Wednesday, August 24, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 24: Six of the 50 most segregating district borders in US are in Pennsylvania.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup August 24, 2016:
Six of the 50 most segregating district borders in US are in Pennsylvania.

The Fair Funding Lawsuit is moving forward!  Join us Sep. 13th at Philly City Hall.  Info & RSVP: 
Tweet from Education Law Center ‏@edlawcenterpa  August 17, 2016

CEO of Agora calls for reforms
In response to recent commentary, Conti refutes criticisms of cyber charters
The notebook Commentary by Dr. Michael Conti August 23, 2016 — 2:48pm
Dr. Michael Conti is CEO of Agora Cyber Charter School.
In response to your recent article that begs the question, “How can we improve the performance and accountability of Pennsylvania cyber charters?” we feel it absolutely necessary that we reply, as Agora was the only one of the Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charter schools that was mentioned specifically in this piece.  First, it should be known that Agora admits it has endured a tumultuous year, however, our administration and Board have always done what is in the best interest of our students. In 2015, Agora severed its management relationship with K12 to become an independently managed school. When we open our virtual doors on Sept. 6, our primary relationship with K12 will be limited and they will serve as a provider of curriculum and support services.  To argue that cyber charters are alone in contracting with for-profit companies is quite misleading.  School districts everywhere use for-profit companies to purchase textbooks for classrooms, keep technology on the cutting edge and stock vending machines in their brick and mortar cafeterias.  These expenses are not unique or out of the ordinary– they are simply part of maintaining a successful school or district.

Blogger note:
Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion:  $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.
During those same three years, not one of PA’s cyber charters has achieved a passing score of 70 since the School Performance Profile has been in effect.

State must address our school funding crisis
Public Opinion Online Opinion by Susan Spicka 4:55 p.m. EDT August 23, 2016
As students throughout Franklin County go back to school, parents can be thankful that Harrisburg enacted a state budget that will provide our area schools with a desperately needed, very modest increase in state funding for 2016-2017.  This state budget takes a small step toward moving school funding in the right direction, and we thank Senator Richard Alloway for his commitment to supporting public education; he is the only Franklin County lawmaker who voted to provide additional funding for our local schools.  While this additional state funding is welcome, it is, unfortunately, only a Band-Aid for the gaping wounds in school district budgets.  Pennsylvania ranks 45th in the nation in terms of state support for schools and provides just 36% of school funding (the national average is 45%).

"What we've said is, now that we understand exactly how racially biased the historical funding has been, let's lock it into place and continue it going forward, and only change it in a very minor way, diluting it with a little bit of fair funding," said David Mosenkis, the report's author.  As is, Mosenkis finds that the districts with the fewest white students are currently shortchanged according to the formula by almost $2,000 per pupil, while the districts with the most white students get about $2,000 more per pupil than what the formula says is their "fair share."
Report finds students of color shortchanged by Pa. school funding
With its new student-weighted school funding formula, Pennsylvania took a big step forward this year to begin to correct decades of inequities.  But much of the disparity that has grown over time is set to be locked in place for many years to come.  A new study by the faith-based advocacy group POWER looks at this dynamic, and finds that school districts serving more students of color will be most negatively affected.  POWER says this amounts to "systemic racial bias."  The new formula itself has been widely lauded, as it injects common sense into what had become a haphazard and unscientific system for distributing state aid.  If the new formula was used to divide the entire basic education subsidy — which is by far the largest pot of state school funding — the most money per pupil would go to the schools facing the greatest challenges.  This would be a major boon for districts with more students of color.  But that's not the plan.  Lawmakers aim to use the formula only to divide new increases in funding. So, at this point, of a $5.8 billion pot, that adds up to about six percent of the whole.

“With 500 separate school districts, most with enrollment of only a few thousand students, Pennsylvania is emblematic of that practice. It is also one of 23 states that have a regressive school funding system – one that directs fewer dollars to needier students and more dollars to wealthier ones. The spending gaps between wealthy and poor districts in Pennsylvania are the widest, on average, of any state in the country.  Nor is the new school funding formula adopted by the state legislature earlier this year is likely to change that pattern anytime soon, since it applies only to new dollars, not to the total amount of state aid sent to a district.”
Study examines how school district borders exacerbate school segregation
Six of the 50 most segregating borders are in Pennsylvania.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa August 23, 2016 — 1:01am
A new national study puts Pennsylvania among the most educationally segregated states in the country, with borders that create wealthy, predominantly white school districts right next door to those that are mostly nonwhite and impoverished.  The study, called Fault Lines, was done by the nonprofit group EdBuild. It examined more than 33,500  borders and compared the child poverty rates of neighboring districts. The analysis showed that Pennsylvania has six of what it called the 50 “most segregating borders” in the country, with the widest gaps in poverty rates, ranking behind only Ohio with nine and Alabama with seven. New York also has six.  The current system of paying for schools largely through local property taxes “gives the incentive for high value communities to self-segregate and to draw school district borders narrowly and draw lines to keep low-value areas from diluting the tax base,” said Zahava Stadler, EdBuild’s director of policy and research.

Report Names the 50 Most-Segregating School District Boundaries by Income
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on August 23, 2016 11:46 AM
Ohio has three of the 10 most-segregating school district boundaries by income in the United States, while Alabama has six such district lines out of the 50 most-segregated in that category, according to a new report from EdBuild, a nonprofit organization which studies school funding issues.  "Fault Lines: America's Most Segregating School District Borders" looks at student-poverty rates between adjacent districts, and examined more than 33,500 such district boundaries to see where there were the biggest such income disparities between neighboring districts.

“Between 1990 and 2010, income-based segregation among American school districts grew, according to Stanford's Center for Education Policy Analysis. Such disparities among districts result in unequal access to resources, such as underqualified teachers and subpar facilities, and could lead to gaps in academic achievement. Another recent Stanford study found that children in the wealthiest school districts performed, on average, four grade levels above children in the poorest school districts. In May, on the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Government Accountability Office found that the share of schools with a high concentration of poor, black, and Hispanic students increased from 9 to 16 percent between 2000 and 2014.”
This List Shows You How Divided America’s Schools Are
"Increasingly, the story of American school districts is a tale of two cities, one well-off and one poor."
Mother Jones by EDWIN RIOSAUG. 23, 2016 1:59 PM
In the wealthy West Jefferson Hills School District in western Pennsylvania, a new high school with an eight-lane swimming pool and terrazzo flooring was recently approved for construction. Meanwhile, in neighboring Clairton, where the district's poverty rate is 48 percent, officials wrestled with whether to close schools earlier this year.  That striking disparity is just one of many in a new report that maps the country's 33,500 school district borders and highlights places where high-poverty districts bump up against wealthy neighbors. The report, put out by the nonprofit EdBuild, sheds light on how these well-established boundaries create "barriers to progress that segregate children" and even worse inequities in the public education system. It also notes that existing school finance system, in which districts rely heavily on property taxes as a source of local funding for schools, creates an incentive for wealthier families to move across district lines to more well-resourced areas.

Budget worries follow school districts into new year
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Even though legislators have agreed on a state budget — something they had not done by this time last year — money and budget issues still top the list of concerns for school districts as the 2016-17 school year begins.  “Finance will continue to be out front,” said Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.  The first wave of students started school Monday, and other districts will follow in the next two weeks. Students in the Bethel Park, Highlands and South Park school districts will start last, on Sept. 6.  Ten districts in Allegheny County are negotiating contracts with teachers, said Matt Edgell, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Four contract agreements are pending.  Edgell said 17 districts had not reached agreements by the same time last year.  “It's more than usual, even with the budget already set for the year,” Edgell said. “We're still not quite back to the educational spending levels where we were before Gov. (Tom) Corbett cut them in 2011. Here we are five years later, and some districts are dealing with smaller budgets or lower revenues or less of it coming from the state. It's putting some pressure on districts and associations.

First day of school on for embattled charter school
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 23, 2016 at 9:59 PM, updated August 23, 2016 at 10:03 PM
A new Catasauqua charter school embroiled in controversy over an unauthorized mailer still plans to open this fall despite its CEO stepping down.
The board of Innovative Arts Academy Charter School met Tuesday night for the first time since a promotional mailer slamming Liberty High School began showing up in Bethlehem residents' mailboxes.  Board President Kelly Bauer emphasized again Tuesday night that school officials did not authorize the mailer or two recent full-page color ads that ran in The Morning Call.   There was no need for a marketing campaign because the school had met its enrollment goal by the start of August, she said. There are 330 students enrolled as of Tuesday.  "We are absolutely disgusted by the mailer," Bauer said. "We would never use a negative attack on another school to encourage students to enroll in our school."

CEO of charter school embroiled in mailer controversy resigning
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 23, 2016 at 6:37 PM, updated August 23, 2016 at 11:34 PM
The CEO of a fledgling Catasauqua charter school embroiled in controversy, following the mailing of a postcard highlighting the drug arrest of a Liberty High School student, has submitted a letter of resignation.    Innovative Arts Academy Charter School Chief Executive Officer Loraine A. Petrillo submitted a letter of resignation to the school's board Tuesday. The meeting began at 6 p.m. and opened with the board meeting behind closed doors.  Petrillo indicates in her letter that she tried to resign Aug. 10, but the board did not accept her letter of resignation and convinced her to stay on until the end of the month.  "I never authorized nor had any knowledge of the recent ad and the despicable mailers some individual(s) decided to place in The Morning Call and mail to residents of the Bethlehem Area School District," Petrillo's letter says.

Auditor General DePasquale Statement on Deplorable Mailer Associated with Innovative Arts Academy Charter School, Northampton County
Referred matter to U.S. Department of Education; urges investigation by other state, federal officials
HARRISBURG (Aug. 22, 2016 ) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued the following statement on a recent mailer regarding Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua, Northampton County, which disparages a local public high school:
“Unfortunately we have become accustomed to dirtball mailers and tactics like this in political campaigns. But when it spills over into our education system and one public school appears to have attacked another it becomes downright deplorable.   “Charter schools are public schools supported by tax dollars. We cannot, and should not have to, tolerate such disgraceful tactics as those employed in this mailer.  This despicable practice sends a horrible message to the students in our public school system, both traditional public schools and charter schools. 

Franklin Regional board ratifies 6-year contract with teachers
BY THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, 4:56 p.m.
The Franklin Regional school board at a special meeting Friday unanimously ratified a six-year contract with its teachers union.  Under the agreement, the 257 members of the Franklin Regional Education Association will receive a 1.5 percent raise each year. It includes a gradual increase of employee health care contributions, ranging from 8 to 18 percent in the first year of the contract to 13 to 22 percent in the final year. The contribution is dependent on the type of health plan a teacher chooses.  A provision included in the contract gives teachers greater flexibility to plan when and how they choose to use their professional development time.  “We are optimistic that this agreement will allow us, for the foreseeable future, to devote all of our energies to the education of FR students,” union President Dominic Colangelo said. “We are in an excellent position to move this district forward.”

Moon Area School District approves 5-year teacher contract
BY THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, 9:48 p.m.
The Moon Area School District on Monday approved a five year contract with its teachers union, according to a statement from the school.  Union members had ratified the agreement Friday.
The agreement is retroactive to July 1.  Interim Superintendent Donna Milanovich thanked union leaders for “working collaboratively” with the district. “We value our professional staff and the work they do,” she said.  The contract covers 318 professional staff, including teachers, guidance counselors and nurses.

Scores sagging for high school grads taking ACT college test
Inquirer by JENNIFER C. KERR, The Associated Press  AUGUST 24, 2016 5:54 AM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) - Nearly two-thirds of this year's high school graduates took the ACT college entrance exam, and their scores suggest that many remain unprepared for the rigors of college-level coursework.  The testing company said Wednesday that only 38 percent of graduating seniors who took the exam hit the college-prepared benchmark in at least three of the four core subjects tested - reading, English, math and science - down from 40 percent last year. The benchmark is designed to measure a strong readiness for college.  The average composite score also declined a bit, down from 21 to 20.8 this year. The four tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite is the average of the four scores. The vast majority of colleges use the composite in admissions.  ACT's Paul Weeks says a decline in scores was expected, given the changing demographic of the testing population.  "Almost 2 out 3 students are taking the ACT and what's happened is the testing cohort has become increasingly representative of students at large," said Weeks, senior vice president for client relations, in an interview.

“In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia School District is governed by a five-member School Reform Commission, with three members appointed by the governor and two by the city's mayor. The Chester Upland district is also under state control. Camden, Philadelphia, and Chester Upland have large minority populations.”
School district takeovers leave communities voiceless
Inquirer by Lily Altavena, Rose Velazquez, and Natalie Griffin, NEWS21 PROJECT Updated: AUGUST 24, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT
Fourth of seven parts.  In at least 20 states, lawmakers have stripped locally elected school board members of their power in impoverished, mostly minority communities, leaving parents without a voice - or a vote - in their children's education, according to a News21 state-by-state analysis of school takeovers.  More than 5.6 million people live in places where state officials took over entire districts or individual schools in the past six years, according to News21 data collected from state government agencies. About 43 percent are African American and around 20 percent are Hispanic. On average 29.2 percent of people in those areas are living below the poverty level. The U.S. average is 15.5 percent.  Typically in a school takeover - sometimes referred to as "intervention" - a state will assume broad authority over a district, dramatically reducing and sometimes eliminating the power of a local school board, elected by community constituents.
"One of the big downsides of takeovers is that communities feel and, in some cases, are substantially disenfranchised," said Kristi Bowman, an associate dean at Michigan State University's college of law who studies these takeovers. "If we need the community to be a partner with the school district and then we effectively tell the community, ''Hold on, we're taking away all of your elected representatives,' that could be really difficult."

Poll: Rising Share of Americans Like Their Local Schools ... But There's a Catch
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on August 23, 2016 7:56 AM
Are you a fan of your local public school? Then you've got some company—in fact, you might have more company than at any other time in recent history.  That's one main conclusion from results of a public-opinion poll released by Education Next, a K-12 policy journal, on Tuesday. The poll, which has been conducted since 2007, found that a higher share of respondents would give their local schools an A or B grade (55 percent) than in any other previous survey conducted by the group. Views of public schools have improved across several demographic groups broken out by Education Next since 2007, but whites' views of their local schools remain markedly better than those of blacks and Hispanics.    But the public also believes that the nation's public education system is less than the sum of its parts. In fact, just 25 percent would give one of those two top marks to U.S. schools as a whole.

Americans Like Their Schools Just Fine — But Not Yours by ANYA KAMENETZ Heard on Morning Edition August 23, 20164:33 AM ET
As a new school year gets underway, the Common Core remains a partisan flashpoint, while Americans overall have serious concerns about the direction of our public education system. That's according to two new polls.  Education Next, a policy journal, released its 10th annual large national poll of public opinion on education today. And Gallup, the polling organization, has recentlyreleased new figures as well.  With results broken out along partisan lines, the polls also provide insight into trends that may affect the current presidential campaign.  Here's a roundup of key findings:

“When respondents were asked to estimate per-pupil spending in their local school district, the average response in 2016 was $7,020, according to the report. That’s just over 50 percent of the actual average, which is $12,440, researchers found.  “That underestimation may color people’s thinking as to whether or not expenditures should go up,” the authors wrote.”
Public Woefully Misunderstands Education Spending, Study Finds
Education Week Marketplace K-12 by Michele Molnar Associate Editor Aug. 23, 2016
The U.S. public “seriously underestimates” how much money is spent on education, and has done so consistently over the years, according to an annual study released today by Education Next, a scholarly journal.  The pattern of public misunderstanding about school expenditures has held steady across the decade, according to the study conducted by the journal, which is published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School.  While most respondents to the survey favor higher levels of per-pupil spending, the study found that “people seriously underestimate both school expenditures and teacher pay,” the authors wrote. Once respondents were informed about current expenditure levels, support for increased levels of spending was 45 percent in 2016. (See the chart about the percentage of support for increased spending, once respondents were informed about the actual spending in their district.)

Testing Resistance & Reform News: August 17 - 23, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on August 23, 2016 - 1:52pm 
The back-to-school agenda for the growing, national assessment reform movement is straight-forward: cut the volume of standardized testing; eliminate high-stakes exam misuses; encourage alternative accountability systems. Campaigns are already having an impact in many states.

2016 National Anthem Sing-A-Long - September 9th
American Public Education Foundation Website 
The Star-Spangled Banner will be sung by school children nationwide on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:00am PST and 1:00pm EST. Students will learn about the words and meaning of the flag and sing the first stanza. This will be the third annual simultaneous sing-a-long event created by the APEF-9/12 Generation Project. The project aims to bring students together – as the world came together – on September 12, 2001.

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
The Early Bird Discount Deadline has been Extended to Wednesday, August 31, 2016!
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

PSBA Officer Elections Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than April 30, 2016, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 24 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).  Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 15-Oct. 3, 2016). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to cast the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board.
Special note: Boards should be sure to include discussion and voting on candidates to its agenda during one of its meetings in September.

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