Friday, March 28, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 28, 2014: Backlog of PA PlanCon reimbursements to school districts has grown to $1.2 billion

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for March 28, 2014:
Backlog of PA PlanCon reimbursements to school districts has grown to $1.2 billion

Radnor School Board passes opposition to charter school bill
Main Line Media News By Richard Ilgenfritz  Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Radnor school officials this week joined a number of other areas school districts opposing a proposed state law that could make major changes to how charter schools are created and governed in Pennsylvania.  Radnor board of school directors approved a resolution Tuesday night asking the members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate to “return debate to the education committee to reform the law so that it would no longer transfer authority for taxpayer dollars to unelected individuals on boards of trustees of colleges and universities.”

Backlog of PlanCon reimbursements to school districts has grown to $1.2 billion
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Matthew Santoni  Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
As Pittsburgh-area school districts plan their budgets for the next school year, any that have built or renovated schools in the past few years will have a big question mark: Will this be the year the state resumes reimbursing them for construction projects?  Since 2012, there has been a moratorium on applications for the state's Planning and Construction Workbook, or PlanCon, process. More than 350 school districts that applied before then await compensation for projects under construction or completed.  “Our application that triggers payment is sitting on an administrator's desk somewhere,” said Jan Klein, finance director for the Mt. Lebanon School District, which is awaiting $1.8 million in state reimbursement and will be owed $643,000 more next year.  A report the state compiled in May put the estimated backlog of payments at $1.2 billion for 354 projects statewide, said Timothy Eller, spokesman for the Department of Education.

"The first of these reasons lies in the fact that the State will owe the Western Wayne School District $1,250,800 by the end of this school year with the addition of another $687,821 in the 2014-2015 school year.  ….The second reason for the budget shortfall is found in the mandated pension contributions for District employees. This next budget will see an increase of approximately $700,000 in pension costs, raising the District’s contribution rate from
16.9% to 21.4%"
Western Wayne School District Budget Realities
The Western Wayne School District recently held its annual Preliminary Budget meeting. At this meeting our auditors also delivered the District’s annual financial report. Both the preliminary budget presentation and the audit report paint a very bleak picture of the Western Wayne School District’s current financial situation. Further, we believe that our current stark financial situation was not created locally. Please read on for an explanation.   The reason that the preliminary budget and audit presentations coincided was because the Board of Education felt compelled (for the first time in many years) to seek to raise taxes beyond the state mandated index, this year set at a maximum increase of 2.1%. Because of our dire financial situation, the Board is seeking two referendum exemptions that allow us (if granted) to raise taxes above the index, placing the estimated tax increase at 6.01%. In real dollars, this translates to an increase of $91 per $100,000 of assessed value for each property in the Western Wayne School District.

Tapping the talent: Reviving the governor’s schools is good for Pa.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial March 28, 2014 12:00 AM
For 35 years, thousands of Pennsylvania’s most promising high school students attended the state’s eight Governor’s Schools of Excellence, intensive, five-week, residential programs in the arts and sciences — and they didn’t have to pay for any of it.
The schools counted successful alumni in all walks of life, many of whom recall fondly the value of living and studying on a college campus with similarly talented, driven classmates at a formative age. In 2009, though, the schools were eliminated, victims of a state budget crisis. Although some universities offered comparable programs in subsequent years, most of those charged students thousands of dollars, thus altering the applicant pool.
Slowly, the official governor’s schools are making a comeback. Last year, the Governor’s School for Science reopened at Carnegie Mellon University and, this summer, a school for agricultural sciences will be housed at Penn State and one for engineering and technology will operate at Lehigh University.

"The district opened its budget season with a $13.2 million deficit, which it attributed to a projected $5.7 million spike in charter school expenses, a $4.6 million rise in bond payments, a $4.3 million increase in health care costs and a $2.9 million jump in pension costs."
Allentown School Board approves 74 teacher cuts
One director says all the district can do is 'effectively manage the disaster.'
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 11:17 p.m. EDT, March 27, 2014
Allentown School Board voted 5-4 Thursday to eliminate 74 teaching positions, dealing another blow to a faculty that says its already decimated by budget cuts.  The 74 teaching positions, along with 26 other district jobs set to be eliminated, will save the district about $5 million and push the five-year total to more than 450 jobs eliminated by the district.  Because few teachers are expected to retire at the end of this school year, it's likely that the 74 job cuts will result in at least some layoffs, teachers union President Debbie Tretter said.  The cuts will not eliminate any district programs. But they will reduce teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels, including traditional classroom teachers, special education teachers, English-as-a-second-language teachers and intervention specialists.
Divided Allentown School Board signs off on 100 cuts, including 74 teachers
By Colin McEvoy | The Express-Times  on March 27, 2014 at 9:17 PM
A split Allentown School Board signed off tonight on plans to eliminate 100 positions, including 74 teachers, despite objections from district employees and members of the public.  "I don't see how you can let a single teacher go," said city resident Ken Heffentrager. "The school district is atrocious. It's a laughingstock when it comes to the dropout rate."  The job cuts are expected to save $5 million at a time when the district faces a $10.6 million deficit assuming a 3.2 percent tax increase or a $13.2 million deficit without a tax hike.  This marks the fourth straight year of staff reductions, Superintendent Russell Mayo said, and would bring the total number of lost positions over that time to 466.

SRC budget relies on $440 million that's not assured
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  LAST UPDATED: Friday, March 28, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:28 PM
PHILADELPHIA The Philadelphia School District is forecasting a budget of $2.8 billion next year - a figure that is up from this year's $2.4 billion outlay, but calls for $440 million in new money that the district is not assured of getting from the city or the state.  Still, the budget would provide only what Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. called the basics for school reform.  Acknowledging there were some risks involved in its forecasting, the School Reform Commission on Thursday night adopted a "lump sum" budget statement that projects slightly better conditions in city classrooms for 2014-15.

Philly schools facing $320 million deficit
FOR THE SECOND straight year, the Philadelphia School District is staring at a more than $300 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That's according to a lump-sum budget adopted last night by the School Reform Commission, which lays out broad projections of revenue and expenses. The forecast anticipates $2.8 billion in expenses, with $2.5 billion in revenues, leaving a deficit of $320 million. "Based on our current financial picture, we are still left without adequate funding to provide even the most basic services for our students," SRC chairman Bill Green said. "We are again in a position to ask for additional funding."

Philly school principals rally at City Hall with hat in hand
ABOUT 50 principals from schools throughout the city came to City Council's front door yesterday with a plea for more school funding.  The principals, hailing from local elementary, middle and high schools, crowded the fourth-floor hallway outside Council chambers with a united message to Philadelphia's legislative body.  "I stand here with my colleagues having just voluntarily voted to take a pay cut so that there is more money coming into our schools for our children," said Chris Lehmann, founder of the Science Leadership Academy in Center City. "As the stewards of the children of the city, we urge City Council to now do their part and make the money available so that our schools do not have to choose between having a librarian or a science teacher or a gym teacher or an art teacher.  "The children of Philadelphia deserve a world-class education, and we need City Council to fund our schools so that we can give our children the education they so richly deserve," he added.

Practical Theory blog by Chris Lehmann Posted on March 28, 2014
Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, a progressive science and technology high school in Philadelphia, PA.
Several weeks ago, I voted in favor of a contract that took me from a 12 month employee to a 10 month employee – even though I know that I’m going to work for much of the summer. The contract also now has me paying more for health care and all in, it will mean that I see about 15% less in my paycheck every week.  I voted for it, not because I really am excited to make less money, but because it was the responsible thing to do in the midst of a massive budget crisis. If we are to make the case that we, as principals, are the responsible stewards of the education of the children of Philadelphia, then we have to be willing to lead and make sacrifices for the sake of our children. I am proud to say that the contract passed with overwhelming support from principals.  Today, many of those same administrators went to City Council to ask our council members to end the political squabbling and make the hard decisions to put the children above the politics and fund our schools.

Helen Gym among 10 in country honored by White House for community organizing work
by thenotebook on Mar 27 2014 Posted in Latest news
Helen Gym, a staunch public education advocate and founder of Parents United for Public Education, will be one of 10 community leaders to be honored by the White House as a Cesar E. Chavez Champion of Change.   Named after the Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist, the honor goes to those "who have committed themselves to improving the lives of others in their communities and across the country. At the core, all of our honorees represent the values and steadfast determination of Cesar Chavez to organize ourselves for a more just tomorrow," said a White House release.  Gym, the first editor and a current opinion blogger for the Notebook, is being recognized for her work in education and her work with Asian American and immigrant communities in Philadelphia.

Building an Effective School Board
A new report finds school board members with a background in public education are not better informed than their colleagues.
The Atlantic by EMILY RICHMOND MAR 27 2014, 12:17 PM ET
When it comes to the decisions that most directly affect the business of public education and what happens in classrooms, few people are as influential—and often as unacknowledged—as local school board members.  Indeed, a new report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggests the makeup of local school boards can have a measurable effect on student achievement.  The report is part of a joint project between Fordham and the left-leaning Center for American Progress looking at how school governance influences education reform. The findings are based on a 2009 survey of more than 900 school board members in districts across the country. Board members were asked about their level of experience and backgrounds, their awareness of their district’s fiscal picture and top challenges, and their personal political leanings.
Before I jump into the findings, my usual caveat: Surveys are subjective, and the questions that are asked are as important as the answers. At the same time, surveys offer a snapshot in time, rather than a complete or definitive portrait. 

Pennsylvania's Mt. Lebanon and Lower Moreland school districts recognized on these lists…
NSBA and CDE name 2013-2014 top 10 digital school districts
NSBA School Board News Today by Alexis Rice March 27th, 2014
The tenth annual Digital School Districts Survey were by CDE and NSBA
Top-ranked school districts have been announced in the tenth annual Digital School Districts Survey by theCenter for Digital Education (CDE) and the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The survey showcases exemplary school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community, and improve district operations.  This year’s recognition goes to school districts for their expanding use of innovative technologies district-wide as well as in the classroom.

Preview: Public Schools for Sale?
Moyers & Company March 26, 2014
Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge-fund managers and private-equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.” As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”  Diane Ravitch says the privatization of public education has to stop. As an assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush, she was an advocate of school choice and charter schools and supported the No Child Left Behind initiative of the second President Bush. But after careful investigation, she changed her mind, and has become, according to, “the nation’s highest profile opponent” of charter-based education.  On this week’s Moyers & Company, she tells Bill Moyers, ”I think what’s at stake is the future of American public education. I believe it is one of the foundation stones of our democracy: So an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.”

The Pennsylvania PTA 105th annual statewide convention April 4-6, 2014, at the Radisson Valley Forge/King of Prussia.
Pennsylvania PTA Harrisburg, Pa. March 21, 2014
Delegates from local PTA units, councils, and regions throughout the state will gather to give direction to the State PTA on issues of resolutions, bylaws, and timely topics being addressed around education and child advocacy.  The convention format will include a Diversity Leadership Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness and Prevention, twenty (20) workshops on timely issues, networking time with other delegates, an exhibit hall, a Reflections Gallery showcasing student artwork, and the opportunity to hear keynote speakers and representatives from the National PTA and other statewide partnering organizations from Pennsylvania. Complete details for registration may be obtained at the Pennsylvania PTA website at

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Democratic candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania
Tuesday, April 8th  at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 515 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15206

Sign up for weekly Testing Resistance & Reform News and Updates!
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

PSBA nominations for offices now open!  Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA.  Complete details on the nomination process, links to the Application for Nomination form, and scheduled dates for nominee interviews can be found online by clicking here.
How the Business Community Can Lead on Early Education
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Join business and community leaders to learn about how you can help make sure every child arrives in kindergarten ready to succeed. On April 29th, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will host a forum featuring business leaders from around the country talking about why they’re focused on early childhood education and how they have moved the needle on improving quality and access in their states.
Featured Speakers
  • Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus of The Vanguard Group
  • Phil Peterson, Partner, Aon Hewitt and Co-Chair of America’s Edge/Ready Nation
  • And more to be announced! 
  • Date & Time Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | 5-7 PM
Registration begins at 5 PM; program from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Location Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
10 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Tuesday, April 29th, 12-4 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th, 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

Network for Public Education's Pennsylvania Friends and Allies:
@the chalkface               
Angie Villa Art & Education
Keystone State Education Coalition
Parents United for Public Education
Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education  
Philly Teacherman           
Raging Chicken Press     


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