Wednesday, October 29, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 29: Power Players Behind the Corporate Takeover of Pennsylvania Schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 29, 2014:
Power Players Behind the Corporate Takeover of Pennsylvania Schools

New F&M poll finds Corbett still behind, but gaining ground on Wolf
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Wednesday, October 29, 2014 5:00 am
With just a few days left before voters head to the ballot box, a new poll shows that Gov. Tom Corbett is closing the gap his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf has held for months.
A Franklin & Marshall College poll released Wednesday still has Wolf with a double-digit lead over the embattled Republican incumbent.  But the race is definitely tightening.
The survey shows 53 percent of likely voters backing Wolf and 40 percent supporting Corbett. Compare that to a September F&M poll that had the candidates separated by 20 points, with Corbett’s support at 34 percent.  Pollster G. Terry Madonna said the big boost of support comes from those within the Republican Party.

F&M poll: October 2014
Lancaster Online Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 4:44 pm

A week before election day, Corbett still trails Wolf in latest F&M poll
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  on October 29, 2014 at 5:01 AM
Gov. Tom Corbett has gained some ground against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, but he has a long way to go to convince voters to return him to office next Tuesday, according to a new poll.
The poll, conducted by Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Opinion Research and released Wednesday morning, shows Wolf with a 13-point lead over Corbett among self-reported likely voters and an 18-point lead among registered voters. 

"After the Nov. 4 elections, several House Republicans could jockey for the position. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, is a potential candidate, along with Caucus Secretary Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, and Dave Reed, R-Indiana, chair of the House Majority Policy Committee.  All three are opposed to a severance tax."
Leadership fight in Pa. General Assembly could impact energy industry
It is likely the energy industry could find more allies in leadership positions in the General Assembly after the Nov. 4 election.
By Michael Sanserino / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 28, 2014 2:30 AM
The upcoming Pennsylvania House and Senate elections likely will do little to change the balance of power in either chamber — Republicans are expected to continue to control both. But there is a chance both chambers could see new leaders, which could have implications for the energy industry in the state.  If anything, it is likely the energy industry could find more allies in leadership positions in the General Assembly.  Republicans in the House will elect a new leader after Speaker of the House Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election. And some Senate Republicans have lashed out at current Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, upset that the Republican from Delaware County has not pushed a more conservative agenda.  Mr. Pileggi proposed a Marcellus Shale severance tax in a bill he co-sponsored in 2011 to help the state’s seniors. And last month he told attendees at a Delaware County dinner he expects the state to enact a severance tax next year, according to online news service Chadds Ford Live.   Mr. Smith was seen as a bridge between different sects of his own caucus — moderate Republicans from the Philadelphia suburbs and Lehigh Valley area and conservatives from the rest of the state. The tone his replacement sets will hinge largely on the House’s eventual composition, whether it tips more conservative or moderate.  He has vocally opposed a severance tax, saying he would rather close the state’s budget deficit by selling off the state’s liquor stores. 

Yes there's more money for education - because the locals are paying for it: Don Bell
PennLive Op-Ed  By Don Bell on October 28, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Don Bell is the superintendent of schools for the Northern Lebanon School District.
On one hand, we hear that public education is being financed by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania at its highest level ever.  On the other hand, we hear that funding has been cut by $1 billion dollars. The question is which is right and which is wrong. The answer is that both are right and both are wrong.  Get ready for some Common Core Mathematics.

You know the names: Gureghian, Yass, Greenberg, Dantchick, K12, Inc., Trombetta, ALEC, Commonwealth Foundation, DeVos, American Federation for Children……
Power Players Behind the Corporate Takeover of Pennsylvania Schools
Center for Media and Democracy Report October 2014

Here's a related Keystone State Ed Coalition posting from October 8, 2014
Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014.  Was your legislator a recipient?
Six millionaires and billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.

Open Records Office orders release of education secretary emails
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 28, 2014 12:00 AM
The state Office of Open Records has ordered the state Department of Education to release the emails of acting state Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, granting an appeal that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette filed.  The office issued its final determination Friday. The department has 30 days to appeal to Commonwealth Court.  On Aug. 5, the Post-Gazette and two of its reporters, Mary Niederberger and Bill Schackner, asked for all of the acting secretary’s emails “as they pertain to the performance of her duties” since she was appointed on Aug. 25, 2013.
The request came after Ms. Dumaresq cited a department practice of purging emails each evening as the reason her department released only five emails authored by Ron Tomalis, the governor’s special adviser on higher education, during his first year in the position. Mr. Tomalis resigned in August.

Faced with deficit, Scranton school directors say they won't cut programs
Scranton Times-Tribune by SARAH HOFIUS HALL, STAFF WRITER October 28, 2014
Although the Scranton School District faces a projected budget deficit of $7.5 million for 2015, some school directors said Monday they will not cut programs that would affect students.
A week away from being presented with the proposed 2015 budget, school directors spent part of Monday’s work session discussing other ways to balance the budget.  President Lyn Ruane asked for a list of administrators and salaries, as well as job descriptions to determine whether any roles are duplicated. State law allows for teacher layoffs if there is a decline in enrollment or cuts to programs. Director Cy Douaihy said teacher layoffs are not likely because enrollment is up and he and other directors are against cutting programs.

Legal battle between SRC and PFT heads to Commonwealth Court
A local judge made her injunction against benefit changes permanent. The District has appealed.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 28, 2014 12:06 PM Updated | 2:30 p.m.
The legal battle over whether the School Reform Commission can impose benefit changes on teachers has shifted to Commonwealth Court, which could hear arguments in the dispute as early as December.  On Monday, Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla made an injunction permanent that delays any benefit changes until the matter is resolved in court, and the District appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court.   Both sides said they are pleased by the outcome of the latest legal maneuvers.

Commonwealth Court to look at teacher contract cancellation
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 5:05 PM
Can the Philadelphia School Reform Commission cancel union contracts? The question now rests in the hands of Commonwealth Court.  As a result of an agreement reached in the last week, a Common Pleas Court judge has permanently enjoined the Philadelphia School District from unilaterally canceling its teachers' contract. The district immediately appealed the decision.
Both sides called the order a victory Tuesday: District officials said it was a fast track to Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, the venue it prefers, widely viewed as more favorable to the SRC's viewpoint.

Parents spar angrily with founder of closing charter school in N.E. Philly
Sparks flew at a meeting for parents at Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter charter high school Monday night.  The school's basement cafeteria became a battleground between the school's founder and a throng of incensed parents.  Many had learned only that morning that the high school program at the school's Tacony campus was permanently closing and that their children would have to find another school two months into the year.

Ex-district officials: Cheltenham in 'dire straits'
Saying that a stream of employees had left, been transferred, or forced out under the new superintendent, 25 former Cheltenham school board directors, teachers, PTO presidents, and current residents warned in a letter to the school board that the district "is in dire straits and that there is a failure of leadership."  The signers, including a retired principal, wrote that they talked to dozens of teachers who say "there is fear and intimidation and misinformation being promulgated" under Superintendent Natalie Thomas.

Class itself a brand new model
Sharon Herald By JOE PINCHOT | Herald Staff Writer | Posted 21 hours ago
HERMITAGE – Lisa Evans had a couple of months to create something out of nothing.
It was too much time.  “I just couldn’t wait,” said Evans, the teacher at the Enterpreneurship Academy at LindenPointe.  “As a teacher, you want to be creative,” said Evans, who has experiences in private and public school teaching and business ownership. “Within the bounds of the grant, I can do anything. It’s exciting.”  The academy, which started class Sept. 2, is a grant-funded dual-credit course created by Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, Grove City; the eCenter@LindenPointe; the city of Hermitage; the Franklin Center of Beaver County; Community Connections, a local firm that seeks to connect young people and businesses with mentoring and internship programs; and seven school districts: Hermitage, Sharon, Sharpsville, Farrell, West Middlesex, Greenville and Commodore Perry.  It is held at the Hermitage Training and Workforce Development Center, within LindenPointe business park.

Eleven civil rights groups urge Obama to drop test-based K-12 ‘accountability’ system
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 28 at 11:19 AM  
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (Yuri Gripas/ Reuters)
Eleven national civil rights groups sent a letter Tuesday to President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and congressional leaders saying that the current standardized test-based “accountability system” for K-12 education ignores “critical supports and services” children need to succeed and discourages “schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire.”  The groups make recommendations on how to revamp the system in a way that would improve educational opportunity and equity for students of color.  The letter comes a time of growing resistance to accountability systems based on standardized test scores among educators, parents, principals and superintendents. The Obama administration has expressed some support for the idea that districts and states should review their testing systems but has not said it would change federal mandates that help drive what districts and states do.

Toward Better Teachers
New York Times Opinion by Frank Bruni OCT. 28, 2014
More than halfway through Joel Klein’s forthcoming book on his time as the chancellor of New York City’s public schools, he zeros in on what he calls “the biggest factor in the education equation.”  It’s not classroom size, school choice or the Common Core.  It’s “teacher quality,” he writes, adding that “a great teacher can rescue a child from a life of struggle.”
We keep coming back to this. As we wrestle with the urgent, dire need to improve education — for the sake of social mobility, for the sake of our economic standing in the world — the performance of teachers inevitably draws increased scrutiny. But it remains one of the trickiest subjects to broach, a minefield of hurt feelings and vested interests.
Klein knows the minefield better than most. As chancellor from the summer of 2002 through the end of 2010, he oversaw the largest public school system in the country, and did so for longer than any other New York schools chief in half a century.

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).

Children with Autism - Who’s Eligible? How to get ABA services?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join us on November 19th, 2014 to discuss eligibility services for children with Autism. This session will teach parents, teachers, social workers and attorneys how to obtain Applied Behavioral Analysis services for children on the autism spectrum. Presenters include Sonja Kerr (Law Center), Rachel Mann (Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lisa Blaskey (The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania), and David Gates (PA Health Law Project).

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

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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