Thursday, June 4, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 4: We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty’

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 4, 2015:
We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty’

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

Open & transparent? 76 of 177 PA Charter schools have yet to respond to a Right to Know Law request made by PSBA on May 15th

Two years ago, former PA Office of Open Records Executive Director Terry Mutchler had this to say testifying before a Senate State Government Committee:
"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."
Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law
By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.  Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

Pedro Rivera will be the new Secretary of the Department of Education
PA-Gov: Senate Confirms More Cabinet Secretaries
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor
The Governor’s cabinet is starting to come into place.  Yesterday, the State Senate confirmed four new Secretaries. Today, they added another three.  Pedro Rivera will be the new Secretary of the Department of Education, John Quigley is now the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection while Teresa Miller becomes Commissioner of theInsurance Department.  Rivera and Miller were unanimously approved while Quigley’s vote was 44-4.

Inquirer LTE by |John Hanger, secretary of policy and planning, Governor's Office, June 4, 2015
Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country that does not have a severance tax on natural-gas extraction ("Wolf, GOP exchange budget salvos," June 2). It is past time for oil and gas companies to pay their fair share so we can get schools the funding they need. Yet corporate interests continue to protect oil and gas companies instead of working to fix schools and get Pennsylvania back on track.  Gov. Wolf's budget proposes a historic $1 billion investment in education at all levels. This is only the first step in achieving the governor's goal of a $2 billion investment in education over four years. The governor's severance-tax proposal will generate more than $1.5 billion in 2018-19. This revenue is critical to fixing our schools.

Pennsylvania pension reform fight heats up
Future state workers face up to 70% benefit cut if bill passes, think tank warns
Lancaster Online By TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 3:51 pm | Updated: 4:27 pm, Wed Jun 3, 2015.
The battle is intensifying over reforms to Pennsylvania's pension systems for public employees and school teachers.  On Thursday, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chair of the House State Government Committee, will convene the second of two hearings on Senate Bill 1Passed in the Senate in May, SB 1 would trim benefits for state employees and put new hires into a 401(k)-style plan rather than the existing traditional pension system.  LNP Editorial: Wolf, lawmakers must solve Pennsylvania pension crisis now  On Tuesday, Metcalfe, a conservative Republican from western Pennsylvaniacalled such a shift "a necessity to sustain the system."

Wolf, lawmakers must solve Pennsylvania pension crisis now
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 6:00 am
THE ISSUE: Pennsylvania’s two large pension funds — for teachers and state employees (the latter including state lawmakers, on the theory that they work) — are significantly underfunded. According to their own reports, they have a combined $53 billion in unfunded liabilities. In a March report, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators put the two funds at only 41 percent of annual required contribution, second-worst in the nation.
Five representatives of groups that speak for public school administrators and school board members told the LNP Editorial Board on Monday that Pennsylvania’s pension crisis must be addressed as part of this year’s budget.

Advocates rally for change in Pennsylvania school funding by Brittany Marshall 06/03/2015 05:13 PM
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa - "We need our state legislators to step up this year, to do their jobs and support a budget that will increase funding for public education," said Susan Spicka, parent and advocate.   Facing close to a $1 million school budget deficit, residents supporting the Shippensburg Area School District are rallying for the state to give more money to their growing area.  "So, we have seen four years of cuts in our school district, and we borrowed money from our reserves and we have raised taxes four year in a row because we do not get enough money from the state," Spicka said.   Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budget states an increase in funding for public education by $2 billion in the next four years. For the Shippensburg Area School District, a possible increase in funding of $700,000 could be seen this upcoming year.

School funding still undecided as Council weighs options
WITH JUST TWO weeks to go before City Council recesses for the summer, it does not appear likely that $105 million in new funding for the School District of Philadelphia will be approved, Council President Darrell Clarke said yesterday.  "There does not appear to be support for that at this time, after four successive years of raising taxes to the tune of over $350 million," a somber Clarke said.  "There's not a lot of appetite to have another significant tax increase."  He said Council would "push forward" to make sure the school district's $85 million budget deficit is dealt with this month, but added that the legislative body would use means other than a tax increase to help the schools provide educational enhancements requested by Superintendent William Hite.

Council huddles on school funds; District provides spending breakdown
Council President Clarke, focused on closing the deficit, calls Hite's request for new funds a "Cadillac version" of education.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 3, 2015 03:48 PM
City Council spent Wednesday in a closed-door session considering how to raise additional revenue for the schools.  Reports indicate that Council President Darrell Clarke is looking at a solution short of the $105 million the District has asked for, and Mayor Nutter's proposed 9 percent property tax increase is apparently not on the table.  Superintendent William Hite is asking for $200 million from the state and $105 million from the city, not only to restore some personnel and services slashed over the last several years, but also to embark on his reform plan.  District officials say that $82 million is still needed for next year just to keep services at current levels, due to rising costs for pensions, benefits, charter schools, and debt service.

What the election said about the kind of schools Philadelphians want
the notebook commentary By Ron Whitehorne on Jun 3, 2015 09:48 AM
The primary election was, among other things, a referendum on what kind of schools Philadelphians want and how they think they should be governed.  Taken together with polling data, the election results show that the forces for corporate education reform, headquartered locally in the Philadelphia School Partnership, are losing the fight for hearts and minds, despite a seemingly limitless amount of money, a well-oiled public relations machine, and many friends in high places, including the media.  For years the mantra of school choice advocates has been that “people are voting with their feet.” It was their way of saying that parents want their children enrolled in charter schools. But in the recent primary, people voted with their ballots. The results suggest that the “dump the losers” approach to school reform does not reflect how Philadelphians are thinking about education, in so far as elections reflect popular opinion.
A year ago, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a strong advocate for charters and school vouchers, was widely regarded as the likely Democratic nominee for mayor. With a trio of Main Line billionaires ready to spend whatever it takes and the blessing of party chair Bob Brady, many Black elected officials, and ward leaders, Williams was regarded as a formidable candidate whose race it was to lose.

'First in Math' program adds up to good results in Philly school district
Some of Philadelphia's best young math students were honored Tuesday by the organizers of an online program called "First in Math."  Among them was Daniel Wang -- a fourth-grader at Fitzpatrick Elementary who loves numbers and monster trucks. A trip to the Path of Destruction truck rally with his father next week will be Daniel's reward for finishing second in the nation in an online competition.  "It all came down to the final day," said Daniel afterward, holding his new gold trophy -- the second he's won from First in Math. "I was in third place at the start, and I kept fighting and fighting until I got there."  Daniel was one of about 200 Philadelphia students honored for their success in the program, which teaches basic math skills through puzzles and games. Students work through levels individually or in teams, earning virtual stickers for their successes.

Brentwood Borough teachers furloughs likely cut in half
Trib Live By Stephanie Hacke Wednesday, June 3, 2015, 11:36 a.m. Updated 18 hours ago
The furloughing of eight teachers in the Brentwood Borough School District likely will be cut in half, as teachers and administrators have opted to retire early, saving the jobs of some of their colleagues.  Three of eight teachers furloughed already have been recalled, and board members are set to vote on recalling a fourth in June, Superintendent Amy Burch said Monday.  Nearly 100 parents, teachers and students attended a town hall meeting last Thursday to learn about the financial situation the district is in that led to the curtailment of eight programs and cuts in every department.  Declining enrollment, increases in retirement contribution costs, property reassessments that led to less money coming in and the district covering costs for students going to charter schools — along with cuts five years ago in state funding — led district leaders to use money from a dwindling fund balance to balance the budget, Burch said.
Wilson Area teachers to get raises under new contract
By Christina Tatu Of The Morning Call June 3, 2015
The Wilson Area School Board and teachers union have agreed to a contract giving teachers an average pay raise of 2.57 percent per year during the three-year agreement.  The contract also increases the steps on the salary scale from 16 to 19, meaning teachers will have to work an additional three years before reaching their top potential salary.  The new contract will go into effect Sept. 1 and continue through Aug. 31, 2018.  For the 2015-16 school year, the contract includes a 2.74 percent pay increase, followed by increases of 2.32 percent and 2.64 percent.

"Starting next school year, any parent in Nevada can pull a child from the state’s public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling."
The ultimate in school choice or school as a commodity?
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown June 3 at 7:25 PM   
Starting next school year, any parent in Nevada can pull a child from the state’s public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling.  The new law, which the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed with help from the education foundation created by former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), is a breakthrough for conservatives, who call it the ultimate in school choice. And they are working to spread it nationwide: Lawmakers in Georgia, Iowa and Rhode Island considered similar legislation this year.  Democrats, teachers unions, public school superintendents and administrators are alarmed, saying that the Nevada law to provide private school vouchers is the first step toward dismantling the nation’s public schools.

"Why should wealthy parents be able to opt-out of the over-testing by sending their children to private schools while disadvantaged students are forced to exist in a high stakes, over-tested climate for the sake of producing data that confirms what they already know—their schools lack the needed supports?"
We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss June 3 at 6:00 AM  
Last month, a dozen civil rights groups issued a statement, under the umbrella of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, saying that parents opting their children out of high-stakes standardized tests are harming at-risk students. I published a few posts questioning the rationale of the groups (here and here, for example), which argued that only by obtaining data from annual standardized tests can further the goal of achieving educational equity. It said in part:
For the civil rights community, data provide the power to advocate for greater equality under the law. It’s the reason we’ve fought to make sure that we’re counted equally in every aspect of American life, such as in employment, the criminal justice system, and consumer lending.
Our commitment to fair, unbiased, and accurate data collection and reporting resonates greatest in our work to improve education. The educational outcomes for the children we represent are unacceptable by almost every measurement. And we rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children. These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.
The following post is a new critique of that argument. It was written by Judith Browne Dianis, John Jackson and Pedro Noguera. Dianis is co-director of the national racial justice organization Advancement Project; Jackson is president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education; Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. A version appeared in The Hill.

"Philanthropy still does enormous good, perhaps now more than ever. But it’s alarming how in an era of high inequality, private funders have a growing say over central areas of civic life like education and public parks, and how this influence is often wielded against a backdrop of secrecy. Earlier this year, for example, a school reform group in Philadelphia offered $35 million to help that city close a funding gap, but demanded the right to open more charters as a condition and wouldn’t disclose its donors."
Who Will Watch the Charities?
New York Times Opinion By DAVID CALLAHAN MAY 30, 2015
LAST week federal authorities disclosed that four cancer charities had bilked tens of millions of dollars from donors. Questions continue to surface about the lack of transparency at the Clinton Foundation. Philanthropy, we’re learning, is a world with too much secrecy and too little oversight. Despite its increasing role in American society, from education to the arts to the media, perhaps no sector is less accountable to outsiders.  The charitable sector is a bit like the Wild West — by design. Foundations have long been granted expansive freedom, on the view that the diversity of America’s civil society is one of the country’s signature strengths, as Alexis de Tocqueville famously said, and that government shouldn’t mess with this magic. Both political parties have been content to impose a minimum of rules on philanthropy.  For example, foundations don’t have to prove that they’re making good use of billions of dollars of tax-subsidized funds, and nonprofits don’t have to identify their donors, as we’ve learned from the Clinton Foundation saga. The law even permits donors to get an immediate tax break for charitable gifts that may sit in investment accounts for decades, never helping anyone. And in many states, the rules that do govern philanthropy are barely enforced, which is why the fraud perpetrated by those four cancer charities was undetected for years.

Shaky Methods, Shaky Motives
A Critique of the National Council of Teacher Quality’s Review of Teacher Preparation Programs
By Edward J. Fuller1 1Penn State University, University Park, PA, USA
Edward J. Fuller, Penn State University, 204D Rackley Bldg., University Park, PA 16802, USA. Email:
The National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) recent review of university-based teacher preparation programs concluded the vast majority of such programs were inadequately preparing the nation’s teachers. The study, however, has a number of serious flaws that include narrow focus on inputs, lack of a strong research base, missing standards, omitted research, incorrect application of research findings, poor methodology, exclusion of alternative certification programs, failure to conduct member checks, and failure to use existing evidence to validate the report’s rankings. All of these issues render the NCTQ report less than useful in efforts to understand and improve teacher preparation programs in the United States. The article also suggests alternative pathways NCTQ could have undertaken to work with programs to actually improve teacher preparation. The article concludes by noting that the shaky methods used by NCTQ suggest shaky motives such that the true motives of NCTQ for producing the report must be questioned.

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.

Sign up here to receive a weekly email update on the status of efforts to have Pennsylvania adopt an adequate, equitable, predictable and sustainable Basic Education Funding Formula by 2016
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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.

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Wolf administration Budget Director Sharon Ward will speak about What Schools Need and Where the Money Can Come From in a webinar on June 8th. Other presenters will include PILCOP attorney Michael Churchill and ELC interim executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr.  Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.

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