Wednesday, September 10, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 10, 2014: Commission examines funding of Pennsylvania public schools

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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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 10, 2014:
Commission examines funding of Pennsylvania public schools

Concerned with adequate, equitable, predictable, sustainable #paedfunding?  Follow new @PACircuitRider and @CircuitRiderSE accounts on twitter

"A "hold harmless" clause that dates to 1994 says districts cannot get less money in the basic education subsidy line item than they got the previous year, and for the past few years districts have simply received whatever they did the previous year, plus the possibility of extra money in other line items"
Georgetown professor: Time to shake-up school funding
By Adam Clark,Of The Morning Call September 9, 2014
How one professor would fix Pa.'s school funding formula
A Georgetown University researcher on Tuesday urged Pennsylvania's Basic Education Funding Commission to adopt a new student-based funding model that gives schools more control over their spending.  Marguerite Roza, director of Georgetown's Edunomics Lab and a research associate professor, testified for more than 90 minutes during the commission's hearing at Parkland School District's administration building.  She told the panel of state legislators and officials that Pennsylvania's current funding system is among the country's worst in terms of "grandfathering" funding to districts and lags behind other states that have already shifted to a primarily student-focused formula.

Commission examines funding of Pennsylvania public schools
WFMZ by Jaccii Farris, Reporter, Published: Sep 09 2014 05:00:16 PM EDT
A new commission is trying to figure it out, and it picked the brains of district leaders in our area on Tuesday. Pennsylvania hasn't had a permanent school funding formula for years and is now funding districts based on relative wealth and their ability to raise local taxes. Pennsylvania lawmakers, however, said it needs a makeover. They are trying to figure out how to equitably fund the state's schools.
Read more from at:

Northampton Area schools chief backs drive for new state funding formula
By Kevin Duffy,,Special to The Morning Call September 9, 2014
Here's why some feel public school funding needs an overhaul.
To one top-ranking school district administrator, the decision from Harrisburg to reconsider the current formula for state funding of public schools is a step in the right direction.
Joe Kovalchik, superintendent of the Northampton Area School District, said a meeting he attended Monday at Broughal Middle School in Bethlehem, intended as an initial step in re-evaluating how money is parceled out from district to district, was encouraging.

Rep. Grove pushes reform of school construction reimbursement process
Bill would streamline steps for schools to seek funds
By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter 09/09/2014 10:13:29 PM EDT
Rep. Seth Grove is urging the state Senate to act on legislation that would improve how school districts seek state reimbursement for construction projects.  He wants it to be easier for districts to ask for the money and know when they might get it.  Grove is hosting a discussion with school board officials 10 a.m. Wednesday in Harrisburg about legislation he proposed that would streamline what's known as the PlanCon process. The legislation has already passed the House.
"The process ... hasn't been touched in decades," Grove said. "It needs to be reformed."

Pa. Republicans flog Corbett's Common Core call as politics, not policy
Want to boil the blood of some Pennsylvania voters? Utter four words: "Common Core state standards."  For those leery of all things federal, all things Obama, the push to align academic expectations on a consistent, nationwide basis causes heart rates to rise exponentially.
This week, Republicans in the Pennsylvania House are accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of preying on those fears in an election-season political move that they say undercuts sound policy.
On Monday, Corbett called for the state board of education to hold an "immediate, statewide" public review of state education standards in language arts and math, worrying that they too closely ally with Common Core.  "Common Core has become nothing more than a top-down takeover of the education system," Corbett said in an official statement. "It is nothing more than Obamacare for education."  Yet, soon after Corbett's official release, two Republican state representatives – Seth Grove of York and Ryan Aument of Lancaster – blasted the governor's logic in a release of their own.

Pa. Gov. Corbett Urges Review as Part of Effort to 'Roll Back' Common Core
Education Week State Ed Watch By Andrew Ujifusa on September 8, 2014 4:30 PM
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has released a somewhat ambiguous statement about the future of the Common Core State Standards in that state, saying he has asked for a "continued public review" of the standards as part of the "final phase" of a three-year process to "roll back" the standards in the Keystone State.  In his Sept. 8 statement, Corbett said that he has asked his state K-12 chief, Carolyn Dumaresq, to ask the state Board of Education to hold hearings immediately on the state's academic standards. The goal, he said, is to ensure that Pennsylvania begins new academic standards with the help of national experts, teachers, and parents.
"I am now asking the State Board to continue the process we began at the start of my term and to ensure that any final influence of the national Common Core State Standards is eradicated from Pennsylvania," Corbett said in the statement. 

A second chance at reinventing the high school experience
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 8, 2014 11:26 AM
A photo of Saliyah Cruz taken in 2009, when she was principal of West Philadelphia High School.
When students showed up in school Monday, Saliyah Cruz and Neil Geyette embarked on the most important phase of an ambitious effort to reinvent the high school experience for many students in Philadelphia.  The two educators have designed and are running two brand new, non-selective high schools in North Philadelphia. Geyette is principal of the U School and Cruz is leading the LINC, which stands for Learning in New Contexts.
As the School District continues to struggle with severe underfunding, the project has been scorned in some quarters as boutique and accused of taking valuable resources away from starved neighborhood schools.  But for Cruz and Geyette, former colleagues at West Philadelphia High School until four years ago, it is about developing ways to make education more meaningful for students who have been failed by the existing system.  “The idea is connecting kids with their lives and using their lives to help them learn,” Geyette said. “It’s about changing kids’ view of themselves and getting adults to see kids differently.”  Monday, when the doors open to students, Mayor Nutter and Superintendent William Hite will visit the LINC to signal their commitment to the effort. The design of the two schools was subsidized by a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corp.

Parents Sue Over Philadelphia School Conditions
Parents United for Public Education and seven parents filed suit against the acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education. Meanwhile, 23 Pennsylvania senators want the state to investigate complaints.
Philadelphia Magazine BY DAN MCQUADE  |  SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 AT 2:35 PM
Seven Philadelphia parents and the Parents United for Public Education group are suing over the conditions of Philadelphia’s public schools. The petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.  In the suit, to be filed against acting Pennsylvania education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, the parents say the state has failed in its constitutional mandate to “receive and investigate allegations of curriculum deficiencies.” Parents United says it delivered 825 complaints about school conditions to Dumaresq that were not followed up on.
Per the lawsuit, the allegations included “overcrowded classrooms, the lack of classes such as art, music, foreign language and physical education, cancelled programs for the mentally gifted, the absence of facilities such as libraries or school materials such as textbooks that resulted in loss of instruction for students, shortages of staff … and unsafe or unsanitary conditions that interfered with students’ ability to respond to the curriculum.”

Parents sue over state response to Philly school complaints
Inquirer Philly School Files Blog by Kristen Graham TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2014, 11:33 AM
A group of Philadelphia School District parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying the state education department has violated its legal obligation to investigate claims of "massive curriculum deficiencies" in city schools.  The group, including seven district parents and the group Parents United for Public Education, filed the suit in Commonwealth Court. Attorneys from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia are representing the parents.
Last school year, parents submitted 825 complaints to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on issues ranging from overcrowding to "squalid and insufficient toilet facilities." They also documented overcrowding and a lack of counselors and school nurses. The complaints were met with either a form letter, or no response at all, the parents said.

ELC Joins New School Funding Campaign
PA School Talk Posted by Brett Schaeffer on September 5, 2014 at 3:39pm
Aug. 28, 2014 – The Education Law Center has joined a statewide coalition of more than 40 organizations representing educators, business and labor leaders, faith-based organizations, civic and child advocacy groups who want to address one of Pennsylvania’s most important and challenging issues: the funding of its public schools.  “We have to address the school funding crisis,” said Rhonda Brownstein, ELC Executive Director. “All of our students deserve an opportunity to learn and should have the resources necessary to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”  While the campaign plans to formally launch this fall, the coalition behind the effort already has begun examining the issues that impact school funding and formed a governing body chaired by Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, a statewide children’s advocacy organization.
“While there has been plenty of discussion over the years about how Pennsylvania funds its public schools, there hasn’t been consensus among the many groups that have a vested interest in our kids and schools,” Benso said. “This campaign will be unprecedented in the various voices it listens to and represents.”
Kathy Manderino, a former state lawmaker, has been named campaign manager for the new campaign.  “School funding is, without question, one of the toughest issues facing Pennsylvania, but it’s also arguably the most important,” Manderino said. “So many facets of our commonwealth – jobs, culture, community, quality of life – are dependent upon and shaped by the education we provide for our children. How we fund that education really does dictate the future of Pennsylvania, and I’m excited to help advance such a critical discussion.”
In the weeks ahead, the campaign will announce its formal name and launch a website and related media tools to engage and inform Pennsylvanians on this important issue.

"The biggest reductions are planned in grades 3, 4 and 5 where the number of periods spent in testing are to decline from 85.5 periods to 41.5 periods. After school board member Sherry Hazuda was told one period equals 45 minutes, she said, "No wonder people are complaining when you see it like that."
Pittsburgh schools to make big cuts in testing
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 9, 2014 7:43 PM
Pittsburgh Public Schools Tuesday night announced a plan to reduce the time spent in testing by as much as half in grades K-5.  "We know we want to minimize the assessments in grades K-5 so we are not overburdening students," said Allison McCarthy, executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment who outlined the plan at a school board committee meeting.
The meeting also included the release of school-by-school results on state tests and Advanced Placement exams.

Educators, experts share ways to protect arts programs at Pittsburgh forum
Trib Live By Alice T. Carter Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Arts-centered learning programs that prepare students for college, careers and citizenship will be on the minds of educators and arts leaders when the Arts Education Partnership convenes Sept. 11 and 12 in Pittsburgh.  The partnership's 2014 National Forum, “Preparing Students for the Next America In and Through the Arts,” will offer solutions, research conclusions and inspiration on providing all students with access to quality arts experiences, the role of arts education to help close the economic-opportunity gap and innovative ways to use resources and technology to support students learning while dealing with education politics, tight budgets and shifting priorities.  The two-day forum at the Marriott City Center Hotel, Downtown, is aimed at national and district leaders in education, arts, business, government and philanthropy, including school-district superintendents, heads of national arts organizations, such as the League of Symphony Orchestras, and foundations that work with educational and arts organizations.
West Chester pushes back on teacher evaluation laws
By Kelly Lyons, on Twitter POSTED: 09/09/14, 8:37 PM EDT |
West Goshen>> West Chester Area School District officials updated the teacher evaluation system so student achievement on state tests accounts for the least amount allowed under state law.  Assistant Superintendent Robert Fraser presented his updates on the evaluation system, which the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires from all public schools, at the school board’s education committee meeting Monday night.  As part of Act 82 on teacher evaluations signed into state law in 2012, the state requires districts to evaluate teachers within specific formats, giving them some freedom for how much weight is given to certain parts of the assessment.  The district must factor in student performance on state exams, specifically the PSSAs and Keystone exams, into teacher evaluations, which many officials and school board members think is unfair.
“Our response to the state is, ‘Do we have to include it at all?’” Fraser said. “The answer was yes, so we made it 0.01 percent.”  The maximum amount a district can place on the student test achievement section of a teacher’s assessment is 5 percent.

So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class ...
New York Times Magazine By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN SEPT. 5, 2014
In 2008, shortly after Bill Gates stepped down from his executive role at Microsoft, he often awoke in his 66,000-square-foot home on the eastern bank of Lake Washington and walked downstairs to his private gym in a baggy T-shirt, shorts, sneakers and black socks yanked up to the midcalf. Then, during an hour on the treadmill, Gates, a self-described nerd, would pass the time by watching DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series. On some mornings, he would learn about geology or meteorology; on others, it would be oceanography or U.S. history.  As Gates was working his way through the series, he stumbled upon a set of DVDs titled “Big History” — an unusual college course taught by a jovial, gesticulating professor from Australia named David Christian. Unlike the previous DVDs, “Big History” did not confine itself to any particular topic, or even to a single academic discipline. Instead, it put forward a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields, which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative of life on earth.

lease join us for a symposium on:
“Funding Pennsylvania's Public Schools: A Look Ahead”
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics and the Temple University Center on Regional Politics.
When: Friday, October 3, 2014, 8:30 am to 12 pm
Where: Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh in Green Tree, PA
Session I:  "Forecasting the Fiscal Future of Pennsylvania's Public Schools"
A panel of legislators and public officials will respond to a presentation by Penn State Professor William Hartman and Tim Shrom projecting the fiscal trajectory of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts over the next five years and by University of Pittsburgh Professor Maureen McClure discussing the implications for school finance of an aging tax base.
Session II: "Why Smart Investments in Public Schools Are Critical to Pennsylvania's Economic Future"
Following an address by Eva Tansky Blum, Chairwoman and President of the PNC Foundation, a panel of business and labor leaders will discuss the importance of public school funding reform to the competitiveness of regional and state economies. 
We look forward to your participation!

Back to School Special Education Boot Camp Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:30 A.M.- 3:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join presenters from: Temple University · McAndrews Law Offices · ARC
PA Education for All Coalition · Delaware Valley Friends School
PA Dyslexia and Literacy Coalition
Attend workshops on: Early Intervention · Dyslexia · Discipline · Charter Schools
Inclusion · Transition Services
Details and Registration:

Education Law Center Celebrating Education Champions 2014
On September 17, 2014 the Education Law Center will hold its annual event at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Education Champions. This year, the event will honor William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and the Stoneleigh Foundation, a Philadelphia regional leader on at-risk youth issues.

Pennsylvania Arts Education Network 2014 Arts and Education Symposium
The 2014 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 2 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA.  Join us for a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about the latest news from the field.
The Symposium registration fee is $45 per person. To register, click here or follow the prompts at the bottom of the page.  The Symposium will include the following:

Register Now – 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.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference (Oct. 21-24) 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)

Voting for PSBA officers and at-large representatives opens Sept. 9
PSBA Website 9/8/2014
The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for candidates. 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 open Sept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register 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 received an email on Aug. 13 and a test ballot was sent to them on Aug. 28. In addition, a memo from PSBA President Richard Frerichs will be mailed in the coming days to all board secretaries and copied to school board presidents and chief school administrators.

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