Sunday, December 21, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 21: Here's your required Federal accountability measures for PA 2013-2014. Anybody paying attention? Has it resulted in your kid getting a better education?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 21, 2014:
Here's your required Federal accountability measures for PA 2013-2014.  Anybody paying attention?  Has it resulted in your kid getting a better education?

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?

Blogger commentary: Here's what we've been giving up recess, physical education, art and music, foreign languages and de-emphasizing what used to be known as "a well rounded education" for; has it resulted in your kid getting a better education?

Attendance and Graduation Data; Accountability Data; Achievement Data; Federal Accountability Designations; Teacher Quality Data and NAEP Data
PDE: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 2013-2014 State Required Federal Reporting Measures
A Required Federal Reporting Measure is a critical tool both for promoting State, LEA and school accountability, and for engaging parents and communities in meaningful discussions about the academic challenges and opportunities facing their schools.  Accurate and timely information brings transparency to education policies, uncovers academic challenges and deficits, and highlights areas in which the State, LEA, and schools have made gains.

House Republican announces severance tax plan to pay public school pensions. — Under The Dome™ Friday, December 19, 2014 (paywall)
Another severance tax proposal with revenue aimed toward public education was announced Thursday. Unlike Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster's proposal to dedicate revenues from a 5 percent levy to an education trust fund, Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, wants to dedicate revenue from a 3.5 percent severance tax to the Public School Employees' Retirement System. Her proposal would bring in about $400 million annually to the pension system, in addition to the local impact fee revenues, which generated $630 million in three years for host municipalities

To help balance the books and protect the environment, we need a severance tax: Madeleine Dean
PennLive Op-Ed  By Madeleine Dean on December 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM
State Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat, represents the 153rd House District in Montgomery County.
 "Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."
(PA Constitution Article 1, Section 27)
Our Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees us not only the right to our natural resources, but also the responsibility of ensuring that our resources are used for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians.
Unfortunately, when it comes to natural gas, out of state gas companies are getting the lion's share of growing profits, while residents see little reward.   Currently, the only revenue that the state receives from the exploitation of our Marcellus Shale natural gas resources is an impact fee, or tax, based on the number of wells drilled.  During the past fiscal year this fee amounted to an effective tax rate of 1.5 percent—the lowest rate in the nation according to Pennsylvania's Independent Fiscal Office.

"Our main drivers right now for budget increases have been pensions and charter schools"
With budgets come tax questions for Erie-area school districts
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News December 21, 2014 07:52 AM
The Erie School District administration has only just started crafting what eventually will become its 2015-16 budget, but familiar challenges are already surfacing.
"Our main drivers right now for budget increases have been pensions and charter schools" and, to some degree, rising health-care costs, district Business Administrator Rick D'Andrea said.
While the budget process is still in its earliest stages, the district expects to need an additional $1.3 million to cover mandated increases to pension contributions, which are up to about $17.1 million in 2015-16, D'Andrea said Friday. The district expects to pay about $20 million in charter school costs for students living in the district but attending either brick-and-mortar or cyber charter schools, an increase of about $3.5 million over 2014-15, D'Andrea said.
"Those are some pretty big challenges, just those two alone," he said.
It's the same story in many districts, both locally and across the state -- and one that is prompting D'Andrea to suggest the district give itself some leeway when it comes to any possible tax increase.  'Andrea said he recommends that the Erie School Board not adopt a resolution committing to stay under the Act 1 tax ceiling set by the state every year.

New lawmakers bring fresh eyes to Pa.’s problems
West Chester Daily Local By Mark Scolforo, Associated Press 12/20/14, 3:46 PM EST 
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Twenty-eight are Republicans, five are Democrats. Six are women. And once they’re sworn in next month, all of them will get a vote in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
The newest class of freshmen lawmakers, including three House members who made it to the Senate, have not had much opportunity to bask in their recent victories as they spent time picking caucus leaders, setting up offices and navigating their way around the Capitol. And, oh yeah, figuring out what to do about that enormous state budget deficit.  They bring new blood and tend toward idealism, but can also fall back on shopworn campaign clichés.

"The IFO report, made public this week, concludes that going from 15 school districts to one would mean a big loss in state funding for the county and minimal savings in administrative costs. It also finds a consolidation would result in higher taxes for people with middle-of-the-pack properties and incomes.  "I have no doubt I'll still have people ask about it," said Grove. "The simple answer is ... there's no savings to actually reduce taxes, and that was the big gauge in the whole consolidation debate."
Study quashes Pa. school district consolidation as means to lower taxes
A new Pennsylvania report dismisses the notion that merging all of the school districts in York County would save taxpayers' money.  York County state lawmakers asked the Independent Fiscal Office to consider the issue, frequently cited as a possible solution to climbing property tax rates to support schools.  "Generally, every town hall meeting we had people ask, 'Why not consolidate school districts?'" said Rep. Seth Grove, R-York.

State lawmakers to face 'sweeping' gift-ban bill in 2015: Friday Morning Coffee
PennLive By John L. Micek | on December 19, 2014 at 7:38 AM, updated December 19, 2014 at 8:06 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In a story fit for the season, the only gifts that state lawmakers may soon be able to accept are the ones that some Jolly Old Elf leaves beneath their Christmas trees and Festivus Poles.
As our pal Marc Levy of The Associated Press reports this morning, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, will drop a "sweeping" gift-ban bill on their tender little noggins in the New Year.  Smucker, who served as chair of the Senate State Government Committeeduring this year's legislative session, tells the AP that Gov-elect Tom Wolf is setting the right tone with his "No, Thank You" rule for executive branch employees.

Wolf's education transition committee has heavy Philadelphia presence
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 19, 2014 06:17 PM
Half of the members of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's 18-person transition committee for education issues have Philadelphia ties, including co-chair Pedro Rivera, the Lancaster superintendent.
Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent 13 years in the system as a teacher, principal, and director of human resources before heading to Lancaster in 2008. There he has drawn attention for improving student achievement and the district's financial position.
Other members with Philadelphia ties include Lisa Nutter, CEO of Philadelphia Academies (and wife of Mayor Nutter);  Darlene Callands, CEO of African Americans for Educational Opportunities; Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; and former State Rep. Kathy Manderino.

Students say state's treatment of Philadelphia schools a form of violence
the notebook By Peak Johnson on Dec 19, 2014 02:18 PM
Students gathered at the School District's headquarters late Thursday afternoon to participate in a "die-in" to protest the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. They also honored the death of Laporshia Massey, a Philadelphia student who died last year after suffering an asthma attack in school, where no nurse was on duty.
More than 100 students and supporters took to the steps of 440 N. Broad St. to demand justice for those lost and for the unequal system of education in the Philadelphia area. They held signs and chanted phrases like "Black lives matter" and “No justice, no peace,” which have become rallying cries of protesters in the wake of recent shooting deaths of unarmed Black men and boys by White police officers.

Philly Education Examiner 2014 year-end review
By Tamara Anderson December 20, 20146:41 PM MST
2014 has been quite a year for public education in Philadelphia and the surrounding the counties. Massive budget cuts, undemocratic decisions, and more continue to plague public schools. Yet, in the midst of this ongoing struggle organizations and advocates continue to show up and fight the good fight. This house has been burning for a long while, and despite the worst that is still left to be done, much has been accomplished thus far.

Leaders wanted: Pittsburgh school board will be losing experience
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board December 20, 2014 12:00 AM
The job is unpaid. The meetings are long and sometimes raucous. Public appreciation is nil. Yet the work is critically important.  The announcement by Pittsburgh school board members Bill Isler and Sherry Hazuda that they will step down at the end of next year, along with board member Mark Brentley’s statement that he likely will, too, is a call for others to run for the office.

Prosecutor's report was latest bad news for Coatesville school district
MICHAELLE BOND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Sunday, December 21, 2014, 1:09 AM
By the end of last week, Joe O'Brien was reeling.
It took O'Brien, the executive director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, a few days to wade through the long-awaited 111-page grand jury report that described mismanagement, unethical behavior, and theft of student funds at the Coatesville Area School District.  "It was painful," O'Brien said Friday.  The release of the report by county prosecutors Monday capped an 18-month investigation that culminated in the arrests of Richard Como, a former superintendent, and former athletic director Jim Donato on misappropriation of funds and other charges.

"The goal, Eshbach said, is to meet federal regulations that require schools to offer healthy food to their students, while also working to find the best prices for those menu items.  "We hope to leverage the buying power of many school districts to buy fresh, buy local, and buy at competitive prices," he said."
Northern York's virtual food hub will connect school districts to local growers
Penn Live By Tricia Kline | Special to PennLive on December 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM, updated December 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM
DILLSBURG—The Northern York County School District has received a nearly $100,000 grant to begin a virtual food hub to connect regional schools' food service directors to local growers.
The Farm 2 School Project Implementation Grant, totaling $99,940, was received from the United States Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Service.  Northern York is calling its project the South Central PA Harvest Hub.  According to Northern York Superintendent Dr. Eric Eshbach, the grant money will be used to start the program, with the intent that it will be self-sustaining once the grant expires.  The bulk of the grant will be used to hire a Procurement Coordinator for two years, who will oversee the online process and connect school district food service directors and local growers.  Northern York will purchase software that uses an e-commerce system that will allow food service directors to enter their produce needs, and for growers to log on and see what needs they can fill.

New law gives schools EpiPen powers: Will yours use it?
Lancaster Online By HEATHER STAUFFER | Staff Writer Friday, December 19, 2014 2:45 pm
Starting Jan. 2, Pa. schools can be better equipped to treat students who suffer allergic reactions during the school day.  Epinephrine injections, usually delivered via EpiPens, are the best way to treat life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Currently, schools can't stock EpiPens in case of emergency; they're on hand only if students have prescriptions, and nurses are the only school employees who can administer them.  Under the new law, schools will be allowed but not required to stock EpiPens for general use, and any school employees who have completed EpiPen training from the Pa. Department of Health can administer the shots to students they believe to be having anaphylactic reactions.

More Students—But Few Girls, Minorities—Took AP Computer Science Exams
Education Week By Holly Yettick Published Online: December 19, 2014
As the Advanced Placement computer science exam celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, the number of students who took the assessment skyrocketed, but females and minorities remained underrepresented and, in multiple states, not a single black or Hispanic student sat for the exam.
In one state, Montana, no female, African-American, or Hispanic student participated, an Education Week analysis of AP data found.

"Academically, students at Voice did significantly better than the city average on New York State math exams last year, with 70 percent of its students passing, compared with 39 percent citywide. Their English performance was less impressive, but with 39 percent passing, it still beat the citywide average of 30 percent."
School Finds Music Is the Food of Learning
At Voice Charter School in Queens, Students Have Outperformed Their Peers Academically
New York Times By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS DEC. 19, 2014
The principal, unsmiling in his jacket and tie, launched himself into the air, jumping up and down at the back of the gymnasium, waving frantically at more than 100 first graders as they rehearsed for their holiday concert.  Franklin Headley, the principal, was bouncing around to prepare the children for a room full of grinning, waving adults who would come to watch them perform the next day, and he asked the students not to wave back. A few giggles bubbled up from gaptoothed faces, but the students, partway through a cheery rendition of “I’ve Got Rhythm,” kept on singing.

"One thing that Jeb Bush has never endorsed is stronger support for public schools. In a keynote last month at the national summit of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, he was described by Caitlin Emma for Politico, “encouraging the crowd to keep fighting the ‘government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape.'”
Jeb Bush Candidacy Will Promote Corporate Agenda for Education
Jan Resseger's Blog Posted on December 18, 2014 by janresseger
Jeb Bush is exploring a Presidential campaign.  There has been lots of speculation in the past couple of days about what that will mean for policy in public education.
Alyson Klein, Education Week‘s reporter on federal public education policy, writes, “Whether you agree with Bush’s positions on things like school choice and the Common Core State Standards or not, his entrance into the race would exponentially raise the profile of K-12 education, which is often an afterthought in national campaigns.”
Libby Nelson, for VOX, explains, “Education is a second-tier issue at the federal level. This one really is a liability for Bush but not because he supports Common Core.  It’s because his national leadership on education issues as a whole might not be all that important… When the Pew Research Center asked voters about the most important issues in the 2014 election, education didn’t even show up on the list.  And the back-burner nature of education issues is particularly true for Republican voters.”

"Although what has happened took place in England and Turkey, I maintain that the same thing could eventually take place here. Public schools are relentlessly attacked for their performance. As a result of the Zelman ruling, what's to prevent more faith-based schools from being built and inculcating students with intolerance for those who do not share their beliefs?  Traditional public schools cannot do this. Why should religious schools be able to do so using taxpayer's money?"
Tax-Supported Religious Schools
Education Week Reality Check Blog By Walt Gardner on December 19, 2014 7:42 AM
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court established the five-part Private Choice Test in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002, parents have been able to enroll their children in religious schools at taxpayer expense if they choose to do so. However, I wonder if the implications of this decision are fully understood.  Consider what has happened in England and Turkey.

Congressional probe of Wisconsin school voucher program sought
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 19, 2014
Some congressional legislators from Wisconsin are asking the Government Accountability Office — an independent federal agency that provides investigations and evaluations to Congress — to probe Wisconsin’s school voucher program, raising questions about “alarming allegations of potentially discriminatory practices” against students with disabilities, as well as other issues.
Here’s the letter spelling out their concerns:

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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