Thursday, March 31, 2011

NYT: DC Voucher Bill/ Inky: Philly cuts $629M/ MCALL: Allentown Cuts


Click here for links to quickly and easily contact key legislative leaders on the budget

 New York Times March 30, 2011, 6:21 PM

US Houses Passes DC School Voucher Bill

House Republicans voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for the only bill that the Speaker is expected to offer this year, a voucher measure that would provide $20 million annually for five years for scholarships for public school children attending poorly performing schools in the District of Columbia, and $20 million each for charter and traditional public schools in the district.
The bill, which passed 225-195 almost directly along partisan lines, will have an uphill battle in the Senate; the White House, while stopping short of a veto threat, has made clear its lack of support.

Thanks very much to those of you who responded to yesterday's legislative alert and contacted Congressman Altmire's office; he did vote "NO" on this bill.
Roll Call for House Vote 204 - Approves School Vouchers for D.C. Students
This link provides an interactive panel where you can select PA and see how each of Pennsylvania's Congressmen voted on the DC voucher bill.

Posted on Thu, Mar. 31, 2011
Philadelphia schools raise shortfall estimate to $629 million, warn of major cuts
By Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Philadelphia School District's projected budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year has ballooned to $629 million, and top administrators Wednesday outlined draconian measures they said they were prepared to take to balance it.
The district plans to cut the central office staff in half by eliminating 413 positions; reopen contract negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and other district unions; reduce transportation and full-service meals; cut funding for art, music, and gifted education; reduce budgets for individual schools by an average of 13 percent; and increase class sizes and the number of students who are assigned to school counselors.

247 Allentown teachers and support staff could lose jobs

Layoffs would come under Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak's sweeping courses changes in his controversial program of studies.

5:41 p.m. EDT, March 30, 2011
The Allentown School District could lay off 247 teachers and support staff under Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak's major overhaul of academics, a plan that has drawn controversy and confusion among staff, students and parents.
The job reductions include: 121 middle school and high school teachers, 84 preschool and elementary school teachers and 42 support staff members. No administrators will be cut.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Corbett's education chief defends budget cuts
Says money won't make better schools
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
By Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer
HARRISBURG -- Facing a bipartisan barrage of criticism, the state's education chief Tuesday defended Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal to slash $1 billion in aid to school districts, saying money won't make better schools.
"Education achievement or achievement of any kind cannot be measured in dollars and cents," Ron Tomalis told the House Appropriations Committee.

Pennsylvania education secretary says money doesn't equal achievement
Patriot News/AP
Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 12:41 PM     Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 5:48 PM
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's top education adviser acknowledges that poorer school districts will be hurt disproportionately by proposed funding cuts, but he says spending more on schools does not buy higher achievement.

Corbett adviser defends state school cuts

By Amy Crawford
TRIBUNE-REVIEWWednesday, March 30, 2011
Raising property taxes, furloughing teachers and increasing class sizes are among the difficult decisions state budget cuts will force school districts to make, acting secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis acknowledged to state senators and representatives in budget hearings on Tuesday.

Read the Education Law Center's blog coverage of the House and Senate Education Budget Hearings:

-----------------------------------------  Begin Commentary  ----------------------------------------

Just six months ago Governor Rendell's office issued the following press release:

Sept. 14, 2010
Pennsylvania Students Post Record Gains in Reading, Math Scores;Eight of 10 Schools Meet 'No Child Left Behind' Targets for 2010PA Student Achievement Rises for 8th Consecutive Year
Harrisburg – Eighty-two percent of Pennsylvania schools met the required academic goals for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law for 2010, Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today, with record numbers of students performing at grade level in reading and math on the state's PSSA tests.
 Overall, three quarters of Pennsylvania students are now achieving at grade level,and the smallest percentage of students ever, scored at the lowest level since theinception of the PSSAs.
 "The Center for Education Policy told us last year that Pennsylvania was the only state in the nation to make academic gains across the board from 2002 through 2008," said Governor Rendell. "These terrific numbers show that we are continuing that trend and more. Student achievement has increased in every subject, at all tested grade levels and for all ethnic, racial and economic subgroups of students since 2002 -- the eighth straight year of student performance gains. I congratulateour teachers, the entire education community, the General Assembly, and, especially, our students for these outstanding achievements."

It would seem that the current reform agenda requires that we completely disregard the gains made by Pennsylvania students over the past eight years.  At the EPLC breakfast last week Mike Masch noted that Philadelphia students had gone from 20% proficient to 50% proficient on the PSSA's during that time.

Increased funding through Accountability Block Grants paid for math coaches and reading coaches in districts throughout the state and were effective in providing remedial help to raise the test scores of students who needed it.  These same programs are now being cut in response to the Governors' proposed budget.  The proficiency target scores under NCLB will continue to rise.  With ABG funding eliminated it will be increasingly daunting to continue the progress noted above.

However, I suppose that if the real agenda is to privatize education then cutting this funding will help to insure that more of our public school students and more of our schools can be labeled failing, to further justify giving tax dollars to private and parochial school that will have no accountability.

Although there have been many education related bills introduced this session I have not seen even one provision in any of the proposed legislation that is directed towards improving student achievement and learning in our public schools.  None. 

If you have not already done so, please consider contacting your legislators and key legislative leaders using the link below, and please pass it on to any and all public education stakeholders.

-----------------------------------------  End Commentary  ----------------------------------------


Click here for links to quickly and easily contact key legislative leaders on the budget


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ED BUDGET HEARING LIVE FEED/ Charter School Reform SB 904/ MCALL: Social Security Cuts


Today (Tuesday, March 29), Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald J. Tomalis will testify before the State Senate and House Appropriations Committees about Governor Corbett's proposed education budget for 2011-12. The Senate hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., and the House hearing at 1:00 p.m.
Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy at the Education Law Center, will be in the hearing room all day to provide you with live updates via a discussion thread on PA School Talk. Check out the forum here, and look for new replies beginning tomorrow morning. 
What questions do you want Tomalis to answer on Tuesday? Post your own comments and inquiries in advance, or in real time as the hearings are in progress.

Posted on Tue, Mar. 29, 2011
Proposed Pennsylvania law would give local school boards more freedom to award charters
Legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate would give school districts more freedom to convert public schools to charters and set up a new state oversight board. The proposal would also tighten ethics and financial oversight regulations for charter school management.

Bill would provide approval options for state charter schools

Monday, March 28, 2011
One lawmaker likens the charter school approval process in Pennsylvania to the cutthroat fast-food industry.
"It's almost like saying McDonald's gets to say whether Burger King gets to franchise in their area," said state Rep. Tom Killion, R-Delaware County.

Senator Piccola Press Release March 28, 2011

Charter School Reform Bill Unveiled by Education Committee Chairmen

Improving Accountability & Transparency, Encouraging Expansion
HARRISBURG – In an effort to continue providing additional educational opportunities for families while maintaining a level of necessary accountability, Majority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Jeffrey Piccola (R-15) and Minority Chairman Andrew Dinniman (D-19) introduced today legislation to overhaul Pennsylvania's current laws governing charter and cyber charter schools.

Wealthiest school districts brace for cuts

Social Security subsidy losses may top $40 million for state's affluent schools.

10:01 a.m. EDT, March 28, 2011
There has been much ado about how the governor's proposed budget sets education funding back three years. Tutoring and early education took hard hits. State colleges saw their aid cut in half.
But another cut, nearly lost in the fine print, would exceed $40 million for nearly one-third of the state's school districts — the wealthiest ones.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ELC: Cuts per Student XL/ PPG: Poor Schools Take Biggest Hit/ Take Acton on Cuts/ Inky: K-Cuts/ Inky: Corbett's Vision for Schools/ BCC OP: Corbett's Cuts/ DR:Towanda Resolutions

Chester-Upland would lose $2542 per student, or $63,555 per classroom of 25 students under the Governor’s proposed budget.
In general, the cuts fall hardest on school districts with the greatest student poverty, according to the Law Center's analysis.  “The disparity of the cuts is most plainly seen when measured by the dollars cut per student," said Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy for the Law Center.  "Some districts are cut more than $1,400 per student, while others are cut less than $100 per student. "
Download this spreadsheet from the Education Law Center to see how your district would be impacted; make sure your legislators have the data:

Poor schools take biggest budget hit
By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sunday, March 27, 2011
Under other circumstances, officials of the Clairton City School District would be joyful over being ranked fourth out of 500 school districts in the state.
But the recent list that gave the district that designation is one that ranks districts based on the amount of state aid per student they stand to lose in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed education budget. Clairton will see a reduction of $1,480 per student


Click here for links to quickly and easily contact key legislative leaders on the budget


State Budget Phone Banking with Education Voters

If you have some time to make phone calls to voters regarding the budget cuts, either from home or in Philadelphia please contact Ian Moran, Program Manager, Education Voters of Pennsylvania at (215) 564-2299.


Philadelphia Inquirer, Posted on Mon, Mar. 28, 2011
Corbett plan riles advocates of full-day kindergarten
By Adrienne Lu, Inquirer Staff Writer
On a recent morning, kindergartners in Hollie Citerone's class at the Southeast Delco School District Kindergarten Center settled in for "kid writing," a daily activity in which the children draw a picture, create a story about it, and write the sentences that make up the story.
Last year, 53,000 children in the state attended full-day kindergarten funded in part with the grants, which began under Gov. Ed Rendell in 2004-05.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Posted on Sun, Mar. 27, 2011

Corbett's vision for Pa. schools

His plan includes voter approval of budgets.

When it comes to changing public education in Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett's proposed billion-dollar funding cut to school districts this year could be just the beginning.

Bucks County Courier, March 27, 2011
Corbett’s Cuts – Schools Underwrite Campaign Promises
Guest Opinion by Mark Miller

Towanda School Board passes resolutions against Corbett's budget, school voucher proposal
The Daily Review, BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN (Staff Writer), Published: March 26, 2011
TOWANDA - The Towanda School Board expressed opposition to Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposal and Senate Bill 1 at its most recent meeting.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Views: PTRIB:Tomalis and NYT: Herbert/ PPG: Shaler Budget /MCALL:Allentown and Easton/ Towanda Freeze/ PSBA Freeze List [TLG LC/SB/BCC]


Click here for links to take action on the budget


Education nominee plans to reshape system

By Amy Crawford. TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Saturday, March 26, 2011
Gov. Tom Corbett's administration will attempt to reshape public education during the next four years, enacting an aggressive agenda that focuses on school choice and competition, according to Ronald Tomalis, the governor's nominee for secretary of Education.


Separate and Unequal

By BOB HERBERT, Published: March 21, 2011
One of the most powerful tools for improving the educational achievement of poor black and Hispanic public school students is, regrettably, seldom even considered. It has become a political no-no.  Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled.

This is Governor Corbett’s School District and High School
Shaler Area educator describes $2 million shortfall
Thursday, March 24, 2011
By Rita Michel, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Shaler Area School District is bracing for a $2 million cut in state funding next year, and departing superintendent Donald Lee tried to prepare residents for some of the potential sacrifices that he believes will need to be made in an eight-page statement released to the school board March 16 and posted on the district's website.

Tension grows in Allentown School District

Furloughs and overhaul of academics fuel concerns among teachers, parents.

8:37 p.m. EDT, March 25, 2011
Displeasure with a plan to overhaul the Allentown School District's curriculum took a back seat Thursday night as teachers union members urged the board to consider all options before laying off as many as 300 employees.

Easton teachers union spurns 'no layoff' offer

District would cut salaries to 2009-10 levels to save $20 million over two years.

7:58 p.m. EDT, March 25, 2011
The Easton Area teachers union on Friday said it won't even entertain an assemblage of concessions the district has proposed to save about $20 million over the next two years.

Towanda School District administrators forgo their pay increase for the coming year
By James Loewenstein (Staff Writer)
Published: March 25, 2011
TOWANDA - Due to a large anticipated loss of federal and state funding, the administrators of the Towanda Area School District have decided to not accept a pay increase during the coming year, Towanda school officials said.

PSBA's List: Pa. schools adopting a wage freeze
Below is a link to a list of school entities known to have adopted a wage freeze for 2011-12 budget. If your entity is not listed but has adopted a freeze, send updates to

Friday, March 25, 2011

Budget Cuts: Take Action/ PN: 2/3 of voters support Marcellus Shale tax/ WGAL:Warwick Approves Pay Freeze/ MCALL: Bethlehem Cuts/ Mandate Relief

A large crowd at yesterday’s Education Policy and Leadership Center presentation in Philadelphia heard that the PA House may be moving on the Governor’s proposed budget within the next two weeks.

There is a new page on the Keystone State Education Coalition website with links to a number of sites you can use to quickly and easily contact your legislators and key legislative leaders to express opposition to the budget cuts for K-12 education.  It also lists info on a couple rallies to be held in Harrisburg on April 26th (NAACP) and May 3rd (CLEAR Coalition).

Please make those contacts today and urge all public education stakeholders and supporters (your boards, PTO’s, business owners, friends, family, neighbors) to do likewise; programs are in jeopardy: full day kindergarten, class sizes, math and reading support; libraries, athletic programs, band, orchestra, choir and arts programs to name a few.

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters support tax on gas from Marcellus Shale

Published: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 5:00 PM
A new poll shows a strong majority of Pennsylvania voters — of all political persuasions — support a tax on the gas being extracted from the Marcellus Shale.
More than two-thirds — 70 percent — of voters across the state support the tax, including 62 percent of registered Republicans, according to the poll conducted by Susquehanna Polling Research. A majority — 52 percent — say they strongly support it. Lancaster

Warwick Teachers Approve Pay Freeze

Measure To Save District About $575K

POSTED: 11:03 am EDT March 23, 2011
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- The Warwick teachers' union has approved a one-year salary freeze for the 2011-12 school year, school officials said.
The measure will save the district about $575,000.

168 school jobs could be cut in Bethlehem Area School District

Pay freeze and perhaps other cuts needed to bridge funding gap caused by governor's proposed budget.

11:12 p.m. EDT, March 24, 2011
The Bethlehem Area School District could layoff about 168 employees — 8 percent of its workforce — to combat a massive cut in state funding in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget for 2011-12.


Senator Piccola’s Weekly Column: Relief Proposed for Pennsylvania’s School Districts

Pennsylvania’s tough economic times are calling for desperate measures by all of its citizens to deal with the fiscal situation before us. The 2011-2012 budget proposed by Governor Corbett requires substantial reductions across all levels of the state including education in order to address a $4 billion deficit. Based upon the cuts being proposed, school districts throughout the state are being forced to do more with less and make difficult decisions and changes regarding the elimination of programs and positions

PSBA Welcomes Mandate Relief Efforts
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is encouraged by a package of mandate relief legislation introduced by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola on March 22

Thursday, March 24, 2011

PPG: Voucher Hearing/ PA Council of Churches on SB1/ PSFC: Take Action on Funding/ STT: Mandate Relief/ MCALL: Allentown Cuts/ Fortune: Teachers under attack/ PSBA Legislative Conference April 17-18

Thanks to PSBA President Marianne Neal, Shauna D’Alessandro, Lynn Foltz and Supt. Ron Sofo for testifying at yesterday’s SB1 hearing in Pittsburgh
Voucher committee hears from locals
Thursday, March 24, 2011
By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Pennsylvania House Democratic policy committee gathered Wednesday at the University of Pittsburgh's William Pitt Student Union for the latest in a series of public hearings on a controversial school voucher proposal.

We urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to reject SB 1 and work toward legislation that provides equitable and adequate support of our public education system so that all children can grow and thrive and support a growing and thriving Commonwealth for now and future generations.

TAKE ACTION - PA School Funding Campaign Legislative Action Center


Senators propose broad school mandate relief

Published: March 23, 2011
HARRISBURG - Putting the 2,000-page Public School Code in their sights, a group of senators unveiled a sweeping legislative package Tuesday to give public schools relief from state mandates so they can better cope with looming cuts in state aid.
Read more:


Federal cuts to hit Allentown schools

Spending plan threatens to put popular high school reform method in the dust bin of education fads.

10:58 p.m. EDT, March 23, 2011
In 2004, Gerald Zahorchak and his boss, Gov. Ed Rendell, began championing "small learning communities," a high school reform movement aimed at meeting students' academic and emotional needs.


American teachers under attack

March 23, 2011 11:01 am By Elizabeth G. Olson, contributor
With state budgets buckling, American teachers are facing the erosion of tenure protection, employee benefits, and other job protections that they fought for and won years ago.
FORTUNE -- Who can blame American teachers for feeling beleaguered as state after state strips away the job protections, especially tenure, that they have won in recent decades?

Budget Cuts, Vouchers, Mandate Relief, Charter/Cyber Funding?

PSBA 2011 Legislative Advocacy Conference April 17-18 | Harrisburg

Join us in Harrisburg for PSBA’s Legislative Advocacy Conference, April 17-18 at the Harrisburg Hilton. This day-and-a half program, which begins on Sunday afternoon and ends on Monday afternoon, will give you the latest information on what’s happening in Harrisburg, and an opportunity to sharpen your advocacy skills.

View the Schedule-At-A-Glance

Conference sessions include:
 Nationally-known education historian Diane Ravitch (via teleconference)
 State Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis
 Interactive advocacy training with Christopher Kush
 Sen. Daylin Leach. Sen. Leach is a member of the Senate Education Committee, and voted against SB 1.
 Rep. Ron Miller, chairman of the House Labor & Industry Committee, will discuss mandates and labor-related issues.
 House Education Committee Executive Directors Christopher Wakeley (Democratic), Patricia White(Republican) will talk about the education agenda for 2011-12. Wakeley and White will provide the perspectives of their caucuses on key issues.
 Auditor General Jack Wagner will address charter and cyber school funding issues 

Thanks for making yesterday the busiest day yet on the website with 697 different visitors.