Saturday, October 3, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 3: If you thought Arne Duncan was controversial, meet his successor

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

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 3, 2015:
If you thought Arne Duncan was controversial, meet his successor

"The amended plan filed today represents an agreement reached with three brick-and-mortar charter schools that will enable the district to pay a reduced special education tuition rate to charter schools."
Pa. Gov. Wolf submits new plan for Chester Upland School District by Robert Moran LAST UPDATED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 6:50 PM
The Wolf Administration on Friday submitted to a Delaware County judge a new recovery plan for the fiscally troubled Chester Upland School District.  "The amended plan filed today represents an agreement reached with three brick-and-mortar charter schools that will enable the district to pay a reduced special education tuition rate to charter schools. This will help the district eliminate its structural budget deficit," Gov. Wolf said in a statement.  The plan also calls for a permanent funding increase to the district's basic education subsidy from the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Early last month, the state provided an infusion of nearly $5 million so the district could continue to pay its teachers and staff until a plan is approved by Judge Chad F. Kenney.

NPR: At Heart Of Pa. Budget Battle, Neither Side Budges On Tax Hikes And Spending
All Things Considered (runtime 3:26)  from MARY WILSON WITF OCTOBER 02, 2015 4:08 PM ET
Pennsylvania has gone more than 90 days without a state budget. An impasse over Pennsylvania's budget is pitting newly elected Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf against a Republican-controlled Legislature.  ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:  Pennsylvania is entering its fourth month without a state budget. The impasse is starting to cause big problems for public education and human services non-profits. As Mary Wilson of member station WITF reports, the governor and state lawmakers are running out of ways to reinvigorate negotiations.

Marketplace: Pennsylvania's budget battle is hurting school funding Interview by Lizzie O'Leary, by Raghu Manavalan October 2, 2015 - 15:02
Pennsylvania lawmakers are at a stalemate over the state budget. 
"We've got your classic divided government scenario," said Pennsylvania Capitol reporter Mary Wilson. "A first-term Democratic governor who campaigned on big initiatives of more spending for schools, for various programs. And we've got a legislature that's a huge Republican majority, and lawmakers who are very much against what they call broad-based tax increases, which are the wasy the governor right now wants to increase spending."  The three-month battle over the budget has led to schools in Pennsylvania not receiving their state funding.  "When the state doesn't have a budget, state agencies are still funded, prisons and parks are stay open, but the state — for some quirk of the way we work — the state loses the authority to pay contractors. And that affects the way schools get their state funding, their state aid.... So, it's a matter of legal authority.'  Some schools in the area have begun taking out loans to cover costs while a budget is being discussed.

Brian O'Neill: Budget impasse is long-running joke on us
By Brian O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 1, 2015 12:00 AM
There’s a “Seinfeld’’ episode where Kramer takes a sedan for a test drive and tells the nervous dealer in the passenger seat not to fret about the gas-tank arrow hovering in that red slash below “Empty.’’  “Oh, I’ve been in the slash many times,” Kramer says. “This is nothing. You’ll get used to it. Just put it all out of your mind.’’  This is Pennsylvania. We’ve been in slash for three months now, rolling along without a state budget, just as we have so many summers before. I don’t recall coasting quite this far, but we do get used to it, don’t we?  Sure, school districts have borrowed more than $346 million so far to fill the budget gaps. Sure, interest and fees on those costs could reach as high as $11.2 million, according to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. It’s also true that money’s already tight in those borrowing districts such as Clairton City, McKeesport Area, Sto-Rox and Aliquippa.  But nobody ever said traditions come cheap, and blowing past budget deadlines is a summer tradition this commonwealth has returned to again and again. The last governor, Tom Corbett, nearly always signed the budget on time and Pennsylvanians were so upset they tossed him out after just one term.

"School Play," a documentary-based drama about school funding in Pennsylvania, will be performed in Lancaster on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Play about Pennsylvania school funding issues comes to Lancaster County
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer October 2, 2015
The drama of Pennsylvania’s school funding crisis is coming to Lancaster.   Literally.
“School Play,” a theater production created by three Philadelphia artists, will be performed here next week as part of a 12-stop tour across the state.  The play, which is billed as a “funny, sad and unsettling” look at school funding issues in Pennsylvania, will be staged at McCaskey East High School, 1051 Lehigh Ave., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. Tickets are free.  Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a Philadelphia-based child advocacy organization commissioned the play, which premiered in Philadelphia in April. The nonprofit also is sponsoring the statewide tour of the show.  Anthony Hopkins, communications director for Public Citizens for Children and Youth, called the production a “live documentary.” The playwrights conducted more than 100 interviews with Pennsylvania school students, teachers, parents, administrators and others. Testimonies from that process were transformed into a script.  “The play is their words. There’s no embellishments by the playwrights,” said Hopkins.  The play does have a message, though: Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unfair.

Wolf: State must invest in education
Citizens Voice BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: October 3, 2015
THROOP — Pennsylvania has two options: invest in education, or face the consequences, Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday.   Standing in front of Mid Valley Elementary Center, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to passing a budget that addresses the state’s structural deficit, an underfunded school system and rising property taxes.  “What goes on in this building is really important to everyone in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “If we don’t invest in and we don’t recognize it, we’re in big trouble.”  If the Legislature fails to pass a budget that addresses the state’s $3 billion structural deficit, districts could be looking at cuts of $1 billion next year, he said. The state has been without a budget since July 1. Earlier this week, the Democratic governor vetoed as anticipated an $11 billion “stopgap” state budget passed mainly by Republican lawmakers. A vote on the governor’s spending plan is slated for Wednesday.

PA school district feels the effects of budget impasse
Shippensburg Area School District officials anxious to receive state funding By BRITTANY MARSHALL | Published 10/02 2015 06:03PM
Shippensburg, Pa: The Pennsylvania State budget has yet to pass, and without funding, schools around the state continue to wait and take money out of savings.  About a month into the school year, officials with the Shippensburg Area school district said despite a $1.5 million budget deficit and cuts to teachers and programs, the district is holding on to hope.   "It is a little bit bleak, however, I have noticed a re-energized faculty, more collaboration, more community," said Matt Strine, assistant superintendent. "It is like we are not looking outside anymore, we are looking for answers right here.”  The district has taken more than $60,000 out of it's savings for this year's expenses, and if a state budget doesn't pass by March, they will be forced to take out a loan.
"We are optimistic that we would be able to get a loan like that if we have to in March, but we hope to budget is resolved by then," said  Beth Bender, superintendent of the Shippensburg Area school district.

A glimmer of hope in the state budget standoff, if both sides will accept the results: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board on October 02, 2015 at 2:45 PM
When a budget stalemate is approaching 100 days, you take hints of compromise where you can get them.  So we have hope that this might be the week during which the embarrassment that is "Budget Standoff 2015" nears its end. We have a "mini-compromise" in the works, as PennLive's Charles Thompson reported.  The vote could get to the heart of the standoff: Gov. Tom Wolf's demand to take the income tax rate from 3.07 percent to 3.49 percent.  GOP leaders plan to put Wolf's entire tax plan up for a House vote Wednesday. If it passes, then Wolf would get another week to get 26 votes in the Senate next week. If it passes both Houses, Republicans will work with a budget that includes the roughly $1.8 billion in new revenue that would come from multiple tax increases. But if it fails, Republicans expect Wolf to drop it.
That's compromise, right? Or are we just fooling ourselves in our stalemate-induced haze?

"Though it was predicted that standardized testing would improve student performance across the country, the United States dropped from 18th to 31st in the subject of math on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). If the tests are supposed to improve our students’ performances, then why is this a statistic for our country?"
Letter to the Editor: Pennsylvania needs to reconsider student-testing standards
Delco Times Letter by Elizabeth LeViere POSTED: 10/02/15, 8:09 PM EDT
To the Times: As a current undergraduate student in the College of Education at Temple University and an aspiring early-childhood-education teacher, I urge the state to reconsider its standards of testing students.  After No Child Left Behind passed in 2002, an extreme importance was placed on education and the methods of teaching that would best suit the guidelines laid out in NCLB.  A high regard on standardized testing was one result of the NCLB Act. Though it was predicted that standardized testing would improve student performance across the country, the United States dropped from 18th to 31st in the subject of math on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). If the tests are supposed to improve our students’ performances, then why is this a statistic for our country?

Standardized tests should be standardized (YDR opinion)
York Daily Record editorial UPDATED:   10/02/2015 09:17:28 AM EDT
Many people don't really understand what "Common Core" is all about, but they know they don't like it.  They've heard that it's some kind of socialist plot to destroy America from within, when actually it's an effort to make sure students across the state and nation meet rigorous academic standards. Isn't that — striving for high goals — what made America great?  Yes, but the recent release of PSSA standardized test scores aligned to the "PA Core," Pennsylvania's version of Common Core, are likely to stoke more discontent over the program.  Under the new, more difficult PSSA test, student scores are lower across the board.  They are much lower in math and slightly lower in English language arts.  Students and parents are upset. Teachers and administrators are frustrated. And who can blame them?  They're told they need to prepare for and take these standardized tests so we can make sure students meet academic, well standards.
But there seems to be no enduring standard for standardized tests. To use a sports cliché, they keep moving the goalposts. 

Arne Duncan, Education Secretary, to Step Down in December
New York Times By GARDINER HARRIS and MOTOKO RICH OCT. 2, 2015
WASHINGTON — Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, whose influential Race to the Top program offered financial incentives for school districts to innovate, announced Friday that he would step down in December, marking the departure of one of the longest-serving members of President Obama’s cabinet.  Mr. Duncan was arguably one of the most powerful education secretaries in history, both because of his personal ties to the president and the billions of dollars in funding that came to the department as part of the fiscal stimulus program during the financial crisis.  He was at times the subject of criticism from both parties, angering Democrats by challenging teachers’ unions and infuriating Republicans by promoting national academic standards.  Mr. Obama announced that he would nominate John B. King Jr., the deputy education secretary and a former commissioner of education in New York State, to replace Mr. Duncan.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to step down at end of year
Washington Post By Juliet EilperinLyndsey Layton and Emma Brown October 2 at 4:15 PM    
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to step down from his Cabinet position by the end of the year, leaving the Obama administration more than a year before the president’s term will end.   “He’s done more to bring our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century than anyone else,” President Obama said as he announced Duncan’s resignation at the White House on Friday afternoon. “America will be better off for what he has done.”  Obama has chosen John B. King Jr., who currently acts as deputy secretary of education, to replace Duncan.  King is a Brooklyn native who often credits teachers with guiding him toward a successful path after he was orphaned at age 12. A former charter school leader in Boston and New York, he joined the Education Department in January after a turbulent tenure as commissioner of education for the state of New York. In that role, he was a key architect of new teacher evaluations tied to test scores and played a key role in pushing New York to adopt new tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards years before other states did the same.

"In an unconventional move, Obama asked King to oversee the Education Department, but declined to nominate him to be secretary, which would require confirmation by the Republican-run Senate. Elevating King in an acting capacity spares Obama a potential clash with Senate Republicans over his education policies as his term draws to a close."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan steps down after 7-year term
POSTED: Friday, October 2, 2015, 5:13 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Arne Duncan, who followed President Barack Obama to Washington to serve as his education secretary, announced Friday he will step down following a seven-year tenure marked by a willingness to plunge head-on into the heated debate about the government's role in education.  Sidestepping a confirmation fight in Congress, Obama tapped John King Jr., a senior Education Department bureaucrat, to run the department while leaving the role of secretary vacant for the remainder of his presidency.

Arne Duncan to Step Down as Ed. Sec., John King to Head Up Department
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on October 2, 2015 11:23 AM
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who pushed through an unprecedented level of change in K-12 education in his nearly seven years in office, has announced that he's stepping down in December.  John King, who is currently filling the duties of the deputy secretary of education, will head up the department as acting secretary until the end of the Obama administration.  The news comes as Congress wrestles with a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Both a bipartisan Senate education committee bill and a Republican-backed House bill would take aim at the administration's most-cherished priorities, including teacher evaluation through student outcomes, college-and career-ready standards, and aggressive school turnarounds.   The rapid pace of change Duncan and his team initiated on the nation's schools—especially through its Race to the Top competition and waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, the current version of ESEA—has lead to massive blowback from everyone from teachers to state chiefs and the administration's own Democratic allies in Congress. King's appointment, though unofficial, may put a fresh face on the administration's efforts on K-12 policy at a critical moment, as Congress wrestles with the future of the federal role.

"King led a series of school reforms that included a new teacher evaluation system using student standardized test scores that critics say is nonsensical  (for example, art teachers are evaluated by student math test scores) and the implementation of the Common Core standards, and aligned Pearson-designed standardized tests. King’s oversight of all of this was considered such a disaster that Cuomo last year wrote in a letter to top state education officials that “Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.”
If you thought Arne Duncan was controversial, meet his successor
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 2 at 1:02 PM  
Now that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has decided to step down in December, the U.S. Department of Education will be headed by John B. King Jr. And if you thought Duncan was controversial, meet his successor.  King was the New York State education commissioner, taking over in 2011 and announcing in December 2014 that he was leaving to become Duncan’s No. 2, a job officially titled “Senior Adviser Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education,” according to the Education Department’s biography. King can run the department without being officially nominated as education secretary.

Charter and School Choice Leaders React to Arne Duncan Resignation
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on October 2, 2015 2:41 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has been a strong supporter of charter schools, announced Friday morning that he will be leaving his post in December.   He will be succeeded by John King, the former New York state schools chief who has been serving as a senior adviser to Duncan.  "The reform community has been a huge fan of the secretary because of his commitment to accountability, charter schools, and also his pragmatic approach to solving problems—he was not an ideologue," said Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "The person who is taking over for him is, John King, is an equally respected friend of the reform movement."  The Obama administration and the education department helped support and expand charter schools through a couple of programs including the Investing in Innovation Fund and the Charter Schools Program.

A polarizing New York education leader takes the national reins
Politico NY By JESSICA BAKEMAN and KESHIA CLUKEY 5:41 p.m. | Oct. 2, 2015
ALBANY — Almost exactly two years ago, John King stood on stage in an auditorium in Poughkeepsie, NY, trying to quiet angry parents while they booed, screamed and hurled personal insults at him.  Today, on a national stage, President Barack Obama tapped King to lead the U.S. Department of Education.  The fall of 2013 was arguably the most difficult period of King’s three-and-a-half year tenure as education commissioner in New York, where, as the state’s first black and first Latino schools chief, he led the implementation of the Common Core standards, controversial state exams aligned to the more difficult material, and teacher performance evaluations based partially on the tests.  After the Oct. 10, 2013, assembly devolved into chaos, King canceled (and subsequently rescheduled under pressure) the rest of his planned statewide tour, accusing “special interests” of co-opting the raucous crowd.

NYSAPE: John King Was a “Catastrophe” in Néw York
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch October 2, 2015 //
More information contact:  Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Steps Down – New Yorkers Declare John King No Better
The announcement of John King to replace Arne Duncan as US Education Secretary is bad news for the nation, according to NYS Allies for Public Education, a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator groups throughout the state.  “Throughout his term in New York, John King was notorious for his complete disconnect from parents, teachers, and school officials. His blatant disregard for concerned parents and educators fueled opt outs to historic numbers. Our only hope is that this bizarre move by the White House will have the same effect across the country, spreading the Opt Out movement to every corner of the nation,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out.

Arne Duncan stepping down, returning to Chicago
Katherine Skiba Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune October 2, 2015
President Barack Obama said Friday he pressed Education Secretary Arne Duncan to stay on the job but accepted his decision to return to Chicago "with regret and sorrow."
Duncan, 50, a former Chicago Public Schools chief and one of the few remaining original members of Obama's Cabinet, told his staff Friday that he will leave in December.
At a White House news conference, Obama called Duncan one of the "more consequential" education chiefs, and gave him credit for record high-school graduation rates, greater investments in early childhood education and higher standards for teaching and learning.
"Arne has done more to bring our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century than anybody else," the president said.

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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