Archives for category: Pennsylvania

Shortly after posting that the school board of Durham, North Carolina, voted not to renew its contract with Teach for America, I recalled that another major city had done the same, reversing the previous board’s decision to bring in 30 TFA recruits.

Last December, the newly elected majority on the Pittsburgh school board voted 6-2 not to renew its contract with TFA. The issue was how to fill positions at hard-to-staff schools. One of the board members who voted not to renew TFA said, “Board members said they’re concerned resignations from teachers in those schools stem from a lack of support for the educators. “People will come to hard-to-staff buildings if they know they will have support there.”

Pennsylvania, like Michigan, is another state where the governor (Tom Corbett) and the legislature feel no responsibility to sustain public education. Philadelphia public education is under fire, as the privatization vultures circle.

Now the York City, Pa., public schools are on the brink of privatization. Seven national charter management organizations made presentations to take over the district’s operations.

Little by little, the privatizers are moving to grab as many public schools as they can. Sad.

In an interview with “The Notebook,” civil rights attorney Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia explains why previous litigation failed and what should happen now to assure that all children get a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” as the law requires.

Here is a small part of a very informative exchange:

Q.: What other legislative or policy fixes could help settle the District’s long-term finances?

A. There are lots. The charter funding formula is absolutely crazy, one of the worst in the country.

But that’s small potatoes compared to our single biggest problem – the state puts in too small a share of funding. Pennsylvania appropriates about 35 percent of the cost of public education. Pennsylvania needs to get up to about 50 percent of the cost of education.

And while they’re figuring that out, they need to calculate real costs – like the cost of educating kids in poverty. When you do that, you’ll take care of the problems. Everything else is just cosmetic – moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic, as people like to say.

We do actually have a commission to look into a new funding formula that’ll start this summer. But we know the solutions. It’s not a mystery. What’s lacking is political will.

Q.: What about the city? Is it contributing enough?

A. Philadelphia used to be near the bottom of local contributions. Now we’re contributing above the median of the rest of the state. This is clearly now a state problem, not a Philadelphia problem.

Q.: Last time we had a funding formula, it didn’t last. Is there any way to compel legislators to use whatever they create?

A.: Most other states have found that the judiciary will step in and say that the constitution [which in Pennsylvania requires a “a thorough and efficient system of public education”] has to be upheld.

In the 1990s, Pennsylvania’s judiciary decided they would not step in. They had some reasons why, but many of those have changed.

For example, we don’t have local control at the level we used to. The state now sets graduation standards. The state sets testing standards. The state tells districts how they have to spend money.

Therefore, there are much stronger grounds for judicial intervention to make sure that the state is providing adequate funding. That’s my thought on the matter. We’ll have to see whether the judiciary agrees.

And here is another exchange:

Q.: Let’s go back to charter finances. What are some policy changes that could stabilize the whole system?

A.: There’s a whole range of numbers that need to be looked at so that there’s some relationship to cost.

For example, charters have been paid for special education at a rate that’s completely phony, year after year. Chester gets paid $36,000 per special-ed student. But most of them are getting “language and occupational therapy” once a week. That’s a minimal expense.

The cyber charters, which are the fastest-growing section of the charter movement, don’t have any of the same costs as brick-and-mortar charters, but they get the same money. The state hasn’t been able to fix that one, even though the auditor general has been writing reports about it for six years. It’s a complete waste of valuable resources.

And then, there needs to be a complete new set of transparency rules, so we know what charters are spending and accomplishing, and we don’t have the kind of waste and fraud we’ve seen.

Q.: What’s your plan to influence the governor’s race this fall?

A.: I believe that by the fall, we’ll be engaged in the kind of litigation like we talked about, to lay out the facts as to why 50 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania do not meet the standards the state has set for itself.

That’s a massive failure, and it’s closely related to underfunding – which has been known since 2007, when the state issued a report about real costs. We’ll bring that to the attention of the courts and the public.

Q.: The counter-argument is that we need to reduce costs, not spend more. Why shouldn’t Philadelphia be thinking about strategically increasing charter enrollment? Would that drive costs down?

A.: There’s no evidence that that really does, or that it’s sustainable over any length of time. That strategy relies on churn — lots of young teachers who turn over constantly. That is the enemy of a slow-and-steady progress model.

In Chester, for example, they have the largest charter population of any district in the state [by percentage], but they’re no further ahead than other students. But it does cost a great deal more, and a lot of that money is being funneled off into private payrolls.

I think everybody’s been surprised at some of the good things we’ve seen in charters that can be used in regular schools.

But we need to find ways that we adapt those, rather than create so much change that it sets back progress. We don’t want a two-tiered system. We don’t want public schools to be only for those who can’t figure out how to get out of them. What happens inevitably as you privatize is, things become stratified. To me, that would be far too high a price to pay.

Governor Tom Corbett has made a cushy deal for his former stat education commissioner, Ron Tomalis.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Tomalis is paid full salary, has no office, and no one is sure what work he does. He is supposed to be a higher education advisor.

“When Ron Tomalis stepped aside as state education secretary 14 months ago, he landed what seemed like a full-time assignment in a state struggling to boost college access and curb ever-rising tuition prices.

“As special adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett for higher education, Mr. Tomalis was tasked with “overseeing, implementing and reviewing” the recommendations made by the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education.

“Despite the state’s fiscal crisis, the former secretary was allowed to keep his Cabinet-level salary of $139,542 plus benefits and — initially, at least — work from home. At the time, state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller explained that the newly created job did not require an office, and Mr. Tomalis “is a professional and doesn’t need to ‘check in’ each day.”

“Now, more than a year later, records obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through requests under the state Right-to-Know Law raise questions about how much time the governor’s office required Mr. Tomalis to spend on those duties.

“The records produced included a work calendar showing weeks with little or no activity (explore it below or click here), phone logs averaging barely over a phone call a day over 12 months and a total of five emails produced by Mr. Tomalis. The state was not able to provide any reimbursement records suggesting Mr. Tomalis traveled the state in support of his work.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/frontpage/2014/07/27/Role-remains-ambiguous-for-Tom-Corbett-s-higher-education-adviser-Ron-Tomalis/stories/201407270215#ixzz38r9YsGRn

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/frontpage/2014/07/27/Role-remains-ambiguous-for-Tom-Corbett-s-higher-education-adviser-Ron-Tomalis/stories/201407270215#ixzz38r93C7gg

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has stormed the state with the message that public pensions are bankrupting the state.

But Joe Markosek, Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, says that Corbett is wrong.

Corbett’s $3 billion in education cuts has hurt every district in the state, far more than pensions, forcing districts to raise property taxes to keep their local schools open.

The Pennsylvania legislature is hammering out the state budget, and it looks like education will once again face budget cuts. Why are legislators prepared to sacrifice the future?

This letter was sent yesterday to all Pennsylvania state legislators in the 5-county region as well as to press representatives by Higher Education United for Public Education, a group of educators at colleges and universities in the metropolitan region of Philadelphia. 150 professors, instructors, and administrators from 27 colleges/universities in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties signed on in support. Monday is the deadline for the state budget, and things do not look good for public education funding in Pennsylvania.

A small group of activists is conducting a sit-in in Governor Tom Corbett’s office in Harrisburg to demand a restoration of $1 billion in budget cuts to public schools.

Those of us who remember the 1960s recall that this tactic was frequently used by civil rights groups and anti-war activists to draw attention to their cause. It was effective in encouraging others to become involved and active.

 

 

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ron Whitehorne, 215-779-2672, ronw292@gmail.com

Jesse Kudler, 617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

Happening now: Education activists sitting in at Gov. Corbett’s office until statewide education cuts are reversed through fair revenue plan
Parents, students, teachers, and activists demand full and equal funding for schools and fair revenue from taxing fracking, expanding Medicaid, freezing business tax cuts

Harrisburg, PA – Statewide education advocates escalated their fight for full funding for education Thursday evening, announcing a sit-in at the governor’s office until he supports undoing $1 billion in cuts to education statewide and raising revenue through fair measures. Parents and activists from across the state are staying at the Capitol every day until the governor signs a budget that restores funds for education and human services by making businesses and the gas industry pay their fair share.

Activists from across the state announced their plans at a 4pm press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. “The governor’s priorities are the problem. The budget is not the problem,” said Susan Spicka, a public school parent and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley community liaison. “Last week, my daughter turned to me and asked me what would be cut next.”

“Our babies are dying because we don’t have enough nurses,” said “Irene Habermann, Gamaliel National Education Chair, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) Education Chair.

Kia Hinton, a Philadelphia public school parent and Board Chair of Action United, announced the sit-in at the governor’s office. “I’m joining the sit-in because I want lawmakers to look at our faces and remember the students and parents across the state when they vote on the budget,” she said. “Our education system is on the brink after devastating cuts, and our children deserve better. We’re not going to accept cuts anymore. We’re going to the Capitol to demand better from this governor.”

Protesters are calling for a budget that fully funds education and health and human services. They are demanding the governor and legislature expand Medicaid with earmarked federal dollars, enact a tax on fracking of the Marcellus Shale, and freeze business tax cuts. They are also calling on the governor to drop his demand for cuts to pensions for school employees and state workers before he will proceed on other budget items. Attacking hard-working PA families once again will do nothing to remedy the current budget situation.

Fair measures would raise hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to restore funds for education, healthcare, and human services. A 5% tax on fracking would bring an estimated $700 million in revenue to the state. Business tax cuts have cost the state billions of dollars in recent years. Medicaid expansion would add $620 million to Pennsylvania’s 2015 budget and add about $3 billion annually to its economy. It would support 35,000 new jobs by 2016 and 40,000 jobs by 2022.

Protesters will stay in the Capitol until the governor commits to a fair budget that works for his state, unlike all of his past budgets. In coming days, they will lobby legislators, hold “teach-ins” around the Capitol, and participate in dramatic actions to call attention to the dire need for more education funding.

###

PCAPS is a coalition of students, parents, and teachers with an unwavering commitment to improving Philadelphia’s school system. Members of the coalition include ACTION United, American Federation of Teachers PA, Fight For Philly, Boat People SOS, Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs With Justice, JUNTOS, Media Mobilizing Project, Neighborhood Networks, Occupy Philadelphia Labor Work Group, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Philadelphians Allied for a Responsible Economy(PHARE), Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Philadelphia Home and School Council, Philadelphia Student Union, SEIU 32BJ, UNITE HERE, Youth United for Change.
http://www.wearepcaps.org

This is a report on charter school funding in Pennsylvania, especially the effect of excess special education funding for charter schools. It was
distributed by the Keystone State Education Coalition.

The KSEC writes:

“Each time charter schools skim marginal need special ed students out of public school districts, they artificially cause the average special ed cost to spiral higher for the next year’s special ed charter school tuition rate.

“YouTube Video: The $200 Million/Year PA Charter School Special Ed Funding Windfall For Dummies

“Would the special ed funding bill HB2138/SB1316 be the “end of charter schools as we know it”? It might be, especially for the operators of for-profit management companies that contract with charter schools. As best we can tell, instead of special ed money serving special needs students, it appears that the windfall has funded things like multi-million dollar CEO compensation, over 19,000 local TV commercials, a jet and Florida condo, generous political campaign contributions and a 20,000 square foot mansion on the beach in Palm Beach Florida. Here’s a three minute youtube video produced by KEYSEC Co-Chair Mark B. Miller that clearly explains how this happens.

Want more than a three minute video on this topic? Here’s a great piece by long-time ed writer Dale Mezzacappa for the notebook….

“City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg”

the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on June 5, 2014 02:12 PM

Philadelphia charter schools received more than $175 million last year to educate special education students, but spent only about $77 million for that purpose, according to aNotebook analysis of state documents. That is a nearly $100 million gap at a time when city education leaders are considering raising some class sizes to 41 students and laying off 800 more teachers in District-run schools due to severe funding shortfalls. Payments to charters, which are fixed under law, make up nearly a third of its $2.4 billion budget.

The issue goes beyond Philadelphia. Statewide, charters, including cybers, collect about $350 million for special education students, but spend just $156 million on them, according to calculations from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The Notebook used the PASBO analysis of state data to calculate the numbers for Philadelphia, which has half the state’s 170 charter schools.

http://thenotebook.org/blog/147324/special-education-funding-formula-changes-recommended

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor’s staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Visit us on Facebook at KeystoneStateEducationCoalition

I earlier reported that the latest data show that 97% of teachers in Pittsburgh received ratings of either “distinguished” or “advanced.” Similar findings have emerged elsewhere, which makes me wonder why it was necessary to spend billions of dollars to create these new evaluation systems, which are often incomprehensible. But Kipp Dawson, a Pittsburgh teacher wrote a comment warning that the evaluation system is flawed and riddled with unreliable elements, like VAM. Don’t be fooled, Dawson says. The Pittsburgh evaluation system was created with the lure of Gates money. It attempts to quantify the unmeasurable.

Dawson writes:

I am a Pittsburgh teacher and an activist in the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (AFT). Let’s not let ourselves get pulled into the trap of applauding the results of a wholly flawed system. OK, so this round the numbers look better than the “reformers” thought they would. BUT the “multiple measures” on which they are based are bogus. And it was a trap, not a step forward, that our union let ourselves get pulled in (via Gates money) to becoming apologists for an “evaluation” system made up of elements which this column has helped to expose as NOT ok for “evaluating” teachers, and deciding which of us is an “effective” teacher, and which of us should have jobs and who should be terminated.

A reminder. VAM. A major one of these “multiple measures.” Now widely rejected as an “evaluating” tool by professionals in the field, and by the AFT. A major part of this “evaluation” system.

Danielson rubrics, another major one of these multiple measures: after many permutations and reincarnations in Pittsburgh, turned into the opposite of what they were in the beginning of this process — presented to us as a tool to help teachers get a window on our practice, but now a set of numbers to which our practice boils down, and which is used to judge and label us. And “objective?” In today’s world, where administrators have to justify their “findings” in a system which relies so heavily on test scores? What do you think . . .

Then there’s (in Pittsburgh) Tripod, the third big measure, where students from the ages of 5 (yes, really) through high school “rate” their teachers — which could be useful to us for insight but, really, a way to decide who is and who is not an “effective” teacher?

To say nothing of the fact that many teachers teach subjects and/or students which can’t be boiled down in these ways, so they are “evaluated” on the basis of other people’s “scores” over which they have even less control.

Really, now.

So, yes, these numbers look better than they did last year, in a “practice run.” But is this whole thing ok? Should we be celebrating that we found the answer to figuring out who is and who is not an “effective” teacher?

This is a trap. Let’s not fall into it.

Billions of dollars have been spent to create new teacher evaluation systems. Here is one result: in Pittsburgh, 97% of teachers were rated either distinguished or advanced. Meanwhile budget cuts are harming children in Pennsylvania.

For Immediate Release
June 13, 2014

Contact:
Marcus Mrowka
202/531-0689
mmrowka@aft.org
http://www.aft.org

Pittsburgh Teacher Evaluation Results Demonstrate Importance of Due Process and Improvement-Focused Evaluation Systems

WASHINGTON— Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten following news that nearly 97 percent of teachers were rated distinguished or advanced.

“On one side of the country, a judge in California wrongly ruled that the only way to ensure that kids—particularly kids who attend high-poverty schools—have good teachers is to take away teachers’ due process rights. On the other side of the country, the most recent teacher evaluation results in Pittsburgh proved this is absolutely not true. Due process not only goes hand in hand with this new evaluation system, having those rights helped to strengthen it.

“Nearly 97 percent of Pittsburgh’s teachers were rated distinguished or advanced under this new evaluation system. We’re not surprised at all by the dedication and talent of Pittsburgh’s teaching staff who go into the classroom each and every day to help our children grow and achieve their dreams—but there’s a bigger story here that rejects the assertion made in California that due process rights hurt educational quality.

“These results show what is possible when teachers, unions and the district—in a state with due process—work together on an evaluation system focused on helping teachers improve. While we may have some qualms about the construction of the evaluation system, the fact remains that far from impeding achievement due process and tenure, combined with an improvement-focused evaluation system, empower teachers and keep good teachers in the classroom, offer support to those who are struggling, and streamline the process for removing teachers who can’t improve.”

###

-

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113,729 other followers