Monday, April 21, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 21, 2014: Support growing in GOP for extraction tax on natural gas

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 21, 2014:
Support growing in GOP for extraction tax on natural gas

PSBA members in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties
PSBA Buxmont Region 11 and Penns Grant Region 15 Combined Region/Legislative Meeting -- Thursday, May 15, at William Tennent High School
- Buffet dinner/registration, 6 p.m. ($8 charge for dinner) - Program, 7:30 p.m. -- Minority Senate Education Committee Chair Hon. Andy Dinniman will introduce guest speaker Diane Ravitch, author and education historian, and former Assistant Secretary of Education.  Retiring House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer will also be honored for his long time (1981) public service.

“There’s some support for an extraction tax in some quarters,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre. “I don’t think it becomes a real discussion until the budget numbers crystallize. But if there’s a $500 million-plus hole to fill, I don’t know that people are going to want to go into the budget and peel away education spending. Then an extraction tax becomes a more serious discussion than it has in the past.”  House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, agreed with Corman.  “It’s something we definitely have to consider,” Adolph said.
Support growing in GOP for extraction tax on natural gas
By MARC LEVY, Associated Press POSTED: 04/20/14, 5:34 AM EDT |
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Slapping Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry with a new tax has long been the currency of Democrats, and now an increasingly grim budget picture is turning Republican heads in the GOP-controlled state Legislature.  Some Republicans in the Capitol are predicting that a tax on natural gas extraction could end up in whatever final budget legislation emerges, probably in late June. The multinational industry has been a lightning rod since it arrived in Pennsylvania five years ago, and raising taxes on it would be preferable to cutting aid to schools or the poor, some Republicans say.  One obstacle is Gov. Tom Corbett. The Republican has publicly opposed a tax on the industry, both before and after he was persuaded by the Legislature’s Republican leaders to sign legislation in 2012 that imposed an impact fee on the industry.

"Pennsylvania's share of school funding has dipped from 50 percent in the 1990s to about 35 percent today, ranking it 47th in the nation. Poor districts with weak tax bases haven't been able to fill the gap. And some districts, including Philadelphia, must contend with huge debts that reduce per-pupil spending."
Inquirer Editorial: For schools, money matters
POSTED: Sunday, April 20, 2014, 1:09 AM
The drama created by the Philadelphia School District's attempt to force new work rules on the teachers' union doesn't mean the inequitable funding that hamstrings schools across Pennsylvania is any less of a problem.  In fact, there's a good case for making school funding the top issue in this year's governor's race. Voters should place the fiscal shape of local schools in context with Gov. Corbett's business tax breaks, which have yet to be matched by job creation.

"State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, didn't mince words about PILCOP's assessment.
"They're right," he said. "We aren't meeting our obligation."  Dinniman, minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the report confirms his belief that the state is underfunding the education of many students across Pennsylvania – specifically those from lower- and middle-class backgrounds."
Half of Pa. public schools fail to meet state's expectations, new study says
thenotebook  by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Apr 18 2014 Posted in Latest news
A new analysis from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia finds 49 percent of Pennsylvania public schools fail to meet the state's overall proficiency expectations.  PILCOP's report centers on 2012-2013 state standardized test scores in reading and math – measuring student performance at all public schools, district, charter or otherwise.
Schools not meeting the state's proficiency target are situated in 72 percent of Pennsylvania's school districts, or 357 out of 499, the report said.  "This is a widespread problem," said Michael Churchill, PILCOP executive director. "I think there's a popular image that a few distressed school districts are having these problems, and that, generally, the state is doing well, but that is not what this data shows."

Gov. Corbett's re-election campaign 'unflappable' amid challenges, criticism
Trib Live By Tom Fontaine Published: Sunday, April 20, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
Gov. Tom Corbett is under fire from all directions.  Four Democrats seeking the party's nod to run against Corbett in November are laying waste to his first-term record. Bob Guzzardi, a Republican challenger in the May 20 primary, contends Corbett broke campaign promises and alienated the party's base. Two of three voters disapprove of Corbett's job performance, according to a recent poll.  Pennsylvania's five previous governors comfortably won second terms when the state began allowing them to seek re-election in 1970.  “I was never projected to win any race I've ever won,” Corbett said in an interview with the Tribune-Review. “We made promises to the people of Pennsylvania; we kept those promises. We haven't raised taxes. We've controlled our spending.”

Dems in Pa. governor's race vow to close loophole, say firms skirt corporate tax
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  By Melissa Daniels  Published: Friday, April 18, 2014, 10:37 p.m.
Four Democrats running for governor say they're eyeing a way to collect millions of dollars from companies that exploit the so-called “Delaware loophole” to skirt corporate taxes, but critics say some estimates of the problem are faulty.  It's right there in the first bullet point of candidate Tom Wolf's tax reform proposal.  “Because of the Delaware loophole, 70 percent of the companies that do business in the state do not pay corporate net incomes taxes,” his Fresh Start plan says. “Tom Wolf will push for the ‘combined reporting' of corporate profits, which will reduce the ability of corporations to avoid paying their fair share.”  The “loophole” refers to Pennsylvania-based companies with subsidiaries in Delaware, a state with no corporate income tax. By transferring profits there, some companies don't report income to Pennsylvania and avoid paying tax.
The idea, and the math behind it, are hotly debated among pro-business groups and advocates seeking to increase state revenue.

Monday last day to register to vote in May 20 primary
Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2014 10:49 pm | Updated: 4:30 am, Mon Apr 21, 2014.
Monday is the last day for Lancaster County residents to register to be able to vote in the May 20 primary.  Residents may register in person at the Lancaster County Registration Office in the Lancaster County Government Center, located at 150 N. Queen St. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Voters can check www. to check their registration status, download a voter registration form and find information on their polling place.

In PA schools, movement to keep school librarians on the books
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 17, 2014 3:20 PM
Things may be looking up for school libraries in the commonwealth.
Researchers say school libraries across Pennsylvania are still lacking the proper resources, but staffing levels may be increasing in the next school year.   In 2011, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association did a statewide survey of 78 percent of the school districts in the commonwealth, and found many programs wanting. Subsequent studies tracked changes in staffing levels - because budget cuts made the state Department of Education unable to follow such developments alone.  Mary K. Biagini, associate professor of information science at the University of Pittsburgh, assisted with the surveys. The big drop happened about three years ago with state budget cuts, when about 100 school librarian positions were eliminated.

Jackson Elementary music program gives students a 'Home'
Everything about this South Philly rock band is unlikely.  Consider: its budget is zero, and all of its gear is donated. None of its musicians had picked up an instrument until recently, and some have yet to hit puberty.  But Home, the remarkable Andrew Jackson Elementary School rock band, has jammed with - and drawn plaudits from - major stars. It has played before audiences of thousands.  And when the nine-member ensemble finishes a crisp, enthusiastic version of "Little Talks," the Of Monsters and Men song, the audience is on its feet, cheering.  They're not clapping because they're kids. They're clapping because they're good.  That Home exists at all is a fluke. Many Philadelphia School District schools lack music programs, but Jackson, at 12th and Federal, has built a strong arts curriculum, with partnerships allowing it to offer dance, theater, and fine arts.

Group fighting to preserve district for Steel
KENDRA BROOKS says Steel Elementary is the last public school in Nicetown. And if she has a say, it will stay that way.  Brooks, president of the Steel Student Advisory Council, has been working nonstop - printing flyers, going door-to-door and organizing folks - in an effort to galvanize the community for the May 1 vote on the future of the school.  She said she's making sure Steel parents are informed of their rights and choices regarding the vote, which will determine whether Steel, on Wayne Avenue near Rowan Street, remains a district-run school or is handed over to Mastery Charter Schools. Mastery already runs the neighborhood middle and high schools.  "I really feel the district wants Mastery to take over Steel," said Brooks, who works 12 hours a day for the council, including weekends. "I don't think they thought there would be opposition or that parents would rally."

G-A officials: District faces financial crisis
Officials cite state's distribution formula for educational funding 04/18/2014 07:44:17 PM EDT
GREENCASTLE >> If the state's funding distribution method does not change, Greencastle-Antrim School District officials say they will have to take drastic measures to keep afloat financially.  G-A could recover a $1.5 million deficit it is facing in the 2014-15 school year by cutting kindergarten. It could cover half of it by not replacing seven outgoing teachers; $600,000 of it by ending involvement with Franklin County Career and Technology Center; or a third of it by getting rid of extracurricular activities.  District administrators and school board members by no means want to do any of these things, nor are they planning to do any of them. But Superintendent Greg Hoover presented these and many other examples of cuts to show that "drastic" moves must be made to get the district back on its financial feet.
Thursday's workshop school board meeting attracted a much bigger audience than usual, which was what officials wanted.  "It was great to see the turn out because we really are in a critical situation and the public needs to know it," Hoover said.

Little time, no money to implement new graduation mandate
Bucks County Courier TImes Opinion By ED MAYER Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 6:00 am
Ed Mayer, Northampton, has over 30 years of corporate experience, is a lawyer, U.S. Navy veteran, and a community activist.
The last thing our schools and taxpayers need is another unfunded government mandate. But here we go again.  The Common Core State Standards Initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It is a state-led effort that established a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English, language arts, and math.

Danville parents hope strike ends quickly
By Karen BlackledgeThe Daily Item April 19, 2014
DANVILLE ““ First-grader Madison Wild was sad she missed school Thursday.  “I like learning about math,” the 6-year-old Danville girl said Friday.  Teachers in the district went on strike Thursday, and the walkout is expected to continue Tuesday through Friday. Students and staff were off Friday and will be off Monday for spring break.

Breaking up with the School Reform Commission will be hard to do
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first grant their wishes.
Two out of three Philadelphians want to see an end to the School Reform Commission, and to direct state involvement in running the city school system.
That finding comes from a survey of 554 city residents commissioned by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (AKA the teachers union, so take the results with whatever ration of salt you think wise).  Still, those results track pretty well with what I've heard from city residents in community forums and conversations over the last decade.

Philly Trib Written by Wilford Shamlin III April 17, 2014
A panelist who spoke out in favor of a portfolio school model that “dumps the low performers” has set off controversy about Philadelphia public schools.  Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, an organization that solicits millions of dollars in donations in support of innovative school programs, made the remarks during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, held this month at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Gleason said the portfolio school was a business term borrowed from Wall Street and was part of an educational model that allows for a diverse number of operators. It debuted in New Orleans, which was forced to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, before expanding to other major cities, including New York City and Philadelphia.

Delco charter school receives federal health grant by Mari A. Schaefer LAST UPDATED: Friday, April 18, 2014, 1:08 AM
CHESTER The Chester Community Charter School received a $750,000 U.S. Department of Education physical education program grant to develop a initiative that supports healthy eating and recreation, the school announced.  Children's Healthy Eating Supports Their Education and Recreation (CHESTER) strives to improve diet and exercise by increasing the number of students who exercise an hour a day and encouraging children to eat fruit twice a day and vegetables three times a day.

Boston Finds That Quality Preschool Is Worth The Effort
NPR from WBUR by DAVID SCHARFENBERG April 13, 201411:32 AM ET
It's a Wednesday morning at the Eliot K-8 Innovation School. Teacher Jodi Doyle is working with a small group of preschool students interested in domes.  "What do you think the difference is between a dome and an arch?" she asks.  The lesson doesn't go exactly as planned. Doyle wants the kids to build their domes with wire, but she wants the children to come up with that idea themselves. The kids used wire several months ago for a related project, and she hopes they'll remember.  "Is there anything else in this classroom we could use that might hold the shape of a dome?" she asks.  "Books!" they answer.  Preschool is getting a lot of attention these days. President Obama and mayors across the country are touting preschool as an important investment in the economy.  As policymakers weigh the costs and benefits of "preschool for all," they're trying to figure out what actually works in the classroom.  One of the places they're looking is Boston.

NYT Talking about the Tests as Weapons of Mass Distraction
Schools Matter Blog by Paul Thomas Thursday, April 17, 2014
The New York Times editors appear to be catching on to the fact that the proliferation and misuse of high stakes testing  are not only a huge waste of resources that are actually doing more harm than good, but are also a "distraction" from the very real problems of poverty and inequality.  It's about time.

Seven things kids need to read better (and raising standards isn’t one of them)
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog  BY VALERIE STRAUSS April 17 at 7:00 am
For two decades,  Ellie Herman was a writer/producer for television shows including “The Riches,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Chicago Hope” and “Newhart.” Her fiction has appeared in literary journals, among them The Massachusetts Review, The Missouri Review and the O.Henry Awards Collection. In 2007, she decided, “on an impulse,” she wrote, to become an English teacher and got a job at a South Los Angeles charter school that was 97 percent Latino and where 96 percent of the students lived below the poverty line. She taught drama, creative writing, English 11 and 9th grade Composition at a charter high school in South Los Angeles until 2013,  when she decided to stop teaching and spend a year visiting classrooms and learning from other teachers. She is chronicling the lessons she is learning on her blog, Gatsby in L.A., where the following post appeared. I’ll be posting more work from her soon.

Republicans See Political Wedge in Common Core
New York Times By JONATHAN MARTIN APRIL 19, 2014
WASHINGTON — The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core.  A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools.  Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it. At a recent Republican women’s club luncheon in North Carolina, a member went from table to table distributing literature that called the program part of “the silent erosion of our civil liberties.”  The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and theCouncil of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Some conservatives, in an echo of their criticism of the health care law, say the standards are an overreach by the federal government.

Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
People keep asking us what they can do to help with the public education funding crisis. Next Thursday, Philadelphia attorneys can help by simply taking their lunch break at City Hall.
Philadelphia City Hall, 4th Floor  11:45 a.m. Press Conference; 12:15 - 1:00 p.m. Meet with City Council Members RSVP at
co-hosted with the Education Law Center  
Join your fellow attorneys at City Hall on Thursday, April 24 to tell City Council that Philadelphia cannot function without good public schools, and high-quality public schools require adequate funding. We will ask City Council to extend the sales tax to provide $120 million in recurring annual revenue to Philadelphia's public schools.
We will hold an optional webinar on Wednesday, April 23 at 4:00 p.m. to prepare you with talking points and more background information. RSVP for the webinar or day of action here.
Please RSVP, forward this email to your colleagues and join us on the 24th in sending a unified message to City Council members that the legal community supports public education.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will Host an Education Funding Forum in Delaware County on May 7th
On May 7th,  PCCY will host a forum that discusses the state of school funding  in Delaware County. As many of you all know, state budget cuts have impacted districts beyond Philadelphia. The event will be held at the Upper Darby Municipal Branch Library, 501 Bywood Avenue, Upper Darby PA 19082 from 6:30pm-8pm.  Attendees will get a budget update from Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, hear from School Board members representing Upper Darby, William Penn, and Haverford School Districts and learn how they can get  involved.  Contact Devon Miner at for any questions or concerns.

PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill
May 5-6, Mechanicsburg & Harrisburg
Make an impact on the legislative process by attending PSBA’s Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill, May 5-6. Day one will provide legislative insights on pensions, training on being an effective advocate, and media relations. Dr. G. Terry Madonna, leading Pennsylvania political analyst, will discuss the legislative landscape in his usual lively and informative style.  How to Be an Effective Advocate -- Hear from former Allwein Advocacy Award winners Larry Feinberg, Roberta Marcus and Tina Viletto on how to successfully support your issues.  At noon, Rep. Dave Reed, Majority Policy Chairman, will address participants.
On day two, participants will start with a breakfast at the Harrisburg Hilton with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley as guest speaker  and then hit the ground running with visits to legislative offices in the State CapitolSpace is limited so register early. Click here for more details and to register online.
Registration fee of $50 includes lunch and dinner on May 5 and breakfast on May 6. 

Educating the Voter: A Forum on Public Education featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidates - April 30th 6:00 pm Phila Central Library
Presented by Committee of Seventy, Congresso and Philadelphia Education Fund
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:00PM 
Philadelphia Central Library 1901 Vine Street, 19103 215-686-5322
Join Democratic gubernatorial candidates Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord for a discussion on public education. Montgomery Auditorium at 6:00 P.M.
Please click here to register.

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.

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