Monday, June 16, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 16: Tenure Is Not the Problem

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
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 16, 2014: Tenure Is Not the Problem

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 14: Only 'how,' not 'how much' The new commission will examine only resource allocation, not funding levels.

EPLC Education Notebook Friday, June 13, 2014

Delco Times Editorial: End natural-gas industry's huge tax break
POSTED: 06/14/14, 10:00 PM EDT | UPDATED: 14 SECS AGO
Every year, state legislators make a lot of noise about reforming or ending property taxes.
And for good reason.  Property taxes are not progressive, and the state’s reliance on them to pay for our public schools creates serious fiscal issues for school districts. As costs increase, school boards have little choice but to raise property taxes to cover their budgets — and that especially hurts people on fixed incomes. Taxpayers deserve a break, our legislators constantly remind us.
But there is one group of property owners that is getting a huge break on property (and other) taxes.  The natural gas drilling industry.  Because of a 2002 Supreme Court ruling, gas drillers are exempt from paying property taxes on the oil and gas reserves they own. The exemption doesn’t apply to other minerals. Nor does it apply to any other industry.

With city schools needing more funds, eyes turn to Harrisburg
To pupils and parents, the story line is all too familiar: The School District of Philadelphia needs at least $216 million next year to maintain an educational environment few would claim to be adequate - and school leaders are hoping for much more money on top of that.  City Council approved a bill last week that guarantees the schools $120 million next year from Philadelphia's extra 1 percent sales tax.  But the civic purse now is likely to snap shut.   "We've played our hand," Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr. said. "This is the best effort we could put forward."  The action now shifts to Harrisburg, where state legislators are dealing with a complex swirl of issues, including the commonwealth's own $1 billion deficit.

Here's how NOT to fix Pennsylvania's pension mess: Stephen Herzenberg
PennLive Op-Ed  By Stephen Herzenberg  on June 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Stephen Herzenberg is the Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.
There is a reason the payday loan industry is so successful.  It preys on vulnerable families with the promise of fast cash now to take care of pressing needs.  The catch is, as with any debt, the bills will always come due.  This is the fundamental problem with Gov. Tom Corbett's current state pension proposal.   It preys on a legislature desperate to take care of a pressing need – a $1 billion budget shortfall of its own making.  To help address this shortfall, the Governor wants to "reduce the pension collars."  In plain English, this would allow the state to lower its legally required payments into the pension system.   But lowering this year's pension payments is like putting more debt on the state credit card.  The bill will always come due. 

Charter schools fight to prevent funding cuts
By Chris Barber, Daily Local News POSTED: 06/14/14, 6:21 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
LONDON GROVE — Parents and administrators aligned with Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar charter schools (as opposed to cyber charters) are facing the threat of reduced state funding for special education that could lead to their closings.  On Monday, about 200 representatives of the Avon Grove Charter School rode to Harrisburg to protest the passage of two identical bills — one in the state Senate and one in the state House of Representatives — that change the criteria by which money is allotted for students with disabilities.  According to Avon Grove Charter Head of School Kevin Brady, it involves applying a three-tiered system to determining how much funding will be given. The tiers represent levels of disability, with students whose disabilities are more severe qualifying for higher subsidies than those with lesser ones.

"While it had renewed the school's charter in the past, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools voted unanimously in spring 2012 against renewal, saying the school serving grades 9-12 didn't meet all of the conditions of its charter, didn't meet requirements for student performance, and didn't provide expanded choices or serve as a model."
As Lawrenceville charter school closes its doors, a sense of loss prevails
High school's shuttering expected to displace hundreds of students
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 15, 2014 10:38 PM
C.J. Nemit, a sophomore at Career Connections Charter High School, cried when he first heard his school will close this week.  After a negative experience at Pittsburgh Brashear High School in Beechview, which has about 1,400 students, Mr. Nemit, 18, of Arlington, had found his niche at Career Connections in Lawrenceville, which has 225 students. He repeated ninth grade there and is finishing 10th grade.  To him, the school is "almost like a family unit." As to where he will go next, he said, "I have no idea."  Tim McIlhone, CEO since March 2011, said, "We're going to really make sure we help him transfer."  Founded by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, Career Connections opened in 1999 with a school-to-career focus, starting with ninth grade and expanding a grade per year. It already was on the ropes when Mr. Nemit arrived.

The state of education: A necessary slap
Editorial By The Tribune-Review  Published: Sunday, June 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
A ruling that teacher tenure and layoffs by seniority violate the California Constitution deals a sharp, much-needed blow to laws and practices that put the interests of teachers before those of students.  Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu compared Vergara v. California to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education racial-segregation case. He wrote that Brownwas about the right of students “to equality of the educational experience” and Vergara is about their right to “quality of the educational experience.”  He ruled that California violates public school students' constitutional right to equal education by granting teachers tenure — after just two years — that makes firing even the worst practically impossible; by disregarding effectiveness with “last in, first out” teacher layoffs; and by disproportionately assigning ineffective teachers to predominantly minority and low-income schools. He said the “compelling” evidence “shocks the conscience” — but self-interested teachers unions quickly vowed they'd appeal anyway.

"Racial segregation continues to bedevil American society and is closely coupled with rising income segregation. Concentrations of poverty have much more to do with why poor and minority students often end up with the worst teachers than do tenure laws. If the plaintiffs were genuinely concerned about connecting great teachers with poor and minority kids, they would go after that problem, not the due process rights of teachers."
Tenure Is Not the Problem
Teacher protections are not why poor schools are failing. Segregation is.
Slate By Richard D. Kahlenberg June 13, 2014
On Tuesday, a California court struck down state teacher tenure and seniority protections as a violation of the rights of poor and minority students to an equal education. The decision, which will make it easier to fire bad teachers, who are disproportionately found in high-poverty schools, is being hailed as a great triumph for civil rights. Bruce Reed, president of the Broad Foundation and a former Democratic staffer, suggested the ruling was “another big victory” for students of color, in the tradition of Brown v. Board of Education.  But modifying teacher tenure rules is not the new Brown. The decision in Vergara v. California  won’t do much to help poor kids and is a diversion from the real source of inequality identified in Brown itself: the segregation of our public schools.

If 2 years is not enough time to develop teaching skills, as Judge Treu in Vergara says, where does that leave Teach For America?
California's Weak Case Against Teacher Tenure
Bloomberg Review By Noah Feldman 29 JUN 11, 2014 11:33 AM EDT
State constitutions are law’s Cinderellas. Ignored most of the time by their cruel stepsisters in the federal courts, they emerge suddenly as belles of the ball when a spectacular state court decision puts them front and center. The latest Prince Charming is the California judge who struck down teacher tenure as violating the right to education and equal protection. Unfortunately, the glass slipper doesn’t fit. The decision yesterday by Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu is terribly reasoned -- and it should be reversed.  Begin with the obvious: California’s teacher tenure laws seem hard to justify, apparently allowing tenure after two years, even before the credentialing process is complete. As a result, some teachers might be tenured without being credentialed.
But if every ill-drafted state and federal law were held unconstitutional, every court would have to be night court while the judges toiled overtime to strike them down.

Arne Duncan issues new statement with the ‘right lessons’ from Vergara trial
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 15 at 8:26 PM  
In case you weren’t sure what to think about last week’s verdict in the “Vergara trial” — in which a Los Angeles judge tossed out state statutes giving job protections to teachers — Education Secretary Arne Duncan issued a new statement Sunday offering what he thinks are the “right lessons” from the case.

"Almost all New York City schools saw their passing rates plummet when the Common Core curriculum became the basis of testing in 2013. But schools that were already struggling, especially those with many black or Hispanic students, fell the most."
Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes
New York Times By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ JUNE 14, 2014
He could have written about the green toy truck he kept hidden in his room, a reminder of Haiti, a place he did not yet fully understand.  He might have mentioned the second-place trophy he had won for reciting a psalm in French at church — “le bonheur et la grâce m’accompagneront tous les jours de ma vie...” — his one and only award.  He could have noted his dream of becoming an engineer or an architect, to one day have a house with a pool and a laboratory where he would turn wild ideas about winged cars and jet packs into reality.  But on a windy April afternoon, as the first real sun of spring fell on Public School 397 in Brooklyn, and empty supermarket bags floated through the sky, Chrispin Alcindor’s mind was elsewhere.

Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the NAACP and the Keystone State Education Coalition are sponsoring a public meeting with speakers from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center.
When:  Monday June 16th, 6-7 PM
Where: Delaware County Community College Southeast Center, Room 135
              2000 Elmwood Ave, Sharon Hill, PA 19079
Learn about how a statewide legal strategy could help students in William Penn, Southeast Delco and neighboring districts and how you might participate.  Legal experts and attorneys will be present to talk about the law, your children’s rights and a potential lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania based on the state Constitutional requirement to provide an education.

Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
Wednesday, June 18, Monday, June 23, and Monday, June 30
Education Voters PA
Governor Corbett’s “election-year” budget is falling apart. Revenue projections are down and Corbett and state legislators are looking to make more than $1.2 billion in cuts to his proposed 2014-2015 budget.  Lobbyists will be swarming the Capitol in the month of June and we need to be there, too.  Join Pennsylvanians from throughout the commonwealth as we send a loud and clear message that after three years of balancing the state budget on the backs of Pennsylvania’s public school children, it is time for our state government to do what is right and pass a fair budget that will provide students with the opportunities they need to meet state standards and be successful after they graduate.

PA Basic Ed. Funding Campaign: Building capacity to advocate for adequate, equitable school funding
PSBA website 6/10/2014
The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign seeks up to ten (10) regional "circuit riders" statewide to work with and support school system leaders to build capacity and advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system.
Regional Circuit Riders Contract Employment Announcement
The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign seeks up to ten (10) regional "circuit riders" statewide to work with and support school system leaders to build capacity and advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system. Circuit riders will support school system leaders by providing education and training about past and current school funding systems, principles and models of good school funding systems and effective advocacy strategies using information and materials provided by the Campaign. School system leaders include school directors, Intermediate Unit executive directors, district superintendents, business managers and other key school district leaders.  Building capacity among Pennsylvania school system leaders to advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system is one component of a broader multi-year effort that involves more than 25 organizations across Pennsylvania. This component is a collaborative effort of the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), PA School Boards Association (PSBA), PA Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and PA Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU). PASBO serves as the fiscal agent for the collaborative.

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

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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