Friday, February 6, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 6: "no evidence that York's existing charters consistently or meaningfully outperform the city's district-run schools"

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 6, 2015:
"no evidence that York's existing charters consistently or meaningfully outperform the city's district-run schools"

Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission hearing scheduled in Dauphin County
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 11 am Dauphin County, location TBA

School districts budgeting as though Corbett were still in office
By Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call February 5, 2015
Tom Wolf rode to victory as Pennsylvania's new governor on a wave of anger over school funding cuts and his promise to make education a priority.  But local school officials, in the throes of budget season, aren't exactly dreaming of dollar signs.  Instead, they are acting as though Tom Corbett were still in office, readying 2015-16 budgets that continue to anticipate flat state funding, tax hikes and more dipping into cash reserves.  The reason: School business managers are well aware that Wolf inherited a state budget deficit of about $2 billion, which they say is likely to put a crimp in his plans to bump up state subsidies for schools.

WHYY Radio Times Friday February 6, 10 am: The ongoing debate over charter schools in Philadelphia; Cooper/Gleason
Radio Times with Marty Moss Coan FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6
Hour 1 Guests: Donna Cooper and Mark Gleason
Last year, when the Pennsylvania legislature approved Philadelphia’s cigarette tax to help fund City schools, lawmakers also required the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to open the charter school application process for the first time since 2007. As a result, in recent months, 39 organizations have applied to launch charter schools in the City and the Commission is in the process of reviewing those proposals. Currently roughly 30 percent of Philadelphia public school students attend charter schools and with the possibility of their expansion, the contentious debate over charter schools has been reignited. This morning on Radio Times, we’ll look at both sides of the issue. Our guests are DONNA COOPER executive director of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), an education advocacy group which opposes opening new charter schools and MARK GLEASON, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership which advocates for charters.

Too Good To Refuse?
A closer look at PSP’s $35 million offer to the School District of Philadelphia.
PhillyMag Citified BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  FEBRUARY 5, 2015 AT 4:00 PM
Yesterday, the Philadelphia School Partnership made what seemed, at first blush anyway, like an offer too good for the School District to refuse: $35 million, in exchange for the authorization of enough new charter schools to educate at least 11,000 kids.
“We are trying to make it cost-neutral for the district, so they consider the applications on their own merits,” PSP Executive Director Mark Gleason told the Inquirer’s indefatigable Kristen Graham. The donation was supposed to “take the cost issue off the table.”
The “cost issue,” if you haven’t been following closely, is the big financial hit the district takes every time a kid enrolls in a Philadelphia charter school. Charter enrollment growth is one of the biggest single reasons the district is in such extreme financial distress, which is why the School Reform Commission hasn’t granted permission for a new charter school to open in seven years.
Now, though, the SRC is weighing applications for 39 new charter schools, and the board is under intense political pressure to approve at least some of those applications, in spite of the financial problems that charter growth creates.

School district questions math of pro-charter group
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM AND MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Thursday, February 5, 2015, 5:50 PM POSTED: Thursday, February 5, 2015,
The Philadelphia School District says it would cost as much as $500 million to enroll 15,000 more students in new charter schools - about 20 times more than the amount offered by a private group.  The Philadelphia School Partnership this week announced a gift of $25 million to the beleaguered school system to "take the cost issue off the table" and encourage the district to consider 39 charter applications on their merits alone.  But were the SRC to actually add those charter seats, the actual price tag over six years would be much higher.  "A quick review shows that a half a billion dollars is not off the mark," said the spokesman, Fernando Gallard.

Gift to expand Philly charters could come with costly strings attached
The region's most prominent education reform advocates want to give the Philadelphia School District millions of dollars to help it expand charter schools.
"It has become clear that cost concerns are hindering the [School Reform Commission] from making decisions about the charter applications in the best interest of kids and families," said Mark Gleason, head of the Philadelphia School Partnership, in a statement announcing the plan.
But critics say PSP's proposed donation would cover just a fraction of the new costs charters create, potentially adding tens of millions of dollars annually to the district's expenses.

Follow the money that accompanies charter school growth: interactive map
Penn Live By Nick Malawskey | 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 Republicanor 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.

"Research for Action's analysis of state data shows that York City School District is home to the highest concentration of non-English speakers in the state: More than 20 percent of York City's students are classified as English Language Learners, surpassing rates for Reading, Lancaster, Allentown, and Philadelphia.  And fully one-fifth of York's enrollment are special education students, also much higher than the state average.  York students are also some of the poorest in Pennsylvania: 83 percent of students in York's seven district schools are economically disadvantaged, a high rate even in the face of historic child-poverty levels nationwide."
There's no proof that York's kids would be better off in a charter district: Lucas Westmaas and John Sludden
PennLive Op-Ed  By Lucas Westmaas and John Sludden on February 05, 2015 at 12:00 PM, updated February 05, 2015 at 12:02 PM
Lucas Westmaas and John Sludden are Policy Analysts at Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit education research organization. 
In Tom Wolf's first weeks as Governor, he is confronted with a challenge that hits close to home: the future of the York City School District, which is a court decision away from becoming the first all-charter district in the commonwealth.  Several interest groups have simplified this debate into a choice between a failed status quo and a wholly untested district overhaul. Unfortunately, the situation in York defies such simple categorization.   It is true that the academic performance of York's public schools, as measured by standardized test results, has consistently been among the lowest in the state. But test scores don't tell the whole story.

"To be successful, the commission must develop a plan that reflects the actual cost to educate children with varieties of needs. The state has set performance standards for schools and students, and hundreds of districts are struggling to meet them because of inadequate resources. In districts with large numbers of low-income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities, funding needs are much greater. Districts like Philadelphia that operate a dual system of traditional and charter schools also incur higher costs."
Editorial: Wanted – A fair funding formula
By the Notebook on Feb 5, 2015 10:59 AM
Since last July, a Basic Education Funding Commission has been collecting testimony across the state, charged by Harrisburg with developing a rational system for distributing state education aid. Their work is urgently needed.  Not only is current state funding for most Pennsylvania districts inadequate, it is unpredictable and subject to political manipulation. And any system that makes taxpayers in poor districts pay tax rates two or three times higher than in affluent districts and still end up with less revenue is deeply flawed. The system relies far too much on local tax dollars.
But simply engineering a consistent way to divvy up existing state dollars will not resolve the fundamental flaws in Pennsylvania funding.

Pa. Lawmakers Holding Montco Hearing on Revising Statewide Public School Funding Formula
CBS Philly By Jim Melwert February 5, 2015 1:23 PM
LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) — A hearing was taking place today at a Montgomery County technical school, held by a group of Pennsylvania state lawmakers  tasked with the goal of coming up with a new formula for distributing state education funds.
It’s part of an ongoing series of meetings of the Basic Education Funding Commission, created by a 2014 law with the goal of coming up with a formula for distributing state funds to school districts.
In attendance today was Shirlee Howe, a mother of three children in the Lower Merion School District, who said she hopes to convince lawmakers that state funding fair to all districts is needed as reductions in state funds have forced districts to hike property taxes.

 “The State cannot continue to hold all students and schools to the same high academic standards and performance while the basic education funding is so disproportionately unfair, inequitable and also contributes to the academic gaps in student’s academic achievement.”
Montgomery County resident Bernadine Ahonkhai
Montgomery County parents urge legislators for fair education funding
By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald POSTED: 02/05/15, 3:46 PM EST |
PLYMOUTH>> As members of the Basic Education Funding Commission met inside the Central Montgomery County Technical High School to discuss the role of vocational schools in public education, local parents and faith leaders met outside the school to urge legislators to come up with a fair funding formula for K-12 public education.  “That there is wide disparity and inequity in the current funding formula is undisputable, with the most disadvantaged, poorer schools receiving only about half as much per pupil as their affluent counterparts,” said Montgomery County resident Bernadine Ahonkhai. “The state cannot continue to hold all students and schools to the same high academic standards and performance while the basic education funding is so disproportionately unfair, inequitable and also contributes to the academic gaps in student’s academic achievement.”

Editorial: Funding formula for state schools is out of date
West Chester Daily Local Editorial POSTED: 02/04/15, 7:07 PM EST |
New Gov. Wolf has made increasing state aid to public education one of his priorities, but to do anything about it now would be putting the cart before the horse.  Before the debate begins in Harrisburg over how much to give the public schools, a decision should be made on the formula by which the money is handed out.  A special commission is looking into the matter and its recommendations are due in June.  One thing everyone agrees on is that the current method is out-of-date and unfair. In fact, it isn’t really even a formula.  As a recent study from Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative pointed out, Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not have a comprehensive school-finance formula to distribute state money to local school districts.

Still no question that students at Overbrook aren't being adequately prepared for Keystones.
Analysis of Resources Available to Students at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia and B. Reed Henderson High School in West Chester
Tweet from Senator Andy Dinniman February 5, 2015

Case Updates: PA School Funding Lawsuit Oral Argument March 11, 2015
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia website
Oral argument in our School Funding Lawsuit has been scheduled for March 11, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. in Harrisburg.
We ask that you mark your calendars to attend to show your support for school funding. This case will be heard before the entire court in Courtroom 5001 at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center.
We filed this lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on November 10, 2014 on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children in Pennsylvania the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and thrive in today’s world. We are conducting this litigation in partnership with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and a national, private law firm.  Click here to learn more about this case.

Williams faces tough questions on school choice in bid for Philly mayor
Philadelphia mayoral candidate Anthony Williams went to a laid back monthly meetup above a South Street bar last night to answer voter questions. But it was state Sen. Williams' position on education that took center stage.   The progressive political group Philly for Change held its candidates night in a room covered in graffiti-style writing above Tatooed Mom's, where old bumper cars doubled as chairs. The buttoned-down Williams seemed a bit out of his element.
"I'm grateful that I was invited here tonight, because I've never been in this room before," Williams said.  Williams has been backed by donors who are vocally pro-charter and pro voucher and he describes himself as the "school choice candidate." Not a popular stance with the crowd.

Years later, advocates win transparency battle with Philly district about school closures
n 2012, the School District of Philadelphia sought the long-term planning advice of a management consulting firm hired with private money to help it chart a plan for the district's long term fiscal health.  The William Penn Foundation, a major Philadelphia-based philanthropic organization (which provides funding to NewsWorks/WHYY), provided funding for the Boston Consulting Group to formulate a strategy that included finding management efficiencies, negotiating labor savings and, most controversially, closing schools.  The BCG's recommendations, though, were kept out of the public domain — sparking a debate about how much transparency should there be when a public entity formulates its future plans.  Last week, after a years long court battle, transparency advocates declared victory as the district decided to abandon the legal case and release the long-undisclosed document regarding school closures.

Fast Action Needed on Public Pension Reform
PA House republican Caucus 2/4/2015
By State Reps. Warren Kampf (R-157) and Mike Tobash (R-125)
It’s an ocean of red – a flood of debt that threatens the financial stability of our school districts for the next 30 years. The news is no better for the state government system.   The systems that currently provide state workers and school district employees with their pensions are hemorrhaging. Our state is facing a more than $50 billion debt, and taxpayers are increasingly responsible for the required cash transfusion.
Following the stock market bubble in 2001 that overinflated the investment returns earned on our pension funds, legislators increased the payouts for state and school employees. Subsequent budgets then failed to fund the systems with sufficient dollars to save for those promises. After the market crash of 2008, huge sums were obliterated and the unfunded liability exploded, now totaling more than $50 billion. This is not only unfair, but it’s also unsustainable.
Both of us are working to make fundamental changes to this system so we can move our state and school district retirement systems into the modern times. We need to have a complete or a significant move to a defined contribution or 401(k)-style public pension plan so we can reduce overall costs, pay off debt and shift the risk from taxpayers. 

Haverford school board lends support to basic ed funding formula
Delco News Network By Lois Puglionesi Thursday, February 05, 2015
HAVERFORD TWP. >> School directors unanimously endorsed a resolution board member Larry Feinberg introduced last week, calling for the General Assembly to take legislative action to establish a basic education funding formula that is “equitable, adequate, comprehensive and consistent.”  The resolution notes that the state’s share of funding to public education has decreased from 50 percent to less than 35 percent, while state and federal mandates increase annually, forcing local taxpayers to make up the difference.  Additionally, the resolution states that the absence of a reliable, fair and transparent formula has resulted in “great disparities in how state education funds are distributed to school districts.” This has harmed school districts’ ability to fairly and adequately provide resources to meet students’ needs, especially the impoverished and disabled.  Feinberg, co-founder and chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition and chair of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, also provided an update regarding ongoing efforts to address the issue.

"Other variables in the budget, which will be presented to the school board Feb. 10 for adoption, are increases in health care costs and special education expenses for the district. The 20.7 percent increase in retirement contributions for the coming school year is one thing that is already set."
Preliminary Boyertown school budget shows 6% tax hike
By Kaitlyn Foti, The Mercury POSTED: 02/03/15, 10:24 PM EST | UPDATED: 57 SECS AGO
Boyertown >> The Boyertown Area School District is grappling with a $3.6 million deficit in its preliminary 2015-16 budget.  To cover the deficit in the $107.4 million spending plan without cuts or additional state funding, a property tax increase of about 6 percent would be needed.
The numbers change drastically between the preliminary and the final budget, Finance Director David Szablowski pointed out, but this year, the biggest question mark is Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget presentation scheduled for March.  “Because he’s new, he gets an extra month to make that presentation,” Szablowski said. “He got elected saying he wants to provide adequate funding for schools.” 

"Politically, the provision could cost Sen. Alexander the support of some organizations that might otherwise embrace the overall push in the draft legislation to scale back the federal footprint on such matters as accountability, teacher quality, and school turnarounds. Part of the reason: Those education organizations see it as stalking horse for a full-fledged voucher program."
Red Flags Raised on Plan to Let Title I Aid Follow Students
Element in ESEA bill riles up voucher foes
Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: February 3, 2015
Education groups are fighting a proposal on Capitol Hill that would allow federal funding to follow disadvantaged students to the public schools of their choice—an idea that school district advocates see as a pit stop on the highway to Voucherville.  The policy—known as "Title I portability"—is included in a draft bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee.  Under the proposal, which was also included in an ESEA renewal bill that passed the House of Representatives with only Republican support in 2013, states would have the option of allowing federal money for disadvantaged children to follow students to any public school.

"Charter school critics argue that charters amount to a privatization of public schools because they are run by organizations that don’t answer to the public and in some states aren’t subject to key rules that apply to government agencies, such as open meetings and public records laws. Advocates for charter schools, meanwhile, say that charter schools are unequivocally public schools because they are open to all children and don’t charge tuition."
Are charter schools public or private?
Washington Post By Emma Brown February 4 at 12:29 PM  
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is leading the Senate’s effort tooverhaul the nation’s main federal education law, committed something of an education-reform faux pas Wednesday morning when he pushed back against the suggestion that all charter schools are public schools.
“There are some private charter schools, are there not?” Alexander said, speaking at the Brookings Institution during an event about school choice.
Charter schools are publicly funded but run independently by nonprofits or for-profit companies. They enjoy strong bipartisan support in Washington, and the federal education department treats them as public schools, but whether they should be called public or private is still a matter of debate. In calling them private, Alexander — a champion of charters and school choice — crossed a semantic battle line.

"But as she learned more about the organization, Ms. Duncan lost faith in its short training and grew skeptical of its ties to certain donors, including the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic group governed by the family that founded Walmart. She decided she needed to go to a teachers’ college after graduation. “I had a little too much confidence in my ability to override my lack of experience through sheer good will,” she said."
Fewer Top Graduates Want to Join Teach for America
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH FEB. 5, 2015
Teach for America, the education powerhouse that has sent thousands of handpicked college graduates to teach in some of the nation’s most troubled schools, is suddenly having recruitment problems.  For the second year in a row, applicants for the elite program have dropped, breaking a 15-year growth trend. Applications are down by about 10 percent from a year earlier on college campuses around the country as of the end of last month.  The group, which has sought to transform education in close alignment with the charter school movement, has advised schools that the size of its teacher corps this fall could be down by as much as a quarter and has closed two of its eight national summer training sites, in New York City and Los Angeles.

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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