Monday, May 5, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 5, 2014: "We haven't fixed the underlying problem here, which is full and fair funding on the state level"

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for May 5, 2014:
We haven't fixed the underlying problem here, which is full and fair funding on the state level"

Folks whose focus is on making a profit from public education tax dollars are lobbying hard to kill the Special Education Funding Reform Bill HB1238.
HB1238 was developed as a result of extensive work done by the Special Education Funding Commission chaired by Senator Pat Browne (R-16, Lehigh) and State Representative Bernie O'Neill (R-29, Bucks).  Find the Harrisburg office phone number and email address of your state rep. here:, then please call and ask them to support House Bill 2138.

Need more info on HB2138?
Education Law Center Analysis: Special Education Funding Reform Legislation:

Education Voters PA Statewide Call to Action May 6th
A part of the annual rite of spring, it is time to call Harrisburg and let them know what our priorities are for the Pennsylvania Budget! On May 6th, plan to take 5 minutes to call your State Rep, State Senator and the Governor about the education budget. Detailed materials will be posted here.
Education Voters of PA will be holding a Statewide Call-to-Action for Public Education!
On May 6th, thousands of people will set aside 5 minutes to call their state representative and senator and our governor. We will send a message that Pennsylvanians need a fair budget that gives students the instruction and support they need to meet state standards and provides funding that our communities can count on.  As the budget process gets underway, it’s important that our legislators and governor know we care about our public schools and are paying attention to what they are doing!
Download a flier here to spread the word:

Did you catch our weekend posting?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 3, 2014: "Why can the charter school guarantee my child art, music and gym when the School District cannot?"
Keystone State Education Coalition Saturday, May 3, 2014

Education Policy and Leadership Center

"The District's situation could actually get worse. Increases in education funding that Corbett has proposed and the District is counting on next year could be pared back as the state looks for ways to close what is turning into a more than $1 billion hole due to revenues that are coming in below projections.  "April's poor revenue collections seriously complicated an already challenging state budget," wrote Arneson, Pileggi's spokesman. "We are in the process of re-evaluating every line item to see where additional savings can be gleaned. I won't rule out the possibility that some line items may see increases, but I don't think optimism is warranted at this point."
The advocacy groups say that the primary goal is to get a fair, predictable state funding formula for education -- a view echoed by Lori Shorr, Mayor Nutter's chief education officer.  "We haven't fixed the underlying problem here, which is full and fair funding on the state level," she said."
City and state still locked in battle over responsibility for Philly schools
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on May 03 2014 Posted in Latest news
On Monday, at its annual budget hearing, City Council will hear pleas from School District leaders for more money.  It is a familiar scenario. The same thing happens every year, only this time it is worse. The District says it needs $216 million just to keep the current level of service -- a level in which many schools do not have full-time counselors or nurses, most have no libraries, course offerings have been cut back and virtually all are scrambling for basic supplies.  …Ideally, the District says it wants $440 million in additional funds so it can not only restore cuts made over the last two years, but make a start on Hite's school improvement agenda. It is hoping to raise that by getting $195 million from the city, $150 million from the state, and the rest, about $95 million, through concessions from labor unions, particularly the teachers.
But the political and fiscal realities are not looking good.

With low revenues, Corbett and Pa. GOP play blame game
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MAY 5, 2014
Republican lawmakers and the governor are blaming Congress for Pennsylvania's money problems. But economists say the criticism is not warranted.  Pennsylvania's tax revenue haul in April was almost 9 percent below estimates.  Part of the reason, said state Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, is the end of federal tax breaks on capital gains, dividends and higher wage earners.  "The high tax increase on growth, capital gains has shortened up revenue in this commonwealth and other states around the nation," Corman, R-Centre, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.  The next morning, Gov. Tom Corbett made the same point about federal tax policy changes during remarks at an event with the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC.
But Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel said Pennsylvania didn't lose revenue as much as it saw a shift. To avoid tax rate increases on capital gains and payments to shareholders, many people pulled their income into the 2012 tax year.

Pa. Senate panel hears more on plan to kill property taxes
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MAY 5, 2014
Supporters of a plan to replace school property taxes with higher personal income and sales levies are shopping their proposal around to colleagues in the Pennsylvania Senate.
It's hard to tell for sure if popular support for property tax elimination has grown, but rallies and hearings on the issue tend to be packed with people who say their property taxes are so high they're in danger of losing their homes.  A Senate Finance Committee hearing on the issue Wednesday was no exception. But even co-sponsors of the "tax shift" plan under consideration now would create new winners and losers.  "Folks, we know this is a big shift," said Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, one of the prime sponsors of the measure.

School board directors tackle one of the toughest jobs around: Anne Reeves
By Anne Reeves | on May 02, 2014 at 9:00 AM
No matter what we do for a living, all of us have days when we’re absolutely convinced our job is the worst one on the planet.  Maybe it’s our colleagues, our customers, or the work itself, but sometimes we feel like packing it all in and moving to a desert island. Or moving them to a desert island.  There a lot of really demanding, difficult jobs out there. We could probably debate forever which ones we think are the worst of the worst.  But I think there’s one position that absolutely is one of the toughest around. And it’s not even a “real” job – it’s completely volunteer.

“These figures back up what we have been saying all along,” Dinniman said. “In imposing these exams on local schools, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission completely ignored the substantial cost burden they are putting on the backs of our local school districts, costs that would surely be passed on to taxpayers in the form of significant property tax hikes.”
Limits on Keystone exams will save money - Dinniman
West Chester Daily Local By Staff Report POSTED: 05/04/14, 4:21 PM EDT |
WEST CHESTER – State Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman praised the efforts to limiting the Keystone Graduation Exams to the three required by the federal government, which he said will save Chester County schools millions in taxpayer dollars.  Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, co-chairman of the Education Committee, supported the fight to limit the Keystone Graduation Exams. He said that preliminary estimates from five of Chester County’s 12 school districts, including Downingtown, Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford Tredyffrin-Easttown and West Chester, indicate that adding two more tests would have a total cost more than $1 million.

"The problem with Act 22 (PA Charter School Law) was it reduced revenues without limiting costs equivalently. When students transfer from a public school to a charter school, those children take much of the state funding with them. But public school costs do not decline equal to the loss of aid."
Government actions, unintended outcomes with S&Ls, schools by Joel Naroff POSTED: Sunday, May 4, 2014, 1:10 AM
Joel L. Naroff is chief economist and president of Naroff Economic Advisors
If you want to see how seemingly logical government actions can create massive problems, all you have to do is look at two outwardly different crises: the collapse of the savings and loan industry and the Philadelphia School District financial mess.  Changes in regulations and laws that allowed interest rates to move freely eventually led to the bankruptcy of many S&Ls, while the passage of the charter-school law set in motion events that ultimately bankrupted the School District

Education cuts roil state House races
Scranton Times-Tribune BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK Published: May 5, 2014
Like never before, polls show education as the top issue concerning state voters, largely because of massive public-school and higher-education funding cutbacks.  The cuts happened because federal stimulus money for public-school education disappeared almost three years ago and the state did not immediately replace the money sent to local school districts.  The $900 million cut in overall basic education spending in Gov. Tom Corbett’s first budget made him unpopular and threatens his re-election, even though he blamed school districts for failing to prepare for the end of stimulus money and mostly failing to heed his call for wage freezes.  As local state House candidates campaign for election or re-election, the cuts loom large.

Transportation committee to discuss busing in Springfield School District
Delco Times by Sue Serbin POSTED: 05/04/14, 10:10 PM EDT |
The Springfield School District’s newly formed transportation committee will have its first meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday.  The committee will be tasked with investigation and discussion about the potential of outsourcing transportation bus services for students to a management company.
The school board determined the committee was an appropriate approach to the issue following substantial public interest. In the last three meetings, the board heard from members of the transportation department as well as parents. The board has stressed the decision to outsource has not been made, and only the issuance of a Request for Proposal has taken place at present.

Local teachers share how new standards are changing classrooms
Take a look inside classrooms to see how teachers are teaching, and students are learning, under new core standards.
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter 05/03/2014 04:59:40 PM EDT
Students in Jeff Plummer's seventh-grade math class worked in pairs to solve a word problem asking them what score "Joey" would need to get on his final test in order to get an A in his course.  "What is some of the important information?" Plummer asked.
Students pointed out Joey's previous grades and the score range he needed to get an A. Plummer circled and underlined key words on the whiteboard. The students still needed to note that Joey's final test counted double in his overall grade.  "What else is important here? Talk to the person next to you. 30 seconds. Go!"  Plummer, a teacher at Northeastern Middle School, has been teaching for three years. And it's tempting to teach the way he was taught: show the students how to do something three times, give them problems, check their work. But now, he said, he consciously takes a step back.  "I want to teach them how to problem-solve," Plummer said. "I want to push them to think. I don't want them to settle for the easy way out."
Plummer has been changing his teaching as Pennsylvania schools shift to a new set of standards that lay out what students should know by particular grades.

"One aspect of the deal with Pearson that is sure to get attention is the PARCC states' prediction that it will result in an assessment price of about $24 per student."
Pearson Wins Major Contract From Common-Core Testing Consortium
Education Week Marketplace K12 By Sean Cavanagh on May 2, 2014 11:23 AM |
The global education company Pearson has landed a major contract to administer tests aligned to the common-core standards, a project described as being of "unprecedented scale" in the U.S. testing arena by one official who helped negotiate it.  The decision to award the contract, announced Friday, was made by a group of states developing tests linked to the common core for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two main consortia of states creating exams to match the standards.  Pearson is expected to perform a broad range of duties under the contract, including development of test items, delivery of paper-and-pencil and computerized test forms, reporting of results, analysis of scores, and working with states to develop "cut scores," or performance standards for the exams.

Arne Duncan can keep his cynical NCLB waiver — Washington school board member
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss  May 4, 2014
'It’s not that I don’t understand your NCLB numbers or metrics. I work in the Business Intelligence group at Microsoft, part of the Cloud + Enterprise Division, so data and analytics is what I do. And I’ve done the analysis. I’ve weighed the cost of your revoked waiver and considered its benefits, and the conclusion is clear: it’s not worth it.'

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 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.

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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