Tuesday, April 7, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 7: Circuit Rider Fighting for Fair Funding

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 7, 2015:
Circuit Rider Fighting for Fair Funding

Save the date: Wednesday April 29th 7:00 pm Springfield (Delco) High School
Southeastern PA Regional Meeting on School Funding
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 and the Keystone State Education Coalition

Fighting for fair funding
Trib Live By Stephanie Hacke Monday, April 6, 2015, 12:33 p.m.
Shortly after retiring as superintendent in the Brentwood Borough School District, Ronald Dufalla found himself once again attending school board meetings.  This time, he was talking to district officials across four counties and sharing a passion he has had for years: the need for the state to provide “fair funding” for schools.  “I always felt Brentwood got shortchanged by the state,” Dufalla said. “The amount we did or didn't get in Brentwood had a big impact on what we could do or couldn't do.”  The inequalities Dufalla said he saw with school funding led him to pursue a position as one of 10 “Circuit Riders,” part of a grass-roots movement meant to inform districts about the Campaign for Fair Education Funding and the belief that a funding formula would help improve state support of school districts.
"Pennsylvania, you may know, is one of only three states without a formula for school funding based on actual conditions in districts, such as high poverty."
Springtime for schools? Better check the forecast
HAPPY Easter Monday and welcome to the season of renewal.  Feel it in the air?
There's a mayor's race with its wafting aroma of fresh ideas and promises of new strides for the city, especially in public schools.  There's a "fresh-start" governor in Harrisburg with bold state plans to invest new money, especially in public schools.  There's . . . oh, wait, what am I thinking? Who sees schools on the brink of a blossoming rebirth fed and watered with fresh ideas and new money?  No? Then how about a swig of stale reality?  Most of those mayoral ideas - work better with Harrisburg, sue Harrisburg, get nonprofits to pony up, change city tax structure - aren't new.

Third and State  Posted by Waslala Miranda on April 3, 2015 9:26 pm
The Education Trust, an independent national education policy organization, recently released areport on the nation’s growing funding inequalities between wealthy and low-income school districts. The study reveals that Pennsylvania has the second-worst funding gap among states.  When adjusted for the higher needs of low-income students, Pennsylvania’s highest poverty school districts receive 17% less per student than the districts with the lowest poverty.

"Unfortunately, we don't know the actual income levels of scholarship recipients: Are most of them below $50,000? $75,000? $100,000? How many are minority students? We don't know how many students went to private vs. parochial schools, how well the students did in those schools or if in fact they completed their education using the scholarships - or if at all.
In fact, given all that we don't know, it's hard to see this program as anything but a public giveaway to private and parochial schools, with no questions asked and no proof of effectiveness. In fact, the Legislature has banned the DCED from asking for this information from participating scholarship organizations. Why?"
DN Editorial: WHO GETS THE CREDIT FOR THIS? EITC supposedly helps low-income kids' education. So why all the secrecy?
Daily News Editorial POSTED: Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 12:16 AM
A PROGRAM that gives generous tax credits for donations to scholarship programs for low-income students to attend private and parochial schools may strike some as a laudatory way to equalize educational opportunities. Some might even say that the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program is a way to address the civil-rights wrongs of a public system that leaves too many poor and minority children behind, while the privileged few who can afford to send kids to more expensive private schools get an unfair leg up.  One of the architects of the state-administered EITC program, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, has made that civil-rights case in promoting it.
According to a report on Philly.com's Next Mayor site, some of Williams' major campaign backers for his mayoral run are also some of the EITC program's biggest donors, with the principals of Susquehanna International Group contributing up to $21 million to EITC.  In theory, the program expands the choices for students, especially those who can't afford private and parochial tuitions. But under its current framework, it's hard to see it as anything but a way to funnel public dollars into private education - with no accountability for how effectively those dollars are being spent.

CCP scholarship to make college free for some Philadelphia students
They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but the Community College of Philadelphia recently pledged to make its tuition free for qualifying Philadelphia high school graduates.
CCP's 50th Anniversary Scholarship will cover the difference between federal aid, particularly Pell grants, and the total cost of tuition and fees for up to three years or until students complete an associate's degree. Students must be eligible for Pell grants, which go to those whose families earn below $50,000 a year, and must meet some other academic requirements.  College President Guy Generals says the program focuses on high-achieving students -- who could choose a four-year school -- but who might need help paying for school. "It's not a representative example because we're asking that they come full time, and they test at the college level" in English composition, said Generals.  Most current CCP students do not fit this bill, according Generals. "Seventy percent of our students test below the college level" and place into remedial classes, he said.  Generals expects the program will help about 440 students next year at a total cost of $200,000. That amount will rise to around $350,000 once the program is fully enrolled.

Pa. education secretary makes first visit to city
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 6, 2015 10:00 PM
In his first visit to Pittsburgh as acting state education secretary, Pedro Rivera turned from the microphone to his “cafeteria voice” to make his point urging support for education funding.  “This is an uphill battle,” said Mr. Rivera, in teacher-mode pacing Monday evening before a gathering at Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood. “There are a lot of individuals out there that don’t believe an investment in early childhood is going to make a difference. That don't believe investing in after-school programs and extended-day programs are going to make a difference.”  Mr. Rivera, who was superintendent of the School District of Lancaster before he was named acting secretary in January, spoke at a forum sponsored by state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, and A+ Schools, an education advocacy group. The forum included panel presentations by local leaders who focused on early childhood education, community involvement in schools and safety and law enforcement.  Mr. Rivera highlighted Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for education, which calls for spending $1 billion more on education.
“He ran on education. He won on education,” Mr. Rivera said.

"Truebright Science Academy, a charter school in North Philadelphia, has filed a petition in Commonwealth Court, challenging the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's decision not to renew its charter."
Endangered charter approaches day in court
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, April 6, 2015, 3:54 PM
An embattled charter school in the city's Olney section will get an opportunity next week to make its case for staying open past June.  Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hear arguments April 13 in Pittsburgh on Truebright Science Academy Charter School's bid for a new operating agreement.  The school, which has 350 students in seventh through 12th grades, is challenging the School Reform Commission's 2013 decision not to renew its operating agreement on several grounds, including poor academic performance.

Mayoral candidates want more money for schools, but won't raise taxes to pay for it
Philly.com by TOM FERRICK JR., THE NEXT MAYOR POSTED: April 6, 2015, 12:16 AM
IN THE RACE for mayor, the candidates have been twisting themselves into odd shapes to accomplish two conflicting goals: raising money to help the public schools without raising taxes.  Some people think it can't be done - Mayor Nutter, for one. Nutter recently proposed raising property taxes by 9.4 percent to meet the "ask" by Superintendent William Hite for $103 million in additional city aid this year - and in all years going forward.  The let's-raise-taxes option is out of the question for the men and women seeking to succeed Nutter. At the same time, they know public sentiment is clear: Schools are a big priority. Everyone knows the district needs money. So, they have had to make like Rubberboy and come up with plans - inevitably called "comprehensive" - that add up to the magic figure without using a dime in additional taxes.

Collegium Charter School expanding this summer
West Chester Daily Local By Candice Monhollan, cmonhollan@ 21st-centurymedia.com, @CMonhollanDLN on Twitter POSTED: 04/06/15, 6:23 PM EDT |
WEST WHITELAND >> When the Collegium Charter School opened its doors in 1999, there was worry it wouldn’t have enough students to open it and keep it going.  “We started with 39 students on our first day,” said Beth Jones, the director of Administrative Services and one of the founders of Collegium. “Our first graduating class didn’t happen until 2006 and that’s because when we started, we were a K to six school and we just added a grade level on each year. By 2006, our first graduating class had eight kids.”  Now, 16 years later, Collegium is looking at another expansion — this one adding 80,000 square feet by renting buildings 468 and 486 Thomas Jones Way in the Oaklands Corporate Center in Exton.  “We currently have about 2,400 students,” Jones said. “Next year, we’ll have over 2,600 students. This year, we’ll graduate probably about 45 or 50 and then it’s really going to start to ramp up from there.”

Central York teachers, administration tentatively agree to contract
York Dispatch By SEAN PHILIP COTTER 505-5437/@SPCotterYD POSTED:   04/06/2015 10:46:09 PM EDT 
More than two years of contract negotiations between Central York's teachers and district officials came to a tentative end on Monday, when the two sides announced they had come to an agreement.  The teachers would concede some health-care-related costs, such as those for spouses using the schools' plan, while the district agreed to two fewer school days and other changes that make life easier for teachers, according to Seth Gibson, a Spanish teacher who served as the chief negotiator for the teachers' union.

Perkiomen Valley school employees protest outsourcing proposal
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 04/06/15, 11:05 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Collegeville >> It was a sea of orange and black inside the Perkiomen Valley High School auditorium Monday as some 200 district employees and supporters showed up to protest the possible outsourcing of jobs.  Nearly everyone in the packed auditorium wore matching orange and black T-shirts and sweatshirts during the school board meeting.  The board announced on March 12 that it was considering outsourcing its instructional and non-instructional para-professional support staff, which includes such employees as secretaries, teaching assistants and one-to-one aides for students with disabilities.  While the district has “no imminent plan” for outsourcing jobs, the board is looking to explore savings through an request for proposal for staffing options, board President Gerry Barnefiher said.

Carlisle students get to work from home with district's first eDay
By Elizabeth Gibson | Special to PennLive  on April 06, 2015 at 6:42 PM
Carlisle students attended class from home Monday as the district debuted eDay. Rather than students filing into classrooms for a day of lessons, they traded the classrooms for the comfort of home and attended class via the Internet.  Completed assignments will be handed to teachers on Tuesday, when students return to Carlisle Area School District buildings.  Stephanie Douglas, district technology director, said that the deadline for eDay assignments is Friday because Carlisle built flexibility into its electronic classroom policy to allow for students who don't have access to the Internet.

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

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest on Atlanta Cheating Scandal
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch April 6, 2015 //
Bob Schaeffer of FairTest says that the system of high-stakes testing enshrined in federal law encourages cheating. The Atlanta scandal is not unique. Cheating has been reported in dozens of states and districts. What is different in Atlanta was the scope of the investigation and the unusual criminal treatment of the educators.
By Robert A. Schaeffer, Public Education Director National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest)
The sad story of educators caught manipulating standardized exam scores has focused attention on one type of “fallout” from the testing explosion that has swept across the nation’s classrooms in the past decade. Federal and state lawmakers are scrambling to incorporate lessons from Atlanta as they work to overhaul testing policies in the face of an increasingly powerful assessment reform movement.

At Success Academy Charter Schools, High Scores and Polarizing Tactics
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR APRIL 6, 2015
At most schools, if a child is flailing academically, it is treated as a private matter.
But at Success Academy Harlem 4, one boy’s struggles were there for all to see: On two colored charts in the hallway, where the students’ performance on weekly spelling and math quizzes was tracked, his name was at the bottom, in a red zone denoting that he was below grade level.
The boy, a fourth grader, had been in the red zone for months. His teacher, Kristin Jones, 23, had held meetings with his mother, where the teacher spread out all the weekly class newsletters from the year, in which the charts were reproduced. If he studied, he could pass the spelling quizzes, Ms. Jones said — he just was not trying. But the boy got increasingly frustrated, and some weeks Ms. Jones had to stop herself from looking over his shoulder during the quizzes so she would not become upset by his continued mistakes.  Then, one Friday in December, she peeked at his paper, and a smile spread over her face. After he handed in his quiz, she announced to the class that he had gotten a 90. “I might start crying right now,” she said, only half-joking. “I’ve got to call your mom.”  In its devotion to accountability, Success Academy, New York City’s polarizing charter school network, may have no peer.

Ray Bradbury Gives 12 Pieces of Writing Advice to Young Authors (2001)
Open Culture Blog by Colin Marshall in BooksWriting| April 4th, 2012
Like fellow genre icon Stephen King, Ray Bradbury has reached far beyond his established audience by offering writing advice to anyone who puts pen to paper. (Or keys to keyboard; “Use whatever works,” he often says.) In this 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Writer’s Symposium By the Sea, Bradbury tells stories from his writing life, all of which offer lessons on how to hone the craft. Most of these have to do with the day-in, day-out practices that make up what he calls “writing hygiene.” Watch this entertainingly digressive talk and you might pull out an entirely different set of points, but here, in list form, is how I interpret Bradbury’s program:

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 rafi@thecavegroup.com

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 schoolplay@pccy.org 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) https://www.psba.org/event/advocacy-forum-day-hill-2015/

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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