Monday, February 2, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 2: High hopes, high hurdles greet state's new education leaders

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3525 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 2, 2015:
High hopes, high hurdles greet state's new education leaders

Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission hearings scheduled in Montgomery County and Dauphin County
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thursday, February 5, 2015, 10 am Montgomery County, Central Montco Tech HS, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 11 am Dauphin County, location TBA

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The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

In the first year, DiGirolamo, R-18, Bensalem, estimated $226 million would be supplied to public schools and $197 million to state-funded retirement plans. 
Pa. lawmakers push 3.5 percent Marcellus Shale tax
Bucks County Intelligencer By James McGinnis Staff writer Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2015 4:00 pm | Updated: 6:21 am, Sun Feb 1, 2015.
Bensalem state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo has joined a handful of Democratic and Republican lawmakers circulating a "reasonable" plan to tax the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry at 3.2 percent and use 40 percent of that money on education.  In an email Friday to all members of the state House, DiGirolamo and three representatives outlined plans to generate about $564 million from natural gas extraction taxes in 2015.  Under the plan, 35 percent of generated tax revenues would go toward government employee and teacher pensions. One quarter would be applied to social services and environmental programs. The remaining cash would go toward basic education.

Kampf and Tobash: Fast action needed on public pension reform in Pa.
Morning Call Opinion February 2, 2015
State Rep. Warren Kampf, a Republican, represents the 157th District that covers parts of Chester and Montgomery counties. Rep. Mike Tobash, a Republican, represents the 125th District that comprises parts of Schuylkill and Dauphin counties.
The Morning Call recently published a Your View by Shippensburg University professor Brendan Finucane, who advocated public pension funds run by Pennsylvania remain in existence for all future hires and rejected a move toward a 401(k) or a defined-contribution system. Since we are the prime sponsors of legislation that would change the system in this way, we must respond.
We agree with one part of Finucane's recent column: The key issue involving pension reform — and the reason we face the current crisis caused by a near $50 billion shortfall — is "discipline." It is, in fact, a lack of discipline that has resulted in the more than $50 billion in unfunded liabilities, a series of recent downgrades in our bond ratings by the national rating agencies, and huge yearly increases in our taxpayer contributions.

High hopes, high hurdles greet state's new education leaders
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Sunday, February 1, 2015 6:00 am | Updated: 9:08 am, Sun Feb 1, 2015.
Public education in Pennsylvania is at a "time like no other," according to many educators.
Some local observers have high hopes about the fresh faces at the top: a Democratic governor who campaigned on promises of increased school funding, a Lancaster Republican leading the Senate Education Committee, and the School District of Lancaster superintendent nominated to head the Department of Education.  But those leaders are taking the reins at a time of massive challenges and partisan divide, as issues of soaring pension costs, a contested public school funding system, charter school controversies and more converge on the education landscape.

Pottstown officials gearing up for fair school funding fight
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 01/31/15, 10:01 AM EST
POTTSTOWN >> State funding for public education might seem like a dry policy question to some, but in Pennsylvania it is a no-holds-barred fight with few rules. Some Pottstown officials think it might be time to take off the gloves.    Fair education funding advocate Lawrence Feinberg came to Pottstown last week and outlined the obstacles to districts getting a fair share of the funding pie. He spoke at a joint meeting of the school board and borough council Thursday — and the more he talked, the more cynical and fired up local officials became.  “It doesn’t cost anything to have a voice,” said Pottstown School District Superintendent Jeff Sparagana. “It all depends on how loudly you speak up.”

Idea of state funding formula for school districts on the agenda in Pottstown
Reading Eagle By Paige Cooperstein Friday January 30, 2015 12:01 AM
The "circuit rider" project run by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators made a stop Thursday night in Pottstown to discuss education funding with borough council and the school board.  Circuit riders are representatives of the campaign to create a state funding formula for school districts.  Larry Feinberg, the project's advocate in Montgomery and Delaware counties, said the problem with funding schools in Pennsylvania is that it's a big state, and there's no formula to determine how much money goes to each of the 500 districts.  He talked to borough council and the school board about strategies to engage their state senators and representatives as well as the governor.

Educator: ‘Every child can learn’
13 low-income schools in Allegheny County recognized by state
By Jill Harkins / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 2, 2015 12:00 AM
Paula Heinzman, principal of Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8, insists that her teachers follow one guiding principle.  “Every child can learn,” she said. “It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to believe it.”  Ms. Heinzman proved last week that she doesn’t just believe it; she can achieve it. Schiller, where 90 percent of students receive lunch at a free or reduced price, has been recognized by the state Department of Education as one of 97 Distinguished Title I schools in the state for increasing its percentage of proficient students by 16 points in reading and 10.8 points in math between the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 school years.  These schools are recognized for placing in the top 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s Title I schools — indicating a large percentage of low-income students — for either achievement or school growth in state test scores. They also must maintain high attendance, graduation rates and test participation rates.
Title I funding is distributed to schools based on their percentage of low-income students — largely determined by the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunches — relative to the wealth of the school district. Pennsylvania has 1,772 Title I schools.

Michael A. MacDowell: Early childhood education in Pa. needs increased funding
Morning Call Opinion January 31, 2015
Michael A. MacDowell is president emeritus of Misericordia University in Dallas, Luzerne County, where he occasionally taught economics. He is managing director of the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation.
The 19th annual "Quality Counts" report in Education Week shows Pennsylvania was rated eighth for education among the nation's states. This is a significant accomplishment for which the state should be given justifiable credit.  A closer examination of the criteria used by the magazine for rating schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, however, suggests that the total score needs to be disaggregated to obtain a full picture of schools in the Keystone State.

PDE Denials for all three new cyber charter applicants posted

An Issue of Fairness
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Friday, January 30, 2015
The topic of discussion Thursday night was fairness and why its so hard to come by in Pennsylvania when it comes to funding public schools.  Two speakers -- Tina Viletto, director of legislative services for the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit and circuit rider Lawrence Feinberg -- outlined the issues for a joint meeting of borough council and the school board at Rupert Elementary School.

Advocates say Pennsylvania can do more for charter schools
By Evan Grossman | January 30, 2015 
Pennsylvania could be a lot friendlier to public charter schools.
That’s the message delivered by a pair of independent reports that call for an equitable funding formula and more hospitable policies for the state’s charter schools.

EXCLUSIVE TO THE TRIB: Treat Pennsylvania's pension crisis as an opportunity, not a political hot potato
Trib Live Opinion By Matthew J. Brouillette & Jake Haulk Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Matthew J. Brouillette is president of the Commonwealth Foundation in Harrisburg. Jake Haulk is president of the Allegheny Institute in Castle Shannon.
Crisis management can be broken down into three general phases: identifying the problem, developing the best plan to fix it and executing that plan while adjusting as needed.
It's a simple framework that can be applied to the smallest or largest organizational problems. Without doubt, Pennsylvania taxpayers face a big one — a public pension crisis that ranks among the worst financial problems in the state's history.  The problem: Pennsylvania's two largest public pension plans (for state employees and public education employees) have unfunded liabilities of more than $50 billion. And we all are co-signers on this massive debt.
Philly SRC asks for more time to decide on charter applications
In an email that went out today, the Philadelphia School District's Charter Office requested that new charter applicants sign a waiver giving the School Reform Commission (SRC) until June 1, 2015 to vote on their application. That's four months longer than allowed by Pennsylvania's Charter School Law. According to that law, the authorizing body — in this case the SRC — must vote on applications within 75 days of the first hearing. That deadline is in mid-February. The public is allowed to submit written comment until February 1 by emailing

SHELVED: School librarians say they are a vital part of education. But budget cuts have taken a toll: Only 11 remain in Phila.
The children who attend Spring Garden Elementary often come home to no books, let alone e-readers or Internet access. Some live in a nearby homeless shelter.  So when Laureal Robinson became Spring Garden's principal five years ago, she had a goal in mind: to reopen the school library with a certified librarian.  "We had to adopt a back-to-basics approach," Robinson said. "We had to make it as easy as possible for children to get books in their hands."

Investment in schools is an investment in the city Opinion by PHIL GOLDSMITH POSTED: Sunday, February 1, 2015, 1:09 AM
Phil Goldsmith has been managing director of Philadelphia and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District
Here's a simple question for the next mayor: What are you going to do about public education?
The district is woefully underfunded, not graduating enough students; too many of those who do aren't reading and writing at grade level. There is a stalemate between the district and teachers' union, and the members of the school board you inherit will have been selected by a previous governor and the previous mayor. One plus: We have a good superintendent.

To improve city schools, consider all options Opinion by FARAH JIMENEZ POSTED: Sunday, February 1, 2015, 1:09 AM
Farah Jimenez is a member of the School Reform Commission, a community advocate, and a former member of the Republican State Committee. The views expressed are the author's, and not those of the School Reform Commission.
In the debate between district-run schools vs. charter schools, should the next mayor pick a side?
Absolutely!  The next mayor should stand on the side of Philadelphia's schoolchildren.
Too often, when we engage in the education debate, we do so in bilateral fashion: us vs. them. When it comes to funding, we argue city vs. state. On labor issues, it's unions vs. administration. With governance, it's shared (School Reform Commission) vs. local (elected or appointed school board).  These are interesting debates, but they are more successful at filling newspaper columns and blogging space, and in generating billable hours in courtrooms, than in solving the education crisis in Philadelphia.

Phila. schools plan to hire 400 teachers in 2015-16
The Philadelphia School District plans to hire at least 400 teachers for the 2015-16 school year.
For a district that has spent the last several years closing schools and laying off teachers, that's a notable thing.  Particular areas of need, officials said, are secondary math and science, special education, art, music, and upper elementary school teachers.

EDITORIAL: 'Fair share' fees allow non-union teachers to have their cake and protest it, too
By Express-Times opinion staff on January 30, 2015 at 6:30 AM, updated January 30, 2015 at 6:33 AM
Is it fair to ask public school teachers who opt out of union membership to pay a "fair share" fee -- usually a fraction of union dues -- to support the union's collective bargaining work on behalf of all teachers?  The U.S. Supreme Court says "yes" -- with some stipulations about not using fair-share money for union-directed political activities.  Richard Coppock, a Bethlehem Area School District teacher, says "no," and he reiterated his objection to the fair-share fee -- $500 a year, under a new teacher contract -- to the school board Wednesday night.

Teachers union, think tank propose compromise on testing of U.S. students
By Emma Brown / The Washington Post February 1, 2015 11:57 PM
WASHINGTON — As Congress undertakes its most serious effort to rewrite the No Child Left Behind education law, backlash against standardized testing has prompted vigorous debate about whether the federal government should continue requiring annual exams.

Push back on testing
Trib Live By Michelle Malkin Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Moms and dads, you have the inherent right and responsibility to protect your children. You can choose to refuse the top-down Common Core racket of costly standardized tests of dubious academic value, reliability and validity.  I'm reminding you of your right to choose because the spring season of testing tyranny is about to hit the fan. Do you object to the time being taken away from your children's classroom learning?
Activists Share Strategies for 'Opting Out' of Tests
At conference, anti-testing groups strategize on ways to grow their ranks
Education Week By Liana Heitin Published Online: January 27, 2015
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Anti-testing advocates meeting here to advance their cause tossed around a list of protest strategies: Twitter campaigns, parent test-taking parties, quiet conversations in the teachers’ lounge, organized walkouts.  The 75 or so parents, educators, union leaders, and self-titled “agitators” at the United Opt Out National: Standing Up for Action conference, which took place over a weekend earlier this month, strategized on getting more people involved in the growing practice of “test refusal”—in the hope of ultimately ending what they consider punitive and overly burdensome testing practices in K-12 schools.  “You have to know this is an act of civil disobedience,” Cindy Hamilton, a parent and the co-founder of Orlando Opt Out, told a group of attendees. “This is not for the faint of heart.”

The Activity Gap
Access to after-school programs is growing more unequal, and that's pushing disadvantaged kids further behind.
The Atlantic by ALIA WONG JAN 30 2015, 9:00 AM ET
Imagine two young adults who, despite living in the same city, come from very different worlds.
One is named Ethan—a freshman at an elite college near Austin, Texas, pursuing a degree in engineering. He grew up with supportive middle-class parents who put him in extracurriculars his whole life: Boy Scouts, soccer, track, orchestra. Instead of letting Ethan watch TV and play video games, his dad took him on hiking trips to New Mexico where they would track bears and practice navigation. His father also volunteered as the school orchestra’s bus driver. Ethan’s mom, meanwhile, strived to raise an engaged citizen; she even helped him register to vote when he turned 18.  Then there’s Nicole, who also lives in Austin—though in an area far less inviting than the spacious private housing development where Ethan was raised. At 18, Nicole is a single mother who works in the kitchen at a three-star hotel making a wage that’s hardly enough to cover food, diapers, and clothes from Goodwill. She recently borrowed $9,000 to help pay for a year-long program at a for-profit college, but whether that degree will get results—whether she’ll even complete the course—is debatable.

House Will Vote on NCLB Reauthorization Last Week in February
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Lauren Camera on January 29, 2015 3:02 PM
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act the week of Feb. 24, according to a memo from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that outlined the chamber's schedule for the month of February.  That announcement is in line with the timetable John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, outlined last week, and means that his committee will be marking up a bill in the coming weeks.  Kline also said last week that he plans to forego holding hearings on the reauthorization and instead use the bill he ushered through the House in the 113th Congress, the Student Success Act, as the starting point for the legislative process.

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

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Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania Education Funding Lawsuit website
Arguing that our state has failed to ensure that essential resources are available for all of our public school students to meet state academic standards.

Sign up for National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Network
Friends of Public Education

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

PILCOP: Children with Emotional Problems: Avoiding the Juvenile Justice System, and What Does Real Help Look Like?
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
This session will help you navigate special education in order to assist children at home not receiving services, those in the foster care system or those in the juvenile court system. CLE and Act 48 credit is available.  This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice, a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers.  Click here to purchase tickets  

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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