Monday, April 25, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 25: The cold realities of education in a poor PA school district

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 25, 2016:
The cold realities of education in a poor PA school district

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.

Gov. Wolf lets fiscal code become law without his signature
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose Apr 23, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that he would allow the fiscal code to become law without his signature, officially ending the drama over the 2015-16 budget as state leaders wade into the 2016-17 spending plan.  “Over the past several days, I have worked with Republicans and Democrats in the legislature to finalize the 2015-2016 budget,” Wolf said in a statement released Friday. “I will let the fiscal code become law without my signature, and I look forward to working with the Legislature in the coming weeks to address our challenges and meet the needs of distressed school districts so that they will remain solvent.”  Wolf added that he will continue to seek compromise to “fix our deficit and to fund education at all levels” and restore education cuts made under former Republican Tom Corbett.  Last week, the state Senate voted 38-11 to pass the fiscal code while the House vote was 149-45, both veto-proof majorities with Democrats joining Republicans to end the budget impasse once and for all.  The fiscal code directs education dollars be spent according to the basic education funding formula instead of one proposed by Wolf. Republicans have said the basic education formula provides about 420 school districts with more money than Wolf’s plan.  Also, the fiscal code addresses promised “PlanCon” funding by allowing for $2.5 billion to be borrowed by the state and distributed to school districts for construction projects.

PA’s school-funding bill goes into effect Monday
Abc27 By Dawn White Published: April 25, 2016, 2:31 am  Updated: April 25, 2016, 5:21 am
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Part of the Pennsylvania’s budget will become law Monday nearly 10 months after it was due.  The bill distributes money to fund school districts and authorizes borrowing for school construction costs.  Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said he’ll allow this bill to go into effect without his signature. It’s a companion bill to the full budget.  School districts will get $200 million in state aid under the bill. Deciding which districts should get the most money was a major part of the debate at the State House.  Wolf wanted $400 million for school funding, but the state only got half of that. Republican lawmakers pushed against it because they didn’t want any new tax increases.  The bill also authorizes up to $2.5 billion in borrowing for school construction costs. Districts complained they’ve been waiting for years for that money.

 “In the meantime, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat in his second year in office, is pushing hard for massive new state investments in public education meant to ease the burden on property-poor districts.  But that would require broad-based tax hikes, which the Republican-controlled House and Senate oppose. House Education Committee Chairman Stan Saylor says, instead of focusing on new money, district leaders can and should do a better job of spending the money they have.  "It's not about the dollars. It's where that local school district spent those dollars over the last many years," Saylor says. "We need more aggressive administrators, principals and superintendents who can tailor education in whatever particular school district it is to what the needs of that school district are."  Brandon Cooley, the principal of Jameria's Penn Wood High School, insists they're doing the best they can with what they have.
"I'd urge any lawmaker to come here and actually see the work we're doing and the challenges that we face," Cooley says. "I think they'd leave with a much different impression."
The cold realities of education in a poor Pennsylvania school district
This story is part of the NPR reporting project "School Money," a nationwide collaboration between NPR's Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
This winter, high school junior Jameria Miller would run to Spanish class. But not to get a good seat.  "The cold is definitely a distraction," Jameria says. "We race to class to get the best blankets."  Because the classroom has uninsulated metal walls, Jameria's teacher would hand out blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District – an impoverished, predominantly African-American school system situated among Philadelphia's inner-ring suburbs.  The hardest part for Jameria isn't the cold, though. It's knowing that life isn't like this for students in other districts.  "It's never going to be fair," she says. "They're always going to be a step ahead of us. They'll have more money than us, and they'll get better jobs than us, always."  Before her parents moved, Jameria was one of those students. She attended classes in the more affluent Upper Moreland district in nearby Montgomery County. That system is largely white and, according to state and local records, spends about $1,200 more per student than William Penn.  That funding difference adds up to better facilities, smaller class sizes, take-home textbooks, and better teacher pay with less turnover. Upper Moreland is also able to set aside money each year for a rainy day fund. William Penn has been spending beyond its means just to get by.

Blogger note: the Excellence in Teaching Award profile below covers a teacher in the William Penn School District….

“It was his own application of this mantra from September through December of 2015 that led Pattinson to be nominated for the 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award by school officials. During that time, his classroom included a nonverbal autistic student with no prior schooling. With assistance from Personal Care Assistant Jai-Teviah Holman, Pattinson led the student to exponential strides forward in learning in a three-month period.”
Excellence in Teaching: Pattinson was called to help children
Delco Times By Colin Ainsworth, POSTED: 04/24/16, 6:32 PM EDT
From John R. Pattinson’s perspective, the name of his chosen profession, “teacher,” may be a bit of a misnomer. “As the students learn their routines, they become independent learners. That’s the exciting part about teaching. At the end, you become the facilitator, not the teacher.”  The path to Pattinson’s 24-year career as a kindergarten teacher and independent learning facilitator at East Lansdowne Elementary School began in the same school district where he now works. Growing up in Yeadon, he attended William B. Evans Elementary School before moving on to Yeadon High School and graduating from Penn Wood.

Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 23: Ten Months Later, $200 Million Lighter, We Have a Budget

Months of waiting for a budget and here's what we didn't get: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor  by OREN M. SPIEGLER, Upper Saint Clair on April 24, 2016 at 4:00 PM, updated April 24, 2016 at 4:02 PM
Key elements that are missing from the bill that will end the nine month state budget stalemate, to take effect without the governor's signature: 
  • Pension reform to stem what will soon be a crippling, multi-billion-dollar annual state obligation if left unchecked. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman had said throughout the process repeatedly, "There is no budget without pensions (pension reform)".  Obviously, he repeatedly misspoke; 
  • Private sales of alcohol, as the people have demanded for years and which responsible alcohol consumers deserve;
  • Property tax elimination or significant reduction for all, not for only a select few;
  • Reimbursement of interest costs incurred by the myriad non-profit and education entities which were forced to borrow money in order to keep their doors open as state "leaders" dithered;
The means to legitimately deal with a hefty and increasing structural budget deficit, emphasis on the word, "legitimately";  Any reason to believe that a budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year will be approved without precisely the same type of stalemate tying the Commonwealth into knots.  
No one should be popping champagne corks over the provision of supplemental funds to make up the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget.

“There is only one thing the legislature is required to do - enact a budget and provide the funds to pay for it. Without that, there is no government. Other legislation is discretionary.  There is a "rub" in this. The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that the budget appropriation may not exceed the actual and estimated revenues available. Therein is the most important problem lawmakers are likely to face when they take office.  This year the legislature passed, and the governor acquiesced in, a budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. But as Moody's, the credit-rating agency has noted, this did not deal with the basic problem that keeps the credit outlook for Pennsylvania negative.  No action was taken so far to resolve the commonwealth's $2 billion structural deficit or the $37 billion in unfunded obligations for public employee pensions.”
Commentary: No-tax pledge may violate Pa. constitution
Inquirer Commentary by Franklin Kury Updated: APRIL 24, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Franklin Kury served in the Pennsylvania House from 1966-1972 and the Senate from 1972-1980, and is the author of "Why Are You Here? A Primer for State Legislators and Citizens" (University Press of America)  Candidates for the Pennsylvania General Assembly who win on Nov. 8 will receive a certificate of election from the secretary of the commonwealth authorizing them to take their seats. But there is one other step they must take to become a representative or senator. They must take the oath of office as required by Article VI, Section 3 of the state constitution.  "Senators, representatives . . . shall, before entering on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe to the following oath . . . 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend . . . the constitution of this commonwealth' . . . and further, any person refusing to take the oath . . . shall forfeit his office."

PA: Funding Follies (Part 15,263)
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Thursday, April 21, 2016
So, you may recall from last time, the elected capital clown car that is Pennsylvania's state government had sort of passed a budget that included an education spending increase, but had not passed rules on how to spend that extra money. Governor Tom Wolf whipped up his own plan for how to divvy up the money, only since his plan didn't so much "divvy it up" as it "dumped most of it on a handful of select school districts" and also technically "ignored the elected legislature and their lawmaking powers." This made it unpopular with very many people. Very many.  Wolf's theory was that some districts were particularly deep in a financial hole (thanks to the last two administrations, though Wolf prefers to blame it on just the last one), we need some restorative budgeting. In other words, if school funding is a race, Wolf wanted everyone else to just kind of sit on the curb and wait while a few people in the back of the pack catch a ride and join up.  The problem-- well, one of the problems-- as some folks tried to tell Wolf in a meeting or two, is that way more school districts are feeling Big Time Hurt than just those who made the Wolf Special Care List (a list which, frankly, looks more like a list of districts that have been pulling notable bad press-- Philly, Chester Uplands, Wilkinsburg-- than a carefully researched collection).  On top of that, as I previously warned/noted/predicted, Pennsylvania is just chock full of people who hate hate HATE having tax dollars yanked out of their pockets and sent off to Philly or other Big Cities. We can argue all day about justice and fairness and intra-state financial support, but the bottom line is that the issue is a guaranteed political turd bomb in Pennsylvania.
And so the House and Senate put together a spending bill of their own, passed it with a veto-proof margin, and sent it off to the governor. As with the budget, he can sign it or just let it become law while he sits in the corner and makes a pouty face.

New school rules give transgender students 'right to be who they are'
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 24, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
When a transgender girl graduated in white gown from Springfield Township High School, her parents made an unusual request for two diplomas: one for her, with her new female name, and one for them, with her male birth name.  Springfield administrators say they complied without hesitation as they, like many public and private schools, increasingly are being asked to accommodate students who have switched name and gender.  The small Montgomery County district, however, has gone a step further than most.  By a unanimous vote Tuesday, Springfield's school board adopted a policy under which the district must accept transgender students' "core identity" - the inner sense of being male or female - and provide equal access to all programs, activities, and, perhaps most salient, the bathroom of their asserted gender.  Such a policy is uncommon in Pennsylvania, but not unique. Great Valley School District in Chester County last week approved a similar one. Cherry Hill Public Schools adopted a policy in February; it is thought to be one of only a few in New Jersey. Other districts, including Lower Merion on the Main Line, are working on their own protocols.

SRC's Jimenez to lead Philadelphia Education Fund
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 24, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Farah Jimenez, a Philadelphia School Reform Commission member and a former head of the People's Emergency Center, has been named president and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund.  The independent nonprofit, which champions quality public education in the city and provides scholarships to help students attend college, is scheduled to make the announcement Monday.  "We are excited that Farah will be driving Philadelphia Education Fund's continued mission of delivering exceptional outcomes for all Philadelphia students by developing great teachers, and building paths to college and career success," David Baker, chairman of the fund's board of directors, said in a statement."

“Yet as testing season unfolds this year, the debate is becoming murkier. More minority educators, parents and students are criticizing the tests, opening a rift with civil rights groups and black and Hispanic educators who support testing, like Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.  Their complaints are wide-ranging. They argue that the focus on testing has forced struggling schools to cut back on enriching programs like field trips and arts education. Some view testing as part of a larger agenda, driven by test companies and opponents of teachers’ unions, that seeks to wring profits from education while closing public schools and replacing them with non-unionized charter schools. Others say that the tests are damaging to students’ self-esteem, because students interpret low scores as proof that they are inferior and destined to fail.”
Race and the Standardized Testing Wars
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR APRIL 23, 2016
WHEN the parents of more than 200,000 pupils in the third through eighth grades in New York chose to have their children sit out standardized state tests last spring, major civil rights organizations were quick to condemn their decision, along with similar movements in Colorado, Washington and New Jersey.  Reliable testing results, they argued, broken down by race, income and disability status, were critical in holding schools accountable for providing equal education for all. By refusing to have their children participate, the parents were “inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child,” according to a statement by the groups.  Because the families opting out were disproportionately white and middle class, testing proponents dismissed them as coddled suburbanites, while insisting that urban parents, who had graver concerns about the quality of their children’s schools, were supportive of the tests. Earlier this year, proponents of testing began using the hashtag #OptOutSoWhite — a spin on the #OscarsSoWhite social-media campaign — to suggest that testing opposition was a form of white privilege. 

Department Of Education Wants To Learn More About Charter School Students
Charter schools are some of the most racially segregated schools in the country.
Huffington Post by Rebecca Klein Editor, HuffPost Education 04/20/2016 07:31 pm ET
When charter schools were envisioned by then-teachers’ union president Albert Shanker in the late 1980s, he described them as potential educational laboratories for children of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.   That vision hasn’t exactly panned out. Decades later, charter schools — which are publicly funded, but independently operated — are some of the most racially segregated schools in the country.  Now, the U.S. Department of Education is taking a small step to learn more about the demographics of children served by charter schools.  A notice posted Wednesday by the Education Department in the Federal Register calls for applications for a competitive charter school grant program. The program awards money — an estimated $160 million this year — to help states in the “planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools and for the dissemination of information about successful charter schools.” Goals include increasing access to high-quality schools for educationally underserved students and promoting diversity in charter schools.   The call for applications resembles those of previous years. But this year’s notice asks — but does not require — applicants to detail how they will publicly report charter school demographics, including race, ethnicity and disability status. It also asks states to describe how they report comparable data for surrounding public school districts.

The Devastating Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities
Shuttering “failed schools” can have painful consequences for children and neighborhoods.
By Rachel M. Cohen / The American Prospect April 22, 2016
In 2013, citing a $1.4 billion deficit, Philadelphia’s state-run school commission voted to close 23 schools—nearly 10 percent of the city’s stock. The decision came after a three-hour meeting at district headquarters, where 500 community members protested outside and 19 were arrested for trying to block district officials from casting their votes. Amid the fiscal pressure from state budget cuts, declining student enrollment, charter-school growth, and federal incentives to shut down low-performing schools, the district assured the public that closures would help put the city back on track toward financial stability.  One of the shuttered schools was Edward Bok Technical High School, a towering eight-story building in South Philadelphia spanning 340,000 square feet, the horizontal length of nearly six football fields. Operating since 1938, Bok was one of the only schools to be entirely financed and constructed by the Public Works Administration. Students would graduate from the historic school with practical skills like carpentry, bricklaying, tailoring, hairdressing, plumbing, and as the decades went on, modern technology. And graduate they did—at the time of closure, Bok boasted a 30 percent–higher graduation rate than South Philadelphia High School, the nearby public school that had to absorb hundreds of Bok’s students.

“The survey findings add strong anecdotal weight to previous statistical surveys of teachers that have found their work dissatisfaction is at an all time high. A survey from 2012, found teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to 39 percent, its lowest level in 25 years, according to one review of the findings.
We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs
Common Dreams By Jeff Bryant Friday, April 22, 2016
Does this sound like a place you’d like to work?
The work environment is “depressing” … “morale is at an all-time low.”  “It feels like a lot of busy work and hoop jumping and detracts from the work.” “Every move … needs to be documented and noted.”  “We have to respond to feedback given by an administrator who did a one-minute walk through and thought they knew what was going on … but didn’t.”  “There is no time for conversations” … “my salary has been frozen for six years” … “everyone feels like losers.”  Probably not.  But this is how classroom teachers and school principals describe what it’s like to work in public schools.  The comments come from a new survey of K-12 educators nationwide that yielded responses from 2,964 teachers and principals from 48 states. The survey was conducted by the Network for Public Education, a grassroots public school advocacy group founded by public school advocates, parents, educators, and university professors, including education historian Diane Ravitch. NPE recently released the survey findings in a report titled “Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation” at its national conference in Raleigh, N.C.

Pay No Attention to US News’ “Best High Schools”
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch April 24, 2016 //
The annual rankings of the “best” high schools was recently publishedby US News & World Report. Pay no attention. They are meaningless. They make no distinction between highly selective schools and open enrollment schools. If a high school has an entry exam or gets rid of kids with low test scores, it is ranked higher than high schools that accept everyone and do a great job.  The magazine should be embarrassed to publish such a misleading ranking. There is no ranking that would be meaningful. It is sort of like listing “the best families” in America. No, you won’t be admitted.

Join Great Public Schools at the Pittsburgh Public Schools April 25 Public Hearing this Monday to support Community Schools in Pittsburgh.
The School Board has begun to develop a district policy to support Community Schools. We want them to know that parents, educators, students and community members support this important initiative! Please sign up to speak by calling: (412) 529-­3868 between 9:00 am - 4:00 pm this week or on Monday, April 25, before noon. Each speaker is limited to three minutes. If you cannot speak, you can still attend to show your support or send the board an email at

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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