Thursday, October 23, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 23: "The state's decision in 2011 to stop reimbursing the School District for a portion of Charter School tuition has cost the District at least $100 million a year."

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 23, 2014:
"The state's decision in 2011 to stop reimbursing the School District for a portion of Charter School tuition has cost the District at least $100 million a year."

ADVOCACY: Great seeing so many of you at PSBA/PASA School Leadership Conference this week in Hershey!  If you have not already done so, grab a couple colleagues and be sure to signup as a PSBA Advocate at the PSBA booth in the Aztec lobby next to the conference registration desk.

FYI, video has not been posted yet for this hearing or the prior hearing held on October 16th in Perkiomen Valley
Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing
Enrollment Changes and School Funding Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Agenda and links to testimony from Pittsburgh hearing on October 21st

WHYY Newsworks: Tom Wolf on education, uncut: Vote trading, increasing investment, and disbanding the SRC
Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf came to WHYY studios Friday to answer an array of questions from a mix of beat reporters during an hour long visit.   Wolf's visit came exactly one week after Gov. Tom Corbett came to WHYY. Both fielded queries on education, tax policy, energy and economic development.  As I did with my conversation with Corbett last week, here I'm archiving my full, unedited conversation with Wolf on education, a topic that continues to dominate the minds of voters this election season.

WHYY Newsworks: Listen: 7 minutes with Gov. Corbett on education spending and competing priorities
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett came to WHYY studios Friday to answer a wide array of questions from various reporters during an hourlong visit.  Aside from NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller's interview, the conversations weren't intended to be broadcast in their entirety.
But upon reviewing the tape – considering the importance of education as an issue in this election – I decided to post my full, unedited seven-minute conversation with Corbett, who is seeking re-election to a second term.  Some of what the Republican incumbent says will become content for analysis pieces in the coming weeks, as well as for our hourlong election special hosted by senior reporter Dave Davies. That's slated to air at the end of the month.

Tune in Thursday 1:00 pm for live coverage of Tom Wolf interview
York Daily Record UPDATED:   10/21/2014 04:22:36 PM EDT
Editorial board members from several Digital First Media Pennsylvania news organizations will interview Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf at the York Daily Record offices 1 p.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.

Mapping the data: Corbett is nation's highest-paid governor
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer October 22, 2014
Money doesn’t buy you everything. Because if it did Tom Corbett, the country’s highest-paid   governor, would not be trailing his challenger by double digits.  A salary report, based on new data compiled by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments and shared with The Washington Post, reveals Corbett gets paid more than any other top executive in the nation.  Corbett earns an annual salary of $187,818, though 1.7 percent of the total is being repaid as part of a statewide management pay freeze.

"The [state's] decision in 2011 to stop reimbursing the School District for a portion of Charter School tuition has cost the [District] at least $100 million a year."
Some insights from Philly controller's latest report on charters
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 22, 2014 10:51 PM
Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz has been studying charters in Philadelphia for a while now, looking into fraud and keeping tabs on the quality of School District oversight
In his latest report, released Tuesday, he concludes that the way charters are funded is crippling the District's finances.
The Butkovitz report mostly goes over well-trod territory, but he comes up with a few facts and figures worth drawing attention to:
- Since 1999, the overall number of students attending publicly funded Philadelphia schools has stayed about steady at 202,000, only now, one-third of them attend charters.
- "In 2013, while the [District] faced a deficit in the $70 million range, the Charter Schools posted an aggregate positive fund balance of $117 million."
- "The [state's] decision in 2011 to stop reimbursing the School District for a portion of Charter School tuition has cost the [District] at least $100 million a year."
- "Minimal resources have been devoted to charter school accountability." The report notes that the 87 charter schools are overseen by a staff of six with an annual budget of less than $1 million. Only three charters have been revoked in 14 years, "despite reports of waste, fraud, abuse and poor performance," while dozens of District schools have been closed. 
- Charter schools spent a much higher proportion on administration vs. instruction than the District, and much less per student on special education.
- Low-incidence special education students, the most expensive to educate, make up 5 percent of the population in traditional public schools. That's twice as high a percentage as is found in charter schools. 
Butkovitz recommends that the charter funding formula be overhauled to reflect "student need and actual costs, and must adjust for demographic differences between charter and traditional public schools. He says that "particular attention must be paid to how special education is funded."

Pa. court hears arguments in teachers' contract dispute; no ruling yet
By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 22, 2014 07:17 PM
Lawyers for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers traveled to Harrisburg on Monday for one of the legal skirmishes in the battle over whether the School Reform Commission has the power to nullify the union's labor contract and unilaterally change health benefits.  The session in Commonwealth Court before President Judge Dan Pellegrini was scheduled to start at 9:30 and lasted until 11 a.m. As of 7 p.m., there had been no ruling. 
The judge heard arguments over whether the case should remain in Commonweath Court or be heard in Common Pleas Court, as the PFT says is required by labor law. The District filed the original motion in Commonwealth Court. The PFT has already won a decision in local Common Pleas Court, temporarily blocking the health care benefits changes and ordering expedited arbitration in the dispute.

28th senatorial district candidates Scott Wagner and Linda Small put their differences on display
By Jan Murphy |  on October 22, 2014 at 4:43 PM, updated October 22, 2014 at 7:14 PM
Candidates vying for the state Senate seat representing the central portion of York County put their differences on display before an audience of York Rotarians on Wednesday.  They showed they differ on what should be done about public employee pension plans, on an extraction tax on gas drillers, and on impact of unions, particularly the Pennsylvania State Education Association, in state policy-making.  They also distinguished themselves from each other in how they would approach the job of being the senator of the 28th District.

New Report Outlines Potential Savings for PA Taxpayers through Investment in Pre-K
PR Newswire Published: Oct 20, 2014 3:08 p.m. ET
Pre-K for PA Analysis Looks at Long-term Cost Savings Generated from Reduced Grade Repetition and Special Education Needs
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania stands to reap significant benefits in the form of reduced costs to taxpayers and the state budget as a result of expanded access to pre-kindergarten programs for the commonwealth's 3- and 4-year-olds. That's according to new research released byPre-K for PA and conducted by The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.  The report outlines how investment in high-quality pre-k benefits K-12 school systems by reducing the need for special education programs and grade repetition, and producing fewer behavioral problems in school. Pennsylvania schools currently spend a significant amount of time and money helping children catch up who arrive for kindergarten unprepared – both academically and socially.

ACT tests for 182 high school students disappear
SUSAN SNYDER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, October 23, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 1:27 PM
On Sept. 13 at Upper Darby High School, 182 students took the ACT college readiness exam, then began anxiously awaiting their scores.  They're still waiting.
ACT Inc. confirmed on Wednesday that the students' test sheets are missing and that it has been unable to find them, despite searching for two weeks.  "It's these kids' worst nightmare," said Bari Krein, whose daughter, a senior at Lower Merion High School, came to her at 4 a.m. worried about how the lost tests would affect her college search, she added.  ACT is continuing to look for the tests, said Ed Colby, a spokesman for the Iowa-based standardized exam - a counterpart to the SAT, which is more widely used in the Philadelphia region.

I often ask, half in jest, how much of high school biology do you remember? Then how important was it?  Do you know the answer to this sample Keystone Biology exam question: which characteristic is common to prokaryotes & eukaryotes?  If not, why do we now require every high school student to know this?
The Contradiction of the Keystone exams
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
School Board Blogger by David Hutchinson Monday, October 20, 2014
A column in EdWeekly this summer wisely made this point in regards to the new, incredibly complex, unreliable - yet state-mandated - teacher evaluations, suggesting that we should have first asked the question, “What is it that we're trying to measure?”  Indeed, that question should have been asked before the state Board of Education voted to mandate ‘Keystone exams’ in English literature, Algebra and Biology as high school graduation requirements.
Here’s the essence of the issue, as I see it: the Keystone exams are fundamentally incompatible with the set of knowledge and skills that students need for success in the modern world.  Mandating them as high school graduation requirements only serves to institutionalize a program of education more appropriate for the middle of the last century. It will reduce opportunities for students, who instead of taking electives in their areas of interest, will be required to take remedial courses in order to pass an exam that measures their ability to memorize and regurgitate information they are unlikely to ever need or use.

Pittsburgh Mayor’s Task Force on Education
Yinzercation Blog October 22, 2014
I was honored earlier this year to be asked to serve on Mayor Peduto’s Task Force on Education. That group just wrapped up its fourth meeting last night and many folks have been asking how it’s going, so here’s a quick report.  I am optimistic by nature and was excited about the opportunity to get the Pittsburgh Public School administration, board members, and educators together with elected representatives from City Council, the mayor’s office, and community members to think about how to improve our schools and neighborhoods. Meeting process and organizational issues have beaten back some of that optimism, but I remain hopeful that (perhaps small) steps towards progress can be made.

Study: Rural Penn. Students Trump City Peers in College Enrollment
Education Week Rural Education Blog By Jackie Mader on October 21, 2014 4:41 PM
Students who graduate from rural Pennsylvania high schools have higher college enrollment and persistence rates than students in city schools, although they still lag behind their town and suburban peers, according to a recently released study.  The Regional Educational Laboratory Program at the federal Institute of Education Sciences examined the average rates of college enrollment and persistence for rural and non-rural students during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years for "College Enrollment and Persistence in Rural Pennsylvania Schools." The report found that most high school graduates, regardless of location, matriculated at public four-year or in-state colleges. During the 2010-11 school year, about 59 percent of rural students enrolled in college, compared to 55 percent of their peers from city high schools, and 70 percent of their peers at suburban high schools. About 80 percent of rural students continued on to their second year of college compared to only 63 percent of city students, nearly 80 percent of suburban students, and about 78 percent of students from towns.

Mosaica Charter Schools Are Drowning in Red Ink
Courthouse News September 23, 2014 By COURTNEY WALTERS 
ATLANTA (CN) - The primary lender for a money-losing chain of charter schools wants a receiver appointed so more than 10,000 students, teachers and staff will not be out in the cold, and classes can continue.  Tatonka Capital Corp. sued Mosaica Education Inc. and six wholly owned subsidiaries on Friday in Federal Court.  Mosaica is in default on $20 million of debt to Tatonka, the Denver-based plaintiff says. Tatonka claims it has first lien on "substantially all of MEI's operating assets," and that "a series of bad business decisions" caused Mosaica to lose more than $86 million.  Mosaica has not made a regular payment to Tatonka since July 2013, according to the complaint.  Its major problem is that it makes investments into failing operations, throwing good money at bad situations despite the negative cash flow created by those investments," Mosaica says.  Founded in 1997, Mosaica manages more than 30 K-12 schools with 25,000 students, more than 10,000 of them in the United States.

Teachers' Unions to Spend More Than Ever in State, Local Elections
Education Week By Lauren Camera Published Online: October 22, 2014
Deep-pocketed teachers’ unions, hoping to affect education policy at the state and local levels, are expecting to pour more money into those campaigns in the 2014 midterm elections than ever before.  With the express mission of unseating Republican governors and flipping control of conservative state legislatures—legacies of the GOP tide in 2010—the two national unions, in particular, are taking a page out of the playbook of some newer and smaller education advocacy groups: Focus on down-ballot candidates and work up to the top ticket.
Spending on state races isn’t new for the teachers’ unions, which are still putting millions of dollars into federal races, particularly the slew of U.S. Senate contests expected to decide control of that chamber.

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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