Wednesday, August 13, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 13: Tomalis resigns as education adviser to Corbett

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 13, 2014:
Tomalis resigns as education adviser to Corbett

To inform state policymaking, Pew provides research on the fiscal challenges state and cities face as a result of their pension and retiree health promises.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts

EPLC Education Notebook – Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Education Policy and Leadership Center

Research group disputes Commonwealth Foundation's findings on Phila. schools' finances
A study that said more money has not helped city schools is flawed and presents a skewed picture of the Philadelphia School District's reality, a local nonprofit says.
The conservative Commonwealth Foundation said in an analysis released earlier this month that while the system's budget had grown over the past decade, its students were still struggling, and that "serious reform" was needed to fix the city's schools.  But Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based organization whose mission is to strengthen public schools, found the Commonwealth Foundation brief "misleading, inaccurate, and devoid of context needed for an informed understanding of what is happening in the city's schools."

“Public schools with a 2012-13 School Performance Profile score of 90 percent or higher, known as mentors, are eligible to apply for up to $25,000 for each profile component that contributed to their outstanding achievement. Applicants must analyze strategies, processes and techniques, and design a research-based model or training tools that can be used by schools across the state to improve student achievement.”
Corbett Announces Expanding Mentoring Program 08/11/2014 03:26 PM
Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today announced that the Department of Education is accepting applications for the 2014-15 Governor’s Expanding Excellence School Mentoring Grant program. This initiative is designed to create a culture of innovation and achievement in Pennsylvania’s public schools to increase student achievement.  “This mentoring program is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and is intended to pair high-performing schools with schools that are academically struggling,” Gov. Corbett said. “The goal is for schools to share strategies and best practices with each other to increase student achievement to ensure students are graduating prepared for the workforce, postsecondary education and the military.”

A visit with state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai
Delco Times Heron’s Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Wednesday, August 13, 2014
State Rep. Mike Turzai must be a patient man.
The House Majority Leader was in the area this week urging the rest of us to do likewise.
Turzai, a Republican from the 28th District outside Pittsburgh, traversed the state on something of a goodwill mission. He started in Philadelphia, where he tried to reassure city school district officials that the first thing on his agenda when the House reconvenes in September will be that cigarette tax the district desperately needs to balance its books.  Even with that promise, Superintendent William Hite Jr. - who drew high praise from Turzai - says he's not sure schools will open on time.  Tuesday afternoon he hit Delco, sitting down with our regional Digital First Media editorial board. He made it pretty clear he didn't put much stock in the Hite's warning. "The schools will open," he reassured us.

“The resignation comes about two weeks after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that during Mr. Tomalis first year as the governor’s adviser, he sent only five emails, made little more than a phone call per day, had a largely empty calendar and incurred no expenses traveling the state to visit institutions of higher education.
Tomalis resigns as education adviser to Corbett
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 13, 2014 12:06 AM
At the exact time a group of Democrats was set to hold a statewide teleconference to call on Gov. Tom Corbett to fire Ron Tomalis, the governor’s special adviser on higher education, the state department of education announced Mr. Tomalis had resigned.  The announcement of the resignation did little to assuage Fresh Start PA, a Democratic political action group that has been highly critical of Mr. Tomalis’ advisory role with the Corbett administration.
Fresh Start, which supports the candidacy of Democrat Tom Wolf for governor, on Tuesday said the resignation, effective Aug. 26, was only a first step.

Ron Tomalis, under fire from ghost employee allegations, calls it quits in Corbett Administration education job
By Charles Thompson | on August 12, 2014 at 1:26 PM, updated August 12, 2014 at 2:16 PM
This post was updated at 1:57 p.m. to reflect PennLive's attempt to reach Mr. Tomalis with some questions about his decision to resign.
Gov. Tom Corbett's special advisor on higher education issues has resigned after two weeks of unceasing questions about whether he was filling a job or floating on a golden parachute at taxpayers' expense.  Ron Tomalis announced his resignation from the $139,542-a-year post in a letter to Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq Tuesday.

Full Text: Ronald Tomalis resignation letter
Keystone Kopp Blog by John Kopp August 12, 2014
Below is the full text of Ronald Tomalis’ resignation letter. Tomalis, a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, resigned as a special adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett today following accusations of being a ghost employee making $140,000 a year. The letter:

Ron Tomalis resigns under pressure as Tom Corbett's education adviser
Ron Tomalis' departure follows reports that he'd done little in his $140,000-a-year job.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 12:16 a.m. EDT, August 13, 2014
HARRISBURG — Ron Tomalis is resigning from his nearly $140,000 job as Gov. Tom Corbett's special adviser on higher education.  The move, announced Tuesday and effective Aug. 26, comes after weeks of pressure on Tomalis to step down after news reports revealed little evidence of work done in the role Corbett created for him in June 2013.  Corbett had named Tomalis his higher education adviser after removing him as state education secretary following a raucous year in which he alienated officials in many of the state's 500 school districts.
Corbett adviser whose schedule drew scrutiny quits
Education Week by AP Published Online: August 12, 2014
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A former state education secretary who stayed on as a senior adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett quit Tuesday, more than two weeks after a newspaper raised questions about his duties and work schedule.  Ron Tomalis' resignation letter said he has been exploring new opportunities and that his departure was in the administration's best interests. His last day as Corbett's special adviser on higher education will be Aug. 26. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported late last month that it found scant evidence of work Tomalis was performing in the $140,000-a-year job. The paper said over a 14-month span his work calendar had weeks of little or no activity, phone logs that averaged barely a call a day and only five outgoing emails.

Activist: Ron Tomalis should end the speculation now and show reporters the records of his work
By Christina Kauffman | on August 12, 2014 at 5:25 PM, updated August 12, 2014 at 5:56 PM
An activist calling for an investigation into Gov. Tom Corbett's special advisor on higher education called the advisor's Tuesday resignation announcement "a good start."
But Gene Stilp said advisor Ron Tomalis should next save the taxpayers the cost of an investigation into whether he actually worked for his $139,542 salary.  "He can end the speculation," said Stilp. "He should come forward and meet with reporters what he's got to prove he's been hard at work for the governor. He can prove it right now."

Wolf allies don't declare Ron Tomalis' resignation a victory, just part of the Corbett Administration's 'mess'
By Jan Murphy | on August 12, 2014 at 2:11 PM, updated August 12, 2014 at 3:16 PM
The political-action committee supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf is not declaring victory over Gov. Tom Corbett's embattled higher education adviser's resignation. Instead, its chairwoman is declaring it "a mess."  In an afternoon conference call with reporters that happened about the same time as the Corbett Administration announced Ron Tomalis' resignation effective Aug. 26, Campaign for a Fresh Start chairwoman Katie McGinty called for an investigation into why Tomalis was on the payroll in the first place as well as Acting Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq's reported practice of purging emails daily.

Alleged "ghost job" aide quits Pa. education post
AMY WORDEN AND THOMAS FITZGERALD, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, August 13, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 2:22 PM
HARRISBURG - Former Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis has resigned as a special adviser to Gov. Corbett, amid questions about his duties and allegations that his position amounted to a "ghost job" on the state payroll.  Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq on Tuesday announced Tomalis will leave his $140,000-a-year job as an adviser on higher education issues in two weeks. Democrats, however, vowed to keep the controversy alive in the gubernatorial race.

Corbett's education adviser resigns amid controversy
Philly Daily News Philly Clout Blog by Chris Brennan POSTED: TUESDAY, AUGUST 12, 2014, 1:29 PM
Ron Tomalis, Gov. Corbett's controversial secretary of education-turned special adviser, said today he will resign in two weeks.  The state Department of Education issued that news as supporters of Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for governor, started a conference call demanding the resignation of Tomalis and Carol Dumaresq, the current acting secretary of education.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first raised questions last month about what work was being done by Tomalis, who stepped down from his leadership role in the Department of Education 15 months ago but retained his $140,000 salary.  

Education adviser to resign Pa. post after criticism as 'ghost employee'
An education adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett is stepping down from his post, weeks after a newspaper report found little evidence he was working.  Ron Tomalis' resignation letter includes a list of his accomplishments as a special adviser on Pennsylvania higher education. Those accomplishments were called into question by aPittsburgh Post-Gazette report last month that found little in schedule documents, phone logs, or interviews to suggest Tomalis had been doing much in his job paying nearly $140,000 a year.

“I believe that in order to address property tax reform, we also must address the spending side of the equation. School district budgets continue to grow, and mandates from the General Assembly are causing many of these increases. One of these mandates that I believe should immediately be changed is the Prevailing Wage Act, which increases the costs of new construction and ongoing maintenance and repair projects.”
Prevailing wage law drives up school costs and taxes: Sen. Scott Wagner
PennLive Op-Ed  By Sen. Scott R. Wagner on August 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM, updated August 12, 2014 at 9:21 AM
During my short time in Harrisburg, the number one issue that I have heard about from my constituents has been the elimination of property taxes.  One of my first acts as a Pennsylvania state senator was to sign on as a co-sponsor to Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate property taxes and replace the revenue with an increased and expanded sales tax and an increased personal income tax.  While Senate Bill 76 is stalled in committee due to a lack of support, I will continue to work diligently to find a solution to the problem of oppressive property taxes.

Saucon Valley residents: Teachers acting like children, robbing taxpayers
At school board meeting, residents vent, teachers plead, board stands firm against union proposal.
By Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 11:58 p.m. EDT, August 12, 2014
Saucon Valley teachers were called tantrum-throwing children, were told they should hide behind masks and were accused of robbing taxpayers.  And they still don't have a contract.
At a packed school board meeting Tuesday night, the Saucon Valley Education Association pleaded with the school board to adopt a three-year contract proposal that would give all teachers a 3 percent raise every year. The board rejected the union plan Monday and refused to take another vote Tuesday.  About 70 teachers stormed the meeting in support of their union's proposal, but the room was also crowded with Saucon Valley residents who mostly sided with the school board.
"This" is READ by 4th, an ambitious campaign to have almost all Philadelphia students reading on grade level by the 4th grade. Now, just about half do -- a troubling statistic because data indicate that students who don't reach that benchmark are many times more likely to fall behind and drop out of school.”
A citywide push on literacy - Read by 4th - has its official launch
The notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 12, 2014 06:40 PM
Amarii Simpson, 9, was sitting up front, a "My First Dictionary" on the table before him in a room at the McVeigh Recreation Center at D and Ontario Street in Kensington.  Why is he reading a dictionary?  He gave a "duh" look in response to the question.  "So I can learn more words!"
Amarii is on the ball in other ways, too. A 4th grader at Elkin Elementary School just a few blocks from McVeigh, he is quick to announce that he gets all As and Bs and scored proficient on the PSSA -- not just in reading, but in math, too. And the Recreation Department veteran camper also knows that the reading breaks and other activities, like the trips to the library that punctuated this summer at McVeigh, are something new. "Last year," he announced confidently, as dignitaries bustled around him, their speeches done, "we didn't have the city of Philadelphia doing this." 

Florida School board considers 'opting out' district from testing
Emily Atteberry, eatteberry@news-press.com10:13 p.m. EDT August 12, 2014
FCAT. Florida Standards. Common core.  No matter what you call it, the school board wants it gone.  Board members unanimously expressed their disdain for standardized testing at the school board meeting Tuesday, pledging to research the possibility of "opting out" the entire district from standardized testing.  "There needs to be a come-to-Jesus meeting ... to talk about these issues point blank," Chairman Tom Scott said.

Mourning Robin Williams and ‘teacher John Keating’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 12 at 3:00 PM  
Education historian and activist Diane Ravitch wrote the following in memory of Robin Williams.
By Diane Ravitch
We have become accustomed in recent years to seeing films in which teachers are shown as lazy, greedy slugs. This fits nicely with the corporate reform narrative that seeks to strip all honor, dignity, and rights from teachers. Teachers don’t deserve those mean-spirited caricatures, nor the treatment they receive from legislatures.  Remembering Robin Williams’ portrayal of English teacher John Keating in “The Dead Poets’ Society” takes us back to another era, a time when the teacher might be seen as a source of wisdom and inspiration, a rebel and a non-conformist. Here is the trailer. Robin Williams represented the teacher as the best that one could hope to be: not just a man who taught language and literature but a man who changed lives.

Michelle Rhee Prepares To Leave CEO Job At StudentsFirst, Group She Founded
Posted: 08/12/2014 8:52 pm EDT Updated: 08/12/2014 9:59 pm EDT
Former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee has told people close to her that she is preparing to step down as CEO of StudentsFirst, the advocacy organization she created after leaving her chancellor post, according to three sources close to the organization.  Rhee is expected to remain active on StudentsFirst's board after she steps down, likely by the end of this year. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of Rhee's move.

National School Boards Action Center August 06, 2014 by Staff
Members of Congress return to their hometowns to meet with constituents locally and on September 8 they return to Washington, D.C.  As a public education advocate, you can help to influence their decisions and votes on legislation affecting your local public schools by reaching out to your members of Congress.  They will be especially interested in your concerns as this is an election year for the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the Senate.
Read the latest on federal education issues on Capitol Hill  in the NSBAC August Congressional Recess Talking Points and then contact  your members of Congress during the August recess.  You can call your members’ offices using the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 or use the National School Boards Association’s legislative action center at  Consider becoming a Friend of Public Education to connect with National School Boards Action Center’s advocacy efforts and stay active year round.

Save the Date 2014 PAESSP State Conference October 19-21, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PAESSP State Conference, “PRINCIPAL EFFECTIVENESS: Leading Schools in a New Age of Accountability,” to be held October 19-21 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Featuring Keynote Speakers: Alan November, Michael Fullan & Dr. Ray Jorgensen
This year’s conference will provided PIL Act 45 hours, numerous workshops, exhibits, multiple resources and an opportunity to network with fellow principals from across the state.

Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools Posted on August 4, 2014by wearepcaps
Forty Thousand Philadelphia registered voters signed a petition this Spring to put the question of returning our schools to local control and abolishing the School Reform Commission on the ballot in the form of a non-binding referendum. But before this can happen City Council and the Mayor and have to approve. Come to the town meeting to find out how returning our schools to local control can improve education and how can bring pressure on our elected officials to let the people vote on this important question.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference registration forms now available online
PSBA Website
Make plans today to attend the most talked about education conference of the year. This year's PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference promises to be one of the best with new ideas, innovations, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers. More details are being added every day. Online registration will be available in the next few weeks. If you just can't wait, registration forms are available online now. Other important links are available with more details on:
·         Hotel registration (reservation deadline extended to Sept. 26)
·         Educational Publications Contest (deadline Aug. 6)
·         Student Celebration Showcase (deadline Sept. 19)
·         Poster and Essay Contest (deadline Sept. 19)

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online -- bios/videos now live
PSBA Website August 5, 2014

The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for each candidate. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openSept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to cast the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes will be receiving an email in the coming weeks to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to cast the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

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