Thursday, October 30, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 30: Pension PACMAN keeps chomping away: at WSSD, PSERS increase will consume 82% of tax revenue generated by 1.9% allowable Act 1 tax increase.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 30, 2014:
Pension PACMAN keeps chomping away: at WSSD, PSERS increase will consume 82% of tax revenue generated by 1.9% allowable Act 1 tax increase.

"The district has learned its state-mandated Act 1 tax increase limit for 2015-16 will be 1.9 percent. Noonan said that cap combined with an additional $829,000 in payments to the state Public School Employees Retirement System are the main drivers of the reductions.  He emphasized that the $829,000 would involve “new dollars” on top of an already hefty PSERS bill. For 2014-15, the district’s pension cost was pegged at $6.9 million, for an increase of 26.4 percent over 2013-14.  “That($829,000) represents 82 percent of the total tax revenue generated by instituting the Act 1 tax level percentage increase of 1.9 percent” on the existing budget base in 2015-16, Noonan said. “So it represents a considerable financial challenge for our schools.”
Wallingford-Swarthmore looks to trim $829K from budget
Delco Times By NEIL A. SHEEHAN, Times Correspondent POSTED: 10/29/14, 11:18 PM EDT 
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> The budget development process for fiscal year 2015-16 won’t begin in earnest for some time, but administrators in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District have already laid down a marker on cuts that need to be achieved.  District Superintendent Richard Noonan said principals and members of the administrative team have been notified that $829,000 will need to be trimmed.  “To achieve this, we’re going to need reductions in the full scope of district supporting operations,” Noonan said at a school board meeting on Oct. 27, adding that the goal will be to keep the changes from impacting educational programs.
If the cuts are not made, the district will be forced in upcoming years to scale back expenditures on both curriculum and extracurricular offerings, he said.
As has been the case for many years now, pressure brought on by soaring pension costs is prompting the early austerity efforts.

PP4C: An Update on the Basic Education Funding Commission
PA Partnerships for Children Posted At : October 27, 2014 12:53 PM | Posted By : PPC
Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding Commission held two more hearings this month to gather feedback on how the commonwealth funds its public schools.
Here's a summary of the Oct. 16th and Oct.21sst hearings.

Price of the Prize: PA Governor's Race $48,212,778
Total contributions to both candidates
Post-Gazette/PublicSource ongoing feature
In politics, money is power. PublicSource and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believe you should know who's donating significant campaign cash to candidates for governor. So, we're following the money for you. Check back often for updates on who's contributing to the governor's race.

How southeast region's Pa. Senate races are shaping up
HARRISBURG - A week out from Election Day and the attacks were coming fast and furious:
"Kane silent on SEPTA strike."  "Tom McGarrigle Lies About Taxes in New Ad."
Democrat John Kane and Republican Tom McGarrigle are locked in a bitter and costly war over the state Senate seat being vacated by Edwin "Ted" Erickson, a Republican from Delaware County who took office in 2001.  Control of the upper chamber - safely held for almost four decades by Republicans - may turn on votes cast Tuesday in Erickson's district, which includes parts of Delaware and Chester Counties.

Next time you sit down to your favorite squab, cat and dog salad sandwich, chew on this and realize that it works just the same way for education legislation in PA.  Disclaimer: no animals were harmed in the preparation of this posting, but my cat is coming dangerously close if she doesn't stop playing with the keyboard and chewing on the power cords……
Pigeon shooters drop $20k on key committee members before vote
Inquirer Commonwealth Confidential Blog Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 9:06 AM
Did money play a role in stopping the bill aimed at banning live pigeon shoots and making it illegal to eat cats and dogs in Pennsylvania?  Three days before a critical vote was to be taken that would have sent the bill (HB1750) to the state House floor, a pigeon shooting lobbying group dropped $20,000 on key committee members. campaign finance records show.

Governor gives out $135M in grants weeks before election
WHTM ABC27 Harrisburg By Dennis Owens Posted: Oct 28, 2014 5:57 PM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - The news releases have been relentless from the governor's office for three weeks.  Most days, there have been several a day telling of grant giveaways.
In the weeks before Halloween, Tom Corbett's been handing out treats across the commonwealth.  Actually, it's been cash and a lot of it.

The debate over Common Core ignores the biggest question in education: Bill Davidson
PennLive Op-Ed  By Bill Davidson on October 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM
In recent years, Common Core State Standards have assumed the forefront of educational consciousness, stimulating heated debate as to their merit and place in the U.S. educational system.   Common Core advocates applaud the program's rigor, while its harshest critics consider the concept to be communistic, arguing that the federal government shouldn't be making decisions on the state and local level.  While these disputes aren't likely to let up anytime soon, Common Core enthusiasts and detractors both tend to avoid naming the most pressing issue facing our educational system.   Regardless of how often students are tested, what standards they're being tested on, and who decides what those standards are, U.S. children will continue to underperform on a global scale so long as they're being asked to demonstrate achievement that they're not in an academic position to reach - especially in math.

"Mrs. Lane said she was “startled” by the lack of a funding formula in Pennsylvania and districts’ reliance on local property taxes. Charter school tuition rates that are paid by public schools foster a negative, competitive relationship, she said, and often put public schools in difficult financial positions.  “If we de-fund some schools to fund other schools, then there will be winners and losers,” she said during Tuesday night’s panel. “And, when there are winners and losers, we all know who usually comes out losing.”
Panel discusses race issues, equitable education
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 28, 2014 11:35 PM
Self-categorized “former black power activist” turned education reformer Howard Fuller gave his perspective on education at a public panel in the Hill District Tuesday night in the context of his recent visit to the site where four black students sat in at a segregated Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960.  “Now, we can have four black students sit down at a completely integrated lunch counter but can’t read the menu,” he said, barely heard over the applause. “Something’s not right.”  Attendees filled two levels of seating at the Hill House Association’s Kaufmann Center to discuss best practices to help minority students succeed academically. Speakers Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, Richard Wertheimer, founder of City Charter High School and Mr. Fuller discussed topics ranging from teacher quality to arts education to state and federal funding and their impact on the success of minority students.

The problem of providing high-quality education only to rich kids
Philadelphia schools are failing. Students are not reading at grade level. Some classes are so overcrowded, children are sitting on window sills. Libraries have been shuttered. Art, music, advanced foreign language classes, and programs for the gifted have been dropped. The district hasn’t been able to balance its budget in decades. It blames the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for its fiscal crisis. Supposedly, they want too much.  Meanwhile, just across the county line, student test scores are above national averages. Buildings are new. Libraries are well stocked. There are state-of-the-art computers, well equipped art and ceramics studios, jewelry and metal workshops, and athletic programs that produce stars like Kobe Bryant. Teachers' salaries are 19 percent higher than in Philadelphia. No one is accusing them of greed, and the district always manages to balance its budget.
Why do schools improve dramatically just by crossing City Avenue?

Charter and district schools should not be at odds; my family relies on both
My education is, in part, a product of the best intentions of the School District of Philadelphia. In the early '90s, the elementary school I attended in my neighborhood, James Russell Lowell in Olney, could no longer accommodate students up to eighth grade, so at the age of 11, I began evaluations to attend a school outside of my neighborhood, something most Philadelphia public school students know about.  Of the hundreds of children having to transfer from Lowell that year, I think there were three or four of us chosen — all white — to attend Masterman magnet school in the Spring Garden neighborhood. Some of them I had never seen in Olney before. Some were from families who had come to live there to practice their religious convictions, my first experience with a kind of urban missionary. Others came from families that could afford to send their children to private schools.

#PHLed101: How Philly’s schools got where they are today By Anna Orso October 28, 2014
How the Philadelphia school system operates is unique from any other district in the state, especially how it’s funded, and how that funding has changed over the last several decades.
The state runs the district through its School Reform Commission (that acronym, “SRC,” is getting a lot of hate these days), there are more charter schools here than anywhere else in the state, and, oh yeah, the district is broke.  It’s complicated. Let’s get back to the basics and review what the school system is and how we even got here.

Who is Voting for Tom Corbett?
Yinzercation Blog October 29, 2014
Ever since he slashed close to $1 billion from public education back in 2011, Governor Corbett has been claiming he did the very opposite. So it’s no surprise – though completely ludicrous – that he has been campaigning on his “record of support” for public schools. Still, I spit out my coffee when I saw the full page ad in this morning’s Post-Gazette. (See first image, below.) To set the record straight, I made some factual corrections. (See revised ad, below.) We don’t have Corbett’s deep pockets to take out a full page ad in the paper, but we can share this post – and share the truth!

Weingarten/Perry Washington Post: Gov. Tom Corbett has slashed funding for Pennsylvania’s neediest students. Fixing schools means voting him out.
Research shows that more funding improves academic achievement, especially for the poorest students.
Washington Post By Andre M. Perry and Randi Weingarten October 29 at 1:49 PM  
While admissions counselors are recruiting to fill desks at for-profit schools, students are leaving those classrooms burdened with debt. (Joel van Houdt for The Washington Post)
Equitable funding for schools is requisite for student success. This is especially true for public schools in low-income communities, where the amount of money funneled into classrooms can have a significant impact on children’s academic achievement. One recent analysis of low-income fourth-graders’ achievement on a national reading test determined that spending an additional $1,000 per student correlated with a 0.42-point increase in test scores (the average test score is about 222). Given that at least 30 states are funding education at a lower level than before the recession, we shouldn’t be surprised that another study, conducted by Stanford University researcher Sean Reardon, found that the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than those born 25 years earlier.  Schools in the urban core do not have the necessary courses, facilities and services that help students cope with the effects of poverty. Let’s be clear: Schools that serve low-income students need more money, not less. You can’t cut your way toward academic improvement.  However, one governor tried.

Tracing School Funding Inequities All the Way Down to the School
New America Foundation EdCentral by Conor P. Williams October 16, 2014
Almost every education policy debate serves as a partial proxy for something else. Debates about expanding pre-K access are often really about disagreements regarding the scope of the federal government and/or money. Debates about school choice are often about protecting the real estate-based privileges of neighborhood school boundaries or efforts to blur church-state boundaries. Debates about the Common Core State Standards are often secretly about the Muslim Brotherhood, the United Nations, and space aliens with plans for world domination.
The Fordham Institute’s new Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer is a useful reminder that school funding arguments are no different. Whatever the surface appearance of these debates, they’re almost always implicitly about deeper theories of justice. And those get at core elements of our social contract (both articulated and unarticulated). What do we, as a community, owe to families and students as far as educational resources are concerned? Consider these two options:
1.       If we believe that all students should be treated equally in a public education system, presumably we should we commit equal resources to each student, regardless of their background.
2.       If we believe that some students may, through no fault of their own, face crippling educational challenges because of their families’ limited resources, presumably we should compensate by investing additional public funds to establish a baseline of equitable educational opportunity.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: October 22 - 28, 2014
Submitted by fairtest on October 28, 2014 - 2:33pm 
An explosive week for the testing resistance and reform movement. Nationally, pressure is mounting on President Obama, Secretary Duncan and members of Congress to cut back on federal mandates which help drive standardized exam insanity.  At the same time, grassroots campaigns are forcing local officials to overhaul the testing policies they control -- today's summary includes stories from 19 states as well as several excellent commentaries.

Gallup: Teachers Favor Common Core Standards, Not the Testing by Linda Lyons October 29,2014
Story Highlights
·         Three-quarters of teachers view unified standards positively
·         Most agree testing students on the new standards is problematic
·         Majority find linking test scores to teacher evaluation unfair
This article is part of a series on parents' and teachers' attitudes about the Common Core State Standards.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The large majority of U.S. public school teachers, 76%, react positively to the primary goal of the Common Core -- to have all states use the same set of academic standards for reading, writing and math in grades K-12. However, this positivity fades when the topic turns to using computerized tests to measure student performance (27%) and linking those test scores to teacher evaluations (9%).

"An internal media strategy memo, obtained by The Nation, confirms Chovnick’s concerns, detailing TFA’s intricate methodology for combating negative media attention, or what it calls “misinformation.” Given that TFA takes tens of millions of government dollars every year, such strategies are troubling. According to its last three years of available tax filings, Teach For America has spent nearly $3.5 million in advertising and promotion."
This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America
An internal memo reveals how TFA’s obsessive PR game covers up its lack of results in order to justify greater expansion.
The Nation by George Joseph  October 29, 2014  
Last year, Wendy Heller Chovnick, a former Teach For America manager, spoke out against her former organization in The Washington Post, decrying its “inability and unwillingness to honestly address valid criticism.” In recent years, such criticism has centered on Teach For America’s intimate involvement in the education privatization movement and its five-week training, two-year teaching model, which critics claim offers recruits a transformative resume-boosting experience but burdens schools with disruptive turnover cycles.  In the interview, Chovnick referenced the extent to which Teach For America manufactured its public image, explaining, “Instead of engaging in real conversations with critics, and even supporters, about the weaknesses of Teach For America and where it falls short, Teach For America seemed to put a positive spin on everything. During my tenure on staff, we even got a national team, the communications team, whose job it was to get positive press out about Teach For America in our region and to help us quickly and swiftly address any negative stories, press or media.”

Democrats for Public Education Releases List of Bold-Face Name Supporters from Across USA
Democrats for Public Education October 29, 2014 | Posted in:NewsPress Releases
DPE Momentum Continues to Grow (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Democrats For Public Education (DPE) released a list of bold names who signed on as supporters for the newly-launched organization. DPE is a 527 formed to show that Democrats remain united around a core set of principles to ensure public education thrives for generations to come. Since officially launching on August 19th, 2014, scores of elected officials, party leaders and activists at all levels of government – and from communities in all 50 states – have already added their names as supporters. “In less than two months since officially launching, its no surprise thatDemocrats for Public Education has already enjoyed such a flood of support,” said DPE Co-Chair Denise Juneau, Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “These folks understand that a high-quality public education is an economic necessity, a moral imperative and a pillar of democracy. We believe we should be lifting up and championing public education, teachers and our neighborhood schools – by investing time, energy and resources.” Below is just a small sampling of Democrats from all across America who have signed on to support DPE:

New website offers closer look into candidate' views on public education
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) has created a new website for its members and the general public to get a closer look into candidates' views on public education leading up to the 2014 election for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Following the primary elections, PSBA sent out a six-question questionnaire to all Pennsylvania House and Senate candidates competing for seats in the November election.  Candidates are listed by House, Senate seat and county. Districts can be found by visiting the 'Find My Legislator' link (
Features include:
·         Candidate images, if provided
·         Candidates are tagged by political party and seat for which they are running
·         Candidates who did not respond are indicated by "Responses not available."
Visit the site by going to or by clicking on the link tweeted out by @PSBAadvocate.
Candidates wishing to complete the questionnaire before election day may do so by contacting Sean Crampsie (717-506-2450, x-3321).

Children with Autism - Who’s Eligible? How to get ABA services?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Join us on November 19th, 2014 to discuss eligibility services for children with Autism. This session will teach parents, teachers, social workers and attorneys how to obtain Applied Behavioral Analysis services for children on the autism spectrum. Presenters include Sonja Kerr (Law Center), Rachel Mann (Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania), Dr. Lisa Blaskey (The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania), and David Gates (PA Health Law Project).

Register Now – 2014 PASCD Annual Conference – November 23 – 25, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PASCD Annual Conference, “Leading an Innovative Culture for Learning – Powered by Blendedschools Network” to be held November 23-25 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, PA.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: David Burgess -  - Author of "Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator", Dr. Bart Rocco, Bill Sterrett - ASCD author, "Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?" and Ron Cowell. 
This annual conference features small group sessions (focused on curriculum, instructional, assessment, blended learning and middle level education) is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for cultural change in your school or district.  Join us for PASCD 2014!  Online registration is available by visiting

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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