Saturday, June 14, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 14: Only 'how,' not 'how much' The new commission will examine only resource allocation, not funding levels.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 14, 2014: Only 'how,' not 'how much'  The new commission will examine only resource allocation, not funding levels.

"Only 'how,' not 'how much'  The new commission will examine only resource allocation, not funding levels."
Pa. set to study education funding formula -- again
A panel will begin studying how Pennsylvania could better allocate money for public education, following Gov. Tom Corbett's signing legislation establishing the commission this week.
Education funding in Pennsylvania is currently divided and sent to the state's 500 school districts based on the whim of the Legislature.  Education advocates have been pressing for a rational, data-driven formula that takes into account a district's actual enrollment numbers and student demographic data – reasoning that impoverished students and English-language learners should receive a greater share of the state's basic education subsidy.  The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Bernie O'Neill, R-Bucks, asks lawmakers to study the issue and make a recommendation by next year.

Ready to Learn? Schools unsure whether to bank on state funds
Districts were counting on the money, but nothing is guaranteed.
By Adam Clark and Jacqueline Palochko, Of The Morning Call 6:48 p.m. EDT, June 13, 2014
There was a time when Allentown School District Superintendent Russ Mayo was confident the Ready to Learn block grant would be included in Pennsylvania's final budget.
Mayo was so confident, in fact, that he tied 40 jobs to the $3.7 million in new money and $5.2 million overall Allentown schools are supposed to receive from the grant.
But then state revenues came in last month $100 million lower than anticipated. And legislators floated a budget scenario that eliminates new education spending to help plug a $532.5 million deficit, expected to grow to $1.3 billion or higher by June 30, 2015.
Now Mayo is beginning to wonder whether Allentown schools will actually see the money he once thought was a sure thing.  "I am worried," Mayo said earlier this week. "I am very worried."
Pa. state budget: Many ideas, but little consensus, on how to close deficits, say Lancaster lawmakers
Lancaster Online By TIM STUHLDREHER | Business Writer Friday, June 13, 2014 2:15 pm
When state lawmakers convene on Monday, they will have just 15 days to close a $1.3 billion gap in the $29.4 billion general fund budget for 2014-15, and no two legislators agree on how to do it, state Rep. Mike Sturla told local business leaders Friday morning.  Sturla, a Democrat representing Lancaster city, joined state Sen. Lloyd Smucker and state Rep. Bryan Cutler, both Republicans, for the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s budget-focused “Wake up to the Issues” forum at the Eden Resort & Suites.  By law, the state must pass a balanced budget by June 30. None of the three men suggested it would be easy.

With pension reform - doing 'nothing' is not an option: Gov. Tom Corbett
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tom Corbett on June 13, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Pennsylvania law might guarantee state employees a set pension when they retire, but mathematics has its own laws.  All the legal protections in the world mean nothing if a pension plan is insolvent. Retirees in Detroit just found this out. If our commonwealth is to avoid this hard lesson, we need to act with a political resolve that has been lacking too long.  Every dollar saved through pension reform is another dollar for our children's educations, or another dollar to help get someone off the waiting list for services they need, or another dollar to keep our citizens safe.

"It wouldn't save a ton of money. Nor would it solve the pension systems' $47 billion-plus unfunded liability problem. But lawmakers admit it is more or less a symbolic gesture that signals to state and school employees and taxpayers alike that they recognize the problem and want to lead by example in fixing it."
Kicking elected officials out of the pension system? Many midstate lawmakers say go for it  By Jan Murphy, Charles Thompson & Gideon Bradshaw on June 13, 2014 at 3:55 PM
Despite a variety of ideas for reforming the two state pension systems, lawmakers have yet to coalesce around any one plan. And frustration over that grows by the day.  Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, told PennLive recently that at the very least before the lawmakers break for the summer, he wants the General Assembly to show leadership on this issue by passing a plan that removes the elected officials from the state's defined benefit pension system upon their re-election or retention.   He suggested moving them into a 401k-style retirement savings plan like most private-sector workers have.  "I think it sends a strong message that we're serious about getting our finances under control," Scarnati said.

Fix Pa.'s special ed funding: Guest Voice of school officials
Go Erie BY JIM BUCKHEIT Contributing writer PUBLISHED: JUNE 12, 2014 12:01 AM EST
JIM BUCKHEIT is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators in Harrisburg
For the first time in two decades, the Pennsylvania Legislature has an opportunity to connect the state's limited resources to students with disabilities and help all schools prepare children with special needs to graduate ready to pursue their dreams.  In the early 1990s, Pennsylvania changed its system of funding special education from an excess-cost formula to a census-based approach. Since then, special education costs have risen faster than state aid increases. Local districts now fund the greatest share of special education.

Shale tax seen as likely, report: Friday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on June 13, 2014 at 8:30 AM\
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
The Will-They-Or-Won't-They Hamleting over a potential extraction tax on Marcellus shale natural gas drillers continues this morning, with a former Casey administration official predicting that lawmakers will sign on before they skedaddle out of town sometime after midnight on June 30.
“He’s fought this long and hard,” former Casey aide Tony May says to The Tribune-Review of Gov. Tom Corbett's resistance to a tax.  “Better for Corbett to sign the shale tax than have [Democratic gubernatorial nominee]Tom Wolf beat him over the head in TV ads in October," May concluded. May is now a principal at the lobbying firm Triad Strategies, whose clients include the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.  Wolf has suggested a 5 percent severance tax, raising about $750 million, with the proceeds going to schools, transportation and energy infrastructure.  As we noted earlier this week, some House Republicans are saying there aren't the votes right now to pass an extraction tax. And Corbett has said he'll veto such a bill if it reaches his desk.  But as things get hairy in the sweaty days of late June, Capitol watchers are well aware that anything -- and we mean anything -- can happen as lawmakers race to get a budget deal.

The Shale tax beat goes on to help fund education in Pa.
WITF State House Sound Bites Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 13, 2014
Education advocates are keeping up the drum beat about the need for a new extraction tax on natural gas in Pennsylvania to bolster school budgets.  They say lawmakers have a choice: tax natural gas drillers or watch as schools hike their local property taxes.  "We need an infusion of dollars are the state level for schools and for students," said Jay Himes, director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. "We cannot continue the failing strategy of cutting our way to success."

Pennsylvania budget: Ideas for solving the state's money problems
By Charles Thompson |  on June 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM, updated June 13, 2014 at 5:05 PM
With two weeks left for state lawmakers to complete an on-time budget, the talk in the coming days is expected to turn to finding money to fund programs and services that Pennsylvanians have come to expect from their state government.  As Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, pointed out at Tuesday's appropriations committee meeting, "Everybody wants more money."  Scarnati talks budget realitiesSenate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, in selling his government downsizing proposal to the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, talks about the dilemma the General Assembly faces in putting together a budget every year.  But finding additional money for the 2014-15 budget is complicated.

EPLC Education Notebook Friday, June 13, 2014

Chesco's Dinniman hosts first telephone town hall meeting LAST UPDATED: Friday, June 13, 2014, 1:08 AM
WEST CHESTER State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) hosted his first telephone town-hall meeting Monday night, drawing a total of 2,500 households during his hour-long discussion of education issues, specifically his plan to eliminate the Keystone exams as a requirement for graduation from high school. "I've never been to a town-hall meeting where 2,500 people showed up in a physical space," Dinniman said.  The state Senate Democrats are catching up technologically to their colleagues. About a dozen Republican senators have hosted meetings over the phone since last June. For years, the state House has used the technology that calls constituents en masse and invites them to participate in a phone conversation with their representatives.

"Parents are not happy with underfunded, often poorly managed, public schools, nor should they be. But what frequently is overlooked is that they remain identified with the core values at the heart of public education. At both Muñoz-Marín and Steel, parents have stood up strongly for equity, the idea that all public schools should offer a high-quality education to all children."
What do the Renaissance voting results tell us about school privatization?
the notebook By Ron Whitehorne on Jun 13, 2014 11:36 AM
For years, the mantra from those who think charter schools are the answer to what ails Philadelphia's schools has been “people are voting with their feet,” citing the mushrooming numbers of families who have transferred out of traditional public schools in favor of charters.
But over recent weeks, the people voted with ballots and they voted decisively against turning over their schools, Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Kensington, to charter school management companies.

Area profs urge City Council to up funding for school district
Inquirer by Susan Snyder POSTED: FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 2014, 11:29 AM
College educators are getting involved in the local public schools funding crisis.
Nearly 200 professors from the region are urging City Council to provide the cash-strapped Philadelphia School District with more revenue.  “Philadelphia cannot afford to shortchange its children and the health and reputation of our city by underfunding public education,” the group, calling itself Higher Education United for Public Education, said in an open letter to council.
“Overcrowded classrooms; bare-bones course offerings; reduced support for English as a second language, special education, and gifted programs; shuttered libraries; insufficient access to counselors and nurses; unsafe conditions: our public school students are suffering.”

Phila. third graders to receive 4 free books to read and keep
On the last Friday of the school year, about 20 third graders at Nebinger Elementary School in Bella Vista escaped lessons in multiplication and division during the morning session. The catch: They had to spend about an hour in the library and be attentive while a half-dozen adults preached the importance of reading.  Afterward, Mayor Nutter, School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., and several administrators handed each of them four new books to keep and read over the summer. The giveaway was part of an effort by the city and the School District's Department of Human Services, among others, to make sure all of Philadelphia's 51,200 students in grades K-3 have something to read over the summer.  "The third grade represents an important shift when it comes to reading, a shift from learning to read to reading to learn," Nutter said before the cameras stationed inside the fourth-floor library.

Teacher seniority rule may be done for in Pennsylvania schools
Times Herald By MAURA PENNINGTON, PA Independent POSTED: 06/11/14, 10:31 AM EDT |
Pennsylvania school districts soon may be able to dismiss their more senior teachers in favor of their most qualified.  House Bill 1722 proposes amending state law to protect excellent educators in the classroom. The House Education Committee this week OK’d the measure by 16-8 vote.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley was one of two Democrats who voted in favor of amending the state’s 1949 Public School Code.  Right now, districts are prohibited from furloughing teachers for budgetary reasons, though staff cuts can be made in the face of declining enrollment or when entire programs are eliminated. But when that happens, the cuts are based on seniority — the last teacher hired is the first one fired.  The proposed amendment to the state’s 1949 Public School Code allows for economic furloughs with layoffs based on performance rather than seniority.

Property tax revolt could sharply reduce school funding
Citypaper By Daniel Denvir Published: 06/12/2014 | 1 Comments Posted
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors and a tea party-backed coalition are mobilizing to support legislation that would abolish local school property taxes, a measure likely to result in the loss of billions of dollars in education funding at a time when districts across the state, including Philadelphia’s, face deep fiscal crises.   But Chuck Liedike, campaign manager of the Realtor-backed group Real Reform 76, sees only upside to the legislation being considered in Harrisburg. He says the change would eliminate an onerous tax without harming public education.  “It allows Pennsylvania homeowners to stay in their home, to be able to afford a home,” says Liedike. And “school districts would receive a dollar-for-dollar match in what they would have received in property-tax revenues.”  But that does not seem probable: The Education Stabilization Fund, a new entity that would be created under the law, would likely provide far less school funding than the current property tax-based system, according to an October 2013 report from the General Assembly’s Independent Fiscal Office. That shortfall would reach $900 million in the law’s second year, and a staggering $2.5 billion in its fifth.

Philly to open a new school to train high school students skills needed for manufacturing jobs
Citypaper By Jon Hurdle Published: 06/12/2014
Like many other Philadelphia manufacturers, PTR Baler & Compactor has a chronic problem with filling its jobs. The Port Richmond-based maker of steel trash and recycling containers for major retail clients like Wal-Mart was six welders short of a full complement in early June, despite offering a salary of about $40,000 plus benefits for people with the right experience.
“It’s very hard for us to find skilled welders,” said Brent Ford, PTR’s human resources manager, who has not had a full staff of welder-fitters in his three years with the company. “We go through hundreds of resumes for every single one that we hire.”   Ford and his colleagues say recruitment is a big headache because manufacturing here still has a poor public image as a smokestack industry where workers do repetitive jobs in polluted factories that threaten their health. And some manufacturers complain that many job applicants lack basic literacy and numeracy skills or simply don’t grasp fundamental workplace values like the need to show up on time.
But all agree that public schools don’t do enough to give students the skills they need to work in an industry that pays $1.3 billion in annual wages and is a traditional engine of the city’s economy.

Changing Skyline: City ought not rush into sale of school buildings
Goodness knows, Philadelphia's school district needs to sell its surplus buildings so it can afford to open its remaining schools in the fall, ideally with a full complement of nurses and counselors. But should its money troubles trump everything else the city wants to achieve: livable neighborhoods, affordable housing, pedestrian-friendly design, meaningful open space, a respect for its own history?  Nothing highlights the harsh reality of this single-minded quest for cash as much as this week's battle royal over the sale of the University City High School on Drexel University's western border. Sitting on 14 acres of land, it's the most valuable property in the district's sales portfolio, and one of the largest sites. Based on their push to fast-track approvals, Mayor Nutter and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke see only dollar signs when they look at that dour '70s-era fortress.

Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the NAACP and the Keystone State Education Coalition are sponsoring a public meeting with speakers from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center.
When:  Monday June 16th, 6-7 PM
Where: Delaware County Community College Southeast Center, Room 135
              2000 Elmwood Ave, Sharon Hill, PA 19079
Learn about how a statewide legal strategy could help students in William Penn, Southeast Delco and neighboring districts and how you might participate.  Legal experts and attorneys will be present to talk about the law, your children’s rights and a potential lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania based on the state Constitutional requirement to provide an education.

Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
Wednesday, June 18, Monday, June 23, and Monday, June 30
Education Voters PA
Governor Corbett’s “election-year” budget is falling apart. Revenue projections are down and Corbett and state legislators are looking to make more than $1.2 billion in cuts to his proposed 2014-2015 budget.  Lobbyists will be swarming the Capitol in the month of June and we need to be there, too.  Join Pennsylvanians from throughout the commonwealth as we send a loud and clear message that after three years of balancing the state budget on the backs of Pennsylvania’s public school children, it is time for our state government to do what is right and pass a fair budget that will provide students with the opportunities they need to meet state standards and be successful after they graduate.

PA Basic Ed. Funding Campaign: Building capacity to advocate for adequate, equitable school funding
PSBA website 6/10/2014
The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign seeks up to ten (10) regional "circuit riders" statewide to work with and support school system leaders to build capacity and advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system.
Regional Circuit Riders Contract Employment Announcement
The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign seeks up to ten (10) regional "circuit riders" statewide to work with and support school system leaders to build capacity and advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system. Circuit riders will support school system leaders by providing education and training about past and current school funding systems, principles and models of good school funding systems and effective advocacy strategies using information and materials provided by the Campaign. School system leaders include school directors, Intermediate Unit executive directors, district superintendents, business managers and other key school district leaders.  Building capacity among Pennsylvania school system leaders to advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system is one component of a broader multi-year effort that involves more than 25 organizations across Pennsylvania. This component is a collaborative effort of the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), PA School Boards Association (PSBA), PA Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and PA Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU). PASBO serves as the fiscal agent for the collaborative.

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

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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