Friday, January 9, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 9: PA Senate Bill 1 pension reform likely to include defined contribution plan

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 9, 2015:
PA Senate Bill 1 pension reform likely to include defined contribution plan

"Finally, in recent years, Pennsylvania's share of state funding for schools has plummeted to a meager 33%. The national average is 46%. As the share of state funding decreases, school districts become excessively reliant on local taxpayers to pay for public schools."
Column: Midstate citizens invited to local forum on school funding
Chambersburg Public Opinion By Susan Spicka   01/08/2015 04:20:32 PM EST
On Thursday, Jan. 15, Franklin County residents are invited to attend a forum about public school funding at 6:30 p.m. at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chambersburg, 43 W. Washington St. Superintendents from the Chambersburg, Fannett-Metal, Greencastle-Antrim, Shippensburg and Tuscarora school districts will make short presentations. This will be followed by time for questions from the audience.
State senators Rich Alloway and John Eichelberger and Rep. Paul Schemel will be present in order to learn about issues our local districts face and to listen to the concerns of their constituents.  This forum is being moderated and sponsored by Education Voters of PA and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, both members of the non-partisan Campaign for Fair Education Funding. This campaign is made up of business, organized labor, charter school, traditional K-12, faith-based and community organizations, and groups representing every corner of rural and urban PA. We have come together to offer support to our lawmakers as they work to address the serious problems with our state's school funding system.

Letter: Superintendents support funding change
The Sentinel Letter to the Editor January 8, 2015
By John W. Friend, superintendent, Carlisle Area School District, and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators president-elect, on behalf of Richard W. Fry, superintendent, Big Spring School District; David F. Reeder, superintendent, Camp Hill School District; Frederick S. Withum III, superintendent, Cumberland Valley School District; Justin Bruhn, administrative director, Cumberland/Perry AVTS; Jay Burkhart, superintendent, East Pennsboro School District; Mark K. Leidy, superintendent, Mechanicsburg Area School District; Alan E. Moyer, superintendent, South Middleton School District; and Todd Stoltz, superintendent, West Shore School District
Dear Editor:
Several statewide associations representing school boards, superintendents, business managers and intermediate units are collectively supporting the efforts of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding to change the way we fund our local school districts.
In every school district in Cumberland County, school boards, business managers and superintendents are forced to compensate for inadequate state funding with additional property taxes. It is keenly unfair and puts a significant burden on our residents. Unfortunately, school districts have few options to balance budgets except to cut programs and positions, which have a direct impact on educational experience for our students. Districts that have been able to put money aside for unforeseen expenses are now depleting those reserve accounts to balance their budgets.  Districts cannot continue the failed strategy of cutting programs while striving to improve educational outcomes. The continued escalation of mandated pension costs is placing districts in Cumberland County and across the state in financial jeopardy. We need our legislature to provide funding to school districts that is equitable, adequate, predictable and fair. It is a commitment that our statewide leaders must take seriously and act on for the 2015-16 school year.  We are hopeful that the legislatively established Basic Education Funding Commission will develop a new formula to help school districts, their students and taxpayers. This work is long overdue. Join us in this important endeavor by learning more at
Thank you.

More rational method of funding
Sunbury Daily Item Opinion by Gordon Tomb, Senior Fellow, Commonwealth Foundation Thursday, January 8, 2015 3:49 pm
The Daily Item editorial (Wolf needs to close the wealth gap, Dec. 31, 2014) calls for increased state funds for education while ignoring the dysfunction of the current funding system.
We are not denying that our public schools can do better. According to The Nation’s Report Card, more than half of Pennsylvania students are not proficient in reading and math.
However, additional money is not the solution. Pennsylvania spent a record $27 billion on education in the last fiscal year. Spending per pupil is more than $14,600, which ranks among the top 12 states in the country and exceeds the national average by nearly $3,000.
Students would be better served if the existing inequity in state funding were fixed. In 2012-15, 25 districts received more than $10,000 in state aid per student while 50 districts received less than $3,000 per student.  At the root of this imbalance is a provision mandating each school district receive at least as much in state dollars as it received the previous year even if enrollment levels drop.  A better approach proposed by the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission is a weighted student funding (WSF) model that accounts for enrollment levels and student characteristics. Economically disadvantaged children, for example, would receive more funds.
A more rational method of funding — not more money — would be a good step toward a better education for students and an improved return on the taxpayers’ investment in education.

PA Senate Bill 1 pension reform likely to include defined contribution plan
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, January 8, 2015
Pension reform has been given the key moniker of Senate Bill 1 and will likely take the form of a defined contribution plan, a key player in the process told The PLS Reporter this week.
During Tuesday’s swearing-in day ceremonies in the Senate, newly re-elected President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) raised the prospects of pension reform legislation to a new level by declaring a pension reform bill will take on the prestigious title of Senate Bill 1, a more-than-symbolic gesture emphasizing the importance of the issue to the Senate.
“Moving the state pension system more in line with that of the private sector is one of the most significant means we have to gain more revenue, for needs like education,” Sen. Scarnati stated during Tuesday’s ceremony. “Pension reform will be Senate Bill 1 and a top priority this session.”
According to Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), a longtime pensionphile and current chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the pension reforms included in the bill are likely to include a shift to a defined contribution plan from the current defined benefit plan.
“I would expect that its platform would include a defined contribution plan for new school district and state workers as the foundation of the proposal,” he told The PLS Reporter.

Co-chair Pedro Rivera talks about Wolf's education transition team
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jan 8, 2015 06:19 PM
Longtime Philadelphia teacher and administrator Pedro Rivera, who is now the Lancaster superintendent, is the co-chair of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's transition committee for education. 
Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia, spent 13 years in the Philadelphia system, and has led Lancaster schools since 2008. He said in a Thursday interview that the committee is working on finding the people who can best engineer a "transformation" of the Department of Education and carry out Wolf's education priorities.
Rivera's name has surfaced in the rumor mill speculation on who might be the education secretary under the new governor. He said that he has also "heard the rumors," but that "nothing has been offered."  Still, he feels that he can have an influence on a critical issue for Pennsylvania.  Education affects workforce development, economic stability, and building strong communities, Rivera said, adding that "there is no more important issue" facing the next governor.

INSIDE TAKE: Standardized Testing Isn’t Worth It
Not the way we’re doing it. A week of tests, all for useless data.
Philly Mag/Citified BY ANDREW SALTZ  |  JANUARY 8, 2015 AT 6:30 AM
 (Editor’s note: This column is the first of many to come from Citified insiders, our roster of urban doers, experts and advocates who will offer their takes on a wide array of issues, from schooling to policing to politicking. Insiders are not Phillymag staff, and their opinions are their own. Read more about our insiders here.)
I’m cranky this week.
I spend a lot of time trying to make my classroom, Room 207 at the Paul Robeson High School for Human Services, welcoming. I have my contact information in four places. I bought comfortable chairs. I decorate with seemingly important quotes and song lyrics, I post student work, I use bright colors.  I shake hands and give high-fives at my doorway. I’ve developed a reputation for preaching, in a secular way of course, the gospel of being in class, on time (“You can’t say TGIF if you don’t have a job, and you won’t have a job without succeeding in the classroom”).  I greet a lot of students by name; I heckle and get heckled. It’s love.
My principal greets everyone at the door. Our staff has built lasting, meaningful relationships. On a typical day, you can show up at 3:30 and see kids helping, tutoring, or just...there. They don’t want to leave.  But this week, for the state-mandated Keystone Exams (3 two-hour subject tests, soon to be a graduation requirement) I tear down their work or, for certain immovables, cover the walls with opaque trash-can lining. I have to talk in hushed tones. When I greet my kids, I need to quickly get them in their seat, with a number 2 pencil. I need to make absolutely sure that they have no cellular devices.

Teaching math and science through art, and a neural net (made of children)
In the fall of 2013, Ben Volta arrived at Morton McMichael School with no ideas. He had just been hired by the school in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, in partnership with Mural Arts Program, to develop a mural with the students.  He had no lesson plan, no vision of what the mural would be. He came on the first day of class, sat down with the other 7th graders, and listened to the teacher.  "I remember them doing a lot of long division," said Volta. "I don't remember how to do that, and I was trying to figure it out as they go."
Like many 7th graders, his mind started to wander. As a kid, Volta was a terrible student, barely earning the marks to graduate from high school, but he always excelled at art. While not paying attention to long division, he remembered a short movie he had once seen called "Powers of 10," a 1977 short film made for IBM by Ray and Charles Eames – designers famous for the Eames chair.  The film is a visual experiment in representing exponential multiplication. It starts by focusing on two people picnicking in a park in Chicago, and slowly zooms out. Every 10 seconds the field of view expands to the next power of 10. It takes just a few minutes to reach the infinite expanse of the universe.

Chester Upland partnerships with charter schools nixed
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 01/08/15, 11:37 PM EST |
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> Chester Upland School District Receiver Joe Watkins said Thursday morning that his pursuit of public-private partnerships with the city’s charter schools has been called off. The development was announced at a follow-up status hearing with district representatives and the Pennsylvania secretary of education before Judge Chad Kenney.
The hearing comes one month after Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq filed a petition to remove Watkins from his position as receiver, which he has held since December 2012. At the end of that hearing, Kenney asked for Thursday’s follow up, instructing the two sides to improve their communications and to hammer out the details of an evolving financial recovery plan.
Watkins’ main focus after the December hearing was to try working with the charters, which have drawn thousands of Chester Upland students and millions of dollars from the district, contributing to a $20 million structural deficit.  Thursday morning, district Solicitor Leo Hackett told Kenney that those efforts were being abandoned due to lack of progress.

Consultant lauds Coatesville schools for reform efforts
Matthew Haverstick has led internal reviews for private and public groups across the state. They usually go one of two ways.  The leaders can choose to make meaningful changes so the crises that brought on the scrutiny do not happen again. Or they can look at the results, shrug, and go back to business as usual.  How closely the public is watching is usually crucial in determining in which direction an organization will go, Haverstick, a lawyer, said. And the Coatesville Area School District has had plenty of public scrutiny.  "They have a very caring and committed community of parents, of taxpayers who want things to turn out well but are going to keep an eye on things and keep people on their toes in the district," Haverstick said.

Montour board places superintendent on paid leave pending retirement
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 8, 2015 8:12 PM
The Montour school board placed superintendent Donald E. Boyer on paid leave of absence pending his retirement March 30, a move that was met with cheers by several dozen residents who attended Thursday’s board meeting.  Under the terms of a proposal Mr. Boyer presented to the board, he will be paid $106,250 for “full payment of all contractual amounts due to him under his contract of employment,” according to the agenda motion on the payment.
The school board offered no specific reason for parting ways with Mr. Boyer, 76, whose contract ran through September 2016. But it was clear some type of tension existed between Mr. Boyer and the newly reorganized board.

Phillipsburg School District attorney says federal commission needs to clarify position on religious literature
By Sarah Peters | The Express-Times on January 08, 2015 at 4:04 PM
The Phillipsburg School District is asking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to make clear its position on whether or not public school employees can distribute religious literature to students.  Howard Mankoff, the attorney representing the district in the matter, sent a written statement indicating as much Thursday afternoon.  "If this is indeed the EEOC's position, it means that teachers, regardless of their religion or belief system, and regardless of the wishes of the parents, can give religious literature to students," Mankoff wrote.  It's an important question to which school officials need an answer before Phillipsburg decides how to respond to the commission's proposal to resolve the matter, Mankoff wrote.

"The administration declined to release the overall cost of the plan, saying details would be disclosed in coming weeks. Federal funds would cover three-quarters of the average cost of tuition, and states would have some responsibility to provide matching funds under the plan.
Currently, there are approximately eight million U.S. community college students, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Those who attend full time pay an average tuition of $3,800 a year."
Obama Calls for Two Years of Free Community College for All Students
Proposal Will Face an Uphill Climb in Congress
Jan. 8, 2015 6:33 p.m. ET
President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed offering free community college nationwide, in effect extending government-funded education from kindergarten through a two-year degree.
“I’d like to see the first two years of community college free for everyone who is willing to work for it,” Mr. Obama said in a video posted Thursday on Facebook. “It’s something we can accomplish and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”
The plan, which would offset some of the $20 billion in annual tuition received by community colleges, will require legislation in a Republican-controlled Congress that already is at odds with the president over other spending issues. The concept is expected to formally be released in Mr. Obama’s 2016 budget proposal, due out in February.

Obama Plan Would Help Many Go to Community College Free
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Thursday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States.  The initiative, which the president plans to officially announce Friday at a Tennessee community college, aims to transform publicly financed higher education in an effort to address growing income inequality.

The Roots of Obama’s Ambitious College Plan
New York Times By  David Leonhardt @DLeonhardt JAN. 8, 2015
The roots of President Obama’s ambitious proposal for free community college can be found in a 2008 book by the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz called “The Race Between Education and Technology.”  The book, a combination of economics and history, tells the story of how the United States built the world’s most successful economy by building its most successful education system. At the heart of that system was the universal high school movement of the early 20th century, which turned the United States into the world’s most educated country. These educated high school graduates — white-collar and blue-collar alike — powered the prosperity of the 20th century, Ms. Goldin and Mr. Katz demonstrated.  “The 20th century was the American century,” they wrote, “because it was the human-capital century.”

The ugly segregationist history of the charter school movement
Popular education "reform" measures are rooted in white resistance to Brown v. Board of Education by CHRISTOPHER BONASTIA, ALTERNET JAN 7, 2015 11:35 AM EST
As a parent I find it easy to understand the appeal of charter schools, especially for parents and students who feel that traditional public schools have failed them. As a historical sociologist who studies race and politics, however, I am disturbed both by the significant challenges that plague the contemporary charter school movement, and by the ugly history of segregationist tactics that link past educational practices to the troubling present.  The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, one of the five cases decided in Brown, segregationist whites sought to outwit integration by directing taxpayer funds to segregated private schools.

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

Adams Co. PSBA Basic Education Funding Listening Tour Breakfast
JAN 14, 2015 • 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM
Jan. 14, 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the Gettysburg Area Middle School, 37 Lefever St., Gettysburg, PA
PSBA Members Register online:

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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