Saturday, March 29, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 29, 2014: Does this sound like "thorough and efficient" to you?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 29, 2014:
Does this sound like "thorough and efficient" to you?

Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Public School System Section 14.
The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.

Does this sound like "thorough and efficient" to you?
"Back in 2008-09, not long after it opened, the school had just 240 students, compared with 814 this year.  But today, Palumbo has just a single counselor and only a three-day-per-week nurse, same as five years ago.   There's just one secretary at the school—that's one less than five years ago.  And now, Palumbo has no assistant principal, no librarian, next to nothing for extracurricular activities, a dramatically reduced budget for supplies ... the list goes on.  Add it all up, and what you get is not nearly enough to provide Palumbo students with the basic supports they deserve, such as algebra tutoring, or friendly advice, or medical care, or college guidance, or the assurance of a safe passage home."  …."Perhaps the saddest reality of all is the lack of fight: Too many in the city now seem resigned to wait a year or more in the hope that a new governor or a new mayor might muster the will to eliminate what officials describe as a $300 million annual structural deficit."
Desperate Times for Schools in the City of Brotherly Love
Education Week Digital Educatiion Blog By Benjamin Herold on March 28, 2014 12:40 PM
Balloons rained down from the balcony. The 11th graders gathered in the auditorium screamed in delight.  And I couldn't help but feel profoundly sad.
Such is life in Philadelphia, my adopted hometown and former professional stomping grounds, where hundreds of public schools and tens of thousands of children have been left largely on their own to forage and fundraise for the basics of modern education.

Report: Absence of school funding formula in PA costs Pottstown $5 million a year
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 03/28/14, 6:45 PM EDT
POTTSTOWN — Borough property owners would be off the hook for generating more than $5 million in school funding this year if the state funding formula abandoned by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2010 were still in place, according to a report.  Further, as a result of that formula’s absence in calculating state education funding, Pottstown has lost more state aid in the past few years than almost any other district in Montgomery County, the report found.  At $2.5 million, only Norristown schools lost more in the last three years than the $1.5 million in state funding Pottstown has lost since 2010-11, the study found.  In an attempt to reverse the problems highlighted in that study, the Pottstown School Board on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Harrisburg to establish “a fair and equitable school funding formula.”

Pa. property tax reform needs stakeholders' support
Pottstown Mercury Editorial 03/21/14, 9:43 AM EDT
The property tax as a means of funding public schools in Pennsylvania needs to change.
The system creates an educational disparity by funding public schools based on the value of real estate, hence the phrase, “education by zip code.”  And, the tax burden, particularly in older towns and rural areas, makes it difficult for those on fixed incomes to stay in their homes and for young people to buy homes.  The property tax discourages small businesses from relocating into areas where the tax burden is high, continuing the cycle of homeowners bearing the brunt of school funding.  In the face of these issues, many want to eliminate the property tax, landing one knockout punch that helps senior citizens, schools and struggling communities in one fell swoop. As editorial writers for the Pennsylvania Digital First Media editorial board, we would like that, too. But it’s not that simple.

Rolling in Dough, or Debt?
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey March 27, 2014
To hear Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of education, Carolyn Dumaresq, tell it, our school districts are rolling in dough. In an op-ed piece this week she said the proposed “2014-15 budget dedicates a record $12.01 billion for Pennsylvania’s early, basic and postsecondary education system.” [Indiana Gazette, 3-23-14] I like how you can roll three program areas together and get one giant-big-huge sounding number. Oh my gosh! Twelve billion!
Politicians apparently like to roll things together. It reminds me of when Gov. Corbett rolled a bunch of line items together in the K-12 “basic education” budget a couple years ago and then went around claiming he had “increased” K-12 funding, while overall he had slashed it by close to $1 billion. [See “The Truth About the Numbers”] Oh wait a minute. The administration is still making these outlandish claims. In her piece, Dr. Dumaresq repeated Gov. Corbett’s old story, saying, “Since taking office, Corbett has increased support of public schools by $1.55 billion.”

Summit stresses impact of early education on future workforce
Local educators attended Friday
The summit was the inaugural event of an initiative to develop an action plan for improving access to and results of early childhood education — pre-kindergarten through the early elementary years — in Franklin County, and therefore improving the county's workforce and economy. Early childhood education was one of 29 indicators included in the Franklin County Prosperity Report a couple of years ago, and one of three areas that local leaders decided to focus on in hopes of making a difference for the community, said Dave Sciamanna, president of the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.  The chamber hosted the summit, in cooperation with Franklin County Government, United Way of Franklin County and Franklin County Area Development Corp.

Corbett Named Most Vulnerable Gov
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Contributing Writer March 28,2014
Governor Tom Corbett finds himself in the midst of a streak about as sad as that faced by the Philadelphia 76ers. For the ninth straight month, the Washington Post rated Gov. Corbett the number one most vulnerable governor in the 2014 midterm elections.
The Post’s political blog The Fix published the following entry:
1. Pennsylvania (R): Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is still the most vulnerable governor in the country. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed voters said he doesn’t deserve reelection by 55-34 percent. Former state revenue secretary Tom Wolf has emerged as the Democratic frontrunner, and he led the incumbent 52-33 in the same poll. Ouch. (Previous ranking: 1)

In Philly, Democratic guv candidates make a play for young voters
By John L. Micek | on March 28, 2014 at 10:29 PM
(*This story was updated to include comment from the re-election campaign of Gov. Tom Corbett)
PHILADELPHIA _ They’re the ones who are supposed to be staying home.  But on Friday, the 2014 pack of Democrats looking to send Gov. Gov. Tom Corbett back to the private sector made a direct play for the hearts and minds of the coveted 18-24 vote in one of the first official debates of this year’s still-young primary season.  Two-term state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13th District, and former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf of York County faced about 150 young voters who gathered in Temple University’s student center for the two-hour event sponsored by the Pennsylvania College Democrats . 
…..On the hot-button topic of charter schools, the candidates agreed that public school students needed options, but they voiced concerns about the way the alternative public schools are funded. They also expressed reservations about the proliferation of cyber-charter programs.  “We’ve had too many situations of abuse,” said McGinty, who called for more transparency and accountability in the way the schools operate. McGinty also said “no to tax dollars going to schools that are operated by for-profit companies.”  Schwartz acknowledged the role charters play, but called for strengthening all of the state’s public schools. The next governor “has to figure out what’s smart, where we can take money,” such as the money spent on cyber-charters, and funnel it into early childhood education programs.   Wolf also expressed concerns about the way the schools are funded and said he was concerned charter movement represented an effort “to privatize public education.”McCord dismissed charters, in general, as a “rip-off,” even as he acknowledged that “there are some very good charter schools and some deeply flawed charter schools.”

Pennsylvania gubernatorial debate gives hint of Democrats' leadership styles
The four candidates seeking to unseat Corbett spar at Temple University.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 10:54 p.m. EDT, March 28, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — It took a college setting to bring a little life to what had been a bland series of election forums for the Democratic candidates for governor.
Music pumped, questions were unscripted, the crowd of students and others was eager and lively, and the four candidates were animated in a debate Friday night at Temple University.
The candidates ripped each other at times. They differed on whether college athletes should be unionized and paid. All called cyber charter schools taxpayer rip-offs.   But perhaps the most telling answer the candidates gave came when the moderator, Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political science professor G. Terry Madonna, asked how, if they win election, they would work with a Republican-controlled Legislature to keep gridlock at bay. Answers gave a hint at their would-be leadership styles.
Democrats for Pa. governor target charter schools
Lancaster Online by Associated Press Friday, March 28, 2014 9:03 pm
The four Democratic gubernatorial candidates on Friday promised to take a hard line against charter and cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania, from pulling the plug on ones that struggle to educate to refusing public dollars for ones operated by private companies.  Across the board, the candidates saved their biggest criticism for cyber charter schools, but also made it clear that some of the more traditional cyber schools are failing and unworthy of taxpayer money. They spoke at a two-hour forum at the annual convention of the Pennsylvania College Democrats at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Some pointed out that charter schools, despite several years of debate in the Legislature, are not accountable to state ethics and open records laws, and they echoed longstanding complaints in the Legislature that charter schools are overcompensated for their actual costs, such as pensions.  All four are public school boosters, while Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has battled public school teachers unions and sought to promote private, parochial and charter schools. He also has drawn heavy criticism for his budget-balancing cuts to schools in his first budget year, 2011.

Arise Academy Charter issues detailed
PHILADELPHIA The Philadelphia School District on Friday outlined a litany of academic, financial, and management problems that it said warrant closing the nation's first charter school for students in foster care.  District staffers involved with charter-school oversight testified that Arise Academy Charter High School has been beset with problems with truancy, absenteeism, and dropouts. Throughout a six-hour hearing, they said that the school had never met state academic standards and that its 11th-grade test scores rank in the bottom 5 percent among high-poverty schools in the state.

PSBA analysis shows charter schools continue to underperform
PSBA is sending to all legislators its report on the academic performance of traditional and charter schools, with results showing that charter schools continue to academically underperform traditional public schools. An analysis of the PA Department of Education’s (PDE) system of rating the performance of public schools using School Performance Profiles (SPP)  indicate that less than half of the brick and mortar charter schools met passing benchmark scores, and none of the cyber charter schools met the mark. Nearly three-quarters of traditional public schools, however, earned passing scores in the first year of the new measuring system.

U.S. Representative Grijalva stands with NPE in call for hearings on testing! 
Network for Public Education NPE Newsletter - March 28, 2014
Six-term Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has responded to NPE's call for Congressional hearings.  Representative Grijalva released the following statement in support of NPE's call for action.
"The need for an impartial and transparent hearing on mandatory testing and privatization efforts directed at public education, is critical.  We need to have an open discussion about the dismantling of public education. I hope the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will hold hearings that allow our public schools and the families they serve the opportunity to have an open and honest hearing."
Over the next week, we are asking our Friends & Allies to call members of Congress to voice support for Congressional hearings. Phone, email, or tweet the need for Congressional hearings. Below are links to the websites of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate where you can find contact info for Congressional delegation.

"The U.S. is the only economically advanced nation to rely heavily on multiple-choice tests," according to Fair Test. "Other nations use performance-based assessment to evaluate students on the basis of real work such as essays, projects and activities. Ironically, because these nations do not focus on teaching to multiple-choice and short-answer tests, they score higher on international exams."
Our opinion: Negative consequences of standardized tests
Brattleboro Vt. Reformer Editorial POSTED:   03/28/2014 03:00:00 AM EDT
There has been much debate over the years concerning the use and over-emphasis on standardized testing in our schools.  While assessing a school's performance and how well our children are learning are important, more and more parents and educators argue that the tests are biased and produce skewed results that label schools as failing. Instead of improving the quality of education our children receive, this has only led to diminishing morale among teachers and increasing stress on the very children the tests are supposed to help.  A veteran teacher in Massachusetts articulated these frustrations best when she submitted her letter of resignation last month to the Cambridge Public Schools.  "I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them," wrote Susan Sluyter, whose letter has been garnering national attention. "Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best -- and in the way child development experts recommend."

Why Do Corporate Reformers Hate Democracy?
Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody on March 27, 2014 11:15 AM
Back in the 1950s, we were told that the communists wanted to destroy democracy. I am not sure what the communists ever did to hurt democracy in America, but the corporate backers of charter schools are making some real headway.  Their target is the power of elected school boards and even the mayor of the nation's biggest city. In New York City, according to the New York Daily News, financiers have poured close to $4 million into ads attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio for revoking the carte blanche that the previous mayoral administration had given to charter schools. 
Though corporate reformers like Bill Gates were huge fans of mayoral control of schools when their man was the mayor, there is now a drive  to strip Mayor de Blasio of his power, led by New York governor Andrew Cuomo.  In Indiana, the governor has similarly sought to remove powerfrom the elected state superintendent of education, Glenda Ritz, even though she was the top vote-getter in the 2012 election. The only consistent pattern is the effort to remove power from anyone who might not carry out their will.

The Pennsylvania PTA 105th annual statewide convention April 4-6, 2014, at the Radisson Valley Forge/King of Prussia.
Pennsylvania PTA Harrisburg, Pa. March 21, 2014
Delegates from local PTA units, councils, and regions throughout the state will gather to give direction to the State PTA on issues of resolutions, bylaws, and timely topics being addressed around education and child advocacy.  The convention format will include a Diversity Leadership Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness and Prevention, twenty (20) workshops on timely issues, networking time with other delegates, an exhibit hall, a Reflections Gallery showcasing student artwork, and the opportunity to hear keynote speakers and representatives from the National PTA and other statewide partnering organizations from Pennsylvania. Complete details for registration may be obtained at the Pennsylvania PTA website at

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Democratic candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania
Tuesday, April 8th  at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 515 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15206

Sign up for weekly Testing Resistance & Reform News and Updates!
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

PSBA nominations for offices now open!  Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA.  Complete details on the nomination process, links to the Application for Nomination form, and scheduled dates for nominee interviews can be found online by clicking here.
How the Business Community Can Lead on Early Education
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Join business and community leaders to learn about how you can help make sure every child arrives in kindergarten ready to succeed. On April 29th, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will host a forum featuring business leaders from around the country talking about why they’re focused on early childhood education and how they have moved the needle on improving quality and access in their states.
Featured Speakers
  • Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus of The Vanguard Group
  • Phil Peterson, Partner, Aon Hewitt and Co-Chair of America’s Edge/Ready Nation
  • And more to be announced! 
  • Date & Time Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | 5-7 PM
Registration begins at 5 PM; program from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Location Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
10 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Tuesday, April 29th, 12-4 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th, 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

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.

Network for Public Education's Pennsylvania Friends and Allies:
@the chalkface               
Angie Villa Art & Education
Keystone State Education Coalition
Parents United for Public Education
Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education  
Philly Teacherman           
Raging Chicken Press     


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