Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 3: While 11 other states provide a hold harmless guarantee to school districts, no other state in the nation also guarantees districts with declining enrollment a share of new education revenues, as is the practice in the Commonwealth

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 3, 2014:
While 11 other states provide a hold harmless guarantee to school districts, no other state in the nation also guarantees districts with declining enrollment a share of new education revenues, as is the practice in the Commonwealth

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearings
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 10 AM East Stroudsburg; Carl T. Secor Administration Bldg., 50 Vine Street, East Stroudsburg Area School District
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; location TBA
* meeting times and locations subject to change

Today in the Capitol by PLS Reporter
Press Conference 2:00 p.m., Capitol Media Center
Budget Secretary Zogby to Give Mid-Year Budget Briefing

BEFC: Education leaders to speak on school tax hearing in East Stroudsburg on Thursday
Pocono Record Posted Dec. 2, 2014 @ 2:01 am
Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-189, will host a hearing with the Basic Education Funding Commission to discuss Pennsylvania’s basic education funding formula. Members of the community are invited to join the commission and panel of area educators 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 4 at the Carl T. Secor Administrative Center, located at 50 Vine St., East Stroudsburg.  “The funding formula that dictates the dollars we receive from the state is an integral piece of our school tax issue,” Brown explained. “Having the commission here to understand how this formula has negatively impacted us, and how we must have it corrected, is truly significant in working toward fixing our tax problem.”  The commission has agreed to hold a hearing with area educators to gather testimony and information from local advocates and experts in the field before making its recommendations to the legislature. The panel will include:

"This brief looks at the policies toward hold harmless education funding in the 50 states finding that while 11 other states provide a hold harmless guarantee to school districts, no other state in the nation also guarantees districts with declining enrollment a share of new education revenues, as is the practice in the Commonwealth.  In other words, whatever new money is put into the basic education subsidy, even if a district is losing student population, that district is guaranteed a portion of those new dollars."
Temple Univeristy Center on Regional Politics (CORP) Publishes Policy Brief on Hold Harmless Education Finance Policies in the U.S.
Temple University Center on Regional Politics December 2, 2014
As part of the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth, CORP released a Policy Brief on “Hold Harmless Education Finance Policies in the U.S.: A Survey.” This brief looks at the policies toward hold harmless education funding in the 50 states finding that while 11 other states provide a hold harmless guarantee to school districts, no other state in the nation also guarantees districts with declining enrollment a share of new education revenues, as is the practice in the Commonwealth.  In other words, whatever new money is put into the basic education subsidy, even if a district is losing student population, that district is guaranteed a portion of those new dollars.

Waiting for details about Wolf’s plan for education
the notebook print edition December 2014 By Dale Mezzacappa
During the governor's race, then-candidate Tom Wolf discussed education issues at WHYY.
A new governor will take office Jan. 20, with significant, but as yet unknown, implications for education policy in Philadelphia and around Pennsylvania.  On Nov. 4, Democrat Tom Wolf swept into office, unseating Republican incumbent Gov. Corbett on a tide of anger about state and federal aid reductions that forced school districts to slash spending statewide. It was the first time in more than 40 years that a sitting governor in Pennsylvania lost a second term.
In the campaign, Wolf promised to raise income taxes on the wealthy and impose a levy on natural gas extraction so he could increase state education spending, reduce the burden on local property taxes, and improve schools. He also came out in favor of abolishing Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission and returning the District to local control.  But as of mid-November, he had said little about what he intends to do as governor about education, and certainly nothing about Philadelphia and the SRC, even as key constituencies that supported him – most prominently the teachers’ union – continue to press for an elected Board of Education.

PA-Gov: Tom Wolf Transition Team Announces Budget Sticking Points
PoliticsPA Written by Lora Strum, Contributing Writer December 2, 2014
Governor-Elect Tom Wolf’s team is laying the groundwork for a strategy to blame their predecessor for the state’s financial condition.  Tomorrow Charles Zogby, Budget Secretary for the Corbett Administration, will deliver the mid-year budget outline and the incoming Governor wants to set the terms of the debate beforehand.  For example, Wolf’s transition team points to a statement Secretary Zogby made last summer.  “I would never have guessed that our Year Four budget would be more difficult than what we faced in Year One,” he said. “But that’s where we are today.”  Additionally, Governor-elect Tom Wolf and the chair and vice-chair of his Transition Team’s budgetary task force, Mary Soderberg and Jason Shapiro respectively, identified four key areas that they feel “illustrate the depth of the fiscal hole” the Wolf Administration will inherit.

Delco Times Editorial: Wolf faces daunting task in Harrisburg
Delco Times POSTED: 12/02/14, 10:13 PM EST |
They’re not exactly putting out the welcome wagon for Tom Wolf in Harrisburg.
You might remember that while Democrats were celebrating victory in the governor’s race, in the process making a little history by turning out incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, it was a decidedly rare breed.  Democrats statewide did not fare well on election day. In fact, Republicans expanded their margins in both the House and Senate. The election of Republican Tom McGarrigle in Delco’s hotly contested 26th state Senate district was part of the GOP tsunami that took place in both Pennsylvania and across the nation. Instead of Dems gaining ground in the Senate, they actually lost three seats, with Republicans now holding a 30-20 margin. It was the same story in the House, where Republicans also expanded their majority.
After his convincing victory, Wolf talked about reaching across the aisle and working with Republicans. He’s about to learn just what that means. Not only did the Legislature get more Republican, it also took a turn toward the more conservative side.

"Orr said she's been talking to district solicitors since the petition was filed. Orr said she couldn't go into detail about the discussion, but she said she's hoping there is an opportunity to oppose the state in court.  "We're not just taking this lying down," Orr said.
A decision to approve receivership would make York City the third district in the state to have receivers, joining Duquesne City and Chester Upland.
York City, however, is the only district facing a full conversion to charter schools, Eller confirmed Tuesday."
Hearing on fate of York City schools scheduled for Thursday
ERIN JAMES / The York Dispatch 505-5439 / @ydcity 12/02/2014 03:47:28 PM EST
A York County judge will oversee a hearing Thursday on the fate of the York City School District.
The 2:30 p.m. hearing will address a petition filed Monday by the state, which is seeking the court's approval to appoint a receiver for the district.  If the judge agrees, the receiver would assume all responsibilities currently held by the local school board - except the ability to set the property-tax rate.  Attorneys for the district are also scheduled to appear, according to President Judge Stephen Linebaugh's order.  State law requires the judge to issue a decision within 10 days of the hearing.  State Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said the hearing "will not be a review of the merits of the petition, nor will testimony be taken."
"It's my understanding that it's just for procedural issues," Eller wrote in an email.

State needs a rational fix for its method of funding charter students with disabilities
the notebook print edition December 2014 By David Lapp
Pennsylvania’s calculation for funding special education in charter schools is broken. In Philadelphia, special education tuition paid by the District to charter schools has doubled from $11,000 per student to over $23,000 per student in just 12 years. During the same period, special education revenue to the District from the state stagnated at under $5,000 per student.
Rather than basing charter tuition on what the charter spends or needs, the calculation is based on what the charter’s authorizing district spends on its own students with disabilities. That total expenditure is then divided by 16 percent of the district’s student population. The assumption is that since 16 percent is roughly the average percentage of students with disabilities in the commonwealth, it is a close enough estimation to use in the calculation for all districts.
When school districts serve more than 16 percent, such as Chester Upland, which serves approximately 24 percent, the total expenditure is still divided by only 16 percent of the student population rather than 24 percent of students. The resulting quotient leads to a “per-pupil” tuition rate that is inaccurately high.

40 Philly charter applicants ready for Round 1
PUBLIC HEARINGS on 40 new charter-school applications will begin Monday, the Philadelphia School District announced yesterday.  Each applicant will go through two sets of hearings. The first round, which will take place Dec. 8-12, will allow each applicant to make a 15-minute presentation to district officials. At the end of each day, the public will have a chance to comment on any of the applications discussed that day.  During the second round, set for undetermined dates in January, the district's charter-school office will provide comments from application evaluators, give applicants a chance to answer questions about their proposal and make a final statement.  More than half of the 40 applicants operate existing charters in the city, including Mastery, KIPP, String Theory and American Paradigm.  The city's 86 charters enroll about 62,000 students - more than 30 percent of the district's total enrollment.

The double standard charter supporters apply when judging school quality
the notebook By Susan DeJarnatt on Dec 2, 2014 02:41 PM
Charter school supporter Janine Yass, a founder of Boys Latin Charter School (“The facts on charter schools,” Inquirer, Nov. 23, 2014), and statements by Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, apply a double standard to traditional public schools vs. charters. While they cite the new state School Performance Profiles (SPPs) as a measure of school quality, they use the scores selectively to bolster their case. Most notably, they uniformly label low-scoring public schools as “failing,” but call many charters high performing, even when they have low SPPs.
Yass and Gleason say they’re for “school choice,” but when you dig deeper, it seems they only support the choices they agree with. They’re for choice when parents choose charters, but never when parents choose traditional public schools.
The Philadelphia School District has received applications for 40 new charter schools, the bulk of them for expansions or additions to existing charters. Gleason called the new applications “great news.” He argued that parents should have more options to choose, and that approval of the new charters will give them those options. He did not mention that if every application was approved, the Philadelphia School District could stand to lose $280 million dollars in stranded costs, inevitably forcing closure of many schools and perhaps a shutdown of the entire system. That would severely limit the choices now available to Philadelphia parents, especially those in the most disadvantaged circumstances.

For those of you who may be playing along at home, Joe Watkins, the receiver at Chester Upland, was previously the Executive Director at the Students FIrst PAC (no, not Michelle Rhee's Students First) a pro voucher advocacy group funded by the principles at the Susquehanna International Group in Bala Cynwyd, Jeffrey Yass, Arthur Dantchick and Joel Greenberg.  They gave Senator Anthony Williams a few million bucks to run for governor four years ago and pitched in $750K to support school privatization candidates in Pennsylvania in 2014.
Janine Yass, mentioned in the lead of the prior posting, is Jeff's spouse.
Thursday hearing scheduled to consider Watkins’ future with Chester Upland School District
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 12/02/14, 10:26 PM
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> A hearing to consider the state Secretary of Education’s request to remove the receiver of the Chester Upland School District is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. County President Judge Chad Kenney will preside over the hearing, as he has for previous proceedings related to the district’s financial distress.
Joseph Watkins was appointed first as the Chief Recovery Officer for the unstable district in August 2012 at the behest of then-Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis. After the elected members of the Chester Upland School Board declined to approve Watkins’ financial recovery plan, Tomalis placed the district in receivership and Kenney affirmed Watkins’ appointment as the district receiver in December 2012.

Pa. Dept. of Education wants Chester Upland receiver out
Just seven weeks before he leaves office, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's education department is asking a judge to remove the man it appointed two years ago to fix the troubled Chester Upland School District.  In a court filing, state officials charged  the district's receiver, Joe Watkins, failed to stabilize the Chester Upland's finances or improve its academic performance. It's asked a Delaware County judge to replace him with former State Education Secretary Francis Barnes.  It's a little strange, Corbett's team turning on the guy they picked for job just as they're packing their bags to leave.  Watkins was a controversial choice when the administration named him receiver of Chester Upland two years ago. He was a long time advocate of charters and school vouchers with significant Republican ties.  Advocates for traditional public schools howled that putting Watson in charge of a failing district that had already lost more than half its students to charters was putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

At Chester charter, the curriculum is based around art
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, December 2, 2014, 8:56 PM
The lesson for the day was about rhythm, but first-grade teacher Mindy Nguyen wasn't using music alone to impart the concept.  Nguyen read a poem and showed a painting depicting life in a city, then fired probing questions at the 21 youngsters sitting on the floor around her.
Can you hear how the city sounds? What feeling does it give you? What does the color red in the painting tell you about the city?  If they didn't quite get the connections she was trying to make about rhythm, they were learning a slew of new vocabulary words and an important educational lesson: Art is more than just pretty pictures.

A public school in Chestnut Hill courts the locals
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 1:07 AM
he school formerly known as J.S. Jenks Elementary may not have a generous budget, a large staff, or a core of wealthy parents to help pay for extras.  But what Jenks, the neighborhood public school high atop Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, does have is momentum.
Consider: Despite Philadelphia School District-wide budget cuts, the school has managed to hang on to a robust program of art, music, and after-school activities. It was recently renamed J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences to stress its curricular emphasis and aspirations.
And the school of 455 kindergarten through eighth-grade students also scored a major victory this month when it was named one of four citywide winners of the district's School Redesign Initiative, a program that gives seed money to help spur grassroots innovation.

Congrats to Tom Sumpter.  This week 499 locally elected, volunteer school boards (no salary, no benefits, no pensions) throughout the state are holding their board reorganization meetings to elect board officers.

"The board also heard a presentation urging the board to develop more “community schools,” which engage community resources to work with schools to help address problems of hunger, homelessness and other social issues that interfere with learning.  The idea has the support of Great Public Schools - Pittsburgh, and representatives of two of its members -- Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and One Pittsburgh -- made the presentation.
Rachel Canning, director of internal and community organizing for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said the district already has some efforts, including a partnership with Homewood Children Village and Pittsburgh Lincoln and Faison.
She noted the idea of more community schools is supported by Great Public Schools - Pittsburgh, a coalition that includes the PFT.  Ms. Canning said non-educational public funding streams can be tapped into as well as private ones, including foundations and universities."
Pittsburgh Public Schools board re-elects Sumpter as president
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 2, 2014 11:15 PM
The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools re-elected Thomas Sumpter as its president and then moved on to the business of revising its policies to reflect a stricter state law on background clearances for employees, contractors and volunteers.  Mr. Sumpter, 64, is entering his 10th year on the board and his second as its president.  The vote was 8-0 in favor, with member Mark Brentley abstaining. The vote was the same for re-electing Bill Isler as first vice president and Carolyn Klug as second vice president.  After the vote, the board began discussing the policy changes to reflect a state law that takes effect Dec. 31 and governs the reporting of suspected child abuse and criminal clearances for employees, contractors and volunteers. Such changes are being made in other districts throughout the state. The board may vote later this month.

Middle-Class Pay Elusive for Teachers, Report Says
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH DEC. 3, 2014
Over the course of their careers, teachers in certain cities earn far less than those in others and reach the top of the pay scale far later, making it hard for them to live a basic middle-class life, according to a new report being released Wednesday.
The report, by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit group that advocates tougher teacher standards, finds that while teachers in places like Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, can reach a high salary benchmark relatively early in their careers, teachers in New York City, San Francisco and Fairfax County, Va., must work more than three decades to hit comparable salary levels, when adjusted for the cost of living in the cities.
And over a career, teachers in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Atlanta are the highest-earning educators while teachers in San Francisco, Hawaii and New York City are the lowest.

Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email or call 267.546.1317.

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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