Wednesday, May 6, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 6: Which Pa. school districts get the highest percentage of aid from the state?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 6, 2015:
Which Pa. school districts get the highest percentage of aid from the state?

SAVE The DATE: Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508

"What drives these numbers?
  • Pennsylvania's lack of a predictable, student weighted funding formula allows state tax dollars to flow through Harrisburg in a largely irrational manner. Districts with more students in poverty, more special education students, and more english language learners don't formulaically receive additional state aid to help cover the added costs of meeting the needs of those students. If such a formula were implemented, urban districts like Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading would see a boost, while many rural and suburban districts would likely receive less state revenue.
  • Lawmakers dole out education spending largely based on what a district received the year prior. This "hold harmless" provision means that even if a district loses enrollment, the state will not reduce its share of aid.
  • In some cases, districts with stronger connections to state political power get funding boosts not enjoyed by other districts.
It's important to stress here that this analysis looks at the percentage of funding sources, not overall dollar amounts."
Which Pa. school districts get the highest percentage of aid from the state?
This post is part of an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers." 
Which school districts in Pennsylvania receive the most state funding as a share of their total revenue?  If you guessed Philadelphia, you'd be dead wrong.
As the interactive map above shows, the Philadelphia School District (85 percent economically disadvantaged) receives about 45 percent of its funding from Harrisburg — nowhere near the top of the list.
Rural districts in Western Pennsylvania dominate this category.
Meyersdale School district (45 percent economically disadvantaged) gets 73 percent of its revenue from the state.
Valley Grove School District (56 percent economically disadvantaged) gets about 72 percent of its revenue from Harrisburg.
Tussey Mountain School District (58 percent economically disadvantaged) receives about 70 percent of its funding from the state.
Districts in the far Northeast section of the commonwealth also receive a large portion of their school budgets from the state.
Northeast Bradford School District (47 percent economically disadvantaged) gets 68 percent of its funding from Harrisburg.
Susquehanna Community School District (58 percent economically disadvantaged) also gets about 68 percent.
What drives these numbers?

"In addition to playing a key role in budget deliberations, Browne had taken the lead on what was reportedly a massive, 400-page pension reform bill. Senate Republican leaders had made the passage of such a bill a precondition for any budget agreement  Browne had also emerged, in recent years, as a vocal supporter of increased state funding for early childhood education programs. He was also a key figure in the push for more equitable basic and special education funding issues."
With Sen. Browne's motorcycle accident, a key Republican player is benched: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 05, 2015 at 2:02 PM, updated May 05, 2015 at 5:07 PM
 (*this post has been updated)  It was the worst thing that could have happened for Senate Republicans - and at the worst possible time.  And it could have been a lot worse. A lot worse.  With news Saturday that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, had been hospitalized because of injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash, Senate Republicans lost their budget brain. And Browne's hometown voters lost the services of the region's single, most influential lawmaker.

"Article III, Section 14 of the Constitution states the Legislature "shall provide for the maintenance of a thorough and efficient system of public education."
Yet when it doesn't, as in the case of Philly schools and recently many others, the court says, well, we can't possibly get involved: separation of powers.  (Another school lawsuit is headed to the high court after Commonwealth Court last month ducked the issue again, saying it's up to the Legislature.)  Never mind that other state courts, including in New Jersey, Texas, Washington, South Carolina, have ruled to uphold constitutional mandates to fully fund schools."
Could a new Pa. Supreme Court be better for public schools?
TODAY, LET'S think about possibility.  Specifically, the possibility our state Supreme Court upholds the Constitution more often than when the mood strikes it to do so.  I mention this because of a record three vacancies on the seven-member court to be filled by election this year, and because, you know, one can always hope.  Let's concede that law can be a malleable thing, subject to circumstance and politics. In this state it's massaged into various shapes, sometimes avoiding constitutional dictates.  The Legislature does something (or nothing) that ends up before the court and the court says, oh, we can't possibly get involved: separation of powers.
We've all heard that, right?

"Bloom's bill allows for districts to layoff teachers for economic reasons and allows those furlough decisions to be based on teacher evaluations rather than seniority. However, if a layoff decision comes down to two teachers with the same performance rating, the less senior one would be the one to go."
Should teacher layoffs be carried out by seniority or evaluations?: The Question of the Day
By Jason Maddux |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 05, 2015 at 10:22 AM, updated May 05, 2015 at 10:23 AM
If a district needs to lay off teachers, should it do it based on seniority or performance?
As PennLive's Jan Murphy reported, school districts would be free to lay off teachers based on their performance evaluation rather than seniority under legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp. The House Education Committee approved it on Monday. 

Relieve testing frenzy and abuse with new policy
the notebook Commentary By Debra Weiner on May 5, 2015 11:49 AM
When an increasing number of parents in school districts as different as Philadelphia and Lower Merion opt their children out of standardized testing, it's clearly time for state and federal education agencies to rethink whether testing, as it has been practiced, drives better instruction or undermines fundamental educational values.  Unlike many who are philosophically opposed to standardized testing, I believe that we need objective measures beyond grades from teachers to assess student growth. I also believe that the punitive use of standardized testing results has led to the crippling of creativity in the classroom, the elimination of art and music and sports and recess, the departure of good teachers from the profession, the discouragement of talented young people from entering the profession, and the temptation to cheat.   Whatever its intention to further accountability, the abuse of standardized testing has undermined the very goal it was intended to further: improving student and school performance.

Set for Life: Browse the database to see who is getting a six-figure annual pension
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 06, 2015 at 6:30 AM, updated May 06, 2015 at 6:32 AM
Which of Pennsylvania's thousands of retired state government or school district employee receive a six-figure pension? You can browse our database and find out.  You can sort by each of the columns of data by clicking on the column heading. You can toggle between ascending and descending order by clicking again.

Leigh Dingerson, senior consultant with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, explains the Annenberg standards of Public Accountability for Charter Schools to the Nashville School Board on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Published on May 2, 2015 YouTube runtime 12:59

Annenberg Report: Public Accountability for Charter Schools Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight
Annenberg Institute for School Reform

As promised, SRC resolutions posted far ahead of meeting
By the Notebook on May 5, 2015 09:09 PM
With the District often chided for making information public at the 11th hour, SRC Chair Marjorie Neff recently promised more transparency for School Reform Commission meetings – or at least better service.  And after Neff's announcement that voting items for monthly SRC meetings would be available three weeks ahead of time, the District posted the draft of upcoming meeting resolutions on May 1, 20 days in advance of the May 21 meeting. This change gives more opportunity for the public to comment to the SRC in advance.  The resolution list now includes a note inviting questions or comments to be emailed "no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 7, 2015. Please reference the Resolution Number and include your name and email address."

On education, Kenney has championed making pre-K available for all Philadelphia children as he's criticized the proliferation of charter schools, which he says bleed the public school system of its resources.  "It's almost like you're setting up the public schools to fail by allowing children to migrate ... which is their parents' choice," Kenney said, "But with that goes the $7,000 or so that the ... child brings with them."
Jim Kenney talks charter schools, Philly's 'neighborhood mentality,' labor unions
For months, the six Democrats running for mayor of Philadelphia have been on a treadmill of public forums, debates, and meet-and-greets -- chewing on a familiar slate of issues.  So, in an effort to break out of the well-worn political discourse, I've been having casual conversations with the candidates about their lives as well as a few pet issues.  Next up is former City Councilman Jim Kenney, who I spoke with in mid-March at Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School in Center City.

"The super PAC, which is funded principally by three multimillionaire education reform advocates, is on track to spend more than $4 million on advertising in the mayor's race, according to NewsWorks' Dave Davies. But so far not a dime of that money has been spent on negative advertising about Kenney or any of the other candidates. All of its spots have been positive."
New Anthony Williams Ad Goes Negative on Jim Kenney
But what’s the real purpose of the hard-hitting new spot?
Philly Mag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  MAY 5, 2015 AT 11:02 AM
It finally happened.  With two weeks left till Election Day, state Sen. Anthony Williams’ mayoral campaign began airing the first negative TV ad of the season this week.  It's a hard-hitting, effective ad, honing in on comments made by mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Jim Kenney in 1997 after his friend's home had been burglarized.  According to internal polling, Kenney is the frontrunner in the mayoral race, with Williams trailing behind him.

"Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and a founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, said the results in Community Academy's case show how state law favors charters over traditional schools.  "It goes on for years and years, and finally the SRC makes a decision, and an unknown group of people who are not responsible to the people of Philadelphia say, 'OK, no problem,' " Haver said.  In contrast, she said, "you can just close a public school in Philadelphia."
A victory for Philly's Community Academy, at least for now
For more than four years, Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School fought to stay open in the face of complaints about shaky finances and low test scores.  But the K-12 school in Kensington won a major victory last week when the state Charter Appeal Board overturned the School Reform Commission's verdict and told the commission to renew the school's operating agreement.  From Community Academy's point of view, the lengthy battle with the SRC - while expensive and difficult - showed some of the strengths of the state charter law.

Three Philly Renaissance charter renewals in question
Meeting scheduled Monday to consider a dozen renewals, including seven Renaissance charters launched in 2010.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 5, 2015 04:57 PM
The School Reform Commission will consider more than a dozen charter renewals on Monday, and is expected to hear at least two recommendations for nonrenewal -- including one at a District school that was turned over to a private operator for turnaround.  The District's Charter Schools Office is opposing renewal of Bluford Elementary, which is a Renaissance turnaround charter operated by Universal Companies. It is also opposing renewal for Delaware Valley Charter High School, citing academic inconsistencies and fiscal issues.  In addition, there is no recommendation listed for two other Renaissance charters that are up for renewal: Young Scholars Frederick Douglass and Stetson Middle School, which is run by ASPIRA.  Several teachers at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass said that they were told that the charter office's recommendation was not to renew. Parents and teachers have been asked to mobilize their support.

Delaware establishes charter school moratorium
Delaware won't approve any new charter schools until the state drafts a strategic plan for school growth.  The legislation, signed Tuesday by Governor Jack Markell, also gives local school boards the power to reject or approve new charter schools attempting to open specifically in the city of Wilmington. Previously, charter schools only needed approval from one of two charter authorizers:  the Delaware Department of Education or the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  The new law comes amid growing concern that the density of charter schools in Wilmington has disrupted local feeding patterns and hamstrung traditional public schools.  "We are over-saturated with charter schools in the city of Wilmington," said Representative Charles Potter Jr., D-Wilmington, who authored the bill.

Charter school backers are NY state's top spenders on lobbying
Newsday By YANCEY ROY Updated April 29, 2015 10:19 PM
ALBANY -- Charter school proponents were the biggest special-interest group in state politics in 2014, outspending teachers' unions by better than a 2-to-1 ratio, according to a report released Wednesday.  The report by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which regulates lobbying, also found that an all-time high was spent on lobbying -- $226 million -- in 2014. The previous record was $220 million in 2011.  And it showed that a lobbying firm headed by former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato has climbed to No. 2 in the state, based on billing, up from No. 4.  The education spending reflects the national debate over education policy, as well as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's escalating war with teacher unions over teacher evaluations, experts said.

Settlement approved to divide up New Hope's remaining money
By Dylan Segelbaum York  Record/Sunday News UPDATED:   05/05/2015 03:37:19 PM EDT
A settlement agreement to divide up New Hope Academy Charter School's remaining money between the York City School District and two of founder Isiah Anderson's companies has been approved.  New Hope Academy Charter School used to be on West King Street near South Hartley in York, but closed on June 10 after losing a court battle about its charter not being renewed.

Inside Take: 3 Bogus Problems With the Teacher’s Contract
Saltz: Red herring alert.
PhillyMag Citified BY ANDREW SALTZ  |  MAY 4, 2015 AT 11:15 AM
 (Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Within the next 6 months, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will have a new contract.  This prognostication stems from two people: Governor Tom Wolf, who put forth an audacious plan to fund Philadelphia’s schools, and Marge Neff, Chair of the School Reform Commission. The dismal economic situation of the district may not have changed. But with Wolf and Neff in place, the plan now seems to be “find a contract that brings stability to schools” instead of the Tom Corbett — Bill Green playbook of “drown the PFT in its own blood and dance on the corpse."  It’s likely the two sides will find middle ground. In the meantime, Philadelphia will be inundated with hot-takes on things like “winners and losers”. In the end, the vast majority of people with opinions about the contract, and yes, this includes teachers, won’t have read the document.  What they’ll miss, what most people miss, is that the so-called “big issues” of the contract are neither big nor issues. Here is a Cliff Notes look at three of the most common/lazy complaints about the contract, not one of which is near as important as critics imagine.

'Opt-Out' Push Gains Traction Amid Common-Core Testing
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: May 5, 2015
The push by activists of various stripes to have parents opt students out of state exams this spring has transformed skepticism and long-running anger over the direction of education policy into a movement with numbers and a growing public profile. Whether those activists can craft a durable and effective political movement remains an open question.
Advocates, standardized-testing opponents, and observers continue to debate the movement's true goals, the disparity between the proportion of opt-outs and their broader importance, and how much the demographics of participating parents hurt or strengthen the cause.  Recent events in New York state, where disputes over the fiscal 2016 budget ratcheted up tensions over the role of testing in state policy, show how the opt-out campaign can gain traction. After years of negotiations and disagreements with the state over evaluations, the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers called on parents to opt their children out of exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and tens of thousands reportedly have done so.

PRESS RELEASE: Network for Public Education Response to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Statement on Opting Out
Network for Public Education Press Release May 5, 2015
Today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights led 11 civil rights groups into a national disagreement with students who have exercised their constitutional political free speech rights and chosen to opt-out of high-stakes testing.  The Network for Public Education supports those who choose to opt out, because we believe these tests are now causing harm to students, and to the cause of educational equity. Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian has written a response to The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights’ statement, which the Network for Public Education shares here. He states, “High-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish students of color.”

Testing Resistance & Reform News: April 29 - May 5, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 5, 2015 - 12:49pm 
During the final weeks of the spring 2015 standardized exam season, the testing resistance and reform movement is surging across the nation.  Record opt-out drives, state legislation to reduce testing overuse and roll back misuses, and Congressional action overhauling "No Child Left Behind," are all in this week's spotlight.

Walton Foundation's Market-Based Ed. Initiatives Miss Mark, Report Says
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on May 5, 2015 5:06 PM
The Walton Family Foundation's investments in market-based ideas to improve education—such as charter schools and private school voucher programs—are falling short,according to a new report.  Although the foundation's education initiatives have benefited individual families, those improvements aren't spilling over into systemwide change, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy—a Washington-based philanthropy research and advocacy group.  That limited impact is due largely to the foundation's narrow focus on school choice through charters and vouchers without a broader focus on quality, equity, and community, the report says. (The Walton Family Foundation provides support for coverage of parent-empowerment issues in Education Week. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over its content.)

New McCullough book celebrates Wright Brothers
Trib Live By The Associated Press Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
David McCullough's latest work of history followed a spontaneous path, from a book about many Americans in Paris in the 20th century to the biography of just two.  “Among the people I turned up were the Wright brothers, and it just astonished me that they were even in France, let alone that it had an important part to play in their story,” says the Pittsburgh native and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. “Just reading about them, I realized how much more interesting they were, how much more compelling than I had any idea. And I thought, ‘No, this is the book.' ”
'House of Cards' announces first casting call for new season in Bel Air
Baltimore Sum David Zurawik May 5, 2015
Looks like Frank Underwood will be returning to Maryland. But will Claire be with him?
Here's your chance to get all dressed up for "House of Cards." There's a casting call in Bel Air next week.  The first casting call for Season 4 of "House of Cards" was announced today.
It's Friday, May 15, at the Bel Air Armory.  The casting agents are looking for "paid background performers" who are dressed for a black-tie affair. They want performers 18 and older to arrive with "hair product" and "makeup applied."  I guess the annoucement suggests "House of Cards" is coming back to Maryland.  Check out the casting call above for particulars.

SAVE The DATE: Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
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

Sponsored by Coatesville and Media Area NAACPs
9:00 AM – 1:30 PM SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
Our children have to pass the state mandated tests in order to move on with life. SO - it is time for the PA Assembly to provide adequate and equitable funding to the public schools of Pennsylvania.
Pre-Registration is required for meals. Deadline for Pre-registration is May 12, 2015

Common Core Forum: A Closer Look at the PA Core Standards
Thursday, May 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Radnor Middle School
150 Louella Avenue, Wayne, 3rd floor
Presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford,  Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor.  Supported by the Radnor School District
Panelists Include:
Fred Brown, K-12 Math Supervisor, School District of Haverford Township
Jon Cetel, Education Reform Agent, PennCAN
Mary Beth Hegeman, Middle School Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Cynthia Kruse, Delaware County Intermediate Unit
Susan Newitt, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Wendy Towle, Supervisor of Language Arts & Staff Development, T/E School District
Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education

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 6
Dobbins High School2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

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