Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 21: Philadelphia Teachers' Union Wins Temporary Injunction in Contract Dispute

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 21, 2014:
Philadelphia Teachers' Union Wins Temporary Injunction in Contract Dispute

Today - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11 AM, Community College of Allegheny County, West Campus, Pittsburgh

Philadelphia Teachers' Union Wins Temporary Injunction in Contract Dispute
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on October 20, 2014 5:42 PM
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has succeeded in temporarily blocking the city's school district from mandating that union members pay toward their health-care premiums, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.  The union won a temporary injunction on Monday in a ruling in the Common Pleas Court after four hours of testimony, the paper reported. But the broader question of whether the school district has the authority to unilaterally make contract changes is still unsettled.   The teachers' union filed the request for an injunction last week, along with another seeking to transfer the dispute from the state Commonwealth Court to a Philadelphia court.

Judge blocks SRC-ordered health care changes for Philly teachers union
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers won a favorable ruling in city Common Pleas Court Monday in its fight with the School Reform Commission.  On Oct. 6, the SRC unilaterally terminated the PFT contract and imposed health care concessions it said would provide schools with more than $50 million in additional resources this year.   On Friday, the PFT filed several legal rebuttals, including a request that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas grant a temporary injunction in the case.  After four hours of testimony Monday, Common Pleas Judge Nina Wright Padilla granted the union's request – effectively preventing the SRC from imposing health care concessions until there is a ruling from Commonwealth Court.  The SRC had previously asked the Commonwealth Court to rule on the legality of its maneuver.
In its official statement, the PFT called Padilla's ruling "a testament to the notion that these kinds of contract changes should be decided at the bargaining table."

Judge temporarily bars SRC from imposing terms on teachers
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, October 20, 2014, 3:41 PM
A Common Pleas Court judge Monday granted the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' request for a preliminary injunction to stop the School Reform Commission from imposing changes to teachers' health-care benefits.  After hearing nearly four hours of testimony, Judge Nina Wright Padilla issued the short order from the bench without elaborating.  Her ruling prevents the SRC - at least for now - from implementing the broad changes it approved Oct. 6, when it voted to cancel the PFT contract and require union members to contribute to the cost of their health-care premiums beginning in December.  The PFT had asked for the injunction to maintain the status quo while the courts take up the larger issue of whether the SRC had the legal authority to do what it did.

Judge blocks school district from imposing changes
A COMMON PLEAS judge yesterday blocked the School Reform Commission and the school district from imposing new economic terms to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract.
Judge Nina Wright Padilla, without explanation, ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction sought by the PFT that would stay all changes to members' health-care plans, previously announced by the SRC.  PFT president Jerry Jordan said immediately after the emergency hearing: "The judge's decision, we're pleased with it."  The district told the court it would appeal the decision.

Pennsylvania school performance scores stuck in limbo
Trib Live By Megan Harris Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Overdue school performance scores will remain in limbo through the end of the month pending verification from the state Department of Education, spokesman Tim Eller said.
“We're hopeful that the (profiles) will be released in the next few weeks,” Eller said this week, “but we want to make sure every school has an opportunity to check their information and make corrections if necessary.”  It's the latest in a series of delays this year for release of annual scores that became a fiasco a year ago.  District administrators were initially told to expect school scores Sept. 24. Then state officials emailed them to say public release was delayed to Oct. 1. Eller said the department has communicated via email as the process evolves.
"In far too many schools, the resources to ensure outcomes for all students are not available."
Gerald Zahorchak | School rankings can be misleading
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By GERALD ZAHORCHAK www.gjsd.net | Posted 3 weeks ago
Gerald L. Zahorchak is superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District (and former PA Secretary of Education)
Soon, Pennsylvania will release the scores or ratings for each public school, and the consequences are many.  The demands are high and the support for schools are nowhere near the level required to meet them, and, therefore, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania children will perform at levels less than their full potential through little, if any, fault of their own.
There are positives and negatives related to the decisions of state leaders that went into creating the state’s scorecard.  As well, there are legitimate criticisms about how the report card results are used, and there are things truly needed by schools to improve scores if the scoring system is to remain the same. Those issues boil down to one big idea: measures are essential for improving quality.  However, selecting measures that represent a school’s total performance are more important than overly emphasizing the results of any single test.
All organizations should focus on improvement, and how Pennsylvania determined what the measures should include seemed totally arbitrary in the case of the Pennsylvania School Performance Profiles (the rankings).

So the charter funding formula is unfair – but to whom?
Many observers agree that the overall pot of Pa. education aid is too small. But debate over fixing the rules fairly is fierce.
the notebook By  Dan Hardy  on Oct 20, 2014 12:36 PM
With education funds scarce in the commonwealth, the debate over how charter schools get their money has never been more polarized.
The stakes are huge: Last school year, 176 charter schools educated 129,000 students statewide, at a cost to Pennsylvania school districts of more than $1.2 billion. About half those schools and students are located in Philadelphia; they consume 30 percent of the District’s operating budget.  Charter schools are independently run public schools paid for by tax dollars, authorized and primarily funded by the school districts from which their students come. Districts send charters a per-student payment, based on a state-established formula.
Since Pennsylvania’s charter school law passed in 1997, there has been little change to the funding mechanism. There is widespread agreement that the formula is out of date and needs to be revamped, but no consensus on how to do that. Lawmakers in Harrisburg have repeatedly failed to come to an agreement about what changes are needed.
Charters contend they do not get their fair share compared to districts. Districts question some of the payouts going to charters – particularly for special education and cybers – and say that the drain of charter funding is wreaking havoc on their finances.

Cybers get the same as brick-and-mortar schools
the notebook By Dan Hardy  on Oct 20, 2014 12:35 PM
Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charters enroll more than 36,000 students. Their model is very different from that of school districts – students learn at home via computer and generally don’t go to a physical location. But they are paid based on school district costs, not their actual expenses. In a 2012 report, Auditor General Jack Wagner said that Pennsylvania cybers were getting $105 million more than the national average for cyber spending.
Cyber charter administrators argue that their schools have costs that school districts don’t, like paying for student computers and renting space for annual state tests. And they say that education spending is high in Pennsylvania, and the cyber payments simply reflect that reality.
Critics, however, say that the cybers, several of which are operated by for-profit providers, are using the funds for advertising and to increase their profit margin.

State's special education funding rules are slow to change
the notebook By Dan Hardy  on Oct 20, 2014 12:36 PM
Pennsylvania’s special education funding system is complicated and in flux. But it has generally discouraged districts from identifying too many special education students while rewarding charters that do so.  Until this year, state special education funding for school districts assumed that 16 percent of their students had special needs, allocating money based on that percentage of total enrollment.  A legislative special education funding commission late last year recommended that districts get funding based on the actual numbers, with three tiers of payments based on the severity of a student’s disability. That concept was applied only to the small amount of new special education funding in the 2014-15 state budget.
Charters, however, continue to receive the same amount for each special education student – the District’s average per-student cost – regardless of the actual cost to the charter of services. And they are not required to spend the special education funds on those students.
Last year, the state association of school business officials said state data showed that Pennsylvania charters received close to $200 million for special education students that was not spent on services for them. Charter proponents hotly disputed that analysis while arguing that many charters are reliant on excess special ed dollars to stay afloat.

Chisholm and Dolich: Close funding gap between wealthy, poor schools
Allentown Morning Call Opinion Joshua A. Chisholm is deputy director of the northeast field office in Allentown of POWER (Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild). The Rev. Maritza Torres Dolich is northeast board member and clergy leader for POWER.
As the governor's race heats up, it is clear the leading issue on voter's minds is public education.
During this political season and a bit under the radar, a state-appointed Basic Education Funding Commission has been conducting a series of public hearings across the commonwealth to ask the question: What is a fair funding formula for public education in Pennsylvania? We attended the session held in the Lehigh Valley last month. Where there was not any time given for public comment, we felt it necessary to still lift up to the commission what our collective faith informs us about education.  Though our member and partner congregations we represent hail from different faiths, we are united by our belief in a divine power that teaches us that each person is made in the divine image.  But Pennsylvania faces an education crisis that stands in the way of living according to that value. There is a statewide disinvestment in children. On the state level, this is embodied through the lack of a fair and full funding formula.

Bill allows schools to keep epinephrine on hand to treat students' allergic reaction
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on October 20, 2014 at 7:18 PM
Legislation that would allow schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors and authorize trained school employees to administer this medication to students believed to be having an allergic reaction is on its way to Gov. Tom Corbett for enactment.
The bill's passage drew praise from the Pennsylvania Medical Society. Its legislative counsel J. Scot Chadwick, said when a child's having an anaphylactic reaction and their air supply is cut off and seconds matter so having the epi-pen close at hand to administer the medication is crucial.
Gov. Tom Corbett has 10 days to review and sign the bill, said his spokesman Jay Pagni.

The Commonwealth Foundation was recently in the news for hiring  anti-PFT union protestors to demonstrate in Philadelphia.  Here's a couple background pieces on the  foundation and their funding.
Pennsylvania Think Tank Plans to 'Slay' Unions, Like in Wisconsin
The Nation by Lee Fang on April 23, 2013 - 2:46 PM ET
The Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tank in Harrisburg, is plotting to go after public sector employee unions. In a letter from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) on behalf of the Foundation, the think tank announced “Project Goliath,” a new effort to make Pennsylvania the next Wisconsin or Michigan. The Commonwealth Foundation is one of a fifty-nine-state network of similar think tanks that have vastly expanded since 2009. The letter makes clear that conservatives believe that right-wing political infrastructure—the organizing institutes, the partisan media outlets, the rapid response efforts—has helped turn the tide against labor unions. 

Sourcewatch: Commonwealth Foundation
Center for Media and Democracy Sourcewatch
The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives is a right-wing pressure group based in Pennsylvania that calls itself a "think tank." Commonwealth says that it "crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty."[1] The Commonwealth Foundation is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN). An August 2013 ALEC board document obtained by The Guardian lists Commonwealth as a "former SPN member,"[2] but the SPN website still lists Commonwealth as a full member as of July 2014,[3] and a July 2013 Commonwealth fundraising proposal to Searle Freedom Trust was included in a packet of SPN proposals in August 2013.[4]

Breaking News: Colorado District Opts Out of State and Federal Testing!
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch October 19, 2014 //
The Colorado Springs school board, District 11, voted to opt out of state and federal Common Core testing.  The vote was unanimous.  “Unprecedented action Wednesday night by Colorado Springs School District 11, as the Board of Education voted unanimously to try and opt out of standardized testing mandated by the State and the federal Common Core Curriculum.  “The District’s resolution regarding state mandated testing would mean students and teachers can focus more on education and life skills in the classroom and spend less time preparing for standardized tests. It’s designed to give the district flexibility in the classroom.

"Ohio law continues to tolerate such conflicts of interest because charter-school companies hold great influence at the Statehouse. The large campaign contributions the charter companies ladle out, mainly to Republicans, raise a fair question of whether lawmakers are allowing public interest to take a backseat."
More reason for reform
Questionable charter-school rent deals another blot on school choice
Columbus Dispatch Saturday October 18, 2014 5:13 AM
The school-choice movement in Ohio has been marred from the start by weak oversight and cozy deals that have allowed charter-school operating companies to profit on tax dollars, often while providing a poor product.  Now, another example emerges: A Sunday Dispatch story detailed how six related Franklin County charter schools are spending an inordinate amount of their public funding on rent and paying it to, essentially, themselves — the private company paid to operate the schools.  Imagine Schools operates six schools in Franklin County, out of 67 the company and its affiliates operate in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Five of those schools received a total of $20.2 million in state per-pupil funding to operate those schools in the 2012-13 school year and spent a quarter of it — $5.1 million — on rent. Given that reputable charter-school sponsors such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute recommend spending between 11 percent and 18 percent on rent, the Imagine rents represent a waste of taxpayer money that was meant to be spent on instruction, giving families good alternatives to failing public schools.

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 (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/).
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 http://psbacandidateforum.wordpress.com/ 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 www.pascd.org

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

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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