Monday, December 22, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 22: New Pa. leaders should invest in prekindergarten

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 22, 2014:
New Pa. leaders should invest in prekindergarten

Happy Holidays!

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.

New Pa. leaders should invest in prekindergarten Opinion By Carl M. Buchholz POSTED: Monday, December 22, 2014, 1:08 AM
Carl M. Buchholz is a board member and public policy committee chair of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
The path to educational success for children begins even before the doors open on the first day of kindergarten. There is already strong agreement across partisan and geographic lines that expanding access to high-quality prekindergarten is a smart, cost-effective way to ensure all children enter school ready to learn. Now the time has come for action.  Parents and educators see pre-K as an effective tool to improve school readiness. Law-enforcement officials see it as a strategy to help at-risk youths avoid the criminal justice system. Business leaders know quality pre-K is a smart investment with proven benefits.

"Even though the charter has spent $3.8 million in School District money since January 2010, the building near Temple University will wind up in the hands of the Wakisha Foundation."
What happens to the building when a charter goes under?
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Monday, December 22, 2014, 1:08 AM
When a charter school goes out of business, what happens to its building?
Pennsylvania law says that if the school owns its building, that's one of the assets that is supposed to be turned over to the district where the students live.  The rationale: The building was bought with money from the district's taxpayers.  But what happens when the building is owned by a related nonprofit and was financed by a bank?  With Friday's shuttering of the Wakisha Charter School in North Philadelphia, taxpayers will find out.
Even though the charter has spent $3.8 million in School District money since January 2010, the building near Temple University will wind up in the hands of the Wakisha Foundation.
Wakisha also collected $160,444 from the state through the Education Department's lease-reimbursement program.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
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?

Wolf wants to hand Philadelphia schools back to city
By Evan Grossman | December 19, 2014
When governor-elect Tom Wolf takes office next month, Philadelphia schools might get released from state control.  In 2001, the School District of Philadelphia was taken over by the five-member School Reform Commission — three appointed by the governor and two selected by the mayor. Wolf campaigned on dismantling the SRC and this week reiterated his belief that Philadelphia schools should be run by an elected board and not an arm of state government.
 “I think local control trumps state control,” Wolf said Wednesday during an appearance at the Free Library of Philadelphia. “I’m predisposed to think that the best way to deliver education in any locality is to have decision making on how to do that in the hands of people at the local level.”
While Wolf is in favor of more local control of Philadelphia’s embattled school district, only the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, on the recommendation of the SRC itself, can disband the body.  Wolf will get to appoint the new Secretary of Education after he is sworn in as governor.

Republican legislator estimates selling state liquor system could net $1B
Pittsburgh Tribune Review By Melissa Daniels Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, 11:06 p.m.
Pennsylvania's Speaker of the House-designee Mike Turzai won't abandon his quest to get the state out of the liquor business.  “Not only does it move us to the 21st century, which it does, finally, but it has an important revenue projection attached to it,” Turzai said.  For the past several years, the former majority leader has led the charge to sell off the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, a plan he will push next year. But other liquor law discussions are evolving as the upcoming session's priorities take shape. Some would aim to bring more money into the state system, while others would focus on making it easier for consumers to buy or transport alcoholic beverages.
Report: State at ‘crossroads’ in debate over property tax exemptions
The Bradford Era By MARCIE SCHELLHAMMER Era Associate Editor Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2014 9:00 am
A report released Thursday by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says taxing bodies are losing billions across Pennsylvania from nonprofit organizations that are exempt from property taxes.  And officials from the City of Bradford and Bradford Area School District confirmed Friday that this region has seen a huge impact to the tax base from tax exemptions. In the city, about one-third of the tax base is tax exempt — “it’s 31 or 32 percent and growing,” said Mayor Tom Riel. In the school district, business manager Kathy Boyd said 1,135 parcels are exempt “with a market value of $252,989,590. It’s 32.37 percent of our market value.”

Philly schools adopt five-year plan with minimal 'ask' of $30 million
To maintain the same "insufficient" progams being offered this year, the Philadelphia School District says it will need an additional $30 million in new, recurring revenues for next school year.  By 2018-19, the district says it'll need an additional $152 million to avoid cutting back even further.  Presenting the district's five-year plan at a School Reform Commission Meeting thursday evening, Superintendent William Hite explained that this is the district's minimal request.  "Expenditures included in this plan are sufficient to keep schools open, but with far too few resources. It is a plan that does not meet the needs of all students," Hite said in the report. "It merely represents the district's commitment to live within its means."
To actually create a school system where every student has "access to a quality education," Hite says the district really needs $309 million next year, and $913 million by 2018-19.

In Philly, school leaders eager for Tilden redesign
THREE YEARS ago, Tilden Middle School was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. As one of more than 50 schools in the Philadelphia School District snared in a cheating scandal, Tilden's scores on state standardized tests were invalidated. Its principal was transferred and later fired. The school was in turmoil.  But administrators, faculty and staff at the school, at 66th Street and Elmwood Avenue, in Southwest Philly, again are dreaming big. And they're getting closer to making those dreams reality.  Tilden was among four schools selected for the district's first School Redesign Initiative, which allows educators to come up with innovative plans to boost achievement. Along with Tilden, the other schools selected were Arthur Elementary, in Southwest Center City; Carnell Elementary, in Oxford Circle; and J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, in Chestnut Hill. Each school will get a $30,000 planning grant and can take the next nine months to prepare for implementation in September.

Board president: Scranton School District could be broke within 5 years
Scranton Times Tribune by Sarah Hofius Hall December 21, 2014 (paywall)
If the Scranton School District does not become more efficient and find new revenue sources, it could be broke within five years, the school board president said. “We have to be aggressive ... we have to get leaner,” board President Cy Douaihy said Friday

"Some of the biggest increases are a $1 million increase in required pension contributions, as well as a $342,079 increase in fees to the Technical College High School, an additional $273,794 in tuition to charter schools, $262,157 in salaries, and a $276,266 increase in employee benefits."
Oxford school board will be examining budget increases for next year
West Chester Daily Local  By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For 21st-Century Media 12/21/14, 3:04 PM
OXFORD — The Oxford Area School District is looking at a budget increase of 5.6 percent for the coming school year, that could require a tax increase as well as drawing money from the fund balance to bridge a $5.1 million gap between expenses and revenues.  The current year budget of $60,888,690 is projected to increase to $64,006,568 for the 2015/16 school year. Some of the biggest increases are a $1 million increase in required pension contributions, as well as a $342,079 increase in fees to the Technical College High School, an additional $273,794 in tuition to charter schools, $262,157 in salaries, and a $276,266 increase in employee benefits.

Here’s who got the biggest Gates Foundation education grants for 2014
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 21 at 1:43 PM  
Bill Gates is famous for many things, including spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, promote and defend the Common Core State Standards. In 2014, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded millions more for the Core, plus other issues in the education world.
Along with the Common Core, the big winners in terms of issue were charter schools — especially in Washington state (where Gates helps finance a campaign to win voter approval of charters) — and online and technology-based learning initiatives.  In terms of dollars spent, Gates is the leading billionaire/millionaire who has poured money into school “reform” in recent years. Such philanthropy has raised questions about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people who pour so much money into their pet projects — regardless of whether they are known to be useful in education — that public policy and public funding follow in their wake.
Here are  15 of the biggest education-related grants listed on the Gates Foundation’s Web site for 2014:

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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