Tuesday, November 25, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 25: What's the deal with school funding reform in Pennsylvania?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 25, 2014:
What's the deal with school funding reform in Pennsylvania?



Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
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




PA Basic Education Funding Commission (Updates)
Agenda and some testimony from yesterday's hearing in Lancaster and video from day one in Philadelphia last week have been posted.

Senate Leaders Announce Changes in Leadership Staff
PA Senate GOP website  November 24, 2014
(HARRISBURG) – Changes to Senate Republican Leadership senior staff will take place with the beginning of the 2015-16 legislative session, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senator Jake Corman (R-34), Senator Pat Browne (R-16) and Senator John Gordner (R-27).

Pennsylvania's Republican legislative leadership teams start to fill in senior staff posts
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com on November 24, 2014 at 6:24 PM
The new power couple in the Pennsylvania State Senate - President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman - announced several senior staff hires for the 2015-16 legislative session Monday.
Drew Crompton, already Scarnati's chief of staff, will add the role of general counsel to the majority caucus. He will be joined by Dave Thomas, incoming chief counsel to the majority leader, at the top of the Senate GOP's legal team.

Wolf Steering Committee members eager, expectant
PLS Reporter Author: Josh Levy/Monday, November 24, 2014/Categories: News and Views
Last Tuesday, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf named the Steering Committee for his transition team. The PLS Reporter had an opportunity to contact a few of them to discuss their expectations for the team.  Joseph Meade, government affairs director for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and recent appointee to Wolf’s Transition Team, told The PLS Reporter that “we’re at a critical juncture for the commonwealth.” 

PA-Gov: Rendell to Serve as Honorary Chair of Wolf’s Inaugural Committee
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor November 24, 2014
The incoming Democratic Administration is extending a symbolic hand to the last Democratic Administration.  Gov-elect Tom Wolf announced today that former Governor Ed Rendell will serve as Honorary Co-Chair of his Inaugural Committee.

What's the deal with school funding reform in Pennsylvania?
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Monday, November 24, 2014 3:50 pm
People are talking.  Talking about school funding.
So many people that it's hard to keep track.
Legislators, school administrators and advocacy organizations seem to agree on one point: something needs to change.  But how to do that is up for debate.  In the last year, we've seen at least five big pushes to change the way money is distributed to the state's 500 school districts.  Below is a rundown of those efforts.  Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that do not have a predictable education funding formula based on student enrollment and characteristics.

“While I like you folks in Harrisburg, the ability of the commonwealth to actually run school districts in fiscal distress does not have a strong track record,” she said.  She said the community and board have “cut and closure fatigue.”
Mrs. Lane also said the charter school funding formula needs to be changed. She said the practice of funding online charters the same as other charter schools “screams for attention.”  “Online schools are in no way comparable in costs to brick and mortar schools,” Mrs. Lane said. “We know. We are running one.”
Pittsburgh superintendent Lane calls for changes in state education funding formula
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 25, 2014 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane has told a state panel that without the district’s “healthy” fund balance and “major, painful reductions,” Pittsburgh would have joined Duquesne, Chester-Upland and Philadelphia as a distressed district.
Mrs. Lane spoke Monday at a Basic Education Funding Commission hearing in Lancaster, Pa. The panel of Corbett administration officials and legislators is required to report its recommendations on a school funding formula to the General Assembly by June 2015.
Based on her prepared remarks, Mrs. Lane called on the commission to consider enrollment as well as equity, including recognizing it costs more to educate some children than others, such as students who are homeless, are English language learners or have mental health needs, such as chronic stress based on violence in the neighborhoods.

Education funding figures were skewed
Lancaster Online Opinion by Adam Schott Sunday, November 23, 2014 6:00 am
The letter-writer, a member of the School District of Lancaster board, said the views expressed in this letter are his own.
James Paul's column (“Smarter way to fund schools,” Nov. 16) was about the most intellectually dishonest piece I've come across on school funding.  In his column, Paul:
— Provided misleading information on Pennsylvania's investments in classroom instruction. The adequacy suit to which School District of Lancaster is a party concerns the state's basic education subsidy, which is nowhere near $27 billion.  I can only presume Paul arrives at this figure by summing: (1) all state spending on education, including for public colleges and universities; (2) local aid, a large and growing share of the total funding picture; and (3) federal aid for programs like special education.
— Failed to note that Pennsylvania students actually score above average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and have higher-than-expected scores in some areas considering our poverty rates. It's an incredibly demanding test, and even half the students in Massachusetts — generally considered to be the top-performing state in the nation — score below proficient in certain cases.
 — Relied on standardized test scores — obviously just one measure of school performance — to indict Pennsylvania's public education system. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Foundation (which doesn't disclose its donors) is, for some reason, a relentless advocate for the state's public cyber charter schools, which have amassed millions in profits while posting lousy results against this same standard.  Not one of the state's 14 cybers met the state's threshold for acceptable school performance in 2013-14.

Education is the focus the Lancaster Chamber's annual State of the County event
Education numbers:
• Return on investment of $1 spent on early childhood education: $17.
• Difference in annual earnings between a high school dropout and someone with a bachelors degree: $36,000.
• Rank of Lancaster County among surrounding counties of residents with college degrees: 4 of 6.
• Year by which the United Way of Lancaster County wants to have all children ready to enter kindergarten: 2025.
Lancaster Online By BERNARD HARRIS | Staff Writer Monday, November 24, 2014 4:58 pm
Failure starts early.
Fewer Lancaster County children are entering kindergarten ready to learn.
If they are behind in reading by the time they enter the third grade, studies show they will be less likely to graduate high school, more likely to become pregnant and less likely to have earn family supporting wages.  And that has ripple effects on the broader community, from the cost of social services to the county’s future economic development.  “Education is not just an education issue. Education is a business issue. Education is human services issue. Education is a community issue,” Lancaster of Chamber of Commerce President Tom Baldrige told 375 people Monday who gathered for the annual State of the County luncheon at the DoubleTree Resort near Willow Street.

Trombetta back in court for evidence suppression hearing
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose jprose@timesonline.com Monday, November 24, 2014 7:00 pm
PITTSBURGH -- Indicted Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta is expected back in federal court in Pittsburgh on Tuesday for the fifth installment of his evidence suppression hearing that started in late September.  When U.S. District Court Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti continued the hearing Nov. 12, prosecutors were ready to call PA Cyber board Chairman Ed Elder to the stand. The hearing started Sept. 30 and has been continued four times.
Trombetta, an Aliquippa native and East Liverpool, Ohio, resident, faces 11 federal charges, including five counts of filing a false tax return. Trombetta is trying to persuade Conti to toss out secret recordings and wiretaps made by the FBI because, he claims, they involved four attorneys and were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Speculation Of New Philadelphia Charter Schools Has Operators Recruiting Families
CBS Philly By Pat Loeb November 24, 2014 6:13 AM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Now that the Philadelphia School District has accepted applications for new charter schools, charter operators are revving up the pressure to get new schools approved. Some are already recruiting families for schools that may never exist.  Parents in the Port Richmond section of the city were invited to a meeting about a new charter school in their neighborhood. Except there is no new charter in the neighborhood. American Paradigm has applied to open one, but a decision is three months away. Company CEO Jurate Krokys says the meeting was inspired by the district’s charter application, which asks about community engagement.

Neff: SRC action on teachers' contract was unfair, but conditions in schools are unjust
the notebook By Marjorie Neff on Nov 24, 2014 12:27 PM
The School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and require teachers and staff to contribute to their health insurance premiums has been described as unfair. I agree.  I expect that my colleagues on the SRC feel the same way. But our decision was born in response to a larger and profound injustice being inflicted on Philadelphia’s children.   When we describe something as unfair, we usually mean we think it’s wrong. When something is unjust, it goes beyond issues of fairness to violate a moral code. People of good will can disagree about whether requiring teachers and staff to contribute to health insurance premiums is the fair or right thing to do.  But there can be no argument that denying children basic conditions for learning is an injustice.  
In a fair world, teachers would be paid much more and the SRC would have voted to affirm that. Unfortunately, we had to make a decision in the world we actually live in, with the resources we actually have.

Paying More and Getting Less, A Tale of Two School Districts
Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools website by Anne Gemmell Posted on November 24, 2014
The following testimony  from Anne Gemmell at last week’s “people’s hearings” prior to the regular session, draws out the inequity in the way education is funded in our state.
Good afternoon, Senator Patrick Brown, fellow esteemed members of the Basic Education Funding Commission and concerned citizens of our region. Thank you for being here today to listen to the families affected by the lack of a sensible funding formula for our schools. Leadership begins with listening.

York County township talking "secession" from a school district
WITF.org Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Nov 24, 2014 2:12 PM
 (Washington Township, York County) -- A group of residents of Washington Township in York County it wants to "secede" and join another district for the educational benefits.
The Washington Township Education Coalition is asking the state Department of Education to approve the move out of Dover School District and into Northern York County School District.
Ralph McGregor, vice-chair of the group, says Northern York County students score higher on tests.  The coalition has also noted the potential tax benefits on its website, though McGregor denies it plays a role.  "To remove the connotation or the misconcept that people had, they thought, before it was investigated, that taxes would be higher in Northern," he says.

Saucon Valley board, teachers urged to extend olive branch by state official
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times on November 24, 2014 at 7:33 PM
A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner Monday urged the Saucon Valley School District and its teachers union to extend an olive branch to each other.   The school district has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Saucon Valley Education Association, accusing them of bargaining in bad faith.  The two sides met before Hearing Examiner Jack Marino Monday for five hours but only made it through two witnesses. He likened the dynamic between the two sides to a "bad marriage."

“The SPP scores are more accurate at identifying the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in a school than at identifying the effectiveness of a school,” Fuller wrote in his brief which matched data about the economic demographics of students with their school’s scores.  “It’s actually kind of stunning just how strong the correlations is,” Fuller told The Mercury last week.”It explains so much.”
Pottstown school scores reflect poverty more than performance
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 11/23/14, 3:41 PM EST | UPDATED: 20 HRS AGO
While it’s certainly not the only factor involved, its hard to deny the correlation between an increase in the number of poor students in a Pottstown school building, and the decrease of its School Performance Profile score.  As The Mercury reported last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released scores for its two-year-old School Performance Profile and results locally were mixed.  Nowhere were they more mixed than in the Pottstown School District which boasted the school whose scores increased by more than any other in the area — Lincoln Elementary — and the school whose scores declined more than any other in the area — Franklin Elementary.  In an effort to explain the disparity, a clue can be found in looking at the poverty of the students being tested.

Pottstown schools using this year’s score as a baseline to measure growth
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 11/23/14, 3:41 PM EST | UPDATED: 12 MINS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Understanding how well a school or school district is doing its job is most often a matter of assessment and comparison.  The newest method of assessment in the Commonwealth is the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile and Thursday night, Pottstown Superintendent Jeff Sparagana gave an overview of the district’s latest scores to the school board.  “The numbers are positive,” he said, adding “of course, there is still room to grow.”
As The Mercury reported last week, the two-year-old assessment method being used by the Pennsylvania Department of Education focuses as much on “growth” as it does on results, or “achievement.”  Forty-percent of a school’s total score is based on how much student achievement has grown in math, reading, science and writing in a given year as the level of achievement they have actually reached. Achievement comprises another 40 percent.
The remaining 20 percent is divided up among other factors such as test participation rates, graduation rate, participation in advance placement classes and attendance.

Phoenixville ‘disappointed’ with School Performance scores
By Frank Otto, fotto@pottsmerc.com@fottojourno on Twitter POSTED: 11/24/14, 6:38 PM EST |
PHOENIXVILLE >> Administration in the Phoenixville Area School District expressed “disappointment” in the scores achieved by some of their schools after the 2013-14 School Performance Profiles were released this month.  During the Phoenixville Area School Board meeting Thursday night, Assistant Superintendent Regina Palubinsky discussed how choices relating to when students took tests, which contribute to School Performance Profile scores, may have contributed to the 75.7 rating at Phoenixville Area High School.  Some members of the public at Thursday’s meeting lambasted the district for the scores.  “I hope this will be a big topic at the curriculum meetings for some time,” said board President Josh Gould after the Palubinsky’s presentation finished.  School Performance Profiles are in their second year after replacing the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards. Based on a mixture of factors that include attendance and graduation rates, the scores heavily factor year-to-year growth in grades measured by several tests including the Keystone and Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams.

Test results: Pa. scores down with reduced funding
Education Week Published Online: November 24, 2014
PITTSBURGH (AP) — With school districts across the state now in their fourth year of facing fewer state and federal resources, statewide results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests show declines in every grade level in nearly every subject tested.
The pattern of lower scores on the 2014 PSSA tests holds true for subgroups of students who are white, black, economically disadvantaged, English language learners or are in special education.
Overall on the assessments tests, there were these declines in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced in grades 3-8:

What It Takes to Fix American Education
Daily Beast by Jonah Edelman 11.23.14
We’re spending way too much time focusing on who is ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ debates over education, and not enough on implementing proven solutions.  As a parent, a mentor, the son of a civil rights leader turned child advocate and a former aide to Robert F. Kennedy, and an advocate for children for nearly twenty years, I can tell you this with confidence: when it comes to helping underserved students succeed, there’s no silver bullet or quick fix.
But there are real solutions:


Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email cbenton@pilcop.org or call 267.546.1317.

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 www.pascd.org

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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