Friday, December 19, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 19: The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, 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, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public EducationAre you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 19, 2014:
The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)

Overview of 50 States' Funding Formulas
By Mike Griffith, Education Commission of the States
Presented to PA Basic Education Funding Commission October 2014

The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding December 18, 2014 Video Runtime 3:31
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials provides a short, easy to follow tutorial on how funding works and the challenges lawmakers confront.
PASBO answers the question: What is Basic Education Funding?

Charter Schools USA expands on plans for York City
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   12/18/2014 09:43:50 AM EST
A representative of Charter Schools USA said the for-profit company will be "dedicated to improving the education of York City students" if given the opportunity to operate the York City School District.  "Our actions will speak louder than our words," Paula Jackson, the company's director of development and government relations, said in a statement.  The Florida-based company is at the center of a heated debate and related court battle over the academically and financially struggling district's future.  A state-appointed official wants to give Charter Schools USA a minimum of three years to take over and improve student performance.
Parents, teachers, students and school officials are overwhelmingly opposed to that idea — which would be the first public-to-charter conversion in Pennsylvania and among the first in the country.

York City school board rescinds teacher contract approval
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   12/17/2014 05:05:18 PM EST 
The York City school board and the district's teachers union have agreed to go back to the negotiating table.  Board members voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind their Nov. 19 approval of a new labor contract that would have cut teachers' pay by 5 percent starting Jan. 1.
The board did not discuss the decision before or after the vote.
After the meeting, board President Margie Orr said the board's decision was "possibly" influenced by a desire to reach an agreement more consistent with the district's financial recovery plan.
The lack of a new teachers' contract has been a big source of contention among district and state officials since the early days of the district's two-year financial recovery process.

"The biggest cost increases in the five-year plan are charter and pension expenditures. Next year alone, the district expects it will have to spend $32 million more in pension costs and $42 million in charter costs.  Stanski would not say whether the district is planning for new charters - 40 new charter-school applications have been received. He said the district was planning to lose 5,000 more students to charters over the next five years, though."
No-frills spending plan adopted for Phila. schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, December 19, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, December 18, 2014, 9:55 PM
Even in a best-case scenario, the Philadelphia School District faces a $30 million deficit for next year.  And that's with asking for $309 million in new money from the city and state, and not planning on any teacher raises over the next five years.  Buffeted by years of brutal budgets, city school officials Thursday laid out a five-year financial plan that raised little hope the district would see many improvements.  Without a significant course correction, officials said, the district will continue to simply limp along.

SRC adopts 5-year financial plan
THE SCHOOL REFORM Commission last night adopted a five-year financial plan that maintains the status quo, but signaled its intention to push a more-ambitious agenda that would require significant investments from the city and state.  The adopted plan shows a projected $30 million budget gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1, compared to a $216 million anticipated shortfall last year. The spending plan reflects a continued rise in pension costs and charter-school payments, but also assumes that health-care benefits imposed on the teachers' union will be upheld - something that Commonwealth Court has yet to decide.  "While on paper [the gap] looks smaller, it's smaller because we've had to make decisions that impact the lives of children in our city," Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski told reporters.  In contrast, the district's "transformational" five-year plan would require an extra $309 million next year, which would be directed to schools for additional classroom and after-school resources, Stanski said.

District: We need $309M more next year to provide effective education
Five-year financial plan to be presented to the SRC tonight says just to keep inadequate current conditions, $30 million is needed.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 18, 2014 02:30 PM UPDATED 7:50
Tonight Superintendent William Hite presented two five-year financial plans to the School Reform Commission.  One is called "Inadequate Status Quo" and reflects the "grim reality" of current conditions in schools.   The other, called "Transformation," asks for enough resources to "provide all ... students with the kind of educational opportunities that will enable them to fulfill their promise."  Both plans require more money -- $30 million to maintain what exists now, and 10 times as much -- $309 million -- to give students what District leaders think they need next year.

Philly Wakisha Charter school shutting for good earlier than planned
North Philadelphia's Wakisha charter school is closing its doors this Friday, only the second charter school in Philadelphia history to do so in the middle of a school year. Wakisha was supposed to close on December 23rd, but last week the school's administration stopped classes and moved up the last day to December 19th. In a letter from school administrators first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Martha Woodall, the school citied dwindling teacher and student numbers as the reason for closing their doors even sooner than initially announced. The letter maintained there were only  "three administrators, and 10 classroom teachers and support staff" as of last week. According to the Philadelphia School District, around 180 students are still enrolled at Wakisha in the District's enrollment software, but classroom teachers report that only around 100 students are showing up.

Putting a number on forgone Pa. property taxes
A report by Pennsylvania's auditor general finds that some counties are losing hundreds of millions of dollars from organizations defined as charities and are therefore exempt from property taxes.  The study cherry-picks 10 counties -- including Bucks and Montgomery --and tallies up how much money they lost in 2014 because of the nonprofit entities within their borders that don't pay property taxes. It also discloses what those counties' hospitals and medical facilities would have to pay in property taxes if not for the exemption.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he knows some of these organizations make voluntary payments to local governments instead of property taxes, but those payments aren't standardized.

Cuomo Signals Changes for Education Next Year
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR DEC. 18, 2014
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signaled on Thursday that he intended to push next year for sweeping changes to the state’s education system, with goals that include making it easier to fire low-performing teachers and increasing the number of charter schools.  In a letter to the state’s departing education commissioner, John B. King Jr., and the chancellor of the Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, Mr. Cuomo’s director of state operations, Jim Malatras, asserted that the performance of the state’s students on a variety of measures, like graduation rates and test scores, was “unacceptable.” He also enumerated pointed questions about subjects like teacher evaluations and tenure.  The first question on the list, for instance, asked, “How is the current teacher evaluation system credible when only 1 percent of teachers are rated ineffective?”

The Problem Isn't Getting Rid of Teachers, It's Keeping Them
Forbes by Nick Morrison December 3, 2014
Judging by the tenor of the education debate in recent weeks, it would be easy to assume that the biggest challenge facing school leaders is how to get rid of bad teachers. But any problems caused by teacher tenure pale in comparison with the difficulty in getting teachers to stay.
I wrote earlier this week about how a belief in removing poor teachers as a way to improve schools was misplaced.  My post was a response to the debate prompted by an article in Time magazine about tech entrepreneurs who want to make it easier to fire bad teachers.
While it may excite conservative commentators, this proposal is doomed to fail, not least because firing teachers requires finding replacements, and there is no guarantee they will be any better, if they exist at all.  But there is another side to this debate, and that is the difficulty of keeping teachers in the classroom. Not just good teachers, but any teachers.

Turning around schools with low achievement rates never seems to work
Washington Post By Jay Mathews December 17 
One of the goals U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan set when he launched the $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant (SIG) program in 2009 was to turn 1,000 schools around annually for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” he said.  I like Duncan and much of what he and the Obama administration have done for schools, but that goal is a harmful fantasy.
The overlooked truths about fixing schools are vividly revealed in an Education Writers Association research brief, “What Studies Say About School Turnarounds,” by Andrew Brownstein, a freelance journalist who reports on federal education policy. (Turnaround schools are those whose low achievement rates have been significantly improved by a change in operations.)  Brownstein said “successful turnarounds are extremely rare.” Veterans ofeducation reform efforts “might be forgiven for thinking of turnarounds as the unicorns of federal education policy,” he said.

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.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 18, 2014: Pennsylvania town poised to make all public schools for-profit charters

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, 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, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public EducationAre you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 18, 2014:
Pennsylvania town poised to make all public schools for-profit charters

Everything you ever wanted to know about PA education funding/school finance but were afraid to ask
Basic Education Funding Commission School Finance Briefing
By Jim Buckheit, Executive Director, PA Association of School Administrators and Jay Himes, Executive Director, PA Association of School Business Officials August 20, 2014

Pennsylvania town poised to make all public schools for-profit charters
Aljazeera by Peter Moskowitz   @ptrmsk December 15, 2014
York, Pennsylvania, could become the second school district in the country to offer only charter schools to the area’s residents if a court ruling likely to come this week turns over control of public schools to the state.  In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to carry out a two-year-old plan to turn all of York’s schools over to for-profit charter corporation Charter Schools USA, Pennsylvania’s Department of Education filed a petition in a York County court earlier this month to take away almost all local control from the school board, and put the district in the “receivership” of state-appointed York education official David Meckley.
Meckley, a local businessman who once served on the board of a nearby school district, was appointed in 2012 to oversee York’s financially beleaguered school system under a 2012 law that allowed the state to appoint “recovery officers” for any school districts with significant debt. His plan for York [PDF] involves a slew of concessions from the district, from teacher layoffs to extracurricular cutbacks. But the most controversial part is the handing over of the entire operation of the district to Charter Schools USA.

 An Urban Myth? New Evidence on Equity, Adequacy, and the Efficiency of Educational Resources in Pennsylvania
Center for Policy Research in Education November 2014
Authors: Matthew P. Steinberg, Rand Quinn
How and in what ways money matters in education is a long-standing question among policymakers and education researchers. This issue is particularly salient to large, urban school districts, where debates on the organization of school often gravitate toward issues of financial resources and academic performance. Large urban districts, the story goes, spend more money per pupil but generate lower than expected results. In this policy brief, University of Pennsylvania researchers Matthew P. Steinberg and Rand Quinn present evidence that addresses the oft-told story that large urban districts, such as the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), are inefficient.

Letter to the Editor: Pa. needs a school funding formula to promote fairness
Delco Times LTE by William H. Kerr POSTED: 12/17/14, 10:35 PM EST |
WILLIAM H. KERR, Ed.D, Superintendent of Schools, Norwin School District, North Huntington, PA
To the Times:
The effectiveness of public education – the cornerstone of our democracy – is essential to graduating productive and responsible citizens in a knowledge and technology-based economy.
Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a consistently applied school funding formula, which creates unfairness for students and disparities among school districts across the state.
State officials must find an equitable method to distribute state funds for public education so that all students can be better served and have access to high-quality educational programs and services.  Recently, more than 850 educators across Pennsylvania met via video conference at 29 locations on the same night to discuss the need for a fair public school funding formula. Discussions focused on how the Pennsylvania legislature, each budget year, determines the amount and method of Basic Education Funding by using inconsistent criteria and multiple factors. The last true school funding formula, eliminated in 2011, calculated state aid based on a district’s actual costs. This created a more level playing field and provided a state commitment to the total cost of educating our students.

Politically Uncorrected: 2015: Challenge Amid Change in the Keystone State
PoliticsPA Written by G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young December 17, 2014
In 2014, Pennsylvania selected a new governor, rejected an old governor, and voted decisively to be indecisive about which party should control state government – overwhelmingly handing the executive branch to Democrats while just as overwhelmingly turning the legislature over to Republicans – thus installing divided government in the Keystone State.  As a new year begins, it’s an auspicious time to assess where we have been the past 12 months, where we are going the next 12 months, and what challenges and change might confront us along the way.
Approaching 2015, five unfolding political themes deeply rooted in 2014 seem likely to dominate state politics in the New Year.

Wolf presents dire financial picture for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf is continuing to sound the alarm about the state's fiscal woes.
At a press conference in Philadelphia, Wolf said the state is facing a budget gap that could be more than $2 billion. He is not saying how he plans to close the gap. Wolf said he wants to first determine the exact size of the problem, and then work with the legislature to come up with solutions.  "We need to think about solutions on the spending side. We need to think about solutions on the revenue side," he said. "Just hoping for growth doesn't seem to be enough."

Harrisburg thinktank: State budget outlook bleak
state budget: Analysts see growth ahead for Pennsylvania's budget woes.
York Dispatch By GREG GROSS 505-5433/@ydpolitics  12/17/2014 01:14:18 PM EST
The projected nearly $2 billion budget deficit Pennsylvania lawmakers and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf are facing next year is just the start of what's to come, according to two Harrisburg thinktanks.
At current revenue levels and while maintaining the same level of services, the $1.9 billion budget deficit will balloon to $2.2 billion come 2016, said Mike Wood, research director with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, citing data from the state's Independent Fiscal Office.
"And that gap grows every year as revenues fail to keep up with expenditures," he said.
By 2017, the gap is projected to grow to $2.5 billion; by 2019, it'll hit $2.7 billion, the data shows.
Wood was part of a trio of experts from the nonpartisan budget and policy center and the Keystone Research Center who gave their outlooks on the state of the state's finances during a presentation in Harrisburg on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh schools directors OK budget with no change in property tax rate
Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 18, 2014 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools’ board of directors unanimously approved a final budget Wednesday night of $556.8 million for 2015.  The approved budget has a 5 percent increase of about $27 million but holds the line on the property tax rate of 9.84 mills. One mill equals a tax of $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The board also unanimously voted to levy realty transfer and earned income taxes, all of which remained the same from this year.

Pittsburgh students deliver wish list to school board. There’s one item on it.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 17 at 3:00 PM  
Actress Kerry Washington spends an afternoon with the Savoy Players, dancers comprised of boys and girls at at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, DC on January 22, 2013. Washington was part of a “Turnaround Arts Initiative” to improve low-performing schools by emphasizing the arts. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
Some unusual speakers appeared at the final Pittsburgh school board meeting of the year — students, and they were asking for something. Arts education. In the following post,  Jessie B. Ramey,  a parent of two children in Pittsburgh public schools and a historian of working families, gender, race and U.S. social policy who teaches women’s studies and history at the University of Pittsburgh, describes the scene at the board meeting. In the original post,  which first appeared  on her Yinzercation blog, she  wrotethat seniors William Grimm and Margaret Booth, co-chairs of their school’s chapter of the National Art Honor Society, approached Yinzercation, a collective of volunteer parents, students, teachers, and community members in Southwest Pennsylvania that advocates for public education, for help in learning how to make a presentation to the school board. Steering committee member Kathy Newman assisted. Here is a version of the original piece, which I am publishing with Ramey’s permission.

The men who run Chester Upland
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Thursday, December 18, 2014
There is nothing wrong with the Chester Upland School District that $20 million wouldn't cure.
That's the word from the man who should know. Joe Watkins is the embattled state-appointed receiver of the struggling district. He managed to survive an attempt by his boss at the state Department of Education to boot him from his job. But he's not out of the woods yet. Neither is the district.  Chester Upland continues to face fiscal calamity, staring at a $20 million deficit. Watkins says that shortfall could be wiped out if the state went back to disbursing money as it did after a costing-out study done in 2011 that delivered more state aid to those districts in the greatest need.  He's hopeful that a new administration taking over in Harrisburg - namely Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf - will restore the Act 88 funds nixed by the Corbett Administration.  In the meantime, he maintains the district is making progress, both in luring students back to the public schools from charters, in maintaining a safe atmosphere, and increasing test scores.

Missed Chester Upland's Joe Watkins and Gregory Shannon on Live from the Newsroom? Here is the replay
Delco Times Video POSTED: 12/17/14, 9:54 AM EST 
Chester Upland School District receiver Joe Watkins stood his ground and refused to be pulled away by the state powers.  Watkins and Chester Upland Superintendent Gregory Shannon made a visit to Live from the Newsroom Wednesday night to talk about the district and the improvements that have and will be made.

Saucon Valley teachers say old contract offers unacceptable to members
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  on December 17, 2014 at 8:06 PM
Saucon Valley teachers say their prior negotiating team submitted a contract proposal that was unacceptable to the majority of its union members.  Officials with the education association and theschool district spent their second day in Harrisburg on Wednesday before Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Hearing Examiner Jack Marino. A November hearing before Marino on the district's unfair labor practice charge had been continued until this week.

Coatesville school board approves release of internal investigation
By Kristina Scala, Daily Local News POSTED: 12/17/14, 2:44 PM EST 
Caln >> The Coatesville Area School Board Tuesday night unanimously approved releasing contents of an internal investigation containing additional details connected to the Chester County District Attorney’s criminal probe of two former school district administrators.
After a lengthy executive session Tuesday night, the board made an unexpected approval to release the contents of the report, performed by the school district’s special legal counsel Conrad O’Brien, following sufficient redaction.  “I am extremely pleased that our Board has voted to do this as I believe it is an important step in our process to move forward from the scandal that has caused so much havoc in our school district,” school district superintendent Cathy Taschner said in a message to parents Tuesday night.

Moody’s upgrades Haverford School District’s bond rating to Aa3
Delco Times By Lois Puglionesi, Times Correspondent POSTED: 12/17/14, 8:50 PM EST
HAVERFORD >> Moody’s last week upgraded the school district’s bond rating from A1 to Aa3.
The upgrade reflects the district’s “improved financial position following several years of growth in fund balance and cash reserves, and also takes into account the district’s stable and affluent tax base, and above-average but manageable debt burden,” according to a Rating Action notice.
Moody’s had downgraded the rating from Aa2 to A1 in 2012 after the fund balance hit a low of $97,000.  School directors recently approved a parameters resolution authorizing the refinancing of outstanding School Revenue Bonds, Series of 2006, and General Obligation Bonds, Series AA of 2010. Financial adviser Jamie Schlessinger estimated the district would see a net savings of about $1 million, or 6 percent, over the next few years, with $400,000 less in interest costs this year.

Restorative Practices: An Alternative To Suspension And Expulsion: 'Circle Up!'
One by one, in a room just off the gym floor at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, Calif., seventh-graders go on the interview hot seat.  Some 80 students have applied to be "peer leaders" in the school's new, alternative discipline program called "restorative justice."  Kyle McClerkins, the program's director, grills them on aspects of adolescent life: "What is the biggest challenge for middle school girls? What has changed about you from sixth grade to now?"
This school and the Oakland Unified School District are at the forefront of a new approach to school misconduct and discipline. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.

"By eliminating funding for Race to the Top and adding a little bit of extra funding to each of the huge civil rights formula programs, Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Congress made a statement, though its action is symbolic rather than substantive."
Congress Deletes ‘Race to the Top’ Competition
Jan Resseger's Blog Posted on December 17, 2014 by janresseger
As you know, over last weekend Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill to get us through the fiscal year to the end of next September.  This was all very theatrical as the ideologues postured and threatened to stop the government.  Despite the atmosphere of crisis, however, a bill was passed, and if you look at how the money was appropriated in particular areas, it is possible to observe some trends.  Let’s look at the federal appropriations for public education as an example.  Remember that the federal investment in education is relatively small at $70.5 billion.  While federal policy affects what happens in public schools across the states, the federal government isn’t really a big financial player in education. According to the New America Foundation, “States and local governments typically provide about 44 percent each of all elementary and secondary education funding. The federal government contributes about 12 percent of all direct expenditures.”  But spending trends in federal policy set an important direction, and in its spending bill for Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014–end of September 2015) Congress did not appropriate any money for the competitive Race to the Top program.  Another competitive grant program, Investing in Innovation, was cut by $21.6 million. School Improvement Grants, the other big competition for money for so called “failing” schools did survive, though the entire program is flat-funded at $506 million.

New York City Teachers Score Highly Under New Evaluation System
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR DEC. 16, 2014
Nine out of 10 New York City teachers received one of the top two rankings in the first year of a new evaluation system that was hailed as a better way of assessing how they perform, according to figures released on Tuesday.  The system, enacted into state law in 2010, was created, in part, to make it easier to identify which teachers performed the best so their methods could be replicated, and which performed the worst, so they could be fired. Although very few teachers in the city were deemed not to be up to standards, state officials and education experts said the city appeared to be doing a better job of evaluating its teachers than the rest of New York State.
In the city, only 9 percent of teachers received the highest rating, “highly effective,” compared with 58 percent in the rest of the state. Seven percent of teachers in the city received the second-lowest rating — “developing” — while 1.2 percent received the lowest rating, “ineffective.” In the rest of the state, the comparable figures were 2 percent and 0.4 percent.

Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat
Living In Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody. December 17, 2014
There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?

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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 17: York Chief Recovery Officer: Cybers as alternative for students who choose not to attend charter schools

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Superintendents, 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, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public EducationAre you a member?
The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 17, 2014:
York Chief Recovery Officer: Cybers as alternative for students who choose not to attend charter schools

America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way
How State and Local Governance Causes School Funding Disparities
Center for American Progress By Bruce D. Baker | July 9, 2014

Blogger commentary: None of the state's cyber charter schools have achieved a passing score of 70 on PDE's School Performance Profile in either of the past two years, and most of them never made AYP under No Child Left Behind.  Should cybers really be considered as a viable primary alternative?
Hearing ends in York city schools receivership case; decision possible by Dec. 24
York Daily Record By ANGIE MASON Daily Record/Sunday News 12/17/2014 12:28:33 AM EST
If the York City School District's buildings were converted to charters, the primary district-run alternative for students who didn't want to attend those schools would be the cyber program, the district's chief recovery officer testified in court on Tuesday.  David Meckley, whom the state would like to see appointed as the district's receiver, has said the district should move forward with plans to convert all schools to charters run by an outside operator because of a lack of progress in the internal reform plan. The school board's tabling of the idea, among other things, led to the state's request for receivership.  The recovery law, under which the city district is deemed in moderate financial recovery, says the district can convert schools to charters, but an alternative should be established for current students who choose not to attend the charter schools.

"I think it puts consolidation almost to bed," state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said after the presentation at the York County School of Technology.
School consolidation study: Costs likely to outweigh savings
York Daily Record By Ed Mahon Daily Record/Sunday News  12/17/2014 01:32:56 AM EST
State Rep. Stan Saylor said that, over the years, he and other lawmakers have gotten questions about why York County school districts don't consolidate.  So he and other local state representatives asked the state's Independent Fiscal Office to look into the issue.  On Tuesday night, office deputy director Mark Ryan presented those findings: The study found that the costs of merging 15 school districts for administrative functions would likely outweigh potential savings.
"I think it puts consolidation almost to bed," state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said after the presentation at the York County School of Technology.

Harrisburg, York and Lancaster represented on Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's transition review teams
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  on December 15, 2014 at 3:40 PM, updated December 16, 2014 at 11:08 AM
*This article has been updated with additional information*
Everyone from business owners and environmentalists to union leaders and lawyers will help prepare Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to take office in January.  On Monday, Wolf announced the names of more than 250 people that will review state agencies, commissions and various issue areas as part of his transition team. A number of people tapped for the review team spots work in York, Lancaster and Dauphin Counties.  The areas of interest that will be reviewed include a wide range of areas such as aging, education, health, law enforcement, transportation and environmental protection.   Click here for a full list of all the review team members and click here for a list of the chairmen and women of the committees.
Here's a breakdown of the people from around the area that were selected by Wolf: 

Gas industry: Drilling tax could cripple Pa. economy
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 6:41 PM
HARRISBURG - Three days after the newly elected Senate majority leader opened the door to negotiations on a natural gas drilling tax, industry leaders reiterated their stand that such a tax would harm the state's economy.  Additional taxes would have a "crippling effect on jobs" said Stephanie Wissman, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.

Education groups at odds over study of Philly schools' performance
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Dec 16, 2014 05:26 PM
An influential school reform group is urging Philadelphia District leaders to approve every charter applicant that can effectively run schools serving a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.  Last week, District officials heard pitches from operators hoping to open 40 new charter schools across the city.  To back up its advice on charters, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners – an arm of the Philadelphia School Partnership – has released a report that sorts the city's public school landscape into two systems: "high impact" and "underperforming."

Radnor: Haverford School Board member Larry Feinberg, a 'Circuit Rider' for fair funding
Main Line Times By Linda Stein @lsteinreporter on Twitter Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Radnor << With great disparities in funding among the state’s 500 school districts, Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year said a funding formula was needed and the Legislature form a Basic Education Commission whose mission is to come up with recommendations by this coming June.
Meanwhile, a group called The Circuit Riders are traveling the state to talk to school leaders about how public schools are funded. One of those Circuit Riders, Lawrence Feinberg, a Haverford Township School Board member and member of the Keystone State Education Coalition, spoke to the Radnor Township School Board communications and government relations committee Tuesday.  “We’re trying to get the word out that there’s a concerted effort underway with the goal of having the state enact legislation in 2016 to have a predictable, sustainable and equitable basic education funding formula,” said Feinberg. “Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the country that does not have a funding formula. They essentially work off whatever you got last year plus whatever the state can put together. And in many instances whatever additional funds that the state can put together get distributed based primarily on how powerful your state legislators area.”

Ground rules set for 2nd round of Philly charter hearings in January
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 16, 2014 05:24 PM
The School District has established the ground rules for a second round of hearings on charter school applications next month.  According to an email from the District's Charter Schools Office, each of the 40 applications will get a two-hour hearing. Last week, the applicants went through a first round of hearings in front of a District hearing officer, in which they had 15 minutes apiece to make their case.  The tentative schedule calls for hearings to be held on 11 different days in January, starting Jan. 5, with two to five applicants considered each day. The final schedule could change depending on the applicants' availability; they have until tomorrow to request changes. 

"In conclusion, some of the schools applying for new charters may be doing great work. But the unlevel playing field and distinct demographics differences belie claims that charters out-perform district schools. Until the law creates an accountability framework that strengthens the authority of the district to hold charters accountable for serving all kinds of students better than district schools and makes revoking a charter an easier, less costly, and less time consuming process, it is unlikely that increasing the number of charter schools will “improve” public education as required by the charter law itself. To the contrary, charter expansion at this time will siphon crucial resources out of district schools and ultimately reduce the number of quality public school options — the opposite of the charter school law’s legislative intent."
Testimony to SRC on Charter Applications and Legislative Intent
By David Lapp, Education Law Center 12-11-2014
My name is David Lapp and I have worked with charter schools in a variety of roles for virtually my entire professional career. First, as a teacher, then as a board member, and currently as a staff attorney at the Education Law Center where I frequently represent students in both district and charter schools.  There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that areaccountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia. Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.

Report: Consolidating York County school districts would not likely save money
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  on December 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM, updated December 16, 2014 at 10:30 PM
The cost of consolidating 15 York County school districts would likely outweigh savings from combining administrative staff, according to a new report.  The Independent Fiscal Office in Harrisburg was asked by a delegation of York County state representatives to study the fiscal impact of consolidating the districts. The study's results were discussed Tuesday night at a meeting in the York County School of Technology in York.  The IFO took several factors into consideration — taxes, state education funding, salaries and savings — before arriving at its conclusion about consolidating the school districts.

Chester Upland's top brass visits 'Live From the Newsroom' tonight
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Do you have a question you'd like to ask the top brass of the Chester Upland School District?
This is your night.
After surviving an attempt by Gov. Tom Corbett to remove him from his job, Chester Upland receiver Joe Watkins will pay a visit to our live-stream Internet show, 'Live From the Newsroom,' tonight. Joining us will be Chester Upland Superintendent Gregory Shannon.  Watkins was targeted in a surprise move by acting state Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, who filed a petition in Delaware County Court to have Watkins ousted. But Delco Judge Chad Kenney decided Watkins deserves more time to turn things around in the seemingly forever troubled school district.  We'll talk about the reasons why Watkins may have been targeted, why he believes it was the wrong move, and the things he's done to reverse course in Chester Upland.
Shannon will be on hand to talk about the current state of affairs in Chester Upland, and where the district goes from here. Do you have a question you'd like to ask either Watkins or Shannon? Email it to me at, and I will ask them tomorrow night.
Then tune in to tonight at 7 tonight as we go live with Joe Watkins and Gregory Shannon. Join the conversation!

All They Want for Christmas … is Art Education
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey December 16, 2014
Last night at the final board meeting before the winter holidays, Pittsburgh students told school board directors what they want for their schools. If Santa was paying attention, he didn’t have to write down very much. The students’ wish list contains only one item: arts education.
The students who spoke at the meeting attend Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 and are concerned about the impact of several years of budget cuts on arts education across the district. They reached out to Yinzercation, and steering committee member Kathy Newman worked with them and helped them understand the process of presenting to the school board. Two of those students, seniors William Grimm and Margaret Booth, are co-presidents of the CAPA chapter of the National Arts Honors Society (NAHS). Through that chapter, they collected statements from other CAPA students about why the arts are important in public education.

What’s Missing ?
Lucid Witness Blog by Daun Kauffman September 25, 2014
“Education Reform” discussions often revolve around: 1) a “Common Core”, or “national standards”, plus,  2) Standardized Testing and,  3)  a  “Value Added Measurement” of teachers.
Clearly, something is missing in the  “Reform” discussions.
The Common Core, is an attempt to develop common learning objectives across all U. S. schools.  It’s  faulted for lack of practitioner input (primary years especially absent),  for being developmentally inappropriate, and for how it was constructed and benchmarked.  Other outcries against the Common Core include the heavy hand of ‘Uncle Sam’ into States’ Rights and the sort of “Stepford Wives”, one size fits all, implications.
Standardized Testing is theoretically connected to the common learning objectives via a common, or “standard”,  test.  Standardized Testing is attacked for errors, for  secrecy, and for its propensity to beget a plethora of “interim” or “benchmark” tests along the way, leading to reduced time for teaching and learning :   over testing.   Next the high stakes of the test for both children and schools generate high levels of toxic stress.  The high stakes also lead to “teaching to the test”, (often to the exclusion of a well-rounded curriculum), and sometimes to cheating(by adults).  Finally, the test results are already being wielded to punish, via value-added measures, below,  before having validated the Common Core which the tests are based on.

"None of this is because Americans do not care about their children. It is because America has embraced a policy agenda in recent decades that has caused its economy to become wildly unequal, leaving the most vulnerable segments of society further and further behind. The growing concentration of wealth ― and a significant reduction in taxes on it ― has meant less money to spend on investments for the public good, like education and the protection of children."
Inequality and the U.S. child
The Korea Herald by Joseph Stiglitz Published : 2014-12-15 20:44
Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is a professor at Columbia University
NEW YORK ― Children, it has long been recognized, are a special group. They do not choose their parents, let alone the broader conditions into which they are born. They do not have the same abilities as adults to protect or care for themselves. That is why the League of Nations approved the Geneva Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1924, and why the international community adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
Sadly, the United States is not living up to its obligations. In fact, it has not even ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S., with its cherished image as a land of opportunity, should be an inspiring example of just and enlightened treatment of children. Instead, it is a beacon of failure ― one that contributes to global sluggishness on children’s rights in the international arena.
Though an average American childhood may not be the worst in the world, the disparity between the country’s wealth and the condition of its children is unparalleled. About 14.5 percent of the American population as a whole is poor, but 19.9 percent of children ― some 15 million individuals ― live in poverty. Among developed countries, only Romania has a higher rate of child poverty. The U.S. rate is two-thirds higher than that in the United Kingdom, and up to four times the rate in the Nordic countries. For some groups, the situation is much worse: more than 38 percent of black children, and 30 percent of Hispanic children, are poor.

New Federal Budget Defunds Race to the Top
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 16, 2014 //
According to news reports, the new federal budget strips all funding from Race to the Top. Good riddance to one of the worst, most destructive federal programs in history. Historians will one day tell us who cooked up this assault on teachers and public schools. If states wanted to be eligible for part of Arne Duncan’s $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding, they were required to adopt the “college and career ready standards,” aka Common Core, even though no one had ever field tested them. States had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by student scores, even though there was no evidence for doing so. States had to open more charters, transferring control from public to private management. States had to create massive data systems to track students.  RTTT was an all-out assault on the teaching profession, public education, and student privacy.

Jeb Bush's Entry Into Presidential Contest Would Put K-12 Front and Center
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 16, 2014 11:41 AM
It's official! Well, sorta. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will "actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States" in 2016, according to Facebook post he published Tuesday morning.  The Republican's announcement is an early Christmas present for education policy/politics nerds. There is probably no prospective candidate in either party more closely identified with K-12 education policy.  Whether you agree with Bush's positions on things like school choice and the Common Core State Standards or not, his entrance into the race would exponentially raise the profile of K-12 education, which is often an afterthought in national campaigns. He was one of the most active governors on education in recent history and after leaving office even started an organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, that's geared towards K-12 policy.  Especially interesting if you're an edu-policy geek: Bush doesn't see eye-to-eye with many of the more conservative members of his party on what's arguably the biggest K-12 political issue of the day, the common core standards.

TFA Closing NYC Office, Not Enough Recruits
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 16, 2014 //
There have been rumors for months that TFA has seen a sharp decline in applicants. This may be confirmation.  Teach for America is closing down its NYC office because of a decline in recruitment.  It seems the pushback from alumni has made a difference, despite TFA’s massive PR and funding. Alumni have written many articles warning that they were ill-prepared for their assignments.

Valerie Strauss on TFA’s Sharp Decline in Recruits
Diane Ravitch's Blog  By dianeravitch December 16, 2014 //
Valerie Strauss here analyzes the sharp drop in Teach for America recruits. The numbers of new corps members are down by as much as 25%.  Why? Teachers’ morale has declined precipitously from 2008-2012 (will Arne Duncan be held accountable?) and the teaching profession has lost its allure. Strauss points out that TFA may be a causal factor in the loss of respect for the profession, since it claims that brand néw college graduates are better than veteran teachers. By doing so, TFA has encouraged the belief that 5 weeks of training is good enough. This destroys the profession as such. Veteran teachers have been replaced by TFA kids. This can contribute to instability and demoralization.