Thursday, September 11, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 11: Guv's race: Fighting like Tom cats over school funding

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 11, 2014:
Guv's race: Fighting like Tom cats over school funding

Concerned with adequate, equitable, predictable, sustainable #paedfunding?  Follow new @PACircuitRider and @CircuitRiderSE accounts on twitter

Here's the video from Tuesday's public meeting.  Next BEFC meeting tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, September 30th in Clarion County
September 9th Lehigh Valley Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing (video runtime 176:53)
Senator Browne's website September 9, 2014

Here's another perspective on the research of Marguerite Roza, who testified before the PA Basic Education Funding Commission on Tuesday
School Finance through Roza-Tinted Glasses: 5 School Funding Myths from a single Misguided Source
School Finance 101 Blog by Bruce Baker Posted on June 6, 2011
Bruce Baker is a Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
I’ve reached a point after these past few years where I feel that I’ve spent way too much time  critiquing poorly constructed arguments and shoddy analyses that seem to be playing far too large a role in influencing state and federal (especially federal) education policy. I find this frustrating not because I wish that my own work got more recognition. I actually think my own work gets too much recognition as well, simply because I’ve become more “media savvy” than some of my peers in recent years.
I find it frustrating because there are numerous exceptional scholars doing exceptional work in school finance and the economics of education whose entire body of rigorous disciplined research seems drowned out by a few prolific hacks with connections in the current policy debate.It may come as a surprise to readers of popular media, but individuals like Mike Petrilli, Eric Osberg, Rick Hess (all listed on the USDOE resource web site) or Bryan Hassel wouldn’t generally be considered credible scholars in school finance or economics of education. I’d perhaps have less concern – and be able to blow this off – if many of the assertions being made by these individuals – and others – weren’t so often completely unsupported by reasonable analysis and if those assertions didn’t lead to potentially dangerous and damaging policies.
This post is specifically about the body of methodologically flimsy research produced in recent years by Marguerite Roza, previously of the Center on Reinventing Public Education and currently an advisor to the Gates Foundation.

Guv's race: Fighting like Tom cats over school funding
After an entertaining interlude in which a lawyer in a Tom Wolf commercial turned out to have acted in a sleazy, low-budget horror film, the candidates in the Pennsylvania governor's race are back to the business of hammering home their completely contradictory, seemingly mutually exclusive, claims about state education funding.  Which makes sense. While insiders have fun debating whether Alan Benyak's film was "torture porn," polls show Gov. Tom Corbett is in trouble because voters are watching another slasher film: the one that has him cutting education funding, degrading schools and forcing property taxes up.
So Corbett began airing a commercial (above) this week in which he appears in a plaid shirt and speaks directly into the camera to say Wolf and his "special interest groups" are wrong when they accuse him of cutting education funding. The ad says Corbett cleaned up the education spending mess Gov. Ed Rendell left and now has state schools spending at its highest level ever.
Republicans have dubbed Wolf's story of massive education cuts under Corbett "the billion-dollar lie."  Tom Wolf has come back with a commercial (below) which shows a screen shot of Corbett's ad, then says flat-out that Corbett cut a billion dollars from school funding, increasing class sizes and driving up property taxes.

September 11, 2014 - Wolf Devours Corbett In Pennsylvania Gov Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Say Democrat Is Better On Economy, Education
Pennsylvania likely voters say businessman Tom Wolf, the Democratic challenger for governor, is better than Republican Gov. Tom Corbett on every measure, especially handling the top issues of the economy/jobs and education, and give him an overwhelming 59 - 35 percent lead eight weeks before Election Day, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Wolf leads 91 - 7 percent among Democrats and 53 - 39 percent among independent voters, while Gov. Corbett has a lackluster 66 - 28 percent lead among Republicans, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared to prior surveys of registered voters.   Among voters who name a candidate, 84 percent say their mind is made up, while 15 percent say they might change their mind.
Corbett is the bigger issue in the campaign, as 51 percent of Wolf backers say their vote is mainly against the incumbent while 39 percent say they are voting mainly for the Democrat. Among Corbett backers, 62 percent say their vote is mainly pro-Corbett, while 30 percent say they are mainly anti-Wolf.
"A stunningly bad showing for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett who is clobbered across the board on issues, leadership and other character traits by a candidate who was unknown to most voters earlier this year," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Legislator pushes to revise state's PlanCon program for school construction
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau September 11, 2014 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Schools in Pittsburgh and Bethel Park will be among several to receive long-sought funding for capital projects, a Central Pennsylvania state representative said Wednesday while joining with education officials to push legislation that would remake the reimbursement program for school construction.  School officials have complained about the Planning and Construction Workbook, known as PlanCon, the process by which districts receive state money for building. Legislation in the state budget package in July ended an October 2012 moratorium on districts applying for reimbursement, but hundreds of projects remain in the funding queue.
At a Capitol news conference Wednesday, state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said the existing program is burdensome for school districts, requiring state approval at 11 stages and the submission of plans on microfilm.

PSBA News Release: School districts need relief from outdated, complex PlanCon process (HB2124)
PSBA 9/10/2014 Diana Dietz, PSBA Public Relations Manager
Representatives of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association joined with Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) today to call for the General Assembly to pass legislation that will simplify the school construction reimbursement process during a news conference at the State Capitol.
School board directors speaking during the news conference included, PSBA President Rich Frerichs, Penn Manor School District; Thomas Kerek, board vice president, Kane Area School District; Kerith Taylor, school board member, Brookville Area School District; Rocky Ahner, school board member, Lehighton Area School District.  Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) requires school districts to use the 11-step Planning and Construction Workbook (PlanCon) process in order to apply for state reimbursement for a share of approved construction costs. The process requires school districts to complete a maze of forms and procedures required by PDE.  Dr. Richard Frerichs, 2014 PSBA president, said, "The PlanCon process is burdensome, expensive and needlessly complicated for school districts. Further, the process is full of outdated requirements that have created challenges that have escalated over a period of years since it was first developed in the 1970's. House Bill 2124 provides solutions to the burdens created by this complex mandate by modernizing and simplifying the process, effectively reducing costs for districts, taxpayers and the state."

The High Cost of No Excuses Charter Schools
Edushyster Blog by Jennifer Berkshire Posted on September 10, 2014
Professor Joan Goodman, the director of the Teach for America program at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about the philosophy behind *no excuses* charter schools, and the price paid by students who attend them.

The Problems of Charter Schools Won’t Be Solved by PR
Writing for the Education Opportunity Network, a program of the liberal Institute for America’s Future, Jeff Bryant has issued a tough analysis of the problems of charter schools. In response to the charter school industry’s new public relations campaign called “Truth about Charters,” Bryant suggests that charter schools need regulation, not PR. Why are charter school advocates pursing an ad campaign? Bryant notes public opinion beginning to turn against charters in some communities—particularly, he says, in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, where parents and officials have opposed charter school takeovers.
Bryant also suggests that charter school advocates may be responding to a report from Standard & Poor’s, the market rating service, which had little positive to say to potential investors in charter schools. The report, titled The U.S. Charter School Outlook Is Still Negative in 2014, found “a greater possibility of downgrades [for charter schools] than for public or independent schools.”
Among the reasons cited in the S&P analysis were:

State committee to hold hearings on Corbett's Common Core announcement UPDATED:   09/10/2014 02:59:49 PM EDT
The state House Education Committee will hold two hearings on Gov. Tom Corbett's recent announcement that he wants review of the state's academic standards, according to a news release.  Corbett recently said he wants continuing review in order to "roll back" the Common Core.  From 9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 24, acting education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq and Jennifer Branstetter, policy secretary, were invited to explain Corbett's position. From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oct. 14, members of state groups that represent school boards, school administrators and teachers have been invited to discuss the effects of Corbett's recent announcement, the release says.  The hearings will take place in the Majority Caucus Room, Room 140, at the Main Capitol building in Harrisburg, or they can be watched online at or

Critics say politics fuels Pa. Common Core study
Penn LIve By Peter Jackson | The Associated Press on September 09, 2014 at 8:12 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Critics of new reading and math standards in Pennsylvania schools said Tuesday that Gov. Tom Corbett's call for public hearings a year after they were approved appears motivated by a desire to bolster conservatives' support for his sagging re-election campaign.  But the state standards' detractors also said the hearings may help their campaign to dismantle the national Common Core standards, which they say have eroded local control over schools and which have encountered serious pushback in many other states.
In his battle against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, Corbett "is down 20 points in the polls. This is going to be kind of a swing-for-the-fence" move for Corbett, said Ryan Bannister, a leader of the group called Pennsylvanians Against Common Core.
Still, if Corbett takes steps to show that "we truly are going to dismantle this, I think that truly would sway a lot of voters," said Bannister, a computer expert from Harrisburg.
"It's a political move," said Peg Luksik, a conservative activist from Johnstown who is working to stop Common Core, referring to the hearings. "Realistically speaking, the election will have come and gone before the board takes any action."

Corbett vows special session on pensions if reelected
THOMAS FITZGERALD, INQUIRER POLITICS WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, September 11, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 8:55 PM
Public workers' pension costs are a "Pac-Man" that will consume an ever-greater share of the state budget unless changes are made - and his Democratic opponent continues to duck that issue, Gov. Corbett said Wednesday.  "If I don't get reelected for four more years, there will be nothing done about this, because Mr. [Tom] Wolf says there is not a pension problem," Corbett said.  If he wins a second term, Corbett said, he would call a special session of the legislature early next year to force action on pensions, including for municipal workers. He said Scranton is distressed because of unaffordable pension obligations and predicted some school districts in Pennsylvania will come "doggone close to bankruptcy" without a solution.

33 More Hours for Learning!
by Yinzercation Blog September 9, 2014
We scored a big victory in Pittsburgh last night! The school district and school board agreed to substantially reduce testing for students in grades K-5. The biggest winners are children in grades 3-5, where testing will be cut from 85.5 periods a year to 41.5 periods. At 45 minutes per period, that is 1,980 minutes of instructional time – or 33 hours of real learning time – that our children just got back in their lives.  Thirty-three hours! And that’s just in test-taking. When tests are eliminated, students also gain back time that had been dedicated to test-prep, so there is a multiplier effect here, too.
School board member Sherry Hazuda looked at those numbers and said, “No wonder people are complaining when you see it like that.” [Post-Gazette, 9-9-14] Indeed. We certainly have been complaining. We’ve also been meeting with the district, legislators, and other decision makers to provide evidence of the negative impacts of high-stakes testing. [See “High Stakes for Students”] Last night, board member Carolyn Klug pointed out one of those impacts, explaining that with these testing cuts students will not only have more time to learn, “it will reduce stress as well.” [Post-Gazette, 9-9-14]

Coalitions can change the game for Philadelphia schools
the notebook by Jody Cohen and Nick Palazzolo on Sep 10, 2014 10:54 AM
Jody Cohen is a Term Professor of Education at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, where her teaching and research focus on urban education and social justice education. She also works with the cross-university Education Policy Working Group in Philadelphia. 
Nick Palazzolo is an educator and researcher, who currently works with the Education Policy Working Group. He is a former program coordinator and facilitator at the University Community Collaborative and the Attic Youth Center, respectively.
As we begin a new school year and approach a gubernatorial election, let’s celebrate the work of teachers, students, parents, community members, labor unions, and faith communities in Philadelphia who are coming together to improve education in our city. Never before have people from so many sectors of the city joined together to pursue their common goal: high-quality education for all.  Excited by this positive energy among diverse groups of people deeply invested in countering the austerity measures proposed by the School District and private actors, we decided to take a closer look. We noticed several coalitions of groups working together for the first time, united in vision and strategy.   We are a group of college educators in and near Philadelphia (from Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges with backgrounds in education, anthropology, and political science), who came together to understand more about the growing education movement in Philadelphia.
From our perspective outside the movement, here are some lessons we’ve learned about the coalitions changing the game for Philadelphia schools:

York Suburban makes Newsweek's top schools list
Newsweek ranked the high school 67th in its 2014 list
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   09/10/2014 08:54:25 PM EDT
Newsweek published its 2014 list of the top high schools in the country on Wednesday, and it didn't take long for calls and social media posts to start rolling into the York Suburban School District from proud alumni and others, said Supt. Shelly Merkle.  York Suburban High School ranked 67 on the news magazine's overall list. Principal Brian Ellis interrupted classes near the end of the day — an unusual occurrence, Merkle said — to announce the news and offer congratulations.  Merkle said the district is "extremely proud" of the ranking. She planned to send a congratulatory email to the entire staff Wednesday night, she said, noting that to have a great high school requires a strong K-12 program.
"It's more than just about our high school," she said.
To create the list, Newsweek first used performance indicators, such as standardized test scores, to find schools performing at or above the 80th percentile in each state, according to the magazine's methodology online. For those schools, the magazine then considered factors including enrollment and graduation rates, attrition rates — meaning if students stay in the school, and performance on Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT tests.
Newsweek also published a separate list called "Beating the Odds - Top Schools for Low Income Students," which factored a school's poverty rate into the equation. York Suburban, with a poverty rate of about 23 percent listed, ranked 83rd on that list.

With budgets tight, schools turn to corporate sponsorships
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 2:51 pm | Updated: 3:55 pm, Wed Sep 10, 2014.
When Conestoga Valley students drive to school, they park in the Lancaster Toyota Parking Lot.
At Hempfield High School, hungry teens eat in the Wheatland Federal Credit Union Cafeteria.
Lampeter-Strasburg athletes may play in JK Mechanical Football Stadium or run on the Willoughby & Associates Track.  Corporate sponsorships of facilities have brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars to some local schools in recent years, and School District of Lancaster is the latest looking to get in on the marketing game.

Folmer Fast Focus: Cyber Charter School Debate
PA Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Folmer September 2014
…Jenny Bradmon, John Callahan and I are exploring one aspect of school choice: cyber charter school funding. Jenny Bradmon is the Executive Director of Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools, and John Callahan is Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  …The following is an attempt to review both sides of the ongoing cyber charter school debate.  White papers from each are included as well.

"At least four charter school employees violated the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) provisions by simultaneously collecting charter school salaries and state pensions, which is also a violation of the United State’s Internal Revenue Retirement Code. Those in violation included the school’s CEO who collected a $120,000 salary while receiving pension payments.  Charter school employees failed to complete and file Statements of Financial Interest as required by the Public Official and Employees Ethics Act. Auditors also found that the CEO hired his nephew, brother and cousin to work at the school.
DePasquale said pension and conflict of interest issues have been forwarded to the appropriate investigative and regulatory agencies, including the state Ethics Commission and PSERS.
Auditors found that the school’s CEO and its financial consulting company, which has significant control over the school’s operations, failed to provide the board of trustees with essential information, including: treasurer’s reports, bills, expenditure approvals, check registers and complete annual financial reports. At the time of the audit, the school also lacked basic documents, including: payroll, certification records, criminal background checks, vendor contracts, enrollment data and Statements of Financial Interest."
Auditor General DePasquale Says Audit Shows Erie R.I.S.E. Leadership Academy Charter School Failed Students, Educational Mission September 10 2014
HARRISBURG (Sept. 10, 2014) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today the audit of the Erie R.I.S.E. Leadership Academy Charter School found significant failures in operations, compliance with laws and accountability to taxpayers which need to be fixed so student success can be the number-one focus.  The 30-page audit covered January 28 through March 27, 2014 and found a multitude of operational and procedural concerns including hiring the CEO’s family members, violations of its own charter agreement by having larger than approved classroom sizes and no attendance or disciplinary plans.  At the time of the audit, the charter school was in such disarray that DePasquale took the unusual step of issuing an interim report in March to publicly call attention to the school’s operational shortcomings and recommend improvements.

Court upholds revocation of Graystone Academy’s charter
By Kristina Scala, Daily Local News POSTED: 09/10/14, 2:47 PM EDT
Graystone Academy Charter School exhausted all options in attempting to keep the charter open and will now close permanently after Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided to uphold the original decision to reject the charterís appeal.   Graystone Academy Charter School exhausted its options in attempting to keep the charter open and will now close permanently after Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided to uphold the original decision to revoke the school’s charter.  “The Commonwealth Court affirmed the Charter School Appeals Board’s revocation order, which essentially directed that the charter school be closed for failure to comply with the terms of its charter, as well as other material failures,” Coatesville Area School District solicitor James Ellison said in an email Wednesday.

Texas textbooks tout Christian heritage
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON | 9/10/14 12:11 PM EDT Updated: 9/11/14 12:39 AM EDT
Texas students may soon be reading in their history textbooks that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses, segregated schools weren’t all that bad and taxes imposed for programs like Social Security haven’t measurably improved society.
Those passages are among dozens of biased, misleading or inaccurate lessons identified on Wednesday by a panel of scholars commissioned by a liberal advocacy group to analyze dozens of new history, geography and civics textbooks up for review by the state Board of Education.
Defenders of the new textbooks dismissed the criticism as sour grapes. But the controversy in Texas also hints at rising tensions across the U.S. over academic standards, as conservatives have mobilized aggressively to shape what students learn in science, social studies and beyond.

PUBLIC Education Nation October 11
The Network for Public Education will hold a historic event in one month's time
PUBLIC Education Nation will deliver the conversation the country has been waiting for. Rather than featuring billionaires and pop singers, this event will be built around intense conversations featuring leading educators, parents, students and community activists. We have waited too long for that seat at someone else's table. This time, the tables are turned, and we are the ones setting the agenda.   This event will be livestreamed on the web on the afternoon of Saturday, October 11, from the auditorium of Brooklyn New School, a public school. There will be four panels focusing on the most critical issues we face in our schools. The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.  

Please join us for a symposium on:
“Funding Pennsylvania's Public Schools: A Look Ahead”
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics and the Temple University Center on Regional Politics.
When: Friday, October 3, 2014, 8:30 am to 12 pm
Where: Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh in Green Tree, PA
Session I:  "Forecasting the Fiscal Future of Pennsylvania's Public Schools"
A panel of legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Penn State Professor William Hartman and Tim Shrom projecting the fiscal trajectory of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts over the next five years and by University of Pittsburgh Professor Maureen McClure discussing the implications for school finance of an aging tax base.
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
Following an address by Eva Tansky Blum, Chairwoman and President of the PNC Foundation, a panel of business and labor leaders will discuss the importance of public school funding reform to the competitiveness of regional and state economies. 
We look forward to your participation!

Back to School Special Education Boot Camp Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:30 A.M.- 3:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join presenters from: Temple University · McAndrews Law Offices · ARC
PA Education for All Coalition · Delaware Valley Friends School
PA Dyslexia and Literacy Coalition
Attend workshops on: Early Intervention · Dyslexia · Discipline · Charter Schools
Inclusion · Transition Services
Details and Registration:

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)

Voting for PSBA officers and at-large representatives opens Sept. 9
PSBA Website 9/8/2014
The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for candidates. 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 open Sept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register 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 received an email on Aug. 13 and a test ballot was sent to them on Aug. 28. In addition, a memo from PSBA President Richard Frerichs will be mailed in the coming days to all board secretaries and copied to school board presidents and chief school administrators.

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