Wednesday, April 27, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 27: Philly Community Schools Update

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 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 April 27, 2016:
Philly Community Schools Update

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!  We're rallying for a permanent fair funding formula + increases to basic education in 2016-17 budget
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

Statewide Election Returns
PA Department of State Website

PA Campaign Finance Reporting
PA Department of State Website

“Pennsylvania is one of the most egregiously gerrymandered states. Given the trend in the Supreme Court, the question is whether state lawmakers will do the right thing and end the practice through nonpartisan redistricting, or wait for an inevitable challenge and let the Supreme Court shame them into doing so.”
Editorial: Court helps to draw line
Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: April 27, 2016
As dozens of U.S. House members and thousands of state legislators nationwide sleepwalk through their re-election campaigns because they don’t have opponents, the Supreme Court of the United States seems awake to such perils of gerrymandering.  This year, the court has a pattern of voting against partisan advantage in redistricting.  On April 4 the court unanimously upheld the principle of drawing electoral maps to reflect total population rather than numbers of registered voters, recognizing that elected officials also represent nonvoters, including children.
Later this month, in another unanimous decision, the court found in an Arizona case that compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act is a legitimate factor in redistricting.  The court might ultimately rule in another voting case decided by a federal district court in Wisconsin, which authorized new analytical tools used to determine whether a voting district is drawn for partisan advantage.

Fair Districts PA
Working to Ensure Fair Districts & Fair Elections for Every PA Voter
Fair Districts PA is a coalition of citizens and organizations who believe that in American democracy, elections should represent the will of all the people, not just the politicians, and should provide citizens with meaningful choices in electing representatives.  
When partisan politicians manipulate voting maps to keep themselves and their parties in power, they shape election outcomes before the first vote is cast. When that happens, voters feel they have no voice, and legislators feel less need to listen to constituents.
We believe Pennsylvania needs to reform its redistricting rules and make the process of drawing districts impartial, transparent and accountable - promoting competitive elections and partisan fairness so our government truly is of, by and for the people.

Philly Community Schools Updates from the Mayor's Office of Education
The Community Schools initiative is in full swing! City Council budget hearings are underway and stakeholders are weighing in on the direction of the program. We are receiving valuable public input from educators, service providers, students, parents, and concerned citizens who care deeply about the future of public education in Philadelphia.
Here are key ways you can continue to support Community Schools expansion.

It's Standardized Testing season in Pennsylvania
Lebanon Daily News Opinion by Rep. Mike Tobash, guest columnist 5:12 p.m. EDT April 21, 2016
Mike Tobash is a Republican representing the 125th House District in the PA House of Representatives.
It's mid-April and K-12 students have only a few more weeks until the 2015-16 school year is in the books. This is the time of year where classes and curricula should continue, while students and teachers prep for spring field trips and other end-of-year events the kids worked hard for and look forward to all year.  Unfortunately, that isn't the reality. It is standardized testing season in Pennsylvania and that means daily classroom schedules are disrupted so that students can abide by one-size-fits-all testing procedures, instead of learning things that will serve to be valuable in their future endeavors.  Standardized testing season is overly stressful and not productive to learning things kids need to be successful. Essays about the opera and knowing the difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes isn't practical knowledge. I understand students are in school to learn and tests measure knowledge, but too many of these tests have replaced teaching kids to write their signatures or how to make change for a dollar.  For these reasons and plenty of others, I am sponsoring a bill which would lessen the time spent on standardized testing in our public schools. The school system needs to meet quality standards and be held accountable for the results it's producing - but at what cost?

“The demand is that we have at least $400 million a year, an annual increase in basic education funding [and] a full-funding formula that was passed by a bi-partisan commission last year.”
Protestors demand higher educational funding
Slate By Troy Okum - News Editor | Posted April 27, 2016
Pennsylvania community and religious leaders presented citizens' warrants of arrest to state legislators on Thursday at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building, for not voting for adequate education funding.  “We are charging our legislators with fiscal child neglect,” said Rabbi Julie Greenberg, standing outside of the capitol building. “[We] are charging specific legislators for not voting for public education fairly.”  Greenberg, the leader of Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir, is a member of POWER Interfaith, which is the organization that advocated for education funding reform in Harrisburg. The Philadelphia-based religious organization is made up of about 60 congregations and works to empower people to improve their living conditions, Greenberg said.  The lack of funding has left some school districts without adequate counselors, nurses, books and toilet paper, said Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER’s executive director. Additionally, there are districts that owe millions of dollars, because of budget cuts and a lack of state appropriations, he said.

“For those of you who have already blocked out the last four months of education policy back-and-forth, the bi-partisan budget framework proposed increasing classroom funding in 2015-16 by $377 million. What finally became law only boosted education funding by $202 million.”
Third & State Blog Posted by Mark Price onApril 26, 2016 11:42 am
For the education data geeks out there (admit it, you're probably one) here is data comparing new classroom funding (in budget geek speak that's the basic education subsidy plus the ready to learn block grant) by school district as proposed under the bi-partisan budget framework versus the same funding under the final budget for 2015-16.

PA Supreme Court to review decision creating “extra-legislative scheme” for amending charter school charters
The PLS Reporter April 26, 2016 (paywall)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tuesday announced it will be taking the appeal of Discovery Charter School, who is complaining, that—among other things—the Commonwealth Court erred when it created what they say is an “extra-legislative scheme’ for amending charter school charters that is not contained in the Charter School Law. The appeal stems from the case Discovery Charter School v. School Reform Commission, where the Commonwealth Court held that the School Reform Commission’s inaction on Discovery’s attempted amendment to its charter during its renewal phase constituted a denial of the amendment, and that denial was then appealable to the State Charter School Appeal Board.
 Read more from The PLS Reporter HERE.

“In November 2014, Meckley proposed turning all the district’s schools into charter schools, facing fierce opposition from parents. Then, in March 2015, under new Gov. Tom Wolf, he resigned, and the plan went with him.  “Why was there a movement for all-charter, why did it go away, and how did even the one charter operator get selected?” DePasquale said of the questions he wants to answer.”
York schools to face 2nd state audit in less than 5 years
Abc27 By Chris Davis Published: April 26, 2016, 3:42 am  Updated: April 26, 2016, 9:17 am
YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – The state announced Monday it plans to audit the York City School District for the second time in less than five years.  “Obviously, this shows that York City School District is a high priority for us,” state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said, noting typically audits take place once every five years.  It’ll be DePasquale’s first for York, covering from July 2010 to June 2015. The analysis will look back at the last audit, released in 2012, which found deficiencies in staff certification, problems with student data, and a contract buyout that cost the district more than $326,000.  This fresh look will analyze how well the district is implementing the recommendations from that audit.

“Key budget drivers for 2016-17 include a projected net cost increase of $950,000 in the district’s state-mandated pension costs, and a $200,000, or 2.25 percent, increase in healthcare costs.”
Upper St. Clair's budget plan calls for 2.8 percent increase in taxes
Post Gazette By Margaret Smykla April 26, 2016 10:58 AM
A preliminary $76.2 million budget for the 2016-17 school year in the Upper St. Clair School District raises property taxes by 1.3033 mills for a 2.8 percent tax increase.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said the preliminary budget was a fluid document with adjustments to be made between now and final budget adoption at the board’s June 21 meeting.  At this time, there is a budget deficit of $818,741. Mr. O’Toole said the district is aiming to balance the budget and to replenish the fund balance.  If the tax increase is adopted, the new millage rate would become 24.3388. For homeowners, the increase represents $261 more for every $200,000 of assessed value.  It would be the third year in a row with a property tax increase. Last year, taxes were raised 0.84 mills. The prior year, or the 2014-15 school year, taxes were raised 0.7829 mills.

U.D. teachers speak out against ‘at-large’ status in schedule shuffle
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 04/22/16, 6:51 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 DAYS AGO
A special meeting of the Upper Darby School Board Thursday night to discuss the educational specifications committee turned into a standing room only plea to keep teachers in their classrooms.  Purple T-shirts with “Let us Teach” filled the board room at the high school as teachers let the board know that they want to teach in their own classrooms and not be designated floaters throughout the district under proposed new elementary school schedules.  These schedules, made up by the consulting firm District Management Council for $30,000, are slated to be presented to the public on Monday night, but teachers who have seen or heard about the schedules are against an alleged idea of having five teachers being “at-large” in schools.  “I cannot see myself going back to being a teacher-at-large,” said Primos Elementary teacher Kristina McBrearty, “which, to me, is a glorified building sub. I want a classroom, that’s where I want to be, that’s where I’m going to make the difference.”  In total, 14 positions are slated to be affected due to enrollment numbers: nine lowered by budgetary restraints and the five remaining as at-large.

A Lesson from Upper Darby in How to Demoralize Teachers
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch April 26, 2016 //
The Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, school board gave a $30,000 contract to a consulting firm for advice. The advice was to turn a certain number of elementary school teachers into “at-large” teachers in their school. This would make them into floaters, permanent subs.
Guess what? Teachers are furious. They will lose their classrooms.

Younger school principals mean less experience, but more idealism and social and digital skills
by Terri Akman, For The Inquirer Updated: APRIL 27, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Sitting among his tiny charges, Zachary Duberstein seems more playmate than principal. Yet, behind the childlike smile and exuberance, Duberstein, a self-described "edu-nerd," is quite serious about his goals as Vare-Washington School principal - raising the level of education for its 385 elementary students, and improving satisfaction among the 51 staffers.  As a first-time principal this school year, the Passyunk resident immediately instituted changes in the schedule and makeup of the instructional block and bought $10,000 worth of books for intensive novel study.  All at the ripe old age of 27.  Duberstein is part of a growing number of young principals who - despite, and sometimes because of, their lack of experience - are bringing enthusiasm, optimism, energy, and new skills to their schools. The millennial principals, some younger than 30, also face challenges - proving themselves to staff, students, and parents; prioritizing time management; dealing with budgets; and becoming visible in the community. They have landed the top jobs after making their mark as teachers, climbing the ranks through principal-training programs, or finding themselves in the right place at the right time.

Commentary: 'Soda tax' an investment in Philly's children
Inquirer Opinion By Kathy Fisher Updated: APRIL 27, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Kathy Fisher is policy manager for the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger (
A well-funded ad campaign should not dictate the fate of policy that will improve our children's future.  If you live in Philadelphia, you've most likely seen the American Beverage Association's "grocery tax" commercials. These misleading spots, replicated in major and neighborhood newspapers alike, claim that families' supermarket bills will rise astronomically should Mayor Kenney's proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages go into effect.  The simple facts are: The tax is on sugar-sweetened beverages only, not other grocery items, and people of all income levels can choose to cut back on their consumption by choosing other beverages.
As an organization that strives to build a community where all people have the food they need to live healthy lives, we are fully in favor of the proposed legislation.

Magnet Schools: the Overlooked Choice
Education Week By Walt Gardner on April 27, 2016 7:30 AM
The debate over parental choice invariably focuses on charter schools. I understand their appeal.  But what about magnet schools ("L.A. Unified magnets accepted less than half of applicants this year," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 25)?  Long before charter schools became a widespread option, they were the only publicly funded alternative. I believe they still offer the best choice. Let's see why.  Magnet schools and charter schools both offer a specialized curriculum, but magnet schools are subject to all the rules and regulations affecting traditional public schools.  They are also unionized. Although they were originally intended as a way to voluntarily integrate schools, the federal government spends about four times as much on charter schools as on magnets schools, even though they are not required to meet integration goals.

Decision points and considerations for identifying rural districts that have closed student achievement gaps
Description: Rural districts have long faced challenges in closing the achievement gap between high-poverty students and their more affluent peers. This research brief outlines key decision points and considerations for state and district decisionmakers who wish to identify rural districts that have closed academic achievement gaps. Examining these districts’ experiences with organizational and instructional policies and practices may suggest activities associated with making achievement gains and narrowing achievement gaps that can be systematically investigated. Key issues in the process are highlighted by examples from recent work with rural stakeholder groups in Colorado and Nebraska.

NAEP: U.S. high school seniors slip in math and show no improvement in reading
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 27 at 12:01 AM 
The nation’s high school seniors have shown no improvement in reading achievement and their math performance has slipped since 2013, according to the results of a test administered by the federal government last year.  The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also show a longer-term stagnation in 12th-grade performance in U.S. public and private schools: Scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.  “These numbers are not going the way we want,” said William J. Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent panel established by Congress to oversee NAEP policy. “We have to redouble our efforts to prepare our students.”  The sobering news, released Wednesday, comes at the same time the nation is celebrating its highest-ever graduation rate, raising questions about whether a diploma is a meaningful measure of achievement.
Eighty-two percent of high school seniors graduated on time in 2014, but the 2015 test results suggest that just 37 percent of seniors are academically prepared for college course­work in math and reading — meaning many seniors would have to take remedial classes if going on to college.

How Massachusetts Became The Best State In Education
NPR School Money by Kirk Carapezza/WGBH Heard on Morning Edition April 26, 20165:02 AM
It was 1993 when Massachusetts Gov. William Weld declared: "A good education in a safe environment is the magic wand that brings opportunity." The Republican was signing into law a landmark overhaul of the state's school funding system. "It's up to us to make sure that wand is waved over every cradle," he added.  With that, Massachusetts poured state money into districts that educated lots of low-income kids, many of which also struggled to raise funds through local property taxes.  "We noticed the difference right away," says Dianne Kelly, the current superintendent of Revere Public Schools, north of Boston, where nearly 80 percent of students come from low-income families. There, much of the new money was spent on people: to hire and keep good teachers and give them better training.  And it wasn't just Revere.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: April 20 - 26, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on April 26, 2016 - 12:57pm 
What a week! A national poll concludes that a majority of parents are critical of standardized exam overkill; more minority parents, students and educators speak out against test misuse; yet another state's computerized testing system collapses; and the opt-out movement continues to grow in breadth and depth. No wonder more state and local education policy-makers are beginning to heed the message: "Enough is enough!"

Education INC, film screening and panel discussion - Drexel University April 27th, 6:30 pm
Public schools in America are under attack.  Reformers seek to turn our public education system over to private investors.  Communities are catching on and fighting back.  Education INC tells the story of what happens when a local public school district is turned over to corporate ED reformers and how a community fights back to keep control.  Following the documentary film, Drexel University School of Education Professor, Dr. Erin McNamara Horvat will moderate a talk on issues raised in the film.  The talk will feature State Rep James R. Roebuck, Education Committee, Democratic Chairmen, Philadelphia Councilwoman, Helen Gym, councilwoman-at-large and Mark B. Miller, School Board Director, Centennial School District.  The event is free and open to the public.
When: Wednesday, April 27th | 6:30 pm Film, discussion immediately after
Where: Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University
Film Screening Annex: 3401 Filbert St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

Electing PSBA Officers – Applications Due by April 30th
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee during the month of April, an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than two and no more than four letters of recommendation, some or all of which preferably should be from school districts in different PSBA regions as well as from community groups and other sources that can provide a description of the candidate’s involvement with and effectiveness in leadership positions. PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

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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