Wednesday, February 4, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 4: New PA education secretary outlines priorities, obstacles

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 4, 2015:
New PA education secretary outlines priorities, obstacles



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



Blogger's note: A shout out this morning to all of PSBA's Federal Relations Network members who traveled to Washington this week to advocate on Capitol Hill for ESEA reauthorization with more effective/less testing, IDEA and Title I funding and Child Nutrition.  Special thanks to my Delco colleagues who turned out in force.

PennLive: Follow the money that accompanies charter school growth: interactive map
Penn Live By Nick Malawskey | nmalawskey@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2015 at 11:30 AM, updated February 02, 2015 at 2:31 PM
Below you'll find PennLive's interactive map of campaign contributions to politicians and their subsequent support of charter schools in Pennsylvania.  Click on a Donor to see who they are and where they donated. Click on a Republican or a Democrat to see what bills they supported.
A second click -- or a click in the open space of the interactive -- will reset the map.

New education secretary outlines priorities, obstacles
Returning districts to local control, including Philadelphia, is on the Wolf administration's agenda.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 3, 2015 01:32 PM
After finding more funding to send to schools, Gov. Tom Wolf's top education priority is tackling the problems of distressed districts, including Philadelphia, according to acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.  As Wolf prepares his first budget, Rivera said that in his first weeks heading the Pennsylvania Department of Education he has also been helping the Wolf adminstration in "creating and facilitating a plan to support some of the state's neediest schools."
Rivera, who must be approved by the state Senate before taking over PDE, also said that other issues he plans to address include whether Keystone exams should remain a requirement for graduation and whether to revise the School Performance Profile, the rating system for schools.

"When it comes to education funding, his conversations with rural House Republicans often begin the same way:  "They'll say, 'You're kidding me; we're sending billions of dollars to Philadelphia,' but when you break it down per student, it's less than the city of Pittsburgh. It's less than the Springfield school district."
By listening, Delco's Adolph helps blue and red Pennsylvania hear each other
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY FEBRUARY 4, 2015
William Adolph, Republican from Delaware County, has become a go-to guy for Pennsylvania lawmakers pursuing compromise, on school funding and other thorny issues.
In Pennsylvania is a state diverse in geography, wealth, ideology and priorities. For the gears of the capital to mesh smoothly, you need personal relationships born of trust.
For the Philadelphia region, no lawmaker is more important right now in this regard than sate Rep. William Adolph Jr. (R, Delaware County). He's the sole Philadelphia area lawmaker in a leadership position with the Republican majority.
Listen as Adolph, sitting In his no-frills office just beyond view of the city skyline, Delco traffic buzzing by strip-mall sprawl, holds forth on political sausage-making:  "It's no different than any other business: You try to build those relationships based upon trust," said Adolph, elected in 1989. "If you're not going to listen to anybody, they're not going to listen to you."
He is chairman of the House appropriations committee – a very powerful post during budget season. Both sides of the aisle view him as a pragmatic moderate who serves as that rare thing, a conduit between rural tea-party conservatives and urban liberals.

"Year-to-date General Fund collections of $15.7 billion are above the official estimate by $360 million."
PA General Fund Revenue Collections Bring in $2.4 Billion
PA House Republican Appropriations Committee Economic Brief Feb. 4, 2015
General Fund revenue collections for the month of January were $2.4 billion, which is $90 million more than expected.  Collections of $127 million for corporation taxes came in below Department of Revenue rojections by $1 million. Sales tax collections of $844 million were higher than expected,  coming in $7 million above the official estimate.  The Personal Income Taxes collected were $1.1 billion, which was below estimate by $14 million. 

"Reed, who has been described as a "nonideological pragmatist," said he sees plenty of common ground with Democrats to advance meaningful bills. Some of his ideas sound downright liberal - such as ending corporate welfare and legalizing medical marijuana - and reducing school property taxes, more fairly funding schools, and addressing the pension crisis.  "We want to work with the governor to bring those issues to the fore," Reed told journalists, lobbyists, and others at the Pennsylvania Press Club last week."
New Pa. House majority leader sees bipartisan opportunities
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU POSTED: February 3, 2015, 1:08 AM
HARRISBURG - At Gov. Wolf's inaugural last month, new House Majority Leader Dave Reed was among those seated in the A-list section outside the Capitol.  After the ceremony, a state official turned to Reed, looking for a program. Reed told him he did not know where there was an extra one.  The official, whom Reed declined to name, responded by saying, "If you want your boss, the governor, to be successful, you'd better know where the programs are."  Without missing a beat, Reed replied, "My apologies, sir."  It happens that way for Reed - a lot. At 36, he more closely resembles the star athlete who just got named president of his college fraternity than a six-term lawmaker just elected leader of the Republican House majority in the nation's sixth most populous state.

Folmer: What I learned as Senate Education Committee Chair
Senator Mike Folmer's website February 3, 2015
I was honored to serve as the Senate Education Committee chair during the 2013 – 2014 Session of the General Assembly.  Education is a key role of state government.  It accounts for over 38% of the state budget.  Taxpayers have been very generous supporting education, spending $856 every second in federal, state, and local tax moneys.  “Governing” Magazine lists Pennsylvania as the 11th highest state for education spending per pupil ($13,467).
My goal as Education chair was to put students and their parents first.  As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I believe the best way to do this is with educational choice.  However, there is insufficient support for this.  As a result, much of what is done in education is maintaining the status quo.

"The 2015-16 spending increase is mainly due to expenses outside the district's control, including mandated expenses for the state pension program, special education funding, and charter school tuitions, the district said."
Taxes likely to rise in West Chester
Philly.com by Justine McDaniel LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 1:08 AM
WEST CHESTER Taxes for residents in the West Chester Area School District may increase to help fund an expected district budget gap of nearly $9 million for the coming school year, according to the district.  The preliminary budget, approved by the school board on Wednesday, totals $226.2 million, almost $7 million more than this year's budget.
The school board will be able to increase taxes by 1.9 percent and will apply for exceptions giving them a further 1.1 percent increase, though Board President Rick Swalm said they might not use the exceptions and would try to "minimize any possible tax increase."

Should all York schools be converted to charter schools? A PennLive poll
By Matt Zencey | mzencey@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 03, 2015 at 12:00 PM, updated February 03, 2015 at 12:03 PM
Monday, we posted a PennLive editorial that commented on the school crisis in York. It pointed out that, in general, converting to charter schools is no guarantee of academic success, but it does create new potential for financial exploitation by profit-making businesses and even outright fraudsters.  The editorial followed an in-depth PennLive series on the York school crisis and the rise of charter schools in Pennsylvania.
Charter school defenders can point to examples where students and families are satisfied customers who appreciate having a publicly-funded choice beyond their neighborhood school.
Charter school critics say efforts to improve public education should focus on providing well-qualified teachers in safe, well-funded schools, rather than creating new opportunities for businesses to profit from state education spending.

Op/Ed: A tale of two high schools
Growing gap between urban, suburban schools is unconscionable
The Times of Chester County By Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman, State Senator, 19th District February 3, 2015
 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
It’s almost like Charles Dickens was describing public education in Pennsylvania.
Today, the disparity between the academic services, technology and basic resources available to students in inner city school districts versus those in their affluent suburban counterparts is shameful. In fact, it’s downright outrageous.  To add insult to injury, Pennsylvania is now imposing the Keystone Graduation Exams, a series of three high-stakes exams students will have to pass to graduate. Beginning with the Class of 2017 (current sophomores) students must pass exams in Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts in order to receive a diploma.
A legacy of budget cuts, shortsighted policies and economic hard times have resulted in two systems of public education in Pennsylvania: separate and unequal. And the best predictor of a student’s likelihood of future success isn’t an SAT score or grade point average, it is their zip code.

"Finances were the topic of Superintendent Jim Wigo’s report, who noted Tom Wolf, who was sworn into office two days earlier, made education the main plank of his platform. Nationwide, the average state contribution for education is approximately 40 percent, yet Pennsylvania has fallen to about 35 percent and the reduction has caused major financial problems for school districts across the Commonwealth, he said. Pennsylvania is also one of only three states without a funding formula."
Rose Tree Media Board commits to tax increase no higher than 1.9%
Delco News Network By Leslie Krowchenko DCNN Correspondent Published: Saturday, January 31, 2015
The Rose Tree Media School Board voted unanimously, Jan. 22, to commit to a tax increase no higher than the district’s Act 1 index of 1.9 percent and not seek exceptions in conjunction with the 2015-2016 budget.  Set by the state, the index determines the maximum increase which can be levied by each school district, unless a higher rate is approved by voters in a referendum or application for exceptions is made to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The board made a request for the special education exception in conjunction with the 2008-2009 budget, when taxes were raised 4.8 percent.

Which Lehigh Valley school scored the best on the SAT?
By Jacqueline Palochko and Eugene TauberOf The Morning Call Feb. 4, 2015
Northwestern Lehigh High School can claim bragging rights for having the best overall SAT scores in the Lehigh Valley last year.   According to data released by the state Department of Education, Northwestern Lehigh had the highest SAT average in Lehigh and Northampton counties.  The students who took the test used to screen college applicants had a total average score of 1748 out of 2400. Northwestern also had the highest reading and math averages at 577 and 605.

Teacher-Evaluation Mandate Unlikely in ESEA Rewrite
Education Week By Lauren Camera Published Online: February 3, 2015
Washington - Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill agree that teacher evaluations are necessary to identify and reward good teachers, target those in need of more professional support, phase out others who are underperforming, and help ensure a thriving public education system.  But the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known in its latest iteration as the No Child Left Behind Act, isn't likely to require states to use them.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: January 28 - February 3, 2015
Submitted by fairtest on February 3, 2015 - 1:11pm 
Ever-strengthening assessment reform pressure has kept proposals to roll back test misuse and overuse at the center of education policy debates on Capitol Hill and in many state capitals across the country.  This week's news stories, opinion columns, and advocacy resources come from 22 states as well as Washington, DC


Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager
Campaign for Fair Education Funding February 2, 2015
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding seeks a campaign manager who is a strategic thinker and an operational leader. This position could be filled by an individual or firm. The manager will lead the day-to-day operations of the campaign and its government relations, communications, mobilization and research committees and work in partnership with the campaign governing board to set and implement the campaign’s strategic direction.

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

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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