Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 22: Commission advances to develop a funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 22, 2014:
Commission advances to develop a funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools

In Pittsburgh, Commission advances to develop a funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 21, 2014 4:15 PM
After more than four hours of testimony from Allegheny County education officials Tuesday, the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission is "just a few steps closer" to its task of developing a funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools, Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, in Allegheny County and commission member said.  The commission is holding a series of statewide hearings to get testimony from advocates and education experts, the fifth of which was held this morning at the Community College of Allegheny County's West Hills Center in Oakdale.
By June 2015, members of the commission are expected to appear before the General Assembly with a recommendation of a formula for how the state will pay for its K-12 schools.
"Allegheny County is a great reflection of what we're looking at statewide because it's so diverse," Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, co-chair of the commission, told attendees.
The hearing began with a packed audience, and continued well into the afternoon with testimony from scheduled speakers and ensuing dialogue about best approaches for a funding formula. 

Basic Ed. Funding Commission Holds Pittsburgh Hearing on Enrollment and Funding
Senator Matt Smith’s website on OCTOBER 21, 2014
NORTH FAYETTE, October 21, 2014 – – The Basic Education Funding Commission held a public hearing today at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center to gather information about enrollment changes and funding challenges facing area public schools.
“The hearing allowed us to engage with education stakeholders from western Pennsylvania and learn more about the challenges and issues they face,” said state Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), a member of the 15 member panel.  The Basic Education Funding Commission’s goal is to study basic education funding in Pennsylvania, make recommendations to the General Assembly and develop a more equitable funding formula. Today’s hearing is one of several slated to be held throughout the state on various issues education funding-related issues.
“Allegheny County has experienced large increases and decreases in student enrollment, so the location of today’s discussion and the experience of those who testified were essential to gain a better understanding of the challenges facing our region,” continued Smith.

Election 2014: A look at Corbett and Wolf on education
OK, let's get right to the looming question: Did Tom Corbett cut a billion dollars from public, K-12 education?  That question can be answered in different ways. It all depends on what you count, and how you count it.

The Washington Post says Pa. governor race most likely to flip
Lancaster Online Posted on October 21, 2014 by Karen Shuey
Not since 1984 have more than six sitting governors lost in any one election. But The Washington Post political blog The Fix says that history may be in the making.  The site highlighted 11 very close gubernatorial races of 2014. But the only incumbent they say is a goner for sure is Gov. Tom Corbett.  The authors of the blog said Democratic challenger Tom Wolf “is measuring the drapes in the governor’s mansion — and rightly so.”  They say the York County businessman “hasn’t had a very high profile since cruising to a primary win in the spring. That’s a smart move because his opponent, incumbent Corbett, is extremely unpopular.”  Meanwhile, a new poll finds Corbett is closing the gap between him and his challenger.

Pa. governor's race down to turnout?
There comes a point in every political campaign when the combatants decide they've convinced anybody convincible to vote for them, and it's time to move from messaging to turnout.
Maybe that time has come.  Though Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's and Democrat Tom Wolf continue to pump out TV ads, we're not seeing much in the way of new messages. I've been away a few days, and even though issued a blistering critique of Corbett's attacks on Wolf, the governor's campaign continues to portray Wolf as a man committed to raising your taxes through the roof.  Wolf continues to swing back, but we also see his campaign bringing in a series of celebrity Democrats to lure big crowds and fire up the base for a turnout Nov. 4. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama have already visited Philadelphia, and Bill Clinton and President Obama  are expected to make appearances -- Clinton in Pittsburgh Monday and the prez at a site yet to be announced.

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School case to be heard again next month
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 21, 2014 7:20 AM
A federal court hearing to address allegations that the FBI improperly recorded conversations between indicted Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta and his lawyers will extend into its third month in November.  U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti, who first heard arguments in September, listened again Monday and set new hearing dates for Nov. 10 and 12. The hearing is open to the public after the media intervened to prevent it from being held in secret.  Mr. Trombetta's lawyers want the judge to throw out the government's charges or limit its evidence gleaned from the recordings, saying the FBI violated the attorney-client privilege.
Mr. Trombetta is charged with siphoning some $1 million from the Midland-based school through several corporate entities he controlled.

Crucial court hearing on PFT-District dispute Wednesday morning
The District hopes the state court will take jurisdiction. The union won a victory Monday, with a local court ordering immediate arbitration.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 21, 2014 05:56 PM
A crucial hearing will occur Wednesday morning in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg in the legal dispute between the School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers over the union contract.  The SRC on Oct. 6 nullified the PFT contract and unilaterally imposed changes in teachers' health benefits, saying that 21 months of negotiations had been unproductive and that it needed the savings to put resources back in schools.   At dispute Wednesday is which court is the proper venue for the case -- the local Common Pleas Court or the state Commonwealth Court.  The District took the case directly to Commonwealth Court, arguing that the Pennsylvania Department of Education should be a party to the case, making it a state matter.  The union filed a motion last week arguing that PDE has no place in the dispute and asking that the case be sent to Common Pleas Court. 
That motion will be argued at 9:30 a.m. in Harrisburg. The PFT successfully argued for an expedited hearing of the matter.

“The Controller's Office conducted an analysis of the district's 86 charter schools and found that charters had a total fund balance of $117 million last year, while the district had a $68 million deficit. The report concludes that the current formula for tuition reimbursements and special education does not factor in the district's real costs or what charter schools actually spend.”
Controller calls for overhaul in charter-school funding
PENNSYLVANIA'S charter-school funding formula is unfair and damaging to the Philadelphia School District, City Controller Alan Butkovitz said in a report issued yesterday.
The Controller's Office conducted an analysis of the district's 86 charter schools and found that charters had a total fund balance of $117 million last year, while the district had a $68 million deficit. The report concludes that the current formula for tuition reimbursements and special education does not factor in the district's real costs or what charter schools actually spend.
"The school district has been operating with multimillion-dollar deficits for almost a decade, whereas charters have had substantial fund balances," Butkovitz said in a news release.

City controller says laws must change to ease charters' pressure
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 6:41 PM
City Controller Alan Butkovitz Tuesday released a report calling for sweeping changes in state law to lessen the financial impact that the city's growing charter school community has on the district and taxpayers.  Butkovitz's office has previously released reports that criticized the district's oversight of its 86 charters and detailed cases of possible fraud in some charters.
The new report, he said, examines charters as a factor in the district's continuing financial crisis.
"Charters are having a substantial financial impact," he said. "It's time to revisit that and make sure that it doesn't become institutionalized as an 'us vs. them' war."

Helen Gym and Bill Green Try to Find Common Ground (or Not) on Education in Philadelphia
In an extended version of their talk from our Conversation Issue, the indefatigable activist and the School Reform Commission chair (politely) square off.
Philadelphia Magazine BY PATRICK KERKSTRA   OCTOBER 21, 2014
He’s chairman of the School Reform Commission. She’s co-founder of Parents United for Public Education. They have very different ideas about how to run the district. In mid-September — a month before the SRC voided the district’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers — Bill and Helen sat down for a lengthy chat. Here, their (abridged) conversation about trying to see eye to eye.

A response to SRC Chair Bill Green’s Inquirer op-ed.
SRC’s Contract Move Isn’t About Shared Sacrifice — It’s Looting
Philadelphia Magazine BY HELEN GYM   OCTOBER 21, 2014 AT 12:15 PM
Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.  A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.
This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.

Common Core execution is flawed
State College Centre Daily Times Opinion BY DAVID HUTCHINSON October 9, 2014 
Most of us in education have come around to the view that it’s no longer appropriate for students to spend the bulk of their time on the memorization of facts and the rote use of math and science algorithms.  In large part, the Common Core standards were an attempt to address this, by refocusing classroom instruction on conceptual understanding and the development of higher-order thinking skills — something the better teachers have always tried to do.  The other rationale for Common Core is that, in a highly mobile society, we should have some measure of consistency from one region of the country to another. The parents of a reasonably successful fifth-grader in Mississippi should not be shocked to discover that their child is reading at only a third-grade level in Pennsylvania (a recent true story).  Though far from perfect, and despite the fact that there was almost no input from actual teachers in the development of these standards, the majority of educators are of the opinion that Common Core reasonably meets these two objectives.  So, what’s the problem? There are several.

Dual Language Charter School sending some students back to home districts
By Adam Clark,Of The Morning Call October 21, 2014
A Bethlehem charter school is sending some students back to their home districts
The Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School in Bethlehem is temporarily suspending operations for seventh and eighth grade and telling those students to return to their home school districts or enroll in other charter schools.  The decision comes as the charter school fights with Bethlehem Area School District over its ability to open a second location to serve middle school students.  Seventh- and eighth-graders at the K-8 charter school have had class this fall 3:30-6:30 p.m. weekdays and attend additional classes Saturdays because the building doesn't have room for all eight grades during the traditional school day.

House 58th District seat candidates focus on education, taxes
Trib Live By Renatta Signorini Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, 10:54 p.m.
A Hempfield supervisor is challenging longtime incumbent R. Ted Harhai of Monessen for the House 58th District seat, which covers a portion of Westmoreland County.  Tom Logan, 58, a Republican, will face off against Harhai, 59, a Democrat who is seeking his 10th term.
Harhai defeated challenger Scott Nestor, 25, a Monessen city councilman, in the primary. Logan was unopposed in the primary.  State House members serve two-year terms with no term limits and are paid $82,026 per year.  The district covers Adamsburg, Arona, Madison, Monessen, Mt. Pleasant, North Belle Vernon, Penn, Smithton, Sutersville and West Newton boroughs, as well as parts of East Huntingdon, Hempfield, Rostraver, Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships in Westmoreland.  The candidates place priorities on different issues in the district of nearly 60,000 residents.  Harhai said getting a handle on education funding at the state level is crucial. School districts have been forced to cut faculty and programs or raise taxes as a result of decreased funding, both of which impact economic development, he said.  “They are passing it down to the local municipality, and it makes it bad for these people,” said Harhai, who has held the House seat since 1998. “I think education, the cuts that the Republican administration made are far-reaching.”

Greater Latrobe teachers, school board approve 5-year contract

Trib Live By Stacey Federoff Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, 12:06 a.m.
Greater Latrobe School District's teachers union and school board brought an end to 14 months of negotiations after both sides approved a new five-year contract Tuesday night.
The deal will cost the district about 2.75 percent more than the previous contract from 2010-14.
Teachers will be able to choose from four different health plans through the Westmoreland County Public School Healthcare Consortium.  Depending on the plan, contribution to premiums will increase between 6 percent and 16 percent through July 31, 2019.
Education Voters Action Fund 2014 Candidate Endorsements
Education Voters Action Fund Published on October 16, 2014
Education Voters Action Fund has endorsed the following candidates for their commitment to public education:
·         Tom Wolf for Governor & Mike Stack for Lieutenant Governor
·         Challengers/Open Seats:
·         Deberah Kula (D) SD-32 Fayette, Somerset Westmoreland
·         Ann Schott (D) HD-13 Chester County
·         Gene Stilp (D) HD-104  Dauphin County
·         Michael Beyer (D) HD-131 Lehigh Valley
·         Marian Moscowitz (D) HD-157 Chester County
·         Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D) HD-161 Delaware
·         Dr. Jill Sunday Bartoli (D) HD-199 Cumberland County
·         Incumbents:
·         Patrick M. Browne (R) SD-16 Lehigh County
·         Mark Longietti (D) HD-7 Mercer County
·         Gene DiGirolamo (R) HD-18 Bucks County
·         Bernie O’Neill (R) HD-29 Bucks County
·         Mike Fleck (I) HD-81 Blair, Huntingdon, Mifflin Counties
·         Michael Sturla (D) HD-96 Lancaster County
·         Eddie Day Pashinski (D) HD-121 Luzerne County
·         Michael Schlossberg (D) HD-132 Lehigh
·         Thomas Murt (R) HD-152 Montgomery/Philadelphia
·         Steve McCarter (D) HD 154 Montgomery County
·         William Adolph (R) HD-165 Delaware County
·         James Roebuck (D) HD-188 Philadelphia
·         Cherelle Parker (D) HD-200 Philadelphia

Nation’s Wealthy Places Pour Private Money Into Public Schools, Study Finds
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH OCT. 21, 2014
From bake sales to gala auctions, private groups are raising an increasing amount of money for public schools in wealthier communities, highlighting concerns about inequality.
In Coronado, Calif., a wealthy enclave off the coast of San Diego, for example, local education groups, which support about 3,200 students in five schools, raised more than $1,500 per student in 2010. These private funds helped pay for arts and music classes at all grade levels, sports medicine courses at the high school and a digital media academy at the middle school, where students are learning animation and designing buildings with 3-D printers.
By contrast, the combined fund-raising of groups affiliated with schools in the San Diego Unified School District — where the median household income is about two-thirds that of Coronado — amounted to $19.57 per student.  That pattern was repeated across the country, according to a new studythat found nonprofits organized by parents and community leaders more than tripled in number and more than quadrupled the dollars they generated between 1995 and 2010. 

“Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education's postsecondary data collection.”
Steep Drops Seen in Teacher-Prep Enrollment Numbers
California and other big states particularly hard hit, raising supply concerns
Education Week By Stephen Sawchuk Published Online: October 21, 2014
Fresh from the United States Air Force, Zachary Branson, 33, wanted a career with a structured day and hours that would allow him to be home in time to watch his kids in the evening. But just a month into his online teacher-preparation program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he had something of a crisis of faith.  It was brought on, he said, by the sense of being in the middle of an ideological war that surfaced in everything from state-level education policy on down to his course textbook, which had a distinct anti-standardized-testing bent.
"I feel like teachers are becoming a wedge politically, and I don't want anything to do with that," Mr. Branson said.  He's not alone in having qualms about entering the teaching profession.
Massive changes to the profession, coupled with budget woes, appear to be shaking the image of teaching as a stable, engaging career.

The Short Shelf Life Of Urban School Superintendents
NPR by STEVE DRUMMOND October 21, 2014 4:35 AM ET
If you're a 12th-grader right now in the Los Angeles schools, that means you probably started kindergarten back in 2001. It also means that, as of this week, you've seen four superintendents come and go.  As we discussed today on Morning Edition, the ouster of John Deasy last week as the head of the nation's second-largest district has renewed a long-running debate about leadership of big-city schools, and particularly the challenges of raising achievement in such a politically charged environment.  Deasy told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep last week that there's a clock ticking on "reform"-minded superintendents, such as himself, who want to shake things up quickly. "I think there is," he said, calling it a "worrisome trend in America."

PSBA members elect officers, at-large representatives for 2015
Members of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association elected new officers and at-large representatives for 2014 at its Delegate Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center.  The new officers and at-large representatives will take their offices on January 1, 2015, as part of an 11-member PSBA Governing Board. Officers and at-large representatives elected at the Delegate Assembly are as follows:
·         Offices filled include:
·         President-elect: Kathy K. Swope, Lewisburg Area SD (Union Co.)
·         Vice president: Mark B. Miller, Centennial SD (Bucks Co.)
·         Treasurer: Otto W. Voit III, Muhlenberg SD (Berks Co.)
·          At-large representative (East): Michael Faccinetto, Bethlehem Area SD (Northampton Co.)
·          At-large representative (Central): David Hutchinson, State College Area SD (Centre Co.)
·          At-large representative (West): Daniel J. O’Keefe, Northgate SD (Allegheny Co.)

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
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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