Education

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Teachers in Pennsylvania's capital city are asking for support after a series of violent altercations with students has led to multiple resignations.

The Harrisburg Education Association says at least 45 teachers have resigned since July and October. Association President Jody Barksdale says more have resigned since then.

Speaking at a school board meeting Monday evening, first-grade teacher Amanda Sheaffer says she has been hit and kicked by her students.

Keith Srakocic / AP


Allegheny County has adopted a new comprehensive policy regarding the treatment of pregnant inmates—a result of a suit filed against the county alleging cruel and unusual punishment of five women who were placed in solitary confinement for minor infractions.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

When the steel mills closed, Mary Kay Babyak, the executive director of an education nonprofit, said she thinks parents didn’t see a future for the their children in blue-collar trade jobs.

“A number of these folks have a history of seeing their parents, their grandparents, their siblings losing positions and opportunities and great jobs,” she said. “So the idea was college will guarantee success. Which it doesn’t.”

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A sweeping school code bill will become a state law without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature. 

In addition to providing funding for public schools, the GOP-penned legislation suspends the traditional seniority rules that dictate furloughing teachers, opting instead to eliminate teachers based on who scores the worst on the state's teacher effectiveness rating.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will allow a bill to become law that weakens teacher seniority protections and gives school districts more flexibility in their rationale for making layoffs.

School districts now will be able to cite “economic reasons” as a rationale for furloughing teachers.

Previously, districts could only slash staff by closing schools, cutting whole academic programs, or pointing to enrollment declines.

State Rep. Steven Bloom, R- Cumberland, said that’s bad public policy.

Keith Srakocic / AP

As Pittsburgh continues trying to grow its tech sector, including a bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, Mayor Bill Peduto said he's conscious about ensuring that rising tide lifts all boats.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State funding for Penn State, Pitt and three other Pennsylvania universities is on its way after being held up for months by the Legislature's dispute over fully funding the state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would alter a wide range of state policies related to public education — including the weakening of seniority protections for teachers.

The chamber agreed to the omnibus school code bill, as passed last week by the House of Representatives, by a vote of 35 to 15.  Now it will go before Gov. Tom Wolf, who says he has “serious concerns” about some of its provisions.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

More than 200 teachers and staff at a Washington County school district plan to go on strike Wednesday saying proposed salary changes are unreasonable.

Ringgold School District, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh, serves about 3,000 students from Monongahela and six other Mon Valley towns.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Students with developmental disabilities are learning job skills at a new Homestead café that opened Monday.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Days after negotiations to balance Pennsylvania’s late budget collapsed completely, lawmakers, the governor, and their staffers are still trading barbs over social media—and in more formal ways, too.

Nearly 80 House Republicans have signed a petition demanding Wolf issue approval letters to businesses for tax credits that go toward scholarships. The money is past-due under state law.

Both the Republicans and Democratic Wolf administration blame the problem on budget discord.

Those Challenging Fairness Of PA School Funding Will Have Day In Court

Oct 2, 2017
Brad Larrison for NewsWorks, file

In a decision that could eventually shake Pennsylvania's educational landscape, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a lawsuit challenging the commonwealth's public school funding system can move forward.

The court did not compel the state Legislature to redistribute money — not yet. It simply said the judiciary can consider whether legislators have satisfied clauses in the state Constitution that require Pennsylvania to provide equal protection under the law and a "thorough and efficient system of public education."

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Nineteen Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities are partnering with the Pittsburgh Promise to offer students who receive the scholarship an additional $2,000 a year for room and board costs.

Commuter colleges that don’t provide housing and have signed the agreement will offer funding for books rather than housing.

In exchange, the Pittsburgh Promise has agreed to promote these schools to students who receive the scholarship. Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril said the funding is another attempt to remove barriers that prevent students from completing a degree.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

In any contentious debate, getting two sides to agree to the same set of facts can be an elusive, frustrating endeavor.

There are more nonwhite teachers than there used to be. But the nation's teaching force still doesn't look like America. One former education school dean is out to change that.

New research shows that the number of K-12 teachers who belong to minority groups has doubled since the 1980s, growing at a faster rate than the profession as a whole. But big gaps persist, with around 80 percent of teachers identifying as white.

New Report On PA Charter School Growth Finds ‘Stranded Costs’ Linger 5 Years Later

Sep 14, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY, file

A new study finds that expanding the charter school sector in Pennsylvania creates a significant toll on traditional public school systems, which, based on an array of fixed costs, can't downsize at the same rate that students leave.

Heatray / Bigstock

What's the point of public school? To foster academic and critical thinking skills? To prepare students for the workforce?

A long-running national poll says a large majority of Americans are willing to sacrifice the former for the latter.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Nearly two months after the state's budget deadline, lawmakers still haven't reached a consensus on how to pay for the spending plan they authorized in June.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Gina Murphy pulls box after box from shelves in her Brookline Elementary School classroom. Each one is a hodgepodge of toys, fabrics and flashcards.

Best Robotics

The national robotics education nonprofit Best Robotics is moving its headquarters to Pittsburgh.

Thousands of students participate in Best Robotics competitions annually, spending six weeks building robots with real world potential.

“Every year there's an industry theme for the competition,” said executive director Rosemary Mendel. “Last year, it was agriculture; this year, it's fire and rescue.”

The idea is to train the future tech workforce and get more kids excited about pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

A powerful coalition of Pennsylvania lawmakers is promoting a forthcoming education savings account (ESA) bill that would allow hundreds of thousands of students in the state to use public money to pay for private school tuition.

The proposal could dramatically alter the state's K-12 education landscape, potentially siphoning away about a fifth of the state's overall support for public schools.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

The journey for refugees from their home countries to Pittsburgh often takes years and includes lots of stops along the way. As part of WESA’s five-part series sharing the stories of young refugees, native Iraqi Maryam Nader, 15, talks about her desire to continue her travels and experience other cultures.

Nader is from Iraq, but she’s Kurdish, not Arabic.

“I don’t think anybody knows what are Kurdish,” said Nader. “They just assume they’re the same thing as Turkish, but they’re not. Kurdish have a different language and kind of a different culture.”

Learning About Pollution Can Be Fun ... When You Get To Pick A Giant Nose

Aug 10, 2017
Rachel Filippini

Our region’s dirty air is a big problem. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with it, right?

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of state lawmakers are introducing a bill they say would give students in Pennsylvania’s lowest-performing schools more options for their education.

The plan would create school savings accounts, which would allow parents to take control of the money that would be spent on their kids in the public school system, and enable them to use it for alternative education options.

Republican Senator John DiSanto of Dauphin County described the savings accounts as being about giving kids and their parents more agency.

PA's New School Accountability System Puts Less Emphasis On Standardized Testing

Aug 7, 2017
Brad Larrison / NewsWorks

The Pennsylvania Department of Education will unveil a new school quality metric in 2018 — dubbed the Future Ready PA Index — that it believes will foster a more holistic student experience, one less narrowly focused on state standardized tests.

Summer School With No Walls Keeps Kids Engaged, Active

Aug 3, 2017
Emily Cohen / NewsWorks

The mention of summer school might conjure images of students stuck inside on beautiful days and kids upset at their parents for forcing them to attend.

But there's a summer program that's the opposite of that — and it's outdoors.

Families are already at the community pool, splashing and squealing in the water before 9 a.m.

Outside the fence, 6- and 7-year-olds stand in a circle, playing a rhyming game outside a picnic pavilion at the Boyertown Community Park in Berks County.

If you've ever driven south into Kansas on Interstate 35, past rolling prairies and wheat fields, eventually you'll run into the town of Emporia, population 25,000 and home to the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

I took that drive recently, curious about what I would find but also wondering, why Emporia?

"Why not Emporia?" asks Jennifer Baldwin, the administrative assistant of the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Many colleges send incoming students a copy of the same book, or common reader, in the summer. The idea is to give students a shared experience before coming to campus.

Some schools send books to just freshmen and incorporate the themes of the text into orientation. Others expect the entire campus to read the book.

In Pittsburgh, only two universities have common read programs.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Consultants hired to review Pennsylvania's financially strapped state-owned university system are not recommending any of the 14 campuses be closed or merged.

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems is sharing its findings Wednesday with the governing board of the State System of Higher Education.

The system is suffering from dropping in-state high school graduations and cuts in state aid.

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