Tuesday, May 19, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 19, 2015: Hey You - Go Vote!!!

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3600 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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 19, 2015: Hey You - Go Vote!!!


Remember to vote.   Good luck to folks on the ballot today.



School directors, superintendents and administrators are encouraged to register and attend this event.
Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Legislative Council
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Quakertown Community School District, 100 Commerce Drive  Quakertown, PA 18951
Featured Guests: Former House Education Committee Chair Paul Clymer and New PSERS Chief (former Rep) Glenn Grell




"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. 
Another improvement we wanted involves the hard-to-miss ads and billboards for charter and cyber charter schools that often claim they’re “free.” That’s misleading — your income, sales and property taxes fund them. Republicans voted down an amendment to bar the ads from claiming tuition or transportation are “free” and instead require the ads to mention the cost is borne by taxpayer dollars."
Letter to the Editor: Pennsylvania House GOP missed chance to really reform charter schools
Delco Times Letter By James Roebuck, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 05/19/15, 12:06 AM
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.  …This bill could also cost local property taxpayers money and jobs by giving charter schools right of first refusal on unused school properties the community might want for another use, such as locating a new business.

Follow this link periodically to see the status of PSBA's RTK requests.
Tracking PSBA's Charter Schools Right-to-Know Requests
PSBA filed a Right-to-Know request with Pennsylvania charter and cyber charter schools on May 15, 2015. PSBA is tracking the response from each charter in the table below and updating it on a weekly basis. According to Right-to-Know Law, public entities have five days from receipt of an open records request by the agency’s open records officer to either 1) provide the requested records (indicated by a green check); 2) deny the request and give reasons for the denial (indicated by a red X); or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for specific legal reasons (indicated by an (E)).

Boom! Penn. School Boards Seek Charter Financial Disclosures
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch May 18, 2015 //
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has filed a “right to know” action to gain access to the financial records of the state’s charter schools, including Cybercharters.  Charters were supposed to be more accountable and transparent than public schools, but they are neither. Some charter operators have made millions of dollars in profits from taxpayer dollars, with neither accountability nor transparency.  “The Pennsylvania School Boards Association today said it has filed Right-to-Know requests with charter and cyber charter school operators asking for financial information about their schools.  “The requested items include advertising costs, contracts with private management companies, advanced academic courses offered, salary and compensation information for all 180 brick and mortar and cyber charter schools in the state.

PRWatch Posted by Jonas Persson on May 07, 2015
PRESS RELEASE, May 8, 2015, Contact: Nikolina Lazic, 608-260-9713, nikolina@prwatch.org
(Madison, WI)–The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters' guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). (The new guide can be downloaded below.)  Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to "authorize" charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.

This Election Day - a historic opportunity to reshape the Pa. Supreme Court: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Email the author on May 18, 2015 at 10:33 AM
It's often said that elections are about choices.  And when they head to the polls tomorrow, Pennsylvania voters will be confronted with a historic choice: For the first time in some 300 years, voters will pick three new members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  From potential rulings on abortion rights and gun control to death penalty appeals and voting rights, it's safe to say there are few areas of public life where Pennsylvania's highest court does not make its presence felt.  Thus any partisan shift in the seven-member court's membership will affect its jurisprudence for years to come. While judges make decisions based solely on the merits and the law, their individual political philosophies will invariably shape their view of the cases that come before them.  Twelve well-qualified candidates, six Democrats and six Republicans, who range in age from 48 to 68, are vying Tuesday for the right to face each other in November's general election.

Five of twelve Supreme Court candidates participated in this PCN forum.  The question on the role of the court in evaluating the adequacy of a thorough and efficient public education is covered from minutes 31:55 to 37:58 of this PCN video
What do you believe the role of the Supreme Court should be in evaluating the adequacy of a thorough and efficient public education?
PCN: April 8th PA Supreme Court Candidates Forum
By Rob Krout on Apr 10, 2015
Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks election forum with PA Supreme Court candidates David Wecht (D), Dwayne Woodruff (D), Cheryl Lynn Allen (R), John Forodora (D) and Anne Lazurus (D).  .

"Just a few years ago, schools paid about 5.5 percent of employee salary to the pension fund. This year, they must pay 21 percent. Next year, they'll pay 26 percent. The rate will peak at 32 percent in 2019."
MAY 19, 2015 PENNSYLVANIA PENSIONS: IS THE PROMISE BROKEN?
State pension crisis: how did we get here?
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY
The strategy of kicking the can down the road works -- sort of -- until the can gets too big and the road narrows.   Pick your favorite issue or cause in Pennsylvania: public education, services for the poor, tax breaks for businesses.  Chances are, there's going to be less money for any of these moving forward because the state's public employee pension bill is growing exponentially, with a current unfunded liability of $53 billion.  To keep up with rising costs, school districts across the state have been making tough choices — either cutting programs or hiking property taxes.
School budget wonks are reeling from the massive pension payment spikes that have been hitting lately.

Wolf administration takes shot at Senate GOP pension bill
WHYY Newsworks BY MARC LEVY FOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MAY 18, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf's administration fired a new volley Monday against a Senate Republican bill to overhaul benefits in Pennsylvania's two big public employee pension systems, saying that they voted to line their own pockets.  A Senate Republican spokeswoman countered that the administration is using a selective, salary-based argument.  Although lawmakers have a history of giving themselves a cushier pension benefit, the Senate GOP says the bill gives lawmakers no special treatment and actually reduces their benefits.  In any case, Wolf, a Democrat, has said that the Senate GOP bill lacks fairness for workers as both sides advance their own plans to blunt the effect of rising pension obligation payments.  In a speech Monday at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon, Wolf's chief of staff, Katie McGinty, lambasted the Senate GOP bill as unfair to taxpayers and other public employees.

"Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta , who now faces 11 federal criminal charges, including tax evasion, created NNDS in 2005 to provide management services and curriculum to PA Cyber and other online schools.
Two years later, Trombetta directed PA Cyber to convey its Lincoln Interactive online curriculum to NNDS, which, in turn, leased it back to PA Cyber for 12 percent of the online school’s revenue.
As PA Cyber 's revenues grew, the agreement netted NNDS hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the Form 990 filed by NNDS for 2012, it received nearly $51 million from PA Cyber for curriculum and management services, nearly 88 percent of NNDS' total support of $58 million that year."
NNDS changes name to Lincoln Learning Solutions
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose jprose@timesonline.com  May 17, 2015 5:00 am
ROCHESTER -- The National Network of Digital Schools, a nonprofit that provides online curricula and management services, has changed its name to Lincoln Learning Solutions, the Rochester-based company announced Friday.  LLS also unveiled a new brand identity and website at lincolnlearningsolutions.org.  “Our new brand not only recognizes the legacy of our industry-pioneering Lincoln Interactive and Little Lincoln curricula, it more fully reflects our mission, vision and increased breadth of services,” said LLS president Bob Clements in a statement.  “The re-branding also coincides with a comprehensive redevelopment of our pre-K-12 curricula,” Clements said. “Built by teachers and other education experts from across the country, its release is planned in advance of the 2015-2016 school year.”

"Truebright, which opened in 2007, is one of more than 120 charters nationwide founded and operated by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who lives in self-imposed exile in the Poconos."
Truebright charter to appeal Commonwealth Court decision
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2015, 6:43 PM
Truebright Science Academy Charter School says it's not ready to shut down.  The board of the charter in Olney has decided to appeal Friday's Commonwealth Court decision that said the School Reform Commission had ample grounds to close the school for poor academic performance.  The three-judge Commonwealth Court panel affirmed a finding by the state Charter Appeal Board, which had upheld the SRC decision.  The board found that Truebright had failed to deliver the academic performance it promised in its application and had not met state standards. The board ordered it to close at the end of the school year.

"Last year’s addition of $20 million to the state’s special education line item was a good first step to jump-starting the use of the formula.  But we need to take bigger steps if we’re going to close the $380 million special education funding gap that the state identified in 2009. Until last year’s allocation of $20 million, school districts and students had gone six years without any added state-level investments. That’s too long."
Wolf’s $100M, plus new formula, would aid those with disabilities
the notebook By Vincent Hughes on May 18, 2015 10:39 AM
Sen. Vincent Hughes of West Philadelphia, a Democrat, represents the Seventh District in the legislature. He is the Democratic chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee.
Nearly 270,000 children with disabilities, one out of every 6.5 students, receive special education services in Pennsylvania’s public schools. Schools provide a broad range of services – from least intensive to most intensive – to those students. That’s why last year Pennsylvania adopted a new funding formula for students with disabilities that directs resources based on the needs of the student and the corresponding level of services provided.  My colleagues and I in the state legislature, along with disability advocates throughout Pennsylvania, supported this new formula as a better, student-focused approach to providing resources to students with disabilities. The new formula applies only to new dollars in the state’s special education line item. 

MAP: A look at graduation rates for Lehigh Valley and other PA schools
By Eugene Tauber Of The Morning Call May 18, 2015
The nation’s overall high school graduation rate has reached 81 percent based on 2013 statistics and is on track to reach 90 percent by 2020, according to the annual Grad Nation report produced in part by America’s Promise Reliance organization.  How do Pennsylvania schools fare? The state’s average is 87.85 percent, according to 2104 statistics. The map below shows the rates for all public and charter schools that reported 2014 statistics to the state Education Department.
Click on the map to see individual school rates. Drag and zoom to see schools statewide. Red droplets indicate graduation rates under 80 percent. Yellow droplets indicate rates between 80 and 90 percent. Green droplets indicate rates higher than 90 percent.

Bethlehem updating middle school math to align with Pa. Core
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 18, 2015 at 8:32 PM, updated May 18, 2015 at 8:44 PM
Bethlehem schools are starting an overhaul of the middle school math curriculum to better prepare students for new academic standards.  The implementation of the Pennsylvania Core Math Standards has meant changes to the math concepts students are expected to know and when they should master them.  The curriculum standards have led to updates to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSAs) tests, making them more rigorous.  The school board voted Monday night to adjust the math curriculum sequence in the district's four middle schools. It is the first minor step in what is likely to be a multi-part update.

State College school board won’t wait for state funding to approve budget
BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.com May 18, 2015 
STATE COLLEGE — The State College Area school board has three weeks until it votes on the final budget.  And district business manager Randy Brown said he isn’t holding his breath waiting for state funding that Gov. Tom Wolf proposed would happen.  “The governor called for basic education subsidy funding,” Brown said. “When we see what that is, we will reallocate what we get back from the government.”  But the latest State College Area budget plans include $136,135,989, and that doesn’t yet include any expected funding from the state.  Brown added that he also doesn’t expect much to change with the budget in the next few weeks.  The budget also calls for a 5.49 percent tax increase that includes 3.59 percent to help fund referendum debt.

"Board member Chris Judd pointed out that of about $5 million budgeted for personnel costs in 2015-2016, $3.3 million will go to state-mandated pension contributions.  "The line items we have control of are barely edging up," Judd said.  Board member Stephen Smith said the tax increase will raise about $1.2 million, less than half of the district's pension obligation for next year. He urged district taxpayers to pressure state legislators for pension reform.  "I implore you to take time, reach out, let those people know how important it is to you."
Central Dauphin School Board approves 2015-2016 spending plan
By Marijon Shearer | Special to PennLive  on May 18, 2015 at 10:15 PM
The Central Dauphin School Board approved a $174 million preliminary budget Monday that calls for a 1.79 percent tax increase.  School taxes will rise 1.79 percent in Central Dauphin School District under a 2015-2016 budget passed Monday.  For a property owner with real estate assessed at $150,000, the increase amounts to about $37. Added to the 2014-2015 tax rate of 14.6008 mills, a property owner with a $150,000 assessment will owe Central Dauphin School District about $2,229 in 2015-2016.

Harrisburg School Board considering no-tax-hike budget for 2015-16
By M. Diane McCormick | Special to PennLive  on May 18, 2015 at 9:53 PM, updated May 18, 2015 at 9:54 PM
Harrisburg School District's proposed 2015-16 budget – its third in a row without property tax increases – includes funds for a newly created supervisor of security.  Under the proposed $136.4 million spending plan, the owner and resident of a home assessed at $42,000 would, with a homestead exemption, pay about $750 in property taxes.  Total salaries would rise by $1.1 million, to $43.5 million. That includes about $200,000 set aside for salaries and benefits slated for a supervisor of security and possibly an aide, said interim Chief Financial Officer Bill Gretton. The supervisor would be paid about $70,000, he said.

Budget uncertainty plagues principals, planning
School leaders must plan for austerity and provide a wish list for what more dollars could buy.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 18, 2015 02:32 PM
Governor Tom Wolf, seen here as a 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate greeting teachers at the Solis-Cohen Elementary School, has proposed a school funding plan that would provide significantly more money for the District.  Carver High School of Engineering & Science is one of the most successful schools in the city, educating mostly low-income students of color in sought-after technology fields and sending them to college.  Next year, principal Ted Domers doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to offer AP computer science.  “I can fill the class; I just don’t know if I’ll have textbooks,” he explained.  He’d like to provide an afterschool SAT prep class, “but I don’t know if I’ll have the money to pay the teachers.”  He has one counselor for 750 students. He has one secretary.  Still, in cash-strapped Philadelphia, Domers is one of the luckier principals. Carver, a special admission school, can control its enrollment, making it easier to plan a schedule and roster classes. Neighborhood schools, on the other hand, often can’t predict with any precision how many students will turn up in September, and some lack basics like science books.

Another union reaches deal with Philly schools
Inquirer by Kristen Graham POSTED: MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015, 2:22 PM
Another union has a deal with the Philadelphia School District.
The members of Unite Here Local 634, which represents school cafeteria workers and noontime aides, has ratified a four-year contract that contains benefits savings and work-rule changes including a weakening of seniority rights.  The workers - the district's lowest-paid - will actually get pay bumps made possible, officials said, by allowing the district to temporarily stop payments to the union's health and welfare fund. Most workers in the union are part-time, earning $10.88 hourly, or about $8,000 annually.  Under the terms of the new contract, by the end of the deal, all will earn what the city considers to be a "21st Century Living Wage," approximately $12.67 hourly.

Norristown Area High School students decry proposed teacher cuts
By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald POSTED: 05/18/15, 9:58 PM EDT |
NORRISTOWN>> A host of students attended the Norristown Area school board work session Monday night to protest the $142,410,350 proposed final budget for the 2015-2016 school year, which calls for the cutting of several teaching positions at Norristown Area High School.  The Norristown Area school board will vote to accept the proposed final budget at the Monday, May 25, board meeting. The budget carries with it a 2.3 real estate tax increase to make up for the deficit from the projected $137,384,870 in revenues.  The board must adopt a proposed final budget by May 31, and can make changes to it before they must adopt a final budget by the end of June.

"Such a lesson is commonplace in every parochial school in the city - but rare in Philadelphia public schools, where Common Core State Standards established in 2011 don't include cursive as a requirement. The standards require students to be able to convey information in writing - print, cursive or type."
Curses! Whatever happened to cursive writing?
REGINA MEDINA, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER MEDINAR@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5985  POSTED: Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 12:16 AM
PATRICIA LAFFERTY has some rules for pupils learning cursive writing in her class.
"Proper posture for proper penmanship," Lafferty told her third-graders yesterday at St. Anthony of Padua Regional Catholic School in South Philadelphia. "Put your feet under your desk, not under your chairs."  They were learning to write a proper cursive "n" in their handbooks. Each page had a sample cursive letter and an area to practice it, with three lines to help guide their writing.  The boys and girls watched Lafferty write a lowercase "n" on the chalkboard, which also had the three lines. Two bumps should hit the middle line - not three, or it would be an "m," she told them.

Now if we can just keep art in the curriculum……
Ohio District Preserves Cursive by Teaching It in Art Class
Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog By Jessica Brown on May 1, 2015 1:54 PM
Cursive handwriting is often described as a lost art. So why not teach it in art class? That's exactly what one Ohio school district plans to do.  At a time when some states are dropping cursive handwriting writing instruction from their curriculum, the 4,000-student Green Local school district south of Akron has found an innovative way to keep it in the curriculum. The district will reintroduce handwriting in the fall, only now it will become part of art instruction whereas traditionally, cursive instruction has been part of  English/language arts teaching.
Teaching cursive in art class is a creative and intriguing solution to a problem that has been vexing educators and script lovers for years: how to save handwriting instruction in an increasingly digital age.  The idea is getting attention. The Akron Beacon Journal wrote about the decision earlier this week. When school district officials posted the story on the district's Facebook page, it got more than 39,000 hits within 24 hours.  "The vast majority of comments have been very positive," said Kimberly Brueck, the director of technology and secondary curriculum, who led the charge. "People are saying 'it should never have gone away; my grandchildren will now be able to read my letters.'"

Congress weighs funding for D.C. school vouchers
By Andrea Noble - The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2015
Shirley-Ann Tomdio, a junior at George Washington University studying to be an orthopedic surgeon, ticked off a list of accomplishments that would make any parent proud.
The daughter of Cameroonian immigrants, Ms. Tomdio earned honors before graduating from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, was an editor of her school’s literary magazine, won awards on the track team and serves as a leader of a women’s empowerment group.  Speaking about her accomplishments before a panel of federal lawmakers Thursday in the auditorium of Archbishop Carroll High School,Ms. Tomdio credited her successes to her parents’ perseverance, as well as a school voucher program that made it possible for her to attend to the private high school.


School directors, superintendents and administrators are encouraged to register and attend this event.
Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Legislative Council
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Quakertown Community School District, 100 Commerce Drive  Quakertown, PA 18951
Welcome by Paul Stepanoff , Board President , QCSD
Introduction of Paul Clymer, State of State Education

Mr. Glenn Grell , PSERS Executive Director
Introduction by Dr. Bill Harner, Superintendent QCSD

Panel of Superintendents and Elected School Directors from Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Counties
Introduction by Mark B. Miller, Board Vice President, Centennial SD

TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION:
1) The status of 2015-16 budget in their district (including proposed tax increase)
2) PSERS impact on their budget
3) Proposed use of any new funding from Commonwealth

Larry Feinberg and Ron Williams
Benefit and need for County Wide Legislative Council in Delaware and Montgomery Counties respectively

Dr. Tom Seidenberger (Retired Superintendent ) - Circuit Rider Update

SAVE The DATE: Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Panelists
Conneaut School District
Mr. Jarrin Sperry, Superintendent, Ms. Jody Sperry, Board President
Corry School District
Mr. William Nichols, Superintendent
Fort LeBoeuf School District
Mr. Richard Emerick, Assistant Superintendent
Girard School District
Dr. James Tracy, Superintendent
Harbor Creek School District
Ms. Christine Mitchell, Board President
Millcreek School District
Mr. William Hall, Superintendent Mr. Aaron O'Toole, Director of Finance and Accounting
Keynote Speaker
Mr. Jay Himes, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

PHILLY DISTRICT TO HOLD COMMUNITY BUDGET MEETINGS
PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host 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, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

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