Represent! Education Policy in Pennsylvania


Why is PGDG interested in education policy in Pennsylvania? Public Education is a cornerstone of Community Development. Friday morning, Danielle and I sat amidst nearly a hundred attendees at a gathering organized by Represent! PAC to learn more about current issues in education policy and how we progressive women in Philadelphia can work to turn it around. The roll call of statistics presented a dire situation. But the panel discussion moderator, Christine Jacobs, founding board member of Represent! (impromptu stand-up comedian), pointed out that a banquet table of donuts were provided to keep us engaged. We fed ourselves while listening to the FACTS (remember those?) and eventually starting to understand how crucial it is to PLUG IN NOW if we hope to shift the tide toward support of public education in PA.

Represent! is not one, but actually TWO political action committees (a state PAC and a federal PAC) formed to increase the number of Democratic women elected in 2016 to representative office in Pennsylvania and from PA to DC. So here the sad statistics begin. A century ago, Pennsylvania women led the way for representation in public office, but today only 17% of the PA General Assembly is women. Now here’s how Represent! will change that: already, a full 75% of democratic women currently in the State House of Representatives are Represent! endorsed candidates.

And the first call to action—support Represent! now, for the 2017 election cycle, so Represent! can support more women, identified for their capacity to WIN.

Following the rally cry of introduction to Represent!’s mission and impact, Christine shifted our attention to today’s Breakfast Briefing topic. The guest panel to address education policy in PA included Represent!-endorsed State Representative, Maureen Madden, along with Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ebony English of Partners in School Innovation, and Claire Roberson-Kraft, PhD, Director of ImpactED. Each of these impressive do-gooders described her path to her current work, each informed by extensive training and broad experience in the fields of education and public policy.

Deborah brought the payload of bad news (reminder: go to donuts). Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the country for state education funding. They use a formula for apportioning funding that is based on history not need. PA ranks DEAD LAST (and by that I mean FIRST) in disparity of funding for the poorest versus richest school districts. Last year there was a TEN MONTH delay in delivery of funding from the state to our schools. Here’s the good news. Legislation was passed last spring to change the apportioning model. Deborah stresses that the new formula is important in that it "takes into account poverty, number of ELLs, tax effort, tax capacity, etc. It’s just that [PA only sends] 6% of the state’s basic education funding through that formula. It’s the other 94% that is sent out not through the formula but rather based on history not need. A formula is only as good as the dollars sent through it."

Claire is a passionate researcher who started as a teacher and worked in policy development before launching ImpactED at UPenn’s Fels Institute of Government. From that three-pronged foundation, she advocates for informing education policy through research—the research representing the perspective and experience of on-the-ground practitioners (read teachers and school administrators). It is the practitioners who know from their direct experience the impact of policy on the children and communities they serve.

Ebony’s work is in the realm of these practitioners, consulting at schools that are most impacted by state funding policy. With a background in public school teaching at the middle school level, to kids with autism, and in the Head Start program, she now trains teachers and staff how to transform the learning experience for kids in public school as well as English learners. Through her work, she hopes to change the narrative about public schools in support of school equity. And no, the answer is not vouchers. Great things are happening in public schools, and those victories are drowned out by proponents of alternative school system models.

Representative Madden urges we must anticipate the new federal administration’s policy that compromises the public school system. With foresight, she has already introduced legislation to protect transgender and LGBT kids’ rights at school including House Bill 303. With regard to funding, she described the new “Fair Funding Formula” as not nearly enough to make up for a twenty year policy called “Hold Harmless” which promised not to decrease funding to school districts even while they lost population, as well as the gutting of school funding during the Corbett years. Hold onto your hat, this is because the new formula would only be applied to six percent (6% !) of the overall funding—not enough to make a dent in the current pattern of inequity.

So what’s the answer? How is a small pie divided to resolve school equity? Perhaps the pie should grow. Pennsylvania is the ONLY STATE with natural resources that does not have a severance imposed. In Texas, there is a tax of 8-9% on resource profits to benefit its population. Education funding MUST come, not from property taxes, as property values decline, but from a natural gas tax of at least 5%.

What else? ADVOCATE for what is important to you. Implementation on-the-ground matters. Volunteer at your local public school, write letters to the editor of your local papers, write blog posts! And VOTE! Every election matters. There is an election THIS MAY where progressive Democratic dames can make more headway. Check out what Represent! is doing to support candidates positioned to make change. Madden declares DT (aka, the Administration) is “the gift that keeps on giving” —in that every time he opens his mouth, he rallies THOUSANDS.

On my way out of the Represent! breakfast briefing, another attendee confirmed that Deborah (and the Education Law Center) is both an authority on the statistics (however dire), and the BEST source for talking points to engage your elected officials. Representative Madden says, don’t talk to those in our camp, talk to (call, post-card, rally) the representatives who have been there too long, voting the wrong way. Apparently her office can offer some ideas of where/with whom to start (so give them a call first).

So let’s get started, EH? After all, we are NOT moving to Canada. We are staying here, to Represent!

​Work like a Girl: Businesses Need You


Today, white women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, the average rate is even lower – 52 to 64 cents. At this rate, Sallie Krawcheck, former Wall Street executive, says men and women won’t earn equivalent pay until 2133.[i] That’s 116 more years!

While this ever-present pay gap is concerning, it’s the long-term effects of the investment gap between men and women that propelled Sallie Krawcheck to write Own It: The Power of Women at Work and to found Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women.  Most women don’t invest to the same extent as men. As a result, women retire with two-thirds the money men do and live five years longer![ii]  The Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit supported by the Chamber of Commerce, hosted Krawcheck at the Academy of Natural Sciences on January 25th for a frank conversation about how to take advantage of good news: the business world is changing and women’s skills will be in high demand. Harnessing these skills will help women close these financial gaps and realize their economic power.

Sallie Krawcheck has held some of the highest positions on Wall Street, including CEO of Smith Barney, CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and CFO of Citigroup.  She credits her unique perspective as a woman in a sea of men for propelling her to the top and landing her on the front page of Fortune in 2002 under the headline “The Last Honest Analyst.” She says conventional advice for working women, to “act like a man” may have helped in the past but it is woefully out of date. Instead, women should focus on six uniquely feminine qualities that make them stand out in the work place:

1.     Risk awareness
Women think through risk carefully and are less likely to mistake confidence for competence.

2.     Managing complexity
Women consider all options before making decisions.

3.     Relationship skills
Women foster relationships and react with empathy.

4.     Long term thinking
Women tend to favor long term benefits over short term gain.

5.     Love of learning
Women show a desire for life-long learning.

6.     Desire for meaning and purpose
oThe number one thing women look for in work is meaning and purpose. Money ranks at number four while it’s number one for men.[iii]

By emphasizing strong female traits, Krawcheck says women bring an attribute sorely lacking on Wall Street and in business– diversity. According to her, one of the main contributors to the stock market crash in 2008 was groupthink. Too many men surrounded by too many other men in the same social circles reassuring each other that subprime mortgages were a sound investment or at least a risk worth taking.[iv] More women in business means more diversity, better businesses and more money in women’s pockets. Krawcheck also affirmed that these recommendations are not about excluding the guys but about including the women. “I love middle aged white guys” she says, “I have been married to a couple of them.”

While Krawcheck’s theories come from her Wall Street experience, these attributes apply to other fields as well.

Valerie Gay, Executive Director of the Arts Sanctuary and PGDG ’17 provided closing remarks to the event. Across her career spanning three sectors (banking, academia and non-profit arts), Gay agrees with Krawcheck’s emphasis on diversity; “I firmly believe that when we fully embrace diversity, and look for individuals who will complement not copy the attributes, skills and thoughts of the existing structure – workplaces and indeed society will be stronger and healthier.”

Krawcheck’s emphasis on women’s strength in risk awareness hit home for Leigh Goldenberg, Executive Director of Theatre Philadelphia and a member of the 2016 PGDG cohort. “If you saw me on a bicycle” she said, “you'd know that I have a real sense of risk awareness. It doesn't keep me from getting out on the road every day, but I have in my head everything that could go wrong and am conservative because of it.” Had women with this level of risk awareness (bicycle commuters or not) been in the C-Suite offices prior to the 2008 economic crash, Krawcheck contends we may not have had such a serious downturn.

So what steps can men and women take now to increase diversity in the workforce and abolish the economic gender imbalance?

Jennifer Kriebel, partner at the professional auditing services firm, KPMG and panelist during the event, founded a mentoring group for audit working moms in the Philadelphia office. Since the development of the group, the number of working moms within KPMG’s global auditing business has grown significantly and the company has retained top talent.

Ellyn Shook, head of HR at Accenture says that people need to be willing to have “courageous conversations.”[v] Women must be ready to have serious conversations about diversity in the workplace, the need for flexibility and higher earnings.

Panel moderator, Grace Killelea, founder of her own leadership consulting firm, the GKC Group, encouraged women to speak up. “Even if it comes out as a squeak,” she says, “speak up. Eventually it will be a ROAR.”

All references from Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck, 2017.

[i] 23

[ii] 120

[iii] 60

[iv] 37, 40

[v] 2