Wednesday, May 6, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 6: Which Pa. school districts get the highest percentage of aid from the state?

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 6, 2015:
Which Pa. school districts get the highest percentage of aid from the state?



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



"What drives these numbers?
  • Pennsylvania's lack of a predictable, student weighted funding formula allows state tax dollars to flow through Harrisburg in a largely irrational manner. Districts with more students in poverty, more special education students, and more english language learners don't formulaically receive additional state aid to help cover the added costs of meeting the needs of those students. If such a formula were implemented, urban districts like Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading would see a boost, while many rural and suburban districts would likely receive less state revenue.
  • Lawmakers dole out education spending largely based on what a district received the year prior. This "hold harmless" provision means that even if a district loses enrollment, the state will not reduce its share of aid.
  • In some cases, districts with stronger connections to state political power get funding boosts not enjoyed by other districts.
It's important to stress here that this analysis looks at the percentage of funding sources, not overall dollar amounts."
Which Pa. school districts get the highest percentage of aid from the state?
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 6, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 5
This post is part of an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers." 
Which school districts in Pennsylvania receive the most state funding as a share of their total revenue?  If you guessed Philadelphia, you'd be dead wrong.
As the interactive map above shows, the Philadelphia School District (85 percent economically disadvantaged) receives about 45 percent of its funding from Harrisburg — nowhere near the top of the list.
Rural districts in Western Pennsylvania dominate this category.
Meyersdale School district (45 percent economically disadvantaged) gets 73 percent of its revenue from the state.
Valley Grove School District (56 percent economically disadvantaged) gets about 72 percent of its revenue from Harrisburg.
Tussey Mountain School District (58 percent economically disadvantaged) receives about 70 percent of its funding from the state.
Districts in the far Northeast section of the commonwealth also receive a large portion of their school budgets from the state.
Northeast Bradford School District (47 percent economically disadvantaged) gets 68 percent of its funding from Harrisburg.
Susquehanna Community School District (58 percent economically disadvantaged) also gets about 68 percent.
What drives these numbers?

"In addition to playing a key role in budget deliberations, Browne had taken the lead on what was reportedly a massive, 400-page pension reform bill. Senate Republican leaders had made the passage of such a bill a precondition for any budget agreement  Browne had also emerged, in recent years, as a vocal supporter of increased state funding for early childhood education programs. He was also a key figure in the push for more equitable basic and special education funding issues."
With Sen. Browne's motorcycle accident, a key Republican player is benched: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 05, 2015 at 2:02 PM, updated May 05, 2015 at 5:07 PM
 (*this post has been updated)  It was the worst thing that could have happened for Senate Republicans - and at the worst possible time.  And it could have been a lot worse. A lot worse.  With news Saturday that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, had been hospitalized because of injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash, Senate Republicans lost their budget brain. And Browne's hometown voters lost the services of the region's single, most influential lawmaker.

"Article III, Section 14 of the Constitution states the Legislature "shall provide for the maintenance of a thorough and efficient system of public education."
Yet when it doesn't, as in the case of Philly schools and recently many others, the court says, well, we can't possibly get involved: separation of powers.  (Another school lawsuit is headed to the high court after Commonwealth Court last month ducked the issue again, saying it's up to the Legislature.)  Never mind that other state courts, including in New Jersey, Texas, Washington, South Carolina, have ruled to uphold constitutional mandates to fully fund schools."
Could a new Pa. Supreme Court be better for public schools?
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST  Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 12:16 AM
TODAY, LET'S think about possibility.  Specifically, the possibility our state Supreme Court upholds the Constitution more often than when the mood strikes it to do so.  I mention this because of a record three vacancies on the seven-member court to be filled by election this year, and because, you know, one can always hope.  Let's concede that law can be a malleable thing, subject to circumstance and politics. In this state it's massaged into various shapes, sometimes avoiding constitutional dictates.  The Legislature does something (or nothing) that ends up before the court and the court says, oh, we can't possibly get involved: separation of powers.
We've all heard that, right?

"Bloom's bill allows for districts to layoff teachers for economic reasons and allows those furlough decisions to be based on teacher evaluations rather than seniority. However, if a layoff decision comes down to two teachers with the same performance rating, the less senior one would be the one to go."
Should teacher layoffs be carried out by seniority or evaluations?: The Question of the Day
By Jason Maddux | jmaddux@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 05, 2015 at 10:22 AM, updated May 05, 2015 at 10:23 AM
If a district needs to lay off teachers, should it do it based on seniority or performance?
As PennLive's Jan Murphy reported, school districts would be free to lay off teachers based on their performance evaluation rather than seniority under legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp. The House Education Committee approved it on Monday. 

Relieve testing frenzy and abuse with new policy
the notebook Commentary By Debra Weiner on May 5, 2015 11:49 AM
When an increasing number of parents in school districts as different as Philadelphia and Lower Merion opt their children out of standardized testing, it's clearly time for state and federal education agencies to rethink whether testing, as it has been practiced, drives better instruction or undermines fundamental educational values.  Unlike many who are philosophically opposed to standardized testing, I believe that we need objective measures beyond grades from teachers to assess student growth. I also believe that the punitive use of standardized testing results has led to the crippling of creativity in the classroom, the elimination of art and music and sports and recess, the departure of good teachers from the profession, the discouragement of talented young people from entering the profession, and the temptation to cheat.   Whatever its intention to further accountability, the abuse of standardized testing has undermined the very goal it was intended to further: improving student and school performance.

Set for Life: Browse the database to see who is getting a six-figure annual pension
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 06, 2015 at 6:30 AM, updated May 06, 2015 at 6:32 AM
Which of Pennsylvania's thousands of retired state government or school district employee receive a six-figure pension? You can browse our database and find out.  You can sort by each of the columns of data by clicking on the column heading. You can toggle between ascending and descending order by clicking again.

Leigh Dingerson, senior consultant with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, explains the Annenberg standards of Public Accountability for Charter Schools to the Nashville School Board on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Published on May 2, 2015 YouTube runtime 12:59

Annenberg Report: Public Accountability for Charter Schools Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight
Annenberg Institute for School Reform

As promised, SRC resolutions posted far ahead of meeting
By the Notebook on May 5, 2015 09:09 PM
With the District often chided for making information public at the 11th hour, SRC Chair Marjorie Neff recently promised more transparency for School Reform Commission meetings – or at least better service.  And after Neff's announcement that voting items for monthly SRC meetings would be available three weeks ahead of time, the District posted the draft of upcoming meeting resolutions on May 1, 20 days in advance of the May 21 meeting. This change gives more opportunity for the public to comment to the SRC in advance.  The resolution list now includes a note inviting questions or comments to be emailed toSRC@philasd.org "no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 7, 2015. Please reference the Resolution Number and include your name and email address."

On education, Kenney has championed making pre-K available for all Philadelphia children as he's criticized the proliferation of charter schools, which he says bleed the public school system of its resources.  "It's almost like you're setting up the public schools to fail by allowing children to migrate ... which is their parents' choice," Kenney said, "But with that goes the $7,000 or so that the ... child brings with them."
Jim Kenney talks charter schools, Philly's 'neighborhood mentality,' labor unions
WHYY Newsworks BY JENNIFER LYNN MAY 5, 2015 LISTEN
For months, the six Democrats running for mayor of Philadelphia have been on a treadmill of public forums, debates, and meet-and-greets -- chewing on a familiar slate of issues.  So, in an effort to break out of the well-worn political discourse, I've been having casual conversations with the candidates about their lives as well as a few pet issues.  Next up is former City Councilman Jim Kenney, who I spoke with in mid-March at Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School in Center City.

"The super PAC, which is funded principally by three multimillionaire education reform advocates, is on track to spend more than $4 million on advertising in the mayor's race, according to NewsWorks' Dave Davies. But so far not a dime of that money has been spent on negative advertising about Kenney or any of the other candidates. All of its spots have been positive."
New Anthony Williams Ad Goes Negative on Jim Kenney
But what’s the real purpose of the hard-hitting new spot?
Philly Mag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  MAY 5, 2015 AT 11:02 AM
It finally happened.  With two weeks left till Election Day, state Sen. Anthony Williams’ mayoral campaign began airing the first negative TV ad of the season this week.  It's a hard-hitting, effective ad, honing in on comments made by mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Jim Kenney in 1997 after his friend's home had been burglarized.  According to internal polling, Kenney is the frontrunner in the mayoral race, with Williams trailing behind him.

"Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and a founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, said the results in Community Academy's case show how state law favors charters over traditional schools.  "It goes on for years and years, and finally the SRC makes a decision, and an unknown group of people who are not responsible to the people of Philadelphia say, 'OK, no problem,' " Haver said.  In contrast, she said, "you can just close a public school in Philadelphia."
A victory for Philly's Community Academy, at least for now
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: May 6, 2015, 1:08 AM
For more than four years, Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School fought to stay open in the face of complaints about shaky finances and low test scores.  But the K-12 school in Kensington won a major victory last week when the state Charter Appeal Board overturned the School Reform Commission's verdict and told the commission to renew the school's operating agreement.  From Community Academy's point of view, the lengthy battle with the SRC - while expensive and difficult - showed some of the strengths of the state charter law.

Three Philly Renaissance charter renewals in question
Meeting scheduled Monday to consider a dozen renewals, including seven Renaissance charters launched in 2010.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 5, 2015 04:57 PM
The School Reform Commission will consider more than a dozen charter renewals on Monday, and is expected to hear at least two recommendations for nonrenewal -- including one at a District school that was turned over to a private operator for turnaround.  The District's Charter Schools Office is opposing renewal of Bluford Elementary, which is a Renaissance turnaround charter operated by Universal Companies. It is also opposing renewal for Delaware Valley Charter High School, citing academic inconsistencies and fiscal issues.  In addition, there is no recommendation listed for two other Renaissance charters that are up for renewal: Young Scholars Frederick Douglass and Stetson Middle School, which is run by ASPIRA.  Several teachers at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass said that they were told that the charter office's recommendation was not to renew. Parents and teachers have been asked to mobilize their support.

Delaware establishes charter school moratorium
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT MAY 5, 2015
Delaware won't approve any new charter schools until the state drafts a strategic plan for school growth.  The legislation, signed Tuesday by Governor Jack Markell, also gives local school boards the power to reject or approve new charter schools attempting to open specifically in the city of Wilmington. Previously, charter schools only needed approval from one of two charter authorizers:  the Delaware Department of Education or the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  The new law comes amid growing concern that the density of charter schools in Wilmington has disrupted local feeding patterns and hamstrung traditional public schools.  "We are over-saturated with charter schools in the city of Wilmington," said Representative Charles Potter Jr., D-Wilmington, who authored the bill.

Charter school backers are NY state's top spenders on lobbying
Newsday By YANCEY ROY  yancey.roy@newsday.com Updated April 29, 2015 10:19 PM
ALBANY -- Charter school proponents were the biggest special-interest group in state politics in 2014, outspending teachers' unions by better than a 2-to-1 ratio, according to a report released Wednesday.  The report by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which regulates lobbying, also found that an all-time high was spent on lobbying -- $226 million -- in 2014. The previous record was $220 million in 2011.  And it showed that a lobbying firm headed by former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato has climbed to No. 2 in the state, based on billing, up from No. 4.  The education spending reflects the national debate over education policy, as well as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's escalating war with teacher unions over teacher evaluations, experts said.

Settlement approved to divide up New Hope's remaining money
By Dylan Segelbaum York  Record/Sunday News UPDATED:   05/05/2015 03:37:19 PM EDT
A settlement agreement to divide up New Hope Academy Charter School's remaining money between the York City School District and two of founder Isiah Anderson's companies has been approved.  New Hope Academy Charter School used to be on West King Street near South Hartley in York, but closed on June 10 after losing a court battle about its charter not being renewed.

Inside Take: 3 Bogus Problems With the Teacher’s Contract
Saltz: Red herring alert.
PhillyMag Citified BY ANDREW SALTZ  |  MAY 4, 2015 AT 11:15 AM
 (Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Within the next 6 months, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will have a new contract.  This prognostication stems from two people: Governor Tom Wolf, who put forth an audacious plan to fund Philadelphia’s schools, and Marge Neff, Chair of the School Reform Commission. The dismal economic situation of the district may not have changed. But with Wolf and Neff in place, the plan now seems to be “find a contract that brings stability to schools” instead of the Tom Corbett — Bill Green playbook of “drown the PFT in its own blood and dance on the corpse."  It’s likely the two sides will find middle ground. In the meantime, Philadelphia will be inundated with hot-takes on things like “winners and losers”. In the end, the vast majority of people with opinions about the contract, and yes, this includes teachers, won’t have read the document.  What they’ll miss, what most people miss, is that the so-called “big issues” of the contract are neither big nor issues. Here is a Cliff Notes look at three of the most common/lazy complaints about the contract, not one of which is near as important as critics imagine.

'Opt-Out' Push Gains Traction Amid Common-Core Testing
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: May 5, 2015
The push by activists of various stripes to have parents opt students out of state exams this spring has transformed skepticism and long-running anger over the direction of education policy into a movement with numbers and a growing public profile. Whether those activists can craft a durable and effective political movement remains an open question.
Advocates, standardized-testing opponents, and observers continue to debate the movement's true goals, the disparity between the proportion of opt-outs and their broader importance, and how much the demographics of participating parents hurt or strengthen the cause.  Recent events in New York state, where disputes over the fiscal 2016 budget ratcheted up tensions over the role of testing in state policy, show how the opt-out campaign can gain traction. After years of negotiations and disagreements with the state over evaluations, the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers called on parents to opt their children out of exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and tens of thousands reportedly have done so.

PRESS RELEASE: Network for Public Education Response to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Statement on Opting Out
Network for Public Education Press Release May 5, 2015
Today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights led 11 civil rights groups into a national disagreement with students who have exercised their constitutional political free speech rights and chosen to opt-out of high-stakes testing.  The Network for Public Education supports those who choose to opt out, because we believe these tests are now causing harm to students, and to the cause of educational equity. Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian has written a response to The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights’ statement, which the Network for Public Education shares here. He states, “High-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish students of color.”

Testing Resistance & Reform News: April 29 - May 5, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 5, 2015 - 12:49pm 
During the final weeks of the spring 2015 standardized exam season, the testing resistance and reform movement is surging across the nation.  Record opt-out drives, state legislation to reduce testing overuse and roll back misuses, and Congressional action overhauling "No Child Left Behind," are all in this week's spotlight.

Walton Foundation's Market-Based Ed. Initiatives Miss Mark, Report Says
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on May 5, 2015 5:06 PM
The Walton Family Foundation's investments in market-based ideas to improve education—such as charter schools and private school voucher programs—are falling short,according to a new report.  Although the foundation's education initiatives have benefited individual families, those improvements aren't spilling over into systemwide change, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy—a Washington-based philanthropy research and advocacy group.  That limited impact is due largely to the foundation's narrow focus on school choice through charters and vouchers without a broader focus on quality, equity, and community, the report says. (The Walton Family Foundation provides support for coverage of parent-empowerment issues in Education Week. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over its content.)

New McCullough book celebrates Wright Brothers
Trib Live By The Associated Press Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
David McCullough's latest work of history followed a spontaneous path, from a book about many Americans in Paris in the 20th century to the biography of just two.  “Among the people I turned up were the Wright brothers, and it just astonished me that they were even in France, let alone that it had an important part to play in their story,” says the Pittsburgh native and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. “Just reading about them, I realized how much more interesting they were, how much more compelling than I had any idea. And I thought, ‘No, this is the book.' ”
'House of Cards' announces first casting call for new season in Bel Air
Baltimore Sum David Zurawik May 5, 2015
Looks like Frank Underwood will be returning to Maryland. But will Claire be with him?
Here's your chance to get all dressed up for "House of Cards." There's a casting call in Bel Air next week.  The first casting call for Season 4 of "House of Cards" was announced today.
It's Friday, May 15, at the Bel Air Armory.  The casting agents are looking for "paid background performers" who are dressed for a black-tie affair. They want performers 18 and older to arrive with "hair product" and "makeup applied."  I guess the annoucement suggests "House of Cards" is coming back to Maryland.  Check out the casting call above for particulars.


SAVE The DATE: 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

CONFERENCE ON THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN PENNSYLVANIA
A CALL FOR ADEQUATE AND EQUITABLE SCHOOL FUNDING
Sponsored by Coatesville and Media Area NAACPs
9:00 AM – 1:30 PM SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
MARCUS FOSTER STUDENT UNION 2ND FLOOR
CHEYNEY UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA DELAWARE COUNTY CAMPUS, CHEYNEY, PA
Our children have to pass the state mandated tests in order to move on with life. SO - it is time for the PA Assembly to provide adequate and equitable funding to the public schools of Pennsylvania.
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. SPACE IS LIMITED.
COME AND ASK YOUR PERSONAL QUESTIONS AND SHARE YOUR OPINIONS WITH PRESENTERS WHO ARE EXPERTS AND POLICY MAKERS.
Pre-Registration is required for meals. Deadline for Pre-registration is May 12, 2015


Common Core Forum: A Closer Look at the PA Core Standards
Thursday, May 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Radnor Middle School
150 Louella Avenue, Wayne, 3rd floor
Presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford,  Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor.  Supported by the Radnor School District
Panelists Include:
Fred Brown, K-12 Math Supervisor, School District of Haverford Township
Jon Cetel, Education Reform Agent, PennCAN
Mary Beth Hegeman, Middle School Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Cynthia Kruse, Delaware County Intermediate Unit
Susan Newitt, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Wendy Towle, Supervisor of Language Arts & Staff Development, T/E School District
Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education

PHILLY DISTRICT TO HOLD COMMUNITY BUDGET MEETINGS
PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Wednesday, May 6
Dobbins High School2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 5: Primer: Four Background Pieces on PA School Funding

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 5, 2015:
Primer: Four Background Pieces on PA School Funding



Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA



Funding, Formulas, and Fairness: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States' Funding Formulas
Education Law Center Report February 2013

A look back: How Pennsylvania has distributed money for education since the 1960s
By the Notebook on Oct 2, 2014 10:39 AM

Overview of 50 States' Funding Formulas
By Mike Griffith, Education Commission of the States
Presented to PA Basic Education Funding Commission October 2014

The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding December 18, 2014 Video Runtime 3:31
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials provides a short, easy to follow tutorial on how funding works and the challenges lawmakers confront.
PASBO answers the question: What is Basic Education Funding?

Rising free and reduced school lunch figures: Does it show growing poverty rate in midstate?
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | jmattera@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 04, 2015 at 10:22 AM, updated May 04, 2015 at 11:17 AM
The portion of students with free and reduced lunch — a possible indicator of poverty — is on the rise at districts across south-central Pennsylvania.  In the last decade at school districts in Dauphin, Cumberland, York, Lebanon, Lancaster and Perry counties, free and reduced lunch eligibility has risen by an average of 11.38 percent (Cumberland County) to 17.55 percent (Lancaster County), according to state Department of Education data.  While it's been disputed whether free and reduced lunch data is a good metric for measuring the poverty rates, Derry Township School District spokesman Dan Treddinick said such data along with recently reviewed census figures exemplify what the district has been seeing anecdotally.  The traditionally well-off school district has seen its free and reduced lunch eligibility nearly triple — going from 7.8 percent in 2005 to 20.7 percent this school year. Across the Susquehanna River, Mechanicsburg Area School District's eligibility rates rose from 16.69 percent to 31.12 percent in the same time frame.

Gov. Tom Wolf says Pennsylvania's revenue surge doesn't affect his tax recipe
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 04, 2015 at 6:21 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 7:17 PM
State revenues are surging to the finish line.  A new report from Pennsylvania's Independent Fiscal Office shows that state general fund revenues are now likely to finish the 2014-15 fiscal year June 30 some $594 million over its initial projections.  That's good short-term news that also puts the IFO's latest estimate $374 million ahead of the revenue base upon which Gov. Tom Wolf built his sweeping 2015-16 budget plan this winter.  But while any surplus is good, it's not enough, Wolf said Monday, for him to make unilateral adjustments to the historic tax increases he's called for to pay for ramped-up education funding and other objectives.

Independent report contains good short-term budget news for state
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau May 4, 2015 11:16 PM
HARRISBURG — The state’s budget picture could be less bleak — at least in the short-term — according to one independent analysis.  Facing a budget shortfall most recently estimated at about $1.5 billion, the commonwealth’s Independent Fiscal Office says the state has more revenue so far this year than expected, and has revised its revenue forecast to reflect an additional $594 million.  The analysis by the Independent Fiscal Office found unexpected bumps in corporate net income tax payments worth $334 million and an extra $220 million in unclaimed property revenue.  It’s unclear what’s driving the increase in corporate payments, said IFO executive director Matthew Knittel, and thus the office is not assuming the trend will continue to the next fiscal year.

'It's a mess,' Bethlehem schools chief on Keystone Exams project-based tests
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 04, 2015 at 8:35 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 9:23 PM
The Bethlehem Area School District is pushing for mandate relief from Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams project-based assessments.  Starting with the class of 2017, students must pass three subject-based end-of-course exams. If students can't pass the exams, state laws calls for them to complete a project-based assessment.  But the assessments the state designed are rather rigid. Students and teachers don't get to select the projects. Rather, students must take a series of online modules, estimated to take from eight to 40 hours.  Bethlehem Assistant Superintendent for Education Jack Silva said the assessments are time and technology intensive. And students will have to wait for the state to evaluate portions of the exams before moving on to the next module.

"This education reform legislation, which has the backing of House GOP leadership, is expected to be put to a vote by the full House in the coming weeks and become part of the upcoming state budget negotiations."
Eliminating seniority-based teacher layoffs bill wins committee support
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 04, 2015 at 3:41 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 3:45 PM
School districts would be free to layoff teachers based on their performance evaluation rather than seniority under legislation that the House Education Committee approved on Monday.  Rep. Steve Bloom Discusses His Bill That Eliminates Seniority-based Furlough DecisionsBloom's bill allows for districts to layoff teachers for economic reasons and allows those furlough decisions to be based on teacher evaluations rather than seniority. However, if a layoff decision comes down to two teachers with the same performance rating, the less senior one would be the one to go.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp., also would extend the three-year time period before new teachers could be eligible for tenure to five years and allows school districts to furlough teachers for economic reasons.

Pa. teacher layoffs based on evaluations, not seniority, gains support
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 04, 2015 at 5:48 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 5:58 PM
Pennsylvania school districts could lay off teachers based on their personal evaluations, not their seniority, under a proposal passed by the House Education Committee on Monday, PennLive.com reports.  State Rep. Steve Bloom, R-Cumberland, sponsored the bill that also extends the teacher tenure period from three to five years and allows furloughing teachers for economic reasons, PennLive reporter Jan Murphy writes.  Currently, school districts cannot furlough teachers due to financial constraints.  The House GOP leadership is backing the education reform legislation and it's expected to be voted on by the full House in the coming weeks. It will likely become part of state budget negotiations, PennLive reports. The Senate Education Committee has an identical bill before it, the website reported. 

Financial picture improves for city schools, York City School District says
York Daily Record By Dylan Segelbaum dsegelbaum@ydr.com @dylan_segelbaum on Twitter UPDATED:   05/04/2015 06:07:06 PM EDT0 COMMENTS
The York City School District's financial picture has started to stabilize during the past several years, said Richard Snodgrass, the district's business manager.  That's due to factors that include additional state money and the district's attempts to control costs better, he said.  At the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the district should have a fund balance of about $6.7 million. That helps provide a cushion, he said, as the money the district gets does not all come in at once.

Ridley School District holds line on taxes
Delco Times By Barbara Ormsby, Times Correspondent POSTED: 05/04/15, 11:34 PM EDT
 RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >> There will be no increase in school taxes for Ridley School District residents, according to the proposed final budget for 2015-2016 approved by the school board at its May meeting.  The real estate millage rate will remain at 39.25 mills, or $3.93 for each $100 of assessed value. For a house assessed at $100,000 the school tax bill will remain at $3,930 for the upcoming school year.  District Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel said the tax reduction under the state’s Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Reduction program is not yet determined.

Pottsgrove School District weighs cuts to music, art programs
Reading Eagle By Paige Cooperstein  Sunday May 3, 2015 12:01 AM
When William Einhorn was laid off as the strings instructor in the Pottsgrove School District to save money in 2010, the orchestra program quickly fell apart.  "It became a postscript in the music program," said school board member Dee Gallion at a recent school board meeting. "The problem was there was no teacher to champion that program."
Gallion said there were no orchestra performances outside the school day and no special trips like other ensembles had.  Einhorn later served as a substitute in the music department before eventually being reinstated to a full-time role because of the strong community outcry to revitalize the orchestra.  Gallion said 190 new elementary school students have joined the orchestra since Einhorn returned as the director.  Five years after Einhorn's layoff, the school board is again contemplating making cuts in the music and art departments to help erase a budget deficit.

Budget with tax increase, rebate gets OK in State College
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comMay 4, 2015
There will be an increase in school taxes for residents in the State College Area School District.  But in a 6-2 vote, the board approved a tax rebate program at a meeting on Monday night for eligible residents, to help offset the cost.  The proposed final budget of $136,135,898 passed in a 7-1 vote and calls for a 5.49 percent increase in taxes. Jim Pawelczyk was the lone no vote.  And starting July 1, the supplemental property tax rebate program will be offered to residents.  According to a report from the district, the program will allocate $200,000 to eligible residents for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Lower Dauphin School District preliminary budget keeps taxes at 18.42 mills
Penn Live By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive on May 04, 2015 at 10:37 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 10:57 PM
Real estate taxes would remain steady for residents of the Lower Dauphin School in the 2015-16 school year under a proposed budget.  The preliminary budget passed Monday night by the school board would keep taxes at 18.42 mills. That means a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $1,842 in real estate taxes.  The $59.4 million budget is 2.2 percent higher than this year's. But if the district removes the extra $1.1 million it will have to pay in pensions this year, the increase is only .3 percent, according to superintendent Sherri Smith. The district will be paying $6.6 million toward the Public School Employees Retirement System this year.

"The Williams campaign's last TV ad buy was around $65,000, a fairly modest purchase. American Cities, the super PAC funded by three wealthy suburban donors, on the other hand, has been spending more than $700,000 a week on ad buys, and if it were to put that kind of firepower behind attack ads, the effect would be formidable."
Williams launches first attack ad in Philly mayor's race
WHYY Newsworks DAVE DAVIES OFF MIC  A BLOG BY DAVE DAVIES MAY 5, 2015
Two weeks before the May 19 Democratic primary, state Senator Anthony Williams has launched the first attack ad of the Philadelphia mayoral campaign. The target, to no one's surprise, is former City Councilman Jim Kenney.  With the Baltimore riots a fresh memory and police community relations a topic of widespread concern, Williams' ad recalls comments Kenney made in a 1997 Inquirer article when he was talking about about restrictions placed on police use of force.

Elementary students grill Philly mayoral candidates
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, May 4, 2015, 12:13 PM
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams jokingly promised extended recess and summer break.
Nelson A. Diaz name-checked notable Philadelphia School District grad Questlove - though he called him Love Quest.  And James F. Kenney told those in the audience he loved them very much.  Five of the six Democratic mayoral candidates took the stage for a very different type of forum Monday: The questioners were fourth and fifth graders from district schools around the city. The event was sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.

Is Testing Students the Answer to America’s Education Woes?
New York Times Room for Debate UPDATED MAY 4, 2015 6:47 AM
PATRICIA LEVESQUE
Patricia Levesque, former deputy chief of staff for education under Gov. Jeb Bush, is the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education for all students.
KEVIN WELNER
Kevin Welner, a professor of education and the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the co-author, most recently, of "Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance."
The testing of public school children across the country is winding up for the year. And in New Yorkthis week, academics are meeting todiscuss the teacher evaluation process of which these tests play a crucial role. But in all the talk about testing students, holding teachers and principals accountable for performance and the growing opt-out movement, one question remains: Is the testing regime, which has essentially been in effect for over a decade, working?

No Longer Counting Who's Poor in School
US News and World Report By The Hechinger Report May 4, 2015 | 9:10 a.m. EDT
The use of the main statistic that determines poverty in school is getting complicated.
Social justice looms large for many, if not most, education journalists. We care about the often substandard education of low-income children and the gap between the haves and have-nots. Take a look at the winners of the Education Writers Association awards on April 20, 2015. Most were writers who told the stories of students in poverty.  Beginning this school year and going forward, measuring and describing that poverty is about to get much muddier. That’s because the main statistic used to determine poverty in a school – the number of students who receive free or reduced-priced lunches – is starting to get diluted. According to new rules that went into effect this 2014-15 school year, a school can provide free meals to all students if certain minimum thresholds are met. They no longer have to count exactly how many students are poor. And no other statistic that measures school poverty is as readily available.

The Big Problem With the New SAT
New York Times Opinion By RICHARD C. ATKINSON and SAUL GEISER MAY 4, 2015
Richard C. Atkinson is president emeritus of the University of CaliforniaSaul Geiser is a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley.
AT first glance, the College Board’s revised SAT seems a radical departure from the test’s original focus on students’ general ability or aptitude. Set to debut a year from now, in the spring of 2016, the exam will require students to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of subjects they study in school.  The revised SAT takes some important, if partial, steps toward becoming a test of curriculum mastery. In place of the infamously tricky, puzzle-type items, the exam will be a more straightforward test of material that students encounter in the classroom. The essay, rather than rewarding sheer verbosity, will require students to provide evidence in support of their arguments and will be graded on both analysis and writing. Vocabulary will move away from the obscure language for which the SAT is noted, instead emphasizing words commonly used in college and the workplace.


SAVE The DATE: 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

CONFERENCE ON THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN PENNSYLVANIA
A CALL FOR ADEQUATE AND EQUITABLE SCHOOL FUNDING
Sponsored by Coatesville and Media Area NAACPs
9:00 AM – 1:30 PM SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
MARCUS FOSTER STUDENT UNION 2ND FLOOR
CHEYNEY UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA DELAWARE COUNTY CAMPUS, CHEYNEY, PA
Our children have to pass the state mandated tests in order to move on with life. SO - it is time for the PA Assembly to provide adequate and equitable funding to the public schools of Pennsylvania.
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. SPACE IS LIMITED.
COME AND ASK YOUR PERSONAL QUESTIONS AND SHARE YOUR OPINIONS WITH PRESENTERS WHO ARE EXPERTS AND POLICY MAKERS.
Pre-Registration is required for meals. Deadline for Pre-registration is May 12, 2015

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA
7:30 am: Light breakfast fare and registration; 8:00 am: Program
Harrisburg University Auditorium, Strawberry Square 326 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
Opening Remarks by Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University

SESSION I: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ACHIEVEMENT GAPS IN PENNSYLVANIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS with introduction by Rob Wonderling, President, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Member, Center on Regional Politics Executive Committee.
Presentation by Lynn A. Karoly, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 

SESSION II: WHAT CAN PENNSYLVANIA LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING SCHOOL SYSTEMS? with introduction by David H. Monk, Dean, Pennsylvania State University College of Education
Presentation by Marc S. Tucker, President and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy 
Sessions to be followed by a response panel moderated by Francine Schertzer, Director of Programming, Pennsylvania Cable Network 
Program presented by the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth

Common Core Forum: A Closer Look at the PA Core Standards
Thursday, May 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Radnor Middle School
150 Louella Avenue, Wayne, 3rd floor
Presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford,  Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor.  Supported by the Radnor School District
Panelists Include:
Fred Brown, K-12 Math Supervisor, School District of Haverford Township
Jon Cetel, Education Reform Agent, PennCAN
Mary Beth Hegeman, Middle School Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Cynthia Kruse, Delaware County Intermediate Unit
Susan Newitt, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Wendy Towle, Supervisor of Language Arts & Staff Development, T/E School District
Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education

PHILLY DISTRICT TO HOLD COMMUNITY BUDGET MEETINGS
PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Wednesday, May 6
Dobbins High School2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.