Friday, October 2, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 2: Join me to rally for state money for Erie schools: Jay Badams

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 2, 2015:
Join me to rally for state money for Erie schools: Jay Badams

"I have said since I took this job that "as the schools go, so goes the city." I'm no clairvoyant. I have simply seen what has happened in other cities, small and large, when schools are allowed to deteriorate, programs are cut and people decide to move to neighborhoods with "better schools." People should expect decent facilities, manageable class sizes and opportunities to participate in the arts, music and athletics when they choose their children's schools."
Join me to rally for state money for Erie schools: Jay Badams
Erie Times News By JAY BADAMS Contributing writer October 2, 2015 01:01 AM
I'm tired. As a taxpayer in the city of Erie, I'm tired of the state paying a decreasing share of public education funding and relying on a declining residential tax base to pick up the slack. As a parent of students in Erie's public schools, I'm tired of sending my children to a school district that is on the wrong end of a state funding system that ranks 50th, dead last, in the disparity between the funding of our wealthiest and poorest school districts. As an administrator serving Erie's public schools, I am tired of laying off employees, closing schools, reducing programming and cutting our way to a balanced budget year after year after year.  Erie now spends less per pupil than 80 percent of the districts in Pennsylvania. If our per pupil funding were to match the Erie County average, we would need $7 million in additional revenue per year.

Rep. Roebuck: Reform Pa.'s charter school 'Wild West'
Pennsylvania’s charter school laws have led to the rise of two separate and unequal educational systems, according to state Rep. James Roebuck (D-Phila.), who released a report this week calling for increased transparency and oversight of charters.  “If you look at the original legislation that created charters (in 1997), that language talks about charters being innovative ways of doing education that could create models for replication,” Roebuck, chair of the House Education Committee, said in an interview Thursday.  But there has been no evaluation of Pennsylvania’s now 173 charter schools to determine whether they’re worth duplicating, he said.  “So what you’ve created in reality is not a system of innovation or creating educational excellence, you’ve created what in reality is a separate and unequal school system,” Roebuck said. “We now have two different public school systems – traditional public schools and charters.”

Here's a related prior KEYSEC posting; still relevant….
Reprise: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight
Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny
Keystone State Education  Coalition

Moderate Republicans wait for Wolf's call
With Republican legislative leaders daring Gov. Tom Wolf to find support for his tax plans before a Pennsylvania House vote next week, middle-of-the-road Republicans are bracing themselves for the hard sell.  "My guess is that the phone lines are going to be burning up starting today," said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks.  But DiGirolamo, who has a reputation for breaking with party leaders, was among several moderate Republicans reached this week who are still a "no" on what they've heard is the governor's latest tax package.  The governor's office hasn't confirmed the details of a revised proposal. GOP legislative leaders have said a new plan floated last month includes a higher personal income tax, an expanded sales tax, and a tax on natural gas drillers, but no property tax relief. It is unclear how the proposed revenues would be spent.  With all the uncertainty, the tax vote planned for next week scarcely looks different from a tax vote in June. At that time, GOP House leaders brought up a measure combining all the governor's proposed tax increases, with no accompanying spending plan. Democrats unanimously voted against the legislation, calling it a stunt.  The Wolf administration isn't treating this vote as a gimmick.  "We're taking it seriously," said Mary Isenhour, the governor's chief of staff.

IFO: Revenue trends continue to beat estimates
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, October 1, 2015
Despite the state not having a spending plan to authorize the expenditure of revenue dollars, the Independent Fiscal Office said Thursday that revenue collections for September and the first quarter of the 2015-2016 fiscal year remained strong.  According to the revenue trends report for the first quarter of the fiscal year, General Fund revenue has exceeded IFO estimates by $74 million.  The higher-than-estimated revenues were driven largely by personal income tax quarterly payments, higher than expected realty transfer tax payments, and other tax revenue.

School Play Production about Education Funding Going on Tour
Schools, Theaters across the State Hosting Free One-Night Showings
HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The documentary-based live theatre production School Play, which explores public perception about Pennsylvania's school funding crisis using the voices of Pennsylvanians, is going on tour in schools and theaters across the state, including: Erie, St. Marys, Johnstown, State College, Schuylkill Haven, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Reading, Allentown,Elkins Park, Blue Bell and Bryn Mawr.
The timing of School Play could not be more relevant as the three-month-old budget standoff continues in Harrisburg, with new funding for education at the top of the agenda. The production, from playwrights Arden Kass and Seth Bauer and commissioned by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), uses the real voices of more than 100 Pennsylvanians to dramatize funding inequities among school districts across the state.

'You're asking new guys to cast votes that may end their careers,' W.Pa lawmaker says of looming Wolf tax vote, report: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 01, 2015 at 8:30 AM, updated October 01, 2015 at 8:32 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In case you were wondering how tough it's going to be for House and Senate Democrats to lasso the support they need to get a tax bill onto Gov. Tom Wolf's desk, we give youRep. Nick Kotik, D-Allegheny.  Speaking to The Tribune-Review on Wednesday, the de facto chair of the House's Blue Dog Caucus puts it in stark terms:  "Politically, [the tax vote] is a real death knell for younger members," Kotik tells theTrib's Brad Bumsted. "You're asking new guys to cast votes that may end their careers."  As we noted yesterday, GOP House leaders are giving Wolf until next week to try to sell Republican lawmakers on a two-year, roughly $5 billion tax hike that the Democrat wants to fund his budgetary priorities.

Are you smarter than a fifth-grader? Test yourself on these PSSA language arts questions
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 01, 2015 at 12:07 PM, updated October 01, 2015 at 12:39 PM
Learning expectations for Pennsylvania students have been raised and that is the reason the state Department of Education officials say that is the reason for the drop in scores on this year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessments in math and English language arts.  The following are examples of the types of questions that a fifth-grader encounters on the English language arts portion of the state exams. Test yourself and see how you do.Then try your hand at some PSSA math questions. 

Don't evaluate Pennsylvania teachers with standardized test scores: PennLive letters 
Penn Live Letters to the Editor  by SCOTT BONNER on October 01, 2015 at 9:15 AM, updated October 01, 2015 at 3:20 PM
Are doctors who agree to treat those patients with the most barriers to good health penalized when the health of those patients ends up lagging behind patients with fewer barriers to good health? No, and we may even honor these doctors for placing professional commitment before careerism.   Yet this is exactly the unjust and counterproductive scenario that Ashley DeMauro advocates by supporting basing teacher evaluations in part on standardized test results. This student performance component of teacher evaluation, she asserts, is necessary because classroom observations by school administrators are inadequate, consequently "one type of evaluation only tells one part of a story with many chapters." 

Middle schools bear brunt of abrupt change to PSSA tests
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse October 1, 2015
It would've been nice if new state tests were phased over several years after new curriculum standards, said Elizabethtown Area School District Superintendent Michele Balliet.  But that's not what happened.  Pennsylvania Core Standards took full effect in 2014, and state tests aligned to the standards were rolled out for grades 3 to 8 last spring.  "It just got dumped on the system and the system had to react," said Balliet.  And middle school students in her district and elsewhere may bear the brunt of that dumping.  Results of the Pennsylvania System of Standardized Assessment were released by the state this week. Proficiency rates on the exams in math and reading dropped sharply statewide this year. The steepest declines were in eighth grade math, according to a state Department of Education official, who spoke in a press call Tuesday.

Hite plan for Philly district: More charter conversions, closings, turnarounds and new schools
School district plan would affect 5,000 students
Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite announced a package of recommendations Thursday that will turn over three additional elementary schools to outside charter providers, while closing two middle schools, Beeber in Wynnefield and Leeds in East Mt. Airy.  The plans, which officials said will impact 15 schools, also include the creation of two non-selective, inquiry-based schools: a high school in North Philadelphia and a middle school in Powelton.  In addition, three schools will be subject to "in-district" turnaround, although neither the schools nor the specifics of the turnaround blueprint have been finalized.  Hite deemed the proposal, which he said comes with an estimated price tag of $15 to $20 million, a step toward his goal of improving equity in the district by "providing the opportunity for as many as 5,000 students to get in better schools close to where they live."

Drexel has a role in a new Philadelphia public middle school
Inquirer by Susan Snyder POSTED: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2015, 3:51 PM
My colleague, Kristen Graham reported Thursday that the Philadelphia School District was planning a middle school based on the successful Science Leadership Academy model.   Its partner for the new school is Drexel University.
Drexel has been working with Samuel Powel, a K-4 school in its West Philadelphia neighborhood, for years and wanted to find a way to support a middle school that Powel students could attend, said Lucy Kerman, vice provost for university and community partnerships. When the university learned that the Science Leadership Academy, a high school, wanted to do a middle school, it seemed like a perfect fit for Drexel, which encompasses the Academy of Natural Sciences, she said.  The university is helping the school secure a temporary location for a fifth grade next fall and ultimately hopes to find partners to build a school on the University City High School site, which Drexel owns, she said. The hope, she said, is that the new site would house both a larger Powel and the new middle school.

Running out of money: Northern Potter School District expects to borrow $5 million as state budget impasse continues
By ALEX DAVIS Bradford Era Reporter Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 10:00 am
Officials with the Northern Potter School District in Ulysses are poised to borrow $5 million to fund school district operations as the state budget impasse drags on.  On Tuesday, that school district appeared on a list released by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale of school districts that already borrowed funding — but Superintendent Scott  Graham told The Era the school board is slated to approve a resolution to take out a loan during  a meeting set for Oct. 12.  On that same day, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a spending measure and accompanying bills approved by state lawmakers that called for $11 in funding to schools and social service organizations across the state.  At this point, Northern Potter’s solicitor is discussing options with the First Citizen Community Bank of Ulysses for a loan, Graham said. The $5 million would ideally carry the district through the year, if needed, he said.  “We’re getting everything ready to go,” said Graham who is not surprised with having to take out a loan.  But if the school district has a good October with local tax dollars coming in, then school officials would dip into the borrowed funds after Thanksgiving, he predicts. As the money is used, though, he wonders if the school district would be reimbursed for the loan’s interest.

Derry board urges state to pass budget
Trib Live By Greg Reinbold Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, 11:30 p.m.
The Derry Area school board is growing impatient with the state budget impasse, but the district has sufficient funds in reserve to conduct business as usual until the end of the year.  School directors voted during Thursday's meeting to adopt a resolution urging Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to approve a state spending plan for the 2015-16 school year.
District administrative assistant for business affairs Joseph Koluder said the district receives roughly 54 percent of its revenue from the state, and the longer the budget impasse continues, the harder it will be for the district to avoid taking out a tax anticipation loan.

Push for budget, Southmoreland board president urges residents
Trib Live By Paul Paterra Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, 1:36 a.m.
The continuing impasse with the state budget has caused many Pennsylvania school districts to take action — such as taking out a revenue anticipation loan — to offset the funding not being received.  While Southmoreland School District is not yet in such a situation, action is expected Oct. 8 that, if approved, would allow Business Manager James Marnell to take initial steps to that end, if necessary.  “I thought, rather than wait until the last minute, if and when things become dire ... I thought we should lay a little groundwork,” Superintendent John Molnar said at the board meeting Thursday.  “We're keeping our fingers crossed that we get this budget straightened (out) before we would need such a thing.”

Jim Crow Segregation Lives On: An Examination of Pennsylvania’s Race-Based System of Public School Funding
Atlanta Black Star October 1, 2015 | Posted by David Love
Over a half century has passed since Brown v. Board of Education but educational segregation is still a reality, and Pennsylvania is a prime example of the problem. In the Keystone State, a Jim Crow policy assures that school districts with children of color are underfunded—not simply because they are poor and poorer communities have a lower tax base to adequately fund their schools, but because they are Black and Brown. Pennsylvania is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation.  David Mosenkis, a data scientist, conducted research and delved into the root of the problem, as was reported in The Atlantic. Assessing the funding data or the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Mosenkis found that superficially, poor schools receive more funding than more wealthy districts, as one would expect, since more well-to-do communities require less state funding and can raise more revenue through local taxes. But digging deeper, Mosenkis learned that ultimately, school funding was based not on class or economics, but on race. The racial composition of the schools determine how much money they receive.

Feds didn’t carefully monitor $3 billion it gave for charters — and it just awarded $157 million
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 1 at 1:49 PM  
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been called the most powerful education secretary for a reason.  He has led a department that has been criticized for being “a national school board” because of its micromanaging states on some key education issues. Duncan talks a lot about “accountability” and the importance of making sure that schools are doing right by kids. When the department began its $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding competition among states, it made clear what its priorities for applications were, and when it offered waivers to states from the most onerous parts of No Child Left Behind, there were detailed strings attached. (And when Washington did not evaluate teachers by standardized test scores as the department wanted, it yanked the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver).  But when it comes to its support of charter schools, the department hasn’t been doing all that much to manage the more than $3 billion it has given to charter networks and state education departments for the purposes of creating and expanding existing charters. And it just this week announced that it was awarding $157 million in new grants for charters.

Shift $15 Billion in Prison Spending to Teacher Raises in High Poverty Schools , Arne Duncan Urges
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on September 30, 2015 6:11 AM
UPDATED  Instead of a school-to-prison pipeline, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is proposing that public funds to flow through a sort of prison-to-school pipeline.
In a speech set for delivery at the National Press Club in Washington Sept. 30, Duncan was to push a plan to repurpose $15 billion that states and localities currently spend on correctional facilities. The idea is that they could save that much by by redirecting half of their non-violent criminal offenders away from prison, and instead spend that money on pay hikes of over 50 percent for teachers working in their highest-poverty schools.   According to calculations released by the U.S. Department of Education, using data from the 2011-12 school year and other federal sources, teachers in 17,640 schools would qualify for this pay raise. The redirected $15 billion would be a 21 percent reduction in state and local spending on correctional facilities, according to the department, and a 56 percent increase for the $26.9 billion in salaries in those high-poverty schools.  

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland
Forget the Common Core, Finland’s youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom.
The Atlantic by TIM WALKER  OCT 1, 2015
“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”  The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.  That American friend—who teaches 20 students without an aide—has fought to integrate 30 minutes of “station time” into the literacy block, which includes  “blocks, science, magnetic letters, play dough with letter stamps to practice words, books, and storytelling.” But the most controversial area of her classroom isn’t the blocks nor the stamps: Rather, it’s the “house station with dolls and toy food”—items her district tried to remove last year. The implication was clear: There’s no time for play in kindergarten anymore.

This high school makes every student take AP classes
Los Angeles Times By SONALI KOHLI Contact Reporter  Sept. 25, 2015
There’s a lot of talk right now about how to get more students into Advanced Placement classes.  Easier said than done.  Even when schools make it easier for students to enroll by removing requirements such as grade cut-offs and referrals from teachers, AP classes continue to maintain a reputation of being elite. As a result, low-income, black and Latino students are still underrepresented.  Some schools and magnet programs have settled on a simple solution: Just make them a requirement.  That’s what the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) did. At the mid-city magnet school, every 10th grade student takes AP World History.

"You get to call yourself a public institution when you are answerable to the public (say, by having your governing board members stand for election). You get to call yourself a public institution when any taxpayer who's paying for your shop to stay open can have full and transparent access to your financial information. Some charters, particularly the traditional ones, do this, and they deserve the "public" label."
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, October 13, 2014
Super Quote Re: Public Vs. Private
Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report way back in February of 2013  a must-read article about privatization under the current administration.  Diane Ravitch quoted it earlier today, but I need to set it down, too, because this quote deserves to be handily located in everyone's mental file of Responses To The Same Old Reformster Arguments. So the next time somebody tries to tell you that the new wave of charter school chains are public schools, just tell them this:
On every level, the advocates of educational privatization strive to avoid using the p-word. They deliberately mislabel charter schools, just as unaccountable as every other private business in the land as “public charter schools,” because after all, they use public money. So do Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, but nobody calls these “public aerospace companies,” “public military contractors,” or “public banks.”

PSBA launches an alumni network
Are you a former school director or in your final term? Stay connected through the PSBA Alumni Network. Your interest in public education continues beyond your term of service as a school director. And as a PSBA alumnus, you have years of experience and insight into the workings of public education and school boards. Legislators value your opinions as a former elected official. Take that knowledge and put it to work as a member of the PSBA Alumni Network.
For a nominal yearly fee of $25 a year or $100 for a lifetime membership, you will receive:
  • Electronic access to the PSBA Bulletin, the leading public education magazine in Pennsylvania
  • Access to legislative information pertaining to public education and periodic updates via email.
To join, complete the registration below. For more details or questions, contact Member Engagement Director Karen Devine at or (800) 932-0588, ext. 3322.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:  School Play is going on tour!  Click below for more information about tour dates in your county.  All performances are FREE!
School Play, a documentary-based live theatre piece, is here to put school funding center stage. Compiled from a series of interviews, the play premiered in Philadelphia in April, 2015 and is now available for free for performances around the Commonwealth.

"This will be an opportunity for the community to discuss its collective aspirations for our next superintendent. We hope you'll join us for an evening of learning and discussion about how we as a community can support our Board in its search for our schools next leader."
Getting a Great Superintendent
Pittsburgh, PA Wednesday, October 7, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT)
A+ Schools and its partners are hosting a community discussion about innovative talent search models that have attracted high quality leadership to key roles in the City of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools.  Come hear from Valerie Dixon, Executive Director and Founder of the PACT Initiative, Leigh Halverson, Strategic Project Advisor to the President, Heinz Endowments, Patrick Dowd, former school board member and Executive Director of Allies for Children, Robert Cavalier, Director, Program for Deliberative Democracy at Carnegie Mellon University, and Alex Matthews, former school board member discuss the key lessons they've learned from being part of selection processes for key leaders in our City.  

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

School Leadership Conference online registration closes Sept. 25
Register Now for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration is live at:

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:

Registration is open for the 19th Annual Eastern Pennsylvania Special Education Administrators’ Conference on October 21-23rd in Hershey. 
Educators in the field of special education from public, charter and nonpublic schools are invited to attend.  The conference offers rich professional development sessions and exceptional networking opportunities.  Keynote speakers are Shane Burcaw and Jodee Blanco.  Register at

Register Now for the Fifth Annual Arts and Education Symposium Oct. 29th Harrisburg
Thursday, October 29, 2015 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Act 48 Credit is available. The event will be a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about important policy issues and the latest news from the field. The symposium is hosted by EPLC and the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network, and supported by a generous grant from The Heinz Endowments.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting <>

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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