Monday, August 11, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 11: Research for Action: Examining Philadelphia School Trends

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 11, 2014:
Research for Action: Examining Philadelphia School Trends

5 Things to Know About the Philly School Funding Crisis
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on August 8, 2014

ELC Statement on School District of Philadelphia Budget Crisis
Education Law Center News Alert | Aug. 8, 2014 by -Rhonda Brownstein, Executive Director
We're deeply concerned about delaying the opening of Philadelphia's public schools.
Unfortunately, Gov. Corbett's Aug. 6 announcement regarding an advancement of already budgeted funds to the District does not address the District's overall funding gap, it simply accelerates an established payment.
The District still requires $81 million to operate at a minimal level.
We do appreciate the Governor's effort to have legislators return to the Capitol before Sept. 8 and approve a local tax measure that would generate the needed revenue for the Philadelphia schools. It is critical at this point that legislators heed that call and return to the Capitol to approve that legislation.
All of our District leaders and staff members, and tens of thousands of Philadelphia families and children, need to know as soon as possible if their schools will open on time.

Philly parents anxiously await funding - and decision on opening of schools
By Kevin McCorry for WHYY/Newsworks on Aug 8, 2014 06:42 PM
Decision day looms on the horizon.  In one week, the Philadelphia School District will announce its plans to deal with its $81 million budget gap.
Without additional funding, Superintendent William Hite says he will be forced to choose between two bad options: either lay off 1,300 staffers, mostly teachers, or save money by shortening the school year.  This could happen by opening schools late or closing early.
Either way, by forgoing the state-mandated 180-day school calendar, the District would be sending a bold message to the Corbett administration and Pennsylvania lawmakers who have spent the summer squabbling over the Philadelphia cigarette tax authorization bill – the District's best hope for a relatively large and immediate cash infusion.

Research for Action: Examining Philadelphia School Trends
Research for Action August 8, 2014
Philadelphia’s school funding situation has emerged as a central issue in state policy discussions. The debate in recent weeks has focused on city’s authority to raise taxes on cigarettes. More systemic questions on whether the school system has enough money, or too much money, have been a common springboard for debate in the state capitol for at least two decades.
The Commonwealth Foundation, an organization with a stated mission of crafting free-market policies and countering “attacks on liberty,” released a brief on Philadelphia school trends that received prominent attention in the local press. These “Policy Points” are misleading, inaccurate and devoid of context needed for an informed understanding of what is happening in the city's schools.
The main arguments presented in the brief are:
 “Revenue and spending have soared over the last 10 years,”
 “Despite spending more on education, performance is lagging,”
 Student “enrollment has declined more rapidly than staff,”
 And, “Systemic reform is needed”
We examine each point below, drawing on our own analysis of school trends in Philadelphia supplemented with existing research from reputable, non-partisan organizations to help inform this important dialogue.

Here's a bit of background on the Commonwealth Foundation

The Commonwealth Foundation's CEO was a member of Governor Corbett's Education Transition Team

State releases first performance scores for school districts
Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 9, 2014 12:28 AM
In response to a Right to Know request, the state Department of Education has released school district academic performance scores that the governor had wanted to use to determine how schools spend state block grant money.  The School Performance Profile scores for 2012-13 show North Allegheny at the top in Allegheny County at 99.7 and tied for third in the state. Wilkinsburg is at the bottom of the county and the state with a score of 45.4.
The highest possible score is 107 points, counting 7 extra-credit points. The highest score in the state was 100 in Radnor Township in Delaware County.

Corbett accused of 'ghost' hire, sparks state review
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, 11:09 p.m.
HARRISBURG — The state Attorney General's Office is reviewing a letter from a former Democratic legislator that asks for an investigation of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's decision to keep his former education secretary on the state payroll at $139,000 for more than a year, with little evidence publicly provided of his work.  J.J. Abbott, spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, said he could “neither confirm nor deny an investigation” into the position held by former Secretary Ron Tomalis, who became the governor's adviser on special education in July 2013. He's paid the same amount as acting Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq.
The letter from former Rep. Sean Ramaley, 39, of Marshall seeks an investigation into alleged “theft of tax dollars.”  When he was attorney general, Corbett charged Ramaley, then representing Beaver County, with being a “ghost employee” in the office of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon. A Dauphin County jury acquitted Ramaley in December 2009.
“Dumaresq and her boss Gov. Tom Corbett have offered verbal assurances that amount to little more than "trust me."
Ghost employee? Pennsylvanians need an independent answer: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board on August 10, 2014 at 5:14 AM
What exactly is Gov. Tom Corbett's "education adviser" Ron Tomalis doing to justify his $139,542 salary?  Thanks to reporting by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvanians have plenty of reason to wonder.  Fifteen months ago, Corbett pushed Tomalis aside as education secretary and plopped him in a newly invented state job as "special adviser for higher education" with no cut in pay.  The Post-Gazette, using the state Right to Know Law, asked the Corbett administration to provide written evidence of Tomalis' work as education adviser.

“Many state and local retirement plans are on an unsustainable course, having failed to set aside enough money to fund the promises they have made.  To inform state policymaking, Pew provides  research on the fiscal challenges state and cities face as a result of their pension and retiree health promises.”
Public Sector Retirement Systems
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Many state and local retirement plans are on an unsustainable course, having failed to set aside enough money to fund the promises they have made.  To inform state policymaking, Pew provides  research on the fiscal challenges state and cities face as a result of their pension and retiree health promises. With the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the project also offers technical assistance to states and municipalities as they undertake pension and retiree health care reforms to ensure their public sector retirement systems are affordable and sustainable, provide a secure retirement for workers, and preserve governments' ability to recruit and retain a talented public-sector workforce.

"The campaigns are negotiating over the general-election debate schedule and declined to confirm any details. But neither side suggested its candidate would not attend the Hershey dinner."
Meeting in Hershey could be first Wolf, Corbett debate
PennLive By The Associated Press on August 08, 2014 at 12:59 PM, updated August 08, 2014 at 1:30 PM
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry dinner in Hershey next month is shaping up as the likely venue for the first debate between Gov. Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf.
The Sept. 22 dinner and debate is to include a keynote speech by retired NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.  The group's president and CEO, Gene Barr, said Friday he's "pretty confident" that Republican Corbett and Democrat Wolf will square off before an expected crowd of about 1,600 business leaders and lawmakers.  The annual dinner has become the traditional kickoff for Pennsylvania's gubernatorial debates every four years.

5 things Gov. Tom Corbett should do to win the governor's race
PennLive By Christina Kauffman | on August 08, 2014 at 11:04 AM, updated August 08, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Polls have shown Gov. Tom Corbett trailing Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by double-digit margins. But he's got 87 days until the Nov. 4 election to change that.  PennLive asked political analysts and campaign strategist what 5 thingsCorbett should do to erase that gap and win a second term in November.  We also asked what 5 things they thought Wolf could do to maintain his lead and win his bid for the governor's office. Follow this link to read their advice for him.
Here's their advice for Corbett:

5 things Tom Wolf should do to win the governor's race
PennLive By Christina Kauffman |  on August 08, 2014 at 11:03 AM, updated August 08, 2014 at 11:57 AM
Various polls have shown York County businessman Tom Wolf maintaining a healthy lead in the race for the governor's office since the May primary.  With 87 days to go until the Nov. 4 general election, PennLive asked political analysts and campaign strategists what 5 things the Democratic challenger should do to increase his chances for victory in November.
We also asked what 5 things they thought Gov. Tom Corbett could do to win his battle to stay in the governor's office. Follow this link to read their advice for him.
Here's their advice for Wolf:

Response mounts to proposed cash advance for schools
Philly Trib Written by Damon C. Williams August 8, 2014
City stakeholders and statewide legislators are telling Gov. Tom Corbett that his plan to advance $264 million to the beleaguered School District of Philadelphia will do little to help the schools open on time or balance its budget.  City Controller Alan Butkovitz said the advance payment only places “another bandage” over a very deep wound.
“[This advance] doesn’t allow the School District of Philadelphia to properly budget and prepare a financial plan. If the district moves forward with more staff reductions, it will not be able to recall those employees once the layoffs begin,” Butkovitz said, echoing comments the controller made in a recent letter sent to Corbett. “As the city of Philadelphia’s fiscal watchdog, my office monitors the millions of dollars in locally generated tax revenues the city provides to the district. These are funds that support essential educational needs for students.”

Parkland School District officials, teachers reach tentative deal on new contract
By Precious Petty | The Express-Times  on August 08, 2014 at 6:47 PM, updated August 08, 2014 at 6:50 PM
Parkland officials have reached a tentative agreement with the school district's teachers.
Superintendent Richard Sniscak and Parkland Education Association President Sandra Gackenbach announced in a joint statement released this evening that a deal supported by school directors is imminent.  Details of the agreement will be shared with the union's membership on Aug. 18, officials said. The education association represents about 600 people, including teachers, nurses and guidance counselors.  Teachers and school directors are scheduled to vote on the contract Aug. 26, which falls a week before Parkland's first day of school. The agreement's terms will be announced in early September, officials said.

Saucon teachers' latest contract proposal carries roughly 7 percent raises, board attorney says
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on August 08, 2014 at 4:59 PM, updated August 08, 2014 at 5:38 PM
Saucon Valley teachers' latest three-year contract proposal carries approximate raises of 7 percent per year, including longevity and education-based raises, according to the attorney representing the school board.  The Saucon Valley Education Association, which previously went on strike in 2008 and 2009, and school board have been contentiously negotiating for almost three years on a new contract. The last contract expired June 30, 2012.  The board agreed to meet with an independent fact finder at the behest of teachers but the union then rejected the resulting recommendations.

“For the first time ever, U.S. public schools are projected this fall to have more minority students than non-Hispanic whites enrolled, a shift largely fueled by growth in the number of Hispanic children.
Non-Hispanic white students are still expected to be the largest racial group in the public schools this year at 49.8 percent. But the National Center for Education Statistics says minority students, when added together, will now make up the majority.”
White students no longer to be majority in school
Inquirer by KIMBERLY HEFLING, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS August 9, 2014, 9:11 AM
KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) - The cheerful sign outside Jane Cornell's summer school classroom in Pennsylvania's wealthiest county says "Welcome" and "Bienvenidos" in polished handwriting.  Inside, giggling grade-schoolers who mostly come from homes where Spanish is the primary language worked on storytelling with a tale about a crocodile going to the dentist. The children and their classroom at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center, near both mushroom farms and the borough's bucolic red-brick downtown, are a subtle reminder of America's changing school demographics.

"As John Chamberlin, professor emeritus of public policy at the University of Michigan, said: “When you say, ‘Line up here and you can scam the state,’ you shouldn’t be surprised if people line up and scam the state.”
How will charter schools deal with their corruption scandals?
Washington Post By Mark Palko August 8 at 10:00 AM
 Charter schools were originally conceived as centers of experimentation and innovation where educators could try new approaches quickly on a small scale with a minimum of paperwork. Many charters have lived up to that promise, but that same openness that allows new ideas to flourish may also have left the sector vulnerable to a dangerous level of corruption.
For decades, Michigan and Florida have been on the cutting edge of shifting public education into the private sector. These policies were based on a deeply held and often explicitly stated belief that choice and market forces could net only solve education’s problems but could also alleviate much of the need for regulation.
Now recent investigations from the Detroit Free Press, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, and the Florida League of Women Voters have painted a troubling picture of two out-of-control charter school systems.

Fiddling With Schools While Our Nation Burns
Huffington Post by Steve Nelson, Head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan Posted: 08/06/2014 3:29 pm EDT Updated: 08/06/2014 3:59 pm EDT
In the '60s I graduated from one of America's top-ranked public high schools. Among its great assets was the school orchestra, also considered among the nation's finest ensembles.
The truth is that the school had very little to do with the fine orchestra. In fact I can't recall a single orchestra member who learned to play an instrument in the school. Most of the advanced violinists, including I, studied with the same teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Many of the school orchestra members came from musical families and frequently attended Cleveland Orchestra concerts.  The assumption, of course, was that the school had a superb music program. I can't recall anything good about it at all, other than that it was populated by kids who could already play.

"For decades, the contract between parents and public schools was tightly  drawn.  It read, “Help us teach our  children what they need to know to succeed.” Now it’s changed. Now  it reads, “Raise our kids!”
The Ever Increasing Burden on America’s Public Schools
Jamie Vollmer's website
This is a story about America and America’s public schools. Specifically, it’s about how we, as a society, have changed what we ask our public schools to do. How we respond to this story will affect everyone’s future whether or not we have children in school.
America’s first schools appeared in the early 1640s. They were designed to teach young people—originally, white boys—basic reading, writing, and arithmetic while cultivating values that served a new democratic society. The founders of these schools assumed that families and churches bore the major responsibility for raising a child. During the 1700s, some civics, history, science, and geography were introduced, but the curriculum was limited and remained focused for 150 years.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, America’s leaders saw public schools as the logical place to select and sort young people into two groups—thinkers and doers—according to the needs of the industrial age. It was at this time that we began to shift non-academic duties to the schools. The trend has accelerated ever since.

National School Boards Action Center August 06, 2014 by Staff
Members of Congress return to their hometowns to meet with constituents locally and on September 8 they return to Washington, D.C.  As a public education advocate, you can help to influence their decisions and votes on legislation affecting your local public schools by reaching out to your members of Congress.  They will be especially interested in your concerns as this is an election year for the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the Senate.
Read the latest on federal education issues on Capitol Hill  in the NSBAC August Congressional Recess Talking Points and then contact  your members of Congress during the August recess.  You can call your members’ offices using the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 or use the National School Boards Association’s legislative action center at  Consider becoming a Friend of Public Education to connect with National School Boards Action Center’s advocacy efforts and stay active year round.

Save the Date 2014 PAESSP State Conference October 19-21, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PAESSP State Conference, “PRINCIPAL EFFECTIVENESS: Leading Schools in a New Age of Accountability,” to be held October 19-21 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Featuring Keynote Speakers: Alan November, Michael Fullan & Dr. Ray Jorgensen
This year’s conference will provided PIL Act 45 hours, numerous workshops, exhibits, multiple resources and an opportunity to network with fellow principals from across the state.

Interested in education policy? CPE has got the internship for you!
The EDifier August 6, 2014
The Center for Public Education seeks a policy research intern to work closely with CPE’s senior policy analyst in conducting education policy research. CPE is a national resource for accurate, timely, and credible information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools.  Primary duties include: Complete a major project such as a research report or writing a research article for NSBA’s magazine American School Board Journal. Other responsibilities include summarizing findings of significant education reports, updating CPE’s previous reports, and attending briefings/conferences in the Washington, DC area.

Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools Posted on August 4, 2014by wearepcaps
Forty Thousand Philadelphia registered voters signed a petition this Spring to put the question of returning our schools to local control and abolishing the School Reform Commission on the ballot in the form of a non-binding referendum. But before this can happen City Council and the Mayor and have to approve. Come to the town meeting to find out how returning our schools to local control can improve education and how can bring pressure on our elected officials to let the people vote on this important question.

Upcoming meetings on Philly District's school redesign initiative
the notebook By Marilyn Vaccaro on Jul 30, 2014 05:14 PM
The School District is planning a series of meetings and discussions about its new school redesign initiative, which was announced last week.  Two informational sessions will be held, with  the second on Aug. 12. Those who participate will be able to learn more about the application process and the specifics of the initiative itself.   Through the initiative, the District is calling on teams of educators, parents, community groups, and other outside organizations to propose their own school turnaround plans. Ten winning design teams will be chosen in October and will receive grants of $30,000 to support planning costs.

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference registration forms now available online
PSBA Website
Make plans today to attend the most talked about education conference of the year. This year's PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference promises to be one of the best with new ideas, innovations, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers. More details are being added every day. Online registration will be available in the next few weeks. If you just can't wait, registration forms are available online now. Other important links are available with more details on:
·         Hotel registration (reservation deadline extended to Sept. 26)
·         Educational Publications Contest (deadline Aug. 6)
·         Student Celebration Showcase (deadline Sept. 19)
·         Poster and Essay Contest (deadline Sept. 19)

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online -- bios/videos now live
PSBA Website August 5, 2014

The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for each candidate. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openSept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to cast the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes will be receiving an email in the coming weeks to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to cast the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

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