Thursday, August 14, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 14, 2014: Education Secretary Arne Duncan kicks off preschool grant competition in Pittsburgh

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 14, 2014:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan kicks off preschool grant competition in Pittsburgh

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.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Education Secretary Arne Duncan kicks off preschool grant competition in Pittsburgh
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 13, 2014 11:43 PM
In the wake of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s announcement that Pennsylvania can compete for up to $20 million in federal money for early childhood education, the Pittsburgh community is gearing up to seek money to expand quality early childhood education here.
Mr. Duncan on Wednesday visited the Hug Me Tight Child Life Center in the Hill District, where he kicked off a $250 million preschool development federal grant competition, of which Pennsylvania could win as much as $20 million for one year. Mr. Duncan hopes such a grant would be renewable for four years, but the additional funding has yet to be allocated.

PA-Gov: Dates of Gubernatorial Debates Announced
PoliticsPA Written by Jill Harkins, Contributing Writer August 13th, 2014
According to theAssociated Press, the campaigns of Republican Governor Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Tom Wolf have decided on the places and days of their three fall gubernatorial debates.  The first debate, as suspected, will be held in the Harrisburg media market on September 22 in Hershey, PA at the 30th Annual Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce dinner.
The second debate will be held on October 1 at KYW-TV studios in Philadelphia.
The final debate will be held on October 8 at at the WTAE-TV studios in Wilkinsburg and will be shown in the Pittsburgh media market.
All of the debates will take place in the evening, though exact times have not been announced.

Beyond the commercials, watch the real gubernatorial debates between Gov. Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf
By Christina Kauffman | on August 13, 2014 at 5:41 PM
Anyone who's seen a television recently might feel as though the debates between Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Tom Wolf have already started.  But aside from the dueling commercials, three formatted debates have been scheduled between Sept. 22 and Oct. 8.
Debates will be held in the Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh media markets, starting in the midstate with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry's 30th Annual Chamber Dinner, Monday, Sept. 22 at Hershey Lodge.

Ron Tomalis probe demands continue
Bill Schackner and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 14, 2014 12:00 AM
A day after the resignation of Ron Tomalis, special adviser to the governor on higher education, calls continued Wednesday for investigations into whether he was a “ghost employee” and into the state Department of Education’s email retention policy.  Officials of Fresh Start PA, a political action coalition that supports the candidacy of Democrat Tom Wolf for governor, called Tuesday for various state agencies to investigate whether Mr. Tomalis was a “ghost employee” who did little or no work for his $139,542 salary and to examine the email retention practices of the education department.  On Wednesday, Fresh Start chairwoman Katie McGinty continued to push Republican Gov. Tom Corbett for those investigations and for the firing of acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq over public statements she made claiming education department employees delete and cleanse their emails each day.
In addition, state Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington County, issued a news release also calling for investigations by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane into Mr. Tomalis’ job performance and the education department’s email purging practices. “In the interest of good government and transparency, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Neuman said.
In response, Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Mr. Corbett, said Wednesday evening that the governor “has full confidence in acting secretary Dumaresq.”

Our Opinion: Going too far in scoring our schools
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader Last updated: August 12. 2014 4:25PM
Call it the curious case of Corbett’s cash catch.
When Gov. Tom Corbett released his proposed 2014-15 budget in February, it included $340 million in “Ready to Learn” education block grants. He wanted to tie this money to a school district’s “School Performance Profile” score, a new method of gauging public school achievement that gives each school a score from 0 to 107 based on a wide range of data, primarily standardized test results.  Corbett proposed creating four tiers of districts based on SPP scores: below 60, 60 to 69, 70 to 79 and 80 or above. The higher the tier, the more flexibility in spending the cash.
The catch? District-level SPP scores didn’t exist.

Bethlehem school superintendent tweets 'good riddance' to Tomalis
Joseph Roy says former education secretary damaged relationship between state and school districts.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 2:38 p.m. EDT, August 13, 2014
Twitter is a place where Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy can make announcements about snow days, answer questions from students and, as of Tuesday night, wish "good riddance" to state officials on their way out the door.  Upon reading about Ron Tomalis' resignation as Gov. Tom Corbett's special adviser on higher education, Roy took to the social networking site to offer the former secretary of education a farewell.
"Good riddance, though the damage is done. Ron Tomalis resigns under pressure as Tom Corbett's education adviser," Roy tweeted, along with a link to The Morning Call's coverage.
“Since meeting with parents, teachers, and advocates when the School District entered full-blown fiscal crisis last spring, City Council has explored education models that are seeing positive results in districts demographically similar to ours. Thursday, Council's Committee on Education is scheduled to hear expert testimony on School-Based Family Services (SBFS) Centers, which revolve around the health and wellness of the child along with academic performance.
This comprehensive approach acknowledges that poverty is Philadelphia's No. 1 problem. We cannot fix our schools without addressing what ails our children at home.”
Fight for students, schools Opinion by Darrell L. Clarke Thursday, August 14, 2014, 1:08 AM
Darrell L. Clarke is president of Philadelphia City Council
Uncertainty is the dominant mode at the School District of Philadelphia these days. The latest development, a delay in General Assembly action to allow Philadelphia to enact a cigarette tax funding stream that City Council unanimously approved in June 2013, is just one in a seemingly neverending series of devastating setbacks.
It could be tempting to find excuses to give up on our schools. Indeed, that might even be the point of what appears to be a coordinated, nationwide attack on public institutions. However, there also are those who believe the School District of Philadelphia can succeed if given appropriate resources, but who see no point in taking action until Election Day on Nov. 4 because of the current political climate in Pennsylvania.
With all due respect, this is ill-advised. To have any chance of securing what is right and fair for our students, we cannot agree to delays, and we can never give up on fighting for them.

Can we trust the Philly cigarette tax revenue projections? A look inside the numbers
You can hear them calling in the street.
They lean on corners, squat on milkcrates, rest on folding chairs – angling for a buck.
At the bustling intersection where Erie and Germantown Avenues slice through North Broad street, they occupy every corner, calling to passersby: "Loosie! Loosie!"
They're the city's black market cigarette hawks.

Chester County lawmaker pushing to hike Pa. cigarette tax
For months, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been wrestling with a plan to let Philadelphia levy a cigarette tax to help pay for its schools.  One Republican has a proposal to take that tax statewide.  Rep. John Lawrence of Chester County figures that if lawmakers can pass a cigarette tax for Philadelphia schools, they can pass a statewide cigarette levy to help with higher school property taxes.  His proposed 80-cents-a-pack tax would go straight into a property tax relief program for seniors.

120 American Charter Schools and One Secretive Turkish Cleric
The Atlantic by SCOTT BEAUCHAMP AUG 12 2014, 11:25 AM
The FBI is investigating a group of educators who are followers of a mysterious Islamic movement. But the problems seem less related to faith than to the oversight of charter schools.
It reads like something out of a John Le Carre novel: The charismatic Sunni imam Fethullah Gülen, leader of a politically powerful Turkish religious movement likened by The Guardian to an “Islamic Opus Dei,” occasionally webcasts sermons from self-imposed exile in the Poconos while his organization quickly grows to head the largest chain of charter schools in America. It might sound quite foreboding—and it should, but not for the reasons you might think.

“The biggest problem in education today, she said, is the obsession many school reformers — including Education Secretary Arne Duncan — have with standardized tests and using student scores to make high-stakes decisions on  whether students move to the next grade or graduate high school, how much teachers get paid and whether they can keep their jobs, and even if schools are reconstituted or closed. “I will go down to my last breath telling people that the most corrupting influence in public influence today is a high-stakes consequence for not hitting the cut score on a standardized test,” she said.”
New NEA leader to nation’s educators: Revolt, ignore ‘stupid’ reforms
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 11  
To call the woman who is about to take the helm of the National Education Association “outspoken” would be something of an understatement. Lily Eskelsen García, who will take over next month as president of the largest teachers union in the country (and, for that matter, the largest union of any kind in the country), is nauseatingly sick of what she calls “factory school reform” and she doesn’t mind telling everybody about it in clear, challenging words. “Stop doing stupid,” she says.  That’s not all. Acknowledging that sometimes it is hard for her to be diplomatic, García says she wants to shake things up: “The revolution I want is ‘proceed until apprehended.’” Translation: Teachers, administrators and everybody else involved should ignore bad school reform policy and do “the right thing” for kids. “Don’t you dare,” she said, ” let someone tell you not to do that Shakespeare play because it’s not on the achievement tests. Whether they [reformers] have sinister motives or misguided honest motives, we should say, ‘We are not going to listen to you anymore. We are going to do what’s right.’”

Districts' Budgets Swell to Accommodate a Surge in Non-Teaching Staff
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on August 13, 2014 10:26 AM
Between 1970 and 2010, the number of employees in the nation's schools grew by a whopping 84 percent.   At the same time, the number of non-teaching staff members expanded by 130 percent to more than 3 million —or about half of public school districts' staff.
But who is counted among the "non-teaching" staff?  What do they do? And what has led to the exponential surge in this staffing category at a rate that has outpaced even the growth of teachers and students?

Ex-Head of Washington Schools Steps Down at Advocacy Group
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH AUG. 13, 2014
Michelle A. Rhee, the divisive former schools chancellor in Washington and one of the most public faces of a campaign to change public education, is stepping down as chief executive of StudentsFirst, the advocacy group she founded four years ago. In a blog poston the group’s website on Wednesday, Ms. Rhee said that it was “time for my next step in life” and that she would focus on her family and support her husband, Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, as “he continues to move forward with his career.” She also has two children with her ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, the commissioner of education in Tennessee. Ms. Rhee, who raised millions of dollars from donors including the Walton Family Foundation and the Broad Foundation, pursued an aggressive agenda involving changes in state laws regarding teacher tenure, performance evaluations and testing. In her statement, she said: “While I remain 100 percent committed to the success of StudentsFirst, it’s time for a shift in the day-to-day management of the team and our advocacy work.”

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.

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.

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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