Monday, December 15, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 15: Duncan: Philadelphia represents one of the most vivid examples nationally of what happens when systems fail to fund schools properly.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 15, 2014:
Duncan: Philadelphia represents one of the most vivid examples nationally of what happens when systems fail to fund schools properly.

Funding, Formulas, and Fairness: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States' Funding Formulas
Education Law Center Report February 2013

Arne Duncan: For schools, seek justice Opinion By Arne Duncan POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2014, 1:08 AM
As I watch what is happening in Philadelphia's public education system, I can only conclude that until some glaring funding injustices are fixed, in Philadelphia and in many school systems around the country, we will never live up to our nation's aspirational promises of justice.  Philadelphia represents one of the most vivid examples nationally of what happens when systems fail to fund schools properly. At Lingelbach Elementary School, Principal Marc Gosselin has an annual discretionary budget of $160 - and poison ivy climbing the edges of his classroom windows. Teacher Jason Chuong has to work part-time at seven different city schools, none of which can afford a full-time music teacher. And while many in Philadelphia's suburbs send their children to well-funded schools, the district is in such straits that several nonprofit organizations wrote Gov. Corbett in 2013, saying Pennsylvania has failed in its basic duties under the state's constitution.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for Dec 13, 2014: Head of state charter coalition: Not sure of size of waiting lists
Keystone State Education Coalition Saturday, December 13, 2014

After the Pa Society party, the pension hangover still awaits: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | on December 13, 2014 at 3:30 PM
NEW YORK _ The parties and receptions of this year's annual Pennsylvania Society gala might have provided them some respite, but for Keystone revelers who flocked to Midtown Manhattan this weekend, the hangover of pension reform was just a train ride away.  Because when their heads clear and their cocktail dresses are in plastic at the dry cleaners, policy wonks and policymakers will still have to find a way to pay for exploding public employee retirement costs.
The can, as they say, has been kicked. But in January, it will come skittering a stop as it bumps up against the swearing-in of both a new General Assembly and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf.

"Newly elected governor Tom Wolf will have a long to-do list when he takes office, and finding more funding solutions for all schools is one of them. But higher standards of fiscal oversight of charters doesn't have to wait. He should tackle that immediately."
DN Editorial: Painted into a corner
Philly Daily News POSTED: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 3:01 AM
ANOTHER charter-school scandal may be brewing in the city.
Last week, the Daily News raised a number of questions about a painting contract by a charter school run by ASPIRA. Lyon Contracting won a $163,000 job to paint Olney Charter High School, but school staff claim they did most of the painting, and never saw the contractor in the building.
ASPIRA has not responded to requests for documentation on the job, and attempts by the Daily News to contact Lyon Contracting were unsuccessful. Their phone number is no longer in service. Meanwhile, the district's Office of Inspector General has begun an investigation.  ASPIRA operates five of the city's 86 charter schools. In July, the school district sent ASPIRA a letter outlining concerns about a number of other financial practices, and is still waiting for a written response.

In poll, many Pennsylvanians predict taxes will rise under Wolf
Trib Live By Bill Vidonic Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians expect to see a boost in education funding, but they also believe sales and income taxes will rise because of the election of Democrat Tom Wolf as governor, according to a survey.  Only 42 percent believe that the business climate is improving, according to the survey by Robert Morris University Polling Institute, which is sponsored by Trib Total Media, while a majority think a gas extraction tax is on the way.  Many of the poll results were influenced by November's general election between Wolf and Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, said Philip Harold, professor of political science at Robert Morris.  “More money for education was a theme of the campaign, and that's clearly created an expectation,” Harold said, with 67 percent of survey respondents saying education will receive more funding.
New Pa. law expands clearance requirements for school volunteers, employees
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 15, 2014 12:22 AM
If parents want to help out at their child’s holiday party at school, do they need to undergo a criminal background check first?  This question and others about the line between volunteer and visitor might become more difficult to answer starting Dec. 31, when a new state child protective services law takes effect.  The law, among other things, expands background checks for school volunteers and requires school employees, independent school contractors and volunteers in direct contact with children to update clearances every 36 months.  It also spells out the duties of teachers and other “mandated reporters” in reporting suspected child abuse and the criminal penalties if they fail to do so.

Schools, nonprofits prepare for new child abuse reporting requirements
Lancaster Online by KAREN SHUEY AND KARA NEWHOUSE Posted: Sunday, December 14, 2014 6:00 am
When a special task force spoke with child protection advocates about overhauling child protection laws, they heard calls for a new reporting system.  So lawmakers passed legislation.
The new requirements broadened the list of "mandated reporters" to include child care providers and school personnel at all levels, religious leaders, doctors and health care professionals, social workers, librarians, law enforcement and volunteers who work with children.
The changes to mandatory reporting take effect Jan. 1, 2015.

New law proving confusing and costly to youth leaders
Lancaster Online by KAREN SHUEY AND KARA NEWHOUSE Posted: Sunday, December 14, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Sun Dec 14, 2014.
In response to the outrage over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, children and youth experts spent months researching ways to overhaul Pennsylvania's child protection laws.   The result was a comprehensive package of proposals approved overwhelmingly by state lawmakers in the legislative session that ended last month.
Now, as organizations work to comply with new requirements designed to ensure child safety, school and nonprofit leaders are raising concerns about the lack of clarity in one new law addressing background checks for volunteers.

"The biggest single issue dominating politics in Philadelphia over the last few years has been educational funding for city public schools, or rather the lack thereof. Nearly everyone has agreed that Philly’s public schools need more state support, a consensus that may have been the driving factor behind the end of Governor Tom Corbett’s political career."
Philly’s next mayor: 7 issues millennials will be watching
Billy Penn By Ryan Briggs December 12, 2014
Philly’s going to elect a new mayor next year. Chances are, that mayor will be a Democrat.
Why should you care?  If you’re struggling to even name one of the four officially declared mayoral candidates, you’re not alone. (For the record: Ex-D.A. and avowed email hater Lynne Abraham; state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams; Terry Gillen, a former Redevelopment Authority official and aide to mayors Nutter and Rendell, and ex-City Solicitor and ex-federal prosecutor Ken Trujillo.) Don’t fret; more will likely emerge. (Update: On Friday afternoon, ex-judge Nelson Diaz revealed he’ll announce his bid in the new year.)  But guess what? Young voters could actually swing this race. (At least that’s according to former Republican Mayoral candidate-turned-documentarian Sam Katz — who says voters like you won’t actually vote.)  So what issues could motivate young voters? We looked around.

"The problem with this model is that it involves abandoning a whole bunch of live human children, throwing up our hands and warehousing them in what remains of a public system after everything useful and profitable has been stripped from it."
Whither Disruptive Students?
Curmudgucation Blog by Jeff Bryant Friday, December 12, 2014
Now that we've all had our turns spanking Mike Petrilli for his bracingly honest take on charter skimming ("It's not a bug. It's a feature."), it's time to move on to the question that he raised-- what about the students who are a disruption in their schools?
Define the Problem 
First, I want to acknowledge the precise shading of the problem, because it does have a major effect on what we propose as a solution.  Most charteristas frame the issue as "allowing students to escape failing schools." As a statement of the problem, this has a major shortcoming for charter promoters. If the problem is that some schools are failing, why oh why would we discuss saving some students and abandoning others instead of discussing how to make the school Not Fail? Reformsters have toyed with the recovery model, where the failing school is taken over by charteristas, but that doesn't seem to be a popular approach. At the very least, it requires reformsters to push straight through local opposition to the takeover of public schools.
If the problem is schools that are failing because they lack resources, support and money, the most obvious solution is to give them resources, support, and money. But there's no growth opportunity for charteristas in that.  Petrilli's framing is more elegantly useful. If the problem is Bad Students, then no amount of money or resources is likely to fix the problem. Instead, we must separate the bad seeds from the good, allow the poor but gifted students to depart for more the company of a better class of peers. This is an excellent growth opportunity for the modern charter entrepreneurs.

"This is one of the big insights for me. I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed. Frankly parents have not been really well educated in the mechanisms of choice.… I think the policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. I think we need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools, but I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers."
Major charter researcher causes stir with comments about market-based school reform
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 12, 2014
Margaret Raymond is the founding director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as CREDO, which is part of the Hoover Institution located at Stanford University. CREDO’s mission is researching and evaluating educational policy and is best known for its research studies on charter schools in the United States.  Raymond this week made some remarks about charter schools that are causing a stir in the education world. First, some background to put those remarks in context.  CREDO’s unique studies of charter schools around the country –  which collectively conclude that sometimes they perform better than traditional public schools and sometimes they don’t — are widely cited in the education world by both pro- and anti-charter activists to support their different points. CREDO’s newest report is on charter schools in Ohio, and it finds that charter school students in the state are learning less than students in traditional public schools, the equivalent of 36 days of learning in math and 14 days in reading.
What gets often lost in these discussions is that the studies are based on reading and math standardized test scores. Even if you think that high-stakes standardized test scores reveal something about how much a student knows in the tested subject — and many researchers and educators don’t — it is a different thing altogether to judge an entire school on the results of narrow tests in two subject areas, however important they are.

Teach For America could miss recruitment mark by more than 25 percent
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 15 at 4:00 AM  
Growing criticism about Teach For America and a polarized education reform debate is affecting recruitment of new corps members and the organization “could fall short of our partners’ overall needs by more than 25 percent” next year, TFA officials say.  A note that co-Chief Executive Officers Matt Kramer and Elisa Villanueva Beard are sending out to the organization’s partner organizations (see text below) cites several reasons for the decline, including “polarization around TFA” as well less interest in teaching and public service by college graduates. 

Spending Bill Measure Could Give States Millions In Extra Dollars To Teach Abstinence-Only Sex Ed
Posted: 12/10/2014 6:57 pm EST Updated: 12/11/2014 6:59 pm EST
The spending package unveiled by Congress this week includes a new measure that allows states to get more federal funding -- potentially totaling millions of dollars -- if they embrace abstinence-only education.  To get this money, states must provide programs that teach students that sexual activity outside of marriage is “likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects,” and that abstinence is the only certain way to prevent pregnancy and STDs.
Under a provision added in 1996 to the Social Security Act, Congress allocates $50 million annually in matching funds to states that provide abstinence-only education. Each year, some states reject that money, either because they don’t want to match the funds or because they only want to teach comprehensive sex ed. The leftover money has, until now, gone back to the U.S. Treasury to be spent on other things.  But under the new spending bill, which the House is expected to vote on Thursday, “remaining unobligated balances” will roll over and become available to states that “require the implementation of each element described in ... the definition of abstinence education.”

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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