Friday, January 8, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 8: Walton Family Tosses Another Billion Dollar Log onto Their Charter School/TFA Fire

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 8 2016:
Walton Family Tosses Another Billion Dollar Log onto Their Charter School/TFA Fire

Blogger rant: Save more, live better, dismantle democratically governed American public education….

The sons and daughters of Sam Walton have spent over a billion dollars on charter schools, which undermine American neighborhood schools that are accountable to the taxpayers who fund them, and on Teach for America, which undermines the teaching profession.  They have announced plans to spend a billion more.  Sixteen years into paying attention to education policy I'm not aware of any conclusive evidence that either of those strategies provide a viable, scalable alternative to public education.

What if the Waltons spent a few of those big bucks on some other strategies like getting books into high-poverty communities that don't have them, helping families read to their kids, providing high quality early childhood education, supporting "Read-by Fourth" initiatives, funding math and reading tutors and coaches and Community Schools? 

And speaking of Community Schools….

"Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf cited former School District of Lancaster Superintendent Pedro Rivera’s experience implementing a community schools model that “broke down barriers to student success” in remarks nominating Rivera as Pennsylvania Secretary of Education.  Both Rivera and the Governor have expressed interest in supporting the expansion of such a model statewide. And in Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney has called for the creation of 25 community schools over the next four years, and tapped South Philadelphia High School principal Otis Hackney to oversee the effort as his Chief Education Officer. Hackney cultivated many aspects of the community school model at Southern, including partnering with non-profits and community groups to expand programs and services for students and their families."
Community Schools in Practice: Research on Implementation and Impact
Research for Action Pacer Policy Brief by Della Jenkins and Mark Duffy January 2016
Introduction: Community schools are receiving increased attention in Pennsylvania and across the country as policymakers and practitioners strive to address the effects of poverty on academic performance, and provide more comprehensive supports for traditionally-underserved populations.  At the federal level, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan oversaw the scaling up of a community schools model during his superintendency in Chicago, and became a believer in their power to “attack the in-school and out-of-school causes of low achievement.”  
Late last year, the long-awaited and bipartisan re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), maintained Promise Neighborhoods, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and Full-Service Community Schools—the three largest federal funding streams available to support extended services or implementation of a community schools model. And for the first time, the federal law explicitly encouraged low-income districts to utilize Title I funds for integrated student supports, and acknowledged that these services may be provided by external community partners using “evidence-based strategies.”

Pa. makes charter school change that will help some districts by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 8, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Pennsylvania's Education Department is expected to announce on Friday an immediate change in state charter school policy that may cheer some school districts.  A letter to be emailed to charter schools will inform them that the department will no longer allow the schools to bill it directly for payments when there are enrollment disputes with school districts for past years, according to a Wolf administration source.  The letter points out that a 2012 Commonwealth Court decision said state law permits charter schools to seek direct payment from the state only for claims in a current school year.  The Education Department says it therefore no longer is allowed to withhold money from a district and give it to a charter to settle claims from previous years.
The matter must be handled directly between the charter school and the district. Charter schools and districts are still allowed to reconcile previous-year payments on their own without involving the department.  The administration of former Gov. Tom Corbett delayed implementing the court's decision and continued to allow charter schools to obtain payments from the department for past years, the letter said.  The policy change will affect 75 of the state's more than 185 charter schools. They will have to work directly with students' home districts to resolve old disputes.

Charter school advocates unhappy with Wolf over funding
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 8, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG -- Advocates for charter schools are criticizing how the Wolf administration is distributing money under the partial state budget enacted last week.  The Department of Education announced this week it is using a portion of the money the General Assembly appropriated for a program called the Ready to Learn Block Grant to reimburse school districts for part of their tuition payments to charter schools. The majority of the funding for the block grant, which is intended to support programs and services that raise student achievement, is being used to give school districts -- but not charter schools -- the amounts of block grant funding they received last year.   Organizations that represent Pennsylvania charter schools say the distribution shortchanges charter schools $8 million they would have received, and that the decision raises questions of legality.  Tim Eller, executive director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said Gov. Tom Wolf is resurrecting a program that is no longer authorized by the General Assembly.

When can we expect a state budget? Next year? | Editorial
Lehigh Valley Live Editorial By Express-Times opinion staff on January 07, 2016 at 6:00 AM, updated January 07, 2016 at 6:06 AM
Ugh. Just one month before Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will deliver his second budget address — it's scheduled for Feb. 9 — Wolf and his Republican opponents in the Legislature have yet to reach a handshake on the budget year now more than six months old.  No matter whom you blame for this failure of leadership, it's important to note that Wolf has backed away from most of his tax-raising proposals of a year ago. And as he was using a line-item veto to slash the Legislature's budget by $7 billion — a tactic to keep schools, prisons and human services agencies funded temporarily — taxes actually went down in Pennsylvania.  As of Jan. 1, the state's capital stock and franchise tax was phased out. Not that most people would notice, but CEOs and entrepreneurs throughout the state considered this a plague upon their efforts — a burden on top of income and property taxes, which also made the Keystone State less competitive in attracting business development.  So that's a plus. Let's take whatever victory we can get in this bitterest of budget seasons. Of course, the $240 million raised through the business tax will have to be made up, and it gets added to the structural deficit the state has been running for several years.

"Some legislators and staffers from other caucuses have argued that the House GOP's hard-liner tendencies fly in the face of the reality that Democrat Wolf is going to be the governor for about 1,100 more days.""
The elephant in the room: Pa's House Republicans are making their mark(s) on state's divided government
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 07, 2016 at 8:45 AM, updated January 07, 2016 at 8:48 AM
Pennsylvania appeared on its way, however grudgingly, to a pre-Christmas budget that was going to require a major increase in broad-based state taxes for the first time since 2003.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the governor's desk: the House Republican caucus, for the moment at least, stopped the deal.  Enough members pushed back just hard enough and in just enough ways that GOP leaders - who were on-again, off-again participants in the negotiations – adjourned Dec. 23 without bringing the $30.8 billion budget up for a vote.

Speculation has it that other incumbents may be reaching the same conclusion after this still-ongoing budget experience took precedence that dominated the past year's legislative agenda.  Whether the turnover in the General Assembly reaches the historic level it last did in 2006 when 29 incumbents chose to retire and 25 others were defeated in that year's elections following an unpopular pay raise vote the year before
Late budget impacting incumbent lawmakers' plans to seek re-election
Penn LIve By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 07, 2016 at 1:30 PM, updated January 07, 2016 at 4:44 PM
After serving seven terms in the state House, Rep. John Payne plans to call it quits at the end of this year.  Payne, 65, a Republican from Derry Twp., said his decision to not seek an eighth term is not because of any one particular reason but the continued failure to finalize a 2015-16 budget certainly contributed to it.  "I sit down with my wife every two years and we talk. The last three months have been pretty crazy. We were on six-hour call [to return to the House for legislative session]. We were there the week of Thanksgiving. We were there the week of Christmas. It's an accumulation of things and now, the timing is right."
remains to be seen. 

Gov. Wolf has harsh words for House leadership during stop in Pittsburgh
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 7, 2016 2:27 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf touted Pittsburgh's tech sector and slammed House Republican leaders for torpedoing a budget agreement today in East Liberty.  Speaking at AlphaLab Gear, an accelerator for startups developing everything from next generation bras to headsets to keep truckers from dozing off, Mr. Wolf praised the entrepreneurship that has helped revive the city's economy.  "This was a city, not too long ago, that was on its back. What's happening here is the whole regeneration not just of an industry, but of a whole city. Pittsburgh is coming back to life." he said.  When he was asked about the failed efforts to get a state budget agreement, he emphasized repeatedly that there had been a budget agreement that passed in the Senate and that he said would have passed in the House, but that was undermined by House leadership.  "We actually had a deal, we actually had a budget," he said.  In the real world, "you're not allowed to take the ball and go home, because you forfeit," but different rules apply in Harrisburg, he said.
He offered this bit of sardonic advice to the entrepreneurs in the room:
"Don't hire people who think the job is not to show up."

Wolf takes jabs at GOP lawmakers in stop in Pittsburgh
Trib Live By Elizabeth Behrman Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, 3:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday continued to rail against Republican legislators after their most recent rejection of a state budget.  He made a stop at Alpha-Lab Gear in East Liberty as part of his “Jobs that Pay” tour, promoting investment in Pennsylvania entrepreneurs and technology startups. Following a meet-and-greet with other business owners from the area, Wolf praised Pittsburgh for its support and attractiveness to new businesses and entrepreneurs. He answered questions about the months-long budget standoff in Harrisburg.  “Don't hire people who think the job is not to show up,” he advised the business owners who gathered to hear him speak.
Wolf was critical of what he said was a last-minute dissolution of budget negotiations. A deal had been reached that passed in the Senate but failed in the House.

Rep. Mike Sturla's new natural gas tax proposal would fund pensions
Lancaster Online by Sam Janesch Staff Writer January 8, 2015
Sturla’s proposal would impose a tax based on the current price of gas — starting at 4 percent for gas selling below $1 per thousand cubic feet to 9 percent for gas selling above $5 per thousand cubic feet.  The sliding scale is designed to address concerns among the GOP about Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal of a fixed tax rate on Marcellus Shale drillers last year.  “It’s not that gas companies are starving, but let’s not kick them when they’re down,” Sturla said of the tax proposed last year.  House Republicans spokesman Steve Miskin said his caucus has not yet reviewed Sturla’s proposal but that they are not interested in further taxing employers in the state.

National education report gives Pennsylvania B-minus, ranks it 7th in U.S.
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 07, 2016 at 3:33 PM
For the most part, Pennsylvania is earning marks slightly above national averages in a national education report released Thursday.  The 2016 Quality Counts report by Education Week looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia, scoring each in the categories of:
  • "chance for success," which included subcategories looking into children's socioeconomic backgrounds, school years, and adult outcomes;
  • "school finance," which included subcategories of equity and spending;
  • and "K-12 achievement," with measurements including graduation rates, AP test scores, and National Assessment of Educational Progress scores.
Pennsylvania earned a B-minus — a grade determined by averaging the state's scores on the three categories — and was ranked seventh in the nation overall.

Quality Counts 2016: Report and Rankings Education Week
Education Writers Association Blog JANUARY 7, 2016
The 2016 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report—Called to Account: New Directions in School Accountability—examines how new state and federal strategies are transforming the assessment of school performance and reshaping the consequences for poor results. The new Every Student Succeeds Act is widely believed to herald a shift in authority away from the federal government and back to the states and school districts. Pressure is also mounting for accountability systems to go beyond test scores and incorporate other academic and non-academic factors in meaningful ways. Education Week’s journalists investigate these and other pivotal issues, delivering in-depth insights and lessons learned from the work of states and local schools systems already on the cutting edge of these trends.

"Palmer said the major expenditure drivers for 2016-17 would be state-mandated pension costs, with an increase of $717,000 for an overall total of $4.9 million; rising health insurance costs; and contractual agreements with teachers and other employees which gobble up 71 percent of the $77.6-million budget.
For the sake of comparison, the district was only paying a total of $729,838 to the state for pension costs as of fiscal year 2009-10."
Wallingford-Swarthmore looking at biggest tax increase in years
By Neil A. Sheehan, Times Correspondent POSTED: 01/07/16, 8:20 PM EST
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Property owners in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District could experience the largest tax increase in almost a decade if a 2016-17 budget proposal unveiled Monday night comes to pass.  As currently formulated, the fiscal blueprint calls for a 3.9-percent hike effective next July 1. Even though the state’s Act 1 index for the district sets the upside limit for the tax rate at an additional 2.4 percent, Wallingford-Swarthmore intends to make use of an exception that allows for the higher amount.  That exception would be for rising special education costs. District Business Administrator Lisa Palmer said it would represent 1.5 percent of the overall tax hike.  While the district could have also opted to tap into another exception, for still-mushrooming pension costs, it has decided not to do so at this juncture.  Acting Superintendent Michael Pladus said the maximum the district could have boosted taxes, with full use of the exceptions included, is 5.5 percent.  With the state’s 2015-16 budget still not finalized, Palmer said it was “almost incomprehensible” the district was now working on the development of its spending plan for the next fiscal year.

Phoenixville Area School Board eyes 2.4% tax hike
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 01/07/16, 5:20 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Phoenixville >> Forced to make a number of assumptions about the future thanks to Harrisburg’s failure to pass a budget, Phoenixville School District officials did their best Wednesday to present a budget for next school year.  The administration unveiled the proposed 2016-17 preliminary budget, which calls for a 2.4 percent tax increase. That’s the limit, under the Act 1 index, the district can raise taxes without holding a voter referendum.  With a proposed budget of $89.29 million and millage rate of 29.58 mils, the owner of a home assessed at the median average $133,540 would pay an additional $92 a year, for a total of $3,950 in real estate taxes, according to District Finance Director Chris Gehris. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The school board is expected to adopt the preliminary budget at its Jan. 21 meeting and a final budget May 26.

Philly district's school quality metric spotlights successes, raises questions
One of the toughest questions in education is: How do you rate and rank school quality?
Going only by raw test scores often ends up simply ranking schools by rates of poverty, special education disability and English fluency.  The School District of Philadelphia's metric attempts a more nuanced look, but this year it may raise more questions than answers.  During a celebration ceremony at Anne Frank Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia Thursday, Superintendent William Hite praised the district and charter schools that ranked highest this year on the School Progress Report.  "What we're doing is celebrating ...  the top performers, those schools that are leading the way," said Hite.  The SPR metric ranks schools two ways. First, against every public school serving the same age bracket. And second, against peer schools that share similar demographics in poverty, special education disability, race, and English fluency.

Philly School District names its best by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 8, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
The Philadelphia School District on Thursday announced the top schools in the city, calling out strong traditional public and public charter schools for their academic performance, growth, and safety.  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and Mayor Kenney lauded the leaders at a ceremony at Anne Frank Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia, named the city's leading elementary school for the third straight year.  Tops among K-8 schools is Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia; the highest-ranked middle school is Masterman, a magnet school in Center City; the leading high school is Central, a magnet school in Logan.  Hite and Kenney also recognized "peer leaders" throughout the city - schools that topped district rankings when compared with schools that educate similar populations. The elementary schools are Samuel Powel, Rhawnhurst, and Mastery Charter School at Smedley. For K-8 schools, the leaders are Kirkbride Elementary and Christopher Columbus, Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures, Laboratory, Universal Institute, and Universal Creighton charter schools.  Among middle schools are Hill-Freedman World Academy and Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones.  Among high schools, Academy at Palumbo, Bodine and Carver High Schools, and Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter topped the district's peer-leader lists.

Philly District issues School Progress Reports: Find your school’s scores
the notebook January 7, 2016
Scores were posted online today for the School District’s annual school rating system, the School Progress Reports. The ratings cover all District schools, and 77 of 84 Philadelphia charters participated this year as well.  Standardized test results account for more than half of schools’ overall scores, which are based on performance in four areas: student achievement, student growth, school climate, and for high schools, college- and career-readiness.  Schools are compared both to all the schools serving the same grade levels and to “peer” schools that serve a similar population.  Full school results can be found by searching within one of four lengthy documents listing schools in alphabetical order:

Pittsburghers turn out to set parameters for school superintendent search
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 7, 2016 10:59 PM
A commitment to racial equity, openness to input from students, and a healthy skepticism toward standardized testing were among the qualities the next Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent should have, residents told the school board Thursday night.  Nearly 100 people turned out at East Liberty’s Obama 6-12 for an hourlong forum on the search to replace outgoing superintendent Linda Lane. It was the first in a series of gatherings this month, and those who addressed the eight board members — Kevin Carter was absent — included parents, teachers and students.

PA House Releases Voting Session Schedule Through June 30
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates January 8, 2015
The House has released its voting session schedule through June 30—
January 11, 12, 25, 26, 27
February 8, 9, 10
March 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13
May 2, 3, 4, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25
June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
         The Senate released its schedule earlier in the week—
January 19, 20, 25, 26, 27
February 8, 9, 10
Budget Hearings: Feb. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, March 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (no session during hearings)
March 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13
May 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18
June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A foundation run by the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton said Thursday it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to improve public education by backing new charter schools and helping programs already up and running.  The foundation has spent more than $1 billion on K-12 education over the past 20 years, including $385 million to help start charter schools in poor communities. The new money will be spent in places where the foundation already has ties - creating new schools and developing "pipelines of talent," said Marc Sternberg, a former high school principal who directs education philanthropy for the Walton Family Foundation.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act
Politics K-12 Blog Education Week By Alyson Klein on January 6, 2016 7:59 AM
We know, we know. You just can't get enough information and analysis on the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. So, just for you, we have created a very special section of Education Weekexplaining the ins-and-outs of the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  First off, a big picture overview on accountability: What makes ESSA different from No Child Left Behind? What are the overall politics at play?    Then check-out these stories, each exploring a central aspect of ESSA:

Would You Go to Mars? Meet the Four Women Astronauts Who Can't Wait to Go
Glamour By Ginny Graves January 7, 2016
In first grade Jessica Meir made a drawing of herself standing on the moon. Turns out she underestimated her own ambition: Today, at 38, Meir could become the first human to touch down on an even farther destination: Mars. A next step for man? Yes, and a giant leap for womankind.  The mission itself is at least 15 years away—it will take that long to build and test every last piece of equipment. But it's already the most hotly anticipated space-exploration effort ever. Governments around the world—in China, Europe, and Russia—have plans in the works to at least land robots on Mars, while in the U.S., private companies like SpaceX are partnering with NASA on a human mission and plotting their own commercial trips. And unlike the 1960s race to the moon, this time women are playing pivotal roles—building rockets, designing space suits, and controlling the remote rovers that are already sending momentous insights back from Mars.

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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