Wednesday, October 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 8: Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014

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 8, 2014:
Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014

Information from the September 30th BEFC public hearing in Clarion has been posted to the website including the agenda, attachments and link to 3 hour video of the hearing.
Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing September 30, 2014
Funding Issues Related to Rural School Districts

Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014
Six millionaires/billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.

Now it's government of the money, by the money and for the money: Gary Zimmerman
PennLive Op-Ed  By Gary Zimmerman on October 06, 2014 at 1:58 PM, updated October 06, 2014 at 3:50 PM
Many of us have felt that the wealthy and special business interests get their way more often than average citizens.  Now, we have hard statistical evidence.   That comes from a new paper by Martin Givens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University -- "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens."    The two researchers used statistical analysis on 1,779 different surveys of American opinion over 21 years.   The major finding: "Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions: they have little or no independent influence on policy at all."  Those with the largest influence are economic elites and interest groups representing business.
Money (campaign financing) buys access. Access buys influence.  Even if there is no direct quid pro quo, candidates absorb the views of those with access. 
No wonder income inequality has been worsening for the past 35 years. 

"Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.  None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype. After several years of experimentation and the expenditure of billions of dollars, charter schools and their teachers proved, on the whole, to be no more effective than traditional schools."
The Plot Against Public Education
How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools.
Politico Magazine By BOB HERBERT October 06, 2014
Bill Gates had an idea. He was passionate about it, absolutely sure he had a winner. His idea? America’s high schools were too big.  When a multibillionaire gets an idea, just about everybody leans in to listen. And when that idea has to do with matters of important public policy and the billionaire is willing to back it up with hard cash, public officials tend to reach for the money with one hand and their marching orders with the other. Gates backed his small-schools initiative with enormous amounts of cash. So, without a great deal of thought, one school district after another signed on to the notion that large public high schools should be broken up and new, smaller schools should be created.
Arthur Rock, California billionaire and TFA board member noted in this blog posting, contributed $300,000 to Pennsylvania's "Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First " in 2012.  Don't know whether he or his co-contributor Jim Walton (yes, those Waltons, $281,629) are "Parents", but I doubt that either of them are "Teachers".
Why Are Teach for America and a California Billionaire Investing in a Minnesota School Board Race?
In These Times Blog BY SARAH LAHM TUESDAY, OCT 7, 2014, 6:45 AM
In the aftermath of a failed 2013 bid for mayor, former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels is running for a spot on the school board. If he wins, he will undoubtedly be able to thank the extensive financing and canvassing support he’s received from several well-heeled national organizations, such as the Washington, D.C.-based 50CAN, an offshoot ofEducation Reform Now called Students for Education Reform (SFER), and various people associated with Teach for America, which has been called a “political powerhouse” for its growing influence in policy and politics beyond the classroom.  These groups often project an image of grassroots advocacy but are in fact very well-funded, often through the support of extremely wealthy hedge fund managers and large philanthropic foundations. Together, they and like-minded “education reform” proponents have dramatically, but not necessarily democratically, altered how public education works throughout the United States.

StudentsFirst Names Walton Family Foundation K-12 Adviser as New President
Education Week State EdWatch By Andrew Ujifusa on October 7, 2014 11:07 PM
StudentsFirst, the K-12 advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee that pushes for increased school choice and the end to seniority-based employment decisions for teachers, named Walton Family Foundation K-12 adviser Jim Blew as its new president in an Oct. 7 vote.   Blew has served as an adviser to the Walton foundation on education for over a decade, according to StudentsFirst's statement announcing Blew's selection, although he's also been described as the"Director of K-12 Reform" for the foundation. From 2000 to 2005, Blew directed campaigns for the Alliance for School Choice, as well as its predecessor, the American Education Reform Council. 

New Quinnipiac poll shows Guv's race tightening: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  on October 07, 2014 at 8:22 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Gov. Tom Corbett has picked up some support among likely voters as the race for the state's top spot heads into its final days, but he's still trailing Democrat Tom Wolf by 17 percentage points, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll out today.
Wolf, of York County, had a 55 percent to 38 percent lead over Republican Corbett,compared to Wolf's 24-point lead among likely voters in a September canvass by the Hamden, Conn.-based university, The Associated Press reports.

Coalition pushes education funding reform
Post-Gazette Early Returns Blog Published by Karen Langley on Tuesday, 07 October 2014 4:14 pm.
HARRISBURG -- A coalition of business, education and community groups gathered Monday at the Capitol to kick off a campaign for fair and predictable funding for K-12 education.
The group, The Campaign for Fair Education Funding, launches its public effort as a state commission holds hearings around the state on how Pennsylvania pays for its elementary and secondary schools.  Representatives of the funding campaign described principles that will guide their approach -- accurate data, stable funding, shared responsibility and accountability by schools -- but said they had not yet settled upon a formula they could recommend. The state funding commission, made up of Corbett administration officials and legislators, is charged with reporting to the General Assembly by June 2015.

PSERS investments exceed expectations
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 2:10 pm | Updated: 5:23 pm, Tue Oct 7, 2014.
Taxpayers and public school employees should expect some good news later this year when one of state’s major public pension systems releases its investment returns for the most recent fiscal year.  The state Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, earned nearly 15 percent during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A press release on the organization’s website Monday revealed the latest findings.  Exceeding the annual investment earnings assumption of 7.5 percent helps to ease the burden of the unfunded liability that must be made up in the future by some combination of future investment returns, contributions from workers and tax dollars.

Bethlehem Area School District plans closer oversight of charter schools
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on October 07, 2014 at 7:42 AM
The Bethlehem Area School District plans to keep closer tabs on the charter schools within its boundaries.  As the chartering district, Bethlehem has oversight of Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the ArtsLehigh Valley Dual Language and Lehigh Valley Academy Regional charter schools.  When a district students enrolls in a charter or cyber school, Bethlehem pays that school tuition. Bethlehem expects to send $20 million to charter and cyber schools this year.
Rather than waiting to receive annual reports from the schools or wait for a charter renewal hearing, Bethlehem plans to take a more proactive role, Assistant Superintendent Jack Silva said.
The district plans to attend the monthly board meetings for each charter, conduct monthly visits to the schools to gather information about operations and provide reports as requested.

Pottstown gets $673K in grants to aid early education programs over 3 years
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 10/07/14, 4:51 PM EDT |
POTTSTOWN >> Early childhood education efforts in Pottstown will get a $673,000 boost over the next three years as a result of two state grants announced Tuesday.  One grant program will funnel $75,000 over the next three years into innovative pre-K programs.  The other will provide $290,820 to the Pottstown School District and another $157,200 to a private pre-school provider that partners with Pottstown this year.  All total, it adds up to $673,020 for early education efforts in and around Pottstown.  In the case of the first program, Pottstown was one of only 12 recipients across Pennsylvania to receive a piece of the $2.7 million in Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone Grants and one of only four in the eastern part of the state.
The grants are designed to expand programs that bridge the achievement gap for at-risk children and are funded through the federal Race to the Top funding stream which awarded Pennsylvania $51.7 million in December, 2013.

Gov. Tom Corbett announces $817K in grants for Lehigh Valley's Pre-K Counts programs
By Precious Petty | The Express-Times  on October 07, 2014 at 6:30 PM, updated October 07, 2014 at 8:15 PM
Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday announced more than $9.8 million in grants for early childhood education providers statewide, including two that serve Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Community Services for Children Inc. and Lehigh Valley Children's Centers Inc. will receive $314,400 and $503,040, respectively, according to state officials. They are among 32 early childhood education providers in 27 counties awarded grants through the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program, officials said. 

Gov. Corbett announces $1 million for new Lehigh Valley Charter Arts school building
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on October 07, 2014 at 6:14 PM, updated October 07, 2014 at 8:21 PM
The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts has been awarded a $1 million state grant for construction of its $26 million new school on South Side Bethlehem.  Gov. Tom Corbett came to Bethlehem on Tuesday afternoon to announce the Economic Growth Initiative grant in the current East Broad Street school's black box theater. The governor and first lady Susan Corbett toured the construction site and visited several classrooms during their visit.

What are parents saying about termination of Philly teachers contract?
By unanimously voting to terminate the Philadelphia teachers union contract Monday, the School Reform Commission sent shock waves throughout the city.  The move has garnered bipartisan support of the likes of Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.
But not so from some of the very people the move is supposed to benefit.

The ugly facts of life in Philadelphia public schools
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 7 at 2:32 PM  
For years now the state-run Philadelphia public school system has been under a kind of siege. The Republican administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has decimated spending for public education in the state, and Philadelphia has been hit especially hard, with thousands of layoffs, massive program cuts and dozens of closed school buildings. Many teachers buy basic supplies for their classrooms with their own funds.  Education activists have accused the five-member School Reform Commission that runs the district of implementing damaging “reforms” and going along with Corbett’s agenda. In 2013, it passed a “doomsday” budget that had no funding for things such as paper, counselors and art/music programs. This year things were so difficult that officials put together a $2.4 billion budget for the next school year with available resources and then urged the reform commission not to pass it because it was so bare-bones. Some extra money was found, but the district remains cash-starved.
On Monday, the reform commission announced that it was unilaterally canceling its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

How School Lunch Became the Latest Political Battleground
New York Times Magazine By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE OCT. 7, 2014
The lunch ladies loved Marshall Matz. For more than 30 years, he worked the halls and back rooms of Washington for the 55,000 dues-paying members of the School Nutrition Association, the men and still mostly women who run America’s school-lunch programs. They weren’t his firm’s biggest clients — that would have been companies like General Mills or Kraft — but Matz, wry and impish even in his late 60s, lavished the lunch ladies with the kind of respect they didn’t always get in school cafeterias. Many of the association’s members considered him a dear colleague. “He would tell everybody: ‘You are a much better lobbyist than I am. You are how we get things done,’ ” said Dorothy Caldwell, who served a term as the association’s president in the early 1990s. “And people liked that.”

Common Core: The Real Issues
Education Week Opinion By Marc Tucker on October 2, 2014 8:01 AM
There has been much Sturm und Drang about the Common Core in recent months, but it looks to me as though the Common Core, in most states, is safe for the time being.  Its name may be changed in some states.  It may suffer from nips and tucks on occasion, but in most states it will emerge into the highlands fairly unscathed.  But that, in my view, does not mean that it is home free.  Far from it.  The real test for the Common Core, the fire it must go through to become a permanent feature of the national education infrastructure, lies in the extent to which it is well and truly implemented in the states.  Unfortunately, for that to happen, almost everything else has to change.

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).

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

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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