Friday, January 22, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 22: PA House proposed "highest education spending in the history of the Commonwealth" still leaves school boards to find $265 million in cuts and/or new taxes to fund PSERS

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 22, 2016:
PA House proposed "highest education spending in the history of the Commonwealth" still leaves school boards to find $265 million in cuts and/or new taxes to fund PSERS

Blogger commentary: "Holding the Line on Taxes" in Harrisburg means "Let the local school boards make cuts or raise taxes."

Do the math - school district mandatory payments into the PA School Employees Retirement System are slated to increase by $365 million this year with comparable increases for the next few years.  That amount is more than the $350 million Basic Education Funding increase that Governor Wolf has requested and considerably more than the $100 million that the House has put forth.

To my knowledge, none of the "Pension Reform" proposals being considered do anything to addresses these cost increases.  The House proposed "highest education spending in the history of the Commonwealth" still leaves school boards to find $265 million in cuts and/or new taxes.
PSERS Fiscal Year 2016/2017 Employer Contribution Rate

"A number of other states, such as Georgia (AND Pennsylvania), are considering opening their own ASD. What sensible person would use failure as a model?"
Tennessee: Legislators Propose Closing “Achievement School District
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch January 21, 2016 //
One of the celebrated feats of the corporate reform movement is Tennessee’s Achievement School District. It was launched by then-State Commissioner Kevin Huffman as the way to increase the performance of the state’s lowest performing schools. Huffman recruited Chris Barbic, founder of the Yes Prep charter chain to run ASD. Barbic said that ASD would take the 5% of the state’s lowest performing schools, and in five years, these schools would be in the state’s top 25%.  It didn’t happen. Barbic resigned. Gary Rubinstein reviewed state data and learned that the six original schools in the ASD made no improvement. A Vanderbilt study said the same.
Now state legislators are introducing legislation  to close the ASD.

Brian O'Neill: We, the people, have to fix this Legislature
By Brian O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 21, 2016 12:00 AM
Former state House Speaker Bill DeWeese calls it “a phenomenal movement of the tectonic plates in the seismic undergirding of political Pennsylvania.”  You might just call it a change of seasons.  However you term it, the spring primary election has supplanted the November general election as the biggest challenge for many members of America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature. Thus stuff stops getting done sooner than it once didn’t.  My colleague Kate Giammarise wrote this week from our Harrisburg bureau that most legislators believe meaningful legislative activity, including votes on the state budget, won’t happen any time soon. That’s because legislative candidates can begin circulating their nominating petitions Tuesday for the April 26 primary. With all 203 representatives facing an election, along with half of the 50 senators, no one’s keen on facing a tax vote.

League of Woman Voters roundtable touches on lack of voting
By Candice Monhollan, cmonhollan@, @CMonhollanDLN on Twitter
POSTED: 01/20/16, 5:40 AM EST | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
WEST CHESTER >> If the 15 people gathered in the West Chester Borough Council chambers left with one message Monday morning, it was that a person’s vote is their voice and it’s imperative to make sure people realize that and take advantage in the upcoming and future elections.  A two-hour roundtable discussion held Monday as part of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, focused on empowering women through voting or political office. The event was presented by St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Chester County and the Chester County Community Collaborative.  The League is a nonpartisan political organization which doesn’t support or oppose parties or candidates, but is an activist organization which tries to influence public policy on issues and encourages informed and active participation in the government.  “It is a right (to vote) – it’s not a privilege,” said Susan Carty, president of the league. “We also don’t believe, particularly, in making people feel guilty that they haven’t voted or if they’re not voting because if you do that to someone, or even if they feel you are implying that they haven’t done the right thing, they probably won’t do the right thing or they won’t act.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Convenes Accountability & Achievement Roundtable in York
YORK, Pa., Jan. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 
Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera facilitated the second in a series of education roundtables at York City School District's Goode K-8 Thursday to explore measures of school accountability and achievement, and to recognize positive work being done in commonwealth schools. With improving education as the hallmark of his administration, Governor Wolf and the Department of Education (PDE) are working closely with stakeholders to develop policies that will best serve the state's schools and students, as well as advance Pennsylvania's economy in the long term.  "Education is our number one priority, and as we work in Harrisburg to secure historic investments in our schools, it is also important to get a first-hand look at what makes a good school and what challenges our schools face," Governor Wolf said. "The goal is to use these discussions to shape our education policy priorities moving forward."  "Hearing the perspectives from educators, families, and community leaders across the state provides the department and the administration with an invaluable tool when crafting the policies that will guide us in the future," Rivera said. "Each participant has brought a unique outlook on how Pennsylvania can support schools and boost student success."
Secretary Rivera was joined by Representative Kevin Schreiber, as well as school administrators, teachers, parents, students, and school board members from York City and other local districts. Administrators from the York County School of Technology and the Lincoln Intermediate Unit were also on hand. 

'It is time to take off the gloves with Gov. Wolf.' Sen. Scott Wagner doubles down: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 21, 2016 at 8:20 AM, updated January 21, 2016 at 8:23 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
If there's one thing you can count on when it comes to state Sen. Scott Wagner, the York County Republican isn't shy about speaking his mind.  Just a couple of days after sayingRepublicans shouldn't have taken their foot off Gov. Tom Wolf's neck during budget negotiations, Wagner was at it again.  On Tuesday, he doubled down in an email to supporters, telling them thus: 
"It is time to take off the gloves withGovernor Wolf and get out on the field and settle this once and for all," wrote Wagner, who has previously threatened to wield a baseball bat during budget talks.  Specifically, Wagner takes issues with the administration's tactics throughout seven months of the budget slog, including attack ads aired by a labor-funded wing of the Democratic Governors Association.

In Philly, federal education secretary says it's time 'to look beyond' math and English scores
Major revisions to federal education law mean new options for Pennsylvania legislators, and acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King was in Philadelphia Thursday to encourage states to take advantage of the changes.  "There's now much more flexibility for states to look beyond just English and math test scores," said King. "Are students getting access to advanced coursework? Are students getting access to art and music? Are students succeeding in art and science and social studies?"  King appeared at the School of the Future on Thursday to tout the Obama administration's latest education priorities, which include encouraging states to maintain high academic standards and provide parents and policymakers with clear assessments of academic progress.  The revised No Child Left Behind Act — now renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act — still requires states to test students and intervene in struggling schools. But the rewritten law gives states much more leeway about exactly how to test and respond.  This expands the alternatives to charter takeovers for the lowest-performing schools. States will be free to experiment with more targeted interventions, King said.

New Education Secretary to Teachers: Our Bad
John King on Thursday said federal officials are partially responsible for the contentious climate surrounding education reform.
US News and World Report By Lauren CameraJan. 21, 2016, at 5:48 p.m.+ More
Acting Education Secretary John King offered teachers an olive branch of sorts Thursday, acknowledging his department's role in creating a politicized education environment that sometimes led to them being painted as villains.  "As everyone in this room knows, the education policy discussions of the last few years have often been characterized by more heat than light," he said to a room of teachers at the School of the Future in Philadelphia, a public school formed through a partnership between the city school district and Microsoft that focuses on digital learning.  "And despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students," King said.

Rethink Teacher-Evaluation Systems if They're Not Working, John King Says
Education Week Politics K-12 By Alyson Klein on January 21, 2016 4:37 PM
The Every Student Succeeds Act presents states, districts, and educators with a chance for a "fresh start" and "much needed do-over" on the very testy issue of teacher evaluation through student outcomes, acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King said at a town hall meeting for teachers in Philadelphia Thursday.  "I'll start by being frank, if maybe also obvious, and say this conversation hasn't always gone well," King said in prepared remarks. "A discussion that began with shared interests and shared values—the importance of learning and growth for all our children—ended up with a lot of teachers feeling attacked and blamed.Teachers were not always adequately engaged by policymakers in the development of new systems. And when they disagreed with evaluation systems, it appeared to pit them against those who they cherished most—their students. That was no one's desire."  Why is this noteworthy? No single policy has been as closely associated with the Obama administration as teacher evaluations linked at least in part to state standardized tests, which were a hallmark of No Child Left Behind Act waivers and the Race to the Top competition. 

SRC moves toward giving 3 schools to charter firms
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 22, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to begin the process of giving three struggling Philadelphia public schools to charter companies.  Commissioners considered the fates of Jay Cooke, Samuel B. Huey, and John Wister Elementaries at a tense and raucous meeting attended by hundreds, with a long public session frequently interrupted by shouts, jeers, applause, and finger-pointing.  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. had initially proposed handing over all three schools, among the district's lowest performers, to charters, but changed his mind on Wister when recent school-performance data indicated some growth at the Germantown school.  But at the eleventh hour - and after impassioned testimony from a number of parents in favor of matching Wister with Mastery Charter Schools - Commissioner Sylvia Simms effectively overruled Hite, putting that option back on the table, and a majority of her fellow commissioners agreed.

In bombshell, SRC defies Hite, votes to turn Wister over to Mastery
Two schools had been recommended for Renaissance charter conversion. After a "walk-on resolution," three were approved. Each of the providers must still win approval for their charter applications.
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa January 22 — 12:48am
In a shocking move, the School Reform Commission Thursday night voted to begin the process of turning over Wister Elementary School in Germantown to Mastery Charter, defying the recommendation of Superintendent Hite.  The move came through a surprise “walk-on” resolution proposed by Commissioner Sylvia Simms four hours into a marathon meeting. It was supported by two other members, giving the action a three-vote majority. Chair Marjorie Neff voted no. Member Farah Jimenez abstained.  The SRC also approved resolutions to turn over Cooke Elementary School in Logan to the Great Oaks Foundation and Huey Elementary in West Philadelphia to Global Leadership Academy, which followed Hite's recommendations.

As SRC prepares to vote on Renaissance schools, questions raised about providers
Councilwoman Gym demands more information on vetting process for charter providers.
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa January 21, 2016
The School Reform Commission on Thursday night will take the first steps toward converting two additional schools into charters, and recently elected City Councilwoman Helen Gym is demanding more information about the process for vetting and approving providers.
Gym is especially concerned about why Great Oaks Foundations, Inc. is being proposed to operate Jay Cooke Elementary School in Logan under the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative. Gym charges that Great Oaks — which operates schools in Wilmington, New York City, Newark, N.J., and Bridgeport, Conn. — “has shown limited success in serving vulnerable students and frequently employs a school climate approach that is in direct contrast with the District’s end to zero tolerance.”  Gym also noted that the organization’s board chair and president, Steven Klinsky and Michael Duffy, have ties to Victory Education Partners. Victory is a for-profit company that was among those given contracts to manage District schools in an eight-year privatization experiment between 2002 and 2010 widely acknowledged now to have been a failure.  She has asked that the District release Great Oaks’ proposal and fully explain its process for vetting potential charter providers, neither of which it had done as of Wednesday night.

In busy first session of '16, Philly Council calls for making Eid a city holiday
by Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 22, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
As Philadelphia City Council returned Thursday for its first meeting of the new term, bills were offered that would add teeth to minority hiring, look hard at how schools have been hurt by years of budget cuts, and shed light on the businesses that receive big tax subsidies.
But the meeting's most compelling moment came when a nonbinding resolution was offered suggesting that two Muslim holidays become official city and School District holidays.

PA Education secretary Rivera  'confident' in York plans
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com5:48 p.m. EST January 21, 2016
The state's education secretary said he's confident in the York City School District's plan for recovery, but there's one thing to make sure to avoid.  "Complacency," Pedro Rivera said Thursday. "You know how many folks get to this point and just get comfortable?"
There is no comfort level of school turnaround systems, he said.  Rivera held a roundtable discussion at Goode K-8 School in York on Thursday, talking with educators, parents and students about the district's plans, as well as statewide accountability issues.

ESSA: Explaining key points of the new K-12 education law
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 21 at 9:35 AM  
Congress last month finally rewrote No Child Left Behind (eight years late) and delivered a new K-12 education law to the country called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. The new law js intended to fix some of the most egregious problems with NCLB, and return significant education policy-making power to the states. But there are questions about exactly how much power the states have to change policy, including on accountability systems that have been pushed by the Obama administration for years.  In an effort to learn more about the law, education historian and activist Diane Ravitch asked David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and staff director of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee, to answer specific questions about ESSA’s provisions to help give direction to the continuing debate about what it actually says. Alexander is the chairman of the Senate education committee, and his efforts were instrumental in the successful effort to write and pass ESSA.
Ravitch has given me permission to publish the questions and answers she isposting on her blog. In an introductory note to Ravitch, Cleary wrote that there are many ques

As With NCLB, So Goes ESSA
Education Week Letter by Stephen Krashen January 12, 2016
Stephen Krashen is Professor Emeritus, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.
To the Editor:
A comment on Common Core State Standards critic Susan Ohanian's well-known 2006 quote about the old education law, the No Child Left Behind Act:
When Congress passes
No Child Left Unfed,
No Child Without Health Care, and
No Child Left Homeless,
Then we can talk seriously about
No Child Left Behind.

Nominate High Schools for Elite List "Schools of Opportunity"
Cloaking Inequity Blog  Posted on January 21, 2016 by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig
How about some good news in your inbox today? The National Education Policy Center is seeking to recognize “Schools of Opportunity,” a recognition of top high schools across the nation. The application deadline is February 3 and is rapidly approaching. Here is their press release:
BOULDER, CO (January 19, 2016) – High schools from across the nation are now submitting applications to be recognized as part of the Schools of Opportunity project of the National Education Policy Center. The project recognizes public schools for what they do to give all students the chance to succeed, rather than turning to test scores to determine school quality. The application deadline is February 3, 2016.  The Schools of Opportunity project highlights schools that use research-based practices to close the opportunity gaps that result in unequal opportunities to learn, in school and beyond school.  For example, although schools cannot directly integrate neighborhoods by race and class, they can do their best to integrate classrooms by race and class. And although it is difficult for schools to increase learning resources in neighborhoods or homes, they can ensure that rich, engaging learning opportunities are provided to all students while they are in school.  The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed in the CU-Boulder School of Education, designed the Schools of Opportunity project as a way to highlight the nation’s best schools and practices. The project is led by NEPC director and CU-Boulder School of Education Professor Kevin Welner, and Carol Burris, director of the Network for Public Education, who was the 2013 New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Why Billionaires' Big Donations Often Fail to Change Much
Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have given millions to overhaul public education. But their cash has proven to be anything but free money or a remedy to systemic problems. BY J.B. WOGAN | JANUARY 2016
Six years ago, school officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., celebrated the news that they had won a seven-year, $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The money would go toward improving teacher quality through evaluations and performance bonuses. “We are in a position to create a model for the nation,” MaryEllen Elia, the county’s superintendent of public schools, said at the time.  This past October, however, the district announced it would do away with its expensive teacher evaluation system, which had led to high cost overruns and produced decidedly mixed results. An investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that $23 million went to consultants, and much of the money that did go to teachers went to suburban classrooms, not high-need city schools. Student performance wasn’t a resounding success either: The county’s high school graduation rates were still lower than in other large school districts in the state. Meanwhile, the district’s budget problems -- it had to raise its own $100 million to match the Gates grant -- have created a rift in the historically cordial relationship between the school district and its teacher union. (Elia was fired as superintendent early last year.)
Hillsborough County is not alone in experiencing the roller coaster that is philanthropic giving to public schools. A recent book by longtime Washington Postreporter Dale Russakoff, The Prize, details a similar breakdown in Newark, N.J., where Gov. Chris Christie and then-Mayor Cory Booker appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to accept $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, again to overhaul public education. As in Tampa, the Newark grant has not achieved anything like the turnaround that school officials had hoped for.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 1-22-16

Remaining Locations:
  • Central PA — Jan. 30 Nittany Lion Inn, State College
  • Delaware Co. IU 25 — Feb. 1
  • Scranton area — Feb. 6 Abington Heights SD, Clarks Summit
  • North Central area —Feb. 13 Mansfield University, Mansfield
PSBA New School Director Training
School boards who will welcome new directors after the election should plan to attend PSBA training to help everyone feel more confident right from the start. This one-day event is targeted to help members learn the basics of their new roles and responsibilities. Meet the friendly, knowledgeable PSBA team and bring everyone on your “team of 10” to get on the same page fast.
  • $150 per registrant (No charge if your district has a LEARN PassNote: All-Access members also have LEARN Pass.)
  • One-hour lunch on your own — bring your lunch, go to lunch, or we’ll bring a box lunch to you; coffee/tea provided all day
  • Course materials available online or we’ll bring a printed copy to you for an additional $25
  • Registrants receive one month of 100-level online courses for each registrant, after the live class

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.

Save the Dates for These 2016 Annual EPLC Regional State Budget Education Policy Forums
Sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Thursday, February 11 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Harrisburg
Wednesday, February 17 - 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. - Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania)
Thursday, February 25 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Pittsburgh
Invitation and more details in January

Save the Date | PBPC Budget Summit March 3rd
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
The 2015-2016 budget remains in a state of limbo. But it's time to start thinking about the 2016-17 budget. The Governor will propose his budget for next year in early February.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will hold our annual Budget Summit on March 3rd. Save the date and join us for an in-depth look at the Governor's 2016-17 budget proposal, including what it means for education, health and human services, the environment and local communities.  And, of course, if the 2015-2016 budget is not complete by then, we will also be talking about the various alternatives still under consideration.
As in year's past, this year's summit will be at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Register today!

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

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

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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