Saturday, November 15, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov15: Thorough and Efficient? A video short on Pennsylvania's Education Funding Lawsuit

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 15, 2014:
Thorough and Efficient? A video short on Pennsylvania's Education Funding Lawsuit

PA Basic Education Funding Commission Hearing Tuesday 1:00 pm and Wednesday 10 am Phila. City Hall Courtroom 676

Philadelphia City Council Hearings on High-stakes Testing and the Opt-Out Movement, Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM
Education Committee of Philadelphia City Council
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM, Room 400 City Hall

Thorough and Efficient? A video short on Pennsylvania's Education Funding Lawsuit (video runtime 4:45)
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania filed suit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on November 10, 2014 on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a "thorough and efficient" 

Charter contract with York City schools released
ERIN JAMES / The York Dispatch 505-5439 / @ydcity 11/14/2014 01:37:10 PM EST
The York City School District has released a copy of a proposed contract with Charter Schools USA, a for-profit company that wants to operate the district's high school and its seven K-8 buildings starting in July.
You can read the document here.
David Meckley, the district's state-appointed chief recovery officer, has directed the school board to vote Wednesday on accepting the contract.  Check back later for more details.

Schools funding lawsuit is on round two
Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 14, 2014 12:41 PM
When several school districts sued state officials on Monday over education funding, they re-lit a torch that advocates have been carrying for decades. The lawsuit is a follow-up to a similar legal challenge filed in 1991 and tossed out in 1999, without a resolution.
Judges in the Commonwealth Court and the state Supreme Court said they couldn't measure whether districts were delivering a sub-par education because of inadequate state funding.
"The conversation has never gone away," said Joe Bard, head of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, a plaintiff in both lawsuits. "People have asked us, probably more frequently than any other question, 'When are you going to sue the state again?'"
The difference this time, plaintiffs say, is that more extensive statewide education standards and standardized testing are in place, giving the courts a way to assess whether school districts are being required to do more than they can afford.
"We can say what a kid should know and measure it, that that makes a critical difference between last time and this," said Bard. "Today, what you're getting when you graduate essentially is a state diploma... you graduate by meeting state requirements."
When the first funding lawsuit was rejected in 1999, state funding reportedly covered 39 percent of the total cost of public education in Pennsylvania.
Advocates say the state now covers 33 percent of the total share of education in Pennsylvania.

Webinar: Campaign for Fair Education Funding: Navigating Education Funding Formulas (runtime: 1:02)
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on November 13, 2014
This webinar focuses on the mechanics of a potential new funding formula for Pennsylvania, such as base costs, weights, funding factors, and comprehensive cost analysis.
Presenters include Jim Buckheit, from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, and Bill Bartle from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, with additional remarks by Sharon Ward from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, and Kathy Manderino from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.

House Speaker Turzai poised to bargain on gas extraction tax, sale of state liquor stores
Trib Live By David Conti Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, 10:51 p.m.
The next state House speaker won't consider more taxes on Pennsylvania natural gas drilling until fellow lawmakers take another look at his plan to privatize liquor stores.  “If the discussion is about more revenue, that has to be the first place anybody looks,” Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said in Washington County on Friday, two days after fellow House Republicans voted to name him speaker next year.  A stronger GOP majority in both chambers, including three new senators who voted in favor of Turzai's liquor plan last year as House members, strengthens its chances of passage, he said.
Philly Keystone results show big need for improvement
The tests are part of the state's new graduation requirement.
By David Limm and Dale Mezzacappa on Nov 14, 2014 12:50 PM
Beginning with the class of 2017 -- this year's sophomores -- high school students will have to pass three Keystone Exams before they can don caps and gowns for graduation. 
Philadelphia's scores for the last school year, the second time the tests were given, indicate that the vast majority of schools have a long way to go if most of their students are to graduate by passing the test.  In some city schools, pass rates are in the single digits and low double-digits for all three subjects -- Algebra I, Literature, and Biology. Biology scores were the lowest; in only seven schools did at least half the students pass the biology exam. Pass rates were low, even in some highly selective schools.  The new system does allow students, in lieu of passing the tests, to complete a different,project-based assessment. And students are permitted to take the tests as many times as they need to in order to pass.  The new graduation requirements are a factor in a new lawsuit alleging that the state is not providing adequate resources to provide each student with a "thorough and efficient" education. In the past, such lawsuits were dismissed, partly because there was no clear definition of what a "thorough and efficient" education was. 
There is also opposition to the Keystone graduation requirements in the legislature, among school districts, and from education advocates.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, "Pennsylvania is not alone in denying adequate funding for its students, especially those in high poverty school districts. But, Pennsylvania is one of the worst offenders in the nation. The Commonwealth has created an educational caste system that it must eliminate. We will continue to take action to vindicate the state constitutional rights of all students to an education that prepares them for citizenship and the workforce."
Molly Hunter on New School Funding Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
Education Law Prof Blog By Derek Black Friday, November 14, 2014
On November 10, 2014, Pennsylvania students and parents, school districts, and two statewide associations filed a lawsuit charging that the state's school funding system deprives students of their right to a "thorough and efficient" education, as guaranteed by the state constitution.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of devastating cuts to teachers, support staff, programs, and essential resources in Philadelphia, Reading, York, and many other high-poverty rural and urban communities across the state.  The Plaintiffs who filed William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al. (Wm. Penn SD v. PA DOE) include the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP - Pennsylvania State Conference (NAACP-PA).  The Pennsylvania Constitution requires the General Assembly to "provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth." In the first cause of action, the complaint alleges that the defendants have violated that provision by adopting an irrational means of financing public education that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and ignores the state's own funding targets.

Lawsuit: PA School System’s “Irrational” Funding Favors the Well Off
November 10, 2014; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Morning Call
Claiming that Pennsylvania has failed to provide necessary support for equal education for all students, six PA school districts and a group of parents have joined the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the state NAACP in filing a lawsuit against the PA Department of Education, Governor, PA Secretary of Education, PA Speaker of the House and PA Senate President Pro Tempore.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the belief that the current public education funding system is irrational and gives an unfair advantage to students in higher income school districts. The suit claims “children in property- and income-poor districts are denied the opportunity to receive even an adequate education, while their peers in property- and income-rich districts enjoy a high-quality education.” And with the state’s high academic standards for student performance, the plaintiffs believe that funding disparities and the resultant differences in per-pupil expenditures across the state—ranging from $9,800 to over $28,400 per student, according to 2012-2013 data—give rise to unequal opportunities for students to meet these state education requirements.
While not recommending a funding formula or amount to be spent on education, the suit asks for the current funding system to be declared in violation of the state constitution and replaced with one that does not discriminate against students in low-income districts.

Pa. education funding’s elephant in the room
Observer Reporter published nov 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm (updated nov 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm)
Does anyone really believe students in places like, say, Duquesne are getting the same quality of education as kids in leafy suburbs like Peters Township or Fox Chapel?  Of course not, and that’s essentially the basis for a lawsuit filed Monday against the state, accusing commonwealth officials of failing to make an adequate education available to all public schoolchildren, thus violating the state constitution.  According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the suit was filed in Commonwealth Court by six school districts, the parents of students, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the Pennsylvania state conference of the NAACP. It claims the state failed to provide enough money to public schools and permitted those in poor areas to operate with inadequate funding, as compared with schools in wealthy districts.
“It turns the caliber of public education into an accident of geography,” said the complaint. “Children in property - and income-poor districts are denied the opportunity to receive even an adequate education, while their peers in property- and income-rich districts enjoy a high-quality education.”  It’s difficult to argue with something so obvious as that.
Among those targeted by the suit are Gov. Tom Corbett, the leaders of the state House and Senate, and the chief of the state Education Department.
A spokesman for the Department of Education, Tim Eller, told the Post-Gazette in 1997, when the rural and small schools association had another, similar suit pending in the courts, the state was spending $13.7 billion on public schools. By last year, he said, that number rose to $27.6 billion.
That’s hardly a defense. It simply means the cost of educating the state’s children – rich and poor – has gotten considerably more expensive. Ensuring high-quality education for every student in every district is something else entirely.

Senator Scarnati Announces School Safety Grants
Senator Scarnati's website On November 14, 2014
 (HARRISBURG) – Throughout Pennsylvania 114 schools and municipalities will receive grants totaling $3.9 million to increase school safety through the School Resource Officer/School Police Officer Competitive Grant program (SRO/SPO), according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).
Created through legislation authored by Senator Scarnati and signed into law with the 2013-14 state budget, the grant program provides funding for schools to enhance security.
“Last year, through passage of Act 70, we took an important step to expand and enhance the safe schools grant program through The Office of Safe Schools,” Scarnati stated.  “I am very pleased that many school districts across our Commonwealth will have some additional help to ensure our teachers and children feel safe in their learning environments.”
Scarnati explained that schools and municipalities could receive up to $60,000 for a school resource officer and up to $40,000 for a school police officer for the first year.  For the second year they are eligible to receive a second grant for 50 percent of their first year’s grant award.

Department of Education’s Standards Review Website Now Includes Eligible Content for Grades Three to Eight, Algebra I and Literature
PDE Press Release November 13, 2014
Harrisburg – The Department of Education today announced that the website for the public to provide feedback on the Pennsylvania Standards is fully populated with the eligible content in English language arts and mathematics for grades three to eight and Algebra I and Literature at the secondary level.  The website can be accessed by visiting
Launched in October, the website includes interactive features that allow visitors to provide feedback and suggestions as well as view sample questions on the state tests to see what is being presented to and asked of students.  Since going live last month, the website has registered more than 7,000 sessions.
In September, Governor Corbett called on the department and the State Board of Education to complete the final phase of a three-year effort to permanently rollback the national Common Core State Standards adopted during the Rendell administration in 2010.
In 1999, Pennsylvania initially adopted academic standards, which have been periodically reviewed and updated by the State Board of Education.  Standards do not mandate curriculum, teaching methods and instructional strategies, or materials to be used in the classroom, nor does the Department of Education and the State Board of Education require schools to use specific textbooks, reading books or other related materials.  These decisions are made at the local level by school officials in each of the 500 school districts across the commonwealth.
The academic review website will remain available for public review and comment until mid-January 2015.
The website can also be accessed by visiting and clicking on the “Pennsylvania Standards: Eligible Content Review” graphic.

Corbett campaign lied about Rendell's record
Inquirer Opinion By Donna Cooper POSTED: Friday, November 14, 2014, 1:08 AM
Donna Cooper, the executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, was secretary of the Governor's Office of Policy and Planning during the Rendell administration.
Few Pennsylvanians were surprised that Tom Corbett lost last week. Most pundits point to the Corbett education cuts as the leading reason for his defeat. The Corbett campaign contended that he did not cut education and that his predecessor, Ed Rendell, was responsible for the cuts. I thought this issue was decided by the voters, but I continue to see reports, including in The Inquirer, that there is some debate over who was more responsible for schools being poorly funded.  There can be absolutely no debate over Rendell's commitment to education. During his eight years as governor, K-12 schools received an increase of $2.4 billion annually, the biggest increase in the commonwealth's history. The money was targeted to programs that research indicated would have the best results, like full-day kindergarten. Rendell battled with the legislature to increase education funding each and every year, and Pennsylvania was the only state in America to increase education funding in the two worst years of the recession.
The investment paid off! In Rendell's last year as governor, U.S. News and World Report ranked Pennsylvania fourth among states in the quality of public education, and the Center for Education Policy in Washington found that Pennsylvania was the only state that had increases in every subject tested and at every grade tested on the national test.

"Students First gave State Sen. Anthony Williams—a leading Democratic proponent of school vouchers—a staggering $3.65 million for his failed gubernatorial run. And ever since, the PAC has showered smaller sums on state representatives and senators receptive to the organization’s goal of sweeping education reform."
Reprise - July 2012: Will a PAC Pick Philly’s Next Mayor?
Students First is very interested in City Council.
Philly Magazine BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  JULY 6, 2012 AT 7:30 AM
The pro-privatization Students First PAC has been a huge player in state politics from the moment it emerged in 2010 flush with cash, much of it from three local businessmen who together founded Susquehanna International Group, a global investment company.
Students First gave State Sen. Anthony Williams—a leading Democratic proponent of school vouchers—a staggering $3.65 million for his failed gubernatorial run. And ever since, the PAC has showered smaller sums on state representatives and senators receptive to the organization’s goal of sweeping education reform.
But what’s gone largely unnoticed is the PAC’s apparent interest in Philadelphia politics. Last year, Students First wrote big checks—$10,600 apiece, the max allowed by city law—to four members of City Council: Bobby Henon, Kenyatta Johnson, David Oh and Maria Quiñones Sánchez. Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams received $10,250.
The contributions are intriguing for a few reasons.

K12, Inc.: Pioneering School K12 Backed by Milken Suffers Low Scores as States Resist By John Hechinger  Nov 14, 2014 5:00 AM ET  
K12 Inc. was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.  Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.
While the company says its investments in academic quality are starting to pay off, once-soaring enrollment at the more than 60 public schools it manages has dropped almost 5 percent. Targeted by short sellers, who benefit from a company’s decline, K12 shares have tumbled by two-thirds since reaching a near-record high in September 2013. Companies controlled by Milken have moved on, shifting their shares to investors.
K12 grew too fast and invested too little in instruction, said Houston Tucker. In 2012, he pulled his two sons out of a K12 virtual school in Tennessee and last year quit his job as a marketing director at the company.  “In the early years, K12’s mission was something to rally around,” Tucker said. “It was brand new in the world of education. The K12 I joined isn’t the one I left.”

Hundreds Of Colorado High Schoolers Boycott New State Standardized Test
CBS Denver November 14, 2014 7:07 AM
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – There are 877 seniors at Cherry Creek High School, but only 24 showed up to take the state’s Colorado Measures of Academic Success test on Thursday.
Among those was senior Josh Boxer, who spent the day volunteering his time instead of taking the timed test.   “We’ve been taking standarized testing since we were in sixth grade — since we were 12. I think there’s way too much of it and quite frankly, I’m tired of it,” said Boxer.
He was in good company. Only 3 percent of his class and 63 percent of the district actually took the new CMAS test. Cherry Creek School District officials encouraged students to take it but weren’t surprised by the number of parent refusals.

How to spot a fake ‘grassroots’ education reform group
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 12, 2014
It can be bewildering to keep track of all the “grassroots” education reform groups that have popped up in recent years. Where, have you ever wondered, do they all come from? Daniel Katz, an assistant professor of educational studies at Seton Hall University, explains in the following post who is actually funding many of them — and how “grassroots” they actually aren’t.  This appeared on his blog.

Students to Teach for America CEOs: You Are ‘Complicit’ in Attacks on Public Education
In These Times BY ARI PAUL FRIDAY, NOV 14, 2014, 3:00 AM
Dani Lea, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, believes that Teach for America (TFA) teachers in her high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, were detrimental to her learning experience and for those around her. Lea claimed that her principal didn't even know which teachers were members of TFA and which weren't.  Upon hearing this, TFA co-CEO Matthew Kramer said, “That’s not our lived experience.” Lea responded, “That was my lived experience.”
The volley took place during an unusual open meeting at TFA’s midtown Manhattan headquarters November 13 between United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) activists and TFA’s top leadership, which offered the meeting after a widespread USAS campaign against the organization that includes visiting college campuses to question the education organization’s projected image as crusading do-gooders in American public education.
USAS is the country’s largest student labor organization, which has emerged in recent years as a serious force to be reckoned on labor issues ranging from sweatshop apparel production to campus union drives. The group’s main gripes with TFA and its Peace Corps-like model for American education, bringing college students—most from elite universities—to teach for a short period of time in some of the country’s poorest school districts, are that it is inadequately training teachers and promoting a for-profit, anti-union education reform agenda.

Public Issues Forums of Centre County | What should be the goal of public schools?
BY DAVID HUTCHINSON State College - Centre Daily Times November 8, 2014 
What: “What is the 21st-century Mission for our Public Schools?”
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: Fairmount Building, 411 S. Fraser St., State College
The articles linked on this page offer several perspectives on one of the most important issues we have to wrestle with as residents: What is the goal of a public education?
To prepare students for the workforce?
To prepare them as residents, as Ben Franklin initially proposed? Or to help students discover and develop their individual talents?
What is the experience of our students? What do they think we should do differently? This is your invitation to join that conversation.

Join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA as it follows the Basic Ed Funding Commission to each location this fall
The next tour stop will be on Thursday, Nov 20, 2014 from 6-8 p.m., at Hambright Elementary School in Lancaster. Click here to register for the FREE event. Other tour dates will be announced as the BEF Commission finalizes the dates and locations for its hearings. The comments and suggestions from the Listening Tour will be compiled and submitted to the Commission early next year. Members also are encouraged to complete a form online allowing you to "Tell your story" if you are not able to attend one of the BEF Listening Tours.

Philadelphia City Council Hearings on High-stakes Testing and the Opt-Out Movement, Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM
Education Committee of Philadelphia City Council
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 3—5 PM, Room 400 City Hall
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Councilman Mark Squilla and The Opt-Out Committee of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools urge all who care about the future of education to attend:  Parents, students and educators will testify on the effects of over-testing on students and teaching, including the crisis of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement.
Information:  Alison McDowell or Lisa Haver at:

DelCo Rising: Winning for Education Nov 18 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Delaware County students and taxpayers have sacrificed enough. The state is not paying its fair share.  Rising property taxes and school budget cuts are not acceptable–help us change that.
Join your neighbors for a community workshop: Delco Rising:  Winning for Education
·         Learn about Pre-K for PA and the Statewide Campaign for Fair Education Funding and how they can  help your community
·         Practice winning strategies to advocate for your community
·         Create an advocacy plan that works for you—whether you have 5 minutes or 5 days per month
This non-partisan event is free and open to the public.
Click here to download a PDF flyer to share.

Children with Autism - Who’s Eligible? How to get ABA services?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join us on November 19th, 2014 to discuss eligibility services for children with Autism. This session will teach parents, teachers, social workers and attorneys how to obtain Applied Behavioral Analysis services for children on the autism spectrum. Presenters include Sonja Kerr (Law Center), Rachel Mann (Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lisa Blaskey (The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania), and David Gates (PA Health Law Project).

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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