Tuesday, December 9, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 9: Pennsylvania pension costs to climb by $466M next year

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 9, 2014:
Pennsylvania pension costs to climb by $466M next year

Upcoming PA Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 10 AM - 12:00 PM Lancaster; McCaskey East H.S.
1051 Leigh Avenue, Lancaster, PA

* meeting times and locations subject to change

Parties argue for inclusion in York City schools receivership case
Several groups say they would be affected by appointment of a receiver
York Daily Record By Angie Mason amason@ydr.com @angiemason1 on Twitter 12/08/2014 04:28:00 PM EST
A York County judge will hear evidence this week on whether York City School District's unionized employees, some district parents, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association should be allowed to become part of the ongoing case over control of the district.  As some high school students protested outside the courthouse, Judge Stephen Linebaugh heard arguments Monday from the three parties that petitioned to intervene in the case. After attorney Michael Levin, representing the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, mentioned that the parties are entitled to a hearing on the matter, Linebaugh said they could present evidence Thursday.  That's the same day he will hear arguments on the school district's motion to temporarily halt the case.

Schedule of PA House Session Days Announced for First Half of 2015
tweet from @PAHouseGOP
Schedule of #PAHouse session days announced for first half of 2015.

Analysts predict Wolf to compromise on priorities as Pennsylvania governor
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted State Capitol Reporter  Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Eliminate a multibillion-dollar deficit while increasing funding for public education. Levy a tax on natural gas drillers. Enact a gift ban in the aftermath of a scandal.
Those are the priorities analysts and officeholders see Gov.-elect Tom Wolf pursuing in his first months in office.  Wolf's public support — and his influence to get things done at the Capitol — will be at their peak in the months after he is sworn into office on Jan. 20, experts said.
“He'll have his most political capital in his first year,” said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia public relations consultant. But Wolf's double-digit victory in November over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was tempered by the GOP's increasing its majority, Ceisler said.
It's also a more conservative Senate and House, observers note.
Wolf “is a realist. He realizes he has to compromise to meet his goals,” said Jerry Shuster, a professor of political rhetoric at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Without compromise, we won't see anything done,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College.

Panel: Wolf can be effective, even without legislature
By Michael Sanserino / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 9, 2014 12:30 AM
HARRISBURG — There might not be a lot of allies for Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s energy agenda in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. But there is plenty Mr. Wolf can do to impact the energy industry in the Commonwealth without the help of the legislature, according to a panel of politicians and political watchers that met Wednesday in Harrisburg.  “There is a lot within the governor’s authority that he can do early in his administration,” said Andrew Sharp, director of outreach for PennFuture at the organization’s post-election forum at the Civic Club of Harrisburg.
Mr. Wolf can make an impact in Harrisburg through executive appointments and executive actions that do not require a lot of legislative involvement, the panel said. He can achieve energy and environmental goals by picking candidates for his cabinet, signing executive orders, imposing regulations and updating certain state codes.

Pennsylvania pension costs to climb by $466M next year
Pottstown Mercvury By Eric Boehm, PA Independent POSTED: 12/08/14, 10:05 PM EST |
awmakers and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf will head into next year’s budget process with lots of new obligations to fulfill and little excess revenue with which to do it.  State-level contributions to Pennsylvania’s two public pension plans will have to climb by an estimated $466 million in the next budget, after an increase of about $520 million this year. Next year could be considered the mid-point of a decade-long “pension spike” that sees retirement costs consuming larger and larger shares of the state’s spending each year.  Budget Secretary Charles Zogby of Gov. Tom Corbett’s outgoing administration outlined the bad news this week in an annual mid-year update on the state’s fiscal situation.

Let's see how Gov.-elect Tom Wolf handles his budget deficit: Charles Zogby
PennLive Op-Ed  By Charles Zogby on December 08, 2014 at 8:00 AM, updated December 08, 2014 at 8:15 AM
Charles Zogby is the outgoing Pennsylvania state Budget Secretary for Gov. Tom Corbett.
No amount of feigned astonishment at a pending $1.9 billion budget deficit will erase the fact that this situation has existed for years and will only worsen without needed reforms.   When Gov. Tom Corbett took office, he faced a $4.2 billion deficit — largely based on the use of one-time federal stimulus money to fund operational expenses.  This was one-time money and yet it had been plugged into programs such as the education budget as if it would always be there. 
Rather than go back to the people of Pennsylvania through increased taxes in order to close that gap, the governor made the hard choices the voters entrusted to him. 

Audit resister: The Education Dept. should turn over the records
The auditor general shouldn't have to sue to make public records public
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board December 9, 2014 12:00 AM
Gov. Tom Corbett’s Education Department is running true to form right to the end.
The governor leaves office on Jan. 20, and one of his largest departments still has its heels dug in, rebuffing legitimate requests for information, according to state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  Reporters know how he feels. The Post-Gazette had to file Right to Know requests under state law to find out what one of the governor’s special assistants, former education secretary Rom Tomalis, was doing in exchange for a salary of nearly $140,000. Public records provided this answer: not much.

Fox Chapel Area teacher named Pennsylvania's 2015 Teacher of the Year
Trib Live By Tawnya Panizzi Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, 11:33 a.m.
Fox Chapel Area High School senior Eli Ziff gazed over a crowd of Pennsylvania's best educators Monday in Hershey and told them his music teacher, Mairi Cooper, won the wrong award.
“She is not my Teacher of the Year; she is my teacher of a lifetime,” said Ziff, an orchestra student who introduced Cooper as his “role model.”  Cooper was selected as the 2015 Teacher of the Year from among 13 finalists during the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Keystone Awards of Excellence.
Sen. Casey visits Easton classroom to push computer science education bill
By Laura Olson, Morning Call Washington Bureau December 8, 2014
When U.S. Sen. Bob Casey stopped by an Easton Area High School technology class Monday, he found a sight that made school administrators beam: a room full of students who didn't want to look up from their work.  The students were locked in on their computer screens as they participated in the "Hour of Code," an effort to promote computer science education. Schools across the country hosted coding events Monday, during which students tried their hands at the programming skills used to make digitial games, websites and apps.

Long-awaited hearings on new Philly charter school hopefuls begin
For the first time since 2007, the Philadelphia School District heard applications for new charter schools Monday.  For years, citing the costs of growing the charter sector, the district has imposed a moratorium on new charter expansion. That changed this year because of an amendment authored by Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) that was added to the state cigarette tax authorization bill.  During this moratorium, the district has opened Renaissance charters which task operators with serving all students within defined neighborhood boundaries.
Taylor's amendment also allows rejected applicants to seek redress with the state Charter Appeals Board.  The district received 40 applications by the Nov. 15 deadline. The state's charter school law requires districts to hold at least one public hearing on applications within 45 days of receipt.

Philly charter operators pitch the schools they would open
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, December 9,   2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 6:25 PM
For the first time in seven years, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission opened hearings Monday to consider proposals for new charter schools.  The wish list for the first of four days of hearings included a community-based school in Germantown for students in grades six through 12, and three K-12 charter schools in neighborhoods across the city, operated by the nonprofit String Theory Schools, that would combine science and the arts.

Philly charter school advocates make their pitch at hearing
FIVE charter-school applicants did their best yesterday to impress Philadelphia School District officials as they bid to expand school choice in the city.  The applicants were the first of 40 that will outline their plans during public hearings this week before an independent hearing officer and a staffer from the district's Charter Office. The embattled district has not accepted new applications since 2008, but now is required to as part of the city's recently enacted $2 cigarette tax to provide additional funding.

Embattled Cheltenham superintendent to get "monitor"
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 4:21 PM
Citing serious concerns over Superintendent Natalie Thomas' "leadership, trustworthiness, and lack of transparency," the Cheltenham school board said Monday it plans to hire a former school chief to "monitor" her activities.  The possibly unprecedented move would be a serious blow to the tenure of Thomas, who since arriving 18 months ago has clashed with the teachers' union and administrators over numerous staff changes and departures.  Under a resolution expected to be adopted at Tuesday night's school board meeting, effective immediately former Superintendent William Kiefer would be hired as a "superintendent monitor" to investigate and assess Thomas' performance and "determine the degree to which board policies are being met under Dr. Thomas' leadership."

With tax increase, Scranton city schools deficit would remain at $6.5 million
Scranton Times-Tribune by SARAH HOFIUS HALL, STAFF WRITER December 9, 2014
Even if the Scranton School Board raises city property taxes to the maximum allowed, directors will have to find ways to eliminate a projected $6.5 million budget deficit for 2015. Without a tax increase, the deficit stands at $8.7 million.  With only two weeks before directors are scheduled to vote on the spending plan, how the deficit will be eliminated is not yet known. During a special meeting Monday, directors took what could be one of the first steps in reducing the deficit — restructuring up to $25 million in debt.

'Mystery parents' test charters' responses to special ed and ELL students
The notebook By Arianna Prothero for Education Week on Dec 8, 2014 01:40 PM
Fielding phone calls from parents asking about enrollment is part of everyday business for schools, but for some charter schools, the person on the other end of the line may only beposing as a parent.  Modeled after “mystery shopper” or “secret shopper” services used in retail, authorizers in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts are using a similar tactic to make sure the charter schools they oversee are not turning away students with more specialized needs, such as children with disabilities or who are still learning English.  This issue has long dogged the charter sector, which nationally, some studies show, enrolls a lower percentage of students with disabilities compared to regular public schools. The discrepancy, some charter critics say, comes from the publicly funded but independently run schools turning away such students in order to improve test scores.  “We started this because there was a huge perception among the public that charters counseled out students with disabilities,” said Naomi R. DeVeaux, the deputy director for the District of Columbia’s public charter school board. “We wanted to know if this was true.”

Here's a Plan to Turn Around U.S. Education -- and Generate $225 Trillion
Forbes by Randall Lane 12/01/2014 @ 10:24AM 
This story appears in the December 15, 2014 issue of Forbes.
Break down any political discussion of education policy and you’ll get the kind of rhetoric typical of a wealth manager. The need to invest in our kids. The untapped resource of our young minds. Children as our greatest asset.  There’s a reason, of course. When you look at massive public spending areas, defense keeps us safe and health care keeps us alive, but it’s education alone that has the promise of a numeric return on a collective investment. What’s missing from all the blathering, however, are actual numbers. As in, exactly what should we be investing in? And if we did, how much specifically would society gain from it?

E-Sports at College, With Stars and Scholarships
New York Times By NICK WINGFIELD DEC. 8, 2014
Loc Tran is a big man on campus at San Jose State University in Northern California.
“A lot of people stop me when I’m walking,” said Mr. Tran, a 19-year-old sophomore, who speaks in quick and confident bursts. “They congratulate me.”  But Mr. Tran is not a star on the football team, or a leader in student government. He is a top player on the school’s competitive video game team, helping San Jose State claw its way to victory in June over California State University, Fullerton, in a tournament watched online by nearly 90,000 people. When the new school year started this fall, classmates’ heads swiveled toward him when professors said his name during roll call.

27 Books Parents Should Read To Their Kids Before They Grow Up
Get ready to read down memory lane.
By Candace Lowry BuzzFeed Staff posted on Aug. 29, 2014, at 1:58 p.m.

Panel: Philly Charter Schools: Who’s Minding The Store?
How Can We Achieve Effective Academic, Financial and Governance Accountability?
Tues. Dec 9, 7:00PM - 9:00PM 1501 ARCH STREET PHILADELPHIA, 19103
·         Commissioner Farah Jimenez, School Reform Commission, Chair of the SRC’s Charter Committee
·         Jurate Krokys, Regional Council Co-Chair of Schools That Can Philadelphia, founding Principal of Independence Charter School
·         Kyle Serette, Center for Popular Democracy & author of “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in PA’s Charter Schools”
·         Barbara Dowdall, retired English Department Head at A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical School and former ADA board member
Moderated by: Solomon Leach, Philadelphia Daily News, Education Reporter
Sponsored by: Americans for Democratic Action
Co-sponsors: ACTION United, Education Voters PA, PCCY

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 cbenton@pilcop.org 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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