Thursday, June 11, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 11: Senator Leach: "100% of the time failing schools are poor and 0% of the time rich schools are failing"

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 11, 2015:
Senator Leach: "100% of the time failing schools are poor and 0% of the time rich schools are failing"

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015

"100% of the time failing schools are poor and 0% of the time rich schools are failing"
PSBA Govt Affairs tweet quoting Senator Daylin Leach discussing SB6 at PA Senate Ed Committee meeting of June 9th

Montco rally to push for new school funding by Jessica Parks LAST UPDATED: Thursday, June 11, 2015, 1:08 AM
NORRISTOWN School officials, parents, and activists are planning a rally at the Montgomery County Courthouse on Thursday morning to advocate for a new state education funding formula.  A legislative commission that has been studying the issue for a year was due to release its recommendations Wednesday. The commission announced Tuesday that it was pushing the deadline back a week.  At the rally, Superintendent Janet Samuels of the Norristown Area School District - one of the hardest-hit districts in Montgomery County - will speak about the need for a system that is fair and reliable.  Local actors will also perform monologues from the recent theater production "School Play."  The rally, organized by the advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth, is to begin at 11 a.m. on the steps of the county courthouse, 2 E. Airy St. 

Outdoor drama targets school funding
Chambersburg Public Opinion Staff reports UPDATED:   06/10/2015 12:11:01 PM
CHAMBERSBURG >> A short dramatic presentation outdoors at Franklin County Courthouse is on tap Thursday at 1 p.m. as part of a statewide schedule of events to highlight the need for a new basic education funding system in Pennsylvania.  A Shippensburg family — Rich and Misty Knight and their daughter Rachel — will perform "School Play."  Sponsored by Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, the performance is aimed at raising awareness of the state's much-criticized school funding formula and heightening pressure on legislators to amend the process.  Susan Spicka, co-founder of Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, repeatedly charges that Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the country. She said inequity, combined with recent cuts in state funding to public schools, has resulted in teacher layoffs and cutbacks in programs and services in many schools across the state.

Campaign for Fair Education Funding statement on timing of Basic Education Funding Commission report
Campaign for Fair Education Funding website June 10, 2015
HARRISBURG – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding today released the following statement on the timing of the Basic Education Funding Commission report:  It is important that the Commission produces a solution to fix Pennsylvania's broken basic education funding system. The Commission should take the extra time if that's what it takes to get it right.  We urge the Commission to continue its work to reach consensus on a sustainable, equitable and predictable public school funding system that addresses existing economic and racial disparities and provides sufficient funds to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed -- no matter where they live.  We look forward to seeing the Commission's proposal soon.

Have you signed up for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding e-newsletter yet?

Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission delays recommendation for funding formula
Delco Times By Brendan Wills, on Twitter POSTED: 06/10/15, 3:16 PM EDT
NORRISTOWN>> The Basic Education Funding Commission announced Wednesday that it will not be making a recommendation to the Pennsylvania legislature for a fair funding formula for public schools by the June 10 deadline.  The commission announced Thursday that it will take another week to finalize a recommendation.  ”This allows members of the commission the necessary time to continue to build on the positive and productive conversations taking place based on information gathered during the year-long hearings to reach a final consensus on a product that generates a fair distribution formula before making a recommendation to the General Assembly,” the statement reads.  The commission was formed a year ago on June 10 by the Act 51 of 2014 to come up with a funding formula for basic education, which Pennsylvania has been without for several years.  Most school districts have continued their budget process without considering any change to the funding formula, assuming it will not be in place for the 2015-2016 school year. School districts in Pennsylvania must adopt their budgets by June 30, which means district’s finance departments usually have to estimate the funding they will receive from the state because they are passing their budgets before the state votes on their allocation of funds to education.

Funding formula? What funding formula?
John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 2015, 8:57 AM
I feel certain you'll be shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that the state's long-touted, long-"working" bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission has failed to meet a deadline imposed by law a year ago.  With its report on how to make state school spending fairer to all school districts (read: especially Philadelphia) due today, June 10, the commission yesterday issued a statement at 5:25 p.m. saying, yeah, well, we're not going to make that deadline so we're extending it another week.

Roebuck to introduce strong, bipartisan Pa. charter school reform bill
Includes $160 million in savings, 'apples to apples' teacher evaluations
Rep. Roebuck's website June 10, 2015
HARRISBURG, June 10 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, will introduce a bipartisan bill that would carry out strong charter school reforms.  "This bill would make the reforms our students and taxpayers need. It has bipartisan support from the start, so it's more likely that Governor Wolf can and would sign it into law instead of vetoing it. The legislature and governor have a lot to get done this year and we need to work together," Roebuck said.  "There are charter schools that are innovative and provide a good education, but we must have the tools to deal with the bad apples, and we shouldn't overpay for the good ones. Our children and taxpayers deserve better."  In March, the House passed a charter-school bill (H.B. 530) on party lines. Roebuck said that bill falls short on needed reforms and oversight, would override local control and would cut Wolf out of a proposed school funding commission.

Support Wolf's budget plan that ends overpayment to cyber-charter schools: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor  by KATHY I. EVERETTCarlisle  on June 10, 2015 at 3:00 PM, updated June 10, 2015 at 3:01 PM
I most strongly encourage Cumberland County lawmakers to support the cyberschool funding reform in Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budget. This reform would end school district over-payments to corporations that operate cyber-charter schools and save Cumberland County schools nearly $3 million next year.  The savings generated from this reform would be invested in our local schools and used to educate our children rather than sent away to a corporation to be spent on anything from advertising to CEO salaries or to other overhead costs.

Senate committee votes to delay Keystone Exams
West Chester Daily Local By Staff Report 06/10/15, 4:58 PM EDT
The Senate Education Committee Tuesday unanimously approved legislation to delay the graduation requirement associated with the Keystone Exams for two years.
“This marks a crucial first step in reevaluating and rolling back the make-or-break graduation exams that were put in place by the previous administration,” Sen. Andy Dinniman said. “We said then that standards without the resources to support them were not only unfair to students, but also put an unmanageable financial burden on school districts. Today we have united to ensure that our message is heard loud and clear and that the legislature reasserts its role in the process.”  Under current law, high school students beginning with the class of 2017 (rising juniors) will have to pass Keystone Exams in three subject areas (Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts) in order to earn a diploma. While the three exams are required by the federal government for evaluative purposes, education officials in the previous administration arbitrarily tied them to high school graduation.  Senate Bill 880 calls for delaying the requirement until the 2018-2019 school year, meaning it would affect incoming freshmen. The bill aims to give the Legislature additional time to resolve some of the unanticipated consequences of the Keystones implementation, including how to effectively administer and fund project-based assessments for students who do not pass the exams.

RFA’s Analysis of Keystone Exams
Research for Action Policy Brief, June 2015
Beginning with the class of 2017, Pennsylvania students’ performance on Keystone exams will play a major role in whether they receive high school diplomas.  This policy, and the state’s move toward test-based accountability, has been controversial. Many supporters believe that exit exams will ensure greater equity in academic expectations statewide, while opponents contend that exit exams will narrow curriculum, burden both teachers and students, and negatively impact graduation rates–especially for disadvantaged students.  Earlier this year, test results for the 2013-14 administration of the Keystones were released; the results provide an initial indication of how students are performing.

POLL: Should the Keystone Exam graduation requirement be delayed or scrapped completely?
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 3:05 pm | Updated: 3:11 pm, Wed Jun 10, 2015.
Starting in 2017, public school students must pass Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams to graduate, but that requirement might get put on hold.  The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would delay the Keystone Exam graduation requirement until 2019, according to PennLive.  Senate Bill 880, which was introduced by education chairman Lloyd Smucker, a West Lampeter Republican, could now go to a floor vote.  High school students (and some middle schoolers) take Keystone Exams in algebra I, literature and biology. Under current law, those in the class of 2017 and younger who fail the exams twice will need to complete a project-based assessment.  Lawmakers cited problems with implementation of those projects as motivation to delay the graduation requirement, PennLive reported. Finding staff to supervise student work on the projects has burdened some schools, for example.

"I don't think at that point it time it was clear what kinds of resources might be required in order for school districts and charters to meet the Keystone graduation requirements," said Kate Shaw, executive director of Research for Action.  The Philadelphia-based nonprofit published an analysis Wednesday showing that, based on last year's pass rates, a quarter million Pennsylvania students would need help with project based assessments."
Schools in 40 Pa. counties would struggle with Keystone graduation requirement
Pennsylvania students in the class of 2017 are the first who will be required to pass standardized Keystone exams in Algebra, literature and biology tests in order to graduate high school. A new brief details how complicated it could get to help students graduate who can't pass those exams.  State law passed under Gov. Ed Rendell and implemented under Gov. Tom Corbett says that if students can't pass the tests after two tries, schools must help them to complete a project-based assessment.  As written, though, the law provides zero additional resources for schools to do this work. 

PA Could Realize Huge Economic Gains by Emulating the World's Top Performing School Systems
Center on Regional Politics Summer 2015 Bulletin
Pennsylvania could realize up to $5 billion in additional annual economic growth by closing school performance gaps but doing so will require the kinds of dramatic changes that top performing countries have made and the U.S. has not. Conversely, failure to meet the educational challenges of global competition will mean that increasingly large segments of the U.S. and Pennsylvania economies face a low wage future. (See links to these presentations below.) These were the essential messages heard by 70 attendees at Temple’s third symposium on public school finance.

Gov. Tom Wolf waives fee for volunteers' background checks
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 10, 2015 at 1:41 PM, updated June 10, 2015 at 3:31 PM
Update: The House decided to postpone its anticipated lengthy debate on changes to the background checks law until Monday.
Shortly before the state House debate over proposed changes to the state's child abuse background checks law to make it less onerous to employees and volunteers who work with children that was supposed to happen on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf took a step to do just that.  Wolf announced today that $20 in fees for a child abuse clearance and state police criminal background check required by the Child Protective Services Law will be waived for volunteers who work with children.  He also announced that the state Department of Human Services and the Pennsylvania State Police will be reducing the cost of both the child abuse and criminal history record checks from $10 to $8 for all other applicants.  These changes, which grew out of conversations with legislators, will take effect on July 25.

Pa. waives background-check fees for school volunteers by Kathy Boccella  LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 5:39 PM
Fees for child-abuse clearances and criminal background checks required for volunteers working with children under the state's new child Protective Services Law will be waived, Gov. Wolf announced Wednesday.  For others, including those who work with children, such as teachers, the cost will be reduced from $10, to $8.  Beginning July 1, volunteers are required to obtain background checks, including the Child Abuse History Clearance, issued by the Department of Human Services, and the Criminal History Record Check, issued by the Pennsylvania State Police. The law was passed in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse case at Penn State.

EDITORIAL: Longer school days needed
York Dispatch POSTED:   06/10/2015 10:56:26 AM EDT
For all the drama surrounding the York City School District — the attempted state takeover and charter conversion plan, for instance — the most recent idea to improve academic achievement is remarkably simple:  What if the staff were to spend more time teaching students?  A new teachers' contract approved this week adds an additional hour of instruction to the school day starting in the fall — time that will be devoted to math, language arts and writing instruction, Superintendent Eric Holmes said.  The move will help improve test scores, he said, calling the agreement "unprecedented" in Pennsylvania.  We call it low-hanging fruit.

City's financial commitment to Philly schools only half-hearted, district says
Philadelphia's City Council gave initial approval to a slate of tax increases and asset sales to support the cash-strapped city school district Wednesday.  But just how much of the proceeds can be counted on by the Philadelphia School District is a point of contention. Council says $100 million. District officials say $45 million.  So what accounts for the difference?  Let's start at the beginning.  In the face of growing fixed costs, the district needs an additional $85 million to maintain existing services for next school year – services that Superintendent William Hite says are woefully inadequate.  In order to provide each student a high quality education, Hite has asked for $300 million between the  city and the state.

Philly parents, union, rally against plan to privatize school nursing services
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, June 11, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 6:17 PM
When her medically fragile son was in kindergarten, Sabrina Jones had a rotating cast of private-duty nurses at his Philadelphia public school.  "It just wasn't a good experience," said Jones - too little consistency, no real connection with her son, who has a feeding tube. But when he moved to a school that had a full-time nurse, she said, things improved dramatically.  "The relationship between the nurse and my child is essential," said Jones, whose son is now a fourth grader at Lingelbach School in Germantown. "How could you think replacing school nurses could possibly help children?"  Jones stood with Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan and others Wednesday to protest the Philadelphia School District's move to possibly outsource school nurse services.

Saucon Valley teacher contract proposal seeks raises for all six years
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 10, 2015 at 6:37 PM, updated June 10, 2015 at 8:29 PM
Saucon Valley teachers are seeking retroactive pay raises for the three years they have worked under an expired contract, according to a contract proposal released by their union.  The Saucon Valley Education Association released its final, best contract offer Wednesday so the school board can analyze it and the public can offer written comments ahead of a July 29 nonbinding arbitration hearing.  The two sides have agreed to try to settle the multi-year stalemate with a hearing before arbitrator Timothy Brown. Held behind closed doors, it is not open to the public.  The arbitrator will hear both sides and issue recommendations aimed at resolving disputed issues. Saucon Valley teachers have been working under an expired contract since July 2012.

Garnet Valley High School’s Jacob Trinh cooks his way to a scholarship
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin, Times Correspondent POSTED: 06/09/15, 12:32 PM EDT
CONCORD >> In September, Garnet Valley High School graduate Jacob Trinh will find himself in Providence, R.I.  While that is a new location, some of Trinh’s environment will be very familiar — a kitchen.  Trinh is headed to the highly regarded Johnson & Wales University to study culinary arts. He goes with two major advantages. First, he has excelled and won awards during his high school years studying in the Delaware County Technical School program. Second, Johnson & Wales had presented Trinh with a scholarship worth approximately $115,000 — or full tuition.

Peter Greene: Pennsylvania Governor Wolf Wants to Cut the Flow of $$$ to Cyber-Charters
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch June 10, 2015 //
Peter Greene reports a shocking development (for operators of cyber-charters): Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has said that he wants to reduce payments to cyber-charters, the online charter schools that are usually offered by for-profit corporations. Cyber-charters receive full state tuition for every student they enroll, and every dollar is subtracted from funding of local district schools that the student otherwise would have attended. Numerous studies have shown that the virtual schools have high attrition (as much as 50% a year), low test scores, and low graduation rates. But they are very profitable.  This is actually a shocking development for critics of virtual charters because their usual modus operandi is to sprinkle campaign contributions to key legislators and the governor, thus protecting their cash cow.

In Norway, where college is free, children of uneducated parents still don’t go
Advocates see it as a case study proving that the problem isn’t solely about money
Hechinger Report by JON MARCUS June 10, 2015
Curt Rice, incoming president of Oslo and Akershus University College, or HiOA. Photo: HiOA
OSLO—There’s a saying in famously egalitarian Norway that Curt Rice, the American-born incoming president of the country’s third-biggest university, likes to rattle off: “We’re all sitting in the same boat.”  What it means, said Rice, is that, “To single out anyone, we’re against that. That just does not sit well in the Norwegian soul.”  So all Norwegians have the same tuition-free access to college, no matter what their backgrounds. Every student gets the same allowance for living expenses.  But something surprising is happening in Norway, which explains a similar phenomenon in the United States that has been thwarting efforts to increase the number of Americans pursuing higher education.  Even though tuition is almost completely free here, Norwegians whose parents did not go to college are just as unlikely to go themselves as Americans whose parents did not go to college.

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015
On June 23 at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Education Voters will be joining together with more than 50 organizations to send a clear message to state lawmakers that we expect them to fund our schools in this year’s budget. Click HERE for more information and to register for the June 23 All for Education Day in Harrisburg.  Join us as we speak up for the importance of funding our schools fairly and at sufficient levels, so that every student in PA has an opportunity to learn.  Community, parent, education advocacy, faith, and labor organizations will join together with school, municipal, and community officials to hold a press conference and rally at 12:00 in the main rotunda and to make arrangements to meet with legislators before and after the rally.  We must send a strong message to state lawmakers that we are watching them and expect them to pass a state budget that will fund our schools this year. Please come to Harrisburg on June 23 to show broad support for a fair budget for education this year.

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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Campaign for Fair Education Funding website
Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Date:  Tuesday, June 23, 2015  Time:7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Berks County Intermediate Unit, 1111 Commons Boulevard, Reading, PA 19605
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s education opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for public schools in Berks County.  State lawmakers who represent Berks County have been invited to attend to learn about challenges facing area schools.

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