Wednesday, July 30, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 30: School Choice? I've got mine, I'm not going to worry about anybody else's.

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 30, 2014:
School Choice?  I've got mine, I'm not going to worry about anybody else's.


Their View | The hard truth of pension reform
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY JIM PAWELCZYK July 26, 2014 
Jim Pawelczyk lives in Ferguson Township and serves on the State College Area school board. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the district or the board.
With combined debts approaching $50 billion, the Public School Employees Retirement System and State Employees Retirement System are in trouble. The blame game is in full swing: It’s the legislature’s fault. It’s the governor’s fault (insert any governor of this century). It’s school boards’ fault. It’s unions’ fault.  Take your pick. To some degree, each assertion is correct.
Gov. Tom Corbett is sounding the alarm for “meaningful pension reform.” Reform, however, has two different meanings in legislative doublespeak: Reduce costs by changing benefits, or provide budgetary “relief” to employers by deferring payments.
Harrisburg is buzzing with proposals. The hot topic is the Tobash plan, a hybrid model for new employees that would cap defined benefits at $50,000 per year for qualifying retirees and would create a variable annuity for benefits in excess of the cap.

Tribune Democrat by John Finnerty CNHI State Reporter July 27, 2014
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett is ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to reform the state’s pension system by focusing on how often school districts use tax increases to offset costs. 
Corbett has less often mentioned another consequence of the pension crisis: School districts are trimming jobs to save costs – on the front end by paying fewer employees, and on the back end by lowering the amount they must contribute to the pension.  There were 15,000 fewer public school employees working and enrolled as active members of the state pension system in June 2013 as there were just three years earlier, according to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.

It's time to put up or shut up on pensions: Fred Keller
PennLive Op-Ed  By Fred Keller on July 29, 2014 at 1:00 PM
State Rep. Fred Keller, a Republican, represents the 85th House District, which includes parts of Snyder and Union counties.
Either we face the truth or the taxpayers will suffer the consequences of inaction.
Pennsylvania's two pension systems, the Public School Employees Retirement System and State Employees Retirement System, are underfunded by no less than $50 billion, using the most optimistic calculations.  This liability equates to a bill of more than $4,000 to every man, woman and child who resides in this Commonwealth.  I have, and will continue to advocate for reform with the goals of protecting the benefits already earned by both retirees and current employees, providing future employees a method to save for retirement, and most importantly making the plan affordable to the Pennsylvania taxpayers who must fund all government services.

"Joining us will be two of the most powerful men in Harrisburg, state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, the Senate majority leader, and Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, the majority chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Yep, they're the ones who put the state budget together.  Also joining us will be longtime Haverford School Board member Larry Feinberg, who also just happens to be the founder and co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition."
'Live From the Newsroom' tackles the state pension issue 7 pm tonight
Delco Times Heron's Nest Editors Blog by Phil Heron  Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Last week we heard from Gov. Tom Corbett, who has been criss-crossing the state doing his best Paul Revere impersonation: 'The pension crisis is coming, the pension crisis is coming.'
Actually, it's already here. And it's about to detonate in school districts across the state, straining budgets from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. To his credit, the governor has been saying so for most of his troubled first term, labeling it a 'tapeworm' in the state budget crisis and Pennsylvania's No. 1 problem.

"More than just in Philadelphia, she said, there is a "national trend" toward "an abandonment of public education."   It is a manifestation, Neff thinks, of a belief that "I've got mine, I'm not going to worry about anybody else's. ... Part of the problem here is that people in Harrisburg are talking about other people's children, not their own children."  This lack of concern for the well-being of others "is no way to run a country, a city, or a state," she said."
New SRC member Marjorie Neff plans to advocate from the inside
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 29, 2014 03:12 PM
Marjorie Neff was looking forward to retirement after nearly 40 years as an educator when Mayor Nutter surprised her by asking if she would serve on the School Reform Commission.  "I was intending to do advocacy work, and when the mayor asked me, I thought this might be one way to continue that from the inside rather than from the outside," said Neff, who just retired after eight years as principal of Masterman School.  Neff, speaking by telephone during a summer respite at the Shore, frankly acknowledged that she wasn't quite sure what she was getting into. But when she thought about it, she said, declining the offer wasn't an option at this watershed moment.
More than just in Philadelphia, she said, there is a "national trend" toward "an abandonment of public education." 

Teplitz Named to Basic Education Funding Commission
PA Senate Democratic website  July 29, 2014
State Sen. Rob Teplitz has been named to the newly formed Basic Education Funding Commission.  The 15-member commission, made up of a bipartisan group of state senators and representatives, as well as administration officials, will work to develop and recommend a new formula for allocating state funding to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.  “As a strong advocate for public education, I’m pleased to be a part of this commission,” said Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York), who is a member of the Senate Education Committee. “Every child deserves access to a quality education in his or her own community, but unfortunately, that is not happening under our current system. We must explore a more equitable way to provide crucial state dollars to our diverse school districts.

Where’s the work?
It’s hard to justify a Corbett adviser’s high salary
Post-Gazette Editorial  July 30, 2014 12:00 AM
During the two years that Ron Tomalis was state education secretary, he was one of the most visible members of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Cabinet, running one of the largest departments and serving as the public face of significant administration efforts.
But since his reassignment 14 months ago as the governor’s special adviser on higher education, he has been nearly invisible to the public. Just what tasks Mr. Tomalis has been accomplishing to earn his $139,542 salary aren’t clear either. For an administration that was recently faced with a $1.5 billion deficit, it’s hard to see how such spending can be justified.

Ethics complaint filed against Ron Tomalis, Gov. Tom Corbett's special higher education adviser
Steve Esack Call Harrisburg 9:19 a.m. EDT, July 29, 2014
A Harrisburg activist is asking the state Ethics Commission to investigate whether Ron Tomalis has earned his salary of nearly $140,000 as Gov. Tom Corbett’s special adviser for higher education.  In filing his ethics complaint Monday, activist Gene Stilp cited a Pittsburgh Post Gazette investigative story that found Tomalis has done little to no work in the role Corbett created for him after Tomalis lost his position as state education secretary 14 months ago.
"It's not exactly clear what Wolf's plan would look like, although the AP does say that Wolf pledges a dollar-for-dollar reduction in local property taxes in conjunction with the state tax increase. Potentially, households with up to $90,000 in annual income would be spared a tax increase, and the tax increase would amount to about a 3 percent increase for those at the high end of the income scale. On his website, Wolf says that schools in Pennsylvania need both a fair, predictable funding formula and an infusion of funds, "which will help alleviate the tax burden on property owners." Ultimately, he wants the state to be responsible for about half the K-12 spending in the state."
Raise Taxes On Wealthy for K-12, Pa. Gubernatorial Candidate Says
Education Week State Ed Watch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on July 29, 2014 11:57 AM
The idea of raising taxes on wealthy individuals to help shoulder a big state's education-funding burden may be gaining traction in a big East Coast state. 
Tom Wolf, the Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania who will face GOP incumbent Tom Corbett in November, believes that the state needs to pay a bigger share of K-12 costs and take the burden off local property taxes. To that end, the Associated Press reports, he wants to raise taxes on high earners while reducing taxes for middle-class households and exempting those with relatively low earnings from his new taxes entirely.
If that idea sounds familiar, it's because California Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat, successfully pushed through his own tax increase for public schools back in 2012 through Proposition 30, even though statewide tax increases are no easy matter in California. That tax increase also focused on raising taxes specifically on high earners, rather than taking an across-the-board approach.

Get the facts about Tom Corbett and education
Corbett/Cawley Campaign website July 2014
As a former public school teacher, Governor Tom Corbett believes strongly in the power of education.  Governor Corbett inherited a $4.2 billion budget deficit when he was elected governor. And worse yet, almost $1 billion in federal dollars that had been helping to fund our schools ran out. So he moved quickly.  Thanks to Governor Corbett's bold steps and tight budgets, Pennsylvania's public schools are now in a much stronger financial position. Get the facts and hear more from Pennsylvania teachers in our videos.

Politically Uncorrected: Give ‘Em Hell Tom
PoliticsPA Written by G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young July 29, 2014
 “Running against Harrisburg” is a popular strategy. Most modern gubernatorial candidates seeking a first term, including incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, have “run against Harrisburg.” They focus their campaigns heavily toward attacking Harrisburg “insiders” and the “Harrisburg culture.”
But while most gubernatorial aspirants run against Harrisburg, no incumbent governor seeking a second term has ever done so — until now.

New Corbett/Wolf poll: Wave of the future or polling aberration?
By Christina Kauffman | ckauffman@pennlive.com on July 29, 2014 at 6:41 PM, updated July 29, 2014 at 9:03 PM
Midstate analysts are among those cautious about the results of a new poll showing Gov. Tom Corbett narrowing the gap between himself and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf.  The recent polling collaboration between the New York Times and CBS News, completed as part of a massive effort using new polling standards with the firm YouGov, shows Corbett losing 33 percent to Wolf's 42 percent.  The nine-point divide is the closest the incumbent governor, widely expected to be defeated, has seen in any post-primary poll conducted in Pennsylvania.
Two midstate political professors said they're cautious about the poll's new methodology, which some consider controversial.

PA House to amend cigarette-tax bill
REGINA MEDINA, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER MEDINAR@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5985 POSTED: Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 3:01 AM
WHEN HOUSE members return to Harrisburg on Monday to consider the cigarette-tax bill that would help fund Philly's schools, the legislation most likely will head to the Rules Committee, where it will be amended, a spokesman for the top Republican says.
Members of the committee plan to remove Community Revitalization Improvement Zone grants and a hotel tax from the bill, said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.  The $2-per-pack cigarette-tax bill would then be introduced on the floor for a vote. The legislation, if passed, would be sent back to the Senate for a vote.
Senate members are at the ready, said Erik Arneson, spokesman for the Senate Republicans.

State board reverses Sto-Rox school board's denial of Propel charter
By Mary Niederberger / PIttsburgh Post-Gazette July 29, 2014 11:38 PM
A state Charter Appeals Board decision to grant a charter to Propel to open a K-12 school in the Sto-Rox School District could result in the exodus of hundreds of students from the financially and academically troubled district.  The state board on Tuesday voted unanimously to reverse the 2012 rejection by the Sto-Rox school board of a charter application initially filed by Propel in November 2011.

State leaves Pittsburgh's more-rigorous teacher evaluations in place
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 29, 2014 11:23 PM
The Pittsburgh Public Schools can continue to use a teacher evaluation system that is more rigorous than the state system, according to a decision by the state Department of Education.
The news pleased Pittsburgh superintendent Linda Lane but disappointed Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Esposito-Visgitis, who said she plans to meet with Ms. Lane today to discuss the issue.  “We have concerns,” Ms. Esposito-Visgitis said, adding that the union does not believe state law allows for districts to pick their own cut scores.
In the Pittsburgh district, cut scores for teacher performance are higher than those in the state’s teacher evaluation system and higher than those used by other districts in the state.
The district used the evaluation system this year under a one-year waiver from the Department of Education. The new decision, made Tuesday, allows the district to continue using the system for the next three years, at which time it can apply for further approval.

EASD again rejects charter school application
Proposed Strong Foundations submitted new application after March turndown.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 10:19 p.m. EDT, July 29, 2014
At a heated meeting that touched upon racial and economic issues, the Easton Area School Board again rejected a charter school application.  The proposed Strong Foundations Charter School submitted a new application to the district last month. In March, the board rejected its first application, saying the planned school did not offer a curriculum that was different from what the district offers.  Tuesday, the board voted 7-2 to again reject the application. School Directors Baron Vanderburg and Robert Obey voted to accept the application.
The board rejected the application based on its solicitor's finding that the application did not comply with the Common Core Standards and did not include evidence that local businesses and organizations intended to partner with the proposed school.
National honors for a Delaware County school superintendent
BY NEWSWORKS TONIGHT STAFF JULY 29, 2014 Audio Runtime 3:25
The job of superintendent of schools isn't always an envious one.  Tight budgets, performance standards, accountability to school boards and parents — when someone’s not happy, the person in the top job is to blame.  For a change, there’s an area superintendent who’s enjoying accolades. Last week, Dr. James Capolupo of the Springfield School District was named Superintendent of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents.  He sat down to talk with WHYY’s Dave Heller about the Delaware County district’s successes and future plans. 

Temple joins growing list of schools making standardized tests optional for applicants
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JULY 29, 2014
Nervous test-takers, fear not. Temple University announced Tuesday it will join the growing list of colleges ditching the SAT as an entrance requirement.
The university calls it the "Temple Option," describing it as "an admissions path for talented students who show great potential for success but don't perform well on standardized tests."
The university says the move is in line with its goal of placing more emphasis on noncognitive "grit factors."  "By giving students more choices, we open doors to more first-generation students and those from underserved communities whose enormous academic promise may be overlooked by conventional measures of achievement," said Temple President Neil Theobald in an official release.  With this move, Temple becomes the first national public research university in the Northeast to make test scores optional for admission.

"Montclair State, which admits about 3,000 freshmen a year, is the third school in the region to announce the change in recent days, following Bryn Mawr College and Temple University"
Montclair State makes SAT, ACT optional
LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 8:32 PM POSTED: Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 8:31 PM
Montclair State University announced Tuesday it would make SAT and ACT scores optional for admission, becoming the first public university in New Jersey to do so.  Admissions officials will focus on a prospective student's high school grade point average and the specific classes he or she took, university officials said. If SAT or ACT scores are submitted with an application, they will be considered, officials said.  The university has determined that GPA is three times more likely than SAT scores to predict performance at Montclair State, university president Susan A. Cole said.

Review of Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands
Meagan Batdorff, Larry Maloney, Jay F. May, Sheree T. Speakman, Patrick J. Wolf, & Albert Cheng School Choice Demonstration Project and University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform April 16, 2014
Bruce D. Baker May 20, 2014
The University of Arkansas Center for Education Reform’s report on charter school funding inequities proclaims large and growing inequities between school district and charter school revenues, even after accounting for differences in student needs. But the report displays complete lack of understanding of intergovernmental fiscal relationships, which results in the blatantly erroneous assignment of “revenues” between charters and district schools. A district’s expenditure can be a charter’s revenue, since charter funding is in most states and districts received by pass-through from district funding, and districts often retain responsibility for direct provision of services to charter school students—a reality that the report entirely ignores when applying its resource-comparison framework. In addition, the report suffers from alarmingly vague documentation regarding data sources and methodologies, and it constructs entirely inappropriate comparisons of student population characteristics. Simply put, the findings and conclusions of the study are not valid or useful.

Teachers Fight Back
CNN By busyboypro  |  Posted July 28, 2014  |  Washington DC, District of Columbia (video runtime 2:!3)
CNN PRODUCER NOTE     A group of BATs descended upon Washington on Monday, but not the furry, winged kind. Teachers from the Badass Teachers Association, representing at least 38 states, along with parents and students, rallied outside the Department of Education, calling for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to step down. The group said it was also fighting against Common Core Standards, federal grants that are depending upon students’ test scores and more.  Filmmaker Jack Paar captured the day of protest and marched alongside his wife, who is a third-grade school teacher. “The mood was good but you could tell the people participating were fed up with the current education problem,” said the Minneapolis resident. “It was a very emotional protest at times, especially when you heard the students and parents speaking.” 

Badass Teachers Meet with Duncan and Staff
Politico.com reports that representatives of the BATs met with Secretary Duncan.
“BADASS TEACHERS OUT IN FORCE: Several hundred teachers, parents and students sang, danced and demonstrated outside the Education Department on Monday, protesting federal education reform under the Obama administration. The rally was hosted by the Badass Teacher Association. On the list of grievances: The Common Core, high-stakes testing and teacher evaluation reform. “Teachers’ voices have been absent from the shaping of education policy,” BAT founder Mark Naison told Morning Education. “These policies are stifling teacher creativity and driving good teachers out of the classroom.” An Education Department official said the agency worked with BAT to secure permits for their demonstration and federal officials met with group leaders to discuss their concerns.

The Common Core PR war
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 7/29/14 5:06 AM EDT
The millions have proved no match for the moms.
Supporters of the Common Core academic standards have spent big this past year to persuade wavering state legislators to stick with the new guidelines for math and language arts instruction. Given the firestorm of opposition that took them by surprise, they consider it a victory that just five states, so far, have taken steps to back out.  But in a series of strategy sessions in recent months, top promoters of the standards have concluded they’re losing the broader public debate — and need to devise better PR.  Consider: Conservative commentators Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin held a crackling town hall meeting last week describing the Common Core as a threat to local control of education. The two-hour event was simulcast in 700 movie theaters nationwide and will be rebroadcast Tuesday night in more than 500.

Education organizations call on U.S. Supreme Court to curb lengthy IDEA litigation
NSBA School Board News Today by Alexis Rice|July 29th, 2014
The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by the  Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), today filed a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of M.R. v. Ridley School District. At issue in the case is whether school districts must continue paying for a student’s private placement once a court finds the school district provided the child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Under the stay-put requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school districts must pay for a disabled child’s current educational placement while legal proceedings continue to resolve a dispute between parents and schools.

Resources help school districts address undocumented children
NSBA School Board News Today by Alexis Rice|July 29th, 2014
School districts may feel significant impacts in the coming year resulting from the influx of Central American children to our country and schools. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and its Council of School Attorneys (COSA) along with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) can all help.  In addition to the many legal resources on immigration issues available to COSA members, COSA will be offering a webinar August 13, 2014 at 1-2:15 p.m. EDT: “Immigration Issues and Public School Attendance: Registering and Serving Undocumented Students and Employer Compliance.”

Democratic, Republican Voters Want More Preschool, And They Want It Now
The Huffington Post  | By Rebecca Klein Posted: 07/17/2014 12:01 am Both Democratic and Republican voters want more of an investment in early childhood education, and they want it now, according to a new national poll.  The poll, commissioned by early education advocacy group the First Five Years Fund(FFYR) and conducted by bipartisan researchers, surveyed 800 registered voters on their views. The sample was demographically representative of the electorate and included voters living throughout the country.  Similar to previous polls conducted on the subject, Americans expressed support for the idea of early childhood education. Out of nine sample national priorities, including “reducing the tax burden on families” and “securing our borders,” voters ranked “making sure our children get a strong start in life,” as the second most important, only trumped by “increasing jobs and economic growth.”

PCCY: Join us in Harrisburg Aug. 4th to Fight for Philadelphia Schools
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to work on Monday, August 4th and it is critical to vote to approve the Philadelphia cigarette increase for schools.  Join us in Harrisburg as we visit lawmakers to tell them the wisdom of siding with children over big tobacco by voting for the cigarette tax increase.  If this vote doesn't happen or, if it fails, there is a strong chance Philadelphia Public Schools will not open this September.
Buses are filling up quickly. Click here to RSVP today or call 215-563-5848 x11 or emailinfo@pccy.org. Buses depart 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 8:30am and return to Philadelphia about 5:00pm.  If you plan to drive, meet us in the Capitol at 10:30am in Room 39 of the East Wing.

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.
http://buckslehighedusummit2014.wikispaces.com/Home

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.

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