Established in 2006, the Keystone State Education Coalition is a growing grass roots, non-partisan public education advocacy group of several hundred locally elected, volunteer school board members and administrators from school districts throughout Pennsylvania. Our mission is to evaluate, discuss and inform our boards, district constituents and legislators on legislative issues of common interest and to facilitate active engagement in public education advocacy.
PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 11: Guv's race: Fighting like Tom cats over school funding
Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now
reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors,
administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers,
Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA
officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education
professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies,
professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails,
website, Facebook and Twitter
Bruce Baker is a
Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The StateUniversity
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
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
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.
11, 2014 - Wolf Devours Corbett In Pennsylvania
Gov Race, QuinnipiacUniversity 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.
Release: School districts need relief from outdated, complex PlanCon process
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
School board directors speaking
during the news conference included, PSBA President Rich Frerichs, PennManorSchool District; Thomas Kerek, board vice president, KaneAreaSchool District; Kerith Taylor, school board member, BrookvilleAreaSchool District; Rocky Ahner, school
board member, LehightonAreaSchool
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."
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
Non-Profit Quarterly WRITTEN BY RICK COHEN CREATED
ON WEDNESDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2014 13:39
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,
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.”
State committee to hold
hearings on Corbett's Common Core announcement
YDR.com 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
www.paulclymer.com or www.pahousegop.com.
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
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
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
Newsweek ranked the
high school 67th in its 2014 list
York Daily Record By
Angie Mason firstname.lastname@example.org @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 YorkSuburbanSchool
District from proud alumni and others, said Supt.
Shelly Merkle. YorkSuburbanHigh 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
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.
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
PA Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Folmer September
…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.
GraystoneAcademyCharterSchool 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.
GraystoneAcademyCharterSchool 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
Politico By STEPHANIE SIMON |
9/10/14 12:11 PM EDT Updated: 9/11/14 12:39 AM EDT
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
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
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.
Where: Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh in Green Tree, PA
"Forecasting the Fiscal Future of Pennsylvania's Public
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
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.
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:
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