Thursday, August 21, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 21: Everything you ever wanted to know about PA education funding/school finance but were afraid to ask…..

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 21, 2014:
Everything you ever wanted to know about PA education funding/school finance but were afraid to ask…..

Everything you ever wanted to know about PA education funding/school finance but were afraid to ask…..this is the PowerPoint presented at yesterday's Basic Ed Funding Commission meeting
Basic Education Funding Commission School Finance Briefing
By Jim Buckheit, Executive Director, PA Association of School Administrators and Jay Himes, Executive Director, PA Association of School Business Officials August 20, 2014

This PA Senate site lists commission members and includes news releases, audio/video (video from yesterday is not possted yet)
PA Basic Education Funding Commission Website

"It's a very complex issue; school districts are affected differently," said former House member Kathy Manderino, who was recently tapped to lead a new 40-member coalition, including education, labor, churches and business groups, to push for fair school funding.  "It goes from urban districts' 'Can we open doors?' to suburban 'We can open doors, but at what cost to taxpayers?' to distressed districts that lost a big funding stream," she said. "Every piece of the system is feeling pain from not having had predictable and sustainable formula in a long time."
Bipartisan state commission to look at education funding
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU  Thursday, August 21, 2014, 1:08 AM
HARRISBURG - When it comes to sticky policy issues, none quite matches the perennial debate over school funding.  Few, if any, school districts think state funding is adequate, and many poorer school districts - including Philadelphia - believe their allocations fail to match their special needs, and thus cuts end up being even more harmful.
A new, 15-member commission is charged with finding a way to solve that vexing problem, despite limited revenue and the general aversion to statewide tax hikes.  The Basic Education Funding Commission, a bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers and Corbett administration officials, held its first hearing Wednesday.  The goal of the commission, created by legislation signed by Gov. Corbett in June, is to design a fair and predictable formula for distributing state funding to school districts

"At the hearing Wednesday, Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, recounted the different formulas — and, sometimes, lack of a formula — through which Pennsylvania has funded public schools.  “Now we’re back to sort of this year-to-year, based upon whatever factors may be relevant that year, or whatever administration’s priorities there may be and whatever the General Assembly wants to do,” he said.
The vast majority of Pennsylvania school business officials, board members and superintendents responding to a survey by state education associations said predictability is very important in a funding formula."
Commission examines Pennsylvania school funding
By Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 21, 2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — A state commission charged with recommending a school funding formula heard testimony Wednesday about the history and complexity of paying for public education in Pennsylvania.  The group of Corbett administration officials and legislators is required to report to the General Assembly by June 2015. There is interest in many corners in examining how Pennsylvania funds its public schools.  Earlier this week, a group whose members include teachers unions, business groups and religious associations announced it had enlisted former state House member Kathy Manderino, a Democrat who represented Philadelphia, to manage its campaign for a long-term funding formula.

How to create fair public school funding? 4 questions committee faces
By Charles Thompson |  on August 20, 2014 at 6:21 PM, updated August 20, 2014 at 9:19 PM
Pennsylvania's next attempt to build a public school funding formula that is fair to all kicked off Wednesday.  And in what might be considered a mild upset, discussion largely steered clear of the vigorous "who cut education funding" debate that's been one of the dominant themes of the current gubernatorial campaign to date.  Most of the Basic Education Funding Commission's work day centered instead on a detailed outline of the overall state of public education in Pennsylvania, and the great variance in its 500 school districts' size and wealth.  The commission was established by law in June to make recommendations on retooling the state's main school funding formula, which this year will drive more than $5.5 billion to the schools.  Its recommendations are not due until next June.  But there were hints at some of the pivot points for the year-long discussion to come. Here's a few observations for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers to keep in mind as the discussion goes forward:

Sturla ready to get to work on Basic Education Funding Commission
State Rep. Mike Sturla's website HARRISBURG, Aug. 20
House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla said he looks forward to reviewing the data received today by the Basic Education Funding Commission during the group's first public hearing at the state Capitol.
"Before making any decisions, or using preconceived notions about the education funding situation in Pennsylvania, it is important for every commission member to study the historic and quantitative material that we were presented with at today's meeting," said Sturla, D-Lancaster. "While there was a vast amount of information provided at today’s hearing, it just scratched the surface of this complex issue. I'm excited to have open and purposeful conversations with each and every commission member in the coming months so that we can develop the best end product for every Pennsylvania school district and child who attends them."
During today's hearing, the 15-member commission heard from representatives of the state Department of Education, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.
"As we move forward, I am hopeful that the group will keep an open mind and listen to others' viewpoints in order to achieve a workable solution for improving education across the commonwealth," Sturla said.
The commission includes House and Senate members of both parties, as well as various members of the Corbett administration.
The group's next meeting will be Sept. 9 in the Lehigh Valley.

"Our research shows most states use data-driven, cost-based education funding formulas to meet these goals. Most of these formulas use accurate student data, account for differences among school districts, direct funding to address those differences, and do so with a goal of ensuring all students have adequate funding to meet state standards.  The research also shows that Pennsylvania has become a national outlier by not taking that approach. The Commonwealth does not currently use an education funding formula, and its leaders cannot guarantee that state education dollars are being distributed accurately, fairly, or transparently."
Funding, Formulas, and Fairness: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States' Funding Formulas
Education Law Center Report February 2013

Turzai looking to House Democrats for talks on pension reform
By Christina Kauffman |  on August 20, 2014 at 3:22 PM, updated August 20, 2014 at 3:34 PM
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai is calling on the House's Democratic leadership for a meeting to air pension reform, asking for dialogue as the two caucuses maintain their divergent solutions.
House GOP leaders met Wednesday to discuss the issue, Turzai said, and he's sending a letter to House Democrats to request a meeting before the fall session starts.
No Democrat has voted to advance the plan Turzai's caucus still prefers, the so-called "hybrid" plan introduced by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill Haven.  Gov. Tom Corbett also prefers the plan and has been pushing it during his statewide stump for pension reform, the cornerstone of his re-election campaign.

The Gem on the Hill: How to Create a Community-Based In-District Charter
Cloaking Inequity Blog  August 20, 2014 | Julian Vasquez Heilig
In the post Photo Essay: This Charter School is Lovely, I first introduced Travis Heights Charter School.  This post examines Education Austin’s efforts to serve as a conduit for bringing teachers and parents together to create an in-district charter school. Travis Heights elementary is a community-based charter that is an alternative to the top-down approach (i.e. teacher quality, curriculum, and governance) employed by corporate charter chains. This post examines the process by which the Austin community created a democratically designed charter by utilizing the extensive expertise of the school’s teachers, administration, and community stakeholders. We also document the pedagogical and curricular approaches that were selected by school leaders and community stakeholders to develop critical thinking and collaborative skills.
When AFT President Al Shanker first promoted the charter school concept, they were designed to be spaces for innovation, where educators could reach beyond the constraints of traditional public education.[i] Currently, the public perception of the charter approach is that freeing schools of certain rules will automatically increase student success (Vasquez Heilig, Williams, McNeil & Lee, 2011). However, it turns out that student success does not automatically improve. CREDO (2009) showed that across the nation, 85% of charters did not perform better than the traditional neighborhood public schools in their vicinity. Furthermore, CREDO (2013) found that, on average, charter schools in Texas cost kids 22 days of learning in reading and 29 days in math. Charters in Texas, writ large, have a negative impact on student learning.

York City School Board hears opposition to charter operators
Some community members raised questions during a meeting
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   08/20/2014 10:10:30 PM EDT
The York City School Board heard heated public comment on what path the district should take as it considers proposals from charter operators interested in taking over school buildings in the future.  During a meeting Wednesday, the board heard preliminary evaluations of the charter operators that submitted proposals for taking over one or more schools in 2015-16. The public comment session frequently devolved into arguments, with several audience members urging the board not to pursue outside operators, an option in the district's financial recovery plan if internal reform isn't working.  Eric Kirkland said it seemed charter operators would just be a change in management. The district would have the same tax base, the same parent participation, the same concentration of poverty.  "I'm not hearing what is going to change," he said.
Sandra Thompson, president of the York NAACP, said she's against the idea of charters as the answer to public education, and the board should fight against the possibility.  "I took this to the state NAACP. She's saying sue," Thompson said. "My next step is we need litigants."

"The fact is charter schools continue to academically underperform traditional public schools, with less than half of the brick-and-mortar charters meeting acceptable benchmarks, according to the state Department of Education's School Performance Profiles. None of the cyber charters met the mark."
Michael E. Faccinetto: Public education beneficial for the common good
Morning Call Opinion by Michael Faccinetto 5:55 p.m. EDT, August 20, 2014
Michael E. Faccinetto is president of the Bethlehem Area School Board.
We live in a society of high-stakes competition. With the shrinking economy and recent recession, quality middle-class jobs have become scarce.  Reformers tell us students must be prepared to compete in the global economy, and this can only be accomplished by school choice and high-stakes testing.  With the 1997 authorization of charter schools, Pennsylvania has followed the national trend of privatizing education with little accountability. There is no concrete evidence that school choice has improved our educational system.
There is concrete evidence that some charter operators have made millions in profit at the expense of taxpayers. We mistakenly assume that charter schools are academically high-performing. The fact is charter schools continue to academically underperform traditional public schools, with less than half of the brick-and-mortar charters meeting acceptable benchmarks, according to the state Department of Education's School Performance Profiles. None of the cyber charters met the mark.
PDK/Gallup Poll Finds Rising Awareness, Majority Opposition to Common Core
the notebook By Lauren Camera for Education Week on Aug 20, 2014 04:31 PM
While more people know what the Common Core State Standards are than last year, a majority of them oppose the standards, according to the 46th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.  Overall, the wide-ranging survey found, 81 percent of those polled said they had heard about the common standards, compared with 38 percent last year. However, 60 percent oppose the standards, generally because they believe the standards will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best. Last year's poll did not specifically ask respondents whether or not they supported the standards.

Two polls, two views of Common Core: What do you think?
By John L. Micek |  on August 20, 2014 at 9:03 AM, updated August 20, 2014 at 9:13 AM
Here's one for a Wednesday (via NPR):
"Two new polls this week attempt to quantify the public's feelings for the Common Core State Standards. The K-12 benchmarks in English and math were little known this time last year. But they've since become the subject of a high-profile political fight. Now a majority of the public opposes them.  Or do they?
Poll Number One, out today, puts support for the Core at just 33%. But Poll Number Two, released yesterday, puts it at 53%. That's a big difference.
Which one is wrong? Or can they both, somehow, be right?"

Governor Corbett Unveils New, Web-Based Resource for Pennsylvania’s Students, Teachers and Parents
PDE Press Release August 19, 2014
Glen Mills – Governor Tom Corbett today was joined by lawmakers, superintendents, teachers, higher education representatives and education partners at Garnet Valley School District, Delaware County, to launch Pennsylvania Learns on iTunes U – a collection of free, online, educational resources.  Pennsylvania Learns on iTunes U brings state standards-aligned resources to the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content that helps educators create courses, including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and syllabi, and offer them to millions of iOS users.  “This initiative, which is the culmination of nearly a year of work among various education partners, is designed to provide middle and high school students, parents and teachers with access to no-cost, high-quality, state standards-aligned resources to increase student achievement,” Gov. Corbett said.  “I want to thank all of the educators as well as the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals and the Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development for their contributions to this project, and their continued commitment to students.”

Wolf campaign continues to hammer Corbett about former education adviser
By Kaitlynn Riely and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 20, 2014 11:52 AM
Gov. Tom Corbett needs to “come clean” on the specifics of the role Ron Tomalis played in his administration as a higher education adviser, said Katie McGinty, chairwoman of the Campaign for a Fresh Start.  “The excuses, the smokescreen, the cover-up really needs to stop,” Ms. McGinty said.  Mr. Corbett "owes the taxpayers an explanation" for what Mr. Tomalis did as adviser to earn his salary and benefits, Ms. McGinty said.
She spoke during a news conference this morning in the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown, where she was joined by Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and Lisa Stout, the Democratic candidate for House District 39. The three also used the news conference to call for more state funding for education.

Corbett's schedule listed no Tomalis meetings
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — State records show Republican Gov. Tom Corbett had no scheduled meetings with his $139,000-a-year higher education adviser Ronald Tomalis, who has resigned effective next Tuesday.  The Tribune-Review obtained copies of the governor's calendar showing no meetings from May 15, 2013 — the date Tomalis became his adviser after almost 2½ years as state education secretary — through mid-July of this year.
“Since Mr. Tomalis reports directly to (Acting) Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, his meetings and interactions occurred with the secretary,” said Tim Eller, press secretary for the Department of Education. Dumaresq has said Tomalis was engaged in his work on higher and secondary education issues while an adviser.  Tomalis did not return calls seeking comment.
Records show Tomalis reported to work, key Pennsylvania senator says
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — The chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Department of Education officials showed him documentation that indicates former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis was not a ghost employee, as political opponents of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett assert.
Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, said on Wednesday that the agency produced a record of Tomalis' electronic “swipes” to enter the state parking garage, and those records show “he was there.”
“I'm telling you, he was not a ghost employee,” Folmer said.
The senator had planned to hold a hearing on Tomalis but now sees no reason to do so. He said he had a “very intense” meeting with acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq, who vouched for Tomalis' work as an adviser to Corbett.
Federal prosecutors dispute PA Cyber founder's claim of misconduct
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 20, 2014 3:43 PM
Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta misused attorneys in his pursuit of illegal windfalls, and is now trying to misconstrue the attorney-client privilege in an effort to defeat the year-old federal indictment against him, prosecutors alleged in a 90-page court document unsealed today.  The brief by three prosecutors at U.S. Attorney David Hickton's office seeks to counter a motion filed by Mr. Trombetta's legal team in June, in which the defense sought dismissal of the indictment or suppression of key evidence.
Mr. Trombetta's Washington, D.C.-based defense lawyers wrote then that prosecutors recorded, through wire taps and informants wearing devices, conversations between Mr. Trombetta and various attorneys, in violation of attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors responded today that the conversations in question involved attorneys Joseph Askar, Timothy Barry, Ralph Monico and Leon Daly, who represented either PACyber or its subcontractors, not Mr. Trombetta personally. Some worked for the National Network for Digital Schools or Avanti Management Group, which Mr. Trombetta did not legally control during the periods discussed in the indictment, they wrote.

Pittsburgh Public Schools' state test scores inch higher
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 21, 2014 12:07 AM
After two years of disappointing state test scores, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane this time is feeling particularly thankful the district’s 2014 scores show improvement.
“I’m very grateful for the work of our principals and our teachers that turned us around a little bit. I have to feel really good about that after the two tough years we’ve had,” Mrs. Lane said in an interview. “We all understand how much work every little 10th of a point represents.”
Mrs. Lane said she was not only grateful for the work “but also grateful that work translated into some kind of measurable result that was positive.”
At a school board meeting Wednesday, Mrs. Lane presented the districtwide results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests given in the spring this year. They cover math and reading in grades 3-8, science in grades 4 and 8, and writing in grades 5 and 8. School-level results are expected to be released Sept. 9. The state has not yet released statewide data.

Pittsburgh Public Schools to offer free lunch to all students
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 20, 2014 11:37 AM
There is such a thing as a free lunch.
Pittsburgh Public Schools announced today that when the 2014-15 school year begins next week, all students, regardless of family income, will get a free lunch. The school district already provides free breakfasts for all students.  “Ensuring that all of our students have access to healthy meals daily is one of the ways we can meet the needs of the whole child,” said district director of food service Curtistine Walker.  The free meals are an alternative approach made possible through the Community Eligibility Provision, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows school districts to offer free meals to all students.

Cruel Cuts: Philadelphia Public Schools Pay The Price For Pa.’s Expanded Neo-Voucher Program
Americans United for Separation of Church and State Aug 19, 2014 by Simon Brown in Wall of Separation |
Americans United opposes vouchers because they are frequently a taxpayer bailout for religious schools, but we are also proponents of a strong public education system in this country. That’s why it’s important to remember that when voucher programs expand, it often comes at the expense of public schools.  For the second year in a row Philadelphia’s public schools are struggling to open on time, and it appears deep budget cuts – including money siphoned for a voucher-like program – are to blame.
After multiple reports questioned last week whether or not Philadelphia’s schools would open on time this year, a $32 million budget cut now has the schools on track for their scheduled start in September.  Reuters said many feared all district schools would be unable to open without drastic moves, including massive layoffs. But that won’t happen thanks to the budget cut, which Superintendent William Hite called the “least harmful” of his options. (To save money the district will cut back on cleaning and repairs, not fill vacancies for police officers and stop bus service for high schoolers who live less than two miles from school, Reuters said.)    Even with that large savings due to a reduction of services, CBS Philadelphia reported that the district still faces an $81 million budget gap.  Sadly Philadelphia schools are no stranger to serious financial shortfalls. Last year the district had to borrow $50 million to cover part of a $100 million budget gap just so it could open on time.

The strategic campaign needed to save public education — in nine steps
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 20  
Leaders of the school standardized test-based reform’ movement have been very smart about using public relations and intentional messaging to their benefit, something their critics have failed to do. Arthur H. Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., discusses where supporters of equitable, democratic and respectful education need to go — and how to get there.  The ideas expressed in this article are his alone and do not represent Stevens Institute. His other writing can be found at

Education Law Center Celebrating Education Champions 2014
On September 17, 2014 the Education Law Center will hold its annual event at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Education Champions. This year, the event will honor William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and the Stoneleigh Foundation, a Philadelphia regional leader on at-risk youth issues.

Pennsylvania Arts Education Network 2014 Arts and Education Symposium
The 2014 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 2 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA.  Join us for a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about the latest news from the field.
The Symposium registration fee is $45 per person. To register, click here or follow the prompts at the bottom of the page.  The Symposium will include the following:

Register Now – 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.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference (Oct. 21-24) 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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