Friday, November 6, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 6: Today, nine out of 10 school-age children attend America's public schools – 54 million in total

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3800 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 November 6, 2015:
Today, nine out of 10 school-age children attend America's public schools – 54 million in total

Contact your legislator now!  Demand your state legislator and Governor Wolf take action to resolve the budget stalemate now and provide adequate state funding to our public schools.
PA School Boards Association, PA Association of School Administrators, PA Association of School Business Officials, PA Principals Association

Register for PSBA Budget Action Day on Monday, Nov. 16 — Join us!
Capitol Building, Harrisburg NOV 16, 2015 • 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Pennsylvania Department of Education
Cyber Charter School Performance Profile Scores
for 2013, 2014 and 2015

A score of 70 is considered passing. No cyber charter achieved a score of 70 in either year.  Additionally, most cybers never made AYP under No Child Left Behind during the period 2005 thru 2012.  Here are the 2013, 2014 and 2015 SPP scores for Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools:

School                                                                2013                 2014                 2015
21st Century Cyber CS                                     66.5                  66.0                  69.2
Achievement House CS                                    39.7                  37.5                  44.8
ACT Academy Cyber CS                                   30.6                  28.9                  36.1
Agora Cyber CS                                                 48.3                  42.4                  46.4
ASPIRA Bilingual CS                                         29.0                  39.0                  38.4
Central PA Digital Lrng Foundation CS          31.7                  48.8                  39.3
Commonwealth Connections Academy CS    54.6                  52.2                  48.8
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS                59.0                  50.0                  N/A
Esperanza Cyber CS                                         32.7                  47.7                  31.7
Pennsylvania Cyber CS                                    59.4                  55.5                  65.3
Pennsylvania Distance Learning CS               54.7                  50.9                  49.2
Pennsylvania Leadership CS                           64.7                  59.3                  54.7
Pennsylvania Virtual CS                                   67.9                  63.4                  64.6
Solomon Charter School Inc.                          36.9
Susq-Cyber CS                                                  46.4                  42.4                  45.5

WSJ Runs Cyberschool PR
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Thursday, November 5, 2015
If you were feeling badly about the poor beleaguered cyber schools that took a drubbing earlier this week (from both a report suggesting they are no more effective than a long nap and the many charter fans who piled on to excoriate them), take heart. Someone did run to their defense. And an alleged journalist paved the road so that the run would be easy.  The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal posted a five minute infomercial for the cybers, featuring Center for Education Reform Senior Fellow and President Emeritus Jeanne Allen. The Center for Education Reform is a full-on advocacy group for the charter school industry, used to float every imaginable argument in support of sweet, chartery goodness. Allen was there to blunt the impact of the study, and the WSJ host was there to help her do it.  "A small study on online charter schools is creating a big controversy," our hostess leads, suggesting that the study was neither large nor important, and suggesting that there is actually some sort of debate over the uselessness of cybers, and not just a whole lot folks from all across the ideological spectrum declaring that cyberschools are a big expensive waste of time.

"Including a move to eliminate the Act 1 exceptions; that would mean that any and all tax increases would need to go to voter referendum"
PSBA 60-Second Update: Budget impasse
PSBA is doing a lot over the next several days/weeks related to the 4-month+ budget impasse. Watch this 60-Second Update to learn more.

Letters to the editor: Pass budget now
Center Daily Times Letter by JANE REESE PORT MATILDA November 4, 2015 
To all those business owners that just paid their third-quarter payroll taxes, especially state taxes:
Do you wonder how Pennsylvania lawmakers can justify not passing a budget — which is really not paying their bills — while we the business owners do not have this choice?
Pass the budget or don’t cash my check until you do!

"We have a divided government,” Wolf told me. “I've made huge compromises, and now I'm waiting for them.”  Funny thing is, Republicans say much the same thing about Wolf. And it’s possible both sides think they’re right about this."
Tom Wolf Defends His Choices in Pennsylvania Budget Standoff
A growing narrative suggests he can’t compromise. The governor pushes back. BY JOEL MATHIS  |  NOVEMBER 5, 2015 AT 11:31 AM
Tom Wolf wants you to know he’s not overly stubborn. He wants you to know he’s fighting for the right things. He wants you to know that he can, in fact, govern the state of Pennsylvania.
Or, at least, he wants me to know.  You might remember that about three weeks ago, I wrote a column with the headline, “No, Tom Wolf Can’t Govern Pennsylvania.” I basically argued that the state’s budget standoff had gone on too long, and that it was time for the governor to make some compromises, accept a “half a loaf” victory, get a budget passed, and move on.  The column wasn’t greeted well in Harrisburg. I got a call from the governor’s spokesman about an hour after it published at, and he gave me an earful. And that, I figured, was probably that.   Until Wednesday, that is. That’s when Gov. Wolf called me up for a short chat. It was cordial but pointed: My three-week-old column was still sticking in his craw. His basic message was a familiar one though: He has made compromises — and he needs the GOP-controlled Legislature to do the same in order to finally get a budget passed, months after mid-summer deadline for doing so.

Inky Editorial: Republican leaders at fault for Pa. budget stalemate
POSTED: Friday, November 6, 2015, 1:08 AM
Harold Jackson is The Inquirer's editorial page editor.
Forgive Pennsylvanians for not realizing that the most important election in the state last year was not the one that Tom Wolf won. In hindsight, it's clear that the public should have paid more attention to who Republicans were choosing to be their legislative leaders. They're the engineers of the five-month stalemate that has blocked Wolf's proposed budget.  Wolf was confident when asked during his campaign whether he could handle a legislature with Republicans in control of both chambers. But that was before the governor had actually experienced the lack of leverage that he and his Democratic colleagues have in Harrisburg. His veto of an alternative GOP budget doesn't mean they won't try to pass another one.

Does Pa. provide a 'thorough and efficient' education? A panel considers.
the notebook By Greg Windle on Nov 5, 2015 11:26 AM
Last Monday, the National Constitution Center hosted a panel where four people actively involved in education policy discussed the role of the Pennsylvania Constitution in improving access to quality public education. The discussion was framed around the contentious policy of “school choice,” which advocates the expansion of charters and magnet schools.  The panel members debated how to interpret the constitution’s mandate that the state provide “thorough and efficient education” for all students of the Commonwealth.  Mark Gleason, of the Philadelphia School Partnership, said, “What’s especially significant about that phrase is the word that’s not there. It ends with ‘education’ it doesn’t end with ‘education system.'” Gleason concluded that the state may be obligated to provide public education under the constitution, but “it doesn’t mean the same way, through the same system.”  However, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center was quick to contradict him. She read directly from the constitution.  “The general assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the common wealth.”  Klehr explained the constitution explicitly uses the term, and that the state legislature is responsible for creating and maintaining that system.

Editorial: Revenge of the school boards?
Bucks County Intelligencer Editorial Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 12:15 am
The state budget stalemate has now entered its fifth month. And while Pennsylvania's 500 school districts may have figured out how to make up what they're not getting in state funding, what they can't make up is the interest they're not earning on the state funds they normally bank until needed.  The way Centennial school board member Michael Hartline figures it, school districts overall have lost maybe $100 million in interest payments since state government missed the June 30 budget deadline. That's based on the approximate $10 billion the state spends on education annually. Central Bucks School District Business Manager David Matyas shares Hartline's view. He told our reporter that his district's piece of the state education pie would have been about $17 million so far.   Hartline said Centennial should have received $3 million from the state in October alone. Instead, Hartline said the state received "a $3 million free loan from us....
"We have a line item in our budget for interest income," Hartline explained. "I want compensation in interest income that the district has lost by essentially providing an interest-free loan to the state."  As part of a strategy to obtain compensation, Hartline said the district should sue Gov. Wolf and possibly the state Legislature for the interest income the state is accruing by withholding the district's subsidy.

DuBois school director wants district to endorse lawsuit
DuBois Courier Express By Elaine Haskins  Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2015 7:59 am | Updated: 8:01 am, Thu Nov 5, 2015.
DuBOIS — On Oct. 21, 2015, the Pennsylvania School Board Association filed in the Commonwealth Court a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the state Treasurer, challenging the unlawful diversion of Property Tax Reduction Allocation funds from the Gaming Fund/Property Tax Relief Fund that were due to be paid to school districts on Oct. 22 for the benefit of taxpayers.  DuBois Area School District Director Roland Bechtel said he will “respectfully move that our DuBois Area School District step up and join in, or otherwise endorse this lawsuit.”  If the board would decide to do this, it could not vote to do so before its next regular meeting on Nov. 18.  Because of the impasse, public school districts are not getting their basic education subsidy from the state. As a result, some have maintained they don’t have the money to pay charter bills.  “Previously, the PA Department of Education requested the Commonwealth Treasurer to stop payment of those allocations to our public school districts, and instead pay them to charter schools claiming they had not been fully paid for tuition by the school districts,” Bechtel said. “The suit further asked the Court to order that the full amount of the property tax reduction allocations be paid to school districts as scheduled.”

Shorter grace period sought for Pa. children’s vaccinations
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 5, 2015 10:59 PM
HARRISBURGPennsylvania’s departments of health and education are proposing to drastically shorten — from the current eight months to five days — a provisional period at the start of the school year for children to get all of their required vaccines.  The proposed change was prompted by a measles outbreak in California this year, Karen Murphy, Pennsylvania secretary of health, said Thursday at a state health center in Harrisburg.  “The current eight-month provisional window for immunization presents a very real risk for children to become infected and potentially spread preventable, communicable diseases to others,” Dr. Murphy said.  Currently, 10 vaccines are required for Pennsylvania schoolchildren, and another four are not required but are recommended. Among the required vaccines are tetanus, polio, measles and hepatitis B. The proposal also requires an additional vaccine for pertussis, or whooping cough, as well as a dose of meningococcal vaccine for students before they enter 12th grade.  Officials said they hope the regulatory changes will be in place by the start of the next school year.

"About 91 percent of kindergartners starting school in Pennsylvania are vaccinated, according to a fact sheet issued with the proposal, compared to a rate of over 95 percent in the majority of states.  Pennsylvania's rate is too low to create herd immunity, a situation in which the number of unvaccinated people is small enough to ensure a disease won't spread among them, according to the departments. The proposed rules aim to achieve herd immunity in schools, officials said."
Pennsylvania looks to tighten vaccine requirements for school children
Trib Live By Wes Venteicher Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, 3:33 p.m.
Pennsylvania wants to tighten vaccine requirements at schools to raise the state's vaccination rate to the national average, officials announced Thursday.  A proposal from the state's Health and Education departments would require students to have all their shots within five days of starting school or provide a medical certificate saying when they would receive the inoculations, according to a news release from the departments.  Current law gives students eight months to finish vaccination regimens as long as they have the first dose in the regimen by the time they start school. Under the proposal, they would still have to have the first shot by the time they start.  
The proposal would also set a requirement that students entering grade 12 get a pertussis vaccine and a shot to protect against meningitis.

"Composting at W.B. Saul, the city's only agriculture high school, is a relatively recent undertaking. Less than five years ago, the school was paying to haul away the farm waste and buying compost made on mushroom farms in Kennett Square.   When Blunk saw this, he teamed up with Saul and local partners to take that money and start a compost program at the school. He works with the students, who check on the compost every day and help sell leftover compost for residential use. Proceeds go back to the school."
'Big pile of poop' a key ingredient of Philly farm students' education
It's just before 8 a.m. on a drizzly autumn morning at the W.B. Saul High School farm in Roxborough. Scott Blunk is already hard at work adding scraps from local co-op Weavers Way to the school's compost piles — towering mounds that stretch about 240 feet.  Already the Philadelphia Zoo has dumped 3,000 pounds of manure, hay and leftovers.   Blunks pauses and takes a deep breath.   "In the morning you get a little stinky," he said. "That's zoo stuff that hasn't been mixed in yet."  That "zoo stuff" will be mixed in with the scraps from Weavers Way, spent grain from local breweries and coffee bean chaff — the husk that falls off beans during roasting — from coffee roasters. 

Chester County school performance scores all over the map
West Chester Daily Local By Staff Report POSTED: 11/05/15, 6:34 PM EST
WEST CHESTER >> Like students who take standardized tests, some Chester County school districts showed well and others didn’t when it came to the results of the School Performance Profile scores released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.  According to the Associated Press, the Department of Education released its 2015 Building Level Academic Scores, based upon the overall performance of 11th graders during the 2014-2015 school year.  The scores – measured along a 100-point scale with 70 being average – rely heavily on state assessment scores such as the standardized Keystone Exams. Other factors include availability of advanced placement classes, graduation and attendance rates and measured academic growth.  Elementary and middle schools did not receive scores because the 2014-2015 PSSA Core assessments were placed on a one-year waiver so districts could adjust to more stringent standards.  Now in its third year, the SPP is based heavily on state assessment scores, but also includes college readiness tests, industry standards-based assessments, graduation, promotion, and attendance rates, as well as evidence of offering rigorous courses as other factors in the calculation.

Walton Family Foundation Education Grants to Teach for America (National)
2009 through 2014
Source: Walton Family Foundation Website


(In addition to the $69 million already spent,) Walton Family Foundation Gives Another $50M to Teach for America
New York Times By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NOV. 5, 2015, 8:22 A.M. E.S.T.
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The Walton Family Foundation says it will donate $50 million over three years to Teach for America to support 4,000 new teachers nationwide.  Teach for America, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, recruits college graduates to teach for two years in schools in high-poverty areas.  The foundation, which was created by Wal-Mart's founders, says the grant will support the recruitment, training and professional development of about 4,000 new teachers in Atlanta, Arkansas and the Mississippi River Delta region; the San Francisco Bay Area; Camden, New Jersey; Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; New Orleans; San Antonio; and Washington, D.C. The grants also funds new teachers in Colorado and Massachusetts.  The Mississippi Delta region, one of the poorest areas of the country, will get 800 new teachers under the grant.

"Our team performed a statistical analysis of that data and produced this map showing the estimated percentage of homes, at the state, county and census tract levels, with more than 100 books."
BOOKS IN THE HOME: United States Interactive Book Desert Map
Unite for Literacy
It’s becoming a well-known fact that the number of books in the home is a reliable predictor of children's academic success. What is less known is the geographic distribution of book ownership. We created this first Book Abundance Atlas* to make the challenges of book scarcity visible. Our purpose was to initiate a conversation about the root causes of book scarcity in order to focus community efforts to create book abundance.  *We looked at the number of books in 4th graders’ homes, community income, ethnicity, geography, and home language data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the American Community Survey. Our team performed a statistical analysis of that data and produced this map showing the estimated percentage of homes, at the state, county and census tract levels, with more than 100 books. Pull down the Legend to see the map key.

"Public education," declares Pickler in his Comcast interview, "is America." Public education is the single largest employer in America, servicing over 6.2 million employees. Today, nine out of 10 school-age children attend America's public schools – 54 million in total. The APEF gives voice to this "silent majority" of our nation's youth, serving as their public champion."
American Public Education Foundation a Comcast Newsmaker
American Public Education Foundation (26 Oct. 2015 – Collierville, TNPR Newswire - US Newswire --
The new American Public Education Foundation (APEF) is profiled in the National edition of Comcast Newsmakers®, in an "Education and Engaged Citizenship" segment featuring APEF President and Co-founder David A. Pickler. The 5-minute interview airs publicly online and across the U.S. on Comcast (subscribers only) now through January 31, 2016. The home page of the APEF website – - also airs the thought leader segment.  "We operate against a 'big tent' mindset – if you are a public education advocate ready to inspire the next generation, partner with APEF," said American Public Education Foundation President David A. Pickler. "APEF is a 'hub' where community leaders, corporations, and individuals who support public education can join forces to ensure that every child in America – regardless of zip code – gains access to a world-class education and becomes an engaged citizen."

Alabama offers high school students – and their parents – tuition-free community college
In an area where less than 15% of adults have a B.A., Alabama tries free community college
Hechinger Report by MEREDITH KOLODNER November 4, 2015
As states focus on increasing the number of low-income students who go to college, Alabama has added another target group – their parents.  Last year, Alabama promised 10,000 sixth and seventh graders at more than 50 schools in a poor area of the state free community college tuition, along with extra tutoring and mentoring. This fall, state officials are holding meetings at six community colleges in the region to recruit the parents of those students, who will also be able to enroll tuition-free.  “We believe this to be a real game-changer,” said Lawrence E. Tyson, a professor who is leading the initiative. “One way to change the culture of not just a community, but also a home, is to involve the parents.”  The schools whose families are receiving this offer are in a region of Alabama known as the Black Belt, which historically has had some of the highest poverty rates and lowest levels of formal education in the nation. 

Hundreds of Common Core test questions have just been made public. Can you solve them?
Washington Post By Emma Brown November 4  
Curious about the Common Core tests that have generated so much debate and so many low scores in recent months? Now you can check them out yourself.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, has released hundreds of test questions that were given to students in 2015 — roughly equivalent to a full test’s worth for each grade level and subject.

One type of charter school has an 'overwhelming negative impact' on students
Business Insider by Abby Jackson  Nov. 4, 2015
Charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately run — have proliferated across the US since they first emerged as an alternative to traditional public schools (TPS) in the early 1990s.  In recent years, online charter schools have proliferated in the US, too. Online charter schools, also referred to as cyber or virtual charter schools, offer K-12 education where all the classes are provided online.  Students log into their computers to receive instruction from teachers, but much of the learning is also independently driven, with students reading passages and completing work on their own.  But new research conducted by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charter schools are falling way behind their peers at TPS.

"Hedge funds and other private businesses are particularly interested in the growth and success of charter schools. The growth of charter networks around the US offer new revenue streams for investing, and the sector is quickly growing. Funding for charter schools is further incentivized by generous tax credits for investments to charter schools in underserved areas."
Gates, Walmart family teaching hedge funds how to profit from publicly funded schools
Business Insider by Abby Jackson Mar. 17, 2015, 12:44 PM
Charter Schools are drawing promoters from a place you might not think of: Walmart.
The Walton Family Foundation — the philanthropic group run by the Walmart family — sponsored a symposium at the Harvard Club for investors interested in the charter school sector, last week.  The event, hosted in Manhattan, was called "Bonds and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools," and was cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  With the explicit intent of helping investors "Learn and understand the value of investing in charter schools and best practices for assessing their credit," the event featured experts on charter school investing from Standard & Poor's, Piper Jaffray, Bank of America, and Wells Capital Management, among others.

Register for PSBA Budget Action Day on Monday, Nov. 16 — Join us!
Capitol Building, Harrisburg NOV 16, 2015 • 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
For more than four months Pennsylvanians have gone without a state budget, and school districts are feeling the pain.  As the budget stalemate continues, many school districts across the state are depleting savings or borrowing to meet expenses. In addition to loan interest payments and fees, schools are taking many other steps to curtail spending and keep school doors open.
PSBA is asking you to join us at the Harrisburg Capitol on Monday, Nov. 16 to take action. Let our legislators know that a state budget is critical to the education of our public school children in Pennsylvania.  Budget Action Day, Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA; Monday, Nov. 16, 2015; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.  Meet at 9 a.m. in the Majority Caucus Room, Room 140, to hear from legislators on top issues that are affecting the budget stalemate and receive packets for your legislative visits. 

WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

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 <>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

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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