Monday, November 24, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 24: Suit calls PA state school funding arbitrary and irrational

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 November 24, 2014:
Suit calls PA state school funding arbitrary and irrational

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Monday, November 24, 2014 at 10 AM IU#13 Lancaster
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster
* meeting times and locations subject to change

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 22, 2014:
How do Pennsylvania cyber charter schools stack up on state scores?

"Now the plaintiffs have data to back testimony about how many students are below proficient on state standardized tests, just how far below adequate their resources are and how many teaching jobs and academic programs they had to cut as state and federal funding fell.
Now there are Pennsylvania System of School Assessments tests in reading and math covering grades 3-8, PSSAs in science and writing in selected grades, and end-of-course Keystone Exams, part of a state graduation requirement, in Algebra 1, literature and biology at the secondary level.  In addition to tests, the state in 1999 added statewide academic standards, which since have been expanded and revised. Before that, the complaint notes, the state “had no established standards by which a thorough and efficient system of education could be objectively measured.”  By having the standards, the complaint states, the General Assembly articulated “what an adequate public education system must accomplish.”
With state tests and standards, the state also began holding school districts, teachers, principals and administrators accountable for students’ meeting those standards."
Suit calls state school funding arbitrary and irrational
Test scores behind judicial order request
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 23, 2014 12:00 AM
In 1999, the state Supreme Court ruled that the question of state school funding was a political issue for the Legislature, not one for the judiciary.  Now, a new lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court last week once again seeks a judicial order, this time armed with state test results showing schools failing to meet state academic standards and a study commissioned by the Legislature quantifying the disparity in resources.  The latest complaint called the current funding system arbitrary and irrational, saying, “Students in property- and income-poor districts are not given an opportunity to receive an adequate education where all students can meet state standards, while their peers in property- and income-rich districts receive a high-quality education.”

York Dispatch EDITORIAL: York City education is a county issue
York Dispatch  POSTED:   11/21/2014 12:50:32 PM EST
It's on.  The York City school board this week rebuffed a state-appointed recovery officer's attempt to turn over district schools to a for-profit charter company, setting the stage for a court fight.
David Meckley had given the board an ultimatum — approve the deal or he would seek a state takeover of the district.  The board didn't reject the proposal outright; it merely tabled the matter after members asked for more details.  But if Meckley is going to make good on his threat, it's now or never.  After all, the clock is ticking down to Democrat Tom Wolf's inauguration, and the incoming governor does not support a full charter conversion of the York City School District.
The board doesn't win the game if it runs down that clock, but it does avert a total loss — for the time being, at least.  The question will be the same for the new administration:
What do you do about a district that is bleeding money and failing its students?

Testimony from Opt Out hearings - Philadelphia City Council Education Committee - November 19, 2014
On November 19th, the Education Committee of the Philadelphia City Council held public hearings on the impact of standardized testing on teaching and learning. These videos are students, parents and teachers who testified.  For transcripts of all written and oral testimony go to:

On Sunday the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an opinion piece by Janine Yass (which is posted below), a board member of the Philadelphia School Partnership and vice chair emeritus of the Center for Education Reform in Washington.  Blog readers should be aware that her husband, Jeff Yass and his two colleagues at the Susquehanna International Group in Bala Cynwyd are the funders behind the Students First PAC which has contributed millions towards school privitization in Pennsylvania over the past few years.  Here are some of our prior postings:
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.
Keystone State Education Coalition Octobber 8, 2014

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Contributions to Students First PAC
Not Exactly Grassroots: $6.66 Million from just 19 donors
Keystone State Education Coalition January 9, 2012

Follow the Students First PAC Voucher Money Trail
Keystone State Education Coalition May 6, 2011

Here's our previous posting detailing 2010 contributions of just under $6 million:
A September 15th 2010 Philadelphia Inquirer article described how a trio of wealthy Bala Cynwyd businessmen with a passion for school choice gave a combined $5 million to Senator Anthony Williams, then one of three Democrats running against Dan Onorato in the Democratic primary.  The three - Joel Greenberg, Jaffrey Yass, and Arthur Dantchick, all of the Susquehanna Investment Group - funneled most of their contributions through the Students First PAC
Two members of the Susquehanna Group, Joel Greenberg and David Pollard, were subsequently appointed to Governor-elect Corbett’s Education Transition Team, with Greenberg appointed as Co-Chairman.  While gubernatorial candidate and Senate Education Committee member Senator Anthony Williams received the lion’s share of $5,077,413.07, it is worth noting who received some of the rest.  Over $400,000 went to Legislative Leadership and Education Committee Members:
January 3, 2011 Follow the Students First PAC Voucher Money
Keystone State Education Coalition January 3, 2011

Janine Yass: The facts on charter schools
Inquirer Opinion by Janine Yass POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2014, 1:09 AM
Janine Yass is a board member of the Philadelphia School Partnership and vice chair emeritus of the Center for Education Reform in Washington
The 40,000 students on charter school waiting lists in Philadelphia have high hopes as the School Reform Commission starts to review new applications for the first time in seven years.
More than 40 nonprofit charters submitted applications on behalf of tens of thousands of families; many of these families have been kept at bay for years while demanding better educational opportunities for their children. They are hoping that their voices will finally be heard.
The discussion about charter schools is filled with politically charged rhetoric, is rarely about what parents want, and is almost never about individual schools' results. So as the School District gears up to review the new charter applications, let's hope they look at the facts:

Rhodes scholars named for 2015
Jordan Konell, a senior at Yale University and graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia, spent time at the Public Interest Law Center and as a community organizer in Take Back Your Neighborhood. by JOE MANDAK , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS November 23, 2014, 11:53 AM
A Philadelphia man pursuing a degree in African American Studies and Political Science at Yale has been named one of 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholars.  Jordan Konell will use his scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Comparative Social Policy at Oxford University in England. Konell is a senior at Yale.  Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.  Konell was editor-in-chief of the Yale Undergraduate Law Review and has worked at Philadelphia's Public Interest Law Center and as a community organizer. He's also a jazz trombonist.

Studying for the Test by Taking It
New York Times By BENEDICT CAREY NOV. 22, 2014
PROTESTS are flaring up in pockets of the country against the proliferation of standardized tests. For many parents and teachers, school has become little more than a series of workout sessions for the assessment du jour.  And that is exactly backward, research shows. Tests should work for the student, not the other way around.  In an experiment published late last year, two University of Texas psychologists threw out the final exam for the 900 students in their intro psych course and replaced it with a series of short quizzes that students took on their laptops at the beginning of each class.  “They didn’t like it, at least at first,” said one of the professors, James W. Pennebaker. The other professor, Samuel D. Gosling, added, “For the first few weeks, every time their friends went out drinking, they couldn’t go — they had yet another quiz the next day.”

So, We Should Teach to the Test?
Academe Magazine Blog November 22, 2014
In an exasperating article on the op-ed page of The New York Times today, science writer Benedict Carey argues for the benefit of testing, conflating all types from yearly standardized tests to weekly quizzes and ignoring the indisputable fact that tests are primarily regressive (they test what is known, sometimes at the expense of what might be discovered) and inherently stifling of creativity. He writes, without exploring the implications of his statement:

"Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will consider a proposal from its chairman, Tom Wheeler, that would raise taxes on phone lines by a modest 16 cents a month to make sure that every public school and library has reliable and fast Internet connections."
Faster Broadband for Schools and Libraries
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NOV. 22, 2014
Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will consider a proposal from its chairman, Tom Wheeler, that would raise taxes on phone lines by a modest 16 cents a month to make sure that every public school and library has reliable and fast Internet connections. The commissioners should vote yes.  Most of the country’s schools and libraries do not have the high-speed connections they need to take full advantage of the Internet, the F.C.C. says. Not surprisingly, schools and libraries in poorer and more rural parts of the country tend to have worse service than those in urban and affluent areas.
Under a program known as E-Rate, the F.C.C. provides grants to schools and libraries with money that comes from an average tax of 25 cents per month on every phone line. The program has a spending cap of $2.4 billion a year, which hasn’t changed much since 1997 when it was originally set at $2.25 billion a year. That’s because the government did not adjust the cap for inflation between 1997 and 2010. Mr. Wheeler is proposing to raise the cap to $3.9 billion.
That additional money would pay for new fiber-optic lines, Wi-Fi routers and the cost of Internet service. The commission has said it wants every school to have connections sufficient to transmit one billion bits of data per second per 1,000 users. About 68 percent of American school districts say they don’t have a single school that can meet that target now. The commission has different targets for libraries based on how many people they serve, but half of all public libraries report connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second.

“Circuit Rider” Lawrence Feinberg to visit LMSD on 11/25 to speak about PA school funding
Lower Merion School District Announcements Posted: November 18, 2014
With school funding a hot issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, an alliance of state education leaders is engaged in a campaign to build support for changing the way the state pays its school bills. During the yearlong campaign, 11 "circuit riders" will attempt to build support among current superintendents, business managers, and school board members for a movement for education-funding changes.  Please join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 8:30 AM as "circuit rider" Lawrence Feinberg will speak at the District's Legislative Committee meeting in the District Administration Building Board Room.
Click here for a recent article on about the circuit riders.

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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