Thursday, January 15, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 15: SchoolWatch 2013/14: Curiously, Chester Community Charter spent $28M on Support Services vs only $14M on Instruction. How about your district or charter?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 15, 2015:
SchoolWatch 2013/14: Curiously, Chester Community Charter spent $28M on Support Services vs only $14M on Instruction.  How about your district or charter?

New state website provides financial data on school districts, teacher salaries
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 15, 2015 12:25 AM
For the past two school years, taxpayers who wanted to know about the academic performance of their schools and districts could find that information on the School Performance Profiles created by the state Department of Education.  Now they can access detailed financial information about their districts on the profiles as well, including administrative and teacher salaries, budget totals, revenue streams and per-pupil costs.  Those details were added Wednesday to by the education department. The information posted now is from the 2012-13 school year. It will be updated as new information is reported to the state.

SchoolWATCH sheds light on public school spending
A new online tool allows the public to have a look at the checkbook of Pennsylvania's public schools to see how their tax dollars are being spent.
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 14, 2015 at 12:58 PM, updated January 14, 2015 at 5:25 PM
website that served as a report card for Pennsylvania's public schools' academic performance now carries information that details their fiscal performance as well.
At a Capitol news conference on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, announced the launch of this online tool at that he said will give "people more access to the way we spend their hard earned tax dollars."
For a step-by-step guide on how to access the information, click here.

Policy shift puts public school expenditures in greater public view
PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Like a phoenix rising from legislative ashes, a one-time legislative proposal was given new life Wednesday when the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) announced the launch of SchoolWATCH on the department’s website.  The data will be available as a new feature of the department’s school performance profile website.  Rep. Christiana called the move “the next step in restoring trust in Pennsylvania’s government.”
He explained the new website will “give citizens access to the checkbooks of the public school districts,” who he claimed collectively spend $27.6 billion annually.  According to Rep. Christiana, the data will be available for 500 traditional public school districts, 176 charter schools, 14 cyber schools, 73 comprehensive career and technical centers, and 29 intermediate units.

Possibilities hinge on new state administration, official says
York City school plans in limbo with new state administration on the way
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   01/15/2015 01:57:46 AM EST
Questions about how the York City School District moves forward hinge on a new state administration taking office, the district's recovery officer said Wednesday night.
At a Community Education Council meeting, David Meckley gave an overview of recent events, including his court appointment as district receiver and the subsequent school district appeal that has put that appointment on hold. Meckley said the appeal process could take anywhere from four to 12 months, and he noted that there will be a new state education secretary once Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office.  "I have been in contact with the transition team and can report they are monitoring the situation," he said, adding that there are many unknowns and it will take the new administration some time to move forward.

Competency hearing begins Jan. 27 for Dorothy June Brown in $6.3 million charter fraud case by Martha Woodall LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 4:32 PM
A federal judge has scheduled a hearing to begin Jan. 27 to determine whether Dorothy June Brown is competent to be retried on charges she defrauded the charter schools she founded of $6.3 million.  Brown's attorneys raised the question of her competency days before she was scheduled to go to trial in September.

"The average person in PA who has employment based health insurance pays about $350 a month for family coverage. The average school district in PA only makes their employees pay about $50 a month. A 300-employee district would save over $1 million a year if they had their employees pay the exact same amount that the rest of the taxpayers are paying."
State Rep. says more school funding is not the answer: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor on January 14, 2015 at 12:40 PM, updated January 14, 2015 at 12:41 PM by REP. BRAD ROAE, East Mead Twp., Crawford County (House District 6)
Inadequate responsibility is causing school budget problems, not inadequate state funding.
Most employers put an amount equal to about 5 percent of payroll into the employee 401(k) retirement plan. School districts have to pay about 25 percent to the PSERS pension plan. For every $1 a school district pays an employee, they have to pay the pension plan about 25 cents.  
Not even one Democratic state representative will support PSERS pension reform. The PSEA teachers union is 100 percent opposed to any changes at all to the pension plan.
Gov. elect Wolf said during the campaign that there is no pension crisis. Many of the people who complain about school district budget problems refuse to support reforming the pension system.   

Not so 'super' search
Viable superintendent candidates to replace Toleno might be hard to come by
By Christina Tatu Pocono Record Writer  Posted Jan. 13, 2015 @ 8:39 pm
Stroudsburg School Board take heed: Qualified school superintendents are in limited supply.  
“The number of superintendents who have been around a while and have experience is dwindling quickly,” said Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.  Buckheit recently analyzed 499 Pennsylvania school districts.  Of those 499 districts, more than 60 percent have experienced “superintendent turnover” during the last six years, a rate Buckheit said is “fairly massive.”  That turnover rate includes superintendents who have not had their contracts renewed, like Stroudsburg’s own John Toleno, those who have retired, or left the position for a different field.  “A lot of very high quality educators, whether they are assistant superintendents or principals, are choosing not to go into the job,” Buckheit said.

Pittsburgh Network Eyed as Model for Supporting Digital Learning
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: January 13, 2015
From hands-on circuitry projects for kindergartners to "maker spaces" inside local museums, this former steel town has quietly emerged as a national model for supporting fresh approaches to technology-infused education, especially for young children.
The energy and innovation flow from a close-knit network of philanthropists, educators, technologists, and advocates who prize collaboration over competition. National experts are smitten with the approach.  "Pittsburgh is absolutely a leader when it comes to building a learning ecosystem for the 21st century," said Constance M. Yowell, the director of education at the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which is supporting the city's efforts. Ms. Yowell described the city's active funders and universities, as well as the willingness of unlikely partners to work together, as "core ingredients for really dynamic learning opportunities."

"As in years past, he emphasized to the board the impact of the district's required contribution to the Public School Employees' Retirement System. The rate has increased from 21.4 percent in 2014-15 to 25.84 percent for the next school year.  Watson said that accounts for 90 percent of the overall budget shortfall, or about $570,000, while operating costs and other budget items account for 10 percent, or about $62,000."
Greater Latrobe board warned of shortfall
Trib Live By Stacey Federoff Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, 11:15 p.m.
Greater Latrobe officials have used early figures to predict a budget shortfall for the 2015-16 school year but aren't sure whether that will translate into a tax increase.  Business administrator Dan Watson gave a preliminary budget report to the school board this week, projecting a $632,600 shortfall for the $53 million spending plan that could be covered by a millage increase within the index set by the state's Act 1, known as the Taxpayer Relief Act.
Ridley School Board again rejects fact-finder’s report
Delco Times By Barbara Ormsby, Times Correspondent POSTED: 01/14/15, 9:02 PM EST |RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >>
The Ridley School Board convened in a special meeting Wednesday morning to reconsider a fact-finder’s report in connection with the ongoing contract dispute with the Ridley Education Association, and the outcome was the same as the action the board took at its Jan. 5 meeting, which was rejection of the report and recommendations.   The education association members have been working without a contract since June 30 and had supported the fact finding report.
According to fact-finder Timothy Brown’s report and recommendations, the school board and the education association have reached tentative agreements on about 16 issues and were unable to reach agreement on the three remaining outstanding issues. They are teacher prep time, wages and medical benefits.

Northampton schools budget could see 1.23 mills increase
By Christy Potter Special to The Morning Call January 14, 2015
The Northampton Area School District could see a budget increase of 1.23 mills for the 2015-2016 school year, due in part to pension and benefits costs, and some additional staff needed at the new middle school.  During the board of education's regular meeting on Wednesday — rescheduled from Monday due to inclement weather — Superintendent Joe Kovalchik and business manager Terry Leh gave the board an early peek at the budget.  "It's important you get a sense of where we stand financially," Kovalchik said. "It's crystal ball time for school districts." The budget will be up for a final vote in June.  According to the preliminary numbers, the 1.23 mill budget increase will equal $1,312,070. The impact to the average taxpayer would be an increase of $71.05 annually.  Salaries and benefits make up the biggest piece of the pie, Leh said, with salaries claiming 40.14 percent of the budget, and benefits making up an additional 25.31 percent.

Proposed vocational school in Germantown makes final pitch to SRC
Now it's in the hands of the School Reform Commission.
On Wednesday, the team behind the proposed Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy bunched around a table inside a near-empty auditorium for the second and final public hearing on the group's charter school application. It's one of 40 such applications submitted to the Philadelphia School District.  The group will now have to wait until February to learn if its dream of opening an independent high school in Germantown becomes a reality.  "It went as well as we thought it could," said Frank Robinson, president of Redemptive Enterprises, a project management company that would operate the school if its application were approved.

Coatesville to sue former school board solicitor
The former solicitor of the Coatesville Area School District will be sued over alleged overbilling of the district, joining the former superintendent and former athletic director as a target of litigation.
The Coatesville school board voted Tuesday to sue James Ellison; his former law firm, Rhoads & Sinon; and the law firm he formed, Susquehanna Legal Group, to recover money that board members say is owed the district.  A Chester County grand jury report released last month accused Ellison and his law firms of overbilling the district. The District Attorney's Office continues to investigate Ellison.  The grand jury report also resulted in the arrests of former Superintendent Richard Como and athletic director James Donato on dozens of counts of felony theft and violations of state ethics laws. The school board voted to sue Como and Donato in November.

Hempfield teachers will get raise and pay more for health care in new contract
Lancaster Online by ROBYN MEADOWS | Correspondent Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 1:32 pm | Updated: 1:41 pm, Wed Jan 14, 2015.
The Hempfield school board approved an early bird contract Tuesday with Hempfield Education Association, the teachers union representing about 500 teachers in the district.  The union approved the four-year contract earlier Tuesday. The current contract expires June 30.
The new agreement provides an average salary increase of 2.25 percent over the life of the contract, which starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2019. Under the contract, a new teacher with a bachelor's degree will earn $47,731 in 2015-16.  In 2011-12, Hempfield teachers agreed to a pay freeze to help the district reduce a multimillion-dollar deficit.

Early-Childhood Education in the U.S.: An Analysis
Education Week January 14, 2015
The Education Week Research Center analyzed American Community Survey data to identify patterns in the school enrollment of young children. Nationally, most—but not all—children ages 3 to 6 are enrolled in school. Results indicate that preschool participation is heavily influenced by a range of socioeconomic factors, including household income, parental education levels, and race and ethnicity. The state where a child lives also has an impact.

Extended school day yields mixed results in Boston
By James Vaznis BOSTON GLOBE STAFF  JANUARY 14, 2015
Lengthening the day at dozens of Boston public schools has yielded mixed results, a Globe review has found, offering a cautionary tale as the city seeks to double the number of schools with extended learning time.  For many schools, a longer day has failed to dramatically boost academic achievement or did so only temporarily. The uneven results prompted school district officials to scrap the extra minutes at some schools and the state to pull funding or pursue receiverships at others.  But other schools have successfully used an extended day to boost MCAS scores or expand offerings in the arts and other electives.  “I think there are lessons to be learned,” said John McDonough, interim superintendent. “We know time matters, but it only matters if it is used well.”

West Virginia Withdraws Altered Climate Curriculum
New York Times By JOHN SCHWARTZ JAN. 14, 2015
West Virginia education officials on Wednesday retreated from an earlier curriculum decision that expressed doubts about widely held views of climate change.  The State Board of Education voted 6-to-2 to withdraw its altered version of the Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed by 26 states, including West Virginia. The changes had been quietly made by a member of the West Virginia board before it adopted the standards in December.
Once the extent of the changes — including an inserted reference that global temperature rise “and fall” — became known, they were criticized by local and national science educators, as well as West Virginia parents and environmental activists.  The board voted to revert to the original standards, which emphasize the scientific consensus on human activity as a cause of climate change, and will adopt those standards after a 30-day comment period, said Gayle Manchin, the board president and wife of United States Senator Joe Manchin III.

Education Voters Statewide Call to Action for Public Education Day, Wed. Jan 21st
Education Voters of PA Facebook page
We want to kick off this legislative session right and make sure the phones in the Capitol are ringing off the hook all day with calls from voters throughout the Commonwealth!  Join thousands of Pennsylvanians as we take 5-10 minutes on January 21st to call our new governor and our legislators to send a message that Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be implementing a fair and adequate education funding formula for our public schools that provides all children with an opportunity to learn.

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:
These low rates will last for the month of January.
The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.
There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.   Featured speakers will be:
§         Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
§         Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
§         Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
§         Diane Ravitch in conversation with
§         Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
§         Randi Weingarten, AFT President
§         Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

Join a Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County; January 15, 6:30 pm Chambersburg
Confirmed Guests of Honor: Senator Richard Alloway Senator John Eichelberger Representative-Elect Paul Schemel
Join a Community Conversation about Public School Funding in Franklin County on Thursday, January 15 at 6:30 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chambersburg, 43 West Washington Street, Chambersburg, PA Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s educational opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities and area legislators will be in attendance to learn about voters' concerns. Ask questions. Share your stories, your concerns, and your suggestions. Learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for our area schools
Dr. Joe Bard, Executive Director, PA Association of Rural and Small Schools
Dr. Joe Padasak, Superintendent, Chambersburg Area School District
Mr. Jim Duffey, Superintendent, Fannett-Metal School District
Dr. Gregory Hoover, Superintendent, Greencastle-Antrim School District
Mrs. Beth Bender, Superintendent, Shippensburg Area School District
Dr. Charles Prijatelj, Superintendent, Tuscarora Area School District

Mark Your Calendars.  The next Twitter Chat on PA School Funding is Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.  Join us #paedfunding
Tweet from Circuit Rider Kathleen Kelley

PILCOP Special Education Seminar: Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
Philadelphia Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 1:00 - 4:00 P.M.
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Tickets: Attorneys $200  General Public $100   Webinar $50   
"Pay What You Can" tickets are also available    
Speakers: Sonja Kerr; Kathleen Carlsen (Children’s Dyslexia Center of Philadelphia) 
This session is designed to provide the audience with information about how to address 1) eligibility issues for children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia and ADHD, 2) encourage self-advocacy and 3) write and implement meaningful IEPS (what does Orton-Gillingham really look like?)   This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice is a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers. 
Questions? Email or call 267-546-1316.

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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