Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 21: "Half the appeal of the best charters is that they are whiter and wealthier than district schools"

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 21, 2015:
"Half the appeal of the best charters is that they are whiter and wealthier than district schools"

Please take 5 minutes today to let our elected officials know 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.
PA Statewide Call-to-Action Day for Public Education Jan 21

Save the date/heads-up; details/confirmation on this as they become available...
The next Basic Education Funding Commission hearing will be held on January 29 in Greenville, Mercer County.#FairFundingPA
Tweet from Circuit Rider Pam Lenz January 16, 2015

"The biggest difference between the “horrendous” public school and its charter alternative isn’t the teachers or the curriculum, it’s the student body. ”Elite” charters, like MaST, tend to have student bodies that are significantly more white and much less likely to be enrolled in free lunch than neighborhood schools such as Disston-Hamilton."
INSIDE TAKE: Time for Real Talk on Charters
Half the appeal of the best charters is that they are whiter and wealthier than district schools
Citified BY ANDREW SALTZ  |  JANUARY 19, 2015 AT 6:00 AM
Andrew Saltz has been teaching children reading and composition for 8 years at the Paul Robeson High School for Human Services.
“Our neighborhood public school is just horrendous on every scale of measurement.” This truism, proclaimed with the same certainty as the “the sun rises in the East” or “the Sixers turn the ball over,” leads off a Daily News article previewing what could be a new charter school boom in Philadelphia.  It’s a familiar anecdote: A family reflexively rejects their public school, Disston-Hamilton, for MaST Charter, a “technological wonderland” with a 5,000 student waiting list. All reasonable parties agree (or so the story implies): We need more schools like MaST to keep middle-class families in the city.  Let’s agree: Parents choose different schools for different reasons. A child might benefit from a culturally relevant education at the FACTs charter or a focus on engineering and design at CHAD.  But charters are no longer billed as specialized supplements to district-run schools. Charters now are sold as the better option for all kids. Expand charter schools, the argument goes, and you expand the good in our city.
For years, the SRC had refused to consider applications for new charter schools, claiming –correctly– that the district cannot financially support charter expansion. But that’s about to change. Thanks to some political slap-fighting in Harrisburg (and Philadelphia’s own State Senator Anthony Williams), charter operators are once again free to make their pitch for new schools.  But charters are a simple answer to a complex problem. Which means they are not an answer at all.

Democrat Tom Wolf sworn in as Pennsylvania's 47th governor
Morning Call By Steve Esack and Emily Opilo Call Harrisburg Bureau January 20, 2015
HARRISBURG — With his wife by his side and his hand on a 19th century family Bible, Tom Wolf took the oath of office Tuesday afternoon to become Pennsylvania's 47th governor.
The soft-spoken York County businessman then pledged to be a different leader — one who listens, seeks partners and sees government as a tool, not a detriment, to building a stronger Pennsylvania through better schools and better jobs.  "We have to believe that none of us alone has all the answers, but that together we can find an approach that works," the 66-year-old Democrat said in a speech delivered at an outdoor ceremony at the Capitol. "But I want you to know that for the next four years, my administration will be dedicated to three simple goals: jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works."  Tuesday was inauguration day for Pennsylvania's new governor, Tom Wolf.  Wolf succeeds Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who became the first incumbent, from any party, to lose re-election in the modern era.

Wolf sworn in as Pennsylvania’s 47th governor
By Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 20, 2015 11:27 PM
HARRISBURG — Tom Wolf was sworn into office Tuesday as the 47th governor of Pennsylvania, telling a crowd of dignitaries and citizens at the state Capitol that he will devote his administration to the goals of jobs that pay, schools that teach and a government that works.  “With a large deficit, stagnant wages and a shrinking middle class, there is no question that our challenges are great,” he said. “But let’s remember — the last time that America went through a great transformation, it was Pennsylvania that led the nation through the great transformation, the Industrial Revolution. We led then — and we can lead today.”  The wealthy Democratic businessman, a native of a small York County town named after his family, unseated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett by nearly 10 points after capitalizing on voter dissatisfaction that stemmed in part from the incumbent’s handling of funding for public schools.

Lawmakers say they agree with Gov. Tom Wolf's goals but achieving them is where the work lies
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on January 20, 2015 at 4:39 PM, updated January 20, 2015 at 4:57 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf laid out three simple goals in his inaugural address on Tuesday of what he hoped to accomplish.  He said, "I want you to know that, for the next four years, my administration will be dedicated to three simple goals: Jobs that pay, schools that teach and government that works, and one that's worthy of our trust."  His words struck a chord with Republican and Democratic lawmakers as they filed back into the Capitol from the outdoor inauguration ceremony that took place outside the East Wing. Here is a collection of reactions we drew from them:

Read: Text of Gov. Tom Wolf's inauguration speech
Lancaster Online Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 1:29 pm 
Following is the text of Gov. Tom Wolf's inaugural address:
Chief Justice Saylor; Governor Corbett; Governor Rendell; Lieutenant Governor Stack; Speaker Turzai; President Scarnati; Leader Dermody; Leader Costa; members of the judiciary; leaders and members of the General Assembly; family and friends; and above all, my fellow Pennsylvanians:  I am so thankful to so many people here today.
I want to start by thanking Governor Tom Corbett for his many years of service to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Time to cooperate in Harrisburg, D.C.
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Today is a big day for Democratic officials following a largely Republican election year. President Barack Obama will mark the start of his seventh year in office, and Tom Wolf will be inaugurated as the 47th governor of Pennsylvania. Wolf will speak first after his inauguration at noon. The president will address a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. on the state of the union. U.S. unemployment stood at 5.6 percent last month, down from 6.7 percent a year earlier and from 9.9 percent six years ago. Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, have been stagnant, rising 1.7 percent in the past year and an average of 1.6 percent per year over the past six years. Pennsylvania unemployment stands at 5.1 percent, down from 6.8 percent a year ago and 8.1 percent when outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett took office. But the state is near the bottom in job creation and faces a $2 billion shortfall in expected revenues.

Wolf and education: Two outs, two strikes
Bucks County Courier Times (paywall) By MARK B. MILLER Posted: Monday, January 19, 2015 12:15 am
Mark B. Miller is vice president of Centennial School District and vice president of Pennsylvania School Boards Association. He is co-chair of Keystone State Education Coalition and a director on the Board of the Network For Public Education.
It looks like our new governor is stepping up to the plate with two outs and already has two strikes against him from the previous batter as he takes over the bat. I hate to talk in baseball metaphor, especially since the local sport has not been much fun to watch the last four years. However, it really seems to fit for a new governor who promises to restore $1 billion to public education.
Those first two outs were big ones. Out No. 1, there is an expected deficit of $2 billion-plus when Wolf steps to the plate. Before Wolf takes a swing at putting $1 billion back into public education, he has to find $2 billion to balance his first budget. Out No. 2, there is a Republican majority in the House and Senate, not the ideal in a commonwealth known for party politics.

"Bethlehem Area's top cost drivers in the proposed 2015-16 budget are as follows:
·         Public School Employees Retirement System, up $4.6 million.
·         Employee salaries are up $4.1 million.
·         Technology costs are up $1.35 million, including a major wireless infrastructure upgrade.
·         Charter school tuition costs will rise by $721,218.
·         Student tuition up $566,758.
·         Health care up $258,174.
As the district has gotten better at accurately projecting expenses and cutting costs, there becomes less and less to cut, Roy said.  "We've been squeezing down and squeezing down so there's not as much room to continue to reduce," he said."
Bethlehem Area School District starting 2015-16 budget process with $11.6 million budget gap
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 20, 2015 at 9:40 PM, updated January 20, 2015 at 10:23 PM
The Bethlehem Area School District is projecting an $11.6 million budget deficit at the start of its 2015-16 budget planning.  The administration is asking the school board to apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education to exceed the district's 2.3 percent cap on annual property tax raises.  "A vote for the preliminary budget does not lock us in ... to any tax rate in the future," board President Michael Faccinetto said.

Parkland School District faces $3.2 million budget shortfall
By Meghan Moravcik Walbert Special to The Morning Call January 20, 2015
Parkland is likely to raise taxes by 1.9 percent, or about $52 per year for a home assessed at $200,000.
Several hours after Gov. Tom Wolf was sworn in, Parkland School District leaders discussed the uncertainty of state education funding for the next school year.  The district is facing a budget deficit of approximately $3.2 million after pitching in an additional $4.5 million from its own fund balance. In part, that's because the district's expenses will go up, but administrators are projecting no additional funding from the state.  "We have a new governor who ran on increasing basic education funding," said John Vignone, Parkland's director of business administration, during a school board meeting Tuesday night. "Is he going to be able to do that? I don't know … he has some challenges."  The district's projected $159.3 million 2015-16 expenditures exceed its projected revenues by about $8.2 million, mainly due to increases in the state retirement system as well as planned building improvements and textbook purchases.

Why Rep. Roae is wrong about Pa.'s school funding: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor  by State Rep. James Roebuck on January 20, 2015 at 8:06 PM
REP. JAMES ROEBUCK, Democratic chairman, House Education Committee, Philadelphia
State Rep. Brad Roae is wrong about school funding in Pennsylvania ("State Rep. says more school funding is not the answer," PennLive, Jan. 15, 2015).  Inadequate school funding is a problem, and while it is related to pension costs, it's important to understand how.  First, the state is supposed to cover more than half of school districts' pension contributions. Gov. Corbett's massive funding cuts mean less of the state education subsidy school districts are receiving is paying for classroom learning.   Second, school districts are paying high pension payments now because the state failed to pay its share of regular pension payments at times in the past when it could have afforded to. That failure helped create a huge pension debt, which school districts are forced to pay for now, when they can't afford to.  

Downingtown STEM Academy students work on applications in technology
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News POSTED: 01/18/15, 5:40 PM EST
DOWNINGTOWN >> STEM Academy sophomores collaborated with Comcast on Friday to discover new uses of technology.  Susan Boardman, internships and partnerships leader at STEM, said the hands-on program introduced the sophomores to learn about the applications in technology by physically being involved, rather than being lectured.  She said the goal is to “encourage students and expose them to technology with the goal of having more students self-select to go in that direction” of careers.  She said school officials thought this program is the best way to prepare students for IT careers. She said that STEM added Information science services and systems as its fifth pathway of study.

Cheltenham parts ways with embattled superintendent
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 8:05 PM
After weeks of controversy and rancor, the end of Natalie Thomas' 19 months as school superintendent in Cheltenham came Tuesday night in a matter of seconds.
With no discussion, the school board in the Montgomery County district voted, 9-0, to part ways with Thomas - a veteran Missouri educator who had clashed with principals, staff, and union leaders since her 2013 arrival - and to make William Kiefer, a former superintendent recently hired as a "monitor" of Thomas, the substitute chief.

Senate committee to examine testing in schools
York Daily record by Associated Press UPDATED:   01/21/2015 07:01:14 AM EST
WASHINGTON - The Republican-controlled Senate education panel is beginning its revision of the landmark No Child Left Behind education law, focusing first on the thorny issue of federally mandated testing of America's schoolchildren.  Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has said an important question is whether there's too much testing in U.S. schools, and that he's open to discussion on whether the federal government should dictate standardized testing or leave it up to states.

National School Boards Assoc. post SOTU statement
NSBA website January 20, 2015
The National School Boards Association, the leading advocate for public education, shares the President’s sentiment expressed in the State of the Union address to "prepare our kids for a more competitive world."  We are pleased the President reports that "today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record," and that "our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high."  Our persistent and successful focus on E-Rate - which the President aptly describes as free and open internet for "every classroom, in every community," will modernize teaching and learning and lead to better education outcomes.
We also join the President in his concern over the need to continue to ensure the safety and privacy of our 50 million school children. As states across the country rapidly adopt their own requirements for student data privacy, the National School Boards Association supports the timely efforts of America’s school districts to protect the privacy of students and families who entrust public schools with their child’s personally identifiable information.

What Obama didn’t mention in his State of the Union speech
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 21 at 12:23 AM  
President Obama talked about a lot of things in his State of the Union message on Tuesday night, but what was striking was what he didn’t mention — at least in the education world.  The big debate at the moment in education centers around No Child Left Behind and how Congress, which is taking up a rewrite of the law, will address growing concerns about annual standardized testing that the law requires in Grades 3 – 8, and once in high school. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee who has taken over leadership of the Senate education committee, is holding his first hearing on NCLB on Wednesday.  The  implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Common Core testing is also a hot education topic, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to Obama.
Obama didn’t mention either NCLB or Common Core. Not a word.

In State of the Union Speech, Obama Defiantly Sets an Ambitious Agenda
WASHINGTON — President Obama claimed credit on Tuesday for an improving economy and defiantly told his Republican adversaries in Congress to “turn the page” by supporting an expensive domestic agenda aimed at improving the fortunes of the middle class.  Released from the political constraints of a sagging economy, overseas wars and elections, Mr. Obama declared in his sixth State of the Union addressthat “the shadow of crisis has passed,” and he vowed to use his final two years in office fighting for programs that had taken a back seat.  He called on Congress to make community college free for most students, enhance tax credits for education and child care, and impose new taxes and fees on high-income earners and large financial institutions.

Testing Time
Jeb Bush’s educational experiment.
The New Yorker BY ALEC MACGILLIS January 26, 2015 Issue
In December, Jeb Bush posted an update on his Facebook page which began by reporting that, over Thanksgiving, he and his family had “shared good food and watched a whole lot of football.” He added, “We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.”
The wording of the announcement was oddly diffident. It was widely known that Bush had been “actively exploring” the possibility of a campaign at least since the spring, when he started showing up at the gym in the grand Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, where he keeps his office, with a personal trainer and new workout gear. But there had been as yet no signs of a commitment. “It’s the telegraph people have been waiting for,” Jim Nicholson, a former Republican National Committee chairman and Cabinet secretary under President George W. Bush, said.

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 21, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit, 475 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA  15120
Harrisburg Region Saturday, March 7, 2015– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

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

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.

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

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