Friday, October 3, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 3: Philly, Reading, Allentown, Lebanon: America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 3, 2014:
Philly, Reading, Allentown, Lebanon: America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts  and How They Got that Way

KEYSTONE EXAMS: Not Just Another Standardized Test
What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s NEW High School Graduation Requirement
Join the Radnor, Haverford, Chester County, Lower Merion & Narberth Leagues of Women Voters October 7 @ 7:00 pm in Radnor

Blogger's Note: Video from the September 30th Basic Education Funding Commission hearing in Clarion has not been posted yet.  When it is we will post the link.

Without a formula, Pa. allocations lack logic, predictability
Few districts have borne the brunt of the state’s current system as much as Philadelphia.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 2, 2014 10:40 AM
The point of a state education funding formula is to be fair, help all districts reach spending levels adequate to their needs, and adjust for demographic and other changes. Funding should be predictable so that districts can plan.  But Pennsylvania long ago abandoned such a system for distributing education aid, according to advocates and experts. And this has exacerbated inequities among districts and frustrated educators.  While the twists and turns of Pennsylvania’s policies have affected schools across the commonwealth, few districts have borne the brunt as much as Philadelphia, which enrolls about 12 percent of the state’s students.
“Philly is among the most screwed large urban districts in the country,” said Bruce D. Baker, a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University who studies school finance, equity, and adequacy.

"A July 2014 report by the Center for American Progress that Baker wrote uses national data to identify the most financially disadvantaged districts nationwide.
His analysis concludes that:
·         In the large-city category, Chicago and Philadelphia top this list.

·         In the midsized-city category, two other Pennsylvania cities, Reading and Allentown, top the list, with Lebanon, Pa., also ranking high.
·         Pennsylvania ranks third overall in the statewide percentage of children attending severely financially disadvantaged districts, behind only Illinois and New Hampshire. About 15 percent of children in the commonwealth attend such districts."
America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts  and How They Got that Way
How State and Local Governance Causes School Funding Disparities
Center for American Progress By Bruce D. Baker July 2014

A look back: How Pennsylvania has distributed money for education since the 1960s
By the Notebook on Oct 2, 2014 10:39 AM

Ballot Talks: Comparing Corbett and Wolf
WHYY Radio TImes with Marty Moss-Coane October 2, 2014 runtime 52:01
Hour 1 Guests: Dale Mezzacappa, Marielle Segarra, Holly Otterbein, Katie Colaneri
In this edition of Ballot Talks with guest host, Jeff Brady: We compare the gubernatorial candidates on a variety of issues.  First, we talk with DALE MEZZACAPPA from The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, about their different approaches to education, and education funding, in the state.  We’ll then speak with WHYY reporters MARIELLE SEGARRA and HOLLY OTTERBEIN about the two candidates and their views on taxes, jobs, and the state’s economy. Lastly, StateImpact Pennsylvania’s KATIE COLANERI will talk about the candidates and their differences on energy and the environment.

Reform, Not Repeal: Pennsylvania Can Provide Property Tax Relief and Protect Public Schools
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on October 2, 2014
Property taxes are a hot topic in Pennsylvania, and property taxes are high in some Pennsylvania school districts. PBPC’s new report, "Reform, Not Repeal: Pennsylvania Can Provide Property Tax Relief and Protect Public Schools," may come as a surprise to many, but compared to the national average and neighboring states, school property taxes are moderate in most communities. High property taxes are the exception, not the norm; three of every four school districts have a tax burden, measured as a share of district income, that can be considered moderate.Rather than eliminate property taxes, as some have proposed, Pennsylvania can take steps to reform its assessment system, improve its property tax relief programs, and do a better job targeting school property tax relief to those particular communities – and individuals – for whom property taxes are a larger than average share of income.

PBPC New Report on Property Taxes
Submitted by Rick Smith on October 2, 2014 - 5:07pm.
Sharon Ward, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) joins Rick to talk about their new report on property taxes that compares rates across the commonwealth, with neighboring states, and as a share of personal income. Listen to Sharon's interview HERE
G. Terry Madonna, Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College joins Rick to talk about the PA gubernatorial race and the most recent public tirade by PA State Senator Scott Wagner. Listen to Terry's interview HERE
Steven Singer, blogger joins Rick to talk about his latest entry on charter schools, the miracle cure.Listen to Steven's interview HERE 

In Allentown, Wolf vows to make education a priority
By Adam Clark,Of The Morning Call October 2, 2014
Standing in the shadow of Allentown's Muhlenberg Elementary School, Tom Wolf promised Thursday to make education a priority if he's elected Pennsylvania's next governor.  Wolf, the York County Democrat leading incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in the polls, said the state's future depends on every child receiving a good education.  "This is not an elective. This is not something that has anything to do with ideology," Wolf said during a brief appearance. "This is a practical requirement of a functional society."

North Hills to start school on Aug. 24 next year to gear up for state tests
Post Gazette By Sandy Trozzo October 2, 2014 10:29 PM
The proposed 2015-16 calendar for the North Hills School District maximizes instructional days before mandatory state tests.  Superintendent Patrick Mannarino said the first day of school is proposed to be Aug. 24, 2015. Some school districts, he said, are planning to start even earlier, on Aug. 17.  “That is a trend that you are beginning to see in this area because of the Keystone Exams and (Pennsylvania State System of Assessment tests),” he said.

Philly District and Penn team up to study school turnarounds
the notebook By David Limm on Oct 2, 2014 05:30 PM
Philadelphia, distinct among large urban districts for its long history of pursuing school turnarounds using outside management organizations, has been a real-world laboratory of reform experiments for more than a decade.  By studying the successes and failures of the District's recent efforts to turn around academically underachieving schools, a team of researchers wants to create a body of knowledge that all schools can use to improve.  The School District and the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education will undertake a two-year, federal grant-funded research partnership to examine school remodeling efforts in Philadelphia, seeking to understand what makes them soar or fall flat.

Chester County high schools recognized by Newsweek
West Chester Daily Local By Frank Otto, on Twitter
POSTED: 10/02/14, 10:30 PM EDT |
Limerick >> Spring-Ford Area Senior High School recently made Newsweek’s list of top high schools in the country.  “Having this national recognition tells us what we already know: That we are on the right track,” said Spring-Ford Superintendent David Goodin in a press release. “Now everybody else knows it, too.”  Ranking 482nd out of 500, it is the first time Spring-Ford has made the Newsweek annual list.  Forty-two other schools in Pennsylvania made the list. Spring-Ford ranks between Franklin Regional High School (No. 466) in Murrysville, which is near Pittsburgh, and Wissahickon Senior High School (No. 489) in Ambler.
Conestoga High School, in Tredyffrin, ranked highest in Pennsylvania at 33.
All schools were graded on college readiness as well as their college-bound student and graduation rates.  “While the nation strives for educational excellence, here at Spring-Ford we have become a microcosm of what student achievement and excellence in public education should truly look like,” said Spring-Ford Area School Board President Joe Ciresi. “It is a time to celebrate the hard work our entire district has done.”

"Administrators said they have been working with other districts and organizations to advocate for school funding fixes. Greensburg Salem is participating in the planned two-year “Campaign for Fair Education Funding,” which began this week.  The campaign favors a funding formula to allocate more money to districts in need.  “Our education system isn't broken. It's the financing of the system that's broken,” said board Vice President Barbara Vernail."
Maximum tax hike won't be enough in Greensburg Salem
Trib Live By Jacob Tierney Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, 11:06 p.m.
The state has limited the maximum tax increase for Greensburg Salem to 2.06 mills, less than enough to cover the expected jump in pension costs.
The district could vote to overwrite the limit but typically has not done so.
If all salaries remain the same and no other expenses rise, pension costs are expected to go up by more than $770,000 next year, according to business manager Jim Meyer.
"The auditor general has no enforcement power and can only recommend changes to policies and procedures.  DePasquale said he wanted to make sure future governors "don't give someone a job with no role to play.""
Pa. auditor general starts new audit of Education Dept.
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, October 3, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, October 2, 2014, 6:40 PM
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday that he was initiating another audit of the state Department of Education to review oversight of contractors and consultants, including a former adviser to Gov. Corbett who allegedly was a "ghost" employee.  Ron Tomalis resigned his $140,000-a-year job as a higher-education adviser to Corbett in August amid accusations that he had done little to earn the money, but DePasquale said the controversy "was not the only factor in the undertaking of the audit," his second of the department.

Auditor General DePasquale Concerned about Bond Rating Downgrade Impact on Students in Philadelphia School District 
Review of district’s financial condition is part of ongoing audit
HARRISBURG (Oct. 1, 2014) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued the following statement regarding the news that Fitch Ratings downgraded the Philadelphia School District’s bond rating:  “Bond ratings and budget balances may be what drives financial news, but we should all keep in mind that beyond those ratings are more than 200,000 students in the Philadelphia School District trying to get a solid education.  “It is not news that the state’s largest school district is struggling financially; nearly every district in the state is struggling right now. What we need to focus on is how we can help students succeed even when their school district might be struggling.”   The Department of the Auditor General is in the midst of auditing the school district between 2009 and 2012. Among other things, the audit may include a review of the district’s financial stability. The final audit report is expected to be completed in 2015.
Information about the start of the Philadelphia School District audit is available online here

Plans proceeding for Chromebooks at Haverford High School
Delco Times By LOIS PUGLIONESI, Times Correspondent POSTED: 09/28/14, 11:15 PM EDT | UPDATED: 3 DAYS AGO
HAVERFORD — Plans for providing all Haverford High School students with Google Chromebooks by Fall 2015 are advancing smoothly, according to a recent presentation by school district Technology Director Jane Greenspun and Haverford High School Principal Jeffrey Nesbit.
School directors approved an initiative named 1:World in May, so that all high school students would have 24/7 use of these compact, rapid activation/Internet access computers. Chromebooks will allow students to conduct research in the classroom and work collaboratively in real time. School officials also found their affordable price, just under $300, manageability and automatic update system attractive.  Greenspun noted the initiative began with a soft rollout last year, when the district purchased 250 Chromebooks and stationed them in the high school library to be shared among departments.  Officials also introduced Google Drive last year, which provided students and staff access to “Cloud” data storage. Also introduced was Canvas, an online management system. The entire wireless network at the high school was upgraded in preparation, Greenspun said.

Act 1 Index Update September 30 2014
PASBO youtube Video Sept. 30, 2014 runtime 1:54

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies
Fraud, financial mismanagement, lousy results: Reports highlight awful charter schools and people are catching on by JEFF BRYANT THURSDAY, OCT 2, 2014 05:25 PM EDT
Last week when former President Bill Clinton meandered onto the topic of charter schools, he mentioned something about an “original bargain” that charters were, according to the reporter for The Huffington Post, “supposed to do a better job of educating students.”
A writer at Salon called the remark “stunning” because it brought to light the fact that the overwhelming majority of charter schools do no better than traditional public schools. Yet, as the Huffington reporter reminded us, charter schools are rarely shuttered for low academic performance.  But what’s most remarkable about what Clinton said is how little his statement resembles the truth about how charters have become a reality in so many American communities.

‘Schools of Opportunity’ – a new project to recognize schools that give all students a chance to succeed
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 2, 2014
We all know about the many efforts to rate and/or rank schools by student standardized test scores and other data points — but without any of the out-of-school factors that play an enormous role in how well young people fare academically. Now two veteran educators are spearheading a new pilot initiative to identify and recognize public high schools that seek to close opportunity gaps through practices “that build on students’ strengths” — not by inundating them with tests and not by evaluating them with scores.  The people behind the Schools of Opportunity project are Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District in New York, and Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education who specializes in educational policy and law. Burris, a frequent contributor to The Answer Sheet on New York’s troubled school reform efforts, was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. Welner is director of the National Education Policy Center at UC Boulder, which produces high-quality peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions.  The Schools of Opportunity project will start as a pilot this year in  Colorado and New York. In this post, Burris and Welner explain why they have launched their new effort and how it will work. This blog will exclusively publish the announcement of the schools selected to be recognized next spring.

How to Register to Vote - Deadline is October 6th
PA Department of State
Once you know you are eligible to vote, the next step is to register. In Pennsylvania, you can register in person, by mail and at various government agencies. Below you will find information about how to register, as well as links to voting registration forms and applications.

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Meetings*
PA Basic Education Funding Commission  website
Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 10 AM, Perkiomen Valley
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11 AM, Pittsburgh
* 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

LWV Panel:KEYSTONE EXAMS Not Just Another Standardized Test Oct 7th Radnor
What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s NEW High School Graduation Requirement
Join the Radnor, Haverford, Chester County, Lower Merion & Narberth Leagues of Women Voters October 7 @ 7:00 pm in Radnor
In partnership with your area schools’ Parent Organizations and supported by your area School Districts
Moderator: Susan Carty, President, League of Women Voters of PA
Panelists Will Include:
Pennsylvania State Senator, Andy Dinniman
Lower Merion School District Board of Directors Member, Lori Actman
Conestoga High School
Principal, Dr. Amy Meisinger
Education Lawyer, Josh Kershenbaum, Esq.
Additional Panelists To Be Announced
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM Radnor Municipal Building, 301 Iven Ave., Radnor
Questions? Please Call 610-446-8383 or e-mail

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.
This event is FREE and open to the public, but registration is required.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
WHYY, Independence Mall West, 150 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, Pa 19106
Questions? Call 215-351-0511 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Save the date: Bob Herbert book event! Pittsburgh October 9th
Yinzercation Blog September 17, 2014
Save the date – you don’t want to miss this! We are hosting the national launch of Bob Herbert’s new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled AmericaYou might remember Mr. Herbert as the award winning and longtime columnist for the New York Times. This book is especially exciting for us because Bob came to Pittsburgh several times to interview parents and teachers in our local grassroots movement and wound up writing three chapters on our fight for public education!
Date:    Thursday, October 9, 2014  Time:    5:30 – 6:30PM, moderated discussion and Q&A.
Doors will open at 5 with student performances.  Followed by book signing.
Location:    McConomy Auditorium, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh 15213.  Free parking in the garage.
Hosted by:    Yinzercation (we are profiled in the book!)
Moderator:    Tony Norman, columnist and associate editor,Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PUBLIC Education Nation October 11
The Network for Public Education will hold a historic event in one month's time
PUBLIC Education Nation will deliver the conversation the country has been waiting for. Rather than featuring billionaires and pop singers, this event will be built around intense conversations featuring leading educators, parents, students and community activists. We have waited too long for that seat at someone else's table. This time, the tables are turned, and we are the ones setting the agenda.   This event will be livestreamed on the web on the afternoon of Saturday, October 11, from the auditorium of Brooklyn New School, a public school. There will be four panels focusing on the most critical issues we face in our schools. The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.  

Please join us for a symposium on:
“Funding Pennsylvania's Public Schools: A Look Ahead”
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics and the Temple University Center on Regional Politics.
When: Friday, October 3, 2014, 8:30 am to 12 pm
Where: Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh in Green Tree, PA
Session I:  "Forecasting the Fiscal Future of Pennsylvania's Public Schools"
A panel of legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Penn State Professor William Hartman and Tim Shrom projecting the fiscal trajectory of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts over the next five years and by University of Pittsburgh Professor Maureen McClure discussing the implications for school finance of an aging tax base.
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
Following an address by Eva Tansky Blum, Chairwoman and President of the PNC Foundation, a panel of business and labor leaders will discuss the importance of public school funding reform to the competitiveness of regional and state economies. 
We look forward to your participation!

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)

Voting for PSBA officers and at-large representatives opens Sept. 9; closes October 6th
PSBA Website 9/8/2014
The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for candidates. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will open Sept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes received an email on Aug. 13 and a test ballot was sent to them on Aug. 28. In addition, a memo from PSBA President Richard Frerichs will be mailed in the coming days to all board secretaries and copied to school board presidents and chief school administrators.

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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