Thursday, January 7, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 7: A primer on the damaging movement to privatize public schools

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 January 7 2016:
A primer on the damaging movement to privatize public schools

"The pitch: Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism."
A primer on the damaging movement to privatize public schools
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 7 at 4:00 AM  
Marion Brady is a veteran educator who has long argued that public education needs a paradigm shift. Brady says schools need a complete transformation in what and how students learn — not the Common Core State Standards, standardized tests and other elements of corporate-influenced school reform. Here’s his latest piece, on efforts by some reformers to privatize America’s public school system, which many see as the most important civic institution in the country.  What is school privatization? It is part of a larger campaign to diminish public institutions by contracting out to the private, for-profit sector jobs and responsibilities of the public sector. School vouchers and charter schools run by for-profit companies are seen as part of the school privatization movement, which critics say will ultimately undermine the country’s democracy.

"Pennsylvania's long-term budget deficit has spurred five credit downgrades in the last four years, and a fight over how to deal with it is a key source of friction between Wolf and Republican lawmakers.  …The Legislature's Independent Fiscal Office last month projected that the state's shortfall will hit $2.4 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, which starts next July 1, if nothing is done.  Wolf has sought a tax increase to address it, but has met resistance in the Legislature."
Pennsylvania gets $2B credit line amid budget fight, deficit
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY Published: January 6, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania government is borrowing from the state treasury to tide itself over until spring, officials said Wednesday, as it rushes out billions of dollars held up in an ongoing budget fight between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature.  The treasury has extended a $2 billion line of credit to prevent the state government from bouncing checks. The more than 50,000 payment requests made by the Wolf administration total about $6 billion, according to treasury officials.  Some school districts began receiving electronic payments from the state Tuesday and Wednesday. Philadelphia, the state's biggest city, reported receiving $179 million this week, and the state's second-most populous county, Allegheny County, reported receiving about $104 million.  The Wolf administration drew $1 billion against the line of credit Wednesday, officials said. The treasury's loan, made from a short-term investment pool, carries an interest rate of 0.6 percent and payback is required June 30.

With General Fund almost out of money, Treasury opens up $2 billion credit line to keep cash flowing
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, January 6, 2016
For the second time in 16 months, Pennsylvania’s Treasury has had to open up a credit line in order to ensure the state’s General Fund cash balance does not drop below zero and state money can keep flowing out to those who need it.  According to a news release from the Pennsylvania Treasury, the General Fund was in danger of falling $922 million in the red next week as money is sent to those relying on state funds after the governor’s line-item veto of a budget plan allowed its expenditure.  Particularly noting the public school subsidy being withheld during the Commonwealth’s ongoing budget impasse until the partial budget plan was signed last week, the Treasury noted the General Fund’s balance was artificially inflated and, without the loan, would have fallen into a likely negative balance until the tax revenue collection spike in the spring.  The $2 billion credit line is the largest ever extended by the Treasury to cover General Fund expenses, and outpaces the second-largest credit line of $1.5 billion extended in September 2014.

School funding distribution gives rise to new battle between Wolf, GOP lawmakers
By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 06, 2016 at 7:15 AM
In a protracted battle over finalizing the 2015-16 state budget in a divided government, Gov. Tom Wolf's administration managed to pick yet another fight with Republican lawmakers.  This one is over how the $2.8 billion of education dollars provided in the $23.4 billion partial state budget signed into law on Dec. 29 are being distributed.   The dispute touches on a variety of different issues including arguments over Philadelphia School District getting a disproportionate share of the $100 million in new funding for basic education and the $50 million increase in a block grant program while 10 districts receive no increase at all in basic education funding.   Then there's the governor's decision to redirect $58 million of that block grant funding to reinstate a program ended in 2011-12 to help districts cover their tuition payments for students who attend charter schools. In doing so, Wolf eliminated $8 million in block grant money that charter schools expected to receive.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, called the governor's actions a real concern.  "Basically, they are taking their own direction on distributing the dollars however they want to do so," Reed said.

Lawmakers mull accepting Wolf's budget cuts
York Daily Record by Mary Wilson, mary_wilson@witf.org6:17 p.m. EST January 6, 2016
Pennsylvania’s partial budget straps state lawmakers with a big question: let funding cuts stand or restore slashed line items with the help of new revenues?  When state lawmakers sent the governor a $30.3 billion budget right before the holidays, they were leaving him with a simpler, less expensive plan than the one they had been discussing since November.  The cheaper budget set aside thorny issues -- major policy changes, potential tax increases -- that had bogged down negotiations for months.  But for all its relative simplicity, the plan still would have required more money -- either from higher taxes or other sources of additional revenue.  “We’d have had to come up with some sort of revenue package,” said GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman on Tuesday. “He didn’t sign it all, so that’s not an issue at the moment.”

"Which means districts are drawing up budgets for next year even though Harrisburg “is nearly seven months without a budget this year,” he added.
Officially, districts had until Jan. 7 to either file a preliminary budget for public inspection or approve a resolution promising not to exceed the annual tax limit. Few local districts have taken action, though."
Gap remains in “stopgap” education budget
Times Leader By Mark Guydish - Posted: January 6th, 2016
If budgets were LEGO brick sets, this one would require a genius to assemble — or perhaps an “idiot savant,” someone who gets it right without really knowing how.   Gov. Tom Wolf released state education money this week without actually resolving the budget impasse that began July 1, but even the school district officials grateful for the cash are struggling to figure out what’s what. And figuring it out is essential, because by state law, business managers are already trying to suss out next year’s budgets for their districts.  “The whole process is convoluted,” Wyoming Valley West Finance Manager Joe Rodriquez said. “We’re required by law to make a decision this month as to whether we will exceed the Act 1 (tax increase) limit or stay below it, and to formulate a budget based on that decision.”

How to push the Pa. budget? Don't pay the politicians, rep says
Lehigh Valley Live By Tony Rhodin | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 05, 2016 at 8:29 AM, updated January 05, 2016 at 9:18 AM
When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, chopped away at the most-recent budget to emerge from the Republican-controlled General Assembly, he left in place salaries for the politicians.  State Rep. Dan McNeill, D-Lehigh, isn't fond of that idea.  McNeill first introduced a bill on June 17 suspending pay and per diems for politicians if the June 30 deadline is missed for passing a state budget. He only got two co-sponsors so he pulled it.
He recently reintroduced it.

"What if the courts had ruled the state Constitution, during a budget deadlock, mandates furloughs and prohibits pay for most state employees?  How long would the state's endless budget impasse have lasted under those conditions?  Not long.  Which is one reason, perhaps, the Framers of the Pennsylvania Constitution used such straightforward language to draft Article III, Section 24."
Court rulings lurk behind Pennsylvania budget mess
Trib Live By Ed Palattella Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Ed Palattella is a columnist for the Times-News of Erie.
Among the many questions that have resonated during the endless state budget impasse, one has come up more often than most. How are state employees getting paid?  The question is logical. No budget means no annual appropriations — a situation that would appear to violate Article III, Section 24, of the Pennsylvania Constitution: No money shall be paid out of the treasury, except on appropriations made by law.  But as is frequently the case in politics — especially politics in Harrisburg — rules can be bent, even if they are enshrined, in plain language, in the state's singular governing document.

Changing the budget conversation in Harrisburg
Intelligencer Opinion By Todd Stephens Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 12:15 am
Republican state Rep. Todd Stephens serves the 151st District, comprising Horsham and Montgomery townships and parts of Lower Gwynedd and Upper Dublin.
While I am pleased Gov. Tom Wolf finally signed a partial budget that released funds for our schools and social service agencies, we still have outstanding budget issues to resolve.
For the past six months, the budget conversation in Pennsylvania has been riddled with rhetoric, finger-pointing and name-calling. While the tone has often overshadowed the substance of the debate, the primary focus of the discussions has been whether and by how much to raise the sales and/or personal income tax to provide more funding for education.  After six months of attacks and negotiations, it’s time to change the budget conversation.  The governor’s priority is to increase funding for education; for many of us in the Legislature, preventing broad-based tax increases is the priority. These goals are not mutually exclusive.  Instead of seeking additional revenue from taxpayers, we should repurpose some of our existing spending and consider new, innovative financing tools. By thinking outside the box, we can fund increases in education and avoid tax increases on working Pennsylvanians.

"For instance, principal turnover is highest in these schools, which means the stability students need is a rare commodity. On average, these schools had four or more principals in five years through 2013-14. In the same period, academic-admission high schools saw only one principal turnover. These schools also have 400 fewer teachers than they did four years ago."
Strengthen neighborhood high schools Opinion By Donna R. Cooper Updated: JANUARY 6, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
Donna R. Cooper is executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth
As Mayor Kenney takes the reins and Gov. Wolf turns the corner on his first year in office, an opportunity to make a serious impact on the commonwealth's largest city lies in Philadelphia's neighborhood high schools.  Here's why: More than half the city's public school students prepare for their futures in our neighborhood high schools, where potential is going untapped year after year.  How so? Last year, only 64 percent of neighborhood high school students graduated, compared with 95 percent of magnet school students and 89 percent in citywide-admissions schools. The only place, then, to really move the needle on the city's graduation rate is in our neighborhood high schools.  The disappointing graduation rate from these schools stems from two factors. Without question, the lives of these students are complicated. For instance, neighborhood high schools educate twice the share of child-welfare-involved students that magnet high schools do, and a 30 percent larger share than the other special-admission high schools. Four neighborhood high schools educate nearly half the district's English-language learners, while the share of such students attending special-admission high schools is less than 10 percent.

West Chester Henderson High School’s National Art Honor Society raised money and purchased art supplies to donate to the Andrew Jackson School in Philadelphia.
Henderson students donate art supplies to Philly school
Daily Local By Candice Monhollan, cmonhollan@, @CMonhollanDLN on Twitter POSTED: 01/05/16, 4:44 PM EST
Art supplies aren’t always the easiest things to come by in Philadelphia schools, such as the Andrew Jackson School, a kindergarten through eighth grade public school in the city.  The school is home to over 500 students with 29 different cultures and 14 different languages represented, said Christina Uliano, the art teacher from Andrew Jackson.  “Each teacher in the (School District of Philadelphia) is given a $100 stipend to use towards supplies,” Uliano said. “For many classroom teachers, this is an insulting amount compared to what they actually spend to make their classrooms function. For art teachers? It is impossible.”  That $100 supplies her classroom with a set of markers and some pencils. That’s it.

Helen Gym Draws National Attention in New Role
Longtime activist is first Asian-American woman on City Council.
PhillyMag Citified BY JOEL MATHIS  |  JANUARY 5, 2016 AT 12:58 PM
Helen Gym, the longtime education activist, is drawing national attention this week: She joined City Council as an at-large member on Monday, the first Asian-American woman elected to that body. featured an interview with Gym on its “Asian America” site Monday, highlighting her new role and interviewing her about her history of activism. If she continues to receive national attention — she was honored by the White House in 2014, and received support from the American Federation of Teachers during the City Council race — that could help her raise campaign funds in the future.

Poconos-based Muslim cleric on trial in absentia in Turkey
Morning Call by Suzan Fraser Of The Associated Press January 6, 2016
ANKARA, Turkey — A Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, who has become Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's chief foe, went on trial in absentia in Istanbul on Wednesday, accused of attempting to overthrow the government by instigating corruption probes in 2013 that targeted people close to the Turkish leader.  Fethullah Gulen and 68 other people, including former police chiefs, have been charged with "attempting to overthrow the Turkish republic through the use of violence," leading a terrorist organization and "political espionage."  Prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for Gulen and others.  Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in the Poconos, has denied the accusations.

120 American Charter Schools and One Secretive Turkish Cleric
The FBI is investigating a group of educators who are followers of a mysterious Islamic movement. But the problems seem less related to faith than to the oversight of charter schools.
The Atlantic by SCOTT BEAUCHAMP  AUG 12, 2014
It reads like something out of a John Le Carre novel: The charismatic Sunni imam Fethullah Gülen, leader of a politically powerful Turkish religious movementlikened by The Guardian to an “Islamic Opus Dei,” occasionally webcasts sermons from self-imposed exile in the Poconos while his organization quickly grows to head the largest chain of charter schools in America. It might sound quite foreboding—and it should, but not for the reasons you might think.

List of Gulen-linked US Charter Schools including those in PA
Blog site by Sharon Higgins

Making Charter Schools Public Schools Requires Higher Standards of Accountability
Nonprofit Quarterly By MARTIN LEVINE January 6, 2016
Last September, the Washington State Supreme Court held that “charter schools did not meet the definition of a common or public school and were not eligible for a share of state education funding.” While the ruling directly affected only the 1,200 students who were beginning their school year, the court highlighted the need to clearly define what makes a charter school a public school.  For many charter advocates, being free from the rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools is an essential ingredient for success. This high level of autonomy allows charters great latitude to define their curriculum, their educational philosophy, and to operate outside of existing union contracts with their own governance structures. And therein lies the rub. Traditional public schools operate in a publicly accountable framework; their governing bodies are directly elected or appointed by an elected mayor or governor and their operations are held to the same level of oversight as are other public bodies in their jurisdictions. The Washington Supreme Court’s ruling asked us to think of another way to ensure public accountability for our schools.  As a new legislative year begins, two Washington lawmakers have proposed legislation that they believe will meet this challenge. According to the Seattle Times, their proposal is modeled on frameworks being used in Boston and Los Angeles, where charters fall under the direct auspices of the local school board:

He’s acting, but the nation’s new education secretary is for real
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton January 5 at 10:03 PM  
John B. King Jr. settled into the rocking chair before a group of cross-legged kindergartners and fielded a question from a little boy.  “Wait, are you a president?” the boy asked the grown-up in the gray suit, who had been escorted into their small classroom at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., by an army of photographers, cameramen, reporters, and assorted school and county officials.  “No, but I work for the president,” King said with a smile. “He’s very nice.”  King is the nation’s acting education secretary, replacing Arne Duncan, who relinquished the job last week after seven years as one of the most influential policymakers for the country’s 100,000 public K-12 schools.  King, who turned 41 Tuesday, will retain the “acting” modifier for the rest of President Obama’s time in office. He has not been nominated by the president, and he will not undergo the confirmation process required of Cabinet-level officers under the Constitution.

Education Week Special Series January 5, 2015
The year-end passage and signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act represents more than just a rare bipartisan agreement on the part of the nation’s chronically polarized policymakers. For the first time in more than a decade—and a half-century after enactment of the country’s main K-12 law—Congress has redefined the federal role in elementary and secondary education. And it’s done so in a way that aims to enhance the authority of states and school districts that had long chafed at the strictures of ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act.  Now comes the really hard part: implementation. This special report on ESSA looks at what the law will mean for virtually every aspect of public schooling when it takes full effect in the 2017-18 academic year. Topics include accountability and testing, teacher quality, research, regulation, funding, early-childhood education, and thorny issues involving student groups that often lag behind their peers.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 1-6-16

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 1-7-16

Remaining Locations:
  • Butler area — Jan. 9 Midwestern IU 4, Grove City (note: location changed from Penn State New Kensington)
  • Allentown area — Jan. 16 Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Schnecksville
  • 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

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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