Monday, June 23, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 23: New PA evaluation tools for principals, nonteaching professionals don't apply to charter schools

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 23, 2014:
New PA evaluation tools for principals, nonteaching professionals don't apply to charter schools

EPLC Education Notebook

Waltons - save more, live better, dismantle democratically-governed American public education.  More than three quarters of a billion dollars since 2009.  Where do you shop?
Here are some "highlights" from the Walton Family Foundation's annual report:
·         The foundation announced that it has invested more than $330 million in public charter school grants since 1997. The Walton Family Foundation has provided startup funding to one in every four public charter schools nationally. That's 1,500 public charter schools serving over 600,000 students.
·         A $20 million commitment was made to Teach For America to support the recruitment, training and professional development of nearly 4,000 first- and second-year teachers in nine communities. The foundation is the largest supporter of Teach For America and has invested more than $95 million in the organization since 1993.

Pennsylvania's $1 billion budget deficit could lead Corbett toward gas drilling severance tax
By Karen Langley & Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- As Gov. Tom Corbett heads into his final state budget before the election, a revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion appears to be wearing down his opposition to imposing a severance tax on Pennsylvania's natural gas industry.  Last week at a Capitol news conference, Mr. Corbett said he doesn't like the idea of a severance tax, but the opposition he expressed earlier in his term, when he instead favored a locally directed, per-well "impact" fee, might be giving way as Pennsylvania confronts a massive budget gap.  Without new revenue, the spending plan for the 2014-15 fiscal year would involve significant cuts to state programs.
"It's not a pretty picture, and we certainly don't want that," Mr. Corbett said.
At the same time, the Republican governor said he will not consider new or higher taxes until legislators send him a bill designed to reduce the state's costs for the pensions of future school and state workers.

In a cash-poor budget, Corbett's tattered tax pledge could be shredded finally: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek |  on June 20, 2014 at 10:20 AM
Anyone remember Gov. Tom Corbett's famous no-tax hike pledge? 
It looks kind of quaint, now, doesn't it?
In case you've forgotten, the Republican ran, and won, the state's highest elected office in 2010 with the catnip-for-conservatives pledge authored by activist Grover Norquist.   Back then, with the economy in the tank and the state facing a $4.2 billion deficit,Corbett's pledge might have struck some as a good idea. It's GOP bedrock, after all, that higher taxes are anathema to economic growth.   But this year, with his approval numbers in the basement and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf surging by double-digits in early polls, Corbett will have to run from it as fast and as hard as he can if he wants to hold onto his job.
And based on the chatter around the Capitol this week, that's already well underway.

New taxes, big deficits and some booze -- all you need to know about the Pa. budget in five Tweets: Friday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | on June 20, 2014 at 8:30 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Corbett administration Budget Czar Charles Zogby swung by PennLive World HQ yesterday for a little bit of quality time with the Editorial Board. And we have to say, it was a fairly enlightening discussion.  Everything from pensions to liquor privatization and the state's ongoing revenue problems was fair game -- ditto for the likelihood of new taxes.  For those of you who weren't able to attend, herewith, thanks to the miracle of the Internets, is everything you need to know about Budget 2014 in five, easy Tweets:

Inquirer Editorial: State's turn to do more
POSTED: Sunday, June 22, 2014, 1:09 AM
After a tortuous year of unseemly power plays, City Council finally made an eleventh-hour promise last week to give Philadelphia's beleaguered public schools an additional $30 million in bond funds to be retired quickly by an increase in the local sales tax.
Now it's the duty of the state legislature and Gov. Corbett to help this city's children, who this past year have gone without books, supplies, counselors, teachers, nurses, aides, and adequate security.  This city's public education system is neither thorough nor efficient, as required by the state constitution, because the state has not met its responsibility to adequately fund Pennsylvania's schools.

Could a broke actuary doom pension overhaul?
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 19, 2014 9:08 PM
As state House Republicans work to find votes for a bill to overhaul public pension benefits, one opponent says there's another problem down the road.  Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland) said several necessary amendments to the proposal be analyzed by the Pennsylvania Employee Retirement Commission (PERC). The agency is legally required to provide actuarial analysis of any legislation's impact on public pensions before the bills can receive a vote.
Problem is, PERC has run out of funding.

Special-ed charter funding skews Pa. numbers
Washington TImes By PATRICK VARINE and DAVEEN RAE KURUTZ  Associated Press Saturday, June 21, 2014
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Frazier School District business manager Kevin Mildren compared the state’s formula for special-education funding to taking a size 10 shoe and trying to force it on every foot in Pennsylvania.  Charter schools, privately operated but publicly funded, were set up to provide alternatives for parents who sought a different approach to their children’s education. When parents choose a charter school, districts must redirect taxpayer money - known as tuition - for those children’s education to the new school.  For special-education students, often the sum is greater than the cost in the student’s home district because of a flawed funding approach that does not reflect the services a student needs, critics say.
New evaluation tool required for principals and administrators "won't take any more time", "won't cost districts anything" and,… wait for it… doesn't apply to charter schools…….
New evaluation tools for principals, nonteaching professionals effective July 1
PSBA website June 19, 2014
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) published its rules and two separate evaluation rating tools for principals and nonteaching professionals in the June 14 issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Established under the Chapter 19 regulations created last year for the evaluation of classroom teachers, the rules are effective July 1, 2014.
The new tools are applicable to principals and nonteaching professionals of a Local Education Agency (LEA) defined as school district, area vocational-technical school, career technology center or intermediate unit.  Charter schools are not included and are not required to use the new system for their educators.  A "principal/school leader'" includes a building principal, an assistant principal, a vice principal or a director of vocational education. A "nonteaching professional employee" includes education specialists, supervisors in positions not identified as principals/school leaders and instructional staff who are not assigned classroom teacher or principal positions.

Neumann University vice president added to Pennsylvania State Charter School Appeal Board
Delco Times POSTED: 06/22/14, 12:23 AM EDT |
Neumann University Vice President Jonathan Peri was appointed to the Pennsylvania State Charter School Appeal Board by Gov. Tom Corbett. The appointment, announced by the university Monday, went into effect June 4.  The board hears appeals brought forth by charter school applicants whose proposals are rejected by local school boards.  Peri, of Thornbury, also sits on the state board of education, having been appointed to a six-year term in 2010 by former Gov. Ed Rendell. He previously was appointed to the state’s Tuition Account Program Advisory Board in 2009.  At Neumann, Peri serves as the university’s chief legal officer and as the Center for Leadership program director. He also is the president of the Delaware County Bar Association’s Board of Directors and the chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Walden School in Media.

Philly Council panel votes for referendum to abolish SRC
A Philadelphia City Council committee has approved without a recommendation a petition request for a change in governance of the Philadelphia Public Schools.  The nonbinding referendum would ask the state to abolish the School Reform Commission and return the district to local control.  Hillary Linardopoulos of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union said a referendum is the way to send a message to state officials.  "The voices of Philadelphians are often unheard in Harrisburg," she said. "And when you have this public outcry, it will make it harder for legislators there not to listen to our efforts."
About 40,000 residents signed petitions seeking the referendum.

Train teachers like doctors
Make teachers colleges just as hard to get into and graduate from as medical school, suggests author AMANDA RIPLEY
Post Gazette Opinion by Amanda Ripley June 22, 2014 12:00 AM
So far this month in education news, a California court has decimated rigid job protections for teachers and Oklahoma’s governor has abolished the most rigorous learning standards that state has ever had. Back and forth we go in America’s exhausting tug-of-war over schools — local vs. federal control, union vs. management, us vs. them.  But something else is happening, too. Something that hasn’t made many headlines but has the potential to finally revolutionize education in ways these nasty feuds never will.

“Supers” for Pre-K
To Pennsylvania Elected Leaders,
We, the below signed Pennsylvania Superintendents, are well aware of the decades of respected research showing the benefits of quality early education. Research shows: children who have had access to high-quality pre-K arrive ready for school, do well in school, and exhibit important skills for further in life. However, we also hold a more tangible understanding of this issue. Every year, new children arrive to register for Kindergarten with a divergent range of skills and readiness.
Perhaps due to the cost of quality pre-school, which is out of reach for many families, too many children are enrolling in Kindergarten unprepared for a classroom setting and in need of extra assistance. Unfortunately, the preparation children need to be ready to enter Kindergarten is difficult for school districts to provide prior to enrollment. Through no fault of their own, child care centers, nursery schools, and pre-k programs lack the capacity or resources to offer high quality pre-K programs to all children in Pennsylvania.

Join Supers for Pre-K
Pre-KforPA website
If you or your school board would like to sign an endorsement in favor of pre-k, please contact our regional field offices.

With appeal pending, arts charter school delays potential opening
It cannot operate until a state board rules on whether to overturn its rejection by Allentown School District.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:14 p.m. EDT, June 20, 2014
Tom Lubben hasn't given up hope that his twice-rejected Arts Academy Elementary Charter School will open. But he is delaying a potential opening until the middle of next school year.
Lubben, the founder whose application was rejected by the Allentown School Board for a second time in May, informed parents earlier this month that the school won't open until January at the earliest, he said Friday.  That is, of course, if the school opens at all.
Following the school board's second rejection, the charter application is moving to the state's Charter School Appeal Board. The appeal board meets in late July but likely won't render a decision until its September or October meeting, Lubben said.
The hijacking of the charter school movement
School Board Blogger by David Hutchinson Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The concept of charter schools was first articulated back in the 1970s by Albert Shanker, the head of the New York City teachers’ union. Charter schools were conceived as an extension of the public school system – “incubators of experimentation” – to be run by public school teachers, but having the flexibility to try out new ideas, which, if successful, could be templates for school improvement.  This is an appealing idea, and if fact, there are some pretty good local examples of such experimentation. In State College, one of our charter schools was built on the small learning community model; another emphasizes project-based learning; yet another, the teaching of multiple languages. These models have value to students and their parents, and provide us with useful insight.  But the relationship we have with these schools is atypical, statewide, and state policy actually makes it difficult to achieve.  First, Pennsylvania law allows for almost no local oversight of charter schools. In fact, there is almost no oversight of any kind – and no mechanism for closing an ineffective school. There is neither accountability nor transparency; it is next to impossible to find out how charter schools spend their money. And while the local school district technically has the authority to authorize or deny a charter school application, the Dept. of Education has made it quite clear that it is willing to overrule local decisions.

North Allegheny school leaders discuss merits of International Baccalaureate program
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Tory N. Parrish Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
Some North Allegheny school leaders say the district should again weigh the potential costs of adding an International Baccalaureate program against programs in the district.  “I have not seen anything yet that makes me think it would make our schools substantially better, but if someone shows me evidence that it will, then I would reconsider,” school board member Kevin Mahler said on Friday.  IB World Schools are rigorous academic programs built around inquiry-based learning. Two local public school districts offer them — Pittsburgh Public Schools' Barack Obama Academy for International Studies and three schools in the Upper St. Clair School District — along with Vincentian Academy, a Catholic school in Ross.
The North Allegheny board discussed the topic last week while talking about the 2013-14 strategic plan update.  “We shouldn't just sit on our laurels here saying that what we've achieved so far is good enough,” board member Maureen M. Grosheider said.
“I am increasingly frustrated at how we are forced to make gut-wrenching decisions instead of the legislators, the ones who hold the purse strings, doing the ethical thing,” she said. “I feel like we’re being held hostage.”  Sparagana told the board that he thinks the district should “take a leadership role in the state for advocating for funding equity in Pennsylvania. Who better to lead the charge than us, the ones who live it every day?”
Pottstown prepped to approve $56M spending plan, hike taxes 2.9%
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 06/20/14, 9:42 AM EDT |
POTTSTOWN — The school board will vote Monday on a final $55.9 million budget that raises taxes by 2.9 percent.  Approval is expected.
The $55,929,738 budget represents a 5.6 percent increase in spending that is due largely to three things: a $1.4 million increase in construction debt for the elementary school renovation projects; a $1.1 million increase in pension costs and the anticipated $625,000 annual cost of roof replacements, Business Manager Linda Adams told the school board Thursday night.
For a residential property assessed at $73,670, the borough average, the tax hike represents an increase of $81.49 per year on the property tax bill.
The budget eliminates 11 positions, most of them classroom aides.

Neshaminy passes final budget for 2014-15; $172M package contains no tax hike, full-day Kindergarten and more reading programs
Bucks Local News By D.E. Schlatter 21st Century Media Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014
NESHAMINY - In a unanimous vote at the July 17meeting, the school board approved the 2014-15 final budget which earmarks roughly $172 million for spending.  As promised during the budget process, the district's fiscal plan holds the line on taxes and expands full-day Kindergarten to all of Neshaminy’s eight elementary schools.  In addition, reading programs at the three middle schools will now be doubled to keep them in line with surrounding school districts, and the district's staffing levels will remain the same.  “This budget is a great step forward for Neshaminy,” declared Superintendent Robert Copeland in his budget summary at the beginning of the board meeting, which lasted nearly three hours and played to a packed house with a standing-room only crowd.

Hatboro-Horsham approves budget, reviews plans for new school
Montgomery News By Natalya Bucuy 21st Century Media News Service Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014
At the last meeting of the current school year, Hatboro-Horsham School Board of Directors approved its 2014-15 budget and reviewed plans for a new elementary school.  The board unanimously voted in favor of 2.1 percent real estate tax increase for the district homeowners June 16.  The tax increase falls within the state-allowed increase set at 2.1 percent this year under the Act 1 index. The budget marks the eighth year in the row the district stayed within the index without seeking exceptions.  The projected budget expenditure will increase by $3.6 million, or 4.14 percent from the current school year to total $96 million, while the projections for the revenues show a $2.38 million, or 2.68 percent, increase.

Lower Merion School District passes tax hike; McGinley says goodbye
By Richard Ilgenfritz Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Lower Merion and Narberth residents will be seeing a 3.9 percent tax hike for the upcoming school year, under the final budget that was approved by the board last week.  Under the new budget, property owners in Lower Merion and Narberth will pay a mill rate of 25.3335. The new rate is up from last year’s rate of 24.3817. One mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. The district’s budget runs from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  Lower Merion business manager Vic Orlando has said under the new tax rate, a property with an average assessed value of $250,000 will see an increase of $239 in their tax bill.

Penn-Delco School Board passes budget with 2.5 percent tax increase
By LORETTA RODGERS, Delco Times Correspondent, @LorettaRodgers1 POSTED: 06/21/14, 12:53 AM EDT |
ASTON — The Penn-Delco School Board recently adopted a 2014-2015 operating budget totaling $54.812 million, reflecting a 2.5 percent increase over the 2013-2014 budget.  Millage was set at 25.907 mills; an increase of .631 mills over last year. A homeowner with a property assessed at the district median of $114,705 can expect to pay $2,971 in real estate tax next year, which amounts to a $5.67 monthly increase.  District Superintendent George Steinhoff, who offered a PowerPoint presentation of the budget, said the largest expenditures include pension contributions and healthcare costs, which alone count for $1.3 million in expenses.

PIAA overhauls rules on gender
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It has not been unusual in recent years to see high school boys playing on girls field hockey teams in Pennsylvania or see a few boys playing on girls volleyball teams.  But the PIAA passed a new "mixed-gender" rule Thursday that, among other things, pretty much eliminates boys from playing on girls teams and also curbs girls from playing on boys teams, except football. The PIAA also voted to start sponsoring boys field hockey beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Pedro Noguera went to the lions’ den, the Wall Street Journal, to explain why the corporate reformers’ crusade to eliminate teacher tenure is wrong-headed (the article is unfortunately behind a paywall). The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is a bastion of anti-teacher, anti-public education thinking, whose writers consistently support vouchers, Teach for America, and anything else that disrupts public education and the teaching profession.  Noguera, a professor at New York University, writes:  “Ideally, tenure helps low-income schools to attract—and retain—good teachers. I’ve studied urban schools for many years, and it’s clear that disparities in teacher quality contribute to unequal academic outcomes among poor students. Students in districts with large minority populations are much more likely to be taught by new, inexperienced teachers who have only a bachelor’s degree and are often not certified in the subjects they teach. These teachers often earn considerably less than their counterparts in white, affluent districts, and frequently work under adverse conditions. Tenure has no bearing on how school districts chose to staff their schools.

State of charter schools: How Michigan spends $1 billion but fails to hold schools accountable
Detriot Free Press June 22, 2014
A yearlong Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools found wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst. Among the findings:

In surprise move, key RI legislator allows state testing moratorium to pass
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 23 at 4:00 AM  
This actually happened: A key legislator listened to his constituents and changed his mind about an important piece of legislation, which changed the fate of the bill.
It just happened in Rhode Island, where House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello first opposed a three-year moratorium on using a standardized test as a requirement for high school graduation, but then learned about what was at stake for students and decided to support it. Instead of tabling legislation calling for a moratorium, which had already been approved by the state Senate, he allowed it to come up for a vote on the last day of the legislative session and it passed 69-3. It would be surprising if Gov. Lincoln Chaffee did not sign the legislation into law.
If he does, it means that a single high-stakes standardized test cannot hold back a student from graduating from high school if all other requirements are satisfied — at least for three more years.

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Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
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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