Established in 2006, the Keystone State Education Coalition is a growing grass roots, non-partisan public education advocacy group of several hundred locally elected, volunteer school board members and administrators from school districts throughout Pennsylvania. Our mission is to evaluate, discuss and inform our boards, district constituents and legislators on legislative issues of common interest and to facilitate active engagement in public education advocacy.
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 29: Pa. not alone in having pension woes, Pew notes
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
"This year, a study released by the
National Association of College Admission Counseling found almost no difference
in college GPAs and graduation rates between students who submitted SAT scores
and those who did not at colleges where scores are optional." Temple to make test scores optional for admission
SUSAN SNYDER, INQUIRER
STAFF WRITER Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 1:08 AM
In an effort to cultivate talented students who don't test
well, TempleUniversity says it will become the first
national public research university in the Northeast to make standardized test
scores optional for admission. The
university expects as many as 150 to 200 students who likely would not have
been accepted because of low SAT and ACT scores, but who exhibit other
promising attributes, will be admitted for fall 2015. Many of them could come
from the PhiladelphiaSchool District. Students who opt not to submit test scores
will have to answer written questions designed to assess attributes such as
leadership, self-awareness, goal-setting, determination, and "grit,"
Temple officials said.
For years, critics have called the SAT an unreliable predictor
of college readiness that discriminates against minority students and those
from low-income families.
"We cannot ignore the mounting evidence that standardized
test scores inject socio-economic bias into the admissions and financial-aid
equations," said Hai-Lung Dai, Temple's
provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
William Penn Foundation
leader departing after six months
PETER DOBRIN, INQUIRER
CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 1:08
AM POSTED: Monday, July 28, 2014,
The William Penn Foundation's new leader will leave Aug. 31
after six months on the job.
Peter J. Degnan, who came to William Penn as managing director
at the beginning of March from his post as vice dean of finance and administration
at the WhartonSchool, has tendered his resignation,
foundation leaders said Monday. There
will be no search for a replacement. Laura Sparks, previously chief
philanthropy officer, will step into the top job, being retitled executive
director, when Degnan leaves.
The future of public pensions has become a bone of contention
in this year's Pennsylvania
gubernatorial race, and public employees fear they're the ones who will get
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who is trailing in the polls,
insists underfunded state and school public employee retirement plans are
causing hardships for taxpayers. He wants the Legislature to reduce the size of
the lifetime pension guarantee for future hires and supplement it with a
401(k)-style benefit that shifts some of the risk to workers. Corbett's Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf,
claims the governor hasn't looked hard enough for new sources of revenue to
fund state retirement systems. Like most
offers lifetime pensions to employees. The plans require employees to
contribute a portion of their pay — 6.25 percent for most state employees and
7.5 percent for most school employees. State and local school district taxes
pay the employer contribution. Those payments, coupled with fund investment
gains, furnish the pool for retiree payments.
“First, Pennsylvania has to commit to
paying the current bill; second, we think they should establish a funding task
force or study commission to come up with a comprehensive and transparent
solution to this long-standing problem; and third, if that solution is some
kind of hybrid plan design, that they consider a simple and proven hybrid
model,” Mennis said.
is not alone in its public pension problems.
Other states have struggled as well.
Nationwide, total debt facing state pension plans is $915
billion, according to the Public Sector Retirement Systems project of the Pew
Charitable Trusts. “Only 15 states have
consistently made at least 95 percent of the full actuarially required
contributions for their pension plans from 2010 through 2012; the remaining 35
states (including Pennsylvania) fell short in at least one year,” according to
the project website. And since last
fall, the director of that project, Greg Mennis, has been trying to help Pennsylvania solve its
By Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau July 28,
2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Autism education at
the University of
response through the Salvation Army. Programs educating young people about the
rivers around Pittsburgh.
These and more Allegheny County programs were flagged to
receive funding in legislation accompanying the new state budget, but Gov. Tom
Corbett maintains that legislators were optimistic in their projections for
state revenue this year, and he has put the designated spending — earmarks, in
the administration’s words — on hold.
Mr. Corbett cited the gap in revenue projections earlier this
month when he vetoed $65 million in funding for the General Assembly and $7.2
million in other appropriations. He indicated, too, that he would use his
authority to hold appropriations in budgetary reserve, meaning the money, at
least for now, will not be available for spending. The administration has decided to divert all
but a few of the legislative-designated spending items into budgetary reserves,
said Charles Zogby, Mr. Corbett’s budget secretary.
Gov. Tom Corbett has been criticized for making a billion
dollar cut to education funding since his first year in office and did little
to fend off those attacks. Lt. Gov. Jim
Cawley admitted as much at a Monday morning news conference, saying the
administration was focused on "doing our job" instead of taking the
"time to effectively explain what it is we are doing." But now that PA Families First, a
coalition of the Democratic Governors Association and labor unions are
airing a political ad attacking the Corbett administration's record on
education spending, Cawley says enough is enough. "For three and a half years, they have
lied through their teeth and shame on us for not being louder in calling it
what it is: a damned lie," said Cawley, during the news conference at the
Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association's Harrisburg headquarters.
The roughly $355 million cut had, in years
prior, gone into grants for early education and police officers, as well as
reimbursements to school districts losing students to charter schools.
Campaign ad returns Pa. focus to education
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY
WILSON JULY 29, 2014
Education funding cuts are front and center once again in a
tiff between Pennsylvania's
candidates for governor. A
ad that surfaced last week highlights the issue, which has dogged
Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in the polls for years.
In the spot, a narrator says Corbett "cut nearly a billion
dollars from education, forcing schools districts to fire 20,000 teachers and
staff." On Monday, Lt. Gov. Jim
Cawley denounced the television attack ad and the administration's opponents. "For three and a half years they have
lied through their teeth," Cawley said. "And shame on us for not
being louder and calling it exactly what it is -- a damn lie." The Corbett administration maintains that the
money cut from education in 2011 was simply federal stimulus dollars that
weren't replaced because the governor was sticking to a no-tax promise.
Education Week by AP Published Online: July 28, 2014
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A former state education secretary under Gov.
Tom Corbett remains on the state payroll, but a newspaper says there's limited
evidence of the work he's performing.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday
(http://bit.ly/WITiRS ) that records concerning Ron Tomalis, in the 14 months
since he stepped aside as education secretary, include a work calendar with
weeks of little or no activity, phone logs that barely average a call a day and
five outgoing emails. Tomalis gets a
$140,000-a-year salary and benefits as a special adviser with a focus on
The newspaper says several key players in higher education
report little or no contact with Tomalis in his advisory role. Acting Education Secretary Carol Dumaresq
says Tomalis works 40 hours a week and is in regular contact with staff.
Ethics panel asked to
investigate former Pa.
ANGELA COULOUMBIS AND GIDEON BRADSHAW, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
POSTED: Monday, July 28, 2014, 6:36 PM
HARRISBURG - A Harrisburg activist has asked the state
Ethics Commission to investigate whether an adviser to Gov. Corbett is earning
his keep. In a complaint filed Monday,
Gene Stilp asked the commission to determine whether Ron Tomalis, Corbett's
onetime education secretary turned special adviser, "was actually working for
his government salary . . . and all the related state benefits," according
to a copy of the complaint. Stilp is
also asking the agency to examine "the character and the nature of the
work that is actually being done, and whether or not the required amount of
work time . . . has actually been utilized for actual work." The complaint follows a report in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that questioned Tomalis' work since he was named a
special adviser to Corbett on higher education 14 months ago - at the same
$139,971 salary he made as education secretary.
Inquirer Opinion By William R. Hite Jr. POSTED: Tuesday,
July 29, 2014, 1:08 AM
region is on the rise. We celebrate economic and population growth, expansions
by our world-class cultural institutions, and achievements in medical research.
There's a positive vibe about the city and what we have to offer. Yet, while there is widespread recognition
that the key to our continued regional success is providing our young people
high-quality educational opportunities that prepare them for college and
career, we are falling short in delivering for our Philadelphia public school
students. That's why now is the time to
make sure the children served by Philadelphia's
public schools can enjoy the benefits of the city's improving outlook and can
help to keep the region thriving tomorrow.
Equitable education funding has long been one of Donna Cooper’s
top priorities. As Gov. Ed Rendell’s chief of policy, in 2008 she was
instrumental in establishing the state’s most recent stab at creating a
workable and predictable education funding formula. That formula didn’t survive the arrival of
Gov. Tom Corbett. But Cooper, now in her second year at the helm of Public
Citizens for Children and Youth, believes that with the right political
pressure, another version might not be too far off. “A school funding formula is not brain
surgery,” she says. “If the legislature feels the heat … they’ll do it..” But creating a formula is one thing; getting
the funds to back it is another. We asked Cooper to reflect on this year’s
budget process, the strategic approach that could establish a fully funded
formula, and the prospects of long-term stability for Philadelphia’s schools.
Phila. school budget cuts eat
into college admissions
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST
UPDATED: Monday, July 28, 2014, 1:07 AM POSTED: Sunday, July 27,
2014, 11:02 PM
Christine Donnelly used to knock on students' doors when they
stopped showing up at school. The counselor at Academy at Palumbo, a South Philadelphia magnet school, sat with seniors to
make sure they were choosing colleges that were a good fit. She helped them
puzzle through financial-aid forms. PhiladelphiaSchool District budget cuts made those
things often impossible this last school year. And, for the first time in
recent memory, 10 Palumbo students failed to graduate, Donnelly said. And fewer
planned to go to four-year colleges. In
urban public schools, there are always cracks to slip through, but this year,
"the cracks became craters," Donnelly said. District-level data are not yet available,
but some counselors, in interviews, said they had seen evidence of collateral
damage of the worst financial crisis the school system has ever had: a drop-off
in college-going rates. Students stumbling through the financial-aid process,
choosing schools that might not be the best for them, disappearing from school
altogether. Superintendent William R.
Hite Jr. is not surprised by the counselors' observations.
Through bonds of mentorship,
Philly student defies culture of low expectations
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JULY 28, 2014
According to the most recent longitudinal study of Philadelphia graduation rates, a mere 10 percent of
students who begin ninth grade in Philadelphia
public schools manage to persist all the way through to college graduation. In order to raise achievement levels, the
city and state have vastly restructured the shape of public education in
Philadelphia over the last 15 years, rapidly expanding both district and
charter options – to mixed results.
While the school district continues to grapple with
systemic, recurring and devastating funding shortfalls, students and parents
currently find themselves desperately hoping that schools will be able at least
to retain last year's admittedly insufficient levels of staff and resources.
In the face of these shortcomings – with faculty and school
support-staff levels at dreadful lows – students now more than ever must rely
on their relationships with family members and other adults outside of the
This is the story of the power of one such relationship.
Tucked into Pa. bill, funding that critics call pork
By Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: July 27, 2014
HARRISBURG - Hospitals from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
A performing arts center in CenterCity. An ambulance
association in MontgomeryCounty.
They are among the several dozen projects worth tens of
millions of dollars that the legislature has designated for special funding
this year. The money was tucked into a relatively obscure budget bill known as
the fiscal code, and written in opaque language replete with legalese.
Some call it legislative pork; others, just another form of Harrisburg's infamous
so-called WAMs (walking around money) - special funds for pet projects chosen
by legislative leaders.
And though such projects have been tucked into the fiscal code
for several years, they are getting special attention now because Gov. Corbett
decided to veto some of them when he signed a $29 billion budget earlier this
month. And now the legislature is considering suing him over it.
JOHN BAER, DAILY
NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST Monday, July 28, 2014, 12:16 AM
LET'S TALK pension costs.
And let's talk using corruption - arguably our most common public-sector
commodity - to bring them down. I'm
An overlooked benefit to paying taxes for public pensions in
one of the nation's most corrupt states is that wrongdoing saves us money. Think about it. Many forfeit pensions after convicted of
crimes under Pennsylvania Act 140 of 1978.
Through a Right-to-Know request, I got numbers on some of our more
high-profile perps in order to show the sorts of savings available. Remember, this is just a taste from the
buffet of bad behavior, a sliver from a large pie of potential. For instance, just five fairly recent
legislators whose evil ways put them away save us more than $440,000 every
Increase in state funding
still below local schools' expectations
TribLive By Jeff
Himler Friday, July 25, 2014, 12:39 p.m.
Local schools will see increases in state funding in the
recently approved 2014-15 budget. But, in some cases, state dollars have fallen
short of what local districts were anticipating when they approved their fiscal
spending plans last month. Overall, the
state budget allocates more than $10 billion in funding for support of Pennsylvania's public
schools. That represents an increase of $305 million over the previous year. For area school districts, the increased
state funding will come primarily through more money provided for special
education and the Ready to Learn Block Grant initiative that supports programs
and services that increase student achievement.
Pre-K for PA Forum with
Governors Rendell, Schweiker
Chamber of Commerce Posted Monday, June 30th, 2014
Submitted by: Barbara Saverino, Director of Public Policy,
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
Former governors, democrat Ed Rendell and republican Mark
Schweiker, crisscrossed Pennsylvania on June 9
traveling from Erie to Philadelphia for an event held at the offices
of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. They endorsed the Pre-K for PA
campaign and encouraged business and civic leaders to advocate expanded access
to high-quality pre-kindergarten as a key strategy to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy
“If we can unite on this issue, we can make a positive change
said former Governor Ed Rendell. “Study after study shows the proven benefits
of quality early learning, from lower drop out and crime rates to stronger
communities and businesses. The time has come for our state elected officials
to generate the political will to invest in our human capital by offering
high-quality pre-k to all Pennsylvania
Former governor and Chamber CEO Mark Schweiker noted, “This is
not just an education issue – this is an economic issue. As governor, I laid
the groundwork for expanding early learning and Governor Rendell advanced it
significantly because we knew that access to high-quality pre-k is imperative
is going to grow and thrive. Progress continues, but Pennsylvania still lags behind. This is an
issue that has support on both sides of the aisle.”
"Under federal law, they are entitled
to a free public education regardless of their immigration status."
For Schools With Child
Immigrants, What Resources Are Available?
Education Week Learning the Language Blog By Lesli A.
Maxwell on July 28, 2014 9:30 AM
While the Obama administration takes action to stem the flow of
unaccompanied minors across the Southwest border and contain the mounting
political blowback, many
of these children have already turned up in public schools and will
continue to do so in the months ahead. Under
federal law, they are entitled to a free public education regardless of their
immigration status. Just two months ago, the U.S. Department of Education
reminded school districts of their legal
obligations when it comes to undocumented students. Some districts may get so few of these young
immigrants that they will absorb the costs of educating them with relative
ease. But others have already seen a significant uptick in their numbers and
anticipate more, so the impact on their resources could be greater. (The school
board and superintendent in Miami-Dade, for instance, have already made it
clear that they are after more help from the federal government to help
cover the costs of hundreds of students from the wave or young immigrants.)
Those dynamics are raising questions among educators and
advocates for school districts about what, if any, kind of help the feds might
provide to schools as tens of thousands of children from El Salvador, Guatemala
continue settling into communities while awaiting deportation proceedings.
Community Schools: A
Bipartisan Argument for Full-Service Community Schools
Education Week COMMENTARY Published Online: July 28, 2014
By Steny H. Hoyer & Aaron Schock
One of the most important jobs Congress has is to ensure that
our nation’s children have access to a quality education and the opportunities
it brings. A strong education is critically important to secure a place in our
middle class. However, we are not doing enough as a country to provide all of
our children with the educational foundation they need to succeed. That’s why
we joined together last week to introduce the Full-Service Community Schools
Act of 2014, bipartisan legislation that would create a competitive-grant
program to expand the number of full-service community schools around the
country. Full-service community schools
provide support and resources to children and their families in order to
encourage the future success of all students. Too often, students from
low-income households don’t have the necessities that are critical to their
success in the classroom, including proper nutrition and health care. As we
learn more about the links between students’ health and well-being and their
performance in reading and math, tackling the interrelated challenges of
education, nutrition, and health care has become a top priority.
ALEC holds its 41st annual meeting in Dallas, Texas
starting on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. At this largest of its three annual
national conferences, state legislators from across the country will meet with
corporate and special interest lobbyists behind closed doors to vote on
"model" legislation to change state laws. Numerous agenda items are
Draft bills to be voted on by lobbyists alongside state
legislators at the coming annual meeting include:
Changing Laws Providing for Public Education
·The "Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act" would enrich
companies invested in online college degree programs and materials -- like
Pearson (whose subsidiary Connections Education has been a prominent member of
ALEC's Education Task Force), which sells the LearningStudio platform used by
many universities like Arizona State University's popular and much-hyped online degree program. It would
"require all pubic [sic] four-year universities to offer bachelor's
degrees costing no more than $10,000, total, for four years of tuition, fees,
and books. The Act would require that ten percent of all public, four-year
university degrees awarded reach this price-point within four years of passage
of this act." The bill instructs universities to focus on online and
blended learning "to achieve this price-point."
·The "Public Charter Schools Act" would expand on ALEC's
pre-existing "Next Generation Charter Schools Act" and enrich ALEC
members like K12, Inc., the nation's largest provider of online charter
schools or cyber schools. It would allow privately-operated charter schools to
continue taking public funds, but without public accountability. The bill would
give charter schools carte blanche to operate without being
"subject to the state's education statutes or any state or local rule,
regulation, policy, or procedure relating to non-charter public schools within
an applicable local school district..."
·The related "Public Charter Schools
Funding Act" restates charters' autonomy from the rule of law and
democratically-elected school boards while still giving each charter school
"one hundred percent" of the state and federal education funding
"calculated pursuant to the state's funding formula for school
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.
EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th Location: Southern Lehigh High School5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration
starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the WilsonSchool
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.