Thursday, January 30, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 30, 2014: What do Groundhog Day and the PA pension debate have in common?

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The Network for Public Education Press Release
NPE National Conference at University of Texas at Austin March 1 & 2

Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for January 30, 2014:
What do Groundhog Day and the PA pension debate have in common?

“We don’t need more choices in public education. We need great public schools in every community, that any parent would be happy to send their children to, and that meet the needs of local families. We don’t really have any choice at all if our local public school is not a high quality option.”
The Problem with Choice
Yinzercation Blog January 29, 2014
We Americans love choice. Just look at the cereal aisle in Giant Eagle. You could choose a different box every day of the month and still have more varieties left to try. But public schools are not corn flakes. Here’s the problem with “choice” when we’re talking about public education.
When we’re in the cereal aisle, we are consumers looking for our favorite brand, the best price, or perhaps grabbing a box of sugar filled junk with a toy surprise inside to appease our screaming two year old who won’t stay in the cart (been there). But schools are public goods, not consumer goods. Think about other public goods and services that you use, such as public safety. We don’t want to choose from different police providers, we want our local police department to be great: to offer high-quality service that meets the needs of our local community.

“It won’t be long before it is impossible for most districts to cut enough to pay for the increase and maintain any type of education program that could be considered high quality.”
What do Groundhog Day and the pension debate have in common?: John Callahan
PennLive Op-Ed  By John Callahan on January 29, 2014 at 4:30 PM
John Callahan is the Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Like the inevitable time loop in the movie "Groundhog Day," once again we recognize that Pennsylvania’s escalating public pension crisis has not gone away and that the General Assembly, like anchorman Phil Connors, has one more opportunity to relieve the growing burden on state and local school district budgets.   Will legislators be able to break the cycle and finally enact meaningful pension reform?

Comprehensive and sustainable pension reform is elusive in Pennsylvania: Richard Dreyfuss
PennLive Op-Ed  By Richard Dreyfuss on January 29, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Richard Dreyfuss, a former director of compensation and benefits for the Hershey Co., has written about pensions and healthcare. He has also testified before Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly on the issue.
As the state closes in on the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year, there have been several reports of estimated state budget deficits in the range of $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion. Approximately $600 million is due to higher pension contributions to PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System) and SERS (State Employees’ Retirement System). 
Specifically, these costs relate to the state’s approximately 55 percent share to PSERS and 100 percent to SERS. 

“The employers contribution rate, the amount districts are on the hook for as a percentage of employees salaries, was 5.64 percent in 2010-11. That number is expected to rise to 21.4 percent in 2014-15. Increases are projected to continue for the following 21 years, reaching 31.43 percent in 2034-35, and continuing to exceed 30 percent for another 17 years.”
Centennial SD calls on state to fix pension mess
By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer | Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 5:30 pm
The Centennial school board wants Gov. Tom Corbett and the state Legislature to solve a pension crisis that is “crippling” school districts.  “We need relief or we’re going to put people out of their homes,” Jane Schrader Lynch, Centennial’s school board president, said Wednesday. “We can’t sustain the cost of this pension fund.”  The board unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night that urges lawmakers to reform the Public School Employees’ Retirement System. The resolution calls for the creation of a hybrid pension system with a defined benefit and defined contribution for school employees “without transferring the burden to future generations.”
“We can’t sit for three, four, five more years like this,” said Superintendent Joyce Mundy. “It’s not fair to students and families to pay more and receive less. It’s simply the position we’re being put in. The state is offering us very little relief and no solutions.”

“What we found when we looked at the research is that there was no evidence to support the idea that having a higher ed institution authorize charters would actually improve student outcomes,” RFA Executive Director Kate Shaw said.
SB1085: Senate Bill Would Give Colleges Authority To Approve Charter Schools In Pennsylvania
CBS Local By Mike DeNardo January 29, 2014 7:00 AM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Part of a bill pending in the Pennsylvania senate would give universities the authority to approve new charter schools. But one non-profit says there’s no evidence that would improve student performance.  Right now only traditional school districts can authorize brick-and-mortar charter schools in Pennsylvania. The state approves cyber charters. But Senate Bill 1085 would give roughly 100 higher education institutions the power to approve charters. The non-profit group Research for Action looked at the 12 states where higher eds can okay charters, and found that students in those schools didn’t perform any better.

Gov. Corbett indicates what some of his new education funding will be.
Capitolwire Under the Dome January 29, 2014 (paywall)
Not that long ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer indicated sources close to the budget had told the newspaper that Gov. Tom Corbett planned to add about $200 million to basic education funding as part of his 2014-15 state budget proposal. Since then, Capitolwire – and likely every other news organization – has been trying to find out more regarding that rumored funding which Capitolwire has been told will be much more than $200 million in funding for schools, although a decent chunk of that funding will be the state’s share of the pension payments for school employees. One thing is certain, little-to-none will be in the form of an increase of the state budget’s basic education line item, according to several sources. And on Tuesday, Corbett helped to solidify that second assertion a bit when he “scooped” himself again by announcing – during a York County event honoring two Red Lion Area School District schools for their academic performance - his budget proposal would include the creation of a new competitive grant program for schools: The Governor's Expanding Excellence Program. According to Corbett, the program would provide competitive funding to schools that have attained a 90 or higher on the Department of Education’s new School Performance Profile, and are willing to analyze and share best practices that have proven to raise student achievement. Grant recipients will be responsible for supporting schools across the state that strive to replicate these strategies and techniques, said the governor.

Could public comment be allowed at hearing for Bill Green's nomination to head SRC?
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, January 30, 2014, 1:08 AM  POSTED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 3:15 PM
The Republican leadership of the state Senate is considering allowing public comment at a hearing on City Councilman Bill Green's nomination to be chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.  Last week, the advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools asked State Sen. Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), the president pro tempore, to allow public comment on Gov. Corbett's nomination of Green.  Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Republicans, said Tuesday no decision had been made. The committee, he said, could take up the nominations next week.

"When we can't do the biggest performance of the year, what does that say? It says the arts aren't a priority," said Bjornson, 17.
Time running out for CAPA to fund a student musical
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Thursday, January 30, 2014, 1:07 AM
Time has almost run out for CAPA students' hopes of putting on a musical, the centerpiece of their school year.  With just a few days left until the deadline to raise enough money to produce a show, the High School for Creative and Performing Arts' parents group is about $6,000 short.
That the city's premier arts school will go a second year without its signature performance breaks senior Maya Bjornson's heart.  "When we can't do the biggest performance of the year, what does that say? It says the arts aren't a priority," said Bjornson, 17.
At schools around the city, the Philadelphia School District's dire budget has meant unprecedented losses in programs and staff. Many schools now lack full-time counselors and nurses, and have no extracurricular activities.

Horseshoes or homeroom? Bill would shift $250 million from horse racing to school districts
By Jeff Frantz |  on January 29, 2014 at 2:31 PM
Since money from slots started pumping up purses for horse racing in Pennsylvania, the owners who took home a payday have included a sheik, a prince from the Middle East, millionaires and billionaires.  Proposed legislation would take nearly all of the money from the state's Horse Racing Development Fund and redirect it to school districts that receive less than 35 percent of their funding from the state. Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery County) said his bill would provide relief for local property taxpayers and address the imbalance in the state's school funding formula.  Stephens' bill would shift $250 million from the development fund to school districts receiving less than average state funding.

Acting Secretary of Education Presents Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to Math Science Academy in Harrisburg
PDE Press release January 29, 2014
Harrisburg – Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq today presented the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to Math Science Academy in Harrisburg School District, Dauphin County.  “I congratulate Harrisburg School District and the local community for working together to ensure that students are growing academically and being prepared for postsecondary success,” Dumaresq said. “Math Science Academy is an example of the high-quality learning that is taking place in classrooms across Pennsylvania.”  Based on the 2012-13 School Performance Profile,, Math Science Academy attained a score of 92.2 percent – the highest score in the district.

“There are just 16 librarians in all 214 district schools– and two of them are paid by anonymous donors”
Students, Librarians Speak Up For Lack Of Libraries In Phila. Schools
By Pat Loeb January 28, 2014 5:23 AM
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Librarians in town for a national conference joined Philadelphia public school parents, students and staff, yesterday, to call attention to the lack of libraries in district schools.  Inspired by the historic setting of Philadelphia, the group gathered at the Library Company and signed a “Declaration for the right to libraries.” There are just 16 librarians in all 214 district schools– and two of them are paid by anonymous donors.

“Ranking high on the list was what they perceived to be insufficient education funding, budgeting problems and an overall negative opinion of his leadership.”
F&M poll: Corbett out of step with voters
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer January 30, 2014 12:15 am
Tom Corbett could use some relationship advice.
A new Franklin & Marshall College survey found that few people believe the Republican governor can be trusted to make the right decisions or that he cares at all about ordinary people.
The poll of 580 state residents show that the governor is falling short when it comes to understanding and fighting for the issues that matter the most.

Phila. parents make deal over enrollment in suburban school
CAROLYN DAVIS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 9:05 PM
A case that became a national cause célèbre for public school choice ended Tuesday in Montgomery County Court with lesser charges, dismissed charges, and a restitution agreement. But there was no jail time for the mother and father of a child who attended a Lower Moreland school even though they lived in Philadelphia.  "I admit I unlawfully enrolled my child in the Lower Moreland School District," Hamlet Garcia, 42, told Judge Garrett D. Page after pleading guilty to a lesser charge that averted a trial and a possible prison sentence if a jury had convicted him.
"Even though you might want better schools," Page told Garcia, "you can't rip off the taxpayers" who finance the public education system in Lower Moreland.

“This won't benefit District parents and students, but rather operators and administrators of non-District-run schools. By allowing the public school system to promote seats and place students in non-district schools, the District would lose even more students and funding, much to its detriment.”
Blindsided by Philly universal enrollment plan: How did we get here?
Notebook by Christine Carlson on Jan 29 2014 Posted in Commentary
Christine Carlson is a public school parent and the founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition.
It came in like a wrecking ball ...
I’ve been subjected to hearing my 10-year-old daughter play Miley Cyrus’ song "Wrecking Ball" many times. Some parents hear this song and envision the provocative music video. I’ve come to relate it to the universal enrollment plan being proposed for Philadelphia's schools. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was blindsided.  I consider myself a fairly informed public school parent. I attend School Reform Commission meetings, participate in various workgroups, and faithfully read this publication's morning news roundup. So when the Great Schools Compact, an education-reform initiative that seeks to replace poor-performing seats with high-quality alternatives, released its agreement at the end of 2011, I didn’t recall any red flags about universal enrollment as a plan to privatize the School District’s placement office and assign students to one school. 

Civil rights hero launches ‘American Child’s Education Bill of Rights’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by VALERIE STRAUSS  January 29 at 3:20 pm
Calling modern school reform “catastrophically misguided and ineffective,” civil rights icon James Meredith is launching what he calls the American Child’s Education Bill of Rights, a 12-point declaration of obligations that he says the nation owes every public school child.

“Early education is one of the best tools for breaking the poverty-to-poverty trap. Unfortunately, it only works if it’s high quality, and high quality is expensive. Yet very little of this newfound enthusiasm comes with serious money attached.”
How Preschool Got Hot
New York Times Opinion by Gail Collins JAN. 29, 2014
All of a sudden, early childhood education is really, really popular. Everybody’s favorite. If early childhood education were an actor, it would be Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep. If it were a video game, it would be Candy Crush or Angry Birds, minus the spyware.  The other night at the State of the Union speech, President Obama mentioned “high-quality early education” and John Boehner applauded. Boehner applauded early education! Paul Ryan likes it, too. Prekindergarten is so in, the guys on “Duck Dynasty” would probably have a good word for it.
Kudos, guys! We certainly don’t want to complain about this.

Pre-K, the Great Debate
New York Times Opinion Nicholas Kristof JAN. 29, 2014
Against all odds, prekindergarten is gaining ground.
President Obama called again in his State of the Union address for Congress to support high-quality preschool for all, noting that 30 states are already moving ahead on this front (including New York).  “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” Obama said. The House speaker, John Boehner, who sat stonily through most of Obama’s speech, applauded that line. Congress also unexpectedly increased financing this year for early education.  Aside from apple pie, preschool may also be the only issue on which voters agree. A poll last year found that 60 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats support expansion of prekindergarten. Republican-led states like Oklahoma have been leaders in early education for a simple reason: It works.

How to Get More Early Bloomers
New York Times Opinion By DANIEL T. WILLINGHAM and DAVID W. GRISSMER JAN. 29, 2014
WHEN New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, went to Albany earlier this week to talk about his program for universal preschool, the discussion reportedly focused on funding, not on whether or how preschool would actually help children. President Obama seemed equally confident when he introduced his plan for universal preschool last year, flatly stating, “We know this works.” But the state of research is actually much murkier. And unless policy makers begin to design preschool programs in ways that can be evaluated later, the situation won’t get any clearer.

Strauss: U.S. Education Dept. decides Politico Pro costs too much
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss January 30,2014
The U.S. Education Department wanted to buy an annual subscription toPOLITICO Pro to read its education coverage but decided that it was too expensive.  According to this solicitation , the department’s Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) wanted to “purchase a subscription to POLITICO Pro, a subscription-based news service distributed by email and accessible online.” It says:

Strauss: Education Department changes charter school lottery rules
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog by Valerie Strauss January 29,2014
The Education Department on Wednesday released new guidance that allows charter schools receiving federal funds to change their student admissions lotteries so that low-income and educationally disadvantaged students can have more weight in an effort to create more integrated schools. Explaining the changes in this post are Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter, both of The Century Foundation and co-authors of “A Better Direction for Charter Schools: Restoring the Original Vision of Charter Schools by Empowering Teachers and Integrating Students,” due out later this year from Teachers College Press.

Register Now! EPLC’s 2014 Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters
EPLC’s Education Issue Workshops Register Now! – Space is Limited!
A Non-Partisan One-Day Program for Pennsylvania Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff and Interested Voters
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 in Harrisburg, PA
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 in Monroeville, PA
Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Philadelphia,PA

Come to Harrisburg February 4th for the Governor's Budget Address
Show your School Spirit with PCCY!
On February 4th the Governor will introduce his budget plan for 2014-2015.  Based on past performance, the next budget may do little to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s public school students.  School districts in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery remain underfunded by the state by a combined $161 million.  That is why we need YOU to stand up for your school in Harrisburg on February 4th to demand equitable funding for our schools.  To really make our point, please wear local school colors, jackets or sweatshirts to show your school spirit!  
Click here to sign-up and get details.  For more information please email Shanee Garner-Nelson at

PDE chief Dumaresq LIVE budget presentation, PSBA Conference Center, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m
PSBA’s website 1/13/2014
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq will be at the PSBA Conference Center on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. to present a special state budget overview.
Find out how the proposals of the fiscal year 2014-15 Pennsylvania budget impact your school district the day after the governor delivers his address to the General Assembly. Secretary Dumaresq will review the governor's plan and answer your questions. In addition to the live presentation, members across the state also can participate through streaming media on their computers.
To register for the LIVE event, Wed., Feb. 5, 2 p.m., at the PSBA Conference Center, Mechanicsburg:

Auditor General DePasquale to Hold Public Meetings on Ways to Improve Charter Schools
Seeks to find ways to improve accountability, effectiveness, transparency
The public meetings will be held:
  • Allegheny County: 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25, Commissioners Hearing Room, Ross Township Municipal Center, 1000 Ross Municipal Rd., Pittsburgh
  • Northampton County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 27, City Council Chambers, 6th Floor, City Hall, One South Third St., Easton
  • Cambria County: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, March 6, Commissioners Meeting Room, Cambria County Court House, 200 South Center St., Ebensburg
  • Bucks County: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 7, Township of Falls Administrative Building, Suite 100, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills
  • NEW: Philadelphia: 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 14, City Council Chambers, Room 400, City Hall
Time is limited to two hours for each meeting. Comments can be submitted in writing by Wednesday, Feb. 19, via email to Susan Woods at:

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools invites you to a screening and discussion of "Standardized: Lies, Money, and Civil Rights".
Thursday, February 6 - 6:00 p.m.Ritz East - 125 S. 2nd St. Philadelphia, PA

The DCIU Google Symposium is an opportunity for teachers, administrators, technology directors, and other school stakeholders to come together and explore the power of Google Apps for Education.  The Symposium will be held at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.  The Delaware County Intermediate Unit is one of Pennsylvania’s 29 regional educational agencies.  The day will consist of an opening keynote conducted by Rich Kiker followed by 4 concurrent sessions. 

NPE National Conference 2014

The Network for Public Education
The Network for Public Education is pleased to announce our first National Conference. The event will take place on March 1 & 2, 2014 (the weekend prior to the world-famous South by Southwest Festival) at The University of Texas at Austin.  At the NPE National Conference 2014, there will be panel discussions, workshops, and a keynote address by Diane Ravitch. NPE Board members – including Anthony Cody, Leonie Haimson, and Julian Vasquez Heilig – will lead discussions along with some of the important voices of our movement.

The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition April 5-7, 2014 New Orleans
The National School Boards Association 74th Annual Conference & Exposition will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.  Our first time back in New Orleans since the spring of 2002!
General Session speakers include education advocates Thomas L. Friedman, Sir Ken Robinson, as well as education innovators Nikhil Goyal and Angela Maiers.
We have more than 200 sessions planned! Colleagues from across the country will present workshops on key topics with strategies and ideas to help your district. View our Conference Brochure for highlights on sessions and focus presentations.
·                             Register now! – Register for both the conference and housing using our online system.
·                            Conference Information– Visit the NSBA conference website for up-to-date information
·                             Hotel List and Map - Official NSBA Housing Block
·                             Exposition Campus – View new products and services and interactive trade show floor
Questions? Contact NSBA at 800-950-6722 (NSBA) between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST

Join the National School Boards Action Center Friends of Public Education
Participate in a voluntary network to urge your U.S. Representatives and Senators to support federal legislation on Capitol Hill that is critical to providing high quality education to America’s schoolchildren

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