Monday, December 31, 2012

Special Wile E. Coyote Fiscal Cliff Event Horizon Edition

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012
A collection of our postings that garnered the most traffic and interest during 2012:

“Something has gone terribly wrong,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, “when the biggest threat to our American economy is the American Congress.”

A Showdown Long Foreseen

New York Times By JENNIFER STEINHAUER Published: December 30, 2012
WASHINGTON — The titanic struggle over how to reach a broad Congressional tax agreement is not just the latest partisan showdown, but rather the culmination of two years of escalating fiscal confrontations, each building on the other in its gravity and consequences. On Sunday, lawmakers could not seem to find one final way out.
From the first fight over a short-term spending agreement to keep the government open in early 2011 to the later tangle over the debt ceiling to the failure of last year’s special budget committee and the resulting automatic spending cuts that now loom along with tax increases, the so-called fiscal cliff was built, slab by partisan slab, to where it now threatens the nation’s finances.

Like Wile E. Coyote, U.S. edges closer to 'fiscal cliff'

WILL BUNCH, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-2957
POSTED: Monday, December 31, 2012, 5:04 AM
AROUND dinnertime Sunday night, ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl reported on Twitter that he'd asked a source who is a Senate aide for an update on the last-minute talks to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" of across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts. What got emailed back was an iconic picture.
It showed Wile E. Coyote - the Roadrunner's not-so-wily cartoon nemesis - skidding off a steep cliff.
Indeed, the last day of 2012 may long be remembered as America's Wile E. Coyote moment - the day the nation's political system sprinted far out over the abyss of a dry desert canyon, pausing long enough to hold up a tiny sign reading "Help!" before taking a steep plunge into the unknown.

FISCAL CLIFF News, Analysis and Opinion from POLITICO

Wall Street Journal
Fiscal Cliff Countdown December 31, 2012

Hefty Cuts to K-12 Programs At Stake in Fiscal-Cliff Negotiations

 Alyson Klein  
School districts and states are bracing for the possibility of the biggest reduction in federal education aid in recent history, as Congress struggles to reach an agreement to head off across-the-board cuts and tax increases that make up the so-called fiscal cliff.
With much of the focus on the tax policies at issue in the fiscal-cliff negotiations, it's unclear whether any final deal—reportedly being hammered out in the waning hours of 2012 by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, and Vice President Joe Biden—will include a stop to the automatic cuts set to hit just about every federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Education, on Jan. 2.
The cuts—whether and how to head them off—remained a sticking point in negotiations on Monday. And if Congress and the Obama administration are unable to reach agreement on the cuts by Jan. 2, they will go through as planned, at least temporarily.

today’s other education policy news…..

"But Philadelphia has been hit hard by state education financing that has been among the lowest per student of any major city"
Philadelphia School District Plans to Close Dozens of Schools
New York Times By JON HURDLE Published: December 30, 2012
…..the Philadelphia School District has proposed an unprecedented downsizing that would close 37 campuses by June — roughly one out of six public schools, including University City. If the sweeping plan is approved, the district says it will improve academic standards by diverting money used for maintaining crumbling buildings to hire teachers and improve classroom equipment.  The 237-school district faces a cumulative budget deficit of $1.1 billion over the next five years, after $419 million in state cuts to educational financing this year. The district’s problems are compounded by the end of federal stimulus money and rising pension costs.

Pittsburgh schools readying teacher evaluation plan

District's proposal gives weight to data focusing on teachers
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 31, 2012 12:13 am
Pittsburgh Public Schools is poised to become the first district to seek state approval for its teacher evaluation plan under a new state law.  City school board members are expected to review the plan at a committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and then vote on it Jan. 23.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

EDITORIAL: In 2013, Corbett must fix pension crisis...….."Forget the fiscal cliff. This is Pennsylvania’s version of the fiscal abyss."

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012
A collection of our postings that garnered the most traffic and interest during 2012:

Educators and Spending Watchdogs Critical of Pennsylvania ‘Cyber’ Charters

CBS News By Pat Loeb December 27, 2012 6:40 AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Even as the Pennsylvania Education Department is considering applications for eight new “cyber” charter schools, education advocates and taxpayer watchdogs are calling for a moratorium on the applications.  Critics cite a number of weaknesses with the state’s existing cyber charters, and oppose any new ones.

Charter schools now big business nationwide

Management firms bring money, clout to help operate them
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 30, 2012 12:17 am
The early charter schools in Pennsylvania were largely the product of passionate parents or community groups, who sometimes planned their dream schools around the kitchen table.
But the picture has changed dramatically since the charter school law was passed in Pennsylvania in 1997, with an expansion of education management organizations that bring big money and clout into the picture.

EDITORIAL: In 2013, Corbett must fix pension crisis

We’re not sure if Gov. Tom Corbett makes New Year’s resolutions. He probably should, along with every member of the Pennsylvania Legislature.  With just two days left in 2012, it’s time they identify the top problem facing the Keystone State.
…..Forget the fiscal cliff. This is Pennsylvania’s version of the fiscal abyss.
The state is teetering on the edge of a $41 billion pension shortfall. Taxpayers already are on the hook for a $1.6 billion public pension hit this year. That number is expected to balloon to as much as $4 billion a year and stay there for decades.

Pennsylvania on board with Common Core standards for students

TribLive By Rick Wills Published: Saturday, December 29, 2012, 10:05 p.m.
Starting next school year, public schools in Pennsylvania and in much of the country will use a more rigorous curriculum aimed at unifying educational standards.
The Common Core Standards seek to make U.S. students more competitive with increasingly proficient students from other countries. These standards emphasize teaching math more in-depth, and teaching English and language arts through not just classic books but also historical documents and technical manuals. States and school districts can decide specifics.
Critics lashed back in some states that adopted the standards, but in Pennsylvania limited resistance resulted when the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, a 21-member panel with 17 members appointed by the governor, approved their adoption in 2010.

State passes educational buck onto local property owners

Chambersburg Public Opinion Online Editorial Posted: 12/28/2012 09:21:23 PM EST
It's been a long time since the Reagan years, and it seems most of the nation's non-elites are still waiting for his policies' top-down economic trickle to reach them.
One trickledown effect, however, took comparatively little time for its impact to be felt: A sharply increased public school funding burden on local property owners.
Yes, we realize that trickledown economics are supposed to eventually benefit citizens, and not ding them for more money each and every budget year.
That's pretty much our point.
Chambersburg Area School District recently compiled a financial report that examines district funding going back several years. The conclusion is unmistakable: Once the state got serious about cutting education funding in 2010 with the rise of Gov. Tom Corbett, local homeowners have been increasingly picking up the slack.

Wall Street Journal
Fiscal Cliff Countdown December 30, 2012

Fiscal Cliff: Schools Brace for Automatic Cuts to Education in 2013

 Alyson Klein  
Only five days are left before the country falls off the "fiscal cliff." While there's been a lot of political posturing, Congress doesn't seem close to figuring out how to cope with a series of planned tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in early next year.
So what does that mean for education? Well, it means the automatic spending cuts that are set to hit just about every federal program, including most in the U.S. Department of Education, could go through, at least temporarily. For K-12 programs and Head Start, that would mean an across-the-board cut of 8.2 percent. The trigger cuts are known in Beltway-speak as "sequestration."

Fiscal cliff would be catastrophic to K-12 education, NSBA warns lawmakers
NSBA School Board News by Joetta Sack-Min December 28, 2012
As lawmakers reconvene to discuss alternatives to the fiscal cliff, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is again urging Congress and President Barack Obama to forge a bipartisan solution that puts our children’s education first and protects their future, as well as the future of our country.  With the fiscal cliff looming, more than 600 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the across-the-board cuts that would have a detrimental impact upon their school districts through the sequestration process. These federal cuts would total more than $4 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, these cuts would continue over a 10-year period and have a devastating effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for key programs year after year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cliff Notes: Sequestration Status December 28, 2012

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012
A collection of our postings that garnered the most traffic and interest during 2012:

Sequestration: Cliff Talks Down to the Wire

Both Sides to Meet at White House; Any Deal Likely to Be Limited

Wall Street Journal By JANET HOOK and CAROL E. LEE

Congress and the White House took small steps toward breaking the budget impasse Thursday, but Democrats and Republicans grew increasingly fearful they won't be able to avert the tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, a prospect that is unnerving consumers and investors.
President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday afternoon for a last-ditch effort to broker a deal, as the Senate returned to Washington on Thursday. House GOP leaders said in a Thursday conference call with Republicans, who are growing nervous about their party being blamed for the deadlock, that the House will reconvene Sunday evening.

“Lawmakers and aides from both parties cautioned that the burst of activity could be more about making sure the other side gets the blame than any real search for a resolution before the Jan. 1 deadline. Under Senate rules, no deal could run the gantlet of procedural hurdles in time for a final vote before the deadline without all the senators agreeing not to slow progress.”

Sequestration: In Flurry of Activity, Only Muted Hope for Fiscal Deal

New York Times By JONATHAN WEISMAN Published: December 27, 2012
WASHINGTON — President Obama will meet with Congressional leaders on Friday, and House Republicans summoned lawmakers back for a Sunday session, in a last-ditch effort to avert a fiscal crisis brought on by automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to hit next week.
Republicans expressed a flicker of hope Thursday that a deal could still be reached to at least avert most of the tax increases on Jan. 1, to prevent a sudden cut in payments to medical providers treating Medicare patients and to extend expiring unemployment benefits. But both parties’ leaders said time is running out.
“Here we are, five days from the New Year, and we might finally start talking,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader.

Sequestration: The logic of House GOP intransigence

Politico By ALEX ISENSTADT | 12/28/12 4:43 AM EST
The unruly House Republicans who emasculated Speaker John Boehner as the country flirts with fiscal havoc might’ve seemed like they were doing their best “Lord of the Flies” rendition.
But last week’s mayhem had a certain logic — the logic of politicians wanting to keep their jobs.

Sequestration: Summoned Back to Work, Senators Chafe at Inaction

New York Times By JENNIFER STEINHAUER Published: December 27, 2012
WASHINGTON — Senators bid hasty goodbyes to families, donned ties and pantsuits in lieu of sweat pants and Christmas sweaters and one by one returned to the Capitol on Thursday to begin the business of doing nothing in particular.
But for once, those lawmakers were fully united, if only around their sadness and frustration at being stuck in Washington in a holiday week, peering over the edge of the fiscal abyss.

District recruits corps to lead way to reorganization

Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer December 28, 20123:01 AM
Today a third-grade teacher in a Philadelphia School District classroom, next month a teacher-training specialist with direct access to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.?
District officials hope so.
They are recruiting a small group of people at every level of the organization, from teachers on up, to be part of a unique "Transformation Corps" - 15 or so employees who will work to solve the school system's most critical problems

Increasing number of students opting for charter schools

TribLive by By Daveen Rae Kurutz and Matt Defusco December 26, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
A growing number of Western Pennsylvania students attending taxpayer-funded charter schools is changing public education, as parents take advantage of school choice.
“We‘re competing with the cyber schools, and we think we can do it better,” Joseph Clapper said, superintendent at Quaker Valley School District, which draws students from the Sewickley valley. “These are interesting times. It is important for Quaker Valley and, I believe, all public schools, to be open-minded about the way we deliver curriculum to our 21st-century students.”
The number of students choosing a charter school in 23 western Pennsylvania districts has increased from 1,500 in 2008-09 to 2,300 this year — or by 52 percent, according to a survey in October. Trib Total Media conducted the survey to determine how many students are choosing charter schools, and why.

State School Funds On Trial, Again
Stateline, Daily News Service of The Pew Center on the States By Ben Wieder, Staff Writer
…..Texas isn’t the only state facing a legal challenge to its school-funding system. Next month, a three-judge panel in a Kansas District Court is expected to rule on a lawsuit arguing that that state isn’t spending enough on education. And next spring, the Colorado Supreme Court will review last year’s District Court ruling that the state’s funding system is “unconscionable” and does not meet the state constitution’s requirements for a “thorough and uniform” education system. If they lose in court, Colorado and Kansas might have to spend billions more on education.  Overall, ten states have school finance challenges working their way through the courts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Four other states recently wrapped up legal challenges.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays!!! Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

First Book works through existing community programs, literacy efforts and schools to provide an ongoing supply of new books and reading materials – at low or no cost.
Your tax-deductible donation to First Book will fund new books for children in need and help knock down the greatest barrier to literacy development in the United States and beyond — access to books. 97% of donations go directly to programming, providing new books for children in need.


Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012
A collection of our postings that garnered the most traffic and interest during 2012:

Here are a few other end of year education policy lists:

Top 10 Success List
Yinzercation Blog December 22, 2012
It’s that time of the year for Top 10 lists. Today is also the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, and the day when we celebrate the return of light. In 2012 we continued to see real threats to public education, and plenty of frustration and disappointment, but it has also been a year full of light – the kind that shines when people pull together and work for equity, social justice, our children, and the public good. This is a good time to remember our successes and achievements….

Education Week: Anthony Cody’s Dozen Favorite 2012 Posts from Living In Dialogue

Top 10 education policy wishes

Here are the top 10 items on an education wish list for the holiday season and the New Year. It was written by Greg Kaufmann, who reports on poverty for the Nation, and Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education. This appeared on  The Nation’s website and was also picked up by Valerie Strauss on her Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post.

Common Core standards hitting school districts

By fall, school districts will implement tough educational standards, the Common Core.

By Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call 6:39 p.m. EST, December 25, 2012
…..Unifying the nation's 50 states, 13,600 public school districts and roughly 98,800 public schools behind a common set of standards has been bandied about for decades.
Proponents argued American students were losing ground in math and literacy, resulting in high school graduates lacking skills to earn college degrees or land jobs in a global economy.
The concept started to gel in about 2008 when the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers started working with educational experts, principals and teachers to pick the best curriculum standards from among the states.
After more than a year of development, including 10,000 public comments, the Common Core was finalized in June 2010.
So far, 45 states have signed onto the initiative, including Pennsylvania, which has tied the Core's standards to the new Algebra I, biology and literature exit exams — known as the Keystone Exams — that students began taking this month.

Lawmakers prepare to tackle state pension shortfalls

GOP senators review 401(k)-style defined contribution plan
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 24, 2012 12:14 am
HARRISBURG -- As policy makers look for Gov. Tom Corbett's pensions proposal early next year, top Republican senators are renewing an effort to enroll new state and school employees in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.  With pension payments set to consume Increasing portions of the state budget, Mr. Corbett, a Republican, has made a priority of overhauling the state and public school employee retirement systems. His budget office recently released a report saying the governor plans to address pensions in his February budget speech.

Education Policy and Leadership Center Notebook

Call For Moratorium on New Cyber Charter Schools in PA

Public News Service - PA by Tom Josephs December 17, 2012
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Some Pennsylvania groups say cyber charter schools in the state aren't making the grade, and they're urging state education officials to impose a moratorium on any new ones. Rhonda Brownstein, the executive director of the Education Law Center, says only one of the cyber charters operating in Pennsylvania in 2011 made adequate yearly progress.
"And, a Stanford University study found that both in reading and math all eight of the cyber charters that were operating at the time, a couple of years ago, performed significantly worse than public schools."

Chester Upland receiver ready to begin implementing recovery plan
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012
By JOHN KOPP, @DT_JohnKopp
CHESTER — Now that Joseph Watkins is in place as the receiver for the Chester Upland School District, it’s time for him to begin implementing the financial and academic recovery plan he designed to reinvigorate the struggling district.
That plan calls for school closures, staff cuts and tax increases, but also seeks to restore arts and music programs and establish summer school, after-school and day care programs.  It is designed to win back students who fled the district for charter and cyber charter schools and requires the district meet Adequate Yearly Progress by the end of the 2014-15 school year.
So, where does Watkins start?

Two new charter schools proposed in Chester
Published: Friday, December 21, 2012
CHESTER — A county businessman is proposing to start two new charter schools within the Chester Upland School District, which already has lost more than half of its students to charter schools.  James P. Duffy, a longtime real estate developer and salesman, formally submitted applications for two charter schools Thursday at a hearing held by district Receiver Joseph Watkins.

The Notebook is hiring!
by thenotebook on Dec 23 2012
The Notebook is looking to hire an accomplished nonprofit administrator for a new position - Associate Director for Operations (part-time).

Sequestration: Senators to Return With 5 Days Left and No Clear Fiscal Path

Published: December 26, 2012
WASHINGTON — With just five days left to make a deal, President Obama and members of the Senate were set to return to Washington on Thursday with no clear path out of their fiscal morass even as the Treasury Department warned that the government will soon be unable to pay its bills unless Congress acts.  Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, adding to the building tension over how to handle a year-end pileup of threatened tax increases and spending cuts, formally notified Congress on Wednesday that the government would hit its statutory borrowing limit on Monday, raising anew the threat of a federal default as the two parties remained in a standoff.

TRENDING: Republicans not jumping onto NRA's gun plan

Posted by CNN's Kevin Liptak December 23rd, 2012
(CNN) – Republicans on Sunday were reticent in voicing support for the National Rifle Association's scheme to place guards with firearms in American schools, though they also appeared to find little common ground with Democrats, who want tighter restrictions on purchasing assault weapons.  Lawmakers from both parties have agreed that some changes are needed following the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting on December 14 that left 28 people dead, including 20 children. But while Democrats advocate new legislation making it harder to obtain military-style firearms, Republicans claim such measures have proved ineffective in the past.

Fear of For-Profit Schools Is Well Founded

 Walt Gardner  
The argument that the business model is the way to improve schools is hardly new. At the beginning of the 20th century, reformers made the same claim, with little to eventually show for it. That's why I was surprised to read Rick Hess's essay in The Wall Street Journal ("The Irrational Fear of For-Profit Education," Dec. 18).
Hess begins by maintaining it is not true that for-profit schools are "distracted by the demands of investors, while public systems can focus solely on the children." He points to the bulk of K-12 spending going to employee benefits and salaries. Does he believe that teachers are not worth the money spent on their services? I wonder if he would like to revise that statement in light of the supreme sacrifices made by educators at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Hess then asserts that for-profit schools are more efficient than traditional public schools because of the "watchful eye of investors." They demand cost efficiencies. Of course, they do. But at what price?

City Connects Year in Review: SpringfieldMA
2012 marked the second year of City Connects implementation in Springfield (MA) Public Schools.
City Connects DECEMBER 21, 2012
The engagement began in five of Springfield’s turnaround elementary schools and this year, expanded to three turnaround middle schools. This marks City Connects’ first expansion to freestanding middle schools; we are now reaching about 2,800 students in Springfield! Some highlights include:

Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012

Keystone State Education Coalition 10 Popular Posts 2012

Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11

Owner of for-profit management firm that runs state’s largest brick and mortar charter school.
Governor Corbett’s largest individual campaign donor.
Fighting a right-to-know request regarding financial details in the courts for 6 years; building a mansion on beach front lot in Palm Beach Florida purchased for $28.9 million.

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

Charter schools - public funding without public scrutiny.
Proposed statewide authorization and direct payment would further diminish accountability and oversight for public tax dollars

PA Cyber Charter PSSA AYP 2005 - 2012 from PDE

Of 12 PA cyber charters only 1 made AYP for 2012, only 2 made AYP for 2011
while 8 were in corrective action status.

Lancaster Online: 10 piece series on PA Cyber Charters


Betsy DeVos’s astroturf group, American Federation for Children has contributed more than $2.5 million to the Students First PA PAC over the past three years to fund the privatization of Pennsylvania’s public schools.  Students First PA PAC  has received the bulk of it’s funding from main line options traders Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik and Jeffrey Yass.  These four mega-millionaires are setting education policy in Pennsylvania and their agenda does not include democratically run public schools that are open to all children and fully accountable to all taxpayers.

While you are waiting for Hurricane Sandy, take a look at what “Tropical Storm Betsy” has dumped into Pennsylvania political campaigns recently:
Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children dropped $400K onto PA’s Student first PAC.

PA budget locks in $1 billion cut to public education; gives $75 million bailout to struggling parochial schools

EITC recipients have virtually no accountability for the diverted tax dollars they receive: no public details on the money; no public academic performance measures.

Latest Updates on Chester Upland

Keystone Exams Update and FAQs

What Works: an informal collection of strategies and programs to inform the public discussion of how to improve student learning for high poverty populations of students.