Monday, December 29, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 29: AP: Gap between rich, poor schools in PA doubled in 4 years

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 29, 2014:
AP: Gap between rich, poor schools in PA doubled in 4 years

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York NAACP releases statement on York City School District receivership
York Dispatch STAFF REPORTS POSTED:   12/27/2014 10:37:35 AM EST 
In light of Friday's decision to grant the state receivership of the York City School District, the York NAACP has issued the following statement admonishing the move:
"On behalf of the students, parents, graduates, and property owners of the School District for the City of York who do not want to be forced into a Charter School, on behalf of those who do not want public funds to be used to profit private companies, and on behalf of those who want a voice in who educates their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, York NAACP expresses dissatisfaction with the decision to grant Receivership and to appoint David Meckley the Receiver.
York NAACP has already filed an appeal of the Court's decision to deny its Petition to Intervene. Contrary to prior reports, it was not the appeal that was rejected by the Commonwealth Court, it was the "emergency request to stay proceedings pending the appeal" that was denied. As such, we will continue with the appeal now that a final decision has been made.

Locals react to judge granting state takeover of York City schools
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter  12/27/2014 02:21:12 PM
State groups, legislators, students and others have weighted in since York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh granted the state education department's petition for a receiver in York City School District on Friday.  The judge's decision names David Meckley as receiver, giving him all of the school board's powers except for taxing. His job is to implement the district's financial recovery plan. That plan calls for converting district schools into charter schools, run by an outside operator, if internal reform isn't working.  Meckley said Friday that the plan still has two tracks and he'd be talking to all district stakeholders. But in November, he'd directed the board to approve an agreement to turn district schools into charters run by Charter Schools USA, saying it was warranted because employee contracts reflecting the recovery plan hadn't been worked out and because the district wasn't making required academic progress.
Here's a look at what people were saying after the judge's decision:

"I do not want to be involved in a for-profit charter. I don't think that they're in it for the students. I think they're in it for the money, and I don't want to be a part of that."  She is not alone.

York City teachers stressed over charter conversion

By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   12/28/2014 09:55:38 PM EST
The York City School District will, quite possibly, lose one of its three speech-language pathologists next year.  As much as she loves the students, Jessica Hoover said she cannot compromise her values to work for a charter-school company that pockets a profit.
"I will be looking for a new job," Hoover said Sunday. "I do not want to be involved in a for-profit charter. I don't think that they're in it for the students. I think they're in it for the money, and I don't want to be a part of that."  She is not alone. A York County judge's ruling Friday paves the way for a state appointee to follow through with his plan, unveiled in November, to convert the district to charter schools operated by a for-profit company called Charter Schools USA.
An appeal by district attorneys, also filed Friday, could slow that process. But for district employees and teachers like Kimberly Bolt, the clock is ticking louder and louder.

Did you catch our weekend postings? Coverage and reactions to state takeover of York City schools.
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 27: Grinch steals Democracy in York PA

Unchartered Territory: Charter conversion in York City and New Orleans
Research for Action by Mark Duffy and John Sludden  December 18, 2014
In less than a week, York County Judge Linebaugh will issue his ruling on whether the Department of Education-appointed receiver for the York City School District will have the authority to convert all of the community’s traditional public schools to charters. Such a conversion is without precedent in Pennsylvania, and nationally. Receivership transfers nearly all functions of an elected school board, other than setting the tax rate, to a single appointed official.
The receiver’s plan for York is to immediately transfer all district schools to a single charter operator. Such a move has drawn comparisons to New Orleans, which has transitioned the great majority of its public schools to charters as the city has worked to recover from Hurricane Katrina

"Choice? There will be no “choice” for the families of York City. Their children will have to attend a charter school whose headquarters are in Florida. Yes, it is the death of local control and democracy in York City."
York City, Pennsylvania, Outrage!
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 27, 2014 //
Last Friday, a judge cleared the way to put the York City schools into receivership, meaning under state control. The Pennsylvania Department of Education previously announced its intention to hand over the entire school district to the for-profit charter chain Charter Schools of America.
Be it noted that today’s education “reformers” don’t much care for democracy. They would rather turn public schools over to a for-profit corporation that siphons off 20% in management fees and pays itself outlandish rental fees rather than trust parents and local citizens to do what’s best for their children.

Gap between rich, poor schools doubled in 4 years
Luzerne County Citizen's Voice By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Dec. 28, 2014 8:57 AM ET
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The gap between what wealthy districts and poor districts spend to educate children has widened dramatically in the four years since GOP Gov. Tom Corbett took office, amid deep budget-balancing cuts in state aid under Republican-controlled Harrisburg and long-delayed pension obligation payments coming due.  Gaps that existed when Corbett took office have now more than doubled, according to an Associated Press analysis of state data on spending, income and attendance.  The growing disparity that Corbett's successor, Democrat Tom Wolf, will inherit has helped Pennsylvania earn the label in one study as being among the worst states in educational disparity.  The perception of a damaged educational system under Corbett helped drive his loss in the Nov. 4 election, as Corbett defended his stance on education funding by saying it is more important how money is spent rather than how much is spent.

How PA public school district spending has changed
Williamsport SunGazette by Associated Press December 28, 2014
A look at how Pennsylvania public school spending is changing, overall and by district income levels, over the last four years. The figures are based on an Associated Press analysis of state Department of Education data on Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.

Wolf's education transition team has Philly connections
With inauguration day less than a month away, Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has been busy coming up to speed on a host of the commonwealth's most pressing issues.
After a running a campaign centered on increasing education equity, Wolf has appointed an education transition team with half of its membership connected to Philadelphia.

GOP draws lines as Wolf focuses on huge deficit by MARC LEVY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Saturday, December 27, 2014, 3:09 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - With Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf touring Pennsylvania to drum out his message about state government's massive structural deficit, the leaders of the big Republican legislative majorities are sending their own message to him: Me first.
So far, Republican leaders say their ideas must come first before they will consider any tax increase, including on natural gas drilling. However, they are staking out positions that Wolf opposed during his campaign and that stalled under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett amid solid opposition by Democratic lawmakers.

Gov. Wolf and legislators, take heed; there's popular support for strong action on many fronts: Editorial
Penn Live By PennLive Editorial Board on December 26, 2014 at 1:21 PM, updated December 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM
For Pennsylvania, 2014 was the year a lot of things didn't happen, despite widespread popular support for change.  Legislators remain free to accept unlimited amounts of gifts from lobbyists and special interests. Despite taped evidence of Philadelphia colleagues taking cash from a lobbyist, legislators didn't even pass a law banning cash "gifts" once and for all.
Pennsylvanians who are gay won the right to get married, but in most parts of the state, they can be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes just for being gay.
Pensions for state workers and teachers are still dangerously underfunded, despite painfully large and growing make-up contributions that drain money from current services and fuel resentment from taxpayers.  Many Pennsylvania schools have to jam students into bigger classes and scale back non-core courses that help give students a well-rounded education.  State money for schools is still skewed by ad hoc political deals that favor some places, rather than following a rational formula that applies evenhandedly across the state. 

Editorial: Gov.-elect Wolf must articulate a positive vision for Pennsylvania
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Sunday, December 28, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 1:42 pm, Sun Dec 28, 2014.
The Issue: Tom Wolf will be sworn in as Pennsylvania’s 47th governor on Jan. 20. He was elected by a wide margin in November, even as Republicans won big, increasing their party’s majorities in both houses of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, winning control of the U.S. Senate, and picking up governorships in other states.  Gov.-elect Wolf beat Gov. Tom Corbett in a landslide after coasting through the Democratic primary.  He won so easily by coming out early in the campaign with positive TV ads that introduced him to the state’s voters as a likable, pragmatic, can-do leader. And his decisive victory gave him a mandate to reform education, bring some fairness to the tax system, and impose a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling.

Troubled Philly Palmer charter school says it's closing
JEREMY ROEBUCK, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Saturday, December 27, 2014, 11:28 PM
A cash-strapped charter school with two Philadelphia campuses has notified parents it plans to close for good this week. But officials from the School District of Philadelphia said Saturday night the decision was news to them.  In a notice posted on the school's website, administrators at the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School said its board had voted to permanently close the school Wednesday after months of financial turmoil. The words permanently close were in red. A letter dated Friday was sent out to parents with information about reenrolling their children at other schools.  But as of late Saturday, charter administrators had not yet notified the district of their plans, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said.

Phila. schools to immediately take students from closing Palmer charter elementary
ERIN ARVEDLUND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Monday, December 29, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Sunday, December 28, 2014, 7:02 PM
The Philadelphia School District said Sunday it would immediately accept transfer students from the abruptly shuttered William D. Palmer charter elementary school.   Students can start taking classes in the new year - even without transcripts, said Fernando Gallard, school district spokesman. Classes resume Jan. 3.  "What we're planning to do is accept students immediately without transcripts. The thing we have to be aware of is students with special needs," Gallard said.  Gallard said Sunday the charter administrators had notified the district of the imminent closure over the weekend.
"We are working on finalizing a transition plan for Palmer students. What that means basically is to get access to their records. It's very important. We have already had this issue where the parents have had trouble getting records when the Palmer high school closed."

Can positive student-teacher relations improve math scores?
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 29, 2014 12:00 AM
If a teacher goes to a student’s basketball game, will that help the student do better in math?
It might.  With a National Science Foundation grant, Pittsburgh Public Schools has embarked on an effort to develop positive student-teacher relationships to help every student learn math. The goal is to reduce the gap in student achievement, sometimes called the racial achievement gap or the opportunity gap.  The project is called DEbT-M, which stands for Designing for Equity by Thinking in and about Mathematics. It is funded by a nearly $8 million, five-year NSF grant. The project lead is the nonprofit Education Development Center, based in Waltham, Mass. Also participating are the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Duquesne University serves as the outside evaluator. Teachers are paid $30 an hour, up to 220 hours a year, for extra work.

"At least part of one of those goals will be met within the first month of 2015, Heimel said. Austin Area School Superintendent Jerry Sasala will speak about the inequities before the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission — a group made up of 12 senators and representatives and three members of the governor’s cabinet."
Tax fairness coalition sets tough goals for 2015
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter Sunday, December 28, 2014 8:42 pm
Area leaders plan to continue into the new year their mission of getting money filtered back to rural areas that have significant amounts of state-owned land and oil, gas and timber industries.
The effort has been ongoing for several months, and now the State Land Tax Fairness Coalition has set strategies for 2015. In the end, the group wants two new laws: one that includes an increase in-lieu-of-taxes payments to school districts, counties and municipalities for state-owned lands, and the other for state-collected revenue from future gas and oil leases and timber sales on state-owned land to be shared with school districts, counties and municipalities.
“Political insiders describe this mission as an uphill battle, especially in an era when the state’s revenue projections have come up short by upwards of $2 billion in the current fiscal year,” said Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel, who is one of the leaders of the State Land Tax Fairness Coalition. “They say that any new legislation that requires additional state expenditures will have to clear some very high hurdles.”  But, individuals who serve on the State Land Tax Fairness Coalition aren’t giving up.  Heimel laid out a six-point strategic plan at the most-recent meeting of the Potter County Board of Commissioners. That includes introducing new legislation; preparing professional maps, charts and other data to show the impact of high proportions of tax-exempt property on local tax bases; scheduling one-on-one meetings with individual senators and representatives to discuss the mission; and giving testimony before state committees.

Mark Gleason Turns 'Dump the Losers' Into a Pseudoscience
Defend Public Education Blog By Ken Derstine December 16, 2014
Mark Gleason, the Executive Director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, made national headlines in the spring of 2014 when, while participating on an education panel, he described the portfolio method of school reform of his organization as being based on a “dump the losers” philosophy. (See A Glimpse Behind the Curtain | Defend Public Education ) He wasn’t talking about a factory making consumer products; he was talking about public schools that are charged with educating the next generation.   In a new document released by the Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, the new lobbying arm of the PSP set up by Mark Gleason and PSP, they double-down on “dump the losers”. Their first document One City, Two Systems of Schools gives the appearance of a scientifically researched document which justifies this “dump the losers” philosophy as the solution to the problems that plague Philadelphia’s public schools. 
This ten-page document is released just as the School Reform Commission, the entity set up after the state takeover of the School District in 2001, is holding hearings on forty applications for new chartersin Philadelphia. Today, Philadelphia has 89 charters with 67,000 students. PSP is campaigning to have many of the District’s 214 public schools turned into charters.

NYT Opinion: Rage Against the Common Core
New York Times Sunday Review Opinion By DAVID L. KIRP DEC. 27, 2014
STARTING in the mid-1990s, education advocates began making a simple argument: National education standards will level the playing field, assuring that all high school graduates are prepared for first-year college classes or rigorous career training.  While there are reasons to doubt that claim — it’s hard to see how Utah, which spends less than one-third as much per student as New York, can offer a comparable education — the movement took off in 2008, when the nation’s governors and education commissioners drove a huge effort to devise “world-class standards,” now known as the Common Core.  Although the Obama administration didn’t craft the standards, it weighed in heavily, using some of the $4.35 billion from the Race to the Top program to encourage states to adopt not only the Common Core (in itself, a good thing) but also frequent, high-stakes testing (which is deeply unpopular). The mishandled rollout turned a conversation about pedagogy into an ideological and partisan debate over high-stakes testing. The misconception that standards and testing are identical has become widespread.  At least four states that adopted the Common Core have opted out. Republican governors who initially backed the standards condemn them as “shameless government overreach.”

"That omission puts Duncan pretty much in line with the majority of education insiders surveyed by Whiteboard Advisors, a government-relations organization in Washington. On the most recent poll conducted by the group, just 40 percent of insiders expected to see NCLB renewal in 2015."
Arne Duncan's Edu-Predictions for 2015
Education Week By Alyson Klein on December 24, 2014 10:32 AM
We've got just a few more days before it's time to put on the New Year's Eve dancing shoes and break open the champagne. So what's U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicting for next year?
·         More than 60,000 additional children will enroll in high-quality early learning. (I think he's hoping for good results from the administration's new Preschool Development Grant program and other initiatives.)
·         Six hundred new commitments by colleges, organizations, and companies will help thousands more students prepare for and graduate from college. (Sounds like he's putting a lot of stock in the White House's recent higher education summit.)
·         Ten million more students will have high-speed Internet access (That would mean a great success for the Obama administration's E-rate initiative.)
·         America's  high school graduation rate will set a record—again. (Graduation rates were, indeed, at an all-time high this year, but it's noteworthy that big achievement gaps remain. What's more, the metric in question has only been required since 2008, and only uniformly used since 2012. Plus, grad rates went from 79 percent to 80 percent, hardly a dramatic jump. Still, a record's a record.)
Not on Duncan's list? A reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, a top priority for both U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the incoming chairman of the Senate education panel.

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.

PSBA Master School Board Director Recognition: Applications begin in January
PSBA website December 23, 2014
The Master School Board Director (MSBD) Recognition is for individuals who have demonstrated significant contributions as members of their governance teams. It is one way PSBA salutes your hard work and exceptional dedication to ethics and standards, student success and achievement, professional development, community engagement, communications, stewardship of resources, and advocacy for public education.
School directors who are consistently dedicated to the aforementioned characteristics should apply or be encouraged to apply by fellow school directors. The MSBD Recognition demonstrates your commitment to excellence and serves to encourage best practices by all school directors.
The application will be posted Jan. 15, 2015, with a deadline to apply of June 30. Recipients will be notified by the MSBD Recognition Committee by Aug. 31 and will be honored at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October.
If you are interested in learning more about the MSBD Recognition, contact Janel Biery, conference/events coordinator, at (800) 932-0588, ext. 3332.

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