Saturday, May 23, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 23, 2015: Put down that crappy beach novel; today's Roundup is hot…..

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3600 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 23, 2015:
Put down that crappy beach novel; today's Roundup is hot…..



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



PSBA Special Report: The Need for a New Basic Education Funding Formula
This week PSBA released a special report on its priority legislative issue calling for a new statewide basic education funding formula with distribution in a manner that is adequate, consistent, fair and equitable and that provides districts with the greatest flexibility to use their resources. The report is being sent to all members of the General Assembly. Click here to read the full report.

"Last year, close to $1.3 billion left traditional public schools to go to charters, and that's tax dollars," said Steve Robinson, senior director of communications for the school boards association, "and taxpayers have every right to know how that money is being spent."
School board group seeks charters' data
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED:May 23, 2015, 1:08 AM
For the group representing Pennsylvania school board members, when it comes to the state's billion-dollar charter-school industry, there's no such thing as too much information.
But frivolous is the word charter-school operators are using to describe the blizzard of Right-to-Know requests submitted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
They were lodged with about 180 publicly funded charters in every corner of the state, seeking data on how those schools spend millions of dollars on such items as salaries, consultants, rent, ad campaigns, and a long list of other expenditures.

Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's May 15th 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)).

Parents tired of being told to wait for better schools
Philly.com Letter By Toya Algarin, Renee Brown, Nadiyah Bryant, and Keisha Dandy POSTED: Friday, May 22, 2015, 1:08 AM
The authors are all Philadelphia public school parents.
As parents, nothing is more important to us than great schools for our kids. We want schools that are safe; schools that value our children as individuals; schools with caring teachers who believe that every one of their students can and will be successful.  That shouldn't be too much to ask.  
Yet year after year, tens of thousands of Philadelphia families are forced to send their kids to schools that are, by any measure, failing students. And year after year, families in our communities are told to just wait for the next "fix" that will - no kidding, this time for real - make these schools great. Wait until we have funding. Wait until we fix this law or that law. Wait until we have a new plan.

Blogger note: Are tax credit programs the new WAMs in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Christiana’s House Bill 752 would increase the amount of available tax credits for the EITC program from $100 million to $170 million, and the amount of available tax credits for the OSTC program from $50 million to $80 million.  That would be $250 million in diverted tax dollars being sent to private and religious schools that have little or no fiscal transparency or student performance accountability to the public.  The following NY Times LTE is right on target.

"Let there be no mistake: The New York Civil Liberties Union does not oppose private schools. We do not oppose charter schools. And we defend the right of religious groups to educate their children in accordance with their faith, instead of in the public schools.
But subsidizing private and parochial schools at the expense of public education is fundamentally at odds with our democratic values, and using public funds for religious education breaches the separation of church and state."
Private School Tax Credits
New York Times Letter To the Editor: by DONNA LIEBERMAN, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union MAY 22, 2015
The right to a meaningful public education is at the core of our democracy, and educational opportunity must be available to all children on a fair and equitable basis, no matter how poor they are, no matter what their educational needs are, and no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation.  Unfortunately, the proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York to divert money from public schools to private and religious schools is not about improving public education for all children. It is not about choice.  It is about allowing hedge funds and millionaires to siphon money away from public schools to support their narrow idea of what education should look like.
This includes private schools for the 1 percent, religious schools that can throw children out and dismiss teachers for having the wrong faith — or no faith — and privately owned and operated charter schools that operate without accountability and would turn our underfunded public schools into a dumping ground for New York’s neediest and most challenging students.

"Alterations he has in mind for the law, often referred to as Act 153, could shrink the pool of people who must obtain criminal history and child abuse clearances; waive the fee for volunteers to obtain those credentials; and could lessen the frequency of the need to obtain federal criminal history checks."
Lawmaker pushing to waive background check fees for volunteers
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 22, 2015 at 7:45 AM, updated May 22, 2015 at 9:42 AM
The state's new background checks law that was part of the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal has caused so much angst that a rush is on to change it before it is fully in effect.  Rep. Dan Moul, R-Gettysburg, said on Thursday he is pushing hard for the Legislature to act in the first or second week of June to amend the law to address complaints that have been raised about it.  In particular, Moul, who sponsored the original law, said people complain about the cost associated with obtaining the criminal background checks and child abuse clearance. They also fear that its application to volunteers will diminish the supply of this unpaid help.

"On Tuesday, May 19th voters in Philadelphia sent a message to billionaire venture philanthropists who were trying to buy the office of mayor of Philadelphia to promote their privatization of public schools agenda. By the day of the primary election for mayor and other offices  they had invested $7 million in advertising for the candidate they thought would carry out their agenda, State Senator Anthony Williams.  Former Councilman Jim Kenney defeated Williams by a 2-to-1 margin winning a plurality in all wards in the city."
Common Sense in Philadelphia
Defend Public Education Blog By Ken Derstine  May 21, 2015
This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.
Thomas Paine
On Tuesday, May 19th voters in Philadelphia sent a message to billionaire venture philanthropists who were trying to buy the office of mayor of Philadelphia to promote their privatization of public schools agenda. By the day of the primary election for mayor and other offices  they had invested $7 million in advertising for the candidate they thought would carry out their agenda, State Senator Anthony Williams.  Former Councilman Jim Kenney defeated Williams by a 2-to-1 margin winning a plurality in all wards in the city.

Exactly How Wasteful Was the Tony Williams Campaign?
Very. And who got the biggest bang for his campaign buck? Doug Oliver.
Philly Mag Citified BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  MAY 21, 2015 AT 4:19 PM
The only metric that really matters in an election is the vote count. But it’s interesting to look at which candidates got the most value with their campaign spending. One blunt way to look at that is to see how many votes the candidates get per dollar spent.
Jim Kenney fared pretty well, as you would expect. His victory cost him about $12 per vote, and $30 per vote if you factor in his super PAC support, and you definitely should. Anthony Williams and his super PAC? A gobstopping $149 per vote won. Wow.

"You have to go back to the late 1990s. The economy was booming. The state was running a surplus, and the public employee pension funds were flush with cash.
By the summer of 2001, state lawmakers voted to boost pension benefits, bumping up the pay-out rate and cutting in half the amount of time it took to become eligible for a pension.
But, then, the bottom fell out."
Why are teachers pension plans in trouble?
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 22, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 9
The state runs two public employee pension plans that share a parallel narrative. One plan is for teachers and school employees, called PSERS. The other is for other state workers, called SERS — which, in addition to rank-and-file state employees, covers state troopers, lawmakers, judges, top executive branch officials and state university staff members.
Collectively these pension plans currently have a $53 billion dollar unfunded liability that's causing major headaches at both the state and local school district level.

Pittsburgh teacher stands alone by refusing to give tests
ESL educator says state exams hurt kids
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 23, 2015 12:00 AM
As the state mandatory testing season winds down, the number of students opting out of taking the Pennsylvania System of State Assessment tests in Pittsburgh Public Schools stands at 40.  And there is one teacher.  Mary King, who teaches English as a second language at Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, became the first and only teacher in Pittsburgh to refuse to give the PSSA tests to her students, a decision that drew national attention this month on the blog of a New York University professor.  Under state requirements, ESL students — also known as English language learners — who have been in the U.S. less than a year don’t have to take the PSSA in English language arts, but they do have to take the PSSA in math and science. They can have certain accommodations, such as use of word-to-word translation dictionaries without definitions and pictures on some of the exams.  Ms. King, who is in her 26th year and is retiring this school year, said not all students get upset, but she recalled one student who had to take the math test her first week. “All she knew was ‘hello,’ ‘good-bye,’ ‘thank you.’ She cried the whole time.”
Ms. King recalled another girl who had never been to school before. “Her own language was an oral language. She didn’t understand the concept.”

SRC approves another charter school
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, May 22, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 8:59 PM
The School Reform Commission approved a new charter school Thursday, bringing to six the number it has signed off on this year.  The SRC had denied KIPP West Philadelphia Charter's application in February, but the organization tweaked the proposal, making changes to proposed school governance, academic certification, location, and opening date.  On second pass, the SRC approved the school's charter, 3-1. But it was not a ringing endorsement. Chairwoman Marjorie Neff voted against the charter, and Commissioner Feather Houstoun said she felt it did not rise to the level of other applications, but was approving it because leaving the board deadlocked put the SRC on shaky ground legally.

Philly school budget hearings resume
WHYY Newsworks BY TOM MACDONALD MAY 23, 2015
Now that the primary elections are over, Philadelphia City Council is poised to resume its budget hearings.  And that means the fight for more school funding also resumes.  After announcing the good news of an improving graduation rate in the city, Mayor Michael Nutter urged City Council to provide the necessary funding for the schools to continue that trend.  "I'm glad the election is over, let's all kind of get re-engaged, if you will, in the No. 1 issue and challenge in the city, which is educating young people," said Nutter.  City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, an advocate for education, said Nutter's plan to achieve that goal --  a property tax hike of more than 9 percent to raise revenue for the schools -- just isn't possible.

Will Philly ballot question help get rid of School Reform Commission?
WHYY Newsworks BY TOM MACDONALD MAY 22, 2015
Now that Philadelphia voters have approved a referendum to abolish the school reform commission, What happens now?    Even though the ballot question was approved overwhelmingly, the School Reform Commission cannot be abolished without help from the commission members or the legislature.  Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell says with the will of the people in hand it's time to go to Harrisburg and ask for that to happen.  "It legitimizes our contact with the mayor the superintendent and the governor and says you've got to do things differently and that's what this question does," she said.  Blackwell says local control of the city school district is key to an education partnership with an elected school board.

"Why are we laying the groundwork for a new prison—a prison that could cost up to $500 million—when Philadelphia's public schools are forecasting an $85 million deficit?  The answer seemed obvious. The prison was being given priority over the schools. And while there seemed to be a rational explanation—that the prison would be built with capital dollars that could be borrowed, while the schools needed operating dollars that had to be raised—the schools and the prisons are not separate issues. In fact, the schools and the prisons are locked in an intimate embrace.  Failing schools feed what's come to be known as the school to prison pipeline. Poor and minority children who fail to graduate are statistically more likely to land in prison. Once they are funneled into prison cells, they fuel a system that churns out broken lives with frightening efficiency."
The school to prison pipeline must end here
THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT  A BLOG BY SOLOMON JONES MAY 22, 2015
Late last week, as the mayoral primary barreled toward its anticlimactic conclusion, PlanPhilly published a story about a bill that would allow the city to buy land in order to lay the groundwork for a new prison.  It initially seemed to be the tale of a sweetheart land deal, in which a company that paid $100 for the plot would walk away with nearly $7.3 million in taxpayer dollars. Of course, it was much more nuanced than it seemed. The land had been foreclosed upon after a multimillion-dollar loan went bad, and the city was paying fair market value to a company seeking to recoup its investment.  But even as that part of the story was clarified, another question gnawed at me incessantly.

Can Jim Kenney bring community schools to Philadelphia?
By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on May 22, 2015 12:31 PM
On a small plot of land wedged between South Philadelphia High School's parking lot and the sidewalk, Arielle Narva works with a 17-year-old named Kahlil to turn over soil in raised garden beds.  "This bed that Kahlil is working on right now, he's kind of prepping it so we can plant tomatoes, hot peppers, all that summery stuff," said Narva.  Narva said the garden has become a place for kids to congregate and learn during and after school. She described a biology and English language learner teacher taking his students to learn about the "life of a seed" in the garden, while also improving their English. Thanks to a partnership with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, it will also give jobs to some students this summer.
Narva works for Sunrise of Philadelphia Inc., a nonprofit that runs afterschool programing at two sites in the Philadelphia School District. It's one of a menu of partners at South Philly High, which include a health center and groups offering mental health services, night classes for adults, and credit recovery programs, among others.

Here's how Pennsylvania school districts would spend extra money promised by Gov. Tom Wolf
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call May 23, 2015
What would PA school districts use Gov. Tom Wolf's money for?
Full-day kindergarten. More teachers. Textbooks aligned with the Pennsylvania Core Standards.
And the list goes on.  In March, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed hundreds of millions of dollars more for public education, and his education chief, Pedro Rivera, gave superintendents until May 15 to say how they'd use the money to improve student learning.  In a letter supporting Wolf's plan, Rivera wrote: "The 2015-16 budget [proposal] sets Pennsylvania on a path to fully meet the state's responsibility for education funding while requiring schools to demonstrate that students are developing the skill set needed for success in the workforce and that state funds are used appropriately."  Not everybody was on board. Republican lawmakers and fiscal hawks found the letter controversial and advised superintendents not to count on the money. The state has until July 1 to produce a budget, and Wolf, a Democrat, proposed an ambitious blend of tax increases and decreases to produce money for education while reducing property taxes at a time of red ink statewide.

Blogger's note: When is the last time you recall reading an article about a charter school's  budget?  Those are your tax dollars too.
Haverford School Board eyes tax increase in proposed final budget
News of Delaware County By Lois Puglionesi lpuglionesi@gmail.com  Wednesday, May 20, 2015
HAVERFORD >> School directors voted unanimously at a recent meeting to adopt a $107 million proposed final budget for 2015-16 that raises millage 2.8 percent, to 29.4719 mills.  The proposed increase will add $132 to annual taxes on the average residential property assessed at $164,121, for a total $4,837.  This year’s Act 1 Index allows a 1.9 percent increase. However, the district obtained a PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System) exception, which raised the ceiling to 2.95 percent, business manager Rick Henderson said.  Preliminary budget drafts called for a 3.57 percent millage increase, based on obtaining a referendum exception for special education as well as PSERS.  However, the district did not qualify.  Really good cost control and changes in special education services reduced our special education spending in 2013-14 versus the prior year,” Henderson said.  Major increases in expenditures include the $1 million net impact of PSERS, $1.1 million added labor costs, and a $258,000 prescription drug increase. The beginning and ending fund balance is $7.47 million.

Pollster Terry Madonna Joins the Next #FairFundingPA chat on Twitter
Terry Madonna will join the next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations on Tuesday, May 26 at 8 p.m. Madonna is Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. He is also the Director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll.
Topics will include, but not be limited to: Property tax reform, Governor Wolf’s budget proposal, and of course the need for a fair, predictable basic education funding formula. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.
On the last Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m., the following organizations go to Twitter to discuss timely topics, ask questions and listen to the public’s responses:
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA);
  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP)
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS)
Join the conversation. Share your ideas, lurk, learn and let us know what you think about the state’s support for public schools. It’s a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. If you’ve never tweeted before, here are directions and a few tips:


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 DarbyPA 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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 22: CORP Report: Most school districts in Pennsylvania will not have sufficient revenues over the next three years to support their mandated and necessary expenditures.

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3600 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 22, 2015:
CORP Report: Most school districts in Pennsylvania will not have sufficient revenues over the next three years to support their mandated and necessary expenditures.




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




Most school districts in Pennsylvania will not have sufficient revenues over the next three years to support their mandated and necessary expenditures.
CORP Policy Brief on the Fiscal Future of PA’s 500 School Districts
Center on Regional Politics May 14, 2015
Key Findings: Most school districts in Pennsylvania will not have sufficient revenues over the next three years to support their mandated and necessary expenditures. Sixty percent of the districts in the state will face severe and prolonged program and staff reductions to balance their budgets, which will reduce the quality of education in those districts and substantially widen the academic and fiscal gaps with more well-off districts.  This policy brief, “Forecasting Fiscal Futures of Pennsylvania School Districts: Where Law and Current Policy Are Taking our Public Schools,” is the text version of a presentation that Drs. William Hartman and Timothy Shrom gave to our symposium on October 3, 2014, in Green Tree. The symposium was co-hosted by Temple’s Center on Regional Politics and by the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics under the banner of the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth, Hartman is a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s College of Education, and Shrom is business manager of the Solanco School District.

Gov. Tom Wolf brings education funding message to Upper Darby school
By Kristina Scala, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 05/21/15, 1:20 PM EDT
UPPER DARBY >> Upper Darby School District officials pitched a general spending plan to Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday as they search for a bigger stake in school funding to gain back millions of dollars’ worth in educational cuts that left the school district fighting to service an increasingly diverse student population.  School officials made it clear they want to money put back into educating students in a smaller per-student classroom setting, construct larger, safer buildings, have enough spending money to reinstitute programs with a higher teacher population and bring the learning curriculum up to par with wealthier school districts.  They touted their track record of moving students successfully from school to school based on testing and compliance during a time when funding was flowing and resources plentiful. However, they said that tract has changed and needs to be revived.  The school district was forced to cut $8.3 million in support staff over the past five years. Taxes are proposed to raise slightly for the 2015-16 school year to cover a $1.7 million deficit, according to reports.

Pitching plan for education funding, Wolf visits Upper Darby school
WHYY Newsworks BY BILL HANGLEY MAY 21, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf says a vote for his education budget will be a vote for lower property taxes in Pennsylvania.  But while Republicans say they'd welcome the tax relief, they're not sold on the governor's plan to increase spending overall.  Wolf was in Delaware County Thursday to stump for his education plan, which would lower property taxes, raise some income and sales taxes, and increase overall spending by a billion dollars.  He visited the Stonehurst Hills Elementary School in Upper Darby where educators said their school district is still reeling from former Gov. Tom Corbett's budget cuts. Rising local property taxes haven't been able to fill the gaps, they said.

Upper Darby schools to Wolf: We need help
CAITLIN MCCABE, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, May 22, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 5:53 PM
Visiting one of the state's most financially challenged school districts Thursday, Gov. Wolf heard a simple message: We need money.  At Stonehurst Hills Elementary School, teachers and administrators met with Wolf to discuss how his proposed education-funding plan would benefit the Upper Darby School District, which has been burdened by layoffs and program cuts in recent years.  "We don't have enough to make things work," said Aaronda Beauford, principal of the Delaware County school. "I have a great staff that does what they're supposed to do - but don't let that fool you."  Wolf is campaigning for his education-funding proposal, which is the keystone of a $29.9 billion budget that calls for a $1 billion increase in school subsidies this year, while using sales and personal-income taxes and levies on natural-gas extraction to lower property taxes.

States move to reduce time spent on Common Core-based exam
Philly.com by KRISTEN WYATT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: May 21, 2015, 2:47 PM
DENVER (AP) - Students in 11 states and the District of Columbia will spend less time next year taking tests based on the Common Core standards, a decision made in response to widespread opposition to testing requirements.  The decision to reduce testing time by about 90 minutes was made by the states and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Career, or PARCC.  The PARCC tests are administered to students in grades three to eight and once in high school. As a result of the decision, the math and English exams will only be given once a year, instead of twice.  The 11 states involved are Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and Rhode Island.  "We've listened to the voices of all stakeholders - educators, parents, and students - and are using the lessons learned," New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said in a statement.

Here's why the Senate GOP's pension reform plan is the best choice for Pa. workers, taxpayers: Jake Corman
PennLive Op-Ed  By Jake Corman May 21, 2015 at 1:00 PM, updated May 21, 2015 at 4:18 PM
On May 13, the state Senate passed an aggressive plan to modernize the state's public employee pension systems. The bill is a historic plan that reflects the seriousness of the situation we face with pensions.  The state's pension obligations are staggering. This year alone, we face a $1 billion increase in our pension contribution. The growth of the mandated spending is beyond our means.  Our revenues are not expected to keep up with the amount we are required to spend. The pension crisis we are experiencing cannot be overstated.  Without modification, the viability of the state pension systems are in question. Our pension costs, which currently crowd out worthy budgetary contributions and investments such as funding for school districts and economic development, will more than double over the next 20 years.

Funding teacher pensions at forefront of Quakertown meetng
WFMZ  Author: Mark Reccek , WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com Published: May 21 2015 06:20:56 AM EDT
QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - School districts across the Commonwealth have felt the crunch of increasing contributions to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System (PSERS). In particular, districts in Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties have been burdened with PSERS contribution rates increasing. The Quakertown Community School District Wednesday evening hosted a joint Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton Legislative Council meeting featuring PSERS Executive Director Glen Grell and panelists Michael Faccinetto, president of the Bethlehem Area School District School Board; Dr. Samuel Lee, superintendent of the Bristol Township School District; Darryl Schafer, vice president of the Northwestern Lehigh School District School Board; and Paul Stepanoff, president of the QCSD School Board. QUICK CLICKS Masked robber holds bank employees, customers at gunpoint Leaser Lake in Lehigh County ready for boats, bikes Whitehall neighbors want lower volume in Allentown's Jordan Park Allentown Council hears new complaints about 'slumlord Easton woman dies after train incident Grell said rather than post blame, state policymakers must look for solutions to the pension dilemma. "What helps to solve the problem is people talking about ideas," he said, "trying to get away from strict ideology."
Read more from WFMZ.com at: http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-southeasternpa/funding-teacher-pensions-at-forefront-of-quakertown-meetng/33141252?item=0

Pennsylvania charter schools grilled on financial information
Watchdog.org By Evan Grossman   May 21, 2015 
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is pressing all of the state’s charter schools and cyber charters to make specific financial data available through a blanket right-to-know request filed last week.   “There’s a lot of money that flows into charter schools,” PSBA spokesman Steve Robinson told Watchdog. “It’s all public money. Taxpayers certainly have a right to know how that money is being spent. The last year it was nearly $1.3 billion went from public schools to charter schools and it’s in the interests of taxpayers to know how that money is being spent.”
PSBA, a nonprofit that represents elected school board officials in Pennsylvaniafiled a list of six specific requests to charter schools asking for:
  • Information regarding course names of Advanced Placement and college prep classes
  • Three years of salary information for school administrators
  • Records of any foundations established to support the school or its students
  • A history of donations received by the school, from whom and for how much
  • Real estate purchase information
  • All contracts, invoices and marketing plans for any advertising
Charter school advocates immediately blasted PSBA’s request, calling it a politically motivated stunt meant to harass school operators.

Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's May 15th 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)).

SRC approves new KIPP charter school and transfer of Douglass to Mastery
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 21, 2015 10:33 PM
The School Reform Commission Thursday approved a new K-4 KIPP charter school for West Philadelphia to open in 2016 and voted to transfer management of Young Scholars Frederick Douglass Charter School from Scholar Academies to Mastery.
The three-year KIPP charter was approved by a 3-1 vote, with SRC chair Marge Neff dissenting. Commissioner Farah Jimenez recused herself due to a potential conflict of interest.   When the SRC approved five new charters out of 39 applications in February, it voted down a proposal from KIPP. Rather than appeal the denial to the state Charter Appeal Board, KIPP revised its proposal, changing the school's location and provisions around governance and educator certification. It also pushed back the opening date from this September to next fall.  The charter operator had previously sought a K-12 school with 1,380 students and had planned to open a middle and high school in the second year of the charter. But the SRC granted a charter only for grades kindergarten through 4th grade and set a limit of 375 students.

Nurses protest District plans to privatize school health services
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 21, 2015 10:13 PM
Umbrellas in hand, more than 50 people demonstrated outside School District headquarters Thursday against District plans to outsource school-based health services, a move that could further reduce the ranks of unionized school nurses.  Several speakers said that the proposal was nothing more than a union-busting move that would line the pockets of private health care providers on the backs of children.  "We don't need clinics in schools," said Eileen DiFranco, a school nurse for more than 25 years now at Roxborough High. What students do need, she said, are the routine screenings, care for everyday ailments and minor injuries, and relationships formed with a school nurse.   Many neighborhoods, she said, are "inundated" with health care options, including clinics now opening in drug stores, she said. Efforts to open clinics in schools before have not worked, she said. 

Poor participation spurs Erie board to consider moratorium on retirement incentives
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News May 21, 2015 12:01 AM
Fewer staff members have taken advantage of an early retirement incentive the Erie School District is offering than the district had hoped.  As of Wednesday, 38 staff members had signed up for the incentive, a key piece of the district's plan to bridge a $7.4 million budget gap for 2015-16, said Bea Habursky, the district's executive director of human resources.  The low participation rate prompted Erie School Board member Ed Brzezinski to suggest the board amend the incentive to include a moratorium preventing the district from offering another early retirement incentive for three years.  "What's happening is in schools they're saying, 'They gave us a retirement incentive this year, they'll do it again next year,'" Brzezinski said at a nonvoting board meeting Wednesday night.  The School Board will consider a resolution amending the incentive to include the moratorium at its next meeting, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at East High School, 1001 Atkins StErie schools Superintendent Jay Badams has said the incentive could save the district more than $2 million annually if 100 employees take advantage -- the district's goal. More than 215 employees are eligible, including 112 teachers and other members of the Erie Education Association.

Tunkhannock Area School Board nixes contract, teachers to strike on Friday
Wiles-Barre Times Leader By Steve Mocarsky - smocarsky@timesleader.com Last updated: May 21. 2015 10:20PM - 547 Views 
TUNKHANNOCK — Tunkhannock Area School District teachers will go on strike Friday.
The teachers union announced the strike after the school board voted against a teachers contract Thursday night, according to a parent who attended the meeting and to televised reports.  The parent said she received a text message and an email from the school district informing her that there would be no school Friday.  School Board President Philip Farr could not immediately be reached for comment.

York school district recovery officer outlines plan
ABC27 By Janel Knight Published: May 21, 2015, 2:42 am  Updated: May 21, 2015, 9:10 am
YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – The new recovery plan for the York City School District does not involve handing the reins over to a private charter school company.  Dr. Carol Saylor, appointed by Governor Tom Wolf as the district’s new chief recovery officer, outlined her plan to help fix problems in the district Wednesday night.  Saylor plans on developing a new plan every 90 days. It will tackle small groups of problems at a time.  “There are a lot of things that need to be done quickly. That’s why I focus on the 90 days,” Saylor said. “Let’s identify those top priorities, make a plan to do them, and in 90 days share it widely and report on our progress.”  Officials said not only is the district broke, but some students are not showing up for class and when they do they are not doing well on tests.  The district’s previous chief recovery officer wanted to fix problems by hiring a private charter school company to take over. Dr. David Meckley’s plan got a lot of negative feedback from the community. He resigned in March.

Lampeter-Strasburg teacher pay up 2.8%; taxes, 1.3%
Lancaster Online CINDY HUMMEL | LNP Correspondent Posted: May 21, 2015 4:56 pm
Lampeter-Strasburg teachers will see salary increases averaging 2.8 percent over the next four years, work an extra day each year, and contribute more to their health care plan.
District property owners will likely see a 1.3 percent increase in their school tax bill for the 2015-2016 school year.  At its May 18 meeting, the school board approved a collective bargaining agreement with its teacher union, extending from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2019. Teachers will get a 2.95 percent raise in the first year and a 2.75 percent raise in each of the next three years, according to board member Scott Arnst.

Cheltenham IDs 'primary' superintendent candidate
Philly.com by Kathy Boccella LAST UPDATED: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6:04 PM
Wagner Marseille, the acting superintendent of the Lower Merion School District, is the "primary candidate" to be superintendent of the Cheltenham School District, the school board announced.  Stopping short of a formal appointment, the board said in a statement that after conducting a national search "we are confident in our finalist selection" but that Marseille's appointment is subject to a site visit to Lower Merion on May 27 to get feedback about the school leader.  If all goes well, Cheltenham will hold a "Meet the Finalist" event on June 1 for the community. Lower Merion and Cheltenham, both in Montgomery County, are among the state's larger districts.  Marseille, a naive of Haiti, joined Lower Merion in 2007 as an assistant principal and supervisor at Lower Merion High School. He became assistant superintendent in 2013.

High school team from Phoenixville to represent USA at World Physics Cup
WHYY Newsworks BY SARA HOOVER MAY 21, 2015
The United States hasn't participated in the Physics World Cup in eight years, but students from Phoenixville High School in Chester County are about to change that.  Five seniors are headed to Thailand this summer to compete against more than 30 other countries, including Brazil, Iran and New Zealand.  Teams must solve 17 open-ended problems, like why coffee sloshes when you walk and why clothes appear darker when they get wet.  "They are not paper-and-pencil problems," said Jay Jennings, Phoenixville physics teacher. "Students have to research past experiments, past theory and then design experiments that allow them to understand and hopefully contribute to the scientific understanding of them."

"The average homeless child moves approximately two and a half times each year. Studies have shown that for every move, it takes around six months for a child to recover academically. Considering this, homeless students are already facing a disadvantage of being a year and a half behind the rest of their classmates just by nature of changing addresses. To say that the odds are stacked against them is at best an understatement."
The Cost of Not Investing in After-School Programs for Homeless Students
Huffington Post by Ralph da Costa Nunez, PhD President, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness Posted: 05/11/2015 2:00 pm EDT Updated: 05/11/2015 2:00 pm EDT
There are nearly 80,000 homeless students who attend New York City public schools. While many do well and stay on track, many face the risk of a jeopardized academic future. For these students, remaining at grade level is challenging as constant upheaval and family trauma wreak havoc on their ability to study and learn. Unlike families with resources, there are no opportunities for private tutors or accelerated learning programs to help keep them on track. As such homeless students are significantly more likely than their classmates to permanently fall behind and are more likely to, at best, repeat a grade, and at worst, drop out. With most homeless students spending at least a full academic year living in a state of housing instability, we simply cannot afford to miss out on an opportunity to help keep their learning and achievement on track. Investing in after-school programs for students living in shelters is cost effective, smart, and simply the right thing to do.

Who needs vouchers when you have tax credits that accomplish the same goals; diverting tax dollars to private and religious schools…..
Florida Judge Dismisses Lawsuit against School Choice
Cato Institute By JASON BEDRICK MAY 18, 2015 2:14PM
This morning, a Florida circuit court judge dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit by the members of the education establishment against the 13-year old Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship law, which grants tax credits to corporations that make donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations. About 70,000 low-income students in Florida currently receive tax-credit scholarships to attend the schools of their choice. Travis Pillow of RedefinEd (a blog connected to the scholarship organization Step Up for Students) has the story:

Minnesota Heads to Special Session Over Education Aid, Joining Washington St.
Education Week State Ed Watch By Andrew Ujifusa on May 20, 2015 2:28 PM
The Minnesota legislature is heading to a special session over education funding, after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a spending bill on Tuesday that he said was inadequate. Dayton rejected a last-minute budget compromise proposed by lawmakers that represented a $25 million difference between what the governor and the legislature desired.    The North Star State becomes the second state this year, after Washington, to require a special session to reach a deal on how to spend money on public schools. (Check out my coworker Stephen Sawchuk's blog post about a Seattle teachers' strike that's related to what's going on in the Evergreen State's special session.)  Earlier this week, Lillian Mongeau over at The Early Years blog outlined the Minnesota showdown between legislators and Dayton over the budget. As Mongeau explained, the budget Dayton ultimately decided to veto would have added $400 million to the state's budget for public schools. Dayton, however, said that this amount was $171 million too little—the governor said the additional funds he wants should have been earmarked to create more slots for half-day preschool statewide.


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.