Friday, April 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 24: Are you registered for the school funding forum in State College or Delco next week? Are you planning one in your region?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 24, 2015:
Are you registered for the school funding forum in State College or Delco next week?  Are you planning one in your region?

Central PA education forum Tuesday, April 28, 6:30-8:30
Grace Lutheran Church (in Harkins Hall), 205 S. Garner Street, State College
Dr. Cheryl Potteiger, superintendent, Bellefonte Area School District
Ms. Kelly Hastings, superintendent, Keystone Central School District
Mr. James Estep, superintendent, Mifflin County School District
Mr. Sean Daubert, CFO, Mifflin County School District
Dr. Robert O’Donnell, superintendent, State College Area School District
Mr. David Hutchison, school board member, State College Area School District
Ms. Cathy Harlow, superintendent, Tyrone Area School District
Mrs. Linda Smith, superintendent, Williamsburg Community School District
Register HERE to attend the central PA education forum.

Southeastern PA Regional Meeting on School Funding
Wednesday April 29th 7:00 pm Springfield High School Auditorium, 49 West Leamy Avenue, Springfield, PA 19064
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s educational opportunities, our local taxes and our communities.
Hosted by Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, Education Voters of PA, the Keystone State Education Coalition and Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Mr. Frank Agovino, school board president, Springfield School District and Board of Directors, Delaware County Chamber of Commerce
Dr. James Capolupo, superintendent, Springfield School District
Dr. Wagner Marseille, Acting Superintendent, Lower Merion School District 
Mr. Joe Bruni, superintendent, William Penn School District
Dr. Richard Dunlap, superintendent, Upper Darby School District
Mr. Stanley Johnson. Executive Director of Operations, Phoenixville Area School District
Ms. Susan Gobreski, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA
Moderator: Mr. Lawrence Feinberg, Chairman, Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council
Registration HERE to attend.

Editorial: Fair funding for every student
Bucks County Courier Times Editorial Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2015 12:15 am
There probably isn’t a resident of Pennsylvania who wouldn’t agree that every child in this state deserves an equal opportunity at success. Yet we have a funny way of showing it.   Given that success is largely dependent on a good education, you might expect the state to fund schools in a way that equalizes how much is spent to educate children across the state, so that kids in one district aren’t getting substantially less than kids in another district.  In theory, that’s what the state formula for distributing education funds is supposed to achieve.  In reality, it’s not even close. That’s mainly because where family incomes are high and homes expansive, school districts grab a lot more in local property taxes. This creates a funding imbalance. In fact, funding of Pennsylvania public schools is the most unequal in the nation. That’s what the research shows.  And so kids from wealthy families living in elite neighborhoods — in other words, kids with a lot of advantages — attend public schools likewise blessed with the advantages money can buy. Ditto success. Who’s not getting a fair shake? Urban schools and their many minority students.

Lehigh Valley school leaders press for fair and adequate state funding
A forum on school funding was held at Penn State Lehigh Valley Wednesday night.
By Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call April 23, 2015
For years, local school district officials have been complaining about the lack adequate funding from the state. At a forum Wednesday, citizens were urged to add their voices to those calling for change.  The forum was organized by Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit group advocating for more money and equitable funding for public schools.  Its executive director, Susan Gobreski, told a crowd of about 50 people at Penn State Lehigh Valley it's not enough for the state to develop a fair formula for funding schools if the Legislature doesn't allocate enough money to fund them.

Educators discuss state funding's affect on students, taxpayers
 Author: Lou Gombocz, Jr. , Reporter, Published: Apr 23 2015 08:05:38 AM EDT
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - A panel of three local school district superintendents, school board directors, and education officials discussed how current state funding of public schools affects students' educational offerings in addition to its growing burden on taxpayers at a public forum hosted by the Education Voters of Pennsylvania Wednesday evening at Penn State Lehigh Valley. Parkland School District school board director Roberta Marcus offered introductory comments and introduced panelists Dr. Joe Roy, Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) superintendent, Stacy Gober, BASD chief financial officer, Dr. Russ Mayo, Allentown School District superintendent, Rich Sniscak, Parkland School District superintendent, Russ Giordano, Salisbury Township school board director, and Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of PA. Marcus said the purpose of the forum was to inform, enlighten, and encourage public involvement and comment on how their public schools are funded.
Read more from at:

IFO report says Gov. Wolf’s revenue proposals will increase taxes across all income levels
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, April 23, 2015
The Independent Fiscal Office Thursday released a required analysis of revenue proposals articulated in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal and finds that the proposals will raise taxes on Pennsylvanians among all income brackets.  The report indicates that by FY 2019-2020, the proposals will increase net state and local tax revenues by $5.2 billion, which comprises of $9.8 billion in tax increases and $4.6 billion in tax and rent relief.  “Those new funds will be used to support additional spending on various priorities identified in the Executive Budget,” the report reads. “The proposals implement substantive changes to the current tax system and they will have disparate impacts across the Commonwealth based on a resident’s income level, consumption patterns, and school district of residence.”

Pa. scholarships funded through tax credits lift some, raise questions for others
One night in March, Kristen Lewis was working her cell phone as one of about 50 volunteers for the Children's Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia. They were calling families to let them know they had won a scholarship to take their kids out of low-performing public schools.   In between calls, she got a call from a blocked number.  "I'm like, 'Shut the front door. Are you serious?'" said Lewis, who teared up when she got off the phone. Her own son had received a four-year scholarship.  This year, about 9,000 families applied for the organization's K-8 scholarships. Through a lottery system, 2,000 of those families landed funds, totaling up to $2,350 annually, for private or religious schooling.

Pa. lawmaker wants to put chronically underperforming schools under state control
There's a general rule in Harrisburg: Republican leaders don't authorize more education spending without demanding stricter accountability measures.  Case in point, on the heels of Gov. Tom Wolf's proposal to dramatically increase state aid for public schools, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) will soon introduce a plan to accelerate the transformation of chronic underperformers.  Districts would be given wide leeway to implement reforms. They could ignore teacher seniority rules, convert schools to neighborhood-based charters, or flat-out close underperformers — including charter schools — swiftly.  Under the proposal, Smucker, newly-minted as chairman of the senate's education committee, would give the bottom 5 percent of both elementary and high schools three years to transform.  The bottom one percent of both lists would have two years.  Without significant improvement, a state body would intervene, either by implementing more reforms or converting the schools to neighborhood-based charters.

"Charter schools are underfunded, Masch said, because state funding for both charters and school districts is inadequate – not because of the charter funding formula. He called it a “tragedy” that districts and charters are squabbling instead of joining forces to get more state dollars."
Multiple Choices: How are charter schools funded?
Second in an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers."
What makes charter school funding a point of contention?
With education funds scarce in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the debate over how charter schools get their money has never been more polarized.  The stakes are huge: In the 2013-14 school year, 176 charter schools educated 129,000 students statewide, at a cost to Pennsylvania school districts of more than $1.2 billion.  About half those schools and students are located in Philadelphia; they account for 30 percent of the Philadelphia School District’s operating budget.

"Scott Gordon, chief executive of Mastery Charter Schools, a network known for turning around struggling Philadelphia schools, said the city has fallen into a “red zone,” where every cut to public schools has a direct effect on children.
“We are significantly squeezed now, as is the Philadelphia school district,” Gordon said. “The money does matter. Of course how you spend it matters equally, but not having the resources is a real barrier.”
Philadelphia charter schools also feel education budget squeeze
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 22 at 8:20 PM  
Education news in Pennsylvania, home to the nation’s biggest gap in funding for poor and wealthy school districts, has in recent years featured a steady stream of stories about the programs, materials and staff that schools are lacking.  Some observers and state lawmakers say that the problem isn’t that school districts are underfunded so much as they aren’t as efficient as they could be. For example, why are classrooms in Philadelphia so starved for basic resources, they ask, when Philadelphia spends more than $13,000 per student — in the middle of the state’s education spending spectrum?  “Philadelphia needs to look at some of its local processes to decide why ... they’re having such a tough time delivering some of the services students need,” said Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre County).   But leaders of some charter schools, often lauded for spending money more efficiently than traditional schools, also say the cuts have gone too deep.

Judge Ends Receivership Request in York, Pa., Easing Angst Over Charter Conversion
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on April 23, 2015 11:08 AM
Pennsylvania's move to put a receiver in charge of the York school district ended Wednesday when a Commonwealth Court judge vacated a Dec. 26 ruling that appointed a receiver—at the request of the previous administration—to run the financially and academically troubled school system.  The order by President Judge Dan Pellegrini ended nearly five months of appeals by the school district, teachers and others to fight a ruling by York County Common Pleas President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh, who approved the state's request last year to appoint David Meckley as receiver of the district. 

Their View: PlanCon problems add to district woes
Jim Buckheit is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Nathan Mains is executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Jay Himes is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. Paul Healey is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals. Joseph Bard is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools.
That noise you hear is school leaders scrambling to plan for the possibility of another moratorium on school construction projects, while trying to build their budgets for next school year. We encourage state leaders to support safe learning environments and fix the funding process, rather than complicating local budgets with delays.  School leaders expect annual uncertainty without a formula to distribute the state’s basic education funding. However, they were surprised to find their situations even more complicated this spring when Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal included a new moratorium on additions to the state’s PlanCon program for school construction. If approved, it would go into effect July 1.  Last year, the General Assembly took a major step forward by lifting a PlanCon moratorium imposed by former Gov. Tom Corbett. Another PlanCon moratorium would exacerbate school district infrastructure problems, further complicate district budgeting, and negatively impact classrooms in need of repair statewide. A new moratorium also would mean the state is going back on its word again.  The state committed to providing partial reimbursements for school construction. Schools depend on state contributions to new construction and repair projects. A new moratorium on PlanCon projects also could mean reimbursements stop with no way to know when or if reimbursements are coming for costs already incurred.

Don't outsource your kids' education to private operators who put profit first: Lloyd Sheaffer
PennLive Op-Ed  By Lloyd E. Sheaffer  on April 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM
It was one of the Roth twins who asked during a typical vocabulary lesson, "Mr. Sheaffer, if reverberate can mean 'to bounce off of,' does that mean a person could reverberate off a wall?"  "Well, let's see," I said as I took off moving at a pretty good clip toward the back of my classroom, turning my torso so that my left shoulder would impact the pale yellow wall.  Rather than absorbing the crash as anticipated, the plaster gave way to my momentum resulting in a basketball-size hole in the plaster and an accompaniment of gasps, stifled giggles, and furtive glances among students that asked the unspoken question, "What just happened?"

Hempfield to vote Tuesday on budget, 1% tax increase
Lancaster Online by ROBYN MEADOWS LNP Correspondent Friday, April 24, 2015 6:00 am
Hempfield school board will vote on a 2015-16 proposed final budget on Tuesday, May 5, that calls for a 1 percent tax increase and use of reserves to close a $1.15 million deficit.   Prior to voting, the Hempfield school board and the public will hear a presentation on the proposed final $112,823,505 spending plan. The committee of the whole meeting has been advertised as a special voting meeting.

Chesco's Downingtown STEM is No. 1 in the state LAST UPDATED: Friday, April 24, 2015, 1:08 AM
DOWNINGTOWN The Downingtown STEM Academy was named the most challenging school in Pennsylvania in the Washington Post's annual list of "America's Most Challenging High Schools."  The academy, which opened in 2011, was ranked 95th in the country.  Two other Chester County schools, Conestoga and Unionville High Schools, were also ranked in the top 10 in the state, Conestoga fifth and Unionville seventh.

America’s Most Challenging High Schools
Washington Post By Jay Mathews April 19, 2015
America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranks schools through an index formula that’s a simple ratio: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. A ratio of 1.000 means the school had as many tests as graduates.

Beyond Education Wars
New York Times by Nicholas Kristof APRIL 23, 2015
For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education.  Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.  Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked.
The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has dropped for the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.  K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

Jon Stewart: Cheating teachers go to jail. Cheating Wall Streeters don’t. What’s up with that?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss April 23  
This is one of those videos that make you want to laugh and cry at the same time. I you didn’t watch it, take a few minutes, and if you did see it, watch it again and see what you missed amid the layers of deep analysis for which “The Daily Show” is known.  Jon Stewart on Wednesday night made the inevitable comparison between the former teachers and administrators in Atlanta who were sentenced for cheating on standardized tests — a few for as much as seven years — with Wall Street denizens who in 2008 connived in a way that nearly brought down the country’s financial system. Only one was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

"A state forensic analysis found that the odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders’ 2009 PSSAs were between one in a quadrillion and one in a quintillion. Analyses done in 2010 and 2011, according to the Department of Education, also found “a very high number of students with a very high number of wrong-to-right erasures.” But the state left the charter to investigate itself."
How Pennsylvania schools erased a cheating scandal
Tainted scores throw an entire way of running schools into question.
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 07/18/2013
The odds that 11th-graders at Strawberry Mansion High School would have randomly erased so many wrong answers on the math portion of their 2009 state standardized test and then filled in so many right ones were long. Very, very long. To be precise, they were less than one in a duodecillion, according to an erasure analysis performed for the state Department of Education.
In short, there appeared to be cheating — and it didn’t come as a total surprise. In 2006, student members of Youth United for Change protested being forced out of class for test-preparation sessions and won concessions from the district. In 2010, principal Lois Powell-Mondesire left Strawberry Mansion; after her departure, test scores dropped sharply. 

All are invited for a screening of the documentary:
STANDARDIZED: Lies, Money & Civil Rights—How Testing is Ruining Public Education Monday, April 27, 7- 9 PM Wayne, PA
The Saturday Club, 117 West Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA
Standardized testing has long been a part of public education. Over the last ten years however, education reform has become an increasingly heated political issue and seemingly a highly profitable target market for private enterprise resulting in expanded and high-stakes testing. While some hold the view that testing is an effective assessment of student ability and teacher and school effectiveness, many feel these exams are instead undermining our students, teachers and schools.   Daniel Hornberger’s STANDARDIZED documentary raises issues about this model of  education reform and the standardized testing that goes along with it. The film includes interviews with prominent educational experts and government officials who take aim at the goal of standardization that is being promoted and imposed by our federal and state governments. It sheds light on the development, nature and use of these assessments, the consequences of high-stakes testing, and the ostensible private enterprise and government agendas behind them. 
A Q&A session with a panel of informed parents, teachers and experts will follow.
This screening is made possible through a collaboration of Radnor, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Lower Merion concerned parents and PTOs.
For questions and to RSVP, contact

PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host seven community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Wednesday, April 15
Northeast High School, 1601 Cottman Ave.
 Wednesday, April 22
Bartram High School, 2401 S. 67th St.
 Tuesday, April 28
West Philadelphia High School, 4901 Chestnut St.
 Wednesday, May 6
Dobbins High School, 2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20
Martin Luther King High School, 6100 Stenton Ave.

Nominations for PSBA offices closes April 30
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA. The positions open are:
  • 2016 President Elect (one-year term)
  • 2016 Vice President (one-year term)
  • 2016 Eastern Section at Large Representative - includes Regions 7, 8, 10, 11 and 15 (three-year term) 
Complete details on the nomination process, including scheduled dates for nominee interviews, can be found online by clicking here.

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

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