Friday, August 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 8: PA still owes school districts $1.7 billion for 338 Plancon projects

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 8, 2014:
PA still owes school districts $1.7 billion for 338 Plancon projects

Interest revives in Pa. shale extraction tax
A natural gas extraction tax in Pennsylvania has been regarded at times as a silver bullet, and lawmakers have proposed shooting it every which way to solve financial woes.  Now Republican Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, running for re-election in his Bucks County district, is proposing a Marcellus Shale tax with a twist -- the revenue would go solely toward the state's public pension debt.  Democrats have called for an extraction tax, too, but Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said they would want to spend the money differently.  The bulk of it would go to education, Costa said. He like to see that "every school district gets a piece of that money and it's a straight line from the Marcellus Shale tax to this fund."

Key questions and answers on the Philly budget crisis
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 7, 2014 04:29 PM
Notebook editors Paul Socolar and Dale Mezzacappa prepared a question-and-answer sheet, updating the budget crisis for distribution at E! Day, the District's annual back-to-school event to be held Friday at School of the Future. This is the event at which the District holds workshops and gives out information to families, as well as free book bags. 
Following is the Q&A, and here is a link to the actual flyer. Feel free to copy and distribute. 

The path forward: Q&A with Lisa Haver
the notebook By Bill Hangley Jr. on Aug 7, 2014 05:06 PM
Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and a founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS), is a fixture at School Reform Commission meetings and a consistent advocate for transparency, adequate funding, and a strong union role in public education.
“Public schools must continue to be a civic enterprise where district policies and decisions are formulated in public forums,” says the APPS mission statement, “not a financial enterprise controlled by corporate interests."
Haver is convinced that Philadelphia’s school leaders need to make common cause with their unionized workforce in order to gain more leverage in Harrisburg and City Council.
“Bill Green’s got a built-in organization right there that has the same interests that the District has,” she says, speaking of the School Reform Commission chairman. “We have to work together. If you’re not using the people in the schools, you’re leaving behind a big resource.”
She also believes that school district leaders statewide could increase their clout through more effective collaboration. We asked Haver to share her impression of this year’s budget debate, the role of the reform sector, the state of the union contract, and the path to a stronger statewide alliance of educators.
This is the final installment in The Notebook's series on "The path forward."

"Welcome to yet another headache for Pennsylvania school budget officers, already stressed to the max by soaring pension costs, teacher-contract stalemates, and taxpayer unrest: A state bureaucratic morass known as PlanCon - short for Planning and Construction Workbooks - which owes a total of $1.7 billion to school districts."
PlanCon backlog strains school budgets
Freeze on state construction payouts ends, but educators say the increase isn't enough.
It's been nearly two years since the new Phoenixville Area Middle School opened its doors with an oversize auditorium featuring state-of-the-art acoustics; high-tech "Smart Boards" in front of every classroom; a large courtyard; and an impressive library.  The $56 million Chester County public school is missing only one thing: money that Harrisburg promised to help defray the cost.
"We show it as a receivable in the belief that at some point we will get what we are owed by the state," said Stan Johnson, Phoenixville Area School District executive director of operations. He said the district is owed $1,145,358 in state funds for the middle school, which opened in 2012, and for architect's fees on another pending project.

“Let me put that $10 million in perspective,” he said. “They owe us (Penn Hills SD) $4 million.”
Penn Hills schools expect little impact from PlanCon funding bump
TribLive By Patrick Varine Editor, 412-320-7845 Published: Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
The expiration of a moratorium that blocked state funding for new school construction is good news for local leaders with plans for new buildings.  State officials also boosted the reimbursement program, known as PlanCon, by $10 million, for 2014-15. Still, Penn Hills School District Business Manager Rick Liberto is not optimistic about the chances of his district being reimbursed for projects, at least for now.
“Let me put that $10 million in perspective,” he said. “They owe us $4 million.”
Liberto isn't counting on the increase to the state's $296 million PlanCon budget making much of a dent in the backlog of projects awaiting reimbursement — including Penn Hills' two major construction projects.
PlanCon, short for Planning and Construction Workbook, is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for state reimbursement when districts build new schools or additions.
The state instituted a moratorium on new projects in 2012. When the state budget was passed on July 10, the moratorium was lifted and the $10 million added. Meanwhile, Penn Hills still is awaiting reimbursement for paperwork submitted prior to the moratorium.

"Neither chamber has indicated it will oblige Corbett's call. House and Senate sessions are scheduled for September 15, too late to help Philadelphia plan the start of its school year.""
Corbett's "ask" lands with a thud
WITF State House Sound Bites by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 6, 2014 10:14 PM
Governor Corbett on Wednesday asked state lawmakers to end their vacation early to address legislation concerning a Philadelphia schools funding gap that threatens to delay the school year in the state's largest school district.  He asked nicely.
"I'm calling for the legislature though to come to Harrisburg before school starts," Corbett said at a press conference with Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite at his side. "And I expect them to address this issue as their first and number one order of business."
The ball is in lawmakers' court. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate alone have the power to return to the Capitol to approve a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to help the Philadelphia school system bridge a multimillion dollar deficit.

Inquirer Editorial: Reduced to begging
POSTED: Thursday, August 7, 2014, 1:08 AM
Like most big cities, Philadelphia has more than its share of panhandlers, some of whom will return your kindness with a few choice words if they think you're being stingy. Others merely express their gratitude, even if they need much more.
Apparently Gov. Corbett expects the city School District, which has been reduced to beggar status, to humbly take whatever he tosses into the hat and worry about the future later. But further delaying a long-term solution to the schools' cash problem is a terrible strategy. Nor does it address the funding woes of other school districts across the state.

Governor Corbett Announces $21 Million in School Improvement Grants for Nine Schools
Philadelphia Business Journal HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Corbett today announced that nine public schools will share $21 million in federal School Improvement Grant funding.  "Pennsylvania is home to thousands of high-quality educators; however there are still too many schools that have a history of failing to provide students with a quality education," Corbett said. "Through the federal School Improvement Grant program, schools have the opportunity to implement innovative educational initiatives to better meet the needs of their students and improve academic performance."
The Pennsylvania Department of Education awarded the grants through a competitive process.  Applications were reviewed and scored by a panel of peer reviewers who then made award recommendations.  For a school to be eligible for funding, it must be among the lowest-achieving schools in Pennsylvaniathat has not made substantial progress on state assessments, or has a graduation rate of less than 60 percent for at least two of the last three years.
While 47 schools were eligible to apply, only 20 submitted applications.
As part of the competitive application process, eligible schools must adopt and implement one of four reform models developed by the federal government: Transformation, Turnaround, Restart and School Closure.

Corbett Ceremoniously Signs Holocaust Education Bill at Philly Federation
Jewish Exponent by  Eric Berger AUGUST 6, 2014
In a ceremonial signing of the state's Holocaust and genocide education legislation on Thursday, advocates of the bill appeared to have put aside their differences.
Gov. Tom Corbett symbolically signed the legislation — which had actually been approved and signed at the end of June — at the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City before state legislators, Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans, as well as some of the nonprofit leaders and private citizens who played a significant role in shaping the law. The event put a neat end to a process that was at times not pretty, even though the legislation ultimately passed unanimously in both the State House and Senate. 

Saucon Valley teachers, board trying to reach deal ahead of school start
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on August 07, 2014 at 7:46 PM
Saucon Valley teachers and the school board are back at the bargaining table trying to hammer out a deal ahead of the start of the school year.  The two sides are meeting tonight and another session is scheduled for Monday.  Following the bargaining sessions, Andrew Muir, the attorney representing the teachers, plans to meet with the Saucon Valley Education Association to discuss their next steps. Muir acknowledged one of those steps legally could be a strike but emphasized there are many other options available.

This Teacher Asked Her Students to Write to an Author. Kurt Vonnegut Wrote Back This
Twisted Sifter Blog March 14, 2014
In 2006 Ms. Lockwood, an English teacher at Xavier High School, asked her students to write a letter to a famous author. She wanted them discuss the author’s work and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was the only one to write back and his advice is worth reading. If you can’t make out the text in the image, you can find the letter transcribed beneath!

"This program started with the simplest idea in the world-- putting books in the homes of small children. It began, once again, in her home county, and her proposal was simple-- sign your newborn child up, and once a month from birth through Kindergarten, the child will receive a book.  … It makes me wonder-- what if Bill Gates had decided that rather than rewrite public education, he would spend a gabillion dollars putting books in the hands of every elementary school student in this country. What if a raft of corporate sponsors had worked with Scholastic Books to give every child a good-for-one-book voucher?"
Dolly Parton. Really.
Curmuducation Blog Thursday, August 7, 2014
So you say you'd like a cheerful story for a change. Fine. Let's talk about Dolly Parton. Really.  You may or may not be a fan of Dolly Parton, Country Icon and Oddly Constructed Barbie Doll, but if you're not paying attention, you might miss Dolly Parton, Philanthropist. And not Investment Philanthropist or Disruptive Innovation Philanthropist. Parton is pretty old school.  Parton came from real poverty, growing up with eleven siblings and a father who couldn't read or write in the middle of one of the poorest regions in the country. A tough time for her was not wondering if she dropped out of college, would her parents be willing to support her long enough to get her start-up off the ground.

"It’s part of rising national interest in multigenerational approaches to reduce poverty and improve student achievement, based on mounting evidence that parents’ and children’s educational and life trajectories are inextricably linked."
Multigenerational Programs Aim to Break Poverty Cycle
Dual strategy is attracting interest
By Sarah D. Sparks Published Online: August 5, 2014
Not much about public education has gone as advertised for Rebecca Goodman or her family.
The Tulsa, Okla., mother graduated second in her small-town high school class of 16, but got no academic counseling and saw little use for college. “I considered nursing, but they said I’d have to take anatomy and physiology and microbiology, and I said uh-uh. I just wanted to get the easiest two-year degree I could,” she said. “I had no desire to go to school at all; I just wanted to be a mom.”  Seven years of Ms. Goodman working part-time as a secretary for her church while juggling care of her four children wasn’t enough to keep her family financially afloat—especially after her husband had to take a job out of his own field of training. That’s why she’s become one of more than 2,000 parents in CareerAdvance Tulsa, an initiative connected with the city’s Head Start and state early-child-care systems that is intended to help parents improve their own educations while also supporting their children’s.

"They found that a child's fate is in many ways fixed at birth — determined by family strength and the parents' financial status.  The kids who got a better start — because their parents were married and working — ended up better off. Most of the poor kids from single-parent families stayed poor."
Rich Kid, Poor Kid: For 30 Years, Baltimore Study Tracked Who Gets Ahead
NPR by JUANA SUMMERS August 07, 2014 3:24 AM ET
Education is historically considered to be the thing that levels the playing field, capable of lifting up the less advantaged and improving their chances for success.  "Play by the rules, work hard, apply yourself and do well in school, and that will open doors for you," is how Karl Alexander, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, puts it.  But a study published in June suggests that the things that really make the difference — between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death — are money and family.
Alexander is one of the authors of "The Long Shadow," which explored this scenario: Take two kids of the same age who grew up in the same city — maybe even the same neighborhood. What factors will make the difference for each?  To find the answer, the Hopkins researchers undertook a massive study. They followed nearly 800 kids in Baltimore — from first grade until their late-20s.

'Myths & Lies' That Threaten Our Schools: An Interview With David Berliner & Gene Glass
Education Week Classroom Q&A Blog By Larry Ferlazzo on July 30, 2014 8:11 PM
This summer, I'll be alternating between publishing thematic collections of past posts (ones onStudent Motivation, Implementing The Common Core,  Teaching Reading & Writing,  Parent Involvement, and Teaching Social Studies have already been published) and sharing interviews with authors of recent books I consider important and useful for us educators (Meenoo Rami was the first, co-authors Carmen Fariรฑa & Laura Kotch were the second, Warren Berger was the third, and Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker were the fourth).  For today's author interview, David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass have offered to answer a few questions about their book, 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools.

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.

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)

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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