Thursday, April 2, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 2: Cumberland County officials call for fair, adequate public school funding

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 2, 2015:
Cumberland County officials call for fair, adequate public school funding

"Dave Patti, president of the Pennsylvania Business Council, joined the forum as representative of the business community in the school funding campaign.
What makes Pennsylvania a profitable place to do business depends on the workforce, he said, and the quality of the workforce depends on the education that workers receive.  "If we want schools to perform well," he said, "... then you also have to pay for it."  He called for adequate funding "to prepare students to reach those standards we believe in," for fair distribution and for the accountability of school districts as well as public policy makers responsible for challenges such as prevailing wage, pensions, and state mandates."
Cumberland County officials call for fair, adequate public school funding
Penn Live By Tricia Kline | Special to PennLive  on April 01, 2015 at 10:13 PM
CAMP HILL -- A panel of Cumberland County school district officials unified their voices at a public forum, calling on lawmakers to institute a fair and adequate state funding formula that will allow them to better prepare their students and support their communities.  The forum Wednesday night was hosted by The Campaign for Fair Education Funding, whose declared mission is "to ensure Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education by 2016."  Cumberland County education and business leaders gathered Wednesday night in Camp Hill to discuss the need for an equitable and adequate formula for public school state funding. The basic education funding line item in the state budget, members of the campaign report, makes up 55 percent of the kindergarten through grade 12 education dollars provided from the state.

In Camp Hill, panel offers views, answers questions on state of school funding
CAMP HILL — A panel of experts weighed in Wednesday in support of a push to have state lawmakers adopt a reworked formula for funding basic education that is adequate, sustainable and equitable across all school districts in Pennsylvania.   Leaders from six Cumberland County school districts joined together in a forum hosted by Education Voters of PA and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley. The event was supported by the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a nonpartisan effort made up of more than 40 advocacy groups.
The campaign was formed more than a year ago when a diverse group of stakeholders determined the current lack of a definitive funding formula is jeopardizing the ability of school districts to ensure a quality education for every student, said Susan Spicka, a public education advocate. She added one approach of the campaign has been to educate the public on the need for reform in the way basic education funding is distributed.

National Study Finds Pennsylvania's Education Funding Gap among Nation's Worst; Calls Disparity "Devastatingly Large"
Campaign for Fair Education Funding: Study Provides More Evidence Pennsylvania Must Enact a Full and Fair School Funding Formula
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The Campaign for Fair Education Funding said today that a new study of the nation's growing funding inequalities between wealthy and low-income school districts, which found that Pennsylvania has one of the worst funding gaps in the nation, offers yet one more reason why state lawmakers need to enact a sustainable and fair basic education funding formula.   A research report by the Education Trust, an independent national education policy organization, found that when adjusting for the additional needs of low-income students, the highest poverty districts in Pennsylvania receive $2,491, or 17%, less per student than districts with the lowest poverty.  The report, Funding Gaps 2015, placed the state as second worst in the nation. Even when not factoring in the additional needs of poor students, the report found that Pennsylvania had the third worst funding gap of all the states. The report called the disparity 'devastatingly large.'  The report also found that Pennsylvania's share for funding public education, at 38 % of the total, ties for 4th from the bottom among all states. (The findings are based on 2012 data.)

Pa. House Republicans rejected real reforms to charter schools: Rep. James Roebuck
PennLive Op-Ed    By Rep. James Roebuck on April 01, 2015 at 12:19 PM
State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila. (, is Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee.
Students and taxpayers have much at stake as charter school reform is debated in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, a bill House Republicans passed recently (H.B. 530) would not deliver for our kids or taxpayers. That's why it passed on party lines, without enough votes to survive a potential veto from new Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.    I have worked with Republicans on numerous education issues over the years. We can achieve good things when both parties the voters sent to Harrisburg work together and have input.  I and other Democratic representatives tried to improve H.B. 530, but our amendments were rejected on party lines. We tried to include stronger protections for taxpayers against charter schools leasing their buildings from entities owned by a board member or administrator, or their families.  We also tried to undo the bill's weakening of local control - it would stack the state charter school appeals board, which has generally been even-handed and approved about 50 percent of the charter school applications that reach it. An unelected, stacked board in Harrisburg could essentially drive up your school property taxes. As a colleague has said, that would be taxation without representation.

Lawmakers seek to end PA public school prevailing wage requirements
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, April 1, 2015
A group of legislators are on a quest to end what they see as onerous prevailing wage requirements placed on public school construction projects.  Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford) has introduced House Bill 707, which would eliminate the requirement that union workers on public school construction projects exceeding $25,000 be paid the prevailing wage.  Rep. Topper led legislators and other supportive parties in a news conference Wednesday to support his bill.
Under regulations from the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act, the prevailing wage is the average rate paid for the respective craft or classification in the locality where the public work is to be performed.  “This bill would help schools save money on construction, but it would also give them the ability to put that money back to work inside of our classrooms, improving educational programs, or cutting property taxes for residents,” Rep. Topper said. “Digging back into the checkbooks of our taxpayers should be a last resort.”  He estimated that school districts between 2000 and 2010 overspent $700 million on prevailing wage projects when non-union construction would have cost much less.  Representatives from organizations representing public school officials spoke in support of the bill.

Group backing Williams' Philly mayoral bid spends more than $1 million
The independent political committee supporting state Sen. Anthony Williams for Philadelphia mayor has made another major TV ad buy, bringing the group's media spending to more than $1 million, more than all the other candidates and committees in the race combined.  The committee, called American Cities, is backed by three wealthy financial executives who are avid supporters of school choice. I wrote more about them in a post yesterday.  The three principals in the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group put more than $5 million into Williams' unsuccessful campaign for governor, and the latest ad buy is a signal that they're just as serious about his mayoral bid.  There are two other independent expenditure groups advertising in the mayor's race, both supporting former City Councilman Jim Kenney.  Forward Philadelphia, a group whose backers include the American Federation of Teachers, has purchased more than $300,000 in ad time. And Building a Better PA, a federally registered super PAC supported by other labor unions, has spent around $190,000 on media buys.

Who are the Susquehanna boys? Three guys who may pick your next mayor
the notebook By Dave Davies for NewsWorks on Apr 1, 2015 09:36 AM
The three men who will probably be the most influential players in the Philadelphia mayor's race are so media-shy that I don't even have photos of them.  The principals in a Bala Cynwyd-based securities trading firm called Susquehanna Group International are funding an independent effort to support State Sen. Anthony Williams for mayor, and they've begun with a TV ad purchase worth over a half-million dollars. 

Schools get late answer on using home instruction for snow days
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 2, 2015 12:00 AM
When the Elizabeth Forward School District asked on Nov. 4 whether it could count lessons taken at home on iPads as instructional days in snowy weather, assistant superintendent Todd Keruskin expected to hear back from the state Department of Education in 45 days.  But officials in Elizabeth Forward, where all students have school-issued iPads, and 13 other districts or schools that asked to participate in a “flexible instructional days” pilot announced by the department in September have just recently received their answer.  They can take one day “on a trial basis” during the remainder of the school year.

What went wrong with Philly Promise Academies?
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 1, 2015 01:24 PM
Promise Academies, the once-vaunted internal turnaround model for District schools, failed to thrive due to a drop in funding, inconsistent leadership, and teacher layoffs that decimated the climate and trust that the schools had built, according to a new study.  The study was written by Tonya Wolford, head of the District's Office of Research and Evaluation, and two of her colleagues. Based on data and interviews with principals and teachers, it was published in Perspectives on Urban Education, a publication of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennyslvania.   Promise Academies had been touted as an "internal turnaround" for low-achieving schools and an alternative to more radical restructuring options, particularly the conversion to charter schools. The initiative, which began in 2010, poured additional money and programs into traditionally under-resourced schools in some of the city's most impoverished areas. It was the signature program of Arlene Ackerman when she was superintendent.

Philadelphia Virtual Academy provides educational alternative
the notebook By Vernon Clark  on Apr 1, 2015 11:47 AM
At the Philadelphia Virtual Academy, principal Dave Anderson said, some blended learning -- a combination of classroom instruction and online skill-building -- is taking place, but because it is a cyber school, the greater emphasis has been on computer-based learning.
Anderson, who has been the school’s leader since its inception in the fall of 2013, noted that the school, featuring grades 6-12, has programs with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and other cultural institutions to encourage interaction with each other and instructors.  Anderson said officials want the Virtual Academy to be on par with brick-and-mortar schools in terms of student interaction.  “We want students to go on field trips. We want them to attend the prom, dances, and student activities,” he said.  The academy, with offices at  District headquarters, has seen a surge in enrollment since it opened. There were 65 students enrolled when the academy was launched, Anderson said. Enrollment grew to 300 during the 2013-14 school year. Current enrollment is about 500, he said.

Teacher furloughs, eliminating classes among Daniel Boone Area School Board budget options
By Denise Larive, Digital First Media POSTED: 03/31/15, 11:48 AM EDT 
amity >> Depending on future enrollment, staffing cuts, elimination of classes and closing of school buildings could be major decisions facing the Daniel Boone Area School Board.
The board’s finance committee met Monday with members saying enrollment projections will determine the timeline and trigger for the closure of an elementary building, whether to transfer the fifth grade class to the middle school and whether to implement a full-day kindergarten program in 2016-17 or furlough 11 teachers in the 2015-16 school year.

Real learning won't come from standardized testing
In three years at a well-regarded suburban high school, I learned to solve quadratic equations, balance electrons in chemical formulae and conjugate the French verb "vouloir" in the simple past tense.  I learned those things and then forgot them. But here's what I remember:
In my senior year at Lower Merion High School, I took Art 1, a "serious" art class taught by Bill Bahmerman, who had cerulean eyes and a scruff of white beard. Our first assignment was to draw an empty toilet paper tube standing on a sheet of white paper, with a light shining on one side.  I set up my minimalist still life on the kitchen table and picked up a thick pencil. How tough could it be?  Tougher than it looked.

Atlanta Educators Convicted in School Cheating Scandal
New York Times By ALAN BLINDER APRIL 1, 2015
ATLANTA — In a dramatic conclusion to what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, a jury here on Wednesday convicted 11 educators for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that tarnished a major school district’s reputation and raised broader questions about the role of high-stakes testing in American schools.  On their eighth day of deliberations, the jurors convicted 11 of the 12 defendants of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Many of the defendants — a mixture of Atlanta public school teachers, testing coordinators and administrators — were also convicted of other charges, such as making false statements, that could add years to their sentences.  Judge Jerry W. Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court ordered most of the educators jailed immediately, and they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Judge Baxter, who presided over a trial that began with opening statements more than six months ago, will begin sentencing hearings next week.

"Over objections from the defendants' attorneys, Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter ordered all but one of those convicted immediately jailed while they await sentencing. They were led out of court in handcuffs.  "They are convicted felons as far as I'm concerned," Baxter said, later adding, "They have made their bed and they're going to have to lie in it."
11 former Atlanta educators convicted in cheating scandal
Inquirer by KATE BRUMBACK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 5:37 PM
ATLANTA (AP) - In one of the biggest cheating scandals of its kind in the U.S., 11 former Atlanta public school educators were convicted Wednesday of racketeering for their role in a scheme to inflate students' scores on standardized exams.  The defendants, including teachers, a principal and other administrators, were accused of falsifying test results to collect bonuses or keep their jobs in the 50,000-student Atlanta school system. A 12th defendant, a teacher, was acquitted of all charges by the jury.  The racketeering charges carry up to 20 years in prison. Most of the defendants will be sentenced April 8.

Will schools lose federal funds if kids don’t take mandated tests? Fact vs. threat
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss April 2 at 4:00 AM  
I’ve recently published a number of posts on the growth and impact of the standardized testing opt-out movement. As more parents choose against allowing their children to sit down for new mandated tests, the pushback from administrators is increasing in many places, with some of them threatening consequences to students who refuse to take the assessments.  Here’s a look at what is true and not true about the consequences attached to opting out from standardized testings. It was written by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally sound.

ESEA's 50-Year Legacy a Blend of Idealism, Policy Tensions
Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: March 31, 2015
Fifty years ago this month, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act outside the former one-room schoolhouse in rural Texas he'd once attended. The new law dramatically ramped up Washington's investment in K-12 education, carving out a role for the federal government in educating the nation's poorest children.
But shortly after that cinematic ceremony, administrators in the U.S. Office of Education—the predecessor of today's separate, Cabinet-level department—found themselves with a difficult task.  They needed to write—and enforce—regulations that would ensure states and districts sent the federal dollars to communities with the highest concentrations of poverty and used the money appropriately. And while state and local governments were happy to cash the federal checks, many weren't nearly as receptive to federal direction.  Five decades and more than half a dozen revisions of the ESEA later, calibrating the proper federal K-12 role remains an elusive goal.

SCHOOL PLAY – It’s a tough subject
PCCY website March 2015
A live theatre collaboration between playwrights Arden Kass and Seth Bauer and Public Citizens for Children and Youth.  Directed by Edward Sobel.
School Play explores our attitudes toward public education using the real voices of Pennsylvanians from across the Commonwealth. 
Invited Dress Preview: April 8th @ 7:30pm
Philadelphia Premier: April 9th @ 7:30pm (only a few seats left!)
National Constitution Center 6th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia
RSVP to to reserve your seat - April 9th is almost sold out and only a few seats remain for April 8th!

Who will be at the PSBA Advocacy Forum April 19-20 in Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg?
  • Acting Ed Sec'y Pedro Rivera
  • Senate Ed Committee Majority Chairman Lloyd Smucker
  • House Ed Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne
  • Diane Ravitch
  • House Majority Leader Dave Reed
  • House Minority Leader Frank Dermody
  • 2014 PSBA Tim Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D'Alessandro and Mark Miller
How about You?
Join PSBA for the second annual Advocacy Forum on April 19-20, 2015. Hear from legislative experts on hot topics and issues regarding public education on Sunday, April 19, at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg. The next day you and fellow advocates will meet with legislators at the state capitol. This is your chance to learn how to successfully advocate on behalf of public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
Details and Registration for PSBA members (only $25.00)

Join NPE in Chicago April 25-26
Curmuducation Blog Saturday, March 21, 2015
I don't get out much. I'm a high school English teacher in a small town, and kind of homebody by nature. When I leave town, it's for family or work. But in just over a month, on the weekend of April 25-26, I am taking a trip to Chicago for neither.   The Network for Public Education is the closest thing to an actual formal organization of the many and varied people standing up for public education in this modern era of privatizing test-driven corporate education reform. NPE held a conference last year, and they're doing it again this year-- a gathering of many of the strongest voices for public education in America today. Last year I followed along on line-- this year I will be there.

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA
7:30 am: Light breakfast fare and registration; 8:00 am: Program
Harrisburg University Auditorium, Strawberry Square 326 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
Opening Remarks by Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University

SESSION I: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ACHIEVEMENT GAPS IN PENNSYLVANIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS with introduction by Rob Wonderling, President, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Member, Center on Regional Politics Executive Committee.            
Presentation by Lynn A. Karoly, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 

SESSION II: WHAT CAN PENNSYLVANIA LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING SCHOOL SYSTEMS? with introduction by David H. Monk, Dean, Pennsylvania State University College of Education
Presentation by Marc S. Tucker, President and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy 
Sessions to be followed by a response panel moderated by Francine Schertzer, Director of Programming, Pennsylvania Cable Network 
Program presented by the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth

Delaware County and West Philly Dentists to provide FREE dental care to children 0 – 18 years old during spring break the week of March 30 – April 3 for “Give Kids a Smile Day.” 

For this event, sponsored by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local dentists will provide free screenings and cleanings for children.  Give Kids a Smile Day is especially for children who do not have health insurance or who have not had a dental exam in the last six months. Appointments are necessary, so please call PCCY at 215-563-5848 x32 to schedule one starting Monday, March 16th.  Volunteers will be on hand to answer calls. Smile Day information can also be found on the school district website and on PCCY’s website -

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