Friday, December 19, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 19: The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 19, 2014:
The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)

Overview of 50 States' Funding Formulas
By Mike Griffith, Education Commission of the States
Presented to PA Basic Education Funding Commission October 2014

The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding December 18, 2014 Video Runtime 3:31
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials provides a short, easy to follow tutorial on how funding works and the challenges lawmakers confront.
PASBO answers the question: What is Basic Education Funding?

Charter Schools USA expands on plans for York City
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   12/18/2014 09:43:50 AM EST
A representative of Charter Schools USA said the for-profit company will be "dedicated to improving the education of York City students" if given the opportunity to operate the York City School District.  "Our actions will speak louder than our words," Paula Jackson, the company's director of development and government relations, said in a statement.  The Florida-based company is at the center of a heated debate and related court battle over the academically and financially struggling district's future.  A state-appointed official wants to give Charter Schools USA a minimum of three years to take over and improve student performance.
Parents, teachers, students and school officials are overwhelmingly opposed to that idea — which would be the first public-to-charter conversion in Pennsylvania and among the first in the country.

York City school board rescinds teacher contract approval
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   12/17/2014 05:05:18 PM EST 
The York City school board and the district's teachers union have agreed to go back to the negotiating table.  Board members voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind their Nov. 19 approval of a new labor contract that would have cut teachers' pay by 5 percent starting Jan. 1.
The board did not discuss the decision before or after the vote.
After the meeting, board President Margie Orr said the board's decision was "possibly" influenced by a desire to reach an agreement more consistent with the district's financial recovery plan.
The lack of a new teachers' contract has been a big source of contention among district and state officials since the early days of the district's two-year financial recovery process.

"The biggest cost increases in the five-year plan are charter and pension expenditures. Next year alone, the district expects it will have to spend $32 million more in pension costs and $42 million in charter costs.  Stanski would not say whether the district is planning for new charters - 40 new charter-school applications have been received. He said the district was planning to lose 5,000 more students to charters over the next five years, though."
No-frills spending plan adopted for Phila. schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, December 19, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, December 18, 2014, 9:55 PM
Even in a best-case scenario, the Philadelphia School District faces a $30 million deficit for next year.  And that's with asking for $309 million in new money from the city and state, and not planning on any teacher raises over the next five years.  Buffeted by years of brutal budgets, city school officials Thursday laid out a five-year financial plan that raised little hope the district would see many improvements.  Without a significant course correction, officials said, the district will continue to simply limp along.

SRC adopts 5-year financial plan
THE SCHOOL REFORM Commission last night adopted a five-year financial plan that maintains the status quo, but signaled its intention to push a more-ambitious agenda that would require significant investments from the city and state.  The adopted plan shows a projected $30 million budget gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1, compared to a $216 million anticipated shortfall last year. The spending plan reflects a continued rise in pension costs and charter-school payments, but also assumes that health-care benefits imposed on the teachers' union will be upheld - something that Commonwealth Court has yet to decide.  "While on paper [the gap] looks smaller, it's smaller because we've had to make decisions that impact the lives of children in our city," Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski told reporters.  In contrast, the district's "transformational" five-year plan would require an extra $309 million next year, which would be directed to schools for additional classroom and after-school resources, Stanski said.

District: We need $309M more next year to provide effective education
Five-year financial plan to be presented to the SRC tonight says just to keep inadequate current conditions, $30 million is needed.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 18, 2014 02:30 PM UPDATED 7:50
Tonight Superintendent William Hite presented two five-year financial plans to the School Reform Commission.  One is called "Inadequate Status Quo" and reflects the "grim reality" of current conditions in schools.   The other, called "Transformation," asks for enough resources to "provide all ... students with the kind of educational opportunities that will enable them to fulfill their promise."  Both plans require more money -- $30 million to maintain what exists now, and 10 times as much -- $309 million -- to give students what District leaders think they need next year.

Philly Wakisha Charter school shutting for good earlier than planned
North Philadelphia's Wakisha charter school is closing its doors this Friday, only the second charter school in Philadelphia history to do so in the middle of a school year. Wakisha was supposed to close on December 23rd, but last week the school's administration stopped classes and moved up the last day to December 19th. In a letter from school administrators first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Martha Woodall, the school citied dwindling teacher and student numbers as the reason for closing their doors even sooner than initially announced. The letter maintained there were only  "three administrators, and 10 classroom teachers and support staff" as of last week. According to the Philadelphia School District, around 180 students are still enrolled at Wakisha in the District's enrollment software, but classroom teachers report that only around 100 students are showing up.

Putting a number on forgone Pa. property taxes
A report by Pennsylvania's auditor general finds that some counties are losing hundreds of millions of dollars from organizations defined as charities and are therefore exempt from property taxes.  The study cherry-picks 10 counties -- including Bucks and Montgomery --and tallies up how much money they lost in 2014 because of the nonprofit entities within their borders that don't pay property taxes. It also discloses what those counties' hospitals and medical facilities would have to pay in property taxes if not for the exemption.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he knows some of these organizations make voluntary payments to local governments instead of property taxes, but those payments aren't standardized.

Cuomo Signals Changes for Education Next Year
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR DEC. 18, 2014
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signaled on Thursday that he intended to push next year for sweeping changes to the state’s education system, with goals that include making it easier to fire low-performing teachers and increasing the number of charter schools.  In a letter to the state’s departing education commissioner, John B. King Jr., and the chancellor of the Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, Mr. Cuomo’s director of state operations, Jim Malatras, asserted that the performance of the state’s students on a variety of measures, like graduation rates and test scores, was “unacceptable.” He also enumerated pointed questions about subjects like teacher evaluations and tenure.  The first question on the list, for instance, asked, “How is the current teacher evaluation system credible when only 1 percent of teachers are rated ineffective?”

The Problem Isn't Getting Rid of Teachers, It's Keeping Them
Forbes by Nick Morrison December 3, 2014
Judging by the tenor of the education debate in recent weeks, it would be easy to assume that the biggest challenge facing school leaders is how to get rid of bad teachers. But any problems caused by teacher tenure pale in comparison with the difficulty in getting teachers to stay.
I wrote earlier this week about how a belief in removing poor teachers as a way to improve schools was misplaced.  My post was a response to the debate prompted by an article in Time magazine about tech entrepreneurs who want to make it easier to fire bad teachers.
While it may excite conservative commentators, this proposal is doomed to fail, not least because firing teachers requires finding replacements, and there is no guarantee they will be any better, if they exist at all.  But there is another side to this debate, and that is the difficulty of keeping teachers in the classroom. Not just good teachers, but any teachers.

Turning around schools with low achievement rates never seems to work
Washington Post By Jay Mathews December 17 
One of the goals U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan set when he launched the $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant (SIG) program in 2009 was to turn 1,000 schools around annually for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” he said.  I like Duncan and much of what he and the Obama administration have done for schools, but that goal is a harmful fantasy.
The overlooked truths about fixing schools are vividly revealed in an Education Writers Association research brief, “What Studies Say About School Turnarounds,” by Andrew Brownstein, a freelance journalist who reports on federal education policy. (Turnaround schools are those whose low achievement rates have been significantly improved by a change in operations.)  Brownstein said “successful turnarounds are extremely rare.” Veterans ofeducation reform efforts “might be forgiven for thinking of turnarounds as the unicorns of federal education policy,” he said.

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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