Friday, January 16, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 16: Charter Schools USA: Very Interested in millions of public tax dollars in York; not so interested in answering public questions

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 16, 2015:
Charter Schools USA: Very Interested in millions of public tax dollars in York; not so interested in answering public questions

"Despite it being sold as one of the state's biggest public policy challenges, lawmakers were unable to reach an accord last year on a plan to rein in pension costs. The state's share of contributions are expected to grow by about $466 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1."… Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said he won't consider any of Wolf's revenue-raising proposals until lawmakers and the administration approve a pension reform bill."
Pa. House pension reform architect Mike Tobash offers benefits prescription, but no cost cure
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on January 15, 2015 at 3:11 PM, updated January 15, 2015 at 3:46 PM
The chief state House architect of a plan to tame Pennsylvania's exploding public employee pension costs is sticking with a proposal to move new state employees into a 401(k)-style retirement plan, but offered no firm prescription on how to pay down an estimated $45 billion to $50 billion unfunded liability.  In an interview taped for broadcast on Sunday, state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill, said privatizing the state liquor stores or even a severance tax on Marcellus shale natural could provide the state with the money it needs to attack the massive debt.  "The pension crisis might not be one solution, but it's multiple solutions," Tobash  told anchor Robb Hanrahan on CBS-21's "Face the State" program. "And we have to attack it that way."

Superintendents share struggles caused by state education funding problem
Public Opinion Online By Amber South @AESouthPO on Twitter UPDATED:   01/16/2015 12:34:34 AM EST
CHAMBERSBURG >> Superintendents from every school district in Franklin County came together Thursday night and spoke before dozens of parents and taxpayers state education funding and the struggles it creates.  Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley and Education Voters of Pennsylvania hosted the forum as part of the effort of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding. The mission is to have the state legislature adopt a fair funding formula by 2016, Spicka said.  Lawmakers have been working toward that goal, particularly with the work of the basic education funding commission. The group of legislators travel around the state to meet with school officials and other stakeholders and learn the various issues affecting the different districts.

"Of those 36 questions posed to Charter Schools USA, a dozen remain unanswered a month later.  Those questions include the following: Will Charter Schools USA allow employees to unionize? How much does the average teacher make at a school operated by Charter Schools USA? What is CEO Jonathan Hage's annual salary? How much profit does Charter Schools USA expect to make on the York City contract?"
Charter company dodges questions about York City, hires lobbyists
By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   01/15/2015 07:58:00 PM EST
The York City community can expect indefinite silence from the for-profit company tapped by the state Department of Education to operate the city's public schools.  Repeated questions from The York Dispatch to Charter Schools USA about its plans for the York City School District have gone unanswered since mid-December.  The Florida-based company is "focused on negotiating a contract" with the district's state-appointed chief recovery officer, a company representative said in an email this week.  "Until that contract is executed, CSUSA is not going to respond to any media requests," wrote Amanda Kernan, public relations manager for Moxie, a York-based firm working on behalf of Charter Schools USA.

Wolf: No decision on York City schools
By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   01/15/2015 07:58:34 PM
A spokesman for Gov.-elect Tom Wolf said Thursday the incoming governor has paid "very close attention" to the state Department of Education's recovery plan for the York City School District.
However, a few days before his inauguration, Wolf is not yet prepared to announce how or if he will change that plan, spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.  "Once he's sworn into office and he has the appropriate people in place, he will begin to review the situation," Sheridan said. "But it would be premature at this point to talk about it."  Sheridan said Wolf has set a goal of naming all members of his cabinet, including the education secretary, by his inauguration Tuesday.

Pennsylvania schools sized up for major changes
By Evan Grossman | January 14, 2015 
It’s time for Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to back up his tough talk and big plans for Pennsylvania schools.
Based on the feedback from an education transition team he assembled, the Department of Education is preparing for a reboot with funding among the biggest obstacles its new leadership faces.   “The charter was to review the current state of affairs and to provide some innovative and entrepreneurial recommendations for consideration by the Secretary of Education and the administration going forward,” said team co-chair John “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D., the president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.

"The report notes that Philadelphia and other urban and rural districts across the state would benefit from a comprehensive formula, while wealthier suburban districts with fewer high-needs students would receive less, but it cautions that a formula by itself will not solve funding disparities.  "The overall level of state education spending is every bit as important as the existence of a funding formula," said Larry Eichel, director of Pew's Philadelphia research initiative."
Pew Report: Philly lags behinds several large school districts in per-pupil spending
A NEW REPORT on K-12 education funding finds that Philadelphia lags behind many big-city school districts in per-pupil funding.  The report, commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts, analyzes funding of 10 large school districts across the country in states with a comprehensive funding formula that takes into account need, demographics and poverty. (Pennsylvania is one of three states that does not have such a formula.) It concludes that in 2012-13, the Philadelphia School District spent roughly $12,570 per pupil - less than the average of Boston, Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York, Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit

"Pennsylvania is one of just three states that lack an education funding formula, and city schools have paid the price in recent years, with many unable to fund full-time guidance counselors or after-school activities. With the state now headed toward such a formula, Pew examined the funding landscape in a national context."
Phila. district spends less per pupil than most other cities
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 16, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 8:02 PM
Compared with big-city peers, the Philadelphia School District spends less per pupil than almost any other education system in the country - even Detroit's.  Philadelphia's per-pupil price tag last school year was $12,570 - the lowest of any comparable district except Memphis, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla.; and Dallas, the Pew Charitable Trusts concluded in a report released Thursday.
Detroit spent $13,419 per student, and Boston, at the top of the peer-district list, spent $18,626.

Group: Any new charter would hurt Phila. public schools
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 16, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 6:15 PM
All 40 applications for new charter schools should be rejected because additional charters would only deepen the district's financial problems, Public Citizens for Children and Youth urged the Philadelphia School Reform Commission on Thursday.  And absent new revenues, the report by the Philadelphia-based nonprofit (PCCY) said, any new charter would cause the district to cut more resources from its underfunded schools.  "Parents across the city want schools to improve, and they have every right to be impatient about the progress of reform," said Donna Cooper, executive director of PCCY. "But opening the floodgates to new charters will harm students attending district-run schools."  District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the SRC would not comment because it was in the midst of the charter application process.

Philly mayoral candidates mull charter school expansion
Should there be more charter schools in Philadelphia?
That's the question currently being weighed by the School Reform Commission as it reviews 40 applications from operators hoping to open new schools.  With the race to become Philadelphia's next mayor heating up, the candidates were asked to contemplate the issue.   Although the SRC will make its decision far before the next mayor would have any influence, taking a position on charter expansion is one way candidates can differentiate themselves in a race where all will call for the state government to increase funding and implement a student-weighted funding formula.

Study looks at question of local governance for Philly schools
the notebook By David Limm on Jan 15, 2015 02:39 PM
Is it time to abolish the School Reform Commission?
Lately, the topic has made its way from the parlor chatter of policy wonks to the eyes and ears of an education-minded public.  And state and city officials, too, have taken recent actions toward stripping control from the appointed five-member board that has presided over the School District of Philadelphia since the state took over more than a decade ago.  Gov.-elect Tom Wolf said he supported abolishing the SRC in favor of an elected school board.  State Sen. Vincent Hughes introduced legislation (later voted down) that would allow the governor, acting through his education secretary, to remove the SRC.  City Council has already shown that it wants voters to weigh in on the question.  And City Councilman David Oh introduced a bill that would lay the groundwork for a local school board.  These and other actions were noted by Research for Action in a policy brief released last month that was meant to inform the growing debate about Philadelphia school governance.  The study recounts the history of school governance in Philadelphia and b

Palmer School's charter is revoked
THE END OF the Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School is official.
The School Reform Commission voted unanimously last night to revoke the school's charter for a host of reasons, including poor academic performance and fiscal mismanagement. The school closed abruptly Dec. 31 due to financial difficulties.

MAP: A glance at Pennsylvania teacher salaries by district
Morning Call January 15, 2015
Select a district from the drop-down below and then click on the district outline on the map for an overview of teacher and administrator salary information.

"On the district’s 2015-16 required payments to the state Public School Employees’ Retirement System, Palmer said it will increase from $6.9 million this fiscal year to $8.4 million next year.
To put that into perspective, she said the district’s PSERS costs in 2009-10 represented 2.4 percent of its budget, but they are now up to 11.4 percent.  “When we say it’s not sustainable, it’s absolutely not sustainable. This is an obligation we can’t not pay. It suppresses spending in other areas,” Palmer said.  Paul Schregel, the board’s president, didn’t mince words when he commented on the pension situation, noting 70 percent of the district’s Act 1 tax increase this year will go to cover the growing bill due to PSERS."
Budget crunch in Wallingford-Swarthmore: $500,000 in savings found, another $1.2M in cuts loom
Delco Times By NEIL A. SHEEHAN, Times Correspondent POSTED: 01/15/15, 10:58 PM EST 
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Renewed scrutiny of spending in all departments has already yielded about $500,000 in savings for the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District as it develops its 2015-16 budget.  But more trimming will be needed — to the tune of $1.2 million total — to bring the nearly $74 million fiscal plan into balance, Business Administrator Lisa Palmer said during a presentation Monday night.  Staffing reductions still being determined are expected to be part of the approach.

Allentown School District has $11 million more than expected
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call contact the reporter AT 5:40 AM JANUARY 16, 2015
At the end of this school year, the usually cash-strapped Allentown School District will have $11 million more than it expected.  The administration told the school board Thursday night the district will have a fund balance of $28 million, instead of $17 million. Chief Financial Officer Jack Clark said lower costs for health benefits and workers' compensation, along with grants coming in, accounted for the extra $11 million.  But Director David Zimmerman, the finance committee co-chairman, wasn't buying it. He wanted to know how the district had this much money and didn't know about it.  "This was a result of miscalculation," he said. "How can we be in a position that we have $11 million extra that we didn't know about? We've been laying off teachers. We've been raising taxes. There's something wrong."

A New Study Reveals Much About How Parents Really Choose Schools
The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff.  It seems self-evident that parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools. As the argument goes, the overall effect should be to improve equity as well: Lower-income parents won't have to send their kids to an under-resourced and underperforming school just because it is the closest one to them geographically.  But an intriguing new study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleanssuggests that parent choice doesn't always work that way. Parents, especially low-income parents, actually show strong preferences for other qualities like location and extracurriculars — preferences that can outweigh academics.

Rewriting No Child Left Behind: Competing views
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 14  
Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee who just became the chairman of the Senate education committee, says he is determined to get a bill rewriting No Child Left Behind to the Senate floor by the end of February. To that end, he just released his working draft legislation that calls for reducing federal involvement in local K-12 education, which you can read below.
Alexander is offering two options in the draft about standardized testing. One calls for  the continuation of annual testing from grades 3 – 8 and once in high schools, and the other calls for giving local educational agencies power to determine whether it wants students to take annual standardized tests. Education Secretary Arne Duncan just outlined his priorities for a No Child Left Behind rewrite that requires annual standardized testing from grades 3 – 8 and once in high school. Sen. Patty Murray, the key Democrat on the Senate education committee, supports the Duncan/Obama position.

NSBA: School boards weigh in on pending reauthorization of ESEA
As Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and other lawmakers discuss their priorities for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) , the National School Boards Association announces its top priorities to advance student achievement and ensure all students have equitable access to a high quality education. Also in a speech Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined Administration priorities for reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the latest iteration of ESEA.  "We all agree, the current version of ESEA must be revamped, taking care not to repeat the inadequacies of the existing law," said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. "A modern ESEA must ensure that local school boards in local communities across the nation gain the flexibility essential to deliver a high-quality public education. NSBA calls for flexibility and strong local governance, among other priorities aimed at supporting student outcomes, to appear in any version of ESEA sent to the president for his signature."  With Alexander’s nearly 400-page draft bill, “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015,” under scrutiny, and in advance of congressional hearings next week, NSBA calls for a comprehensive, strategic reauthorization of ESEA that provides school districts with the flexibility and funding essential to support local community public schools and our nation’s public schoolchildren. 
NSBA urges Congress to pass legislation that will:

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

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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