Friday, June 20, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 20: 2015 spending plan may require new taxes, Pa. Budget Secretary warns

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 20, 2014:
2015 spending plan may require new taxes, Pa. Budget Secretary warns

A push to expand pre-K in Pennsylvania
the notebook By Aurora Jensen on Jun 19, 2014 12:30 PM
Ann Ward worked as an early childhood educator at Friends School Haverford for 20 years and knows how important it is for children to develop their creativity and talents early.  But she also knows that not all children have this opportunity.  "What if all people knew that they could wake up in the morning and be assured that their child would be in a program that was meeting all of his or her developmental needs?” she said. “Just think of the sense of well-being and peace that people could have in a community when children are taken care of."  This vision is what led Ward to become an active volunteer for Pre-K for PA,  a statewide coalition formed to expand access to early education for all families, especially those most in need.  

"The district's filing is the legal equivalent of asking the Supreme Court for permission to rearrange deck chairs on a fast-sinking ship.  What the district's complaint avoids is stating the obvious: the abject failure to provide city students with the basic resources necessary to achieve Pennsylvania's own academic standards. And the reason why is also obvious: The school district — and the entire state — is engaged in an ongoing and severe violation the right of Philadelphia students to a "thorough and efficient" education under the Pennsylvania Constitution."
State admits violating the education rights of Philadelphia school children
WHYY Newsworks by David Sciarra JUNE 20, 2014 ESSAYWORKS
David Sciarra is executive director of Education Law Center, Newark, N.J.
In March, Philadelphia's state-operated school district filed an extraordinary legal complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The lawsuit asks the Court to approve changes in school staffing levels and the way teachers are transferred and laid off, effectively nullifying portions of a collective bargaining agreement between the Philadelphia School District and the teachers union.
Much attention has focused on the district's request for changes in teacher staffing and work rules. But unnoticed is the district's stark admission of the deplorable conditions that Philadelphia's school children must endure after 17 years of direct state control over their education.

"If a special-education student leaves for a charter school, the formula governing how much funding accompanies the student is calculated by dividing a district's total special-education costs by the "state average."  In a district such as Penn Hills, where 19 percent of students are identified as needing special education, that means dividing total spending, $11.2 million, not by the actual special-education population — 762 — but rather by the number the state assumes — 631.  Penn Hills spends an average of $14,750 to educate a special education student. If that student leaves, its payments to charters are about $24,000, including a basic per-pupil subsidy.
"It's a complete nightmare," district business director Richard Liberto said. "It's huge, and it's a moving target."
Special-ed charter funding skews Pa. numbers
Article ToolsEducation Week by AP Published Online: June 17, 2014
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Frazier School District business manager Kevin Mildren compared the state's formula for special-education funding to taking a size 10 shoe and trying to force it on every foot in Pennsylvania.  Charter schools, privately operated but publicly funded, were set up to provide alternatives for parents who sought a different approach to their children's education. When parents choose a charter school, districts must redirect taxpayer money — known as tuition — for those children's education to the new school.
For special-education students, often the sum is greater than the cost in the student's home district because of a flawed funding approach that does not reflect the services a student needs, critics say.

2015 spending plan may require new taxes, Pa. Budget Secretary warns
By Charles Thompson |  on June 20, 2014 at 5:45 AM
Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby is a man in demand these days, as Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders try to hammer out a 2014-15 state budget.  In what may be one of his last calms before the storm – the new budget is due by July 1 – Zogby stopped by PA Media Group headquarters to share the governor's priorities heading into the home stretch.
In short, despite a large current-year revenue shortfall Corbett is still committed to fighting for the targeted spending increases he outlined in February; he is conditionally open to some higher taxes to pay for them; he will accept the latter only with significant reform to Pennsylvania's public pension systems.

More budget details from House Republican memo
Capitol Ideas Blog By Steve Esack June 19, 2014
On June 5, The Morning Call published a story detailing closed-door budget discussions among Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration and Republican House and Senate leaders.
The story was based on a June 3 memo prepared by Republican House Appropriations staff for the Republican House caucus. The memo, obtained by The Morning Call, uses PowerPoint slides to outline how lawmakers and the administration could come up with a bare-bones $28.5 million budget that does not raise taxes and eliminates the extra money for education and human services Corbett proposed as part of his $29.4 billion spending plan he unveiled on Feb. 4.
As the article stated, Corbett and House GOP leaders are not advocating for a bare-bones budget. It was an attempt to find money under every Capitol rock.  Those money rocks were compiled using one-time revenue sources Corbett identified in February and new ideas broached by the administration in recent private meetings.  For budget watchers, here is the line-by-line breakdown of the possible funding sources in the memo:

Still no movement on pension, liquor reform
PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, June 18, 2014/Categories: News and Views
Despite a second week of talks on pension reform, neither the House nor the Senate took action this week. In the House, the hybrid plan being offered by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill) still lacked the necessary votes after Wednesday’s caucus session.  Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland), a main detractor of the plan, offered some insight as to why.  “I think doing a pension reform bill makes sense, but it has become clear that the bill the governor is supporting does not have the votes in the House, so I think he needs to present us with a better plan. To do that, I think he needs to reach out to some of the other people—including myself—who have some other ideas about how to do it. I think he should call in the affected parties,” he argued.

Pension bill could get a vote next week, but it sidesteps funding issues
By Eric Boehm PA Independent June 19, 2014
House Republicans, urged on by Gov. Tom Corbett, hope to move forward next week with a plan to overhaul the state pension systems.  But what isn’t contained in their proposal could prove to be more important to the state’s long-term fiscal health.  Republican leaders hope to pull together enough votes for a bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill, to reduce pension benefits for future hires to achieve an estimated $11 billion in long-term savings for the state’s two pension funds, which are facing a combined debt of about $50 billion over the next three decades.  Corbett added some fuel to the fire this week by suggesting he would refuse to sign a state budget until the Legislature also passed the pension bill — even if it means forcing lawmakers to miss the June 30 budget deadline.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Schools Seek More Money
New York Times By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JUNE 17, 2014
The Philadelphia superintendent of schools, William R. Hite Jr., made a last-minute plea for funding on Tuesday to city and state lawmakers, saying he needs at least an additional $96 million to offer students even a “wholly inadequate” education next year. The City Council is scheduled to break for the summer on Thursday, and the school district must adopt a budget by June 30. But Mr. Hite said officials cannot cut their way out of the crisis when costs continuously increase. The legislature also is working to adopt a spending plan before the fiscal year starts July 1. The state faces at least a $1.2 billion shortfall. Mr. Hite said that without extra money, the system could see class sizes above 40 and hundreds of teachers laid off. He has said schools might not open this fall.

School officials applaud city funding help, turn eye to state
THE PHILADELPHIA School District is a step closer to avoiding devastating cuts, thanks to a surprising move by City Council yesterday, although the district is not out of the woods yet.
Council authorized the city to borrow $27 million on behalf of the district for this fiscal year. It also introduced a last-minute bill that would authorize the city to borrow another $30 million for the district next fiscal year to help close a $96 million deficit.

District, Council reach deal on more borrowing for Philly schools
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 19, 2014 01:48 PM
City Council will apparently borrow $57 million to ease the School District's fiscal crisis -- $27 million immediately and $30 million more in the fall.  The agreement, which will help prevent up to 800 layoffs and other program cuts for next year, was secured after marathon lobbying to break the logjam between District leaders and Council President Darrell Clarke over funding for the schools.  Clarke had consistently opposed borrowing for the District, even though that was an option given to the city by state legislation last summer. He wanted the District to fill part of its shortfall for this year through proceeds from building sales. 
Council on Thursday passed the bill to borrow $27 million

"The SRC’s decision came despite pleas from the school’s new administration for leniency, as they attempt to recover from years of scandal. In 2012, New Media’s founder and its CEO were both sentenced to prison for stealing over $500,000 from the school’s budget in order to prop up their other businesses. That led to a board and staff shakeup. Board president Rhonda Bailey Green said that the school is on the right track."
SRC votes to revoke New Media charter, renews three others
thenotebook by Bill Hangley, Jr. on Jun 20, 2014 01:18 AM
In one of the quieter School Reform Commission meetings in recent months, commissioners voted Thursday to revoke the charter of Mt. Airy’s New Media Charter School, while renewing five-year charters for three other schools.  In its last regular meeting of the school year, it also took a series of other actions, including a vote to permanently close William Penn High School, which is in line to be sold to Temple University.  The action on New Media launches a series of hearings and appeal procedures that could take a year or more to conclude.
“I want the staff to understand that this is the beginning of the process, not the end,” said Commissioner Wendell Pritchett, who joined chairman Bill Green and commissioner Feather Houstoun voting to close the school. Commissioner Sylvia Simms voted to keep it open, and Farah Jimenez recused herself due to a conflict.  The school will open its doors as usual in September, and will almost certainly complete the full school year. “I can’t imagine a scenario that would have us closing a school in the middle of the year,” said Green.

SRC sells William Penn High to Temple
LAST UPDATED: Friday, June 20, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, June 19, 2014, 9:38 PM
The former William Penn High School, a sprawling structure on North Broad Street, was permanently closed by the School Reform Commission on Thursday night and sold to Temple University for $15 million.  Part of the property will be razed and turned into athletic fields and recreation space for Temple students. The school building fronting Broad Street will remain, and will house a job-training academy run by the Laborers' District Council Education and Training/Apprenticeship Fund. It will offer training in construction crafts and general education topics.  The sale happened over the strong objections of some community members - who had been promised a new life for the high school when it "temporarily" closed in 2009. Then-Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman said at the time that the school would reopen within five years as a career and technical academy for district students.

Research for Action evaluates out of school programs that provide academic support for youth attending high-poverty, underperforming schools…
21st Century Community Learning Center Evaluations: A Citywide Perspective
Written by Tracy Hartman, Brittan Hallar, and Jian Gao       June 2014
21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants represent the second largest source of funding for out-of-school time (OST) programs in the City of Philadelphia. Thirty-three OST providers in Philadelphia, representing more than 100 OST programs, are funded by these federal grants, which support OST programs that provide academic support for youth attending high-poverty, underperforming schools.  For the past three years, Research for Action (RFA) has served as the evaluator for multiple 21st CCLC grantees, and, in this role, has been able to aggregate evaluation findings to produce two reports on the citywide impact of 21st CCLC programs. RFA produced these reports in collaboration with the city of Philadelphia’s OST system-building efforts; the reports also fill a critical gap in information regarding the impact of OST programs in the city.

Taking it to Harrisburg
Yinzercation Blog June 19, 2014
From the ‘burgh to H’burg and back in one day. On June 18th, 25 parents, students, and teachers left Pittsburgh under gray skies at 7AM, but arrived in Harrisburg a few hours later under blue, pumped up and ready to meet with their legislators. Our bus included folks from across the city, as well as the North Allegheny School District, and two teachers who live in Pittsburgh and teach in Woodland Hills and Mt. Lebanon.

Community group gives Allentown School Board straight Fs
Report card criticizes district for lack of staff diversity, financial management.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 10:03 p.m. EDT, June 19, 2014
Chanting "fix our schools" and demanding the termination of Superintendent Russ Mayo, more than 50 Allentown community members marched to the district administration building Thursday to deliver a giant report card.  In a reversal of the district grading its students, the group graded the school board and handed down straight Fs across five categories — attention to all students, diversity of staff, financial management, academic achievement and human dignity.  "Did they pass?" organizer Dejour Scott asked the crowed.  "No," the group resoundingly replied.
The march was organized by Campaign for Change, a community group founded last year with a mission of addressing the racial and ethnic disparities within Allentown's educational and economic systems.
U.S. judge sides with PIAA, tosses lawsuit by mom of home-schooler blocked from East Shore Christian school's sports teams
By Matt Miller |  on June 19, 2014 at 12:47 PM
Noting "there is no constitutionally protected right to play sports," a federal judge has dismissed a midstate mother's lawsuit over a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association rule that blocks her home-schooled son from playing on a Christian school's sports teams.  Shonda Chapman claimed the PIAA was violating her ninth-grader's rights, including his right to religious freedom, by preventing him from playing on the soccer and basketball teams at Covenant Christian Academy in Susquehanna Township.  Under the PIAA's regulations, Chapman's son, because he is home-schooled, can play interscholastic sports only for his local public school system, the Susquehanna Township School District.

Pottsgrove adopts $63M budget with 1.9% tax hike
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 06/18/14, 6:12 PM EDT
LOWER POTTSGROVE — The average annual property tax bill in the Pottsgrove School District will increase by $84 as the result of a 6-1 vote Tuesday by the Pottsgrove School Board.
That vote marked the final adoption of the $62,879,764 budget for the 2014-15 school year, which raises property taxes by 1.9 percent over the current millage.  The new tax rate is now 37.5095 mills, or $37.50 on on every $1,000 of assessed value, the Sanatoga Post reported Wednesday.
As a result, a home assessed at $120,000, the district average, will see its total school tax rise by $84 to $4,500.

Interboro School Board passes 2014-15 budget
By COURTNEY ELKO, Delco Times Correspondent POSTED: 06/19/14, 11:19 PM EDT |
The Interboro School Board unanimously approved the final 2014-15 school budget at Wednesday’s school board meeting. Board member Deborah DiBattista was absent from the meeting.  Residents will see an increase of 0.4941 mills with the approved $58.4 million budget — a 1.5 percent tax increase.  Residents with an average assessed home of $90,000 will see a school tax bill increase of about $45, according to district Superintendent Bernadette C. Reiley.
Residents saw a 2.3 percent tax increase in last year’s $57.5 million budget, according to Reiley.

Horton: Not a Conspiracy Theory: The Gates Foundation Bought Control of U.S. Education
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch June 19, 2014
A year ago, Paul Horton wrote a letter to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, asking him to conduct hearings on the Common Core and Race to the Top, and specifically to inquire about the role of the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation in shaping federal education policy. Nothing happened. Now that the world knows that the Gates Foundation, working in alliance with the U.S. Department of Education, underwrote the creation and promotion of the Common Core standards; now that we know that Bill Gates bought and paid for “a swift revolution” that bypassed any democratic participation by the public; now that we know that this covert alliance created “national standards” that were never tried out anywhere; now that we know that the Gates Foundation’s willingness to invest $2 billion in Common Core enabled that foundation to assume control of the future of American education: it is time to reconsider Horton’s proposal. How could Congress sit by idly while Arne Duncan undermines state and local control to the chosen designees of the Gates Foundation? How could Congress avert its eyes as public education is redesigned to create a marketplace for vendors?
Paul Horton wrote:

Cashing In On Kids website
On June 4th, the FBI raided 19 charter schools across the country. The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Vicki Anderson, a special agent leading the operation, who explained the raids were investigating an “ongoing white-collar crime matter.”  The 19 schools, part of the Concept Schools chain, are in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Concept’s schools are STEM schools, emphasizing science, technology, math and engineering, and they also have ties to Turkey. The schools teach children about Turkish culture, have many Turkish teachers, and sponsor student trips to Turkey. The chain came under criticism last year when the Sun-Times reported that a foundation affiliated with Concept had arranged 32 Illinois lawmakers’ trips to Turkey.

Special-needs student may be barred from graduating because of two points on standardized test
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 20 at 5:00 AM  
Unless the Rhode Island House of Representatives goes along with a Senate-approved moratorium on the use of a standardized test as a requirement for high school graduation, Molly Coffey won’t be able to get a diploma. On that critical test, the 18-year-old, who has a form of Down syndrome,  missed the graduation cutoff by two points, and it simply isn’t enough that she passed all of her classes,  completed her senior project and plays in three sports and participates in the Special Olympics.  The Providence Journal reported about Molly in this story, which explains that the Senate in May passed a three-year moratorium on the use of the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (or NECAP, pronounced kneecap) as a graduation requirement. The vote was 29-5, and was passed after the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Adam J. Satchell persuaded his colleagues that the “implementation of high-stakes testing was too hasty” and that a slow-down was necessary.

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Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
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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