Tuesday, August 5, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 5: About that $4.3 Billion in Reserve Funds….

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 5, 2014:
About that $4.3 Billion in Reserve Funds….

"It is irresponsible and indefensible to hold the children of Philadelphia hostage in these kinds of internecine political battles."
Pa. Legislature shrugs off Philadelphia school crisis: PennLive Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board  on August 04, 2014 at 12:33 PM, updated August 04, 2014 at 6:16 PM
You can say this for the Pennsylvania Legislature: At times, it makes the dysfunctional agglomeration of warring politicians known as the U.S. Congress look like a harmonious, sleek-running machine.  At one point, Monday was supposed to be a day of work for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  House leaders had planned to take up a bill that would let the city of Philadelphia proceed with a $2 a pack cigarette tax, which would prevent schools there from having to send another thousand or so employees packing and jam upwards of 40 kids into a class.  But the House chamber sat empty. Pennsylvania's supposedly full-time legislators remained scattered across the state and beyond, enjoying a six-week summer break from work in the Capitol.

"I don't care if the Republicans don't want to help the Democrats or vice versa. Philadelphia's kids aren't Democrats or Republicans, so stop worrying about politics and parties and help Philadelphia's kids."
Philadelphia student pleads for help from the cigarette tax: PennLive letters
Letters to the Editor by Noah Bradley on August 04, 2014 at 1:10 PM
I am a rising 7th grader at Julia R. Masterman School, a Philadelphia public school. I find it crazy and offensive that our elected officials in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives have decided not to vote on the cigarette tax that would bring roughly $80 million dollars to our schools.  I know that they don't want to tax anyone, but Philadelphia has already approved this tax. They won't let us tax ourselves!  What good will waiting until September to vote do? People will already have been fired, and students will already have started school years in completely depleted schools and classrooms of 40 kids or more.

Corbett indicates Phila. schools could get a cash advance
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 1:07 AM POSTED: Monday, August 4, 2014, 2:55 PM
HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett on Monday signaled that he was willing to advance millions of dollars in state education money to Philadelphia schools to ensure that they open on time next month.   The pledge, through a spokesman, came hours after Corbett met with legislators in an unsuccessful bid to get them to return and vote on a $2-per-pack cigarette tax to fund city schools.  "This is about putting children of Philadelphia first," spokesman Jay Pagni said. "The governor is prepared, if need be, to advance funding once the final request is made of him."

No cigarette tax vote, but promise for funds to tide Philly schools over
After a fruitless meeting of Pennsylvania legislative leaders and the Corbett administration, a cigarette tax for Philadelphia city schools remains in limbo.  But despite the lack of legislative deal, work continues on sending the struggling school district a funding advance that will allow doors to open on time, lawmakers said. A spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday that there is no amount or date set for the funding advance, which could help the Philadelphia School District with cash flow problems, but not fill its budget gap.

Reality check: schools and Harrisburg
LET'S TALK political reality.
One: The Legislature's an insular sect of me-first pols, too many of whom don't give a flying flock about Philadelphia or its schools.
Two: Schools will open on time.
Yes, Mayor Nutter, schools boss William Hite and others see today as one more day when the Legislature sticks it to the city.  Yes, lawmakers were to return to the Capitol from vacay and maybe authorize a $2-per-pack cig tax for schools.  And, yes, that's not happening.
So we get another sky-is-falling, schools-can't-open, fire-more-teachers response.
If this seems familiar, it's because last August, Hite said schools couldn't open without last-minute cash, then cash was found and schools opened.

Why Harrisburg has Philly's Public Schools by the….
Committee of Seventy How Philly Works AUGUST 04, 2014
In a rare show of agreement, just about everyone in Philly is fuming over the refusal of state lawmakers to authorize a $2-a-pack cigarette tax hike. The public schools have been counting on the money to fill a short-term $81 million annual budget gap.  Busloads of outraged school advocates are heading to Harrisburg today, in fact, to raise their voices in protest.
Why do legislators from York, Erie, and even Punxsutawney have the power to torpedo a solution city leaders have decided is part of the answer to the schools’ funding problems?
In today's HOW PHILLY WORKS, we're taking a look at the current status of this maddening situation that threatens the start of school on September 8.

Corbett, lawmakers fail to agree on Phila. cigarette tax
HARRISBURG - Legislative leaders emerged from a two-hour meeting with Gov. Corbett on Monday apparently no closer to solving a funding crisis in the Philadelphia school district that threatens to delay the opening of schools next month.  House Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) said he has no immediate plans to call the chamber back into session before Sept. 15 to consider a bill that would let the city impose a $2-per-pack cigarette tax. Smith did not rule out re-convening but instead seemed ready to leave the issue in Corbett's hands.  "The governor indicated he will do as much as he can to advance payments to the city that will hopefully give the school district a cushion," said Smith.  A Corbett spokeswoman said only that Corbett continues to review that option.

" Like Congress, the chamber left for the summer with its work undone. In this case, it’s Pennsylvania children who are left in the lurch."
The Sept. 8 opening of Philadelphia’s schools is now in jeopardy
Post-Gazette By the Editorial Board August 4, 2014 12:00 AM
The Philadelphia school system, the largest in the state, is facing a massive $81 million shortfall that must be addressed before layoff notices for some of its 17,000 employees go out on Aug. 15. The Republican-controlled state House is not helping matters by delaying action.  In June, Philadelphia appealed to the Legislature to let the city impose a $2-a-pack cigarette tax when it approved the state budget. The Senate passed the proposal in July, leaving it to the House to vote on it during a session in August. If approved, the tax could mean $70 million to $90 million annually, enough to put the district’s 200-plus schools and 137,000 students on solid financial footing.  Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s predicament hasn’t generated the sense of urgency in the House that it deserves. On Thursday, Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai said that because the House could not reach a consensus on the cigarette tax and a proposed hotel tax, it would hold off voting until September. That puts the Sept. 8 opening of Philadelphia’s schools in jeopardy. Now the district must decide if it should shorten the academic year, postpone the first day of school and cut spending on transportation — and this on top of teacher layoffs and cutbacks in school police.

"Our kids today need so much more than school funding. They and their parents need systematic exposure to colleges, employers, and counselors - coordinated and delivered as a unified program, beginning in the early grades and intensifying through middle school and high school."
Still more to do, even after school budget fight
Inquirer Opinion By Vic Brown POSTED: Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 1:08 AM
Reading about the annual fight over Philadelphia public school funding prompts me to reflect again on those students I met in New York City on a frightfully rainy night several years ago.
Although today I serve on the adjunct faculty at Ursinus College, back then I also assisted with our admissions department's efforts and frequently represented Ursinus at high school college fairs.

Wolf tours NCC, weighs in on education issues
By Samantha Marcus and Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call 12:19 a.m. EDT, August 5, 2014
Over the hum of air conditioners and the crackle of welding torches Monday, Tom Wolf heard from a handful of Northampton Community College students optimistic about their job prospects.
After Maria Homa of Fogelsville graduates this month, she'll be promoted to sous chef at an Italian restaurant. That's after four years at the community college, where the culinary program packs in an education on baking, meat-cutting, soups and stocks, salads and dressings and ethnic cooking.

Pension reform, Philly school funding won’t derail lawmakers’ vacation
By Andrew Staub | PA Independent August 1, 2014
Pennsylvania state House members can go ahead and slice some more limes and order another pitcher of pina coladas.  Their summer break can continue uninterrupted without the headache of addressing pension costs, which are strangling school districts, or the burdensome task of parsing through amendment-laden legislation that would bolster funding for the School District of Philadelphia by increasing the cigarette tax.  House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, and Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, on Thursday announced the cancellation of session days scheduled next week. They’ll vote on the pension and cigarette tax legislation later.   “After conversations with Republican and Democratic House leadership teams, we will plan on taking up legislation dealing with education in Philadelphia when we return in September,” Turzai said.

Micek cites pension 'reform' examples that really didn't work: PennLive letters
PennLive Letters to the Editor by STEPHEN HERZENBERG, Keystone Research Center, Harrisburg on August 04, 2014 at 3:37 PM
Although not his intent, John Micek ("The Sunday Brunch," July 27) nicely highlights news reports on other states that illustrate why Pennsylvania should not switch to a 401(k)-style public retirement system.  For example, Micek implies that Florida, which established a 401(k)-style option for new employees, had a "ginormous pension bubble." In fact, when Florida created this choice, its traditional pension was overfunded. In a decade-plus since, the investment returns of Florida's traditional pension have been 10 percent higher than the return on individual accounts. Over the 30 years that typical retirement contributions grow, this difference would become a one-third gap in savings available for retirement.

Bethlehem Area School District has cut 11 jobs through attrition, expanded kindergarten
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times on August 04, 2014 at 7:47 PM
The Bethlehem Area School District has cut 11 jobs through attrition, while managing to expand full-day kindergarten and restore team teaching in its middle schools.  Human Resources Director Russell Girodano said despite the overall reduction in staffing the district is still hitting on many of its goals for the 2014-15 school year. He provided a staffing update to the school board at tonight's human resources committee meeting.  The district's 2014-15 budget hikes taxes by almost 5 percent and cut eight part-time after-school program coordinators and two full-time supervisors. The grants funding the jobs expired. The district is applying for a new grant that might bring some of the jobs back.

Rep. Meehan holds hearing on student information data mining
West Chester Daily Local By Linda Stein, lstein@21st-centurymedia.com,POSTED: 08/04/14, 9:51 PM EDT |
With the Internet, the presumption of privacy appears to be over. It often appears in today’s modern world that all kinds of businesses are collecting information about kids. And some of that sensitive data might come from their schools.  Congressman Patrick Meehan, R-7th, recently held a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee about data mining in education. Rep Todd Rokita, chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee subcommittee on early childhood, elementary and secondary education co-chaired the hearing.
During a recent interview, Meehan said he believes the use of information “generated by vendors who host services for schools and use the innovation for commercial purposes” can be problematic.

K12, Inc. Defies... Well, Everything
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, August 4, 2014
K12 remains the top dog in the junkyard of cyberschooling. It provides an instructive lesson in how a good pile of cash and friends in the right places can keep a business afloat even after people have poked holes in the hull.
There was never anything about the organization that didn't look like a red flag. It was set up by hedge fund manager Ronald Packer and propped up with money from junk bond king Michael Milken(an iconic Wall Street greedhound of the eighties who pioneered the art of getting caught, convicted and sent to prison, and still remaining rich and powerful). William Bennett, a former Secretary of Education and GOP pundit who was for many reformster ideas before it was cool, was a founding figurehead as well. More recently, Nathaniel Davis began rising through the executive ranks on the board (his previous experience-- CEO of XM radio).
K12 has been "embattled" all along. Here's a fairly brutal shot they took from the New York Times way back in December of 2011. Former teachers routinely write tell-alls about their experience, like this more recent guest piece on Anthony Cody's blog. The NCAA put K12 schools on the list of cybers that were disqualified from sports eligibility.
In February of this year, the Center for Media and Democracy named Ron Packard one of the highest paid public workers in the country (i.e. person paid with tax dollars). This despite "the alarming fact that only 28% of K12 Inc schools met state standards in 2010-2011."

Cyber debate: Officials push for accountability
Joseph Cress Carlisle Sentinel Reporter August 3, 2014
Supporters of public school districts agree that state lawmakers need to push reform to tighten the accountability of cyber charter schools.  “We are not opposed to what they do and the purpose they serve,” said Eric Eshbach, superintendent of Northern York County School District and a past president of the governing board of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.  He said the concern is that while taxpayer money is being diverted for each student enrolled in a cyber school, the home school district of that child has no direct oversight on the quality of the curriculum being offered by the cyber charter school receiving the funds.
The Pennsylvania School Code holds every superintendent responsible for the education program provided to every child living in the district. Yet public school officials have no right to directly question the operation of the programs provided by the cyber charter school.
“All we do is to pay the bill,” said John Friend, superintendent of the Carlisle Area School District and president-elect of the PASA governing board.

Probing Question: Do cyber charter schools help or hurt the educational system?
Penn State News By Andy Elder February 25, 2014
When charter schools were first created in the early 1990s, they were viewed as alternative learning environments for a small number of students. The ideal model was to unhitch these schools from many of the state laws and district regulations governing traditional public schools, and allow them to tailor the education to families looking for an option outside the conventional system.  Typically, for each student who leaves a public school system to attend a charter school, the school district pays the charter the equivalent of what it cost to educate that learner in their home district.  "In the beginning, because there were so few students, the drain on the host school districts' coffers was hardly a drip," says Alison Carr-Chellman, Penn State professor of education and department head of learning and performance systems. "But with the proliferation of charter schools and even more notably, cyber charter schools, that drip has turned into a significant stream."

Are PA Schools, with $4.3 Billion in Reserve Funds, Really Flush?
Just the (Dry) Facts
Policy Brief Explaining School Fund Balances:
Center on Regional Politics by David W. DAVARE AUGUST 2014
Recent publicity calling attention to the $4.3 billion in reserve funds accumulated by the state’s 500 school districts, 67 vocational/technical schools (AVTS/CTC), and 176 charter schools may suggest to some that these funds are being hoarded by school officials who are raising taxes or cutting services unnecessarily or exaggerating their need for additional state aid.
Here are the (admittedly dry) accounting facts.

"While Mr. Tomalis is collecting the same salary he had as a Cabinet secretary, Ms. Dumaresq, the current secretary, earns comparable pay for heading a department which has 600 employees and a $12 billion budget and which works with Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts, four state-related universities, 14 state-owned universities, assorted community colleges and others in the field.  Can Pennsylvania, at a time when it is cutting programs to stay in the black, really afford to pay two people education secretary salaries? Particularly if one is doing the job while the other is, well — we’re still not sure."
Work record: A Corbett aide’s job duties are still in question
By the Post-Gazette Editorial Board August 5, 2014 12:00 AM
Gov. Tom Corbett made a feeble defense Friday of the work product of Ron Tomalis, his special adviser on higher education. Saying only that he and acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq are satisfied with the employee’s work doesn’t explain what Mr. Tomalis is doing to earn a $139,542 salary.  The Post-Gazette’s Bill Schackner and Mary Niederberger reported July 27 that Mr. Tomalis, who was Mr. Corbett’s first education secretary before becoming special adviser last year, had a nearly empty schedule, averaged little more than a phone call per day and had written just five emails while in his current post. On the dearth of emails, Ms. Dumaresq initially said Mr. Tomalis preferred face-to-face interaction; a week later she said department employees deleted their emails each night.

Nameplate gate? Is Education Department covering for Tomalis?
WHTM ABC27 Video runtime 2:54
What's in a name plate? That's the question at the center of the latest controversy surrounding former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, who stepped down 15 months ago but is still collecting a $140,000 taxpayer-funded salary plus benefits.

Stilp asks for feds to investigate: Is Tomalis a ghost employee?
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on August 04, 2014 at 1:09 PM, updated August 04, 2014 at 4:20 PM
Asking state agencies to investigate the work performed by Gov. Tom Corbett's special adviser on higher education Ron Tomalis isn't enough for government reform activist Gene Stilp.  Now he wants the feds involved.  Stilp, a Democratic candidate for the 104th state House seat now held by Republican Rep. Sue Helm, on Sunday filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Attorney's office, and the U.S. Department of Justice asking them to investigate what taxpayers are getting for their money going to pay Tomalis.

How Two Of America's Biggest Cities Are Short-Changing Low-Income Students
Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com Posted: 08/04/2014 10:33 am EDT
In recent years, the public education systems in Philadelphia and Chicago have seen mass personnel layoffs, school closures and frequent budget crises. But a new report from the Center for American Progress shows that it does not necessarily have to be that way.  The report, released in July and written by Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker, details the inequitable education funding systems in a number of states in which the most affluent districts get the biggest share of money, leaving the neediest students with substantially less. Among the students suffering most from unfair school funding practices are those enrolled in the public schools of Philadelphia and Chicago. The research found that funding disparities have placed these two inner city districts at an extreme disadvantage, when compared to the affluent suburbs surrounding both cities.  Describing the inequalities found in many metropolitan areas across the country, the report paints a vivid picture of "affluent suburbs with big houses on tree-lined streets, palatial high schools, top-notch lacrosse and fencing teams and elite orchestras contrasted with nearby urban ghettos replete with overcrowded and crumbling schools, high crime and considerable dropout rates."

"The essentials of what makes Union City a success are “familiar to any educator with a pulse.” These include:  high-quality preschool; “word-soaked” classrooms; true bilingual education; coherent curricula; test scores used to diagnose problems; teachers involved in continuous learning; schools enlisting parents as partners; and, the schools maintain a climate of high expectations, caring, and trust.  Most importantly, Kirp talks about what doesn’t work: e.g., school chiefs who are “long on pressure and short on supports.” He also notes thatabsent in Union City are mass firings of teachers, the closing of schools, Teach For America, and charter schools."
School reforms that actually work
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 5 at 6:00 AM 
For years now education leaders have been pushing onto school districts school reforms that don’t show any sign of working while giving short shrift to those that have a track record of working. Gary Ravani, a 35-year public school teacher and president of the California Federation of Teachers’ Early Childhood/K-12 Council, explains in this post.

“If I were a parent and I had a struggling third grader, I would get whatever help I could to help get them up to speed,” said Deborah J. Stipek, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. “But if I were a state policymaker or superintendent, I would say, ‘What can we offer these kids in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade so they aren’t behind when they get to third grade?’ ”
A Summer of Extra Reading and Hope for Fourth Grade
Literacy Laws Challenge Third Graders and Schools
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH AUG. 4, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Educators like to say that third grade is the year when students go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Yet one afternoon last month, there was Anthony, a 10-year-old whose small frame was highlighted by baggy black cargo shorts, struggling with “Tiny the Snow Dog,” a picture book with only a handful of words per page. “This is Tiny,” he read to his teacher, Holly Bryant. “He is my dog.”  Anthony is one of about 1,900 children from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District who failed the standardized reading test given to all North Carolina third graders in the spring. Under a recent law similar to those in more than a dozen states, such students in North Carolina may be required to repeat the grade. The law, being applied this year to third graders for the first time, poses a set of thorny educational challenges.  About 1,500 students — or one of every eight who completed third grade in Charlotte in June — ended up enrolling in literacy school, along with Anthony, who has been attending four days a week for the past six weeks.

Poverty Has Spread to the Suburbs (And to Suburban Schools)
Education Week Rules for Engagement Blog By Evie Blad on July 31, 2014 2:58 PM
More Americans are living in poverty in the suburbs than in urban or rural areas, a dramatic demographic shift that has occurred since 2000, a new report by the Brookings Institution finds. It's a finding that won't be a surprise to plenty of suburban superintendents, who've seen that residential change reflected in the enrollment makeup of their schools.
"But as poverty has spread, it has not done so evenly. Instead, it has also become more clustered and concentrated in distressed and high-poverty neighborhoods, eroding the brief progress made against concentrated poverty during the late 1990s," the report says. And that's a problem because challenges associated with concentrated poverty—poor health, higher crime rates, and fewer jobs—"make it that much harder for individuals and families to escape poverty and often perpetuate and entrench poverty across generations."

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.

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.

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)

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