Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 23: New PA Basic Ed Funding Commission to start work on Thursday

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 July 23, 2014:
New PA Basic Ed Funding Commission to start work on Thursday

Thursday July 24, 2014 1:30 PM Room 8E-B East Wing

Corbett's counterproductive pension proposal
Inquirer Opinion By Dwight Evans POSTED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 1:08 AM
State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) represents the 203d District and served more than two decades as Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee
Gov. Corbett is blaming pension costs for increased school taxes.  House Republican leaders Sam Smith and Mike Turzai boast that Republican pension legislation would provide budgetary relief to school districts.  Both claims are false.
Pennsylvania has a pension reform plan - Act 120 of 2010 - and it is doing just fine as long as it is not mutated by desperate election-year smokescreens.  As the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in 2010, I oversaw the drafting of Act 120 in a bipartisan spirit that remains unrivaled in my 34 years in the state legislature. Republicans Glen Grell in the House and Dominic Pileggi and Pat Browne in the Senate joined me in working collaboratively, on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, to craft a pension reform that was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell 44 months ago.

Once Upon a Time: An Analysis of the 2014-15 General Assembly Approved Budget
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on July 22, 2014
The $29.0 billion 2014-15 state General Fund budget enacted earlier this month fails to confront Pennsylvania’s serious revenue problems. Lawmakers pretended that the half billion dollar revenue shortfall in 2013-14 did not exist and “balanced” the 2014-15 budget with one-time transfers, accounting tricks, and phantom revenues.  The budget relies on a myriad of dubious revenue sources including an increase in collections well above what the Independent Fiscal Office projected, revenue from a proposed casino that does not yet have a gaming license, and federal approval of the governor’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” alternative to Medicaid expansion. If these revenues fail to materialize, it is quite likely that Pennsylvania will face a mid-year budget crisis.  Already, there are signs that revenue collections will head off course. On July 18, in response to a lawsuit challenging the governor's plan to expand gas drilling in state forests and parks, the Corbett administration agreed not to lease any more state land for drilling until the court makes a ruling. The budget assumes that $95 million will be raised from these leases, however this revenue will be delayed if it arrives at all.

Court opens door to charter school expansion in Bethlehem and rest of Pennsylvania
Dual Language Charter School challenged rulings that disallowed opening a second site.
By Steve Esack, Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:32 p.m. EDT, July 22, 2014
HARRISBURG — The Dual Language Charter School in Bethlehem — and all other charter schools in Pennsylvania — could be one step closer to opening up multiple facilities under a court ruling filed Tuesday.  In a 2-1 decision, Commonwealth Court ruled that charter schools can open more than one school by amending the charters they hold with a local school board. The decision overturned rulings by the Bethlehem Area School Board and the state Department of Education's Charter Appeal Board.  Bethlehem Superintendent Joseph Roy said the administration and board have not determined whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Senate GOP leadership to Corbett: Re-appoint Office of Open Records director Terry Mutchler
By Jan Murphy | on July 22, 2014 at 8:29 PM
Two powerful Republican senators are now among a throng standing in Office of Open Records director Terry Mutchler's corner, saying she deserves a second six-year term in her position.
In a letter (below) sent on Tuesday to Gov. Tom Corbett, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said they share the governor's goal of promoting openness and transparency at all government levels.  And they "believe that allowing Terry to serve a second term is a critical step in reaching that goal," the letter states.

Here's a related prior posting:
"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."
Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.
Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

Pa. schools' reserve funds now top $4 billion
THIS IS NOT a plea for more school funding.  Not even as Philly kids, teachers and parents await word on whether schools are shuttered in September for lack of funding.
This is a reminder that the money's already there.
It's a reminder of how Pennsylvania's vast, expensive public-education system hoards tax dollars in multiple and movable accounts.

Philly-Area School Districts' Reserves July 22, 2017

What is the recommended level of a fund balance? This differs depending on the circumstances of a school district, however, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommends using the one of the following guidelines: One relies on a formula where a predetermined number of months (usually one to three months) of operating expenditures are used;  The other is used by the three major bond rating agencies - Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch. The rating agencies recommend between 5% and 10% of current period operating expenditures (budget);  Section 688 of the school code says that when the fund balance exceeds between 8 and 12% of expenditures, depending on the size of the budget, the district must consume any fund balance in excess of 8% prior to increasing taxes.
PSBA: Frequently Asked Questions: School District Fund Balances

How to dismantle a school system
Racked by budget cuts, Pennsylvania’s schools are coming apart at the seams
Aljazeera America by  @danieldenvir July 22, 2014 6:00AM ET
Graduating seniors last month celebrated the end of a difficult year at Philadelphia’s Bartram High School, one prominent example of Pennsylvania’s deepening public education crisis.
Michael Miller, the father of one college-bound graduate, complained that the state keeps “taking money and taking money, and it’s a scary thought where we’ll be in five years.” He returned from military service in Afghanistan just as Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s education budget cuts began to hit the state’s poorest districts.  For years Pennsylvania has served as a testing ground for the conservative theory of small government — more specifically, since 2010, when Corbett signed a no-new-taxes pledge crafted by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and rode a Tea Party wave into office. The effects have proved deleterious. Corbett’s cuts to public education have been particularly painful, with poor districts like Philadelphia bearing the brunt.
The city’s school district now faces its third consecutive budget crisis under Corbett, who cannot visit his state’s largest city without facing massive protests. According to data provided by the School District of Philadelphia, it has 6,321 fewer staffers this year than in 2011 — a reduction of nearly 27 percent. That includes 2,723 fewer teachers, 58 nurses, 406 counselors, 286 secretaries and 411 noontime aides. There is no fat left to trim, but more layoffs are still on the table.

Educating the city's children with the resources at hand
the notebook By James H. Lytle on Jul 22, 2014 12:51 PM
Those of us concerned about public education in Philadelphia have been so caught up with the School District’s financial crisis that we have given little thought to how District and charter schools, and publicly funded schooling for the city’s kids, might be reimagined. Our priority has been filling the gaps, dealing with deficits and not possibilities.
The underlying assumption of advocates, District leadership, and elected officials is that if funding were restored for nurses and counselors, art and music teachers, smaller class sizes, preschool programs, books and supplies, and facilities improvements, then all would be well. And if additional funds were available to provide programs and services beyond the basics, then prosperity would be at hand.  But the public seems disinclined to provide the levels of support that the best suburban and private schools enjoy. And equally important is that the District’s performance record for the last several decades provides little evidence that additional funding will, by itself, lead to broad, substantive improvement.

District inviting educators, others to redesign schools
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 22, 2014 06:11 PM
The Philadelphia School District is launching a school redesign initiative, inviting applications from teams of educators, parents and outside organizations, including community groups and universities, to overhaul existing District schools.
"We're doing this now because we see a tremendous opportunity within the school system in the city to provide space for really talented and passionate people to help us with transformation efforts in specific schools," said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn in an interview.
He said the so-called School Redesign Initiative is an opportunity to act on ideas to create community schools, among other transformative models. The District is seeking a letter of intent from interested teams by Aug. 19 and will choose 10 teams by Oct. 10.

Phila. district asks for proposals for overhauling education
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 7:17 PM
If you have an idea for overhauling a city public school, the Philadelphia School District is listening.  Officials on Tuesday announced the "School Redesign Initiative," inviting teachers, principals, universities, and community organizations to propose turnarounds of their own design.
That's a shift for a system that has relied heavily on charter conversions to reform struggling schools. Schools slated for redesign would remain part of the district and would continue to employ union-represented teachers.  As many as 10 schools could be transformed beginning in September 2015.

Philly schools open up overhaul proposals to community
EDUCATORS, PARENTS, community groups and universities that have bold ideas to improve a Philadelphia public school now have a vehicle to pitch their plans.
The school district yesterday announced the start of the School Redesign Initiative, its latest effort to allow stakeholders to identify, develop and implement their innovative plans at existing schools.
The district said the goal is to increase the number of high-quality schools, but many question the rationale behind the plan at a time when schools lack basic resources, such as counselors, full-time nurses and librarians, and the district faces an estimated $93 million deficit, which could require hundreds of layoffs.

The School District Won’t Say It, but Camden NJ Schools Are Closing
Stephen Danley's Blog Posted July 22, 2014, by Stephen Danley
Assistant Professor Public Policy and Administration, Rutgers University
With news that 10 Uncommon and Mastery Schools have been approved for Camden, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Camden School District is being dishonest with the Camden residents. The district has repeatedly assured parents and students that traditional schools were not closing or at risk. That’s simply not possible with close to 7,000 students being moved to Uncommon and Mastery Schools.* So why mislead about school closures? Because, as we’ve seen in Newark, communities will rally around their schools once they are threatened. It’s easier just to open new schools, claim it is about providing additional quality options, than enact closures based on projected deficits. The strategy was just successful for firing over 200 teachers. 

New state rankings on how America’s children are faring
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 22 at 1:11 PM  
A new report on how America’s children are faring, just released by the  nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation, found that Massachusetts is doing the best job and Mississippi the worst in four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family/community indicators.  The KidsCount 2014 Data Book finds that in 2012,  23 percent of U.S. children were living below the official poverty line and many others live just above it, a jump from 2005 when 19 percent were living below the poverty line.  It is the 25th such annual report released by the foundation, which collects and analyzes a mountain of data about the well-being of America’s children and issues a report with state rankings and a great deal of other information, which you can see in full here. Using the latest available data, it looks at the four areas to reach conclusions about how well children are doing in the United States.

The EDifier by Jim Hull July 22, 2014
A new study from the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas claims that charter schools are 40 percent more productive than traditional public schools. They found that for every $1000 invested, charter schools obtain approximately a year and half more in student learning than traditional public schools — meaning, in essence, charter schools can be just as effective as traditional public schools at nearly half the cost.
These are incredibly strong findings for charter schools. If charter schools can do everything traditional public schools do at nearly half the cost why shouldn’t policymakers invest more in their expansion? The problem is this study doesn’t even attempt to determine if charter schools can provide the same services with fewer funds than traditional public schools

Valarie Wilson won the runoff election to be the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s State Superintendent of Education.  The Republican primary was too close to call.
Valarie Wilson was endorsed by the Network for Public Education as a true friend of public schools. Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, was supported by the hedge fund group Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and the pro-voucher American Federation for Children.

I am happy to report that the Network for Public Education is growing and thriving. This is due in no small part to the excellent work of Rob Perry, who organized our website and wrote our newsletter. Rob did a superb job in building our Facebook presence, and after two years of dedicated service, has decided to move on to another opportunity. We found Rob by putting out an appeal on this blog and are hoping to be lucky again.  We are now looking for a new communications director.  Here is the official job description:

This Week's Testing Resistance and Reform News:

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Research to Practice
The National Writing Project's resources for teachers\Inspiring Students to Write
The Philadelphia Writing project (PhilWP), a renowned local site of the National Writing Project, teaches writing and literacy as critical tools for learning. Penn GSE professor Dianne Waff works with teachers to move them and their students toward writing-intensive lives that connect learning, high student achievement, and personal growth.  The following tips come from experienced PhilWP Teacher Consultants (TCs), who offer ideas to encourage students to write and develop a love for words and creative expression.

BATS DC Rally July 28 10 am
BATS PRESS RELEASE Sunday, July 20, 2014
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an activist organization of over 50,000 teachers will be holding a rally in Washington D.C. to protest the devastating educational policies of the United States Department of Education and Arne Duncan.   The Rally will be held on July 28, 2014 at the USDOE Plaza beginning at 10 a.m. and will draw thousands of teachers, parents, students, and educational activists from around the country.  BATs will demand such things as ending federal incentives to close and privatize schools, promote equity and adequate funding for all public schools, and ban all data sharing of children’s private information.

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

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. 

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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