Friday, June 27, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 27: Budget Dance Continues in Harrisburg

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 27, 2014: Budget Dance Continues in Harrisburg

Update on Senate Bill 1085, Charter School Reform
In the audio listed below, Senator Smucker discusses his amendment A8429 to SB1085 charter reform bill prior to the Senate voting  42-8 to approve that amendment yesterday.  The amended bill is on the Senate calendar for third consideration today.
The amendment:
·         Does not address the pension double dip issue
·         Does not provide a reduction in cyber charter funding
·         Does not include provisions for direct state funding of charters
·         Does not include provisions for a Funding Advisory Commission
·         Does not include language prohibiting enrollment caps on charters
·         Does not include language expanding charter school authorizers, including institutions of higher education
·         Expands and clarifies provisions regarding charter authorizer accountability that requires school boards to submit an annual report on the performance and status of charter schools it has authorized, with sanctions against school boards for failure to provide oversight/intervention of low performing charters.  New provisions require PDE to develop a plan for sanctions by Nov. 30, 2014 and send the plan to the General Assembly for approval before the sanctions can go into effect.
While the issue of allowing university authorizers has been strongly pushed by proponents, it has not been abandoned.  Sen. Smucker has introduced Senate Resolution 414, which directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study of alternative methods of authorizing charter schools and regional charter schools, to be completed by Nov. 30, 2014. The LBFC will study a variety of alternative authorizers including higher education authorizers, statewide authorizers and multiple charter organizations. SR414 is listed for consideration by the Senate Education Committee this morning.
mp3 audio runtime 3:32

Senate Education Committee Meeting Friday, June 27, 2014 9:30 AM  Room 8E-B East Wing
(to consider Senate Bills No. 1440 and 1450; Senate Resolution No.414; and House Bill No. 1718)
Senate Resolution 414; Prime Sponsor: SENATOR SMUCKER
A Resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study of alternative methods of authorizing charter schools and regional charter schools.
Senate Bill 1450; Prime Sponsor: SENATOR FOLMER
An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, in preliminary provisions, providing for implementation of scores from Keystone Exams.

The current plan for Pennsylvania? A no-new taxes budget with mostly Republican fingerprints
By Charles Thompson |  on June 26, 2014 at 9:47 PM, updated June 26, 2014 at 11:21 PM
Frustrated by legislative stalemates on public pension reform and a proposed liberalization of alcohol sales law, leaders of the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature hit a reset button of sorts Thursday.  It could mean a surrender on top GOP priorities in exchange for a no-new-taxes budget that is passed on time and that addresses at least some of Gov. Tom Corbett's spending priorities, if not at full strength.  First, a quick recap.

Severance tax on natural gas less likely as state budget talks continue
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Thursday, June 26, 2014, 9:09 p.m.
HARRISBURG — The temperature in the Legislature for a severance tax on natural gas cooled considerably on Thursday, as Senate Republicans look at putting together a state budget without new tax revenue despite a $1.4 billion deficit.
“They (Republicans) told us they're heading down a path of passing a budget without new revenue,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.  “It's possible,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre County.  The budget would be “put together with Band-Aids and bubble gum,” Costa said. It would be achieved by “inflating” the estimate used to calculate the growth rate of existing revenue streams, raiding various funds and “taking money out of every cupboard they can find,” he said.  It could mean the state would run out of money in the first half of 2015, throwing the problem into the next governor's lap, Costa said. However, it would allow lawmakers “to go home for the summer.”
"If Philadelphia Democrats aren't going to be there for what needs to be done, then nobody's going to be there for them," said state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby. "And they can go home and tell their constituents why they couldn't get money for the school district."
Will Philly delegation 'play ball' on budget to win dollars for city schools?
Facing a $66 million budget shortfall that threatens to turn schools into "empty shells," the Philadelphia school district has turned its pleas for additional funding to Harrisburg.
But lawmakers there are grappling with a $1.4 billion hole in their own budget – making the district's budget woes but one of many legislative pieces being maneuvered on the capitol chessboard.  With mere days remaining before the state's June 30 budget deadline, the halls of the state capitol are a buzz with politicking and strategy.  Education advocates lobbying on behalf of Philadelphia school children have a wish list:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett calls for an up-or-down vote on pension reform legislation
By Charles Thompson |  on June 26, 2014 at 3:13 PM, updated June 26, 2014 at 4:16 PM
This post has been updated with a comment from the Tom Wolf campaign.
Gov. Tom Corbett stepped out of the Capitol's conference rooms Thursday to double down on his appeal for significant reform to Pennsylvania's major public pension plans.  Gov. Tom Corbett calls for a vote on pension reform billsSaying the pension problem that Pennsylvania faces is a taxpayer issue and not a partisan issue, Gov. Tom Corbett called on the House and Senate leaders to put to vote a pension reform bill to a vote so people know where their lawmaker stands on the issue.  Corbett, in a rare visit to the Capitol newsroom, called on the state House to take an up-or-down vote on the "stacked hybrid" reform it has been debating behind closed doors in caucus for the past three weeks.

Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch June 26, 2014 //
A small group of activists is conducting a sit-in in Governor Tom Corbett’s office in Harrisburg to demand a restoration of $1 billion in budget cuts to public schools.  Those of us who remember the 1960s recall that this tactic was frequently used by civil rights groups and anti-war activists to draw attention to their cause. It was effective in encouraging others to become involved and active.

"The district has cut more than 400 positions over the past four years."
Allentown schools' final budget raises taxes, cuts teachers
5.85 percent tax hike, 62 teaching positions eliminated.
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 10:51 p.m. EDT, June 26, 2014
Another budget. Another gaping deficit. Another crop of Allentown teachers forced to search for a new job.
Allentown School District's recurring financial nightmare continued Thursday as school directors voted 6-3 to authorize a final budget that eliminates a total of 86 positions, raises taxes 5.85 percent and taps reserves for $2.3 million.  The budget was passed after an amendment spared two high school assistant principal positions originally slated to be cut, bringing the total number of job eliminations to 62 teachers,12 clerical positions, 10 paraprofessionals and two administrators. The district has cut more than 400 positions over the past four years.
Now, school officials will wait, watch and wonder if the impending state budget will have any substantial effect on the district's bottom line.  There's a chance for more money if the district qualifies, as it has for the past two years, for special bonus funding formulas designed to get extra cash to the state's most distressed schools.
But there's also the possibility for less money if the Legislature reduces Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed Ready to Learn block grant, which Allentown is using to pay for 40 teaching positions.
Even if the district gets additional funding, Superintendent Russ Mayo will be cautious about recommending restoring positions, he said.
"Wherever poor children are concentrated, academic outcomes tend to be considerably lower, schools tend to perform significantly less well and our ability to change that is limited," Noguera said. "It's limited because we as a nation have chosen to focus narrowly on achievement and ignored all the other social and psychological issues that accompany poverty."
Failing in slow motion: How poverty impacts the classroom in Columbia
Lancaster Online By JEFF HAWKES | Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:30 am |Updated: 5:39 pm, Thu Jun 26, 2014.
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series examining the financial sustainability of the Columbia Borough School District and the impact of its struggling schools on the students, teachers, residents and businesses of the proud river town. A six-page special section is being published in this week’s Sunday News.  
Success for high-poverty schools starts with social services, experts say.
Before- and after-school programs, nutritious meals, eye exams, medical and dental care — all are examples of supports that can help poor children have a shot at becoming great students, said Pedro Noguera, a New York University sociologist who studies poverty and education.
Blaming educators for so-called "failing" schools may be unfair when comprehensive social services are absent.

PA Supreme Court declines to rule on District's move to impose workrules
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 26, 2014 06:09 PM
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether the School Reform Commission has the absolute right to unilaterally impose workrules on the teachers' union in the absence of a contract.  The opinion offered no explanation for the decision. Chief Justice Ron Castille wrote alengthy dissent, concluding that due to the District's dire financial position, the court was "duty-bound to engage in the review requested here." He was joined in the dissent by Justice Max Baer.  The non-decision favors the union, since it will make it easier for them to file grievances and legal challenges to District actions that violate the terms of the expired contract. 

At White House Maker Faire, Workshop students showcase the car they built
By Cathy Quero on Jun 25, 2014 04:24 PM
Students from the Workshop School in West Philadelphia took the fast lane to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. last week as one of six groups and individuals to attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire to showcase the race car they built that runs on doughnut oil.  “I never thought that I would get to meet the president and build a race car,” said Taliya Carter, a rising 10th grader at Workshop and one of 15 students who worked on building the car. “It was so cool. We worked hard on it.”  Using a kit from Factory Five, a company that specializes in affordable, build-it-yourself race car kits, the students modified a sports car to not only make it faster, but also to enable it to run on cooking oil. The oil, left over from making fried chicken and doughnuts, was donated by Federal Donuts. The biodiesel car is fuel-efficient as well, able to go 100 miles on one gallon of fuel, according to Workshop School founder and principal Simon Hauger.

York City School Board approves seeking charter proposals
Teachers say they still want to work toward agreement on contract
By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED: 06/25/2014 11:57 PM
Some York City School Board members said Wednesday that they had little choice but to start the process of pursuing charter operators for district schools.  The school board, with only member James Sawor dissenting, approved issuing a request for proposals from outside operators to run one or more district schools starting in 2015-16.  The district is following a financial recovery plan that calls for internal reform, with steep salary and benefit cuts from employees, but includes an alternate path - bringing in charter operators — if that didn't work. David Meckley, chief recovery officer, has said that without a collective bargaining agreement reflecting the recovery plan, internal reform won't work financially.  "We don't want charters, but we have no other choice," said board President Margie Orr. "How long does it take for two entities to come together and agree on some things to help this district move along?"

Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch June 26, 2014
The state-operated school district of Philadelphia bluntly admitted it could not afford to provide a sound basic education to the children of the district. It sought court approval for continuing to short-change the children of Philadelphia.  The Education Law Center reports:  “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.

Will Anyone Stop Charter School Corruption?
Education Opportunity Network Blog by Jeff Bryant June 25, 2014
When politicians and pundits take to the barricades to defend “wonderful charter schools,” is this what they’re thinking of?
A recent article in a Minnesota newspaper reported about a change in state law that could imperil the existence of a charter school that serves a student body sorely in need of heroic efforts. According to the reporter, “Nine out of 10 of the school’s 275 high schoolers meet the legal definition of ‘highly mobile,’ meaning they do not have stable housing; 109 are flat-out homeless. Some couch-surf. Some sleep in cars, some in bus stations. Often they spend the night in small groups, for safety. Poverty – a given – is usually the least of their worries. To teens forced to support themselves, a diploma is a life raft.”  The schools founder and chief operator is quoted: “We have kids who are one credit away from graduating … We are one of the first consistent things in their lives.”  A compelling story for sure and likely one example, among others, that was in the minds of most in Congress when the US House of Representatives recently passed controversial legislation to expand federal funds for more charter schools without placing any substantial new regulations on those schools.
…..In the Quaker State, charter schools have long competed for funds with traditional public schools on an uneven playing field that exempts them from serving the full range of student abilities and revealing financial details of their operations to the public.

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Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 9, 5-7 PM
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 16, 5-7pm
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

Monday, June 30 Statewide Call to Action for Public Education
Education Voters PA
It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year. 
The PA House is calling to eliminate the $241 million increase in state funding for proposed Ready to Learn Block grants and replace this with a paltry $70 million increase in Basic Education Funding.Under the House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year, funding that they were relying on to balance their budgets.
The House budget is irresponsible and unacceptable.  It does not call for a shale tax or a cigarette tax.  Instead, it relies on the sale of state liquor stores (which the Senate has so far not supported), gimmicky sources of one-time funding, and the suspension of selected tax credits to balance the budget.
Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we don't speak up, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year.
Mark your calendar for Monday, June 30th – and do 3 things in 10 minutes to make a difference! 

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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