Wednesday, August 6, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 6: Governor coming to Philly this morning to discuss school crisis

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 6, 2014:
Governor coming to Philly this morning to discuss school crisis


Corbett aide says District should count on cigarette tax; Gov coming to Philly
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 5, 2014 06:09 PM
State Budget Secretary Charles Zogby says that Superintendent William Hite and the School Reform Commission should count on the eventual legislative authorization of a city cigarette tax to raise money for the city's schools -- meaning that they should not pull the trigger on layoffs and other school cuts on Aug. 15 that could delay the scheduled opening of school.  Sources also said that Gov. Corbett is planning to make an appearance in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning to discuss the schools' crisis.
Zogby made this not-quite-commitment just one day after Corbett had no luck in persuading legislative leaders to come back on Sept. 8 instead of their scheduled date of Sept.15 to enact the tax. Sept. 8 is the scheduled first day of school in Philadelphia.
The authorization legislation for the cigarette tax has been hung up in Harrisburg, primarily because unrelated additions to the bill split House and Senate Republicans.

"But it’s not just about vacation. Failing to address the Philadelphia schools’ immediate problem is an extension of failing to resolve Pennsylvania schools’ persistent one. Prior to not dealing with the Philadelphia cigarette tax, lawmakers wasted another year not dealing with local property tax reform, corporate tax reform, pension reform and other matters that contribute to soaring property taxes and inadequate school revenues."
Times-Tribune Editorial: Cigarette tax, responsibility up in smoke
Scranton Times-Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: August 5, 2014
Pennsylvania’s Legislature, which won’t reconvene until mid-September, has perfected the art of being paid full time for part-time work.  That’s of scant help to children in Philadelphia, whose public schools are scheduled to open Sept. 8, before the legislators get back to Harrisburg to talk about crucial funding for the struggling school district.
A vote was scheduled Monday on a bill to impose a $2 a pack cigarette tax increase in Philadelphia. The estimated $45 million to be produced by the tax would help close a yawning deficit in the schools budget of up to $90 million.  House leaders suddenly canceled the vote and headed for the beach, even though the House had passed an earlier version of the bill. Some representatives apparently did not like some Senate amendments, but those differences can’t be resolved while they’re on vacation.

Corbett touring Pa. to push for pension overhaul
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON AUGUST 6, 2014
Gov. Tom Corbett is entering the fourth week of a town-hopping expedition discussing his plan to overhaul Pennsylvania's public pensions.  At a July visit to a coffee shop near Hershey Park in Dauphin County, Corbett repeated his refrain that the state's pension debacle is a bipartisan issue.  "I do not view this as a Republican-Democrat issue," he said. "Taxpayers, homeowners, property owners -- we don't look at the R and the D."
But the events on the governor's barnstorming route haven't been bipartisan.
The local legislators of all the places visited are overwhelmingly Republican. The statewide sweep has eschewed Democratic strongholds. Events have been in suburban or rural areas, at restaurants, municipal centers, and farms. The campaign began in the governor's hometown of Shaler.

GOP lawmakers continue discussions about Philly cigarette tax bill.
Capitolwire.com — Under The Dome™ Tuesday, August 5, 2014
The relative quiet of the state Capitol was broken Monday as protestors worked their way through the Main Capitol Building, chanting for legislators to pass a bill that would allow Philadelphia to raise its cigarette tax to help fund the city’s public schools. Top Republican leaders met with Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday to try to figure out a way to free up House Bill 1177, which has gotten bogged down in the legislative process due to other components included within the bill. House and Senate Republicans have been playing ping-pong with the legislation since June, putting in and pulling out various items, but failing to reach an agreement that would send HB1177 to Corbett, who has said he wants to give Philadelphia the authority to raise its cigarette tax by $2 per pack. The additional tax, say supporters of it, would generate $83 million for the district which currently has an $81 million budget gap. The House had intended on holding voting session this week, with the plan to vote HB1177, but the latest changes made to the bill by Senate Republicans have some within the House GOP (enough, apparently, to scuttle the bill) against passage without additional tweaks to the legislation. That prompted House GOP leaders to scrap this week’s planned session, and now neither chamber of the General Assembly – at least for the moment – is scheduled to return to voting session until Sept. 15, which is after the school year begins in Philadelphia. To prevent what some in Philadelphia say will be the inability of the schools to open – if they don’t get the cigarette tax revenue – legislative Republicans and the governor have said they will do what they can to get other money, already earmarked for the city’s public schools, to the district sooner than was originally planned. The advanced funding would also buy some additional time for the Legislature to approve a measure that contains the cigarette tax authorizing language. For more about the results from Monday’s meeting – or the lack of them – CLICK HERE (paywall) to read a report from The Associated Press.

In cigarette tax haze, an overlooked point about Philly’s tax circumstances
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON AUGUST 5, 2014
As Pennsylvania lawmakers appear at a stalemate over a cigarette tax proposal for Philadelphia schools, advocates worry that tax-averse legislators have a fundamental misunderstanding of their city's situation.  An "us-versus-them" mentality pervades any debate involving education funding for the Philadelphia School District. Many Republican lawmakers have balked at the notion of approving a tax authorization for Philadelphia when it doesn't benefit their own districts.

Corbett ready to give Philly schools a cash advance?: Tuesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on August 05, 2014 at 7:50 AM, updated August 05, 2014 at 8:21 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well, yesterday was supposed to have been the day that the state House returned to work to pass a Philly-only increase to the state's cigarette tax, thus providing the city's schools with a badly needed cash infusion.  But as most followers of the state's political scene are aware, that didn't happen. ButGov. Tom Corbett on Monday appeared to offer city schoolkids some hope, saying he was willing to advance the district millions of dollars in aid to ensure schools open on time next month, The Inquirer reports.
"This is about putting children of Philadelphia first," spokesman Jay Pagni told the newspaper. "The governor is prepared, if need be, to advance funding once the final request is made of him."  But there was some skepticism in Philadelphia: "The problem with this is, it's not new money," said Mayor Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald. "What the School District needs is new additional funds."  Meanwhiile, two busloads of schoolkids descended on the Capitol on Monday, where lawmakers most decidedly weren't present. But that didn't keep them from rallying. 

The path forward: Q&A with Helen Gym of Parents United
the notebook By Bill Hangley Jr. on Aug 5, 2014 01:11 PM
Helen Gym ranks among Philadelphia’s best-known education advocates, and she's one of the most vocal critics of education reform as practiced in the city.
A co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, she has said she feels that the city is now going through “some kind of sick social experiment,” pointing to the failure of reform efforts to address systemwide inequities even as they are exacerbated by budget cuts.
Recognized this year by the White House as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change, she is convinced that the conversation about education needs to be fundamentally shifted away from the goal of expanding “choice” and back toward the goal of ensuring “equity.”
“This is a state obligation, plain and clear,” she says. “Our essential responsibility as parents is to reframe and refocus the discussion on the constitutional mandate and the moral obligation.”
In the wake of this year’s budget process, we asked Gym to reflect on the message from Harrisburg, the role of charters and the teachers’ union, and Parents United’s strategy for shaping the debate in the months to come. 

Related Postings from the notebook:

With Philly in freefall, how do we fix public education? Should we?
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on August 05, 2014 at 10:04 AM
So here's one to chew over for a Tuesday morning, via The Huffington Post:
"In recent years, the public education systems in Philadelphia and Chicago have seen mass personnel layoffs, school closures and frequent budget crises. But a new report from the Center for American Progress shows that it does not necessarily have to be that way.
The report, released in July and written by Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker, details the inequitable education funding systems in a number of states in which the most affluent districts get the biggest share of money, leaving the neediest students with substantially less. Among the students suffering most from unfair school funding practices are those enrolled in the public schools of Philadelphia and Chicago. The research found that funding disparities have placed these two inner city districts at an extreme disadvantage, when compared to the affluent suburbs surrounding both cities.

Stephen Starr talks Philadelphia schools, struggling retail and new locations on the horizon
By Francis Hilario Reporter-Philadelphia Business Journal Aug 4, 2014, 12:24pm EDT UPDATED: Aug 4, 2014, 8:15pm EDT
Stephen Starr, the man behind restaurants like Parc, El Vez, Barclay Prime and Serpico, is not only a restaurateur — he’s a philanthropist.  Starr launched the Support Our Schools program, a month-long fundraising and awareness initiative asking restaurant patrons to add donations to their checks at the end of their meals. The program was a hit, raising more than $100,000 for the School District of Philadelphia.  The restaurateur sat down with Philadelphia Business Journal Editor-in-Chief Craig Ey during the 2014 Corporate Giving Awards, where he talked about the genesis of the Support Our Schools program, his thoughts on the status of the city’s school system and offered an interesting take on the Philadelphia's retail scene.

Lower Dauphin School Board gives preliminary approval to new graduation requirements
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com  on August 04, 2014 at 9:04 PM
Starting in 2015-16, students in Lower Dauphin School District will be earning one-quarter credit more in order to graduate, and by 2017 will have to pass three Keystone exams.
The changes are part of a revised graduation requirement policy given approval on first reading Monday night by the school board.  Students will have to earn 24 credits in 2015-16, compared with 23.75 now. That will come through a one-quarter addition to the career exploration requirement, which will increase to 0.5 credit and incorporate financial education.
Starting with the 2017 graduating class, students will also have to pass Keystone exams in Algebra I, biology and literature.  The changes bring the district into compliance with new state Keystone exams and Chapter 4 standards. Districts must have the changes adopted in September, Superintendent Sherri Smith said.

State's open records director sitting in limbo
TribLive By Kari Andren Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
The woman hired six years ago to oversee sweeping changes to Pennsylvania's open records law is waiting to see if she still has a job.  More than three months since her six-year term expired as executive director of the Office of Open Records, Terry Mutchler doesn't know whether Gov. Tom Corbett will reappoint her to a second term.  Mutchler, a former Associated Press journalist, took the $142,358-a-year post after lawmakers voted in 2008 to grant unprecedented access to the inner workings of public agencies.  “Every day you come in (and), for me and my family, we wonder if that's my last paycheck,” Mutchler said. “I'm willing to take that, but it's very, very stressful on the staff.”  Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said the governor will decide “at the appropriate time.”
Community Losses: the Costs of Education Reform
UniversityToledo Law Review
By Susan L. DeJarnatt, Professor of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, July 10, 2014
Abstract: Philadelphia has been a hotspot for various methods of education reform since 2002 when the Philadelphia School District was taken over by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It now has over 80 bricks and mortar charter schools and sends thousands of students to on line cyber charter schools. Many of the charter schools were formerly traditional public schools that were converted to charters. This article examines how the waves of education reform in Philadelphia have treated public education as a private good, to the exclusion of its role in promoting democratic equality and social efficiency. The article explores how this focus has costs, including the loss of community voice, the loss of effective parental choice for those parents who prefer public schools; economic costs in the negative impact of charter costs on the school district's budget; and loss of opportunities for other methods of education reform that treat public education as a public good.

FairTest Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 30 - August 4, 2014
Submitted by fairtest on August 5, 2014 - 1:00pm 
This week's mid-summer torrent of stories shows how testing overkill and assessment reform have become significant issues of public -- and political -- debate.

"Education is a focus of the new budget, with significant increases to kindergarten through high school funding for operational and infrastructure costs. Community colleges will see boosts to some noncredit courses and bonds for eight capital projects. …This year marks the first in a 32-year-plan to fully fund the $189.1 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, which faces a $73.7 billion shortfall from large investment losses during the 2000s and reduced state contributions during the dot-com bubble. The state plans to bridge the gap through increases in member, employer and state contributions."
California's new state budget emphasizes funding for education
Morning Call By Robin Respaut Reuters 2:39 p.m. EDT, August 4, 2014
 (Reuters) - California's newest budget package of $152.3 billion in state spending emphasizes large increases for education, pays down debts, and proposes a 32-year plan to fully fund the teachers' pension system, the state's nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor said on Monday
California's Legislative Analyst's Office released details on the state's preliminary fiscal 2014-2015 budget plan, which assumes an 8.6 percent increase over last year's spending.


TOWN MEETING ON LOCAL CONTROL OF PHILLY SCHOOLS
THURSDAY, AUGUST 14TH 6:30 P.M. MONUMENTAL BAPTIST CHURCH
4948 LOCUST ST.
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.

Upcoming meetings on Philly District's school redesign initiative
the notebook By Marilyn Vaccaro on Jul 30, 2014 05:14 PM
The School District is planning a series of meetings and discussions about its new school redesign initiative, which was announced last week.  Two informational sessions will be held, with  the second on Aug. 12. Those who participate will be able to learn more about the application process and the specifics of the initiative itself.   Through the initiative, the District is calling on teams of educators, parents, community groups, and other outside organizations to propose their own school turnaround plans. Ten winning design teams will be chosen in October and will receive grants of $30,000 to support planning costs.

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.

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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