Tuesday, September 1, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 1: A Victory for PA Charters? Read this excerpt from Judge Kenney's Chester Upland ruling carefully. Read it twice.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 1, 2015:
A Victory for PA Charters?  Read this excerpt from Judge Kenney's Chester Upland ruling carefully.  Read it twice.



Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377



From Judge Chad Kenney's ruling regarding the Chester Upland School District:
"The Charter Schools serving Chester-Upland Special Education students reported in 2013-2014, the last reporting period available, that they did not have any Special Education students costing them anything outside the zero (0) to twenty-five thousand dollar ($25,000.00) range, and yet this is remarkable considering they receive forty thousand dollars ($40,000.00) for each one of these Special Education students under a legislatively mandated formula  This means the legislative formula permits the Charters to pocket somewhere between fourteen thousand ($14,000.00) and forty thousand dollars ($40,000.00) per student over and above what it costs to educate them.  While this discrepancy needs to be seen in most instances as the operators of Charters taking advantage of legal mandates, it is clear that the Legislature did not mean for its averages to produce such windfalls to the Charter School industry in a distressed district."
Is this any way to run a school district?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 31 at 8:55 AM  
Back in 2012, the long-beleaguered Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania ran out of money — literally — and the unionized teachers and staff agreed to work without pay. (When it made national news, first lady Michelle Obama invited a Chester Upland teacher to sit with her at the State of the Union speech that year.) Well, it’s happened again — at least the part about the district being out of cash and all of the teachers, support staff, bus drivers and other adults in the system agreeing to work for free when the 2015-16 academic year starts on Wednesday.  “We knew we had to do it, again,” said John Shelton, who has been an educator in the district for 23 years and now is dean of students at a district middle school. “With great pain, we agreed to work as long as our families allow us to.”
Why does this keep happening?

DN Editorial: State's special-ed funding needs Harrisburg overhaul
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2015, 12:16 AM
LET'S BEGIN BY saying we agree with Gov. Wolf's belief that the way the state funds special education for students in charter schools is messed up.  The formula used isn't related to actual cost. A school is given the same amount whether the child has a mild disability - say, requiring speech therapy three times a week - or is severely handicapped - a wheelchair-bound child who requires special transportation and the presence of a full-time aide.  Local school districts, which have to foot the bill for special-ed students in charters, say the cost of paying this subsidy to charters imperils their own financial stability.  A case in point is the beleaguered Chester-Upland School District, where half of the district's 7,000 students are enrolled in charters. It costs the district $64 million a year in tuition payments for the 3,500 students in local charters - and the special-education students among them get subsidized at double the rate of regular students. It comes to $40,000 per special-ed student.  Once the charter subsidies are paid, the district says it doesn't have enough money to run its own schools and recently threatened to shut down due to lack of funds.

Reprise Feb. 2015: Big for-profit schools, big donations: the influence of charter schools on Pennsylvania politics
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie | simmons-ritchie@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2015 at 11:20 AM, updated February 02, 2015 at 3:13 PM
It's no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.  But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O'Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.  In 2014, O'Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.  "They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything," O'Neill said. "Everybody was coming after me."  In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated - particularly those run by for-profit management companies - so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.  According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.  To be sure, charter-school advocacy groups aren't the only ones spending big to influence education policy in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 170,000 teachers and related professionals, has spent about $8.3 million over the same time period according to Follow The Money.  But what perhaps makes the influx of money from charter-school groups unique in Pennsylvania is the magnitude of spending by only a handful of donors and, in recent years, some of their high-profile successes in moving and blocking legislation.

"A recent survey conducted by the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) showed that a majority of survey respondents — 83 percent — are using fund balances to cover the lack of state subsidy payments, while half of survey respondents said they have borrowed or are considering borrowing to avoid any cash flow difficulties, the coalition of school equity reform organizations noted."
EDITORIAL: State budget impasse hurts poor schools most
Pottstown Mercury POSTED: 08/31/15, 7:52 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Two months past the deadline for a state budget, and little has changed since the July 1 start of a new fiscal year. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature are no closer to resolution than they were at the start of summer.  What has changed is that children are heading back to school with no money from the state to support education.  In most districts, the shortfall isn’t missed in August because property tax payments are coming in, insuring good cash flow in school districts even without state subsidies. But that scenario of relying solely on local tax income emphasizes the inequities in Pennsylvania public education.  “The state’s delay in passing a budget only aggravates the current education inequities in Pennsylvania.” said Charlie Lyons, spokesman for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in a press release. “It is the students with the greatest needs that are most affected by the failure to pass a budget, since the schools facing the most challenges rely more on state dollars and have fewer local revenues to fill the gaps.”

Pa. budget talks go underground
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON AUGUST 31, 2015
Pennsylvania budget talks are being kept on the QT this week, as Democratic Governor Tom Wolf plans to meet with top Republican lawmakers without the press lurking outside.  Budget negotiations have been behind closed doors, but the governor's office said Monday these discussions will be smaller and more low-profile in an attempt to get closer to a deal. The governor's spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan, said impromptu hallway press conferences that have punctuated so many meetings over the past several weeks haven't been helpful.  The state spending plan is two months late. Wolf hasn't answered a GOP offer to trade education funding for an overhaul of future pension benefits. Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, all but threw up his hands last week when the governor remained noncommittal on the proposal.

"The absence of state funding has led the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to offer a controversial legal opinion to help free up some money for school districts.  The group has advised districts that is it okay to hold off on paying the employer's contribution to the Public School Employees' Retirement System and the state share of money that a district pays to charter schools until a state budget gets down.  Bethlehem Area School District in Northampton County was the first to employ this strategy with its charter school payments, said school boards association Steve Robinson. That led other districts to contact the association to inquire if they could legally do that.  "We're not telling them not to pay," Robinson said. "We're just saying if they choose to do this to help with a budget shortfall, we think there is legal support for it."
Cash flow woes: Schools feeling the pinch of the Pa. budget impasse
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 31, 2015 at 5:03 PM, updated August 31, 2015 at 8:04 PM
Monday marked Day 62 without a state budget and the effects of that continue to mount.
Not only is Chester-Upland School District in such a financial predicament that it won't be able to make its Sept. 9 payroll with the absence of state dollars, hardships are starting to be felt across the entire educational spectrum from preschool to higher education.  Lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf met once last week to try get talks moving on a two-month overdue state budget but a follow-up meeting scheduled for the next day was cancelled at the Democratic governor's request because he said he needed more time to study an offer that Republicans put on the table.

PA: Districts Now Short $1.18 Billion
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Saturday, August 29, 2015
Last Thursday, schools started to feel the impact of our elected legislators' perennial inability to get their job done.  Thursday was the day that $1.18 billion-with-a-b in subsidy payments were supposed to go out to school districts. But they can't. Because Pennsylvania still doesn't have a budget. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers surveyed 171 districts and learned that 83% of those will be dipping into their reserve funds. 60% may delay vendor payments, 53% may delay maintenance work, and 29% may put off filling positions. Other districts are looking at the necessity of borrowing money, which means that for some districts, Harrisburg's failure will translate into real dollar-amount costs for local taxpayers.  Of course, the most notable impact is being felt in Chester Uplands School District, where the lack of a payment Thursday meant that the district could not meet their payroll. District teachers and staff voted to work without pay as long as "individually possible."  Does Pennsylvania do this a lot? Well, "Pennsylvania Budget Impasses" has its own Wikipedia page. In the last decade, we've been stuck in this place five times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2014, and 2015). Back in 2003, the fight dragged on until December.

Latest GOP pension proposal trades off savings for slightly better retirement benefits
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 31, 2015 at 7:30 AM, updated August 31, 2015 at 1:13 PM
Public pension costs are a once-and-future albatross around the neck of Pennsylvania's state budget, largely because of a lucrative expansion of benefits in 2001.  As such, it's a major issue in the current budget impasse.  Republican legislative leaders are pushing to move most future state and school district hires into a new 401(k)-style plan. They say that will dramatically cut the risk of repeating the current spike in taxpayer-funded contributions to the retirement systems.  Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf, say their priority is preserving a secure retirement for those workers; something they contend, in the interest of good schools and quality services going forward, taxpayers should want, too.  With that backdrop, here's a look at some early analyses of legislative Republicans' latest overture to Wolf on this thorny issue that both sides - for the moment - have chosen to try to break their stalemate over the state budget.:

As state budget impasse drags on, poll shows most blame Legislature
Tribune Democrat By John Finnerty jfinnerty@cnhi.com Posted: August 29, 2015 11:57 pm
Republican lawmakers were in a huff on Wednesday.
It was a day after the state House considered, but failed to get the two-thirds majority needed, a series of bills to override portions of the governor’s budget veto.  And Gov. Tom Wolf’s office had notified them that a planned budget negotiating session was off.  At the Capitol, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said the governor was “wasting valuable time.”  Wolf was either “playing games” or “just apparently isn’t understanding the importance of state government,” Reed said.  This comes a week after Republicans had offered to boost school funding by $400 million – matching the amount Wolf had proposed in his budget. In exchange, they wanted Wolf to back a plan to remake the pension system for state government and public school employees.  Republicans thought the governor would give them a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down on the deal by Wednesday. Instead, they got silence.

"A Franklin & Marshall College poll last week found a wide, bi-partisan majority of registered voters believe state lawmakers should not be paid during budget negotiations when the budget is late."
Pa. voters: No budget, no pay for lawmakers
Some legislators have volunteered to decline salary
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau September 1, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Social service agencies and schools have started to feel a cash-flow crunch as the state’s budget stalemate enters its third month.  But most state lawmakers are still getting paid, although a handful are voluntarily declining their paychecks.  A Franklin & Marshall College poll last month found a majority of registered voters believe state lawmakers should not be paid during budget negotiations when the budget is late. That sentiment was consistent across party lines, expressed by 67 percent of Republicans polled, 64 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents, said Terry Madonna, director of the poll and professor of public affairs at the college.  Some legislators have voluntarily given up their salaries since July 1. The average salary of a state senator or representative is about $85,000.

Governor needs to answer our compromise budget
Lancaster Online Opinion by State Rep. Bryan Cutler and State Rep. Seth Grove August 31, 2015
Bryan Cutler, whose district includes southern Lancaster County from Pequea Township and Millersville Borough in the north to Fulton and Little Britain townships in the south, is the Republican whip in the state House. Seth Grove is a Republican state representative from York County.
Nearly two months have passed since Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a balanced budget and two weeks have gone by since we offered him a compromise plan. We agree with the LNP Editorial Board (“Get the budget done,” Aug. 27): we must reach a compromise that gives our state a budget. Without it, our state’s service providers cannot access state or federal funding. Not having a budget is hurting our neediest citizens.  Last week alone, Gov. Tom Wolf was unavailable for two meetings with leaders in the General Assembly, prolonging any chance for compromise during this stalemate. Decisions like these by the governor have impacted our most vulnerable citizens, as many organizations wait for money to fund essential services. One group feeling this impact is our students as schools around the commonwealth begin classes without state funding.  The compromise we presented to the governor reflects the priorities of both sides. The Republican plan would make an overall increase to public education by allocating an additional $300 million for the basic education funding line item through reforming the state’s pension system and divestiture of the state-run liquor business. This, combined with our current proposal to increase the basic education funding by $100 million, brings the total increase in K-12 education up to $400 million over the year.

Guest Column: Wolf needs to do more than talk to get budget done
Delco Times By Rep. Thomas Killion, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 08/30/15, 8:54 PM EDT
Gov. Tom Wolf has been traveling across the state in an effort to build support for his proposed state budget. But what is sorely lacking at the governor’s public appearances and speeches is straight talk about his proposed tax increases.  When making the case for his budget, the governor only talks about his desire to impose a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas in Pennsylvania. To hear the governor talk, one would think that the budget impasse between the governor and the Republican-controlled legislature is all about the severance tax issue.  Most people would probably be surprised to learn that the shale gas extraction tax would account for only 3 percent of the governor’s proposed tax increases. Much more concerning to Republicans in the legislature — and many taxpayers — are the governor’s proposals to expand and increase the state sales tax and hike the Personal Income Tax. The reality is that the governor’s tax proposal would raise $4.6 billion in new revenue. While 3 percent would come from a severance tax, the other 97 percent would come from hard-working Pennsylvania families in the form of higher sales and income taxes.

PA: Charter Vampires on the Loose
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Thursday, August 27, 2015
In Pennsylvania, opening a charter school, particularly a  cyber-charter, has long been just like printing money in your garage (only you won't get in any trouble for it).   The current plight of the Chester Upland School District highlights just how screwed up the whole mess is, and how charters are set up to suck the public system dry. Yesterday's news roundup at Keystone State Education Coalition has most of the best coverage of the story, but let me pull up some highlights for you.  I'll remind you that before CUSD ever started to get in trouble, the state of Pennsylvania has been distinguishing itself by some of the most inequitable funding in the country. This is a bi-partisan screwing of public ed. Democratic Governor "Smilin' Ed" Rendell used stimulus funds exactly as he wasn't supposed to, as a replacement for regular state funding of education, and his successor Republican Tom "One Term" Corbett slashed education on top of the auto-slashing that occurred when those stimulus funds went away. Bottom line-- funding of our poorest schools is in free-fall, because they get very little from the state.  As it turns out, CUSD gets negative support from the state. That's because the hugely generous payment formula for charters has resulted in CUSD losing more money to charters than they get from the state of Pennsylvania.

Upper Perkiomen School Board member supports pension reform plan
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 08/31/15, 8:01 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Pennsburg >> Upper Perkiomen School Board Vice President Raeann Hofkin says the district should follow Quakertown School District’s example of civil disobedience to order to reform rising pension costs.  During a presentation on Aug. 27, Hofkin supported the model of withholding a percentage of the district’s charter school payments. This would pressure lawmakers into passing a new state budget that stabilizes the rising costs of the Public School Employees’ Retirement System.  The state has been at a budget impasse since June 30.  “Someone needs to take a stand,” Hofkin, a payroll director for MobilexUSA, said. “Or we’re going to have another 15 years of stall tactics and huge tax increases.”  Since 2009, the percentage of Upper Perkiomen’s budget for which the PSERS accounts has quadrupled from 2 percent to approximately 8 percent, according to Hofkin’s presentation. That means for every $4 million of payroll, the district is paying an additional $1 million to the retirement fund, board President John Gehman explained.
“That’s rather significant,” he said, “and it’s not sustainable.”

"Reading/English language arts and mathematics exams were given to each student in grades three through eight statewide. According to the department of education, the math section seems to have been the toughest, as scores dropped by at least 27 percent (rounding up) or higher in every grade."
Spring-Ford, Pottstown school chiefs prepare public for bad test news
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury and Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 08/31/15, 12:22 PM EDT
Reports of falling scores on standardized tests across the state have local superintendents preparing parents for students’ individual scores.  School officials in Spring-Ford Area School District say they saw this coming.  In a letter sent to parents Wednesday, Superintendent David Goodin said statewide performance on the 2014-15 PSSA has dropped by as much as 44 percent compared to the previous year’s test, according to the Pennsylania Department of Education.  “The reason for this decline is due to changes made to the test itself,” Goodin wrote, “in order to reflect more rigorous academic standards implemented in 2013 with Pennsylvania’s version of Common Core.”  In Pottstown, Schools Superintendent Jeff Sparagana sent home a similar letter.  “It is not unusual for scores to drop initially when an assessment has changed,” Sparagana wrote. “But this year the state reports that scores are extremely low, especially in math.”

Allentown schools' state audit 1st to include charter school approvals
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com  on August 31, 2015 at 4:47 PM, updated August 31, 2015 at 7:14 PM
The Allentown School District will be the first in the state to have its charter school application process reviewed during its state audit.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale came to the district's administration center Monday to announce that his office going forward will examine all school districts' charter school review processes.  Allentown was due for its state audit but it is being bumped up, in part, due to allegations that school board members may have violated the state's Sunshine Act when dealing with developer Abe Atiyeh.  "We certainly are aware of the questions raised about the charter application process here," DePasquale said.  The audit of Allentown will also examine the financial impacts of the state budget stalemate as long as it continues, DePasquale said.

Erie School District students start the new school year
By Erica Erwin 814-870-1846 Erie Times-News September 1, 2015 06:24 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- So great was Aiden Duke's excitement that he could not stand still.
"I'm most excited about the playground," the 5-year-old kindergartner said, bouncing in time with his words as he waited for the front doors of Pfeiffer-Burleigh School to open. "It's so much fun. It's so much fun!"  Monday was the start of the 2015-16 school year for Aiden, his 6-year-old brother, August, and nearly 12,000 other Erie School District students. Most other school districts in the region started last week. Millcreek Township School District students return today and Girard School District, the last area district to ring in the school year, will start classes Sept. 9.  Pfeiffer-Burleigh Principal Karin Ryan stood at the doors at 8 a.m., welcoming students, addressing familiar faces by name. Teachers manned a table for parents with coffee, pastries and papers detailing the school's dress code and various opportunities for parents to be involved at the school.  The K-8 school, one of the lowest performing in the district as measured by standardized test scores, is in the midst of a major turnaround effort funded, in part, by a multimillion-dollar School Improvement Grant from the state that has helped pay for after-school programming, increased professional development and more. Teachers hand-picked by Ryan at the start of 2014-15 committed to staying for three years, a move designed to stem teacher turnover at a school that also struggles with high mobility among its student body.

Initial Common Core goals unfulfilled as results trickle in
Philly.com by CHRISTINE ARMARIO, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2015, 2:20 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected. But they are still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing.  Full or preliminary scores have been released for Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. They all participated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two groups of states awarded $330 million by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop exams to test students on the Common Core state standards in math and English language arts.  Scores in four other states that developed their own exams tied to the standards have been released. The second testing group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is still setting benchmarks for each performance level and has not released any results.  Even when all the results are available, it will not be possible to compare student performance across a majority of states, one of Common Core's fundamental goals.  What began as an effort to increase transparency and allow parents and school leaders to assess performance nationwide has largely unraveled, chiefly because states are dropping out of the two testing groups and creating their own exams.


Save the Date: Make your voice heard at Education Action Day, Sept. 21
School directors and administrators from across the state will be converging at the State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21 for Education Action Day — your opportunity to push for a state budget and pension reform. Join PSBA in the Main Capitol-East Wing under the escalators at 10 a.m. A news conference will be held from 11 a.m.-noon, and then plan to meet with your elected officials from 1-3 p.m., scheduled by PSBA . There is no charge for participation, but for planning purposes, members are asked to register their attendance online, which will be available in the next few days. We look forward to a big crowd to impress upon legislators and the governor the need for a state budget and pension reform now!

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will open Aug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration is live at:

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

Monday, August 31, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 31: Any connection between $86 million Palm Beach mansion and one of Pa.'s poorest school districts that can't make payroll?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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 http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 31, 2015:
Any connection between $86 million Palm Beach mansion and one of Pa.'s poorest school districts that can't make payroll?



Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377



"The problem is that some school districts are wealthy and others are not. That is why we have schools rich in resources in suburban districts with malls or major industries, while neighboring districts can't pay for a sufficient number of teachers despite high tax rates. According to state figures, school taxes on a house worth $100,000 can vary from $900 to $3,600 depending on location."
There is a consensus in Pa. for property-tax relief
Philly.com Opinion By Michael Churchill POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2015, 1:08 AM
Michael Churchill is an attorney at the Public Interest Law Center.
The difficult thing about government policy is how often one value runs head on into an equally important value. That is especially true in the area of tax policy. Fairness, stimulation of private-sector growth, sufficiency of revenues, encouragement of private effort, and simplicity are all goals supported by much of the public. Unfortunately, maximizing any one of these threatens the realization of the others.  Pennsylvania is a textbook example. Historically, the legislature has been loath to raise necessary revenues to conduct state business, including fulfilling the constitutional mandate to maintain a thorough and efficient system of public education, based on the theory that lower taxes spur economic growth. As a consequence, Pennsylvania contributes less funding for public schools than almost every other state in the country. The commonwealth's share is about 35 percent, compared with an average of 50 percent around the country. The cost of funding schools is therefore pushed upon local property-tax payers.

“I’ve been fighting for fair funding because your kids are everybody’s kids, your kids are the state’s kids, your kids are the country’s kids, and if we don’t give them all we have, it’s too late,” Feinberg said. “They’re going to be our future co-workers, employees, neighbors, and it’s unconscionable.  “Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of being the state that has the greatest disparity in the country throughout its districts,” he added. “It’s 12 miles from Radnor to Chester Upland, but it might as well be 4,000 miles.”
Chairman of Delco School Board Legislative Council addresses William Penn School Board members
Delco Times By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent POSTED: 08/30/15, 8:14 PM EDT
LANSDOWNE >> Larry Feinberg, chairman of the Delaware County School Board Legislative Council, was in attendance during the William Penn School District’s business meeting last Monday night, offering a status update on the push for a fair funding formula for basic education from the state.  “As I’m sure you know from news reports, there is not a whole lot going on,” Feinberg said to those in the board room.  The state is coming up on two months without passing a budget for 2015-16. Talks between Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican-led Legislature have been moving slowly, with the key sticking points being a new funding formula and a $400 million increase for education, after former governor Tom Corbett cut $900 million from it in his last term.

Spring-Ford School Board to lead Sept. 21 march on Harrisburg
West Chester Daily Local By Eric Devlin, edevlin@21st-centurymedia.com@Eric_Devlin on Twitter POSTED: 08/28/15, 4:16 PM EDT
Royersford >> With support coming from across the state, the Spring-Ford Area School Board will lead a march on Harrisburg next month.  At the Aug. 17 meeting, board member Joe Ciresi called for the march on the state capitol after venting his frustration with the lawmakers inability to pass a budget. Now with the backing of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Ciresi announced Monday the date has changed to Sept. 21 inside the capitol rotunda.  “The objective is to show a united front of 500 school districts from around the state,” he said. “To say what’s happening that we don’t have a budget? Legislators have dropped a ball. To see that we are a governing entity here in the state and we’re not being heard and how it’s affecting our children and our education.”

In a bankrupt Pa. school district, teachers plan to work for free
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton August 28 at 5:18 PM  
Employees of the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania will show up for work on the first day of school next Wednesday, but they don’t expect to get paid.  The district, which has been struggling with financial and academic problems for decades, is on the edge of insolvency and cannot make payroll, state and local officials have said.  So on Thursday, about 200 members of the local teachers union voted unanimously to work without pay as the new school year opens. They were joined by secretaries, school bus drivers, janitors and administrators.  “The thought of it is very scary,” said John Shelton, 60, dean of students at the district’s only middle school and a 23-year employee. “It’s mind-boggling because there’s truly uncertainty. But we are all in agreement that we will come to work, so that the children can get an education.”

Chester Upland teachers plan to work without pay so schools will open on time
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 08/29/15, 12:51 AM EDT
CHESTER >> Entering the last weekend before 3,500 students return to class in the Chester Upland School District, the members of the Chester Upland Education Association face uncertainty about their own financial futures as they plan to work with pay.  Members of the teachers’ union, as well as members of the support professionals’ union, voted Thursday to continue working even though the district won’t be able to make payroll after Sept. 9. Students begin the school year on Sept. 2.  The district has been mired in one financial crisis after another for the past two decades, all of which came to a head this week when the receiver proposed a dramatic plan to alter the way charter schools are funded in a last ditch effort to erase a budget deficit of more than $20 million.

"Chester Upland, which is under state oversight, served about 3,400 students last year, and another 3,800 attended charter schools, according to state data. Its approved budget for the year is about $133 million, about half of which ends up going to charter schools. Most of the district's revenue comes from the state government, largely because of the district's poverty.  The district's average household income was just under $27,000 in 2012, according to state data, putting it in Pennsylvania's bottom 10 out of 500 school districts.  The district is required to pay charter schools about $40,000 per year for each special-education student they enroll, according to the Wolf administration. That is more than twice the amount the district spends on its special-education students and more than any other district in the state, the administration said."
One of Pa.'s poorest school districts can't make payroll amid budget stalemate
Penn Live By Marc Levy | The Associated Press on August 28, 2015 at 9:19 PM, updated August 28, 2015 at 9:25 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — One of Pennsylvania's poorest school districts says it cannot afford to pay its staff amid an entrenched state budget stalemate, and district and state officials had no immediate answers Friday about where they will find the money to keep the schools operating.  Chester Upland School District, just south of Philadelphia, said it cannot meet a scheduled payroll on Sept. 9. Teachers and support staff, including bus drivers and secretaries, voted Thursday to continue working if they are not paid. The fall semester is scheduled to start next week.  "We've always put our students first, and we always will," said Michele Paulick, president of the Chester Upland Education Association, the district teacher's union.  Gov. Tom Wolf's office said drastic action will be necessary to ensure the deficit-ridden school district can operate through the entire school year, even if the district is able to open its doors on schedule. State officials said they are considering their options on how to deal with it.

Chester Upland can't pay its teachers — but they're working anyway
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF AUGUST 28, 2015
Teachers union president Michele Paulick said she received some unwelcome news at the Chester Upland School District teacher convocation this week.  "Our superintendent, Gregory Shannon, read a letter from our receiver, Francis Barnes, that informed the teachers that there are no funds," said Paulick, who described feeling "shock, frustration and anger" at the news.   However, in a Thursday evening vote, the 200-member union decided unanimously to work without pay for as long as individual members are able, Paulick said. The Chester Upland School District educates about 3,500 students, with nearly the same number attending area charter schools.  "We arrived at the decision to continue working because we have to put our children first," she said. "It's not their fault we're in this situation."

Faculty, staff at Chester Upland schools agree to work without pay
PhillyVoice Staff BY CHRISTINA LOBRUTTO  AUGUST 28, 2015
Faculty members and staff of the Chester Upland School District voted Thursday to work without pay if necessary after receiving news of insufficient funds, The Delaware County Daily Times reports.  At a morning convocation, Superintendent Gregory Shannon reportedly read a letter from Francis Barnes, the state-appointed receiver for the school district, stating that the district currently does not have the funds to make payroll for Sept. 9. Classes are scheduled to begin Sept. 2.  "We knew that the district was in financial straits but we didn’t know it was so immediate so, yes, we were very shocked," Chester Upland Education Association President Michele Paulick told the Delaware County Daily Times.
Following the announcement from the superintendent, the approximately 200 teachers represented by the Chester Upland Education Association and more than 120 secretaries, teaching assistants, licensed practical nurses and other staff represented by the Chester Upland Education Support Personnel Association passed a joint resolution stating their members “will work as long as they are individually able, even with delayed compensation, and even with the failure of the school district to meet its payroll obligations, in order to continue to serve the students who learn in the Chester Upland School District.”

Does the taxpaying public have the right to know how much profit is being taken out of the Chester Upland School District?
"Let’s look at Chester Upland’s special education enrollment, while considering that, in general, special education students diagnosed with autism, emotional disturbance and intellectual disability require the highest expenditures, while those with speech and language impairments require the lowest expenditures."
So what exactly is in that Chester Upland Charter Special Sauce?
Keystone State Education Coalition August 25, 2015
Here's the bottom line on Chester Upland charter school special education funding.  Would this have been allowed to go on for years if charter schools were "public" in more than name only and were subject to taxpayer scrutiny on a regular basis?    Right-to-know requests for financial information regarding the operations of Charter School Management Company have been blatantly ignored for years.

Wanna get serious about budget negotiations? Close the door and stay until you're done: Tony May
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tony May on August 30, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Last week was a big one for Pennsylvania's budget stalemate, mostly for what didn't happen.
Tony May 
  • House Republicansfailed to deliver on their promise to override significant portions of the governor's budget veto on a line-by-line basis.
  • The state reported it will be missing a $1 billion installment to school districts.
  • House Democrats asked the state treasurer for a loan to meet September payrolls for its 650 employees.
  • The city of Harrisburg said it will run out of money by November if it doesn't soon get the $5 million appropriation promised in the budget for emergency services rendered by the city to the seat of state government.
  • A statewide poll showed that a majority of Pennsylvania voters blame the GOP for the state's budget crisis.
  • The governor (What? Was he piqued by the attempted veto overrides?) canceled a scheduled meeting of budget negotiators.
  • And the state Senate stayed home.
Any fair-minded person would be forced to conclude that things are not going well. What to do?

"Instead, Sheridan said, the governor is focused on a comprehensive budget that restores the Republicans' cuts to education through a severance tax, provides property tax relief to middle-class families and seniors and fixes the state deficit without gimmicks.  "Gov. Wolf has worked hard to compromise with Republicans on issues ranging from pensions to the severance tax," Sheridan said, "but he has been met with obstruction culminating in this week's unconstitutional attempt to override his veto that simply wasted time and effort."  Throughout budget negotiations, Sheridan said, Republican leaders have refused to discuss a commonsense severance tax to fund education and they have resisted any discussions about investment in education at all levels – early childhood education through higher education."
GOP lawmakers consider stop-gap state budget proposal, but Gov. Tom Wolf is not
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 28, 2015 at 4:17 PM, updated August 28, 2015 at 6:23 PM
While Republican lawmakers are considering a stop-gap budget proposal that would temporarily fund state operations in the midst of a 58-day budget impasse, Gov. Tom Wolf is not.  Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, plans to introduce a stop-gap budget next week that would temporarily fund all state functions from July 1 until Oct. 31. The funding level, DiGirolamo said, would be the same as the state budget for fiscal year 2014/15, for those four months.  The budget impasse stems from core disagreements between the Democratic governor and GOP legislators.

Pa. lawmaker proposes stop-gap state budget after 58-day impasse
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 28, 2015 at 1:36 PM, updated August 28, 2015 at 1:37 PM
Following a two-month long budget impasse, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo has decided that enough is enough and will introduce a stop-gap budget to temporarily fund state operations.  In a co-sponsorship memo sent to members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Friday, DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, said he plans to introduce the stop-gap budget early next week. The temporary measure will fund all state functions from July 1 until Oct. 31.  The funding level, DiGirolamo said, will be the same as the state budget for fiscal year 2014/15, for those four months.  DiGirolamo said he believes it is imperative that lawmakers immediately provide the necessary funding for the education, human services and all the other services that state government supports.  "My goal is to neither advantage nor disadvantage anyone's negotiating position," DiGirolamo said. "My goal is to assure the funding of state government is sustained during these negotiations."

Early education providers urge Pa. budget passage, funding boost
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 08/28/15, 7:22 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Harrisburg’s inability to adopt a budget on time is having an extreme impact on day care and pre-kindergarten providers and creating uncertainty for their employees and the families they serve as they get ready for the start of school, advocates said Friday.  “We have this beautiful new classroom to educate our children, but without additional state funding, it will sit empty,” said Melanie Godhania, program director for Play and Learn, which hosted a press conference calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature to agree on a budget — one which includes Wolf’s proposal for enough funding to add 14,000 more toddlers to Pennsylvania’s pre-K roles.  Play and Learn operates facilities in Collegeville, Lansdale, Green Lane and Norristown, in addition to its Upper Providence location.  “As affluent as Spring-Ford is, we have families who are not being served in this community who are eligible for Pre-K Counts,” Spring-Ford Area School District Superintendent David Goodin said in reference to the state funding stream that helps pay early childhood education costs.

IU9 waits word on state grant money
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter a.davis@bradfordera.com  August 28, 2015 10:00 am
Whether the state would fund more preschool opportunities across McKean and Potter counties remains in question as the state budget impasse enters its third month next week.  Officials at the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 are hoping for grant money to pay for the expansion of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts programs at four school districts and to bring programs to two other districts, said Janice Vicini, director of early intervention program at the IU9. The money is being requested from the state Department of Education.  “In the near term, without a state budget in place, state Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental grants did not go out to pre-K providers across the Commonwealth, forcing them to make the hard decision to either solicit private bridge financing, operate off reserves or other funding sources or close state-funded classrooms altogether,” said Mission: Readiness Pennsylvania State director Steve Doster, who is a partner in the Pre-K for PA Campaign effort in advocating for high-quality preschool access for all children.

"School districts have more flexibility in spending, but officials said they were still feeling the stress from the state budget gridlock. PASBO said that it surveyed 171 districts across the state about the impasse, and most - 83 percent - have already or are likely to dip into reserve funds, while 40 percent either have or are weighing borrowing money to open up classes.  A few districts cited harsher measures, according to PASBO, with 29 percent saying that not filling vacant positions is either taking place or a possibility, and 60 percent face a similar dilemma with vendor payments."
Schools cut back as budget standoff continues
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED:  August 30, 2015, 1:08 AM
Amanda Darr, a 31-year-old working single mom in Langhorne, opened a letter recently that led her to believe her chronic child-care problems for her 4-year-daughter had finally been solved.  She thought that for a few seconds anyway.  "I got the letter of acceptance, and I was screaming on top of the world, 'I got a break!' " Darr said of the communication from the Radcliffe Learning Center in nearby Bristol. "The front page said your child has been accepted. Then reading on, I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, no, no, no!' "  The bad news on Page 2 was that the Bucks County early learning center won't start taking children in the state-subsidized Pa. Pre-K Counts program until Oct. 16 - about a month and a half later than normal - because the state budget standoff in Harrisburg has forced the center to scramble to find money for the program.

"Beginning this school year, all employees — from cafeteria workers to the principal — in 22 city schools will put into action techniques taught by the International Institute for Restorative Practices under a $3 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department. Part of the money will pay for a Rand Corp. study of how well the program works. Training takes place this school year and the next."
Restorative Practices: 22 Pittsburgh schools to use discipline aimed more at understanding than punishment
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 31, 2015 12:00 AM
With classes starting today in Pittsburgh Public Schools, teachers at Spring Hill K-5 say they’ve been looking forward to meeting new students, getting the children’s reaction to new lessons, feeling the joy — and introducing a restorative practices approach.  The comments came as teachers in small groups on Friday practiced participating in discussions in restorative circles, one of the strategies used by the International Institute for Restorative Practices to address student behavior by building relationships, seeking the root cause of problems and helping students find ways to make things right when incidents take place.  The whole-school approach is designed to improve student behavior, enhance school climate and reduce punishments, including out-of-school suspensions. 

Bringing it home: How two Lancaster County schools are connecting with families in their own neighborhoods
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer August 30, 2015
Brecht teachers arrive on a bus to pass out school supplies to school families in the area of Golden Triangle Apartments. Miykha Murray was one of the first students to greet them.
Sporting a red Brecht Bobcats T-shirt on Wednesday, Yenyia Terry, 9, greeted her principal with a hug. A school bus was parked a few yards away, but the fourth-grader wasn't the one who'd been on it.  Brecht Elementary School's staff rode the bus to Yenyia's apartment complex near Lititz Pike. It was the first of four stops as they traveled through Brecht neighborhoods to distribute school supplies and connect with families ahead of the first day of school, which is Monday.  When the teachers descended from the bus, they were met by children on foot and on bikes. The kids embraced former teachers, met their new ones and picked out notebooks as their parents ticked off supply lists.  Principal Sharon Schaefer chatted with Yenyia's mom, Ladon Johnson, while Yenyia selected a purple pencil sharpener, then swapped it for a pink one.  “We went school shopping and she wanted everything pink," said Johnson. "It's a nightmare,”  Schaefer laughed. “She loves it!” she replied before asking Johnson how work was going.  The conversation was simple, but important, according to the principal. Years of education research confirm that home-school connections have positive impacts on student learning, but most of the time, says Schaefer, schools expect parents to come to them.  She's one of two Lancaster County principals who are turning that expectation on its head.

School districts face challenges with negotiating contracts
Scranton Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL AND KATHLEEN BOLUS Published: August 30, 2015
As Scranton teachers plan to strike this week, other districts may not be far behind.  With districts feeling the strain of increased financial obligations and no clear picture of state funding, area teachers’ contracts are taking longer to negotiate.  In Lackawanna County, teachers in five of 10 school districts are either working under expired contracts or have contracts that expire Monday. Scranton teachers are scheduled to strike on the first day of school, Thursday, if an agreement is not reached before then. Teachers in two other districts — Old Forge and Riverside — have already gone on strike since their last agreements expired.  Teachers in Mid Valley and Valley View in Lackawanna County, Western Wayne in Wayne County and Blue Ridge, Forest City Regional, Montrose and Susquehanna Community in Susquehanna County are also in negotiations. Those union members teach a combined 23,000 students in Northeast Pennsylvania.  Across the state, there is a widening gap between what school boards and unions want, said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.  “When your expectations start in opposite directions, it’s hard to find a compromise,” he said.  Statewide, the northeast region of the state has a large number of unsettled contracts, compared to other regions, said Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 180,000 teachers and support personnel.  While experts are not sure why this region leads the state, all teachers, administrators and school board members said they hope to have agreements soon.

Opinion: Put kids first, not gas companies
Pocono Record Opinion by PA Budget and Policy Center Posted  Aug. 27, 2015 at 5:51 PM
Thaddeus Stevens is spinning in his grave.
The venerable Pennsylvania Republican, portrayed so vividly in the movie “Lincoln” by Tommy Lee Jones, was a man ahead of his time. He helped establish tax-financed public education in our commonwealth — a massive expansion of government at a time when many believed government had no obligation to educate its citizenry.  Mr. Stevens’ stern visage still looks down on our legislators in Harrisburg, where the Republican Party holds a solid majority. He can’t be happy with what he sees.  Back on June 1, state Sens. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, and Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, conducted a hearing on Gov. Tom Wolf’s severance-tax proposal, which would impose a modest tax on the revenues of shale drillers in Pennsylvania. At a time when the state’s finances are in perilous shape and public education is still reeling from savage cuts instituted by our former governor in 2011, this is a matter of vital importance.  You might expect that our leaders would seek the input of authentic experts who could offer dispassionate, objective analysis of the issues, including from Pennsylvania’s great universities. Sadly, none were invited to Harrisburg, despite the efforts of members of the Democratic minority to include them. Instead, Sens. Eichelberger and Yaw primarily sought the advice and counsel of shale-gas and business-association lobbyists who are paid to protect their members’ bottom lines, not to worry about what is best for Pennsylvania. And that was only hearing the Senate has conducted this summer.
To its credit, the Eichelberger-Yaw committee did call upon the state’s Independent Fiscal Office to offer its analysis of the governor’s tax proposal.

Thanks Alexander Russo for the twitter heads-up on Mr. Rad's Neighborhood

"If you care about kids, if you care about teaching, there is nothing that will make you less of a teacher to me.  If you teach, if you care about teachers, if you care about students and schools, however you care about them, you are not my enemy.  Let’s go to work."
No Enemies
Mr. Rad's Neighborhood, Blog by Tom Rademacher August 26, 2015
Tom Rademacher (Mr. Rad to his students) is an English teacher in Minneapolis, MN, and in May of 2014 was named Minnesota Teacher of the Year. He teaches writing. He writes about teaching
Last year, a guy moved in across the hall from me to teach physics (everyone’s favorite).  He didn’t have a license.  He had been rejected from Teach for America years before.  He came in on a community expert license, but really, he came in at the last minute because we needed someone, anyone, to fill space.  The year before, we had resorted to having a sub with an english license sit in the room while the kids did online physics (because the only thing that could make physics more awesome was making sure you could only do computer-simulation labs).  Shortly after meeting that guy, I met another teacher, a guy who was in his fiftieth year of teaching.  Seriously.  Fifty.  He teaches Latin (everyone’s other favorite), and has been doing so since 1965.  He is fully licensed (in a few different subjects, actually), and widely recognized as one of the best teachers in his state.  He is a master of master teachers.    Aside from both staying up way later than I do, these two guys have very very little in common.  But you know what?  Both of these teachers are awesome.  

Looking for a few thousand substitute teachers
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: August 31, 2015, 1:08 AM
The firm hired to staff Philadelphia School District substitute-teaching jobs has a pressing need: hiring 5,000 qualified people, as soon as possible.  To achieve that goal, prepare for an onslaught of advertising - billboards on I-95, posters in train stations and other high-visibility areas - trolling for people looking for "flexible and fulfilling part-time work in education."  When a Cherry Hill-based firm recently hired by the district won the $34 million contract to fill sub jobs, it promised it would staff 90 percent of all openings by January. Previously, the district had run substitute services, and managed only a 60 percent "fill rate."

‘The Teacher Shortage’ Is No Accident—It’s the Result of Corporate Education Reform Policies
In These Times BY KEVIN PROSEN TUESDAY, AUG 25, 2015, 10:28 AM
Like much else in the national education debate, panics about teacher shortages seem to be a perennial event.  In a widely discussed article for the New York Times earlier this month, Motoko Rich called attention to sharp drops in enrollment in teacher training programs in California and documented that many districts are relaxing licensure requirements as a result, pushing more and more people into the classroom without full certification or proper training.  “It’s a sad, alarming state of affairs, and it proves that for all our lip service about improving the education of America’s children, we’ve failed to make teaching the draw that it should be, the honor that it must be,” mused Times columnist Frank Bruni.  That Bruni would bemoan such a state of affairs is ironic, as he has used his column over the years to repeatedly argue that teaching is too easy a profession to enter and too easy to keep, and amplified the voice of reformers who want to want to make the profession more precarious. But the reality is that speaking of a “shortage” at all is a kind of ideological dodge; the word calls to mind some accident of nature or the market, when what is actually happening is the logical (if not necessarily intended) result of education reform policies.
“This is an old narrative, the idea that we aren’t producing enough teachers,” says Richard Ingersoll, an educational sociologist at University of Pennsylvania who has written extensively on the subject of teacher shortages. “As soon as you disaggregate the data, you find out claims of shortage are always overgeneralized and exaggerated. It’s always been a minority of schools, and the real factor is turnover in hard to staff schools. It may be true enrollment went down in these programs nationally, but there are so many former teachers in the reserve pool.” In other words, the problem isn’t that too few people entering the profession, but rather that too many are leaving it.

"When districts began to fire highly regarded teachers whose students did not perform well on standardized tests, teachers were furious.  From their point of view, the public was blaming teachers for problems caused by rapidly rising poverty among children, growing inequality of incomes, appalling rates of violence and incarceration in urban communities—problems over which they had no control. They began to give up, move on or retire in ever-larger numbers."
Teacher Shortages: Catastrophe or Opportunity?
By Marc Tucker on August 27, 2015 11:40 AM
The news now is full of stories about teacher shortages.  States and districts are putting up giant billboards, and granting emergency certificates so that people who have not even finished their teacher education program can teach school and teachers certified to teach one subject can teach another subject they are wholly unqualified to teach. 
How did we get to this point?
The trail is not hard to follow.  When college-educated women had few choices other than being a nurse, a secretary or a teacher, we were able to get great teachers for next to nothing. Young women were urged by their parents to become teachers as a form of insurance policy, in case they became widowed or divorced.  Teaching jobs were seen as recession-proof.  Teachers were highly respected because they were seen as having a "vocation," not just a job, and because they were typically among the most educated people in their community.   Then each link in this chain broke. No longer confined to nursing, secretarial work and teaching, college-educated women started going into higher-status, higher-paying professions in great numbers. As time went on, teachers were less likely to have more education than the parents in their community.  Teachers colleges became a fallback destination. Teachers' salaries declined relative to the salaries of other professionals. In response, teachers unionized, changing public perception of teaching as no longer a vocation but an occupation like any other in which the occupants were in it for themselves, not the children.

U.S. Education Department bars states from offering alternative tests to most students with disabilities
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 27  
A new rule issued by the U.S. Education Department requires all states to stop offering alternative standards and aligned standardized tests to nearly all students with disabilities after the 2015-16 school year.   As published in the Federal Rule, the rule is called “Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged; Assistance to States for the Education of Children With Disabilities,” and it requires states to give the same assessments to students without disabilities as to the vast majority of those with disabilities under the premise that nearly all students can “make academic progress when provided with challenging instruction and appropriate supports.”

238 days, 247 mass shootings in America - still think they're 'isolated' incidents?
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 27, 2015 at 10:00 AM, updated August 27, 2015 at 10:41 AM
Wednesday was the 238th day of 2015, and there have so far been 247 mass shootings nationwide, according to an analysis prepared by GunsAreCool, a snarkily named subreddit that tracks gun violence nationwide.  As The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reports, the group's definition has been criticized because it defines "mass shooting" as any incident in which four people are shot. That's broader than the FBI's definition, "which requires three or more people to be killed by gunfire," The Post reported.


Save the Date: Make your voice heard at Education Action Day, Sept. 21
School directors and administrators from across the state will be converging at the State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21 for Education Action Day — your opportunity to push for a state budget and pension reform. Join PSBA in the Main Capitol-East Wing under the escalators at 10 a.m. A news conference will be held from 11 a.m.-noon, and then plan to meet with your elected officials from 1-3 p.m., scheduled by PSBA . There is no charge for participation, but for planning purposes, members are asked to register their attendance online, which will be available in the next few days. We look forward to a big crowd to impress upon legislators and the governor the need for a state budget and pension reform now!

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!  Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.  Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will open Aug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration is live at:

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.