Monday, October 31, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 31: Eagles Crash in OT; Cubs Stay Alive; Queen Offers to Restore British Rule to US

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 31, 2016
Eagles Crash in OT; Cubs Stay Alive; Queen Offers to Restore British Rule to US

Blogger note: HB1906, which would mandate School Director and Charter School Trustee training programs, is on the House calendar for November14th

Three revealing charts on state per-pupil funding in Pa. public schools
Keystone Crossroads/WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY OCTOBER 31, 2016
Recently, we published a story that analyzed the effects of the dramatic enrollment swings that have taken place in Pennsylvania school districts over the past 25 years.  The interactive graphic above was included in that piece, but it's worth noting as a tool in and of itself.  The graphic is sharable, downloadable and able to view in full-screen.
The first tile in the graphic allows users to see the clear correlation between enrollment change and per-pupil state basic education funding. In general, because of the state's "hold harmless" policy, the more students a district lost, the better its rank in per-pupil state funding.  Using the sliders on the right you can see how correlations change based on race and level of funding. 
The second tile compares median household income with state funding allocations. In general, poorer districts receive more state funding, but the graphic highlights some important disparities.  For instance, it shows that many districts serving a majority of students of color receive less per-pupil state support compared with many predominantly white districts of equal or higher wealth.  To give one example: Erie SD, with a median household income of about $33,000, gets less state support than Wattsburg SD, Riverside Beaver County SD, and Avella SD — each with median incomes over $60,000.  Other analyses have also highlighted this racial disparity.
The third tile looks specifically at the districts getting the most per pupil from the state.

Follow the Money 2016: Students First PAC Spends Over $445K to Privatize Democratically Governed Public Education in PA
Yass, Dantchik, Greenberg have contributed over a million dollars to the PAC
Keystone State Education Coalition October 30, 2016

Follow the Money 2014: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014
Six millionaires/billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.

Follow the Voucher Money: Students First PAC 2012

“The Queen urged Americans to write in her name on Election Day, after which the transition to British rule could begin “with a minimum of bother.”
The New Yorker By Andy Borowitz  , OCTOBER 29, 2016
LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—In an unexpected televised address on Saturday, Queen Elizabeth II offered to restore British rule over the United States of America.  Addressing the American people from her office in Buckingham Palace, the Queen said that she was making the offer “in recognition of the desperate situation you now find yourselves in.”  “This two-hundred-and-forty-year experiment in self-rule began with the best of intentions, but I think we can all agree that it didn’t end well,” she said.

Republicans poised to maintain their control of PA Legislature
AP News by Mark Scolforo October 29, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democrats will put their recent statewide election winning streak on the line Nov. 8, but have a tough fight to chip into Republican domination of the Legislature that illustrates why Pennsylvania is known as a swing state.  Despite trailing by about a million votes in party registration and having lost the governorship two years ago, Republicans hold solid margins of 31-19 in the Senate and 119-84 in the House.  Those majorities, wide even by historical standards, mean party control is unlikely to change this year.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf could well end up with another two years of working with a General Assembly that has a political and fiscal agenda much different than his own.  As is usually the case, about half the state's incumbent lawmakers have no opponents and will return when the two-year session starts back up in January. That's true for 13 of the 25 Senate seats that are up this year, and for 82 members of the 203-district House.

Pennsylvania Senate Republicans aiming for supermajority
Half of the state Senate's 50 seats are on the ballot this year, and if Republicans can pick up three of them, they would control a veto-proof majority of 34.
By Kate Giammarise and Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania Democrats could sweep Hillary Clinton into the White House, elect Katie McGinty as senator, and win all three state row offices on the ballot Nov. 8 — and yet, in one key respect, they could wake up Nov. 9 and still be worse off.  Half of the state Senate’s 50 seats are on the ballot this year, and if Republicans can pick up three of them, they would control a veto-proof majority of 34.  Overriding a veto would also require a two-thirds majority in the state House, which remains out of reach. “If the House doesn’t have it, it doesn’t really matter,” said state Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre.

Baer: Harrisburg's trick or treat
Philly Daily News Bear Growls by John Baer Updated: OCTOBER 31, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Halloween reminds me how Harrisburg can trick or treat.
Trick example: Your "full-time" legislature is basically gone for the year after again failing to fix the funnel of public pensions annually sucking down billions of your tax dollars.  Treat example: It passed legislation so beer distributors can sell six-packs - even single cans or bottles - instead of only cases.  So, pension reform? Um, no. But here, have a beer.  You might need it. For coming soon to a polling place near you are Harrisburg's biggest tricks: a bunch of no-choice elections.

Superintendents meet again over Erie schools crisis
GoErie By Ed Palattella Erie Times-News Posted Oct 27, 2016 at 5:30 PM
Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams on Thursday again briefed his fellow area school leaders on the ramifications of the Erie School District's budget crisis.  Badams provided the update on Thursday at a meeting of Erie County's 13 superintendents at the county's public safety building in Summit Township. The meeting was closed to the public.  Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper led the 90-minute meeting, which representatives of the region's state lawmakers also attended. The lawmakers were in Harrisburg for a legislative session.  Dahlkemper also led the first meeting of the superintendents, on Sept. 8. She said she convened the meetings to build support for the 11,500-student Erie School District, the region's largest, and to work on solutions to its budget problems.  The district is developing a financial recovery plan to submit to the state. That plan will include a request for more state aid.  The district is projecting deficit of as much as $10 million in 2016-17, and is considering closing its four high schools to save money. The district would pay tuition for its 3,000 high school students to attend public schools elsewhere in the county.  "It is important for Harrisburg to realize the regional ramifications of our district becoming insolvent," Badams said.

Governor Wolf to Nominate Estelle Richman to Philadelphia School Reform Commission
GOVERNOR Wolf Press Release October 28, 2016
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced his plans to nominate Estelle Richman, former senior adviser to the United States secretary of Housing and Urban Development and secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.  “I have worked with Estelle in many capacities, and she is one of the most dedicated and qualified individuals I know,” said Governor Wolf. “Estelle’s experience is unmatched and her breadth of knowledge and grasp of a diverse array of policy issues make her a perfect fit for the School Reform Commission.”

Gov. Wolf nominates Estelle B. Richman to SRC
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER Updated: OCTOBER 28, 2016 — 11:26 PM EDT
Two weeks after word spread that Gov. Wolf would tap former state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman for a seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, he made it official.  Wolf announced Friday that he would nominate Richman to fill the unpaid post on the five-member panel that Feather Houstoun vacated Oct. 14.  As a governor's pick, Richman, 73, must be confirmed by the state Senate. It is unclear when that may occur. The Senate is in recess and is not scheduled to return until Nov. 16. And Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman, said he was not sure when the governor would submit Richman's nomination for consideration.

Troubled Philly World Communications Charter to close in June
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER 215-854-2789 @marwooda Updated: OCTOBER 28, 2016 — 12:18 PM EDT
One of the oldest charter schools in Philadelphia has agreed to shut down in June rather that fight allegations of poor test scores, declining graduation rates and other deficiencies.  The School District announced Friday that World Communications Charter School in Southwest Center City - one of four original charters that opened in the district in 1997 - has agreed to close at the end of the academic year and forego an appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board.  Marjorie Neff, chair of the School Reform Commission, said the settlement reached with World Communications would provide ample time for the school's more than 425 sixth- through 12th-grade students to find new schools for the 2016-17 academic year.  She said it was critical that the World Communications trustees had acted "in a time frame that allows students and families to participate in the school selection process across all sectors for the 2017-18 school year, before that process closes in November."

UPDATE on Charter School Reform: House Bill 530
Scott C. Jelinski  President, Souderton Area School Board
This week legislation tried once again to push HB 530 to a vote. This bill, as it was written and proposed to be state-wide charter school law, threw up red flags for us locally. In response to this awareness, we asked our constituents to act and reach out to our local legislators. The good news is that it worked. Our message was heard loud and clear, with not only our elected officials, but in districts and organizations across the state. I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to make your voices heard. Once again, we showed the commonwealth that Souderton leads the charge on any issue from Harrisburg that will affect us locally, and we stand our ground. We have worked hard to relay a consistent message that we will no longer sit back, watch and wait. We will not allow entities, from outside our boundaries, to create more friction, more costs, and more turmoil within this organization. We stand strong, because we ARE Souderton.

Op-ed: Charter expansion bill HB530 is all tricks, no treats for Pennsylvania taxpayers
Halloween is just around the corner, but there is something far scarier in the halls of the Pennsylvania Capitol than any zombie that comes knocking on your door. While private charter operators could potentially get a big treat in the form of House Bill 530, the rest of us will be holding a bag full of tricks. And sadly, the ones who will suffer are our kids.  With only a few days left on the legislative calendar, legislators are trying to push through charter expansion with HB 530. Those in favor are dressing it up in the best costume they have and passing it off as charter school reform. It is anything but. The state's most recent School Performance Profile scores show that only 22 percent of charters achieved a score of 70 or higher. So why are legislators so quick to allow unchecked expansion of these schools and wasting of tax dollars?

“City Councilwoman Helen Gym, one of several officials at the protest, said closing so many schools was a mistake.  "The Boston Consulting Group report from 2013 was based on faulty data and pushed by education-reform lobbyists," Gym said, referring to the company that recommended the closings. "Smith School was a victim of their philosophy that mass school closings were necessary. The past 3 1/2 years have shown a much different reality - and opened up a new set of possibilities for our public schools."
Point Breeze residents say a community isn't a community without schools
Philly Daily News by Valerie Russ, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 29, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT
DARCIA BAXTER and her mother once attended the Walter G. Smith School in Point Breeze.  But because Smith, at 19th and Wharton Streets, was closed in 2013 and is slated for sale, there are fewer options for Baxter's 4-year-old daughter, who starts kindergarten next year.  "I just decided to become a Quaker to make Friends Select more affordable," Baxter, 42, said after residents and elected officials protested the sale last week.  "If there's another option, I'd rather be able to send her to school for free," she added.  Baxter and her neighbors, who have continually fought the school's closure, are hoping to persuade the School District to reopen Smith, saying the rapidly growing and changing Point Breeze community needs a school within walking distance for its children.  "You can't have a community with just houses, houses, houses," Betty Beaufort, a longtime Point Breeze resident, said recently. "When all those [new] people come in, some of them are going to have children."

“Savings are anticipated at approximately $214,000 a year. Much of those savings are due to the elimination of the district’s pension obligations.”
Garnet Valley School Board outsources custodians, eyes $214,000 savings
Delco Times By Susan Serbin, Times Correspondent POSTED: 10/29/16, 6:08 PM EDT
CONCORD >> The Garnet Valley School Board has moved forward with its plan to outsource custodial services, awarding a four-year contract for the work to SSC Services for Education, based in Knoxville, Tenn. The vendor was one of two finalists being considered by the board and administration.  The board estimates it could save $214,000 a year under the deal.  After considering outsourcing custodial service for several months, the search and selection process concluded with the award. Superintendent Marc Bertrando said countless hours were spent looking at proposals, gathering financial information and references, and had sufficient responses by each.  The contract has a start date of Jan. 1, 2017, but not been finalized, according to Business Manager Chris Wilson. Terms will be a flat dollar amount contract with inflationary increases. Savings are anticipated at approximately $214,000 a year. Much of those savings are due to the elimination of the district’s pension obligations. If hired by SSC, employees will be offered healthcare benefits.

More top high schools drop out of class-rank system
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: OCTOBER 30, 2016 — 1:09 AM EDT
For the West Chester Area School District, the last straw for class rank came when a University of Pennsylvania admissions officer told school officials that a highly qualified graduate had been rejected because she was ranked 15th out of 320 students.  "They said, 'If you didn't rank her, she would have gotten in,' " Superintendent James Scanlon said of the student, who had earned a 3.9 grade-point average in the high-achieving Chester County district.  Now West Chester is joining a growing number of districts around the country in eliminating class rank in its high schools - a high-stakes strategy that educators hold could help some of their students get into the nation's elite colleges, since those schools often overlook candidates who aren't in the rarefied percentiles.

'A social studies teacher's worst nightmare': educators try to foster civil discourse amid contentious election
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer October 30, 2016
On Election Day, Cocalico Middle School students will have an important choice to make: Should the Ramen Noodle Party or the Cookie Squad rule the school?  The Ramen Noodle Party promises to curb creepy clown sightings in Denver, explained seventh-grader Amren Stoner, the party’s presidential candidate.  The Cookie Squad, on the other hand, plans to address child obesity.  Mock elections are a common way for students to learn about U.S. politics, but Cocalico's use of fictional parties reflects a challenge unique to this year: In what many see as the nastiest election in recent history, teaching civics can be a minefield.  “This election has been a social studies teacher's worst nightmare,” said Cocalico teacher Georgette Hackman, who normally posts photos of presidential candidates in her classroom but opted not to this year.

 “In a Facebook post earlier this month, Roae compared school districts blaming financial troubles on charter schools to Hitler blaming problems on the Jews.
"Hitler blamed the Jews for everything that was wrong with the world and school boards blame charter schools," Roae said in the post.”
Education funding focus of 6th Dist. House race
Brad Roae, Peter Zimmer, Lester Lenhart contend for seat
By Valerie Myers Erie Times-News Posted October 30 at 2:01 AM
School funding, and Erie School District funding in particular, have become a major issue as the three-way race for the 6th District state House heats up.  The Erie School District is not in the 6th District but is indicative of financially troubled districts statewide, Republican incumbent Brad Roae said.  Also vying to be 6th District state representative are Democrat Peter Zimmer and write-in candidate Lester Lenhart. The district includes portions of central Crawford County and western Erie County.  Roae, 49, of East Mead Township, Crawford County, was first elected to the House in 2006 and has been outspoken about Erie School District's financial troubles, saying the district needs to cut spending before it can expect increased state aid.  "All school districts really need to focus more on their spending so there's not such a reliance on high property taxes" and additional state funding, he said.  School districts also need to stop blaming charter school and charter cyber school costs for contributing to their financial woes, Roae said.

“We successfully piloted the project during summer 2015 in the Anacostia community of Washington, DC, where research found only one in 830 children had access to an age-appropriate book. Thousands of children flocked to the vending machines located in a community center, a supermarket and a local church to select nearly 30,000 books to take home. In all, we gave away 100,000 books throughout Washington, DC, in 2015, targeting toddlers through young teens.”
Reading helps children’s imaginations soar and supports academic success. Youth and education are core pillars of our community programs. We do all we can to get age-appropriate books to kids who need them most and provide children with the resources and tools to read. Working with partners including First Book and Random House Children’s Books, JetBlue has donated more than $2 million worth of books to kids in need over the past five years.  In 2014, JetBlue commissioned research by U.S. childhood literacy expert Dr. Susan Neuman, which revealed the growing challenge of “book deserts.” Working with an advisory board of childhood literacy and development experts, JetBlue’s corporate social responsibility team came up with a unique and innovative solution — free books delivered via public vending machines.

NAACP President: Why We Should Pause the Expansion of Charter Schools
[Op-Ed] The organization's leader explains their position on the schools and responds to those who have been critical of it
As America’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP has fought to this very day to give each of the nation’s youngest citizens a quality education regardless of race. We have even taken that fight to the marble steps of the Supreme Court. There, in the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled, “In the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  Over 60 years later, these words ring resoundingly true in the hearts of parents who know all too well that in all too many cases, the education their children are receiving remains separate and unequal.  Earlier this year, 2,000 delegates representing virtually every school district across the country passed a resolution calling for a reasoned pause on charter school expansion, not rash elimination. The National Board then ratified the convention delegates’ position, reaffirming decades of NAACP support for public education. Many allies have commended our position and raised very similar concerns, including the Movement for Black Lives, which called for an end to charter schools as we know them just weeks after our July convention. But there has also been much unfounded outrage, with some critics even claiming that our decades-old position is contrary to the NAACP’s mission.

Minnesota's Vergara-Style Lawsuit Dismissed
Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Emmanuel Felton Oct. 28, 2016
A Minnesota judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of parents and national education reform groups who contended that the state's teacher tenure laws are keeping ineffective teachers in the classroom and thus harming children.  The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that there's a link between the due process rights provided by those laws and the state's wide achievement gaps.  The ruling is yet another setback for groups inspired by Vergara v. California, a landmark case where a trial court initially ruled that California's teacher tenure laws were harming students. Although that decision was later overturned on appeal, the ruling spawned two copycat lawsuits. A similar New York state case is currently working its way through the courts.  The plaintiffs in the Minnesota case argued that the state's laws virtually granted permanent employment to teachers after three years on the job by making it impossible to terminate them even if they were ineffective.

“The reason for dismissal of the suit is straightforward: No established, direct connection between teacher tenure laws and those dastardly low test scores– with the low test scores of charter schools (which have non-tenured teachers) blasting the no-tenure, higher-test-score pseudo-argument.”
Campbell Brown’s PEJ Is Having Trouble Connecting Test Scores with Tenure Laws
Deutsch29 Blog by Mercedes Schneider October 29, 2016
On October 26, 2016, the Minnesota teacher tenure lawsuit prodded by Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) hit a roadblock when Ramsey County (MN) Judge Margaret Marrinan tossed out the PEJ-supported (instigated?) Forslund vs. Minnesota suit on the grounds that the suit “failed to establish a link between low academic achievement and the due process provided by the tenure laws,” as the Star Tribune reports.

Supreme Court to Rule in Transgender Access Case
New York Times By ADAM LIPTAKOCT. 28, 2016
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday entered the intense national debate over transgender rights, announcing that it would decide whether a transgender boy may use the boys’ bathroom in a Virginia high school.  The legal question in the case is whether the Obama administration was entitled to interpret a regulation under Title IX, a 1972 law that bans discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools that receive federal money, as banning discrimination based on gender identity.  Last year, the federal Department of Education said schools “generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” In May, the department issued a more general directive that said schools may lose federal money if they discriminate against transgender students.

Supreme Court to Review Transgender Bathroom Access at Public Schools
Court to decide whether schools must follow federal guidance allowing students to choose bathroom​
Wall Street Journal By  JESS BRAVIN Updated Oct. 28, 2016 3:58 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court said Friday it would review whether local schools must follow Obama administration guidance stating transgender students be allowed to use the restroom of their choice.  The case came from Gloucester, Va., whose school board appealed a federal appeals court decision requiring it to let a transgender student, Gavin Grimm, use the boys’ restroom. Gavin was born female but identifies as male.  The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said it was bound to follow the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal civil-rights laws.  In May, the U.S. Education and Justice departments issued legal guidance to schools regarding the treatment of transgender students, saying students should be allowed to choose restrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than biological sex.

Supreme Court takes up school bathroom rules for transgender students
Washington Post By Robert Barnes and Moriah Balingit October 28 at 4:21 PM 
The Supreme Court on Friday said it will decide whether the Obama administration may require public school systems to let transgender students use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, putting the court once again at the center of a divisive social issue.  School districts across the country are split on how to accommodate transgender students in the face of conflicting guidance from courts, the federal government and, in some cases, state legislatures that have passed laws requiring people to use public restrooms that coincide with the sex on their birth certificates.  The justices accepted a petition from Gloucester County, Va. On a 5 to 3 vote in August, they said the school board did not have to comply with a lower court’s order that 17-year-old student Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, should be allowed to use the boys’ bathroom during his senior year of high school.

“In Washington, Gates and the other mega-donors are targeting a judge who has ruled against one of their pet projects in the past.   Last year, the court ruled that a 2012 ballot measure establishing charter schools in Washington violated the state constitution because it gave control of charter schools to appointed boards, rather than elected ones. Wiggins voted with the majority.  Gates, Allen and Ballmer had helped fund the ballot measure establishing charter schools.”
Why Bill Gates is trying to change Washington's Supreme Court
The Hill,com By Reid Wilson - 10/27/16 04:35 PM EDT
Washington State Supreme Court Justice Charlie Wiggins spent 10 months raising a little over $200,000 for his reelection campaign. On Oct. 17, a single donor — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — wrote a $200,000 check to a political action committee aiming to boot Wiggins from office.  That same day, several of Gates's former colleagues, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and former Microsoft President Steve Ballmer, wrote checks to a new group, Citizens for Working Courts. Brad Smith, Microsoft's current president, has also donated.  Another group, Judicial Integrity Washington, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from wealthy Washington state businessmen, including billionaire investment manager Ken Fisher, real estate mogul Kemper Freeman and John Stanton, the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners.

Three L.A. Charters Under Scrutiny for Hiring Turkish Teachers on Temp. Visas
Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Emmanuel Felton on October 27, 2016 8:25 PM
Three Los Angeles charter schools up for renewal may be shuttered because of administrators' penchant for hiring Turkish educators on temporary work visas, reports the Los Angeles Times. This comes amid broader nationwide concern about some charter schools importing Turkish teachers.   The newspaper reports that Los Angeles Unified School District will recommend to the Los Angeles Board of Education that the five-year-old schools' contracts not be renewed. While district staff hasn't publicly disclosed the reasons for the closures, the newspaper reports that sources say that the composition of the teaching staff was key to the decision.  Over the years, California-based Magnolia Public Schools, which runs the three schools in question as well as seven others, has gotten visas for nearly 100 teachers, almost all from Turkey, to work at their schools. The schools currently employ 37 teachers on visas, according to the Times.  The schools are part of a loosely organized nationwide network of charter schools with Turkish ties. 

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 10/29/2016

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