Friday, May 8, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 8: $940K ad buy in closing week brings school choice proponents Yass, Dantchick & Greenberg's total media expenditures for Williams' campaign to about $5.2 million

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 8, 2015:
$940K ad buy in closing week brings school choice proponents Yass, Dantchick & Greenberg's total media expenditures for Williams' campaign to about $5.2 million

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

What are the differences between the Wolf/Senate GOP pension plans? A primer: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 07, 2015 at 8:23 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Senate Republicans have released the details of their long-awaited pension reform plan, which would do away with the defined-benefit retirement plan for state and public school employees.  
And, as the Associated Press reports, it would require concessions from many current employees to shore up the state's debt-ridden pension systems.  Here's a quick primer on the GOP plan, sponsored by Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, and the pension plan advanced by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Uncharted waters ahead for Senate pension changes
WITF State House SOund Bites Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 7, 2015 10:00 PM
The state Senate GOP's plan to change to the state's pension system is a heavy political lift that remains untested in the Legislature.  After months of silence on the details of a pension overhaul proposal, Republican leaders are gearing up for a fast and furious week. They expect to receive an actuarial analysis Tuesday on how much their proposed changes could save for the retirement systems' collective $53 billion liability. By the end of the week, they expect to hold a final vote on the bill. The measure would close the traditional pension system to any new workers and ask more of the employees enrolled in it now.  "It's going to be controversial -- there's going to be grinding and gnashing of the teeth," said Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), who supports the changes. "But you know what? Either you want to fix this disease that's killing the Pennsylvania budget ... or you want to put tax increases on every Pennsylvanian for a lifetime."  Some say Republican-backed amendments are waiting in the wings to exclude certain employee groups from the pension changes.  But leaders say they have the votes to pass the plan in their chamber, setting up what they hope is part of a grand bargain with the House and the governor's office. That negotiation could rope-in other issues (e.g. phasing out the state-run liquor stores, the overall budget, property tax relief).

House Democratic leadership set to introduce budget, related bills
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, May 7, 2015
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) and House Democratic Appropriations Chairman Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) announced Thursday afternoon the introduction of Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget plan and intent to introduce other major components of the governor’s comprehensive plan next week.  The bill for the General Appropriations Act is House Bill 1125. Non-preferred higher education appropriations will run from House Bill 1126 to House Bill 1130. Other, smaller agency appropriations bills will run from House Bill 1131 to House Bill 1139. The Capital Budget Bill is labeled House Bill 1140.  Next week, the leadership plans to introduce “other major pieces” of the governor’s budget plan to run from House Bill 1142 to House Bill 1151, according to an email from caucus spokesperson Bill Patton.

A breakdown of Gov. Wolf's plan for new education spending
Sixth in an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers." To listen to the podcast, click the audio player above.
What has Governor Wolf proposed?
In the first year of his plan, the governor wants to increase pre-K through higher education spending by $1 billion.  Of this figure, $500 million would go to K-12 classrooms ($400 million to basic education and $100 million to special education).  Pre-K Counts and Head Start would received $120 million in new aid. The state's higher-ed system along with community colleges would get a $143 million boost in exchange for enacting tuition freezes.  Over four years, K-12 spending would get an additional $2 billion.  Wolf plans to pay for the increased spending by implementing a comprehensive tax overhaul.

"The result is hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayment to schools that post very poor results: In 2013-14, not a single cyber charter school met the state’s standard for adequate progress. Cyber charter schools come up short even in comparison to traditional public and charter schools whose students live in the greatest poverty."
Letter: Cyber charter schools need Wolf’s reforms
Lancaster Online LTE by Adam Schott Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015 7:00 am
The letter writer, a School District of Lancaster board member, said the views expressed here are his own.
Leave it to the Commonwealth Foundation and James Paul to kick off National Teacher Appreciation Week with a column bashing educators and their union (Wolf’s plan to reduce funding for charters a gift to PSEA, May 2, LNP).  Since it’s impossible to respond to all of Mr. Paul’s rhetorical and statistical sleight of hand, I’ll focus on his most egregious claims concerning Gov. Wolf’s plan for cyber charter school reform.
Here are the facts:
Under current law, Pennsylvania cyber charter schools receive payments based on the per-pupil spending of their students’ home school districts. Put another way, different districts pay different rates to the same school, offering the same curriculum.  These payments are in no way adjusted for the fact that cyber charter schools don’t face the same costs as brick-and-mortar schools, and the payments bear no relationship to the cyber charter’s actual instructional costs.

Letter: Writer blinded by free-market enthusiasm
Lancaster Online LTE by Dennis Deslippe Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015 7:00 am
James Paul is so blinded by his free-market enthusiasm that he ignores the growing evidence of charter schools' ineffectiveness (“Wolf's plan to reduce funding for charters a gift to PSEA,” May 2).  Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes reports that charter school students do no better or no worse than students in traditional public schools. This finding is especially sobering given their considerable public and foundation funding, as well as the low percentage of ESL and special-needs children in their classrooms.  What is most galling about Paul's position is his persistent defense of cyberschools. Paul is one of the last supporters of these fiscally irresponsible institutions that often fail to meet state education standards.

"George Wolf's support for public education was unpopular in his own party. It was believed by some that education was best left to church and private schools."
Gov. Tom Wolf accepts Bethlehem elementary school's invitation
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 07, 2015 at 6:54 PM, updated May 07, 2015 at 6:56 PM
Governor Wolf Elementary School in Bethlehem is named after Pennsylvania's seventh governor but it also shares a name with the 47th: Gov. Tom Wolf.
The Butztown Road school extended the new governor an open invitation to visit the school via the sign in front of its building.  There was also an inauguration-day invitation delivered via Twitter featuring a photo of the sign:  And it looks like Wolf has accepted. The governor is scheduled to visit the school Friday. He plans to discuss the impact of proposed fiscal year 2015-16 funding increases on education during a "Schools that Teach" roundtable and tour.  The school's namesake is actually credited with being the father of Pennsylvania's first public school system. In 1834, the Common School Law was passed establishing the state's first system of publicly funded education.  Many today hope that Gov. Tom Wolf will put a renewed focus on the state's public education system and provide schools with reliable funding.

Tony Williams should run on his beliefs
Harold Jackson, Inquirer Opinion Columnist POSTED: THURSDAY, MAY 7, 2015, 11:57 AM
If Anthony Hardy Williams loses the Philadelphia mayor’s race, he shouldn’t blame it on negative advertising or being outspent. He should blame it on having a rudderless campaign that never distinguished itself on any issue. Williams was the only candidate who came into the Democratic primary with high expectations of articulately expressing a specific point of view on a particular issue – charter schools – and he instead avoided the subject, unless someone else brought it up.  How are voters supposed to vote for someone who acts like he’s embarrassed to be associated with a cause he has championed for years? It’s not as if Williams can run away from his past, not with his mayoral campaign being heavily financed by three rich guys who have made it their mission to promote the creation of more charters in Pennsylvania. Bala Cynwyd investment moguls Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik, and Jeff Yass also put a lot of money into Williams’ unsuccessful run for governor in 2010.

Super PAC spending for campaign's final week approaches $1 million
American Cities, the super PAC supporting State Sen. Anthony Williams has increased its planned  TV and radio advertising for the final week of the Philadelphia mayor's race to over $950,000, according to two sources familiar with political ad placements.
Earlier in the campaign, the group was buying about $500,000 worth of ad time per week, far more than any other political committee or candidate. With the latest purchases, American Cities total ad buys for the race now exceed $5 million.
American Cities has a new ad (above) which is closer to the core message of the three wealthy suburban donors who are funding the effort. It talks about helping kids "trapped in violent, crumbling schools."The ad also notes Williams' endorsement by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"The buy brings American Cities' total media expenditures for the campaign, including television and radio, to about $5.2 million, according to the sources.  …The American Cities' ad buy this week represented a $420,000 boost over what had already been purchased for the campaign's closing days.  American Cities has been funded largely by three executives of the Susquehanna International Group of Bala Cynwyd. The three - Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik and Jeffrey Yass - are proponents of school choice. As such, they backed Williams' unsuccessful run for governor in 2010."
In Philly mayor's race, a monetary milestone
The Democratic mayoral primary has apparently passed another monetary milestone.
American Cities, the independent expenditure group formed to support state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, has purchased $940,000 in television ad time for the closing week of the campaign, according to two sources familiar with political ad placements on local stations.
That seems likely to represent the largest concentrated ad buy for a Philadelphia mayoral candidate. It would exceed the spending rate of Tom Knox in 2007, when he paid $1.6 million for ads over the last two weeks of the campaign.  "That would be a record for a single candidate," said Elliot Curson, an advertising executive who has run political media campaigns in Philadelphia as far back as the 1960s. "We've never seen anything like that. A half million dollars a week, $600,000 a week, yeah, but not $900,000 a week."

Daily Signe Cartoon 05/07/15

Philly Daily News Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson 05/07/15

Days after Inquirer endorses Williams, its editorial-page editor takes candidate to task
Let's travel back to a simpler time called "Sunday."
It was then that the Philadelphia Inquirer "narrowly" endorsed the mayoral candidacy of one Anthony Hardy Williams over opponent Jim Kenney. To wit:  For two men representing different facets of the city — the passionate Irish Catholic son of a firefighter from East Passyunk; the even-keeled son of an African American politician from Cobbs Creek — they are a remarkably close match.  But the balance of power in City Hall isn't so close. Because the unions backing Kenney already wield too much influence, The Inquirer's choice for the Democratic nomination is Anthony Williams.  Yet this endorsement would not be as simple as just another entry on NinetyNine's regularly updated Mayoral-Race Endorsement-Tracker, for WHYY's Dave Davies learned of some related behind-the-scenes drama.  Namely, that refers to the fact that "word began circulating among Kenney's supporters that the members of the editorial board favored Kenney, but that they'd been overruled by the paper's owner and publisher, H.F. 'Gerry' Lenfest."
Outcry and critical emails, of course, ensued so Davies got to work as he is wont to do.

School Activists, Students, Dropping In on Williams Campaign’s Wealthy Backers
The mayoral campaign gets theatrical as Action United says they’ll be paying a surprise visit to Susquehanna Investment Group this afternoon.
Philadelphia Magazine BY JOEL MATHIS  |  MAY 6, 2015 AT 5:10 PM
 [UPDATE: 5:12 p.m.] The activists have arrived:
[ORIGINAL: 3: 50 p.m.] Well, we've apparently reached the stage of the mayoral campaign where theatrics will start to play a larger role.  The first sign? Parents and students affiliated with Action United — a "community organizing" group founded by former members of Acorn — said today that they'll show up at 4:30 this afternoon to the offices of Susquehanna International Group to meet with firm's three principals who are throwing large chunks of cash at the Tony Williams campaign.  In a statement, Action United parent leader Kia Hinton said it appeared the trio's agenda consists of "closing more schools, privatizing education and busting unions."  "That's help we can do without!” Hinton said.  Hinton also co-wrote an op-ed for today's Daily News criticizing Williams and his backers. "Their candidate, Williams, is a longtime voucher and charter-school advocate," she wrote. "His record as a legislator in Harrisburg shows that the Susquehanna partners have good reason to invest in Williams' candidacy."

ASPIRA challenges school union election
CHARTER OPERATOR ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania is seeking to block certification of a union at its Olney Charter High School, despite recent assurances that it would negotiate in good faith.  ASPIRA filed a brief yesterday with the National Labor Relations Board asserting that the agency has no jurisdiction over a union vote because the North Philly school is a public entity and the NLRB's purview is limited to private-sector employees.  The move comes a week after Olney Charter staffers voted, 104-38, in favor of a union after a three-year organizing effort.

Dual Language Charter School sending some students back to home districts
Morning Call by Adam Clark
A Bethlehem charter school is sending some students back to their home districts
The Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School in Bethlehem is temporarily suspending operations for seventh and eighth grade and telling those students to return to their home school districts or enroll in other charter schools.  The decision comes as the charter school fights with Bethlehem Area School District over its ability to open a second location to serve middle school students.

Despite Act 1, school tax hikes have exceeded inflation
Lancaster Online by TIM BUCKWALTER | Staff Writer Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015 6:30 am
As Lancaster County school districts prepare to adopt their 2015-16 budgets next month, their tax rates are limited by a state law that has capped annual increases each year since 2007-08.
Act 1 is intended to slow the rate of school tax increases.  But an LNP analysis shows that even with the restrictions of Act 1, most districts here have raised their millage rates significantly higher than official U.S. inflation rate over the past eight years.

Wilkinsburg schools looking for 'education partner' for secondary students
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 7, 2015 4:14 PM
Students in grades 7-12 in the Wilkinsburg School District may find themselves attending school outside of their district as early as the 2016-17 school year if efforts being made by school officials are successful.  Acting superintnendent Dan Matsook announced Thursday that the district is looking for an “education partner” willing to take the secondary students on a tuition basis and offer them significantly more academic and extra curricular activities than they have now because of their small size and tight finances.

Palmyra School District tax increase now at 2.5 percent
By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive on May 07, 2015 at 8:55 PM
Palmyra area residents will see a tax increase of 2.5 percent for the 2015-16 school year, just a hair over the 2.4 percent raise allowed by the state under Act 1.  Palmyra will use some of the exceptions it received for pension costs and special education to go above the index.  The $44.9 million budget increases taxes from 13.225 to 13.555 mills, which means a resident with a property assessed at the district's median value of $185,400 will pay an extra $61 a year.  The budget first proposed in February called for a 6 percent increase, but district officials have since cut back in several areas.

"The biggest expense jump affecting the budget is the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System, which sees an increase by 4.4 percent from the current 21.4 percent to 25.84 percent. This adds another $597,521 onto last year’s budget expenses, and salaries are set to increase $224,524."
Conneaut's proposed budget has deficit, but no tax hike expected
By Earl Corp Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015 1:00 am
LINESVILLE — Conneaut School District’s second look at the proposed 2015-16 school year budget reveals a $1.6 million deficit, but the school board doesn’t plan to increase taxes to make up the difference.  The full board saw the budget for the first time since March at Wednesday’s work session. Board President Jody Sperry doesn’t think there will be a consensus among the budget committee to raise taxes from the current millage rate of 50.55, so the deficit will likely be taken from the $12.3 million unassigned fund balance.  The fund balance is “going to take a hard hit,” Sperry said.

When it comes to Common Core, a few commonsense concerns: Michael A. MacDowell
PennLive Op-Ed  By Michael A. MacDowell on May 07, 2015 at 1:00 PM
Michael A. MacDowell is president emeritus of Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., where he occasionally taught economics. He is the managing director of the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation.
It is difficult to pick up a newspaper or listen to a news broadcast nowadays that fails to mention the Common Core curriculum.  Conservative and liberal pundits, alike, complain about it. Let's examine some of the issues surrounding the educational system's elementary, middle and high school reading and math standards to see if all of the criticism is warranted.

On the Brink: York City schools depend on volunteers for STEAM power
York Dispatch by Erin James  505-5439/@ydcity 05/07/15
A middle-school boy in a white polo shirt bounced across the stage and shouted: "Let's burn those abs! Let's feel the pain, baby!"  His teachers didn't flinch. His classmates, hunched over laptops and giant poster board, kept working. Pastor Bob Tome nodded in approval.  This wasn't the class clown's attempt at capturing a laugh from his classmates.  This was a fairly normal Thursday afternoon scene at Ferguson K-8, where a group of ambitious students have spent the past few weeks putting the final touches on a play they've been rehearsing since December.

Delaware house passes opt out bill
The Delaware House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday allowing parents to opt their children out of the new, Smarter Balanced assessment.  Only three lawmakers voted against the measure. If the bill passes the State Senate it will go to Governor Jack Markell, who hinted last week during a radio interview withWDEL that he may veto the measure.  Hundreds of Delaware parents have already refused to let their children take the exam, which is designed to gauge student progress on the Common Core State Standards. Many believe the new, tougher exam is an imposition on instructional time and an untrustworthy measure of student achievement. Statewide, roughly one percent of students scheduled to take the Smarter Balanced exam have opted out, according to informal numbers gathered by NewsWorks/WHYY.

Recovery schools back to Orleans Parish? House panel says OK, 9-8
By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune  Email the author | Follow on   Twitter on May 06, 2015 at 12:30 PM, updated May 06, 2015 at 7:07 PM
A bill to return most New Orleans public schools to the Orleans Parish school system passed the Louisiana House Education Committee by the slimmest of margins Wednesday (March 6). If enacted, House Bill 166 would require state Recovery School District schools that are no longer failing to return to local control within a year.  The 9-8 vote came despite opposition from committee chair Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Business and Indusry, the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.  "We have 46 schools that should be back under the local board," said HB 166's sponsor, Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans. The charter boards would continue to run the schools, but they would be overseen by the local authority, not the state.

Stephen Colbert spoke to S.C. Supt. Molly Spearman at Alexander Elementary School to announce he, along with ScanSource and Share Fair Nation, would fund all 1,000 classroom projects South Carolina teachers asked for on
Stephen Colbert announces major gift for SC teachers
Greenville Online by  Nathaniel Cary, ncary@greenvillenews.com2:26 p.m. EDT May 7, 2015
Stephen Colbert funds thousands in SC teacher grant requests
Comedian Stephen Colbert announced Thursday that he would fund every existing grant request South Carolina public school teachers have made on the education crowdfunding website   Colbert made the announcement on a live video feed Thursday at a surprise event at Alexander Elementary School in Greenville.  Colbert partnered with The Morgridge Family Foundation 's Share Fair Nation andScanSource, which is headquartered in Greenville, to fund nearly 1,000 projects for more than 800 teachers at over 375 schools, totaling $800,000.

EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - Sunday, May 10 at 3:00 p.m. 
Topic 1: Sunshine, Ethics, Open Records, and School Districts
Nathaneal Byerly, Acting Executive Director, Office of Open Records
Robert Caruso, Executive Director, Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission
Barry Kauffman, Executive Director, Common Cause Pennsylvania
Topic 2: The Role of Intermediate Units in Pennsylvania
Thomas E. Gluck, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units

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

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
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

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:
 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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