Monday, April 6, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 6: While you were on spring break...PA Ed Policy Roundup Recap March 30 - April 3

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3550 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, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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 April 6, 2015: While you were on spring break...PA Ed Policy Roundup Recap March 30 - April 3

Keystone State Education Coalition: While you were on spring break....
PA Ed Policy Roundup Recap March 30 - April 3

"William R. Hite Jr., Philadelphia School District superintendent, described the program as "critically important."  Most district students are eligible for Pell grants - the last time it was calculated, 87 percent of students met the federal poverty definition, Hite said."
Community College of Philadelphia goes tuition-free for hundreds
President Obama's proposal to make community college free for most students may never get through Congress. But for freshly graduated high school students from Philadelphia's low-income families, that might not matter.  Community College of Philadelphia has decided to help pay their way.  The school is doing away with tuition for all seniors graduating from a city high school this spring who have low-enough family incomes to qualify for federal Pell grants and who meet certain other requirements.  College officials estimate that 440 students will qualify for the program in the first year and by the third year, the number will rise to 845.

Penn research highlights vital role of community college in serving minorities
Community colleges educate almost half of all college students in the country. And a new report by University of Pennsylvania researchers finds these institutions play an oversized role in educating blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans.  Twenty-two percent of the country's 1,100 community colleges serve mostly racial and ethnic minorities.  And those those under-resourced schools, known as minority-serving institutions, serve more than half of minority college students, said Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority-Serving Institutions.  "One of the things we tried to do was elevate the role of minority-serving institutions, which get almost no attention," she said. "We wanted people to understand their contributions, where they are in the country, what kind of students they're serving, and how they're meeting workforce needs."

Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 reaches deal with union
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call April 5, 2015
Deal with IU-20 includes retroactive raises for 2013-14 and this school year
Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 has reached a contract settlement with its education support union members.  Teachers and staff at IU-20 had been working without a contract since their four-year deals expired more than a year ago. Charlene Brennan, executive director of IU 20, said the dispute was settled Thursday with the union accepting the IU-20's offer.  A threat of a strike loomed last summer, but a tentative deal was reached in September.  At a Jan. 28 board meeting, the IU-20 board authorized solicitor John Freund to make the settlement offer, which the union accepted this week.  The six-year deal gives salary increases to staff. Only the amounts for the first three years have been established , Brennan said. The raises for the remaining years depend on a formula calculated using the raises teachers receive in the supporting districts.
There will be a retroactive raise of 2.02 percent for 2013-14, 2.07 percent for 2014-15 and 3.6 percent in 2015-16, Brennan said.

Express Times Lehigh Valley Live Cost of Education Series

As a Kensington high school shifts course, graduation rate jumps
the notebook By Shannon Nolan on Apr 3, 2015 11:09 AM
In 2014, Kensington Health Sciences Academy had a milestone year. In a district where graduation rates have been slowly climbing, the school managed a surprising leap.  The small high school, which has had a dropout rate among the highest in the District, had the largest year-to-year increase in on-time graduation rate among all high schools in 2014, according to a District report released earlier this year – more than 21 percentage points.   The school's graduation rate for the class of 2014 is now just two points below the District average.  The School District's overall four-year cohort graduation rate rose in 2014, inching up one point to 65 percent, according to District data.  The Mayor’s Office attributed the continuing districtwide rise to the effort attacking the city’s dropout crisis. Since Mayor Nutter's inaugural address, when he made increasing the graduation rate to 80 percent one of his top priorities, the rate has climbed 12 percentage points.

Play dramaticizes PA school funding crisis
PHILADELPHIA writer and parent Arden Kass became outraged a couple of years ago when the school district slashed its budget and classroom education suffered.  Teachers were laid off and class sizes ballooned.  "It seemed like they were attacking the school system," Kass said in an interview last week. "The budget cuts seemed almost punitive. It seemed like you had to succeed in spite of what was going on in the state."  Kass soon became obsessed with Philadelphia's school-funding issue and developed an idea that she pitched to a few funders and to civic leaders including Donna Cooper with Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The result is a documentary-based theater piece titled "School Play," which will be performed Wednesday and Thursday at the National Constitution Center.

As School Options Expand, Families Find Ways To Personalize Student Learning
WESA 90.5 Pittsburgh NPR By LIZ REID  APR 2, 2015
Eleven-year-old gymnast Danielle Norris is practicing a roundoff back tuck dismount for her balance beam routine. She has a meet coming up soon, and later this month she's competing in the state championship. Danielle’s mom, Karen Norris, says she practices about 22 hours a week. “When Danielle was first invited to join the team and they told us the amount of hours that were involved, we were a little taken aback by that,” Norris said. “That was fourth grade.”  Danielle said that made for some very long days.  “I would get up at 7, get ready for school, go to school, it ended at like 3. And then start gym at 4, end at 9, go home and do homework, which is a lot,” she said.  For the last two years, Danielle has gone to school through the Online Academy at North Hills. Three days a week, she has gymnastics practice in the morning and afternoon, and does her cyber school during the midday.

Court battle over control of York City School District has cost at least $135,000
The estimate is based on invoices obtained through Right-to-Know requests and interviews
York Daily Record By Dylan Segelbaum @dylan_segelbaum on Twitter UPDATED:   04/03/2015 07:42:20 PM EDT
Pennsylvania's attempt to take control of the York City School District and the months-long court case that's followed has cost at least $135,000, according to interviews and invoices obtained through Right-to-Know requests.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education has spent more than $43,000 to have Clyde Vedder, an attorney in York, on the case — which the agency's own lawyers also worked on. The business manager for the York City School District put its legal fees at $92,000 so far.  Both sides reviewed the invoices — which were heavily redacted — and came up with an estimate for how much the case has cost. The total estimate does not include the legal fees for the unions, which are unclear. And, more money could be spent by all sides, because the case is not over.

Coatesville School District considers outsourcing custodians
West Chester Daily Local By Lucas Rodgers, on Twitter POSTED: 04/04/15, 5:20 PM EDT |
Coatesville >> The Coatesville Area School District is considering outsourcing its custodial and groundskeeping staff in order to save approximately $1.2 million, which would come from a reduction in salary and benefits for the staff members. About 60 custodians and six groundskeepers would receive the opportunity to continue their jobs in the district by taking employment with the outsourcing company, the district said in a statement.  The need to find a way to cut costs arises from “a very difficult financial situation” due to rising costs of retirement, pensions, debt services and losses from charter schools, which total more than $2.8 million per year as fixed increases, the district said.  The company the district is considering using for custodial services is ServiceMaster, which is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.

Philadelphia schools tread on rocky fiscal footing
PA Independent By Evan Grossman | April 3, 2015 | By Eric Boehm 
PHILADELPHIA — If the School District of Philadelphia gets every penny it expects from increased state and local funding, massive investments in city schools will only temporarily solve the district’s financial woes.  Another reason for concern is that the schools may not get all of that money that’s been promised by Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Michael Nutter.  “The district needs to be prudent in terms of the potential money they hope to be getting, because the budget discussions are going to be long and arduous,” said Robert Fayfich, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. “Any district that counts on getting everything in the governor’s budget may be putting itself in a very difficult financial position if not all of it materializes.”  The School Reform Commission, which controls Philly schools, recently set the table for a $2.9-billion budget for next year, a lump sum that relies on $264 million in new money from the city and state that have not been authorized yet.

America's obsession with STEM education is dangerous
Trib Live Opinion By Fareed Zakaria Saturday, April 4, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children's bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and de-emphasize the humanities.  America's last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal arts education is irrelevant; technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition.  This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.  
The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross-fertilization.
Event offers a frank talk on how Philly city officials can help solve District problems; April 8th
the notebook By Camden Copeland on Apr 3, 2015 10:14 AM
A panel of longtime Philadelphia public school supporters will be speaking next week about the problems facing the District and what the 2015 mayor and City Council candidates can do to solve them.  The event, called GetSchoolED: An Insider’s Look at Education and the 2015 Election, will feature a panel of influential voices in local education. It will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the Skyline Room at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s main branch.  The panel will include former interim District CEO Phil Goldsmith, Mayor’s Office of Education Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr, former State Rep. Tony Payton, and former City Council staffer Justin DiBerardinis. All mayoral and City Council candidates and their campaign staffs are invited to attend the panel.

The gap between rich and poor schools grew 44 percent over a decade.
Growing money gap across 30 states
Hechinger Report Education by the Numbers Column by JILL BARSHAY April 6, 2015
The growing gap between rich and poor is affecting many aspects of life in the United States, from health to work to home life. Now the one place that’s supposed to give Americans an equal chance at life — the schoolhouse — is becoming increasingly unequal as well. I’ve already documented the startling increase since 2000 in the number of extremely poor schools, where three-fourths of the students or more are poor enough to qualify for free or discounted meals (see here), and I’ve noted the general increase in poverty in all schools here.  But now there’s new evidence that poor schools are getting increasingly short-changed by the states and localities that fund them. The richest 25 percent of school districts receive 15.6 percent more funds from state and local governments per student than the poorest 25 percent of school districts, the federal Department of Education pointed out last month (March, 2015).  That’s a national funding gap of $1,500 per student, on average, according to the most recent data, from 2011-12. The gap has grown 44 percent since 2001-02, when a student in a rich district had only a 10.8 percent resource advantage over a student in a poor district.

Workshop: Fair Funding and other Commons Sense Reforms for Public Education - Saturday April 11, 9:30 am
The William Penn School District presents another public workshop in its series on school funding in Pennsylvania.  Topics to be covered include:
  • A discussion with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia about the ABC's of public education funding and school funding lawsuit filed by the William Penn School District and others. 
  • An in-depth look at Governor Tom Wolf's proposed budget and its impact on property taxes and developing a more equitable funding formula.
LOCATION: Evans Elementary School Auditorium, 900 Baily Rd Yeadon, PA 19050
Questions: Please email

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

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