Thursday, February 5, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 5: Incentive or Indecent Proposal? Should a small non-elected group of people, meeting in private make public policy based upon how much money they have?

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 5, 2015:
Incentive or Indecent Proposal? Should a small non-elected group of people, meeting in private make public policy based upon how much money they have?

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

Penn Live: The rise of charter schools in Pa.: A list of the components in the special series.
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2015 at 11:45 AM, updated February 02, 2015 at 12:57 PM
It's a plan reviled by teachers, loathed by parents, and decried by local politicians, but against huge opposition, York may become the third city in America to privatize the entirety of one of its public school districts.  How did a public school system in the midstate rise to the forefront of a national experiment in education reform? And how did an entire community lose control of its own decision-making ability? The answer to both those questions, education researchers and public watchdogs say, lies in large part on a concerted, multi-million dollar campaign over the past decade by for-profit schools to alter Pennsylvania law.  Those changes, and the industry lobbying that continues behind-the-scenes, have implications for teachers and students across the entire state. It's a subject we have tackled in a series entitled "The Rise of Charter Schools in Pa."
Here's a list of the individual posts that have been part of this package:

Charter schools, public funds: 'There is no easy or magic solution' for education in Pennsylvania
Penn Live By Kari Larsen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 04, 2015 at 12:00 PM, updated February 04, 2015 at 1:03 PM
While PennLive has reported on the rise of charter schools in Pennsylvania, commenters have also contributed their perspective on the impact of charter takeovers, the transformation of education laws in Pa. and more.

"Haver, a retired district teacher, said the SRC "should reject their offer because one small group of people who are not elected officials and meet in private should not be making that decision based on how much money they have."
But some officials in Harrisburg were thrilled.  "It's up to the commission to meet its obligation to save kids and grant the request of these families to let their kids go to quality charter schools," Turzai said."
A $35 million attempt to add more charter schools
LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 7:10 PM
In an effort to enroll up to 15,000 more students in new charter schools, the nonprofit Philadelphia School Partnership has offered up to $35 million to the city school system.
The one-time gift, to be given over three years, would consist of up to $25 million for charters and a separate $10 million offer to expand strong district schools.
It is not clear is whether the School Reform Commission will approve any new charters or accept the stunning sum, which was offered late Wednesday, and came as news to many and proved immediately polarizing.

Group offers $35M for new Philly charter schools
Inquirer by Kristen Graham and Martha Woodall POSTED: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2015, 5:08 PM
There's major news afoot in the Philadelphia school landscape: Philadelphia School Partnership is offering up to $35 million over three years to clear the way for the School Reform Commission to approve new charter schools, The Inquirer has learned.  The money would pay for new charters for 14,000 Philadelphia students. Thirty-nine charter applications await the SRC, which could decide on them next week.  Mark Gleason, executive director of PSP, said the group is trying to "take the cost issue off the table for the district."  District officials have said that approving new charter schools would mean taking money away from existing traditional public schools.  "We are trying to make it cost-neutral for the district, so they consider the applications on their own merits," Gleason said.  What's not clear is whether the SRC will accept the money or approve any new charters, officials said.

A startling proposition: $25 million to add more charters
the notebook By David Limm on Feb 4, 2015 08:15 PM
The Philadelphia School Partnership has laid down a startling proposition before the financially starved School District. If the School Reform Commission approves up to 15,000 new charter school seats over the next three years, the influential school reform group will fund the expansion to the tune of $25 million -- and throw in $10 million for the District.
As the District considers the applications of 39 new charter schools, PSP is asking that high-quality charter operators be approved, particularly those already running schools performing at or above the state's benchmark rating of a good school.

Philadelphia School Partnership pledges $25 million to aid charter expansion
The Philadelphia School Partnership says it will commit $25 million to the Philadelphia school district to help offset the stranded costs of charter expansion over three years.  The district has been weighing 40 applications for new charter schools, but the added costs of charter expansion have caused some advocacy groups, specifically Public Citizens for Children and Youth, to warn against expansion entirely.  PSP executive director Mark Gleason said he's not advocating the approval of any specific charters, only those that can improve outcomes for low-income students.

"... But now, new, stealthier sources of money are emerging.  The new funding sources share a common bond...charter schools. That's right, educating Philadelphia's kids is essentially the new slots parlors of the 2015 race for mayor. If that's not a metaphor, I don't know what is."
Attytood: Waiting on the Kids With No School Nurses PAC
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch POSTED: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2015, 5:15 PM
Money in politics is a lot like water -- it tends to pool up in the lowest places. In an election year, traditionally, politicians like nothing better than a contract fight over garbage hauling, or cable franchises, or casino licenses. That's when the campaign donations really start flying, when business executives think they can get a leg up by writing a few checks.
You may have heard that there's an election for mayor in Philadelphia this year. It's been hard to find A-list candidates, for sure -- but it's even harder to find the money. Through the end of last year, the leading four candidates had raised just 1/8th -- 1/8th!!! -- of what the Top 4 candidates had raised in 2007

PACs with charter school ties enter mayoral race fray by RYAN BRIGGS, THE NEXT MAYOR POSTED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 11:14 AM
It's no secret that the Philadelphia mayor's race has become part of a proxy war over differing educational philosophies — between "ed reformers," who have argued for increased school choice and charter school options in the Philadelphia School District, and "traditional" education advocates.   It was reported on Monday that a group of influential "ed reformers" from Bala Cynwyd, who have advocated for charter school expansion, are again lining up behind candidate and State Sen. Anthony Williams. That organization, the Susquehanna International Group, also supported Williams' failed run for governor in 2010 and has pumped almost $500,000 into two political action committees (PACs), presumably to support his mayoral campaign. But Monday's campaign finance disclosures also revealed that other ed-reform PACs are moving to back Williams. 

Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014
Six millionaires/billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.
Keystone State Education Coalition October 8, 2014

From the notebook: "A breakdown of PSP's calculations, released by PSP in an accompanying document, shows that the group assumes that each student in a charter costs the District an additional $2,000 for one year only. Others have argued that the cost to the District of each new charter seat is as high as $7,000 per student and continues for multiple years."
Philadelphia School Partnership Calculations Underlying PSP Commitment

Philadelphia School Partnership Board of Directors

Philadelphia School Partnership Investors

How many students on charter school waiting lists? Hint: It's not 40K
The inaccuracy of waiting lists makes measuring demand for charters difficult.
the notebook By Dan Hardy on Feb 4, 2015 04:50 PM
Pennsylvania charter school officials recently backed away from the claim that there are 40,000 students on charter waiting lists in Philadelphia, acknowledging that nobody knows the actual number. Many students' names may appear on the waiting lists for multiple schools, and names may linger on lists even when students are happily enrolled somewhere else.
But what about the size of waiting lists at individual charter schools? Are those meaningful numbers?  By state law, every Pennsylvania charter school that does not have enough seats for all applicants must keep a waiting list to draw from when openings occur.

Who should new Philly charters serve? Critics and hopefuls make their cases
What charter schools does Philadelphia need? That's the question the School Reform Commission is tasked with answering by selecting from this year's round of 40 new charter applicants.  The district urged charters to set up shop in neighborhoods where the neediest, most expensive to educate students live. But many new charter hopefuls, including investment banker Ben Persofsky, decided to take a different tack.

Education secretary: 'I could not pass up the opportunity to help shape public education'
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 04, 2015 at 1:03 PM, updated February 04, 2015 at 1:06 PM
Being tapped to take charge of the department to work with Gov. Tom Wolf in tackling his top priority of getting Pennsylvania's public education system "back on track" may strike some as an awesome responsibility. ut Secretary-designate Pedro Riveraconsiders it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he just couldn't pass up.  Rivera, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, spent 13 years in the Philadelphia School District as a teacher, principal and central office administrator before becoming superintendent of the 11,500-student Lancaster School District in 2008.

State public education funding short-changing students
Bradford Era By SCOTT GRAHAM Superintendent Northern Potter School District Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 10:00 am
I have been extremely fortunate to spend almost my entire career working in rural, largely farming communities. Just about every day, a student, parent or community volunteer will step up and, in some way, demonstrate that unique character that defines our community.  It’s a great job, and I love coming to work every day, but after a little more than 25 years in rural education, I am deeply concerned that our district and many others in rural Pennsylvania are falling behind.  I am very proud of our students and their achievements. Our kids work hard. Our teachers and staff work hard. I am proud of our district and I am confident that we deliver a great education.  But our state’s system for funding public education is short-changing our students. Budget cuts have hit our classrooms hard. Programs have been cut and classes have become more crowded.  We need more resources. We need a school funding formula that is predictable, equitable, sustainable, fair and adequate. Right now, that simply is not the case.

"Education: On average, state school districts spend $14,622 per student; however, the difference in the amount spent by the highest spending district ($28,419) and the amount spent by the lowest spending district ($9,803) simply is not fair. Money does matter. I know that it is possible to establish a funding formula for education that is equitable, adequate, and accountable.
Funding doesn’t come easy, but multiple revenue sources have already been discussed for years. Options include: A Marcellus shale severance tax; charter school funding reform (local school districts are currently required to pay charters over $300 million more a year than the actual costs of educating a student); and a shift from less reliance on property taxes toward a fairer progressive income tax (Pa. currently has the lowest personal income tax of all states that levy the tax)."
Another View: Democrats and Republican must work together to solve problems
By Mike Sturla, Delco Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 02/04/15, 10:57 PM EST |
State Rep. Mike Sturla is a Democrat representing Lancaster County.
Over the past four years, Pennsylvanians were able to witness the attempt by the Corbett administration and Republican-controlled Legislature to cut their way to prosperity with a focus on social and political ideology versus sound governmental policy. Together, they abandoned Pennsylvania’s education funding formula (Pennsylvania is one of only two states without a formula) and drastically cut basic education funding which led to higher local property taxes, larger class sizes and lower test scores. They passed across the board business tax cuts, cut long range capital budget projects, and assaulted workers’ rights. Pennsylvania sank from 7th in the nation in job creation to 50th. They passed legislation that the courts deemed unconstitutional; tried one-time budget funding schemes that caused the state’s bond rating to be downgraded three times; tried to sell off assets (lottery and liquor stores) for one-time gains; and slashed or privatized the state workforce, which led to delays, backlogs, and ineffective government services.

Editorial: School funding fairness needs citizen support
West Chester Daily Local POSTED: 02/04/15, 5:26 PM EST |
An editorial by Philadelphia Daily News reprinted here Tuesday made a strong case for a fair schools funding formula in Pennsylvania, a cause which we have championed repeatedly over the past year.  Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not have a comprehensive school-finance formula to distribute state money to local school districts, the editorial stated, quoting a study by Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative.  The study explains the dilemma that is playing out in school districts in urban areas or low-income towns.  That dilemma -- having fewer education dollars despite a higher tax burden on homeowners -- was the topic of a joint meeting last week in Pottstown between school and borough officials, and the result was a challenge to wage a grassroots effort for change.  Fair education funding advocate Lawrence Feinberg said change would not come easily. Feinberg, a school board member in Haverford and one of 11 circuit riders for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, described the effort to put some sort of sense to Harrisburg’s method for funding public schools as “pushing a rock up a hill.”

Capitolwire: House Education Committee rehashes PlanCon reform debate
PSBA's website Feb 4, 2015
HARRISBURG (Feb.3) — House lawmakers intent on passing PlanCon reform last session have found themselves back at square one.  The House Education Committee on Tuesday rehashed talking points most recently heard on the House floor last year when the chamber twice passed Rep. Seth Grove’s House Bill 2124on which the Senate twice declined to take any action.  Grove revived the measure this session with House Bill 210, which he described to the committee as “generally the same bill.”  Currently, the state Department of Education requires school districts seeking reimbursement for construction and renovation projects to navigate an “antiquated” 11-step process called PlanCon. The department uses 1920s microfilm technology and “hundreds of binders” to track over 300 projects totaling more than $1 billion caught in the pipeline.

State pulls 2014 SAT data, citing errors
Ethan Lott Research Director-Pittsburgh Business Times Feb 4, 2015, 12:14pm EST UPDATED: Feb 4, 2015, 5:01pm EST
The state Department of Education has pulled data listing the SAT and ACT performances of Pennsylvania high schools after errors were discovered in the data.
It was alerted to the error after the Philadelphia Business Journal and Pittsburgh Business Times posted data on their websites.

State backtracks on SAT scores, releases new data
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call February 4, 2015
Sorry, Lehigh Valley high schools. You didn't score as hot on the SAT last year as the state first told you.  Wednesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released the 2014 SAT scores, which said Northwestern Lehigh had the best – 1641 out of 2400 – followed by Southern Lehigh at 1634 and Parkland at 1633.  But on Tuesday, the department of education had released a different set of scores that high school guidance counselors and principals probably wished were true. The rankings were still mostly the same, with Northewestern at the top both days, but all schools had better scores according to Tuesday's numbers.

Want to run for school board? This event's for you
York Suburban is hosting a panel Thursday on running for the office
By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   02/04/2015 03:45:39 PM EST
So you think you want to be a school board member? Then the York Suburban School District has an event for you Thursday night.  The district is hosting a panel discussion on what it takes to serve in the elected position, featuring West York Supt. Emilie Lonardi, West York School Board member Rod Drawbaugh, and York Suburban School Board members Lynne Leopold-Sharp and John Posenau. Attendees will learn about what it takes to run for school board, what the office is like, the time the job requires, the rewards, and more, according to a flier.
Leopold-Sharp said York Suburban has been fortunate to have more than enough candidates for office in recent years, but some area board elections don't draw enough candidates for seats. The event is a good opportunity for those interested in running to learn more about the office.
Drawbaugh said serving on the school board is an important community function, so people need to understand what they're getting into.

Pennridge School District looks to tackle $10 million deficit
Perkasie News Herald By Jarreau Freeman @JarreauFreeman on Twitter Published: Tuesday, February 03, 2015
East Rockhill >> It seems upcoming 2015-16 budget talks in the Pennridge School District will center on tackling a $10 million deficit.  Pennridge, like many districts, is faced with state-mandated expenses that seem to be driving district costs upward.  Increases in employee retirement contributions seem to be one of the primary forces, district Business Administrator Kathy Johnson said Jan. 29.  According to a first look budget presentation on the district’s website, retirement contributions are expected to increase by 31.28 percent by 2019.  In addition, rising health care costs and debt service are other challenges facing next year’s budget, she explained.

Nazareth Area School District preliminary 2015-16 budget hikes taxes 2.4 percent
By Pamela Sroka-Holzmann | The Express-Times on February 04, 2015 at 9:47 PM, updated February 04, 2015 at 10:14 PM
The Nazareth Area School Board on Wednesday night approved a 2015-16 preliminary budget that calls for a 2.4 percent increase in real estate taxes.  Under the preliminary $77 million spending plan, real estate taxes would go up 1.2 mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value, so the owner of a home assessed at the district's average of $79,053 would pay $95 more in annual property taxes next year.    

What Would It Mean to ‘Fix’ No Child Left Behind?
New York Times Room for Debate FEBRUARY 3, 2015
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is up for reauthorization, and Congress is busyreviewing the federal education law, which since 2001 is often referred as No Child Left Behind. At issue are fundamental issues like whether the federal government can direct states on how to hold schools accountable.
What would it mean to “fix” the legislation?

Testing Burden on ELLs Needs Easing, Federal Officials Say
Education Week By Corey Mitchell Published Online: February 3, 2015
Libia Gil, the head of the U.S. Department of Education's office of English-language acquisition, says she's working with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to ease the burden of testing for   English-learners and their teachers.  "We do believe in annual testing, but we also believe there's overtesting. It's coming from all over. You have state assessments, you have local assessments, you have classroom assessments—some for different purposes, not all for accountability," said Ms. Gil, a veteran bilingual and dual-language educator who came to OELA in September 2013.
"Too much testing that's not meaningful and not helpful, we don't support that," Ms. Gil said last month in an interview with Education Week. "What we do support is very clear, precise measures. That challenge is to [determine] what are the most reliable and credible assessments."

EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - Sunday, February 8 at 3:00 p.m. 
Panel 1: Curriculum, Assessment and Academic Opportunities for All Students
Dr. Richard D. Nilsen, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Panel 2: Career and Technical Education
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators
Dr. Clyde Hornberger, Educational Consultant and Former Director, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute
All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by 
EPLC President Ron Cowell. 

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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