Monday, October 6, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 6: The Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Capitol Rotunda 12:30 pm today

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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The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 6, 2014:
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Capitol Rotunda 12:30 pm today

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a new statewide effort consisting of more than 40 organizations (including the Keystone State Education Coalition) committed to fundamentally changing the way Pa. funds its public schools, will hold a news conference Monday at 12:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda to announce the campaign’s goals and next steps. For more information, visit

League of Women Voters to hold forum on Keystone Exams Tuesday, Oct. 7 in Radnor
Main Line Media News October 3, 2014
The Leagues of Women Voters for Radnor, Haverford, Chester County, Lower Merion and Narberth will hold a public forum entitled “Keystone Exams Not Just Another Standardized Test” on Oct. 7. The forum, also sponsored by area school districts, will enlighten parents and the community about the state’s new high school graduation requirement and how it affects public school students. Sharon Kletzien, education specialists for the League of Women Voters of PA will moderate and Amber Gentile, chairwoman of the teachers education at Cabrini College will give an overview on the topic. Panelists include state Sen. Andy Dinniman, West Chester Area School District Superintendent James Scanlon, Laurie Actman, Lower Merion School Board member, Conestoga High School Principal Amy Meisinger, Ray McFall, Delaware County Intermediate Unit assistant executive director and Josh Kershenbaum, an education lawyer. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Radnor Township Municipal Building, 310 Iven Avenue in Radnor. For more information: (610) 446-8383 or

WTAE Channel 4 to Broadcast Final Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Debate
October 8th @ 7pm - A Commitment 2014 Partnership with the League of Women Votes of Pennsylvania
WTAE UPDATED 1:20 PM EDT Oct 03, 2014
PITTSBURGH, PA —WTAE Channel 4 has partnered with The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania to host the final gubernatorial debate between the incumbent Republican Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf on Wednesday, October 8 from its Pittsburgh television studios. The hour long debate will be broadcast live, commercial free, on WTAE Channel 4 from 7:00 to 8:00pm and streamed live on and on Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 smartphone app.  “This debate is an important part of our commitment to keeping our viewers informed,” said WTAE President & General Manager, Charles W. Wolfertz III. ”WTAE is privileged to provide it to television stations across Pennsylvania.”  WTAE Channel 4 will simulcast the live debate with Hearst Television sister-station WGAL TV in Lancaster. This last televised debate will also be distributed to 14 additional television stations statewide in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters.

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

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 4, 2014:
Coming Monday - The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Philly SRC schedules special meeting 'for general purposes' on Monday morning
By the Notebook on Oct 5, 2014 10:43 PM
A special School Reform Commission meeting will be held Monday morning at 9:30 a.m.
A small legal notice appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday edition, but the meeting was not otherwise announced. It is not on the District's website (which on Sunday night said that the next SRC meeting is Oct. 16). The newspaper ad said the meeting was for "general purposes."
Spokesman Fernando Gallard would not elaborate on what actions the SRC plans to take, or why it was not made public earlier.

“My biggest interest is making sure we educate our children well,” Watkins said. “I don’t want to short change anyone being successful at a cyber, but if we are outperforming them, I think those kids should come back.”  Watkins cited data from the state that showed that Chester Upland School District, even when it was at its most distressed, outperformed all 14 of the state’s cyber charters."
The cyber charter school conundrum
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times 10/05/14, 11:25 PM EDT
For nearly two decades, the Chester Upland School District has been in one level of crisis or another, resulting in a state-appointed receiver coming in to run the show. Whether it was due to financial distress or academic failure in the district, parents have been taking advantage of broadening alternatives to have their children educated.
Now, after more than a year under the tutelage of Receiver Joseph Watkins and his administration, the Chester Upland School District has seen marked improvements and they want those children back, along with the millions of tax dollars that left the district with them.
Charter and cyber charter schools have been siphoning enrollment from the district for almost 10 years. Every student that leaves to attend one of these alternative options takes with them $9,000 out of the district’s budget. A special education student takes $35,000.

Test scores don't show true value of cyber schools: PennLive letters
Penn Live By Letters to the Editor  on October 05, 2014 at 11:31 AM
To everyone who thinks online schooling students aren't going anywhere, aren't getting a good education: you couldn't possibly be more wrong.  You can say what you want about the test scores coming out of online schools. It comes as no surprise to me that the students bullied out of brick and mortar schools for their ADHD, autism, etc continue to struggle with these learning disabilities in an online environment. Online schools aren't right for every family, and there is room for improvement (as there is at every school), but transferring to Commonwealth Connections Academy has been the right choice for me and many other students.

A score of 70 is considered passing
PA Cyber Charter School Performance Profile Scores
Pennsylvania School Performance Profile Website (2012-2013)
Pennsylvania Department of Education
21st Century Cyber CS                                             66.5
Achievement House CS                                           39.7
Act Academy Cyber CS                                            30.6
Agora Cyber CS                                                        48.3
Aspira Bilingual Cyber CS                                       29.0
Central PA Digital Lrng Foundation CS                  31.7
Commonwealth Connections Academy CS           54.6
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS                        39.0
Esperanza Cyber CS                                                32.7
PA Learners Online Regional Cyber CS                 45.0
Pennsylvania Cyber CS                                           59.4
Pennsylvania Distance Learning CS                       54.7
Pennsylvania Leadership CS                                  64.7
Pennsylvania Virtual CS                                          67.9
Solomon CS                                                              36.9
Susq-Cyber CS                                                         46.4

Pennsylvania charter schools now teach 128,000 students
By The Tribune-Review Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, 8:23 p.m.
Pennsylvania charter schools have recruited, multiplied and evolved, growing from nothing at the enabling law's passage in 1997 to 128,712 students attending 176 real and virtual schoolhouses statewide.  Last year, charters raked in more than $853 million in educational tax dollars, bringing the 17-year total to more than $5.3 billion.  Advocates say this is just the beginning.
"While Philadelphia's school funding issues may have drawn much of the attention lately, a statewide solution is needed. A new funding formula must address the individual characteristics of each school district, including its special education enrollment, charter schools, students learning to speak English, poverty, etc. Voters must listen closely and figure out which candidate will institute such a formula, and which one won't."
Don't repeat this history Editorial POSTED: Sunday, October 5, 2014, 1:11 AM
Education funding continues to be the key issue in the Pennsylvania governor's race, which is what it should be. Without a well-educated workforce, the state won't add the 21st-century jobs needed to boost revenue, restore infrastructure, and improve public services.  In deciding which candidate would do more for schools, however, voters might consider a history lesson that could help them make a choice.

Our View: Politics kill school funding debate
Carlisle Sentinel Editorial by The Sentinel Editorial Board October 3, 2014
Pennsylvania’s school funding crisis — and it is a crisis — has generated a flurry of reports from government bodies, offices, nonpartisan and advocacy organizations, most providing a wide range of suggestions on how to provide sufficient money to ensure quality public education while keeping taxpayer burdens to an acceptable minimum.
This while the state’s share of education funding is 43rd in the nation.
Injecting political viewpoints into the mix helps no one.
Consider the report released this week by the nonpartisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center recommending increased state funding coupled with tax rebates and property reassessments.  Unhappy with the report’s conclusions, Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger said the center issuing the report has a “substantial left-leaning orientation.” If he’s correct, then the majority of education advocacy organizations, along with bipartisan select committees of the Legislature, are also of similar orientation.

Vote 2014: Corbett, Wolf find common ground on some education issues
Reading Eagle By Liam Migdail-Smith  Sunday October 5, 2014 12:01 AM
Despite their disagreements over how to address schools' financial troubles, the candidates for governor share some ideas on what should be happening in the classroom.  Both Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf agree that subjects involving science, technology, engineering and math, often referred to as STEM, and early childhood education are areas that need focus.   - See more at:

Graystone charter costs Coatesville schools $1.4 million to close
By Kristina Scala, Daily Local News 10/04/14, 5:51 PM EDT |
Caln >> Closing Graystone Academy Charter School cost Coatesville Area School District $1.24 million in legal fees.  Graystone Academy Charter School was forced to close for good after the Commonwealth Court affirmed the Charter School Appeals Board’s decision to revoke the 2 Comments. The charter failed to meet student performance standards, to meet fiscal management standards and to provide the district with specific reports and records. It also had material violations of its charter and violations of law.  The charter’s close forced 240 students enrolled in Graystone to relocate to other schools and cost the school district more than $1 million in litigation fees to close it. Those fees don’t include charges for research, postage and other expenses since it’s unable to be determined the total amount of charges specifically related to Graystone.

PA Charter schools had tough week
Beaver County Times By The Times Editorial Board Published: Sunday, October 5, 2014 4:00 am
It’s been a tough week for supporters of the charter school movement in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, PA Cyber School founder Nick Trombetta and his attorney were back in a federal courtroom trying to have evidence suppressed in his upcoming criminal trial on charges of mail fraud, theft, tax conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Trombetta is accused of siphoning off millions of taxpayer dollars for his own gain.  On Wednesday, a new report was released citing Trombetta as an example of $30 million in fraud and financial mismanagement among the state’s charter schools since 1997.  The report was done by three organizations — the Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education and Action United. It follows a national report in May by the first two groups that claimed $136 million has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse by charter schools.

Philadelphia schools crippled by budget crisis
PBS Newshour October 3, 2014 at 6:15 PM EDT (video runtime 7:18)
Philadelphia’s public school system is suffering a severe budget crisis, leaving classrooms packed, faculty understaffed and the district in debt. Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters examines what led to the shortage of funds and what lawmakers are doing to fix it.

"The overall aim of the project is to pull reluctant readers into a conversation that encourages them to read, Evans said."
Big Read organizers encourage conversation about 'Fahrenheit 451'
Trib Live By Brian Bowling Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
With 43 free events scheduled during 39 days, organizers of the Big Read hope to get everyone talking about Ray Bradbury's censorship classic, “Fahrenheit 451.”
“We've been able to reach out to all demographics,” said Barbara Evans, associate dean of academic affairs for the Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday with a kickoff celebration at the main Carnegie Library in Oakland, the project includes public book discussions, lectures and film viewings in area libraries and schools through November.  Funded by a $15,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant, the project includes private programs at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, SCI-Pittsburgh and the Renewal Inc. halfway house.
"Unfortunately, Seattle is following a national trend in reducing recess time in primary grades as school districts obsess about raising test scores. This obsession is driven by the federal education policy of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Race to the Top Fund."
Guest: Schools need to learn the importance of recess
Seattle Times By Jesse Hagopian October 4, 2014
MY 5-year-old is bursting at the seams with excitement with the start of kindergarten this year. He tells me he wants to learn to tell time, tie his shoes, learn a new language, play basketball and make new friends. He attends an increasingly rare school that allows a decent amount of time for recess — something research has shown supports academics, healthy friendships and healthy bodies.  The average time Seattle students spend in recess has steadily declined over the past few years, according to a May KUOW investigative story. When the study tracking recess began four years ago, only one Seattle school reported an average recess time of 20 minutes or less per day. During the 2013-2014 school year, some 11 schools offered that sort of a recess.
What’s worse, the schools with the shortest recess times enroll disproportionately more low-income students and students of color.

In Chicago Rahm, facing election defeat, runs away from charter schools. No new ones in 2015.
Fred Klonsky's Blog OCTOBER 3, 2014
Rahm is facing tough re-election polling numbers.
A challenge by Alderman Bob Fioretti and CTU President Karen Lewis looms large.
Of the list of complaints that Chicagoans have about the Mayor, none that have catalyzed opposition more than his historic and massive shuttering of neighborhood public schools.
They have been replaced by charter schools. Some charters are being built directly across the street from existing neighborhood schools.  Recent enrollment reports show empty seats in many of these charter schools.  Others, like those run by Rahm’s election chair, Juan Rangel, are scandal ridden and under federal investigation.  It is not surprising that the Sun-Times is reporting that Rahm will not open any new charter schools in 2015.

"The schools in Washington are caught in the political crossfire of a battle over education policy. Because the State Legislature has refused to require that teacher evaluations be based in part on student test scores, schools are being held to an outdated benchmark that is all but impossible to achieve — that by 2014, every single student would be proficient in reading and math. Thousands of schools in California, Iowa, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming have also been declared failing for the same reason."
In Washington State, Political Stand Puts Schools in a Bind
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH OCT. 4, 2014
SEATTLE — Three years ago, Lakeridge Elementary School, where most pupils come from lower-income families, was totally remade. A new principal arrived and replaced half the staff, and she lengthened the school day and year. Working with a $3 million federal grant, the staff collaborated with the University of Washington to train teachers in new instructional techniques. The results were powerful: Test scores soared.  Yet just before school resumed for this fall, Lakeridge learned that it had been declared a failing school under federal education law.
In fact, nearly nine in 10 Washington State public schools, including some high-achieving campuses in the state’s most moneyed communities, have been relegated to a federal blacklist of failure, requiring them to set aside 20 percent of their federal funding for private tutoring or to transport students to schools not on the failing list, if parents wish.

Unions say they will back teachers who refuse to administer mandated standardized tests to students
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 6 at 4:00 AM  
Late last month the nonprofit United Opt Out National — an organization dedicated to eliminating high-stakes testing in public schools — issued a call for the big teachers union to support teachers who decide that they can no longer administer standardized tests that they feel are harming children. I asked the unions whether they would agree, and here’s what they said.
Opting out of standardized tests grew among parents during the last school year, with tens of thousands in a number of states deciding not to allow their children to take tests. While some parents and students were harassed by school administrators for opting out, the movement appears to be growing.  Opting out is harder for teachers, who can be fired for refusing to administer a mandated standardized test. Still, they have been joining the movement though in much smaller numbers than parents.

"But things are really looking up for the wealthiest among us, as those on the Forbes 400 saw a 45% rebound in their wealth during 2010-13 and the subset of Walton wealth increased by just over half (51%). The cumulative wealth of the Forbes 400 was about $2.1 trillion, or roughly the same as that held by the entire bottom 60% of American families. The combined worth of the Walton 6 was $145 billion in 2013 — which equaled the total wealth of the entire bottom 43%."
One step up and two steps back
The Berkeley Blog by Sylvia Allegretto, labor economist, Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics 10/2/14
With the release of the (mostly) triennial Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) from the Federal Reserve, it is once again time to look at trends in wealth. The SCF is one of the best sources for data on net worth (assets minus liabilities) in the U.S.  In this post I use the newly released 2013 data to update my previous posts that looked at wealth trends using the 2007 and 2010 SCFs.
The figure below reports changes in wealth for two periods. First, the purple bars are a repeat of the post on the 2010 SCF which reported changes in wealth from 2007-10. That period happened to coincide with the Great Recession. So, the first purple bar reflects the effects of the bursting of the housing bubble and financial debacle followed by the Great Recession, which caused typical families to lose about two-fifths of their total wealth.

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.  

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)

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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