Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 15: NY Times coverage of Philly funding cuts

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 15, 2014:
NY Times coverage of Philly funding cuts

Thursday, October 16, 2014 10:00 AM     Perkiomen Valley H. S. 509 Gravel Pike Collegeville, PA
(public hearing to consider other state's funding formulas and weights; and level of local support and taxing capacity)

NY Times: Philadelphia Teachers Hit by Latest Cuts
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH OCT. 14, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — Money is so short at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, a public middle school here, that a nurse works only three afternoons a week, leaving the principal to oversee the daily medication of 10 children, including a diabetic who needs insulin shots. On the third floor filled with 200 seventh and eighth graders, one of two restrooms remains locked because there are not enough hall monitors. And in a sixth-grade math class of 33 students with only 11 textbooks to go around, the teacher rations paper used to print out homework equations.
“When you are given a loaf of bread, you have to make it last as long as you can,” said Michael Adelson, the math teacher. Feltonville serves 541 students, close to 80 percent of whom come from low-income families.  Such is the state of austerity across Philadelphia, where this fall, the schools almost did not open on time, and the district has eliminated 5,000 staff positions and closed 31 schools over the last two years. Feltonville alone has lost 15 teachers, two assistant principals, two guidance counselors, an office secretary, three campus police officers, 10 aides who supervised the cafeteria and hallways, and an operations officer, who oversaw most of the school’s day-to-day logistics.

Follow the Money: Price of the Prize
Post-Gazette and PublicSource By Eric Holmberg | PublicSource | Oct. 14, 2014
Less than a month before the election, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and his challenger, Democrat Tom Wolf, have raised and spent enough money to put the governor’s race on track to be the most expensive in state history.  During this election cycle, Wolf has raised $27.6 million and spent $21.1 million compared with Corbett, who has raised $20.6 million and spent $19.3 million.  That’s a total of $48.2 million raised on a race where Wolf has consistently been ahead in the polls by a double-digit margin.  If the polls hold, Corbett would be the first incumbent governor to lose since Pennsylvania switched to two-term limits for the governor in 1968.
Of course, no race is ever a foregone conclusion. It’s always important to know where the money is coming from. Big donors have big influence. So PublicSource and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are collaborating to show you who’s giving, and how much.

Tune in Thursday 8:30 am for live coverage of Corbett interview
York daily Record UPDATED:   10/14/2014 08:59:43 AM EDT
Editorial board members from several Digital First Media Pennsylvania news organizations will interview Republican Gov. Tom Corbett at the York Daily Record offices 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Bookmark this article to view a video feed and live coverage of that session.
Readers will be able to comment on the interview as part of our live coverage.
A similar session, featuring live coverage, will be held Oct. 23 with Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tom Wolf, time to be announced.

Wolf touts plan to use severance tax to restore education funding
Beaver County Times By Tom Davidson Published: Monday, October 13, 2014 6:00 pm | Updated: 8:04 am, Tue Oct 14, 2014.
ALIQUIPPA -- The quality of a student's education shouldn't be dependent on his ZIP code, the Democratic candidate for governor said Monday.  Speaking from the heart and soul of Aliquippa's 15001 ZIP code, and with the vaunted Quips high school football team practicing in his line of sight, Tom Wolf took a few minutes Monday afternoon outside Aliquippa Junior Senior High School to tout his plan to improve education in the state.  Wolf wants to impose a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction and use some of the proceeds to restore what he claims are $1 billion in education funding cuts that were enacted by his opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.  Corbett disputes that number and says state school spending has actually increased under his watch.

Open records request for Tomalis comes up empty, report: Tuesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on October 14, 2014 at 8:26 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
An open records request looking to show what former Corbett administrationadviser Ron Tomalis did -- or didn't do -- to earn his $139k salary has come up empty,The Tribune-Review reports this morning.  Neither the Department of Education nor the Office of the Governor, "both under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett," could provide "progress reports, employee evaluations, performance reviews or performance improvement plans in response to the public information request by Campaign for a Fresh Start, a political committee formed by Corbett's opponent, Democrat Tom Wolf," the newspaper reported.

Education adviser Tomalis had no employment contract
By Mary Niederberger and Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 14, 2014 12:00 AM
Ron Tomalis, the former special adviser to the governor on higher education, had no employment contract with the state, and neither the Department of Education nor the governor’s office acknowledges employing him, according to state documents.   The Campaign for a Fresh Start, an offshoot of the election campaign for gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf, filed Right-to-Know requests with the state Office of Administration, the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education in August in an effort to obtain Mr. Tomalis’ employee contract and other personnel records, such as performance evaluations and reviews, from Jan. 18, 2011, to Aug. 25, 2014.

Philly labor leaders weighed general strike over SRC action
JANE M. VON BERGEN, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 7:42 PM
Outraged by the School Reform Commission's decision to cancel its collective bargaining agreement with Philadelphia public school teachers, city labor leaders contemplated calling for a general strike.  In two meetings, last Thursday and Sunday, labor leaders debated the wisdom of asking members of all area unions - laborers, electricians, communications workers, janitors, nurses, bus drivers, city employees - to walk off their jobs to protest the SRC's decision.
"If there is going to be a fight, we have to fight about the future, and the kids are the future," said Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, headquartered in Philadelphia.  In the end, the region's labor leaders decided to hold off.

Democrats' last-ditch effort to kill SRC fails
An eleventh-hour proposal to give Pennsylvania's governor the power to abolish the Philadelphia School Reform Commission died in committee Tuesday under deep protest from Democratic lawmakers.  "We have suffered under this SRC and its actions," State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Philadelphia Democrat, told a packed Harrisburg hearing room as he sought support for the measure. Hughes and fellow Democrats, angered that the SRC had canceled the Philadelphia teachers' union contract and imposed terms that included new payments toward health insurance, targeted the commission for elimination.  But the effort, which came as GOP leaders rushed through the agenda to move bills before the session was to end late Wednesday, was doomed nearly from the start.

Amendment to give the governor power to abolish the SRC falls flat
A STATE Senate committee yesterday shot down a proposal that would have given the governor the authority to abolish the School Reform Commission, the body that oversees the Philadelphia School District.  The Senate Appropriations Committee voted down the amendment along party lines, 14-9, with no Republicans supporting it. The committee also rejected a second amendment that would have required the SRC to provide 48 hours' notice before holding a meeting. Both amendments were attached to a bill regarding home-schooling.  Currently, the SRC would have to vote to dissolve itself, with the permission of the secretary of education.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes, of Philadelphia, who sponsored the amendments, said he is disappointed in the result, but satisfied that lawmakers got their message across.

"But to cover a family under the security-providing "buy-up" plan, teachers would actually spend more than $500 per month. This covers a quarter of the total premium, which is a significantly higher burden compared with suburban compensation packages."
Health care concessions a tough pill to swallow for city teachers
Speech and language pathologist Sonya Brintnall has been dreaming lately of the Pacific Northwest.  "I used to live in Oregon," she said. "I could go back there, and I could be poor and have nothing, but it would be beautiful."  Brintnall, who works at Greenfield Elementary in Center City, is one of 11,500 members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers whose contracts were terminated last week by the School Reform Commission in a surprise, unilateral move.

Philly parents complaints not about curriculum, says Pa. education head
With resources stripped to bare-bones levels, parents in the Philadelphia school district filed more than 800 complaints last year to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  The office hasn't investigated the claims, and last month The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on behalf of seven parents and the advocacy group Parents United for Public Education in an attempt to compel action.  On Friday, Pennsylvania education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq petitioned the courtto dismiss the case.  Dumaresq reasons that the complaints are not curricular, and thus don't legally demand a state investigation.

Philadelphia's schools have been singled out by Pa. for unfair treatment
An analysis of Pennsylvania school aid by the District's former finance chief finds that Philadelphia's state funding has been cut while dollars for the rest of the state have grown.
the notebook commentary By Michael Masch on Oct 14, 2014 01:52 PM
Philadelphia public schools are in a financial crisis. They have been in crisis for the last three years.  Why has this happened? Where do we stand? What needs to happen next? These are the questions we face.  In addressing these questions, we should acknowledge that it is difficult to solve a problem if one is not clear about what the problem is. Even after years of upheaval and drama, there is some dispute as to the causes of our school budget crisis.
Some in our community maintain that the School District is in a budget crisis because it has a “structural deficit.” Others suggest that the crisis results from internal fiscal mismanagement. Still others claim that the crisis was caused by the withdrawal of federal stimulus funding.
So let us look at the facts, and let us be clear. The School District is in a budget crisis, and has been for the past three years, because it has been subjected to unprecedented, discriminatory and unbalanced state funding cuts that have not been imposed on other Pennsylvania school districts.

An elected school board for Philly? No thanks
The sad state of Philadelphia's public schools inspires fury, frustration, and now, from the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf, a really bad idea for fundamental change. 
Wolf recently proposed replacing the current five-member School Reform Commission that runs the schools with a locally elected school board.  I know Wolf means well. But establishing an elected school board in Philadelphia will not empower parents and their communities. It will put the selection of our school board members in the hands of the same people who pick judges, state legislators, sheriffs and city commissioners in this town: Democratic ward leaders.

Pottstown School District begins budget work that is supposed to hold the line on taxes
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury October 14, 2014
POTTSTOWN >> Just four months after adopting a $56 million budget that raised property taxes by 2.9 percent, work has begun on the next year’s budget, which officials are hoping won’t raise taxes at all.  Business Manager Linda Adams told the school board’s finance committee last week that the Act 1 law that governs school budget has begun and that this year, the district could raise taxes by 2.7 percent without going to the voters.  Act 1 sets an “index” or tax cap for individual districts which they can exceed only with voter approval.  To pursue that approval, school boards must prepare and adopt a preliminary budget by Feb. 18.
However, school boards can also adopt a resolution pledging to keep any tax increases within their “index” and avoid the exercise of adopting a preliminary budget that will in all likelihood change many times before final adoption in June.

'Right now, we're at a total impasse': Saucon board on teacher contract
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times on October 14, 2014 at 9:52 PM
The Saucon Valley School Board says it is at an impasse with its teachers union and doesn't feel it can make a better offer than its latest.  The two sides returned to the bargaining table Oct. 8 and exchanged new proposals.At a Tuesday night board meeting, directors outlined their latest offer to about 15 residents and teachers.  Before the presentation by the board, new Superintendent Monica McHale-Small acknowledged the growing frustration over the stalled contract talks.

Scranton School District may hire financial consultant to help with budget
Scranton Times-Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: October 15, 2014
The Scranton School Board may turn to a financial consultant to help solve the district’s projected $7.5 million deficit.  At a special meeting Tuesday night, directors heard from Michael Judge, president of CaseCon Capital, who said he could put a plan together to balance the budget.
The 2014 budget of $126 million, balanced with one-time revenue sources, including borrowed money and the sale of property, helped create the $7.5 million deficit for 2015. Pensions and salary costs have also increased, and district officials should present directors with a preliminary budget soon.

Local legislators, law enforcement officials meet with educators to discuss pre-K funding
Montgomery News By Brendan Wills Tuesday, October 14, 2014
During a Pre-K for PA campaign workshop Oct. 9 at the Play and Learn Collegeville early childhood education center, local law enforcements officials, legislators and education specialists unanimously voiced their support for increased funding to early childhood education.
Play and Learn Program Coordinator Melanie Godhania; Play and Learn Collegeville Center Director Jill Law; State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Bruce Clash; Limerick Township police Chief William Albany; Upper Gwynedd Township police Chief David Duffy; District Attorney Risa Ferman; state Rep. Mike Vereb, R-150; state Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151; and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, met to discuss how access to early childhood education not only helps children succeed in life, but also helps to lower the costs of incarcerating criminals who did not have adequate education to guide them through life.

"The issue could become more prominent as the 2016 presidential campaign draws near.
Recently, former President Bill Clinton said he would be in favor of fewer tests—perhaps once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. That testing regime is "quite enough if you do it right," Mr. Clinton said, according to theHuffington Post.  Mr. Clinton's remarks pack a political punch: His wife, Hillary Clinton, is considered a likely candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016."
Push to Limit Federal Test Mandates Gains Steam
Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: October 13, 2014
For more than a decade, teachers, administrators, students, and even parents have criticized the No Child Left Behind Act—and, now, the Obama administration's waivers under that law—for giving too much weight to standardized testing and forcing students to take too many exams.
That critique hasn't gotten very far in Washington. But there are signs that the movement to limit the number of federally mandated tests students take may be gaining momentum—and it could pick up more steam as the Obama administration draws to a close and the 2016 presidential election begins in earnest.

Poverty The Strongest Factor In Whether High School Graduates Go To College
Huffington Post by Rebecca Klein Posted: 10/14/2014 12:02 am EDT
Students from high-poverty public schools are less likely to attend college than those from wealthier ones, regardless of whether they're from urban, suburban or rural areas.
A report released Tuesday by the research branch of the nonprofit National Student Clearinghouse, which examined data from more than 3.5 million high school graduates, found that poverty remains a more important indicator of whether a student will go to college than high school demographics or location.

Often Foes, Some Districts and Charters Forge Partnerships
Education Week By Arianna Prothero Published Online: October 14, 2014
Florida is wading into largely uncharted waters with an initiative to fuel collaboration between two sectors often cast as foes in the debate over how to improve K-12 education: regular public schools and charters.  Nationwide, districts from Los Angeles to Denver to Baltimore have sought to forge such ties, but Florida’s effort is unusual in being led by the state.
Florida leaders are aiming to entice high-performing national charter school networks into the state’s largest urban districts, in what some experts say would be one of the most far-reaching efforts to nurture mutually beneficial relationships between the two sectors. The state’s department of education is offering financial incentives, through a new grant program, to help some of its highest-need districts attract charter franchises with solid track records for serving low-income schoolchildren.

Ohio Charter schools use Turkish ties, visas to get teachers
Cinncinnati Enquirer by James Pilcher, jpilcher@enquirer.com12:51 p.m. EDT October 6, 2014
·         Concept Schools uses more H-1B teachers than any other school in Ohio.
·         Almost all teachers come from Turkey and account for more than 12 percent of teaching staff statewide.
·         Concept under federal investigation for possible role in fraud involving national internet education program.
·         State education department looking at allegations of foreign teachers working without teaching licenses.
Horizon Science Academy in Bond Hill has the usual classrooms, books and lessons to teach kids seeking an alternative to regular public and private schools.
The charter school also employs seven foreign teachers, mostly from Turkey, brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for jobs it says Ohio teachers are unqualified to fill.
Concept Schools, founded by followers of a Turkish Islamic cleric secluded in the Poconos, already is under federal and state scrutiny for possible irregularities in teacher licensing, testing and technology contracts.  An Enquirer investigation has found that Chicago-based Concept Schools, which runs Horizon and 17 other charter schools in Ohio, annually imports dozens of foreign teachers in numbers that far surpass any other school system in the state.
At least 474 foreign teachers, again mostly from Turkey, have arrived at Concept's Ohio schools between 2005 and 2013. The schools are collecting about $45 million in state funds annually to educate 6,600 children in kindergarten through high school.

Community Schools: Learning Payoff Found for 'City Connects' Program
Education Week By Sarah D. Sparks October 1, 2014
Even in resource-rich cities like Boston or New York, students in poverty often miss out on the support and enrichment provided by local museums, businesses, and civic organizations.
By the start of middle school, The Afterschool Corp. estimates that children in poverty have received 6,000 fewer hours of learning outside of school—both enrichment and support—than their middle-income peers. While many programs target low-income students who are struggling academically or emotionally, it can be more difficult to find enrichment activities to build on the strengths and interests of students progressing normally in school.
To fill those gaps, some elementary schools in two states—Massachusetts and Ohio—are working to better coordinate with local partners to provide the kinds of cultural and extracurricular experiences, as well as social services and supports, that boost all students' long-term academic progress.

New website offers closer look into candidate' views on public education
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) has created a new website for its members and the general public to get a closer look into candidates' views on public education leading up to the 2014 election for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Following the primary elections, PSBA sent out a six-question questionnaire to all Pennsylvania House and Senate candidates competing for seats in the November election.  Candidates are listed by House, Senate seat and county. Districts can be found by visiting the 'Find My Legislator' link (
Features include:
·         Candidate images, if provided
·         Candidates are tagged by political party and seat for which they are running
·         Candidates who did not respond are indicated by "Responses not available."
Visit the site by going to or by clicking on the link tweeted out by @PSBAadvocate.
Candidates wishing to complete the questionnaire before election day may do so by contacting Sean Crampsie (717-506-2450, x-3321).

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Meetings*
PA Basic Education Funding Commission  website
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11 AM, Community College of Allegheny County
West Campus, Pittsburgh
Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 10 AM, Lancaster
Tuesday, November 18 & 19, 2014, Philadelphia
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM, East Stroudsburg
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM, Lancaster
* meeting times and locations subject to change

Health Issues in Schools: "Mom I can't find the Nurse"
October 21, 2014 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia 
Philadelphia has one of the worst childhood asthma rates in the country. We need more nurses in Philadelphia's schools to aid children suffering from this and other health issues. Join us to discuss Pennsylvania laws governing nursing services.
Tickets: Attorneys $200       General Public $100      Webinar $50   
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also available
Click here to purchase tickets

What About the Schools? A Community Forum on the Next Governor's Education Agenda Oct. 15 7:00 pm WHYY Philly
Pennsylvania's public schools, especially in Philadelphia, are in dire straits. Many hope that the upcoming gubernatorial election will help shine a light on the state's education issues. But how will Harrisburg politics and financial realities limit the next governor’s agenda for education?
Join Research for Action, WHYY, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey for an interactive community forum designed to suggest an education agenda for the next administration—and to assess the politics of achieving it.  Hear from local educators about what they see as priorities for the schools, and from seasoned policy practitioners on the political realities of Harrisburg.  Then, make your voice heard. Discuss your thoughts and perspectives with other event guests and interact with the panelists. You’ll come away from this spirited discussion with a more nuanced view of the politics of education in both Philadelphia and at the state level.
Admission: This event is FREE and open to the public, but registration is required.
When: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: WHYY, Independence Mall West, 150 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, Pa 19106
Contact: Questions? Call 215-351-0511 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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)

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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