remind us that we are “people united by common interest.” Because it is perceived to be in the people’s interest, the Commonwealth requires that all its children be educated at public expense. In Philadelphia that common interest has long meant support for a single public school system, with a robust parochial and independent school network as an option.
The city’s public schools have accepted all children regardless of race, ethnicity, religious belief, socio-economic status, special need or spoken language. And the School District of Philadelphia has served a common purpose as reflected in its common curriculum and standards. A strong public school system has been considered in our common interest.
Which should suggest a caution: As our public schools slide inexorably into a new form of organization, we need to keep in mind that markets do not ensure equity, social justice, civic engagement, and opportunity for all."
Philly Takeover or turnaround? The School District's prospects
the notebook by James H. Lytle on May 29 2014 Posted in Commentary
James H. Lytle is Practice Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, a former District administrator, and a former superintendent in Trenton.
One of the undercurrents floating among parents and teachers is that the School District’s financial crisis has been created by elected officials and their allies in order to “charterize” and privatize the entire District.  Would this strategy be an answer to the budget problem? Charter schools can be significantly cheaper to operate than District schools, and demand from parents is high and growing. Were the District to become, essentially, a system of charter schools, with the School Reform Commission as authorizer, then perhaps we might have both a balanced budget and happy parents.  It may at first sound far-fetched or overblown, it may not. But it’s a scenario that’s looking like the SRC’s only practicable option other than bankruptcy. Because without substantial funding increases, the School District, as is, cannot be sustained.

Here's over a billion dollars in funding that the state has simply stopped paying and pushed down to local taxpayers…
Corbett budget skips school construction $$ for the 3rd year: Thursday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on May 29, 2014 at 8:58 AM, updated May 29, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.  We may be writing these words within eyeshot of the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but we still have our focus keenly trained on goings-on in the Keystone State.  Thus do we bring you news this morning that, for the third year in a row, school districts looking to fix leaky roofs and other crumbling infrastructure will have to do it on the backs of local taxpayers.  That's because the Corbett administration's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 continues a moratorium on funding new projects, our friends at The Tribune-Review report this morning.  The administration cut funding for new building applications in 2012, stalling 354 projects in various stages of completion or capital planning. At least 200 have since been financed -- some even finished -- with the expectation of state reimbursement that still hasn't come, the newspaper reports.

Passing Pa.'s standardized test to graduate from high school derided as 'unfunded mandate'
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 28, 2014
State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, (D-Chester County), introduced legislation in Harrisburg Wednesday that would exempt Pennsylvania high school students from having to pass standardized tests to graduate.  Starting with the class of 2017, Pennsylvania law dictates that students must show proficiency on Keystone standardized tests in Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts before earning diplomas.  Dinniman said recent state cuts to classroom education budgets make this requirement an "unfunded mandate" that will simply "stamp failure" on many students coming from impoverished school districts.  Dinniman's proposal, S.B. 1382, would leave graduation requirements up to individual districts.

"With a new superintendent and high school principal, the district has worked hard to promote itself as the "New" Chester Upland with stronger academics and less violence.
The effort has paid off, officials said, with a 900-student bump in enrollment this year.
The district is betting on even more students signing up next year, which is why its anticipated charter-school payment is $6 million less than this year."
Chester school district's deficit may be shrinking
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, May 30, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 8:03 PM
Chester Upland School District has been down so long that next year's $18 million budget gap looks like up.  School officials said the shortfall in the proposed $123 million spending plan - unveiled Thursday - is $5 million less than this year's deficit, which passes for good news in this era of extreme belt tightening by schools.

SRC refuses to pass budget with 'unacceptable' cuts
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, May 30, 2014, 1:08 AM  POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 10:12 PM
Taking an unexpected, unprecedented stand, the School Reform Commission refused Thursday night to pass a 2014-15 budget. Its officials said they would deliberately violate the City Charter by not approving a spending plan.  A visibly frustrated Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he could not recommend the $2.4 billion budget "as educationally sound or economically prudent for the city or state."  "Our severely under-resourced school system threatens the future of one of America's greatest cities," Hite said. He said the district needed $216 million more just to get to this year's service levels, which he called inadequate, and $440 million more from the city, state, and labor unions to open schools in decent shape.

"Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia urged the SRC to invite Gov. Corbett to come to an SRC meeting to hear how city students have so much less spent on them than students in surrounding, wealthier districts.
Ask him, Churchill urged, "why this is OK."
SRC won't adopt 'Doomsday II' budget
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on May 29 2014 Posted in Latest news
 [Updated 11:30 p.m.] The School Reform Commission declined Thursday to adopt a budget proposal that would raise class sizes as high as 41, cut 800 teachers, reduce special education services to their bare minimum, prevent all but the most basic building maintenance, and make further cuts in services like counselors and nurses.  The SRC made the decision even though failing to adopt a budget before the end of May violates the city charter.  "Rather than adopting a 'Doomsday II' budget – and give anyone the impression that the cuts it contains are feasible or acceptable – we are going to not act on the budget tonight," announced SRC Chairman Bill Green. "Instead, we will continue to focus our energy and attention on securing the needed funding for our schools."

Philly School Reform Commission refuses to adopt 'empty shell' budget
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 29, 2014
After receiving a devastatingly bleak portrait of the potentially necessary cuts to the Philadelphia School District's bottom line, the School Reform Commission defied the city charter Thursday night by refusing to adopt a budget for fiscal year 2015.   The district currently faces a $440 million budget shortfall. It needs $216 million in additional revenue merely to open schools next year with this year's bare-bones, "doomsday" level of services.  The additional $224 million would help the district implement Superintendent William Hite's vision for system-wide growth.
The district currently cannot count on any of this funding.

"As a manager, I have to present a budget, but as an educator, I do not support this proposed budget," an emotional Hite said. "Until there is more certainty around revenue from the state and the city [I am recommending] that the SRC do not take action on this budget."  The SRC backed the move, which drew a standing ovation from parents, students and education advocates who packed the auditorium at the district's headquarters on North Broad Street."
SRC eschews 'doomsday' vote
I N AN unprecedented move, the School Reform Commission opted yesterday not to vote on a proposed "doomsday" budget that would have required more than 1,000 layoffs, significantly increased class sizes, reduced school police and special-education services.  Under the city charter, the school district is required to adopt a budget by May 30. Superintendent William Hite said the district needs a clearer answer from city and state lawmakers on the district's request for an additional $216 million before it can come up with a realistic spending plan.

Divided Radnor Township School Board adopts $85.9 million budget
By Linda Stein Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014
In a 5-4 vote along party lines, the Radnor Township School Board Tuesday adopted an $85.9 million budget for the 2014-2015 school year.  The budget, which does not raise real estate taxes, includes funding for full day kindergarten and requires no program cuts. The millage rate was kept at 21.7122 mills. The board also appropriated $1,062,922 from the fund balance [savings] toward the district’s share of the employee retirement contribution. Also, $217,140 was earmarked for the student iPad program at Radnor High School.

"As in years past, it is the jump in contributions to the state Public School Employees’ Retirement System that is the biggest attention-grabber. That total is pegged at $6.9 million for the next fiscal year, for an increase of 26.4 percent over 2013-14."
Wallingford-Swarthmore approves budget
Delco Times By NEIL A. SHEEHAN, Times Correspondent POSTED: 05/29/14, 10:40 PM EDT |
NETHER PROVIDENCE — With more than a month to spare before the deadline, the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board has already given the final thumbs-up to the district’s budget for fiscal year 2014-15.  There were no comments from anyone on the board or members of the public prior to the 7-1 vote in favor of the $71.3 million spending plan on Monday night. Board member Richard Sonntag was absent while Vincent Marriott participated by phone.
Robert Reiger cast the only “no” vote, but did not offer an explanation for that decision.
Property owners will see their school taxes rise by 2.1 percent under the budget. That will translate into a hike of $149 for a property assessed at the district average assessed value of about $178,000, for a total of $7,215.

"O’Donnell noted the major increases in the budget are retirement and health care, which combined have raised about 25 percent. He cited the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which has hiked from 16.9 percent to 21.4 percent."
Rose Tree Media OKs 1.9 percent tax spike
Delco Times by LESLIE KROWCHENKO POSTED: 05/29/14, 10:42 PM EDT |
MIDDLETOWN — The Rose Tree Media School Board, which earlier this year committed to a tax increase no higher than the Act I index of 2.1 percent, adopted an $87.3 million final 2014-2015 budget and corresponding 1.9 percent tax hike.  Set by the state, the Act I index determines the maximum increase which can be levied by each school district, unless application for exceptions is made to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The last time the board made a request was in 2009, when taxes were raised 4.8 percent.

In New Orleans, major school district closes traditional public schools for good
Washington Post WRITTEN BY Lyndsey Layton PUBLISHED: MAY 28
NEW ORLEANS — The second-graders paraded to the Dumpster in the rear parking lot, where they chucked boxes of old work sheets, notebooks and other detritus into the trash, emptying their school for good.  Benjamin Banneker Elementary closed Wednesday as New Orleans’s Recovery School District permanently shuttered its last five traditional public schools this week.
With the start of the next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a milestone for New Orleans and a grand experiment in urban education for the nation.

New Orleans' Recovery School District Is Officially an All-Charter System
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Lesli A. Maxwell on May 29, 2014 10:18 AM
Nine years after Louisiana education officials swept most of New Orleans' chronically under-performing schools into a state-controlled district after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the last handful of non-charter, "traditional" schools run by the Recovery School District have been closed for good.  As reported this morning by the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton, and reported many months ago by the Times-Picayune, the Recovery School District—which at one time operated nearly 35 schools—has converted fully to an all-charter school system. The last five schools the RSD operated directly will not reopen again in September. Hundreds of RSD teachers and other employees will lose their jobs as the district evolves to manage issues such as citywide truancy, special education, and the common application system for charter schools.
It's a breathtaking makeover of an urban school system that, before the hurricane, had 120 schools and 60,000 students run by an elected school board that was bedeviled by mismanagement and corruption.

"Formula for success: close public schools. Open charter schools. Fire veteran teachers. Replace them with TFA. Spend billions to refurbish buildings. This is the same formula that is being imported to urban districts across the nation. Is it sustainable? Did it really “work” or is this a manufactured success, bolstered by billions from the Waltons and other philanthropists who favor privatization?"
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch May 29, 2014 //
Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post describes the triumph of the reform movement in New Orleans: The last public school has closed for good.  A few observations.
All schools in New Orleans are now charter schools.  It’s hard to compare achievement pre-and post-Katrina because so many students never returned after the hurricane. Test scores are up, graduation rates are up, but populations are different. “By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

Common Core School Standards Face a New Wave of Opposition
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH MAY 29, 2014
Opposition to the Common Core, a set of reading and math standards for elementary, middle and high school students that were originally adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, has gathered momentum among state lawmakers in recent weeks.  The governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering signing bills to repeal the standards and replace them with locally written versions. In Missouri, lawmakers passed a bill that would require a committee of state educators to come up with new standards within the next two years.  Although the Common Core, developed by a coalition convened by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, was initially backed by a group of Republican governors, the Obama administration also lent its support. For the past year, conservative Republicans, seizing on the administration’s backing, have argued that the standards amount to a federal takeover of public schools.

"We support higher standards and rigor in the classroom, but every day, concern among parents is growing over Common Core. The feds are taking over and rushing this. Let's face it: centralized planning didn't work in Russia, it's not working with our health care system and it won't work in education. Education is best left to local control," said Jindal through a written statement."
Bobby Jindal accused of playing 'presidential politics' with Common Core
By Julia O'Donoghue, | The Times-Picayune  on May 22, 2014 at 6:30 AM,
After weeks of ratcheting up the anti-Common Core rhetoric, Gov. Bobby Jindal issued some of his most blistering remarks on the academic standards yet Wednesday night (May 21).
"We support higher standards and rigor in the classroom, but every day, concern among parents is growing over Common Core. The feds are taking over and rushing this. Let's face it: centralized planning didn't work in Russia, it's not working with our health care system and it won't work in education. Education is best left to local control," said Jindal through a written statement.
The governor was responding to a letter sent by 33 state lawmakers urging him to block the use of a Common Core-associated test. He had made similar declarations in a USA TODAY opinion piece last month, but his comments regarding the local Louisiana dispute over Common Core are usually more measured.

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

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!

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

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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