Friday, May 29, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 29: Calls for fair funding from Erie to Souderton

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 29, 2015:
Calls for fair funding from Erie to Souderton



COMMUNITY MEETING: PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING IN BERKS COUNTY
Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm



Pa. cyber charters not happy with Gov. Wolf's proposed steep cuts
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 29, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 11
Eleventh in an occasional series of podcasts
 For years, many public education advocates have been howling about the way Pennsylvania funds cyber charter schools.  It works like this: Say there's a cyber charter with a physical headquarters in Altoona. It can enroll kids from anywhere in the state, and it gets a percentage of whatever per pupil funding would have been spent in a student's home district.  If a student comes from a wealthy district in the Philadelphia suburbs, the cyber charter will get upwards of $20,000. If a student comes from a poor urban or rural district, the cyber will get much less.  "Why should a cyber charter get $25,000 for one student and $13,000 for another when the school is doing the same thing for those two students?" said Susan Dejarnatt, a Temple University law professor who focuses on inequities in public education.  Dejarnatt says it's mind-boggling that the state's cyber law — passed when Republican Mark Schweiker was governor — calls for cyber charters to be funded in the same way as brick-and-mortar charters.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Cyber Charter School Performance Profile Scores for 2013 and 2014
A score of 70 is considered passing. No cyber charter achieved a score of 70 in either year.  Additionally, most cybers never made AYP under No Child Left Behind during the period 2005 thru 2012.
Here are the 2013 and 2014 SPP scores for Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools:
School                                                                2013                 2014
21st Century Cyber CS                                       66.5                 66.0
Achievement House CS                                     39.7                 37.5
ACT Academy Cyber CS                                    30.6                 28.9
Agora Cyber CS                                                 48.3                  42.4
ASPIRA Bilingual CS                                         29.0                  39.0
Central PA Digital Lrng Foundation CS              31.7                  48.8
Commonwealth Connections Academy CS        54.6                  52.2
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS                   59.0                  50.0
Esperanza Cyber CS                                          32.7                  47.7
Pennsylvania Cyber CS                                      59.4                  55.5
Pennsylvania Distance Learning CS                   54.7                  50.9
Pennsylvania Leadership CS                              64.7                  59.3
Pennsylvania Virtual CS                                     67.9                  63.4
Solomon Charter School Inc.                             36.9
Susq-Cyber CS                                                  46.4                  42.4


Six School District Leaders Talk Education Funding at the Jefferson
WSEE Erie By Deedee Sun Posted: May 29, 2015 12:46 AM EDT
Leaders from six different school districts in NW Pennsylvania met at the Jefferson Educational Society on Thursday night to talk about Pennsylvania's education funding crisis and how to to fix it.   School board presidents and superintendents from Conneaut, Corry, Fort LeBoeuf, Harborcreek, Millcreek, and Wattsburg all sat at one table, making up the panel for the NW PA education forum organized by the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.    The goal: "Finding a predictable, fair, equitable formula in funding education in the commonwealth, and getting something in state law that doesn't take a year by year approach," said Jay Himes, executive director of the PA Association of School Business Officials.   "Being a very rural school district, we may not be able to offer our students some of the opportunities we see our counterparts in smaller geographical areas give to their students. Yet our students are expected to compete on that same platform when they graduate from high school. So I think if we could get a fair funding formula that's the same throughout Pennsylvania, it would help make it a little more equitable," said Jody Sperry, Conneaut's school board president. 

Souderton Area School Board charges legislators to create fair education funding formula
By Jarreau Freeman, jfreeman@21st-centurymedia.com@JarreauFreeman on Twitter
POSTED: 05/28/15, 10:01 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
FRANCONIA >> Souderton Area School District is joining the cause and wants their voices heard for a fair way to fund basic education in the state.  During Thursday’s school board meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution charging legislators to create an equitable way to fund public schools in Pennsylvania.  “This board stands behind … this resolution 100 percent,” Board President Scott Jelinski said. “This board has been tasked with getting more involved with the laws that are in Harrisburg. We really need to keep a tighter eye on what’s going on and that’s our goal. As a board, I really think we are pushing through.”  Montgomery County Intermediate Unit Legislative Services and Grants Development Director Tina Viletto, who spoke at a North Penn School Board meeting in April, said that at this time there is no “clear, consistent determination as to how a school district receives its funds (from the state).”
Souderton is joining North Penn, who passed a similar resolution last month, encouraging legislators to consider a fair funding formula. The North Penn School Board also expressed support of the Circuit Riders — a group that is campaigning for fair education funding in the state by promoting the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. The campaign is an initiative spearheaded by approximately 50 educational, religious and business organizations working to develop their own funding formula proposal to be submitted to legislators for future consideration.

Pa. must change public school funding
BY FREDERICK C. JOHNSON Contributing writer28 May 2015 — Erie Times-News
Frederick C. Johnson is executive director of the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5, which serves 17 public school districts and nonpublic schools in Erie, Crawford and Warren counties.  Pennsylvania's school funding system is broken, and students in classrooms across the state are paying the consequences.  Recent cuts in state funding, combined with the fact that the state does not have a predictable, sustainable and fair basic education funding system to distribute dollars where they are needed, have put our students at a disadvantage.  There should be no question that money matters. Data shows that student performance in our state has tracked with state funding levels. A study comparing changes in state test scores with changes in state funding between 2003 and 2011 found that performance in the 50 lowest-achieving districts increased by 50 percent, on average, as basic education funding to those districts increased by about 40 percent.  By contrast, as state school funding levels fell between 2011 and 2014, leading many schools to cut programs, lay off teachers and increase class sizes, student performance lagged among all students, but particularly for those facing additional challenges.

Fair distribution, not simply more money, the answer for Pa. schools
WHYY Newsworks COMMENTARY  BY ANDREA C. ANASTASI MAY 29, 2015 ESSAYWORKS
Andrea C. Anastasi is graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University Beasley School of Law.  She currently works as an attorney, writer, and advocate in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Pennsylvania schools are the most inequitably funded in the entire country, with poorer school districts receiving 33.5 percent less in education funding than more affluent school districts across the state. The Commonwealth Foundation’s School Spending Database, which breaks down education expenditures per student by school district, and School Tax Database, which breaks down local education revenue by county, support this data.   These discrepancies have not only garnered negative attention nationally, embarrassing legislators in Harrisburg, but also have spurred members of the General Assembly and policymakers in the governor’s office to address these egregious variations across the state. For the most part, their efforts have focused on changing the way Pennsylvania finances education, with the intention of increasing funding for schools. Unfortunately, the current proposals do not appear to go far enough to redress the current problem. They seem only to increase funding for education without fully resolving the spending inequalities.

Democratic Policy Committee hearing highlights critical need for increased basic education funding
PA House Democratic Policy Committee May 27, 2015
ABINGTON, May 27 – Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2015-16 budget supported by Democrats puts the commonwealth on the right track toward healthy and balanced education funding, state Rep. Madeleine Dean said during a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Abington today.  The hearing examined Wolf’s budget proposal, which advocates for increased education funding, reduced property taxes and a commitment to invest $2 billion in public education over the next four years under the Education Reinvestment Act. Local- and state-level education experts also provided insight during the hearing.  “As a legislator, I have a moral duty to advocate for an adequate, equitable and consistent education system that is excellent for all children in Pennsylvania,” said Dean, D-Montgomery. “This year’s budget presents the opportunity to do so with historic reform that would help Pennsylvania emerge as a leader in education.”

Presentations from CORP Symposium May 6, 2015
Center on Regional Politics May 28, 2015
Find the presentations from our symposium on lifting student achievement to grow PA’s economy in Harrisburg on May 6, 2015.
Key Findings: Pennsylvania could realize up to $5 billion in additional annual economic growth by closing school performance gaps, according to the ground-breaking RAND study presented by senior economist Lynn Karoly, but doing so will require the kinds of dramatic changes that top performing countries have made and the U.S. has not. Various methods of estimating the costs of these gaps, or alternatively, the potential gains from closing them, show that the Commonwealth could see immediate gains of $1-$3 billion in earnings, or 2%-7% in state GDP. Each cohort for which gaps were closed could realize gains of $1-$3 billion in lifetime earnings and $3-$5 billion in overall value to society.   Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, said failure to meet the educational challenges of global competition will continue to depress wages in the the U.S. and Pennsylvania. According to Tucker, the U.S. failed to change its education system to match a new global economic system. It continued training the bulk of public school students for low-skill, routine jobs that were rapidly disappearing due to outsourcing and automation. The old system sorted for quality, and then provided higher education access to the most qualified. That worked in an economy dominated by blue collar jobs, but it does not work anymore.

"Carroll said this provision of his pending bill complements an effort by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, Democratic chairman of the Senate Education Committee."
Carroll to propose moratorium on Keystone Exams as graduation requirement
Press Release HARRISBURG, May 28 – State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne/Lackawanna, will introduce an omnibus Public School Code bill that would establish a moratorium on Keystone Exams being used as a requirement for graduation.  Carroll said this suspension would benefit students and their families, while offering much-needed relief to school districts that face significant financial and educational obstacles to fully implement the graduation requirement.  "It has become ever more apparent to me that the linkage of Keystone exam passage to graduation is riddled with problems and that more thought is required to assess students with a wide range of abilities," said Carroll, a member of the House Education Committee. "A one-size-fits-all approach seldom works in the real word and the Keystone exam requirement is no exception."

More than 90 percent of Pa. school districts submit plans for increased funds
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 28, 2015 1:11 PM
Ninety-two percent of school districts in the state have submitted plans outlining how they would spend their share of the proposed $400 million increase in basic education funding that Gov. Tom Wolf wants allocated to schools, according to the governor's office.  Mr. Wolf's 2015-16 budget proposal calls for raising $1 billion for education at all levels through a natural gas extraction tax -- a proposal that has not been approved by the Legislature.  In March, state acting education secretary Pedro Rivera sent a letter to the state's 500 school districtsasking them to formulate plans for how they would spend their increase by choosing which of 14 evidence-based strategies provided by the state they would use.  Republican legislators had balked at issuing the requirement of schools since Mr. Wolf did not have the funds in hand to distribute to schools.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf Announces 92 Percent of School Districts Submitted Plans to Ensure Additional Funding is Invested in Classroom
PR Newswire HARRISBURG, Pa., May 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Wolf today announced that 92 percent ofPennsylvania school districts across the commonwealth submitted funding impact plans to the state Department of Education, outlining how the $400 million basic education funding increase proposed in his 2015-2016 budget will be invested directly in classrooms. The governor's budget provides a $1 billion investment in education at all levels through a severance tax on natural gas.
"I have traveled across Pennsylvania and listened to educators and administrators detail their plans to ensure additional education funding is invested in the classroom to benefit our children," said Governor Wolf. "Through a commonsense severance tax on natural gas, my budget invests $1 billion in education at all levels, including an additional $400 million in basic education funding. In turn, my administration asked school districts to submit plans that are tied to proven strategies for learning and will enable districts to maintain full-day kindergarten, bring back valuable programs, reduce class sizes, and hire back educators."
  • 197 school districts in Pennsylvania will use the funding to maintain or expand high-quality early childhood education or pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs. 
  • 98 school districts will apply the funding toward reducing class sizes in elementary school classes.
  • 87 school districts will restore programs and personnel that districts were forced to eliminate as a result of massive cuts over the past four years. Districts will bring back guidance counselors and librarians and restore extra-curricular programs designed to enhance learning outside the classroom.
Governor Wolf's proposal, called the Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act, is expected to generate over a billion dollars by 2017 by enacting a reasonable severance tax on natural gas extraction.

Borrowing to Replenish Depleted Pensions
New York Times By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH MAY 27, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Facing a shortfall of more than $50 billion in his state’s pensions, and with no simple solution at hand, Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania is proposing to issue $3 billion in bonds, despite the role that such bonds have already played in the fiscal woes of other places.  And he is not alone. Several states and municipalities are considering similar action as they struggle with ballooning pension costs.  Interest in so-called pension obligation bonds is expected to intensify in the wake of a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision that rejected the state’s attempt to overhaul its severely depleted pension system. The court ruled unanimously that Illinois could not legally cut its public workers’retirement benefits to lower costs, forcing lawmakers to scramble for the billions of dollars it will take to keep the system intact.  While the Illinois ruling is not binding on other states, analysts think it may influence lawmakers elsewhere to look to alternatives to cutting public pensions. The Illinois justices offered a list of all the times since 1917 that state lawmakers had ignored expert warnings and diverted pension money to other projects. They said, in effect, that the lawmakers had to restore the money.  Since the late 1980s, state and local governments have issued about $105 billion in taxable pension obligation bonds. Borrowing through such bond deals is being considered by many states and municipalities this year to help underfunded pensions.

Illinois Policymakers Scramble After Pension Law Struck Down
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: May 19, 2015
An Illinois Supreme Court ruling this month that overturned a 2013 law altering pensions for retired teachers has not only scrambled the state's financial outlook: It's pushed first-year GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner to seek a constitutional amendment that could clear a path for his own overhaul of retirement benefits and stop any legal challenge to it.  But shoring up the state budget in light of the ruling won't be easy, in part because lawmakers allowed a statewide tax increase to partially sunset at the start of this year, a fact the justices noted in their unanimous May 8 ruling.  While Gov. Rauner has a plan that would create a distinction between previously earned benefits and new, less generous ones in order to boost the pension system's fiscal health, it's not clear it would pass muster with either the legislature, controlled by Democrats, or the courts.

Peter Greene: Kevin Huffman Sells Tennessee Snake Oil in Pennsylvania
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch May 28, 2015
Kevin Huffman, former state education leader in Tennessee, came to Pennslvania to sell the glories of corporate reform as practiced in TennesseePeter Greene recounts his claims here.  Huffman wanted particularly to sell the virtues of the Tennessee Achievement School District, which gathers the state’s lowest performing schools into a group, eliminates local control, and converts them to privately managed charters.  As Greene shows, the ASD in Tennessee has been a bust so far.  “So first, strip local school boards and voters of authority over their own schools. Second, allow a mixture of innovation and stripping teachers of job security and pay. The stated plan in Tennessee was that the bottom 5% of schools would move into the top 25% within five years. Doesn’t that all sound great? But hey– how is it working out in Tennessee?

OP-ED: Pa. should invest in education by reforming PlanCon
York Dispatch By STATE REP. SETH GROVE R-Dover Twp. POSTED:   05/27/2015 03:25:28 PM
Last year, the General Assembly began the process of providing needed reforms to PlanCon, which is the commonwealth's program for reimbursing school districts for construction costs. In October 2012, a moratorium was put in place to allow the state time to address the timely and costly nature of the current PlanCon program. This moratorium created a backlog of projects as school districts across the commonwealth awaited reimbursement for over 350 construction projects.  PlanCon was developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to establish the process by which the state would reimburse school districts for construction projects. Following its creation decades ago, PlanCon has grown into a regulatory nightmare consisting of 11 steps, with the first step alone consisting of 200 pages.  Not only was the process long, but PlanCon was horribly outdated. Some steps require construction plans be sent on microfilm, which was used as far back as the 1920s. Additionally, the process lacks transparency as school districts are currently unable to find out where their project is on the list waiting for reimbursements since PDE lacks a website providing that information.  To address this problem, I introduced House Bill 2124 (ARC Con) last session to streamline the program and provide transparency for school districts. Regrettably, this legislation never made it to the governor's desk, but it was passed twice by the House.

Allentown schools may see return of the arts, gym and music
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 29, 2015 at 6:15 AM
Art, gym and music are on their way back to the Allentown School District and taxpayers won't be hit with a tax increase to fund them.  The Allentown School Board voted 7-2 Thursday night to pass a $267.4 million 2015-16 proposed final budget that holds the line on taxes and restores 30 elementary and middle school teaching positions. Directors Michael Welsh and Scott Armstrong voted against the budget.  "A zero tax increase is important for the citizens of Allentown," board President Robert E. Smith Jr. said.  The budget projects a 3 percent increase in state basic education funding and relies on $9.2 million of the district's savings account to balance the budget, less money than the $11.6 million projected two weeks ago.

Pottsgrove School Board gets close to no-tax-hike budget
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/27/15, 7:18 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 HR AGO
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> The retirement of 11 teachers and the good health of those remaining is helping the Pottsgrove School Board inch closer to a final budget that won’t raise taxes next year.  In a meeting Tuesday night devoted entirely to discussion of the 2015-2016 budget draft, a variety of scenarios that can whittle the tax hike as low as half-a-percent were revealed.  That’s a far cry from the $64.3 million proposed budget the board adopted two weeks ago which would have raised property taxes by 2.4 percent.  Final budget adoption will not occur until June.  The elimination of another $200,000 in spending (or a revenue increase of equal amount) would put the tax increase at zero the board was told Tuesday night.  Ironically, should the board get to a budget that does not raise taxes, it could be coming full circle from the preliminary budget it adopted in February, which also called for no tax increase, but carried a $2.5 million deficit between revenues and expenses.  The plan now under consideration by the board, which does not carry a deficit, has evolved significantly since then and went through a rough period last month when the public objected to planned reductions in the music, art and business teaching staff.

AIU vote to cut 20 special education jobs draws criticism
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 27, 2015 11:36 PM
In front of a crowd of about 130 that included special education teachers, paraprofessionals, parents and students, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit board voted to eliminate 20.4 positions from its special education staff.  The cuts made at the Wednesday meeting represent furloughs. They are in addition to 11.4 positions eliminated last month, largely through attrition. The cuts take effect in the 2015-16 school year.  The cuts come from the staffs of the three special education centers the AIU operates — Sunrise in Monroeville, Mon Valley in Jefferson Hills and Pathfinder in Bethel Park — and among the staff of professionals who serve the 42 suburban school districts in Allegheny County.

Report: Philly per-pupil spending below 2007 level
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Friday, May 29, 2015, 12:16 AM
PHILADELPHIA'S public schools are spending less per child than in 2007, partially due to rising costs for pensions and health care, according to an independent report released yesterday by the school district.  The analysis, conducted by Education Research Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit research organization, shows the district spent $12,724 per-pupil in 2013-14, down from $13,384 in 2007-08, a 5 percent decline.  District officials said the report bears out what they have been saying for a while - mandated costs are rising faster than revenue, taking precious dollars away from the classroom.

City schools: This is why we need more money
Inquirer by Kristen Graham POSTED: THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015, 1:31 PM
In the face of steep revenue cuts, the city school system is now spending less to educate each student than it has since 2008, and benefits are costing it nearly $8,000 more per teacher than they did three years ago. Mix lower revenues with rising fixed costs and the result is fewer dollars spent in Philadelphia School District classrooms, an outside analysis of district finances released Thursday found.  Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski said the analysis underscored the points officials were trying to make this week to a skeptical, frustrated City Council: they keep coming back for more money year after year because the money they receive isn’t enough to cover their fixed costs.  “It’s not mismanagement or not knowing where the money is or where it’s spent,” Stanski said. “It’s this continued structural problem.”

Letters: Schools want to stick together
Philly Daily News Letter POSTED: Friday, May 29, 2015, 12:16 AM
By Nadia Watson, Kensington International Business High School student and Youth United for Change leader; Andi Perez, Kensington Multiplex (KCAPA) parent; Marilyn Cruz, South Kensington Community Partners board member
PHILADELPHIANS ARE passionate about fighting for quality public education. We have marched in the streets countless times. We deserve high quality public neighborhood schools and a school district that listens to us as students, parents and community leaders - and we are willing to fight for it. Unfortunately, the school district has shown again that it is unwilling to take our voices into account and is pushing through a school-closure plan in Kensington.  As Kensington students, parents and community leaders we are deeply concerned about the school district's plan to close and merge Kensington Urban Education High School and Kensington International Business High School. The Kensington community fought for more than a decade for there to be small high schools in Kensington. This team of schools was designed to be a multiplex, working together to serve the students from the Kensington catchment area. There is a profound community history behind our schools and extensive community opposition to the school district's plan.

Key numbers from a report to Congress on US education
Philly.com by KIMBERLY HEFLING, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 2:27 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - The American education landscape is shifting.
More U.S. school-age kids live in poverty and need English-language services, according to a report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics.  Enrollment in public schools is up, including in charter schools that have grown in popularity. At the same time, smaller numbers of children attend private schools.  Fewer students are dropping out of high school.  And, while more undergraduate students seek financial aid to obtain a four-year degree, college graduates continue to earn more than their peers.  Here's a by-the-numbers look from the report:

"According to Education Week, a magazine published by Editorial Projects in Education, a nonprofit that produces K-12 educational content in print and online, more than 60 percent of philanthropic donations funneled into education young people in the United States went to charter and contract schools in 2010. Less than 25 percent of funding went to those programs about 15 years ago.  “What would actually be revolutionary, brand new, and fresh is if community wisdom was listened to and [corporations] worked with the people who are directly impacted by the institutions that they have to live with everyday,” said Brown."
Newswire : A call to curb expansion of Charter Schools in Black Communities
Greene County (Alabama) Democrat By Freddie Allen, Senior Washington Correspondent on MAY 27, 2015
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Parents, students and advocates for strong neighborhood schools continue to pressure civic leaders to end the expansion of charter and contract schools in Black and Latino communities across the nation.  Jitu Brown, the national director of Journey for Justice Alliance, a coalition of community, youth and parent-led grassroots organizations in 21 cities, said that the fight for public education – which suffers with the expansion of charter and contract schools –is a human and a civil rights issue.  As voices from the community were increasingly drowned out by philanthropic groups seeking wholesale educational reform, the state takeover of schools, corporate charters and appointed school boards have become the status quo, Brown said.

"Those who argue that annual accountability testing of every child is essential for the advancement of poor and minority children ought to be able to show that poor and minority children perform better in education systems that have such requirements and worse in systems that don't have them.  But that is simply not the case.  Many nations that have no annual accountability testing requirements have higher average performance for poor and minority students and smaller gaps between their performance and the performance of majority students than we do here in the United States.  How can annual testing be a civil right if that is so? "
Annual Accountability Testing: Time for the Civil Rights Community to Reconsider
Education Week Opinion By Marc Tucker on May 28, 2015 6:50 AM
So we now have the civil rights community accusing those who oppose annual accountability testing of deliberately undermining the civil rights of minority children.  The No Child Left Behind Act required not only that students be tested each year in grades three through eight and one additional year in high school, but it also required that the scores for students in each minority group be published separately.  Take this requirement away, the civil rights groups say, and we will go back to the era in which schools were able to conceal the poor performance of poor and minority children behind high average scores for the schools.  Once that happens, the schools will have no incentive to work hard to improve those scores and the performance of poor and minority kids will languish once again.   None of this is true, though I am quite sure the civil rights community believes it is true.  First of all, the data show that, although the performance of poor and minority students improved after passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, it was actually improving at a faster rate before the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act.  Over the 15-year history of the No Child Left Behind Act, there is no data to show that it contributed to improved student performance for poor and minority students at the high school level, which is where it counts.

Christie disavows Common Core, eyes developing N.J. standards
ANDREW SEIDMAN, INQUIRER TRENTON BUREAU LAST UPDATED:May 29, 2015, 1:08 AM
Gov. Christie on Thursday disavowed the controversial Common Core education standards he once supported and directed his education commissioner to consider developing New Jersey-specific goals.  Christie, a Republican considering running for president in 2016, had warned for months that he had "grave" concerns about the standards, which conservatives denounce as federal encroachment on the classroom.  "We have to reject federal control of New Jersey's education," Christie told an audience of about 150 at Burlington County College.  "We need to return it to the parents and students who ultimately have the most at stake, and to the teachers who will help make that walk across that stage," Christie said. "We need to take it out of the cubicles of Washington, D.C., where it's been placed by this administration. And we need to return it to the neighborhoods of New Jersey."


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Campaign for Fair Education Funding website
Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

NAACP PA STATE CONFERENCE YOUTH & COLLEGE DIVISION:
FAIR SCHOOL FUNDING MOBLIZATION WORKSHOP
Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:00 am
St. Bernard Hall, Friendship Circle Senior Center - First Floor
1515 Lansdowne Avenue Darby, PA 19023.
East Campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
Please RSVP to panaacpyc@gmail.com by May 25

COMMUNITY MEETING: PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING IN BERKS COUNTY
Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Date:  Tuesday, June 23, 2015  Time:7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Berks County Intermediate Unit, 1111 Commons Boulevard, Reading, PA 19605
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s education opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for public schools in Berks County.  State lawmakers who represent Berks County have been invited to attend to learn about challenges facing area schools.

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Staff attorney Michael Churchill will speak about what schools need and where the money comes from in this Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) webinar on June 8. Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 28: About that Tennessee Achievement School District being touted as a model for PA….

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 28, 2015:
About that Tennessee Achievement School District being touted as a model for PA….



Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508




"Sometimes these reformers pop up again in unexpected places.  Huffman was in Pennsylvania the other day where he testified in front of their senate and also wrote an op-ed for one of the local papers with the title ‘Want Pa. schools to flourish?  Try this Tennessee model that worked.”
I’ll Huffman and I’ll Puffman and I’ll Blow Your District Down
Gary Rubenstein's Blog Posted on May 22, 2015by garyrubinstein
Kevin Huffman was the first Teach For America alum to become a state education commissioner.  Despite having only taught for two years between 1992 and 1994 and having had no role related to schools for the next seventeen years (he was a VP of TFA for a time) he was appointed to his position in Tennessee in 2011 by the current Governor, Bill Haslam.  In November 2014 after the Governor was re-elected, Huffman ‘resigned’ saying that “it feels like the right time to pass the baton.”  Huffman was one of the ‘Chiefs For Change’ a group of reform-minded ‘leaders’ who have nearly all resigned or been fired over the past few years.

"So far there have been two years of data and, by any objective standards, the experiment is floundering.  Of the six original ASD schools, two now have lower scores, two have about the same scores, and two have improved scores."
Follow The Yellow Brick Load
Gary Rubenstein's Blog Posted on May 26, 2015by garyrubinstein
Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) is the golden child of the reformers.  The mission of the ASD is to take schools in the bottom 5% of the state and, within five years, propel them into the top 25% in the state.  Like the Recovery School District (RSD) in Louisiana, the primary turnaround strategies used in the ASD is to convert the schools into charter schools.  Throughout the country it is being touted as a successful model to be replicated in numerous states including Nevada and Pennsylvania.  So far there have been two years of data and, by any objective standards, the experiment is floundering.  Of the six original ASD schools, two now have lower scores, two have about the same scores, and two have improved scores.  Of the two that have improved scores, one of them, Brick Church College Prep, is, supposedly, proving what’s possible and, according to ASD superintendent Chris Barbic, on track to get into the top 25% a year ahead of schedule — after just four years.

RTK requests were filed with 177 schools on May 15th.  If I counted correctly, as of this morning 7 PA charter schools have provided the requested records; 74 have invoked the 30-day extension, leaving 96 schools that have not yet responded.
Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's Right-to-Know Requests
PSBA filed a Right-to-Know request with Pennsylvania charter and cyber charter schools on May 15, 2015. PSBA is tracking the response from each charter in the table below and updating it on a weekly basis. According to Right-to-Know Law, public entities have five days from receipt of an open records request by the agency’s open records officer to either 1) provide the requested records (indicated by a green check); 2) deny the request and give reasons for the denial (indicated by a red X); or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for specific legal reasons (indicated by an (E)).

Update from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding
On June 10th the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission, made up of state legislators and representatives from the Governor's Office, is expected to release its recommendations for a new funding formula.

Chesco superintendent is against particular tests
Philly.com by  Justine McDaniel LAST UPDATED: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 1:08 AM
WEST CHESTER The superintendent of a top-performing Chester County school district is fighting state testing requirements as schools finish the year's standardized exams.
Testing mandated by the state and federal governments have created a burden that stifles teaching and learning, Jim Scanlon, West Chester Area School District superintendent, said in a letter to parents last week.  He asked parents to write to their legislators about testing and said he was gathering stories to show lawmakers that the tests were having a negative effect on students and staff.  The letter acknowledged the usefulness of testing but said the time required for preparations had become "extreme."  The district, which ranked fifth of 500 in the statewide School Performance Profile, starts testing April 13 and continues through May 27, Scanlon said.

York students don't have 10 years to wait for a high-quality education (letter)
York Daily Record Letter By Tim Eller UPDATED:   05/26/2015 02:14:47 PM EDT
Tim Eller is executive director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Parents, imagine sitting at the dinner table with your child, who is a third-grader in York City School District, and telling her that she will have to stop attending school for the next 10 years while the district works on turning things around to improve its academic performance. You explain to your daughter that in 10 years — at the age of 18 years old — she can pick up where she left off in third grade, which means she will not graduate until the age of 28.  Sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn't it? However, that's exactly what York City School District's new Chief Recovery Officer, Dr. Carol Saylor, told ABC 27 News' reporter Steven Fisher, who reported that Dr. Saylor explained that the "district's recovery won't happen overnight. It could take up to 10 years."  Ten years! York City School District parents: Do your children have 10 years to wait for the district to focus on improving student achievement and providing students with opportunities to be successful? I imagine they do not.

Hey, big spender: Harrisburg pays more legal fees than nearly every school district in state
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | cvendel@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated May 27, 2015 at 10:11 PM
HARRISBURG - The Harrisburg School District paid more than $1.1 million in attorney fees last year making it among the biggest spenders in Pennsylvania for legal expenses.  In fact, the school district's consistently high legal fees over the past decade rank second in the state despite being the 28th largest school district, according to financial and enrollment data submitted to the state Department of Education through 2013. The school district has 6,320 students this year.
To put Harrisburg's $1.1 million legal tab last year in perspective, consider the Cumberland Valley School District – with a 20-percent larger enrollment – paid out a fraction of that amount, about $155,000, on legal fees in 2014.

Editorial: It's right and fiscally sound to pay for pre-K now instead of paying prison costs later
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2015 6:00 am
THE ISSUE: Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget calls for $256.5 million for preschool education funding for the 2015-16 school year, up from $136.5 million this school year. Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts, a state program for at-risk and low-income kids, would receive $100 million more, so it could serve an additional 11,600 children. Head Start, a federal preschool program for children of families living in poverty, would receive $20 million more, so it could serve an additional 2,400 children.  If you’re a fiscal conservative, concerned by the billions of dollars spent annually on incarceration, you should support increased funding for  preschool education.  “The choice is simple: Pay for early education programs delivered with high quality to Pennsylvania kids now, or pay far more later for the costs of crime in Pennsylvania.”

Public schools and your money
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST POSTED: May 27, 2015, 12:16 AM
TODAY'S TOPIC, an annual one for me, is how your tax dollars enter the maw of public education and to a significant extent just sit there.  That's right.  Despite cutbacks, layoffs and the "education crisis," especially in Philly, a vast majority, as in 97 percent, of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts hold interest-bearing "reserves" to be used, or not, for anything they want.  The statewide total, according to state Education Department data, now tops $4.4 billion.  I write about this counterintuitive condition every year because it strikes me as flat-out wrong.

Philly school employee charged with steering $1 million contract to friends and family
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 27, 2015
A Philadelphia grand jury has recommended criminal charges against Priscilla Wright, 50, who until January was the Philadelphia School District's manager of small business development.  In 2013, as the city reeled from the closure of 23 public schools, the grand jury alleges Wright used her influence to take advantage of the situation.  In an elaborate orchestration, she allegedly pushed a $900,000 contract to a mom-and-pop trucking vendor tasked with transporting supplies and furniture from the closed schools to storage facilities.

"Stuart Whiteleather, the district’s business administrator, said the increase in PSERS contributions from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 went from $9,109,366 to $10,979,198."
Methacton adopts $101M proposed final budget with no tax increase
By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald POSTED: 05/27/15, 2:33 PM EDT
WORCESTER >> The Methacton school board approved a $101,207,570 proposed final budget with a 0 percent tax increase Tuesday night in a 8-0 vote.  Board member Maria Shackelford was not present at the meeting.  The $101,196,624 in expenditures outstrips the predicted $100,217,187 in revenues. The hole left in the budget will be filled by utilizing $979,437 of the district’s fund balance.  The use of the fund balance coincides with a little more than $2 million windfall the district experienced in 2014-2015 through various one-time revenue sources, including the sale of the bus fleet to First Student, which accounts for $1.8 million in extra revenue, said board President Christian Nascimento.

BREAKING: State Sen. Matt Smith Resigning
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor May 27th, 2015 
State Senator Matt Smith, a Democrat representing the 37th district, is set to resign his seat in the legislature.  Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa announced Smith will be stepping down to take over as President of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.  Smith’s district consists of Allegheny and Washington Counties. He has served since as State Senator since 2013. Before that, he represented the 42nd district in the PA House from 2007 to 2012.

DN Editorial: Cursives! Foiled again
If Council doesn't get serious about school funding, that's all she wrote
Daily News Editorial May 277, 2015
WE KNEW we were being naïve when we imagined that City Council would come back from the last week's campaigning and roll up its sleeves to address the hard issues of school funding in Philadelphia. Any one of the issues would have been fine: how to come up with the $105 million the district requested of the city, how to fill the $85 million deficit, the erosion of essentials like school nurses and books, or maybe the discouraging disparity - 33 percent, according to a recent study - between funding for rich districts vs. poor ones like ours.  Oh, were we naïve. Yesterday, City Council devoted a large part of the school-budget hearing on what it thinks is the problem facing the schools: the decline of cursive writing as part of mandatory curriculum in Philadelphia public schools.

Phila. City Council hears more pleas for increasing school funding
TRICIA L. NADOLNY, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: May 28, 2015, 1:08 AM
One day after a heated hearing between City Council and School District officials, on Wednesday, parents, teachers, and advocates had their turn and delivered a straightforward message to Council: We need more funding.  "I will stand with City Council and ask those tough questions of the district about what they're planning to do with our money," said Susan Gobreski, executive director of the nonprofit Education Voters Pennsylvania. But "I am here to say to City Council: Please let's pay that bill that we've been sent."  In the audience at the hearing, a group of students held large, brightly colored signs that read, "$105 M" - a nod to the $105 million Mayor Nutter's proposed property-tax increase would potentially haul in for the School District.

The Ongoing Struggle of Teacher Retention
Getting experienced educators to work in the highest-need schools requires more than bonus pay.
The Atlantic May 2015 by PAUL BARNWELL
Standing in front of my eighth-grade class, my heart palpitated to near-panic-attack speed as I watched second hand of the clock. Please bell—ring early, I prayed. It was my second day of teaching, and some of my middle-school male students were putting me to the test.
In a span of three minutes, the group in room 204 had morphed from contained to out of control. Two boys were shooting dice in the back of the room, and as I instructed them to put their crumpled dollar bills away, several others took off their shoes and began tossing them around like footballs. Before I could react, one boy broke into my supply closet. He snatched handfuls of No. 2 pencils and highlighters and sprinted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Why failure is crucial for a student’s success
PBS Newshour BY JOHN MERROW  May 27, 2015 at 3:47 PM EDT
If you’re at all like me, somewhere in your home you have at least one can of WD-40®, because the stuff works wonders. If you teach science, I believe that you ought to have a large WD-40 poster on your classroom wall. Not to advertise the product but to teach a basic lesson about learning: failure is an essential part of succeeding.  You may know the story of WD-40. More than 60 years ago the three employees of the San Diego-based Rocket Chemical Company were trying to develop a product that would prevent rust, something they could market to the aerospace industry. They tried, and, being methodical, they kept careful records. They labeled their first effort Water Displacement #1, or WD-1.  I’ll bet you have figured out how many times they failed before they were finally successful.  Students need to know that adults try and fail and fail and fail — and keep on trying. More than that, they need to experience failure. While I am a big fan of both project-based learning and blended learning, I believe the most critical piece of the pedagogical puzzle is what we ought to call “Problem-based learning.”


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Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

NAACP PA STATE CONFERENCE YOUTH & COLLEGE DIVISION:
FAIR SCHOOL FUNDING MOBLIZATION WORKSHOP
Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:00 am
St. Bernard Hall, Friendship Circle Senior Center - First Floor
1515 Lansdowne Avenue Darby, PA 19023.
East Campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
Please RSVP to panaacpyc@gmail.com by May 25

Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Panelists
Conneaut School District
Mr. Jarrin Sperry, Superintendent, Ms. Jody Sperry, Board President
Corry School District
Mr. William Nichols, Superintendent
Fort LeBoeuf School District
Mr. Richard Emerick, Assistant Superintendent
Girard School District
Dr. James Tracy, Superintendent
Harbor Creek School District
Ms. Christine Mitchell, Board President
Millcreek School District
Mr. William Hall, Superintendent Mr. Aaron O'Toole, Director of Finance and Accounting
Keynote Speaker
Mr. Jay Himes, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Staff attorney Michael Churchill will speak about what schools need and where the money comes from in this Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) webinar on June 8. Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.