Tuesday, September 2, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 2: "a relatively small number of PA parents driving $1.3 billion out of public education"

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 2, 2014:
"a relatively small number of PA parents driving $1.3 billion out of public education"

What Pennsylvania Can Learn From Other States’ Education Funding Formulas
Education Law Center Report February 2013

Local officials: Pensions, construction drive rise in reserves
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 09/01/14, 10:51 AM EDT |
Pennsylvania school districts may be sitting on billions of dollars in reserves, but local school business administrators say when you start looking at what some of that money is being used for, it’s not as simple as it seems.  By and large, most of the region’s school districts increased their reserve funds in the last four years, the same years in which officials there have expressed dismay at cuts in the state education budget and limits on their ability to raise revenues from tax increases.

Delco Times Editorial: Fixes needed now for public school funding
POSTED: 08/30/14, 9:21 PM EDT |
We applaud — skeptically — the recent efforts in Harrisburg to build consensus and momentum for changing the state’s broken method of funding public schools.  A group of former school executives — dubbed education circuit riders — plans to travel the state for a year to mobilize local school officials to advocate in their communities for reform. Meanwhile a new state commission charged with recommending a new school funding formula by June 2015 is beginning work.  In a nutshell, the systems of both generating and distributing funds to school districts no longer work. The new commission is focused on coming up with a means to distribute state funds fairly and adequately. A legislative effort has focused on shifting local reliance from property taxes to sales and personal income taxes.

“Great progress has been made this year with the governor and secretary of education admitting the need to change the way state dollars are distributed to support schools, and with the creation of a legislative commission to make recommendations for a new formula,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. “However, the disparities in state support for schools across Pennsylvania are well documented and the components of an equitable funding formula are well studied. Now is the time for action to ensure we fix the problem.”
State basic education funding campaign underway
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter a.davis@bradfordera.com Posted: August 30, 2014 7:00 am
A “circuit rider” wants to make sure that school officials in the four-county region have a voice in the creation of a fair, predictable basic education funding formula in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign is underway and includes nearly a dozen former superintendents, school directors and Intermediate Unit executive directors journeying throughout the state to discuss the formula.  “It would be wonderful for the often-forgotten Northwestern and Northern PA areas to become a prime mover in this endeavor,” said Pam Lenz, who is the circuit rider for Intermediate Unit 9 and 5.   IU9 includes districts in McKean, Potter, Cameron and Elk counties.  At this point, a basic education formula doesn’t exist in Pennsylvania, Lenz said.  “What school districts currently receive is based on a compilation of previous legislation, most notable of which was Act 31 of 1983,” she said. “This marked the creation of a ‘hold harmless’ provision that stated a school district would not receive less funding than it had received in the prior year. 

YDR  Editorial: Leadership needed on fair school funding (editorial)
Digital First Media Pennsylvania Editorial Board
York Daily Record UPDATED:   08/29/2014 12:17:31 PM EDT
The outdoorsman Gov. Tom Corbett paddled his way into Pottstown recently, navigating a kayak from Union Township in Berks to Riverfront Park.  Then, the pension reformer governor stepped on land to remind the two reporters present that he's on a mission to get a $50 billion public employee pension liability under control.  Next came the education governor. When asked by a reporter about fair funding for Pennsylvania schools, Corbett replied:
"What is 'fair funding' is the question ... what's the formula and how do you do it — is it per student, per school or per school district?"
In the midst of re-election year criticism of local school budget cuts tied to state funding, Corbett announced last winter that he was appointing a task force to examine fair funding for schools. The announcement followed a Terry Madonna Opinion Research Omnibus Survey that found 72 percent of adults surveyed favor using a funding formula to ensure "fair distribution" of state aid to schools.

"Across the state, school districts anticipated eliminating or reducing 370 academic programs for the 2014-15 school year, in addition to 783 academic program reductions that have occurred since 2010-11, according to a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. In Northeast Pennsylvania, tutoring programs have been eliminated and class sizes are larger.
“The arts are often one of the first things to be cut,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director for the administrators association."
Western Wayne eliminates some music classes, other districts could be next
BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: September 2, 2014
Students in the Western Wayne School District returned to class last week, but for some, music is no longer on their schedule.  Pre-kindergarten to second-grade students will have no formal music education classes this year.  The move — a result of decreased state funding, increased pension obligations and delinquent construction reimbursements — could eventually be made in additional districts, officials fear.  “It was a very difficult decision, but we’re facing some really, really difficult financial circumstances,” said Western Wayne Superintendent Clay LaCoe, Ed.D.
Instead of replacing a retiring music teacher, the school board opted to save the salary and benefits and discontinue music classes for the district’s youngest students.

"This new band of smarter charter schools could move us beyond stale debates and back toward the original purpose of charter schools: to build powerful models from which the larger system of public education can learn. To be effective laboratories for reform, charter schools cannot be seen as hostile to traditional public schools. Good laboratories also need to give teachers the authority to suggest new approaches and the security to experiment without fear. And because charter schools don’t automatically reflect residential segregation patterns, they should be at the forefront of experimenting with how best to realize our nation’s enduring goal of making one out of many."
The Original Charter School Vision
Richard D. Kahlenberg is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Halley Potter is a fellow at the Century Foundation and a former charter school teacher. They are co-authors of “A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education.”
ALTHOUGH the leaders of teachers unions and charter schools are often in warring camps today, the original vision for charter schools came from Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.  In a 1988 address, Mr. Shanker outlined an idea for a new kind of public school where teachers could experiment with fresh and innovative ways of reaching students. Mr. Shanker estimated that only one-fifth of American students were well served by traditional classrooms. In charter schools, teachers would be given the opportunity to draw upon their expertise to create high-performing educational laboratories from which the traditional public schools could learn.

"The study found that more than 80 percent of the students who leave a traditional public school to attend a charter school enroll in one whose performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests is inferior to the school they left. That doesn't mean there aren't good charters in Pennsylvania; it means the good ones aren't being replicated enough."
Editorial: Charters still an issue
Philly.com POSTED: Sunday, August 31, 2014, 1:09 AM
On the eve of Labor Day, as schools across the state prepare to open for a new year, Pennsylvania still lacks clear strategies to tackle two of public education's worst problems - inadequate funding of local districts and insufficient regulation of charter schools.
As the governor's race gets hotter, expect to hear a lot more about education funding, with Republican Gov. Corbett defending his past school spending and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf pushing for a natural-gas tax to generate more money for districts.
Charter schools shouldn't get lost in the debate. More and more students - not just in Pennsylvania, but across the nation - are opting out of traditional public schools for charters. But the evidence shows that too often, they are not being educated more effectively.
That conclusion can be found in a recent report by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan agency created by the legislature in 1987 to promote the "revitalization of rural Pennsylvania." In that capacity, the center looked at rural and urban charter schools and found that most are doing a poor job.

"Charter advocates have said school districts that lose students to charters can save on the costs of educating those children. But Hartman said the data collected show any savings are marginal compared with how much districts must pay to charter schools.  "From an economic standpoint, most of the charter school costs are extra," Hartman said. "And they are driven, not by educational need, but by parental desire, a relatively small number of parents driving $1.3 billion out of public education."
Study finds cost of Pa. charter schools 'obvious and escalating'
A study released this summer finds charter school enrollment has grown steadily, but at the expense of Pennsylvania school district budgets.  Penn State researchers call the financial pressure on school districts "obvious and escalating," finding that from the 2006 to 2012 school years, the statewide cost more than doubled, arriving at $1.3 billion. The main statewide subsidy for education at the same point was $5.5 billion.  Districts pay tuition for each student who leaves their district for a charter or cyber charter school.  Professor Bill Hartman, part of a team of researchers who conducted the study, said tuition costs are expected to keep rising by 10 to 20 percent a year.

Western Pa. districts aim to win back students from cyber charters
TribLive By Megan Harris Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
As scores of students flee traditional classrooms for the comfort of their keyboards at cyber charter schools, Western Pennsylvania school districts are building cyber academies in an attempt to keep those pupils and the tuition they'd otherwise take with them.
In Pennsylvania, cyber schools get 80 percent of the state funding a public school would receive for a student, usually several thousand dollars per student. The student's home district keeps 20 percent with no obligation to educate the child.  Online programs began this year in Karns City, Avonworth and Franklin Regional, and cyber academies at Fox Chapel and Gateway expanded. Other districts, including Norwin, West Allegheny, Blairsville-Saltsburg, North Hills and Baldwin-Whitehall, have led successful programs for years.  The growth of cyber charters has been costly for brick-and-mortar schools.  This year, 14 cyber charters in Pennsylvania taught 36,596 students — up from just one with 155 students in 2002.
Palmer charter school ready to open, fight for its future
As an embattled city charter school prepares to welcome 1,350 students on Tuesday, founder Walter D. Palmer remains hopeful the school that bears his name will remain open past June.
Palmer, a veteran educator, lawyer, and community activist, said his school had devised an academic turnaround plan and proposed an agreement with the Philadelphia School District to resolve an enrollment dispute.  He hopes to stave off a charter-revocation hearing and funding cuts that threaten the school's survival.  Palmer said he had met twice with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and sent the district a proposal to settle several disputes.  "I'm still prepared to negotiate and find a solution to this matter," Palmer said last week.  District spokesman Fernando Gallard said Friday: "I cannot speak to the representations being made by Mr. Palmer. The fact is that the school district is moving forward with the revocation process."
He said the hearing was scheduled for Oct. 15.

Cook-Wissahickon students rally for funding with community, DeLissio
It's not just the adults who are concerned about the fiscal health of Philadelphia's public schools.
The very youngsters who rely on the city's school district for an education are worried about the state of the system as well.  State Rep. Pam DeLissio invited some of those concerned students to speak alongside her during a sidewalk address on Thursday evening outside of Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School in Roxborough.  The "Rally for School Funding," as it was dubbed, was designed to raise awareness of the budgetary problems faced by the largest school district in Pennsylvania.  "What we need is a commitment from the commonwealth that education is a priority," DeLissio said during the event.

Allegheny County school districts resize, close schools as population shifts
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 31, 2014 12:00 AM
This is the first of a three-part series.
When Kathy Wolf and her husband, David, graduated from Penn Hills High School in the 1970s, there were about 1,200 students in each of their graduating classes.  But when their son Nicholas walked across the football field to collect his diploma in June, there were just 298 students.
With a few exceptions, school districts throughout Western Pennsylvania are educating fewer students than they did even a decade ago.  In the 43 school districts in Allegheny County, enrollment loss averaged 13.3 percent from fall 2004 to fall 2013. With the school year just starting, it’s too early for figures for this year.  Sixty percent of the districts have had double-digit declines in that period, including Pittsburgh with 25 percent. Only three have grown significantly: South Fayette, Avonworth and Pine-Richland.  About half of the county’s school districts have closed schools, consolidated schools, redistricted or changed grade levels within buildings in the past decade.

Declining rolls lead Allegheny County school districts to adjust
By Mary Niederberger and Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 1, 2014 12:00 AM
This is the second installment of a three-part series.
A conversation about elementary school reorganization was the genesis for the joining of Center Area and Monaca school districts into Central Valley in 2010, the state’s only voluntary district merger.  Fast forward to a June meeting of the Moon Area school board.  In the midst of a discussion about which of the district’s elementary schools to close, a board member suggested resurrecting the possibility of merging with the tiny neighboring Cornell School District.
As school districts throughout the region face declining enrollments and increasing financial pressures, it’s still rare for districts to consider merging, but more are consolidating within their own boundaries with fewer and larger, more centrally located schools.  The result is the era of neighborhood elementary schools is fading.  In Allegheny County, about half of the 43 school districts have closed schools, consolidated schools, redistricted or changed grade levels within buildings in the past decade.

School districts struggle to decide how small is too small
By Mary Niederberger and Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 2, 2014 12:02 AM
Thomas McInroy is transportation coordinator, human resources director, facilities manager and curriculum coordinator for the Shanskville-Stoneycreek School District in Somerset County.
He’s also the superintendent.  Unlike employees in large school districts, staff at K-12 Shanksville-Stoneycreek — enrollment 375 — wear many hats.  “People say, ‘You’re a smaller school, so how hard can it be?’ We’re all essentially doing the same work as large school districts. We just have fewer people to do the work,” Mr. McInroy said.
Enrollment declines and tight budgets over the past decade have made it tough for districts of all sizes.  For small districts, it can be even tougher.

Charter school kids enter Pocono Mountain schools
By Jenna Ebersole Pocono Record Writer August 30, 2014 - 12:00 AM
A former Pocono Mountain Charter School administrator and a majority of the students left without a school when the charter shut down are moving to the Pocono Mountain School District.
More than half of the charter students have already switched to the district, with registration ongoing, Superintendent Elizabeth Robison announced at a district meeting last week. The former school has also finished its lease with the Shawnee Tabernacle Church, court-appointed custodian Alan Price Young said.  Robison said 206 of about 300 students at the charter were fully enrolled at district schools as of last Wednesday, with 16 more appointments scheduled. That leaves about 80 students, though they could choose to enroll elsewhere, such as at a private school.  The charter school's former assistant principal, Cassandra Nazario, will start the new school year as assistant principal at the Pocono Mountain West Junior High School, earning $65,000. She holds a 2012 master's degree from the University of Scranton, according to the district.  Nazario was also acting principal at the charter school from about the time of former principal Annette Richardson's departure in late 2013 to new principal Randy Parry's arrival in the spring.  "We're very happy to have Cassandra on board," Robison said.
A state appeals board shut down the charter school in the spring after years of litigation over whether it had broken the law amid accusations that the school's founder, Shawnee Tabernacle's the Rev. Dennis Bloom, had financially mismanaged the school and pocketed money for himself.

East Allegheny teachers to strike today
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 2, 2014 12:06 AM
Despite last-ditch efforts to resolve contract disputes before the would-be first day of school, East Allegheny teachers are still on track to strike this morning.  School directors and the East Allegheny Education Association remain at an impasse, chiefly over salaries for the district’s 128 teachers, who have worked without a contract since June 30, 2012. 

"Too often, the breadth and impact of AmeriCorps’ work is overlooked. Its members provide teaching, tutoring, after-school help and other services in more than 10,000 public schools, including one-third of the nation’s persistently low-achieving schools."
NYT Editorial: Broken Promises on National Service
New York TImes By THE EDITORIAL BOARD AUG. 30, 2014
AmeriCorps turns 20 on Sept. 12, and as the nation’s main public service program in those two decades, it has benefited numerous communities and given 900,000 Americans a chance to help people.  Unfortunately, that milestone is also a reminder of Washington’s broken promise to expand substantially the number of full- and part-time AmeriCorps members, who receive minimal living expenses and a modest education stipend — now $5,645 a year for full-time service. Those in the program, which has a budget of roughly $665 million a year, do invaluable work, like tutoring and mentoring at-risk students, cleaning up dilapidated public parks and responding to floods, hurricanes and other disasters and emergencies.  During his first run for the White House, President Obama spoke many times about his commitment to expanding AmeriCorps and other national service programs. “This will be a cause of my presidency,” he pledged. In 2009, amid much fanfare, he signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, named for the senator who was its foremost champion. The law was passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and it called for increasing AmeriCorps positions in stages to 250,000 by 2017. Yet in the five years since, the authorized ramp-up has not occurred.

Why one school system is dropping Teach For America
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 1 at 8:51 AM  
The school board in Durham, N.C., has voted 6-1 to end its relationship with Teach For America after the 2015-16 school year, when all of the 12 TFA teachers hired in the past few years will have completed the two years of service they promise to make when joining the organization.
What makes it interesting is what school board members said during a discussion about the issue. The Herald Sun reported that several board members said they did not want to continue a relationship with the organization because TFA corps members are highly inexperienced. (How could they not be? TFA recruits mostly newly graduated college students, gives them five weeks of summer training and places them in high-needs classrooms.) There were also concerns expressed that corps members are required only to promise to stay for two years and though some stay longer, some leave before the two years are up, causing a great deal of turnover in many schools with at-risk students who greatly need stability.
School board member Mike Lee was quoted as saying: “I have a problem with the two years and gone, using it like community service.”

Here's a back to school track…….
Pat Metheny With Charlie Haden - The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
youtube Published on Dec 29, 2013 runtime 5:12
Recorded at Wackerhalle, 34th Internationale Jazzwoche Burghausen, Burghausen, Germany, May 7, 2003

PSBA Members - Register to Join the PSBA, PASA, PASBO Listening Tour as BEF Funding Commission begins work; Monday, Sept. 8th 4-6 pm in Bethlehem
The bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission established under Act 51 of 2014 has begun a series of hearings across the state, and you’re invited to join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA, the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) as it follows the panel to each location this fall.
The first tour stop will be on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 from 4-6 p.m., at the Broughal Middle School, 114 W. Morton St, Bethlehem, PA 18015.  Click here to register for the free event.  Other tour dates will be announced as the BEF Commission finalizes the dates and locations for its hearings. The comments and suggestions from the Listening Tour will be compiled and submitted to the Commission early next year.

Research for Action Fall 2014 Internships
Fall internships run from September – December.  Exact start and end dates are based on the needs of the project and the availability of the student.  Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resumé to applicants@researchforaction.org.  In your email, please include the two projects you’d most like to work on selected from the list below.
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until all positions have been filled. Research for Action qualifies for work study and PHEAA and interns may also be eligible for course credit.

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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