Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 22, 2014: Pa. needs to fix the way it pays for its public schools

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 22, 2014:
Pa. needs to fix the way it pays for its public schools


"It's time to adequately support Pennsylvania's schools and end the annual guesswork regarding the distribution of the state's basic education funds."
Pa. needs to fix the way it pays for its public schools: As I See It
By PennLive Op-Ed  By Jim Buckheit, Nathan Mains, Jay Himes, Joseph Bard and J. Hugh Dwyer  n July 21, 2014 at 2:00 PM, updated July 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Jim Buckheit is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Nathan Mains is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association; Jay Himes is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials;  Joseph Bard is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and  J. Hugh Dwyer is Chair of the Central Pennsylvania Public School Coalition.
The Legislature passed, and the Gov. Tom Corbett recently signed, a 2014-14 state budget that invests about $10.5 billion in state funding for prekindergarten to 12th grade education.
The budget includes $100 million in additional state funding in the newly established Ready-to-Learn Block Grant program.  The additional investment in targeted initiatives such as STEM programs (science, technology, math and engineering) will prepare our students for in-demand jobs and to be the innovators our economy needs.
Lawmakers also invested an additional $20 million to support for students with special needs, increased school construction funding by $10 million and lifted the moratorium on reimbursements during this legislative session.
However, the state's primary support for education is still distributed according to the whim of the Legislature, leaving each school district wondering annually if it will receive more, less or the same amount of state support as the previous year. 

Nation Apparently Believed in Science at Some Point
The New Yorker BY ANDY BOROWITZ JULY 21, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Historians studying archival photographs from four decades ago have come to the conclusion that the U.S. must have believed in science at some point.  According to the historian Davis Logsdon, who has been sifting through mounds of photographic evidence at the University of Minnesota, the nation apparently once held the view that investing in science and even math could yield accomplishments that would be a source of national pride.

Moody's downgrades Pa. rating; Corbett ponders pension reform session
Trib Live By Debra Erdley Monday, July 21, 2014, 4:39 p.m.
Relaxed and confident despite sagging poll numbers and a bruising budget battle with the General Assembly, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday he is weighing whether to call lawmakers back to Harrisburg for a special session on pension reform.
Corbett made his comments in a meeting with editors and reporters at the Tribune-Review, an hour before Moody's Investors Service downgraded the rating on $11.1 billion in state general obligation bonds from Aa2 to Aa3, citing Pennsylvania's “large and growing public pension liabilities” and the state's use of one-time revenue to balance its budget.
Rating Action: Moody's downgrades Pennsylvania's general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2; outlook stable
Moody's Global Credit Research - 21 Jul 2014
Approximately $13.1 billion in general obligation and related debt affected
New York, July 21, 2014 -- Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's outstanding $11.1 billion general obligation bonds to Aa3 from Aa2. We have also downgraded the ratings assigned to $2 billion of appropriation-backed bonds by one notch, as well as the programmatic ratings assigned to the state's intercept programs. The outlook is stable
SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE
The downgrade of the general obligation rating to Aa3 reflects the commonwealth's growing structural imbalance, exacerbated by the fiscal 2015 enacted budget that depends on non-recurring resources; a weak GAAP balance position that will further deteriorate based on the budget's one-time measures; and the expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania's ability to regain structural balance in the near term.  The stable outlook reflects the commonwealth's diverse economy but below average growth, its recent history of improved governance reflected in timely budget adoption, and strong executive powers to control spending midyear..

Pennsylvania sees third rating downgrade in 2 years
Post-Gazette by Associated Press July 21, 2014 5:05 PM
HARRISBURG — New York-based credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service is slapping a lower rating on Pennsylvania’s debt for the second time in two years, as state government grapples annually with built-in budget deficits.  Today’s downgrade of $11.1 billion general obligation bonds from Aa2 to Aa3 means Pennsylvania is ranked among the six worst states in Moody’s ratings for the 47 states with general obligation debt.

Moody's downgrades Pennsylvania on pensions, budget
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 3:59 pm | Updated: 9:13 pm, Mon Jul 21, 2014.
Moody’s Investors Service lowered Pennsylvania's credit rating on $11.1 billion worth of bonds in part due to the recently passed state budget that it said relied too heavily on one-time money transfers and failed to address the pension crisis.
The rating for Pennsylvania's general-obligation bonds was lowered to Aa3 from Aa2 in a move announced Monday that also included a downgrade by one notch on $2 billion in other bonds.
The ratings service called out the government officials for avoiding a "growing structural imbalance" that includes the $29.1 billion budget and what it said was a deteriorating fiscal condition due to gimmicks in the budget.
"The expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania's ability to regain structural balance in the near term," Moody's said.

Moody's downgrades Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2.
Roxbury News By James Roxbury Monday July 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm
As released by the Office of the Governor.
Harrisburg – Today, Moody's Investors Service cited the commonwealth’s current pension crisis as a key reason for downgrading Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2. While the commonwealth benefits from a strong economy and low unemployment, Moody’s stated that unfunded pension liabilities, projected to grow to $65 billion from the current $41 billion, will continue to be a major cost driver on the commonwealth.  “It’s clear that this pension crisis has put severe strain on Pennsylvania’s finances,” said Governor Tom Corbett. “As families struggle with skyrocketing property taxes, pension costs are consuming more than 60 cents of every new dollar of state general fund revenues. Doing nothing is not an option and doing nothing fails our families.”  In the rating, Moody’s noted that the state’s pension obligations present a key challenge, stating that “high combined debt position driven by moderate bonded debt levels but growing unfunded pension liabilities as Pennsylvania continues to underfund pension contributions.”

Dermody says credit downgrade is sign of Corbett failure
PA House Democratic Caucus website July 21, 2014
HARRISBURG, July 21 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody issued this statement in reaction to the reduction of Pennsylvania’s bond rating by Moody’s Investors Service:
“The poor leadership we’ve been getting from the state’s CEO is reflected on the balance sheet. The downgrade of Pennsylvania’s bond rating is a direct result of Governor Tom Corbett’s misguided philosophy and discredited budget methods.  “He had four years to try to do things right, but all he did was put our state in a more precarious financial position. The governor’s near-total reliance on one-time, non-recurring revenue to ‘balance’ this year’s budget was transparently political, and Moody’s called him out on it.

Moody's: Pa. has third-worst budget in U.S.
Inquirer Philly Deals Blog by Joseph N. DiStefano POSTED: MONDAY, JULY 21, 2014, 3:50 PM
Moody's Investors Service says it has cut Pennsylvania's bond rating to Aa3, down a notch from Aa2. Only New Jersey (A1) and Illinois (A3) now have lower ratings, among U.S. states. The cut is Moody's response to Pennsylvania's "imbalanced" 2015 state budget and fiscal problems which "will further deteriorate" due to the General Assembly's one-time gimmicks and "non-recurring revenues," along with Pennsylvania's slow economic growth, which has lagged other states despite Gov. Corbett's attempts to attract industry by avoiding new taxes and easing business regulation.

An annotated read of today’s news about pensions and politics
Philly Clout Blog Philly Daily News by Chris Brennan POSTED: MONDAY JULY 21 2014 4:10 PM
Gov. Corbett, still pushing for the state General Assembly to return from recess to take up legislation to change the state pension plans, today issued a new release about Moody’s Investors Service downgrading of Pennsylvania’s bond rating.
Corbett’s news release said: Today, Moody's Investors Service cited the commonwealth’s current pension crisis as a key reason for downgrading Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2. While the commonwealth benefits from a strong economy and low unemployment, Moody’s stated that unfunded pension liabilities, projected to grow to $65 billion from the current $41 billion, will continue to be a major cost driver on the commonwealth.
What it didn’t say: Actually Moody’s was much more pessimistic about the state’s “strong economy,” citing the new budget signed into law by Corbett and “modest economic growth” in Pennsylvania as some of the reasons for the downgrade.

Op/ED: SE GOP leaders back Corbett on pension fight
Times of Chester County Op-Ed July 21, 2014
Editors Note: This op-ed was submitted by Patricia Poprik, Chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee; Valentino DiGiorgio, Chair of the Republican Committee of Chester County; Andrew Reilly, Chair of the Delaware County Republican Committee; Mike Vereb, Chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee; and John Taylor, Chair of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee; Michael Meehan, Chair of the Republican Southeastern Pennsylvania Caucus; and Bob Asher, Republican National Committeeman.
We applaud Governor Corbett for tackling Pennsylvania’s pension crisis which is increasing our residents’ property taxes and diverting dollars away from the classroom to pay for large pension obligations.  We thank the Governor for standing up for Pennsylvania taxpayers and Pennsylvania children.  As Governor Tom Corbett travels across the state making his case for pension reform, much of the news coverage has focused on the so-called “rift” in the Republican Party between the Governor and the legislature on the issue of pension reform.
In speaking with our local Republican legislators, it is evident that all of them understand the need for pension reform; some just differ on the best approach. 

OP-ED: Education funding is top priority under Gov. Corbett
Pottstown Mercury By STATE REP. WILLIAM F. ADOLPH JR., Guest columnist POSTED: 07/11/14, 4:07 PM EDT
State Rep. Adolph is Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee
Facts matter in making public policy. Anyone who spends more than a day working on public policy unfortunately knows that facts are regularly distorted to advance certain policy positions. Regrettably, in the editorial “Taxpayers are losers in latest state budget” on July 7, 2014, the editorial writers for Digital First Media have either blindly taken talking points from one of the most free-spending education industry advocacy group and accepted them as fact, or recklessly gambled with the actual facts to advance a premise not supported by reality.
First and foremost, the simple fact is the recently passed state budget contains $10.5 billion for K-12 education in Pennsylvania. This is the largest amount of state funds ever for education and represents a $539 million or 5.2 percent increase in year-over-year funding.

Republicans must overcome schism among Harrisburg power brokers
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Monday, July 21, 2014, 1:07 AM POSTED: Sunday, July 20, 2014, 9:43 PM
HARRISBURG - Just minutes before Gov. Corbett stepped out to announce he was using his line item veto power to strike millions of dollars from the legislature's budget two weeks ago, one of his top aides called over to the state Senate.  Drew Crompton, counsel and chief of staff to the Senate's president pro tempore, took the call. The administration, he was told, was going to whack not just $65 million in legislative operational spending, but $7.2 million in legislative-controlled special projects, or earmarks.
"You can't do that," Crompton said he told Corbett's budget secretary, Charles Zogby, questioning the constitutionality of vetoing some of the money.  "Our lawyers tell us we can," Crompton said Zogby replied tersely.  Crompton and his boss, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, are Republicans. So are Corbett and Zogby.
That may be one of the few things they have in common these days.

Corbett struggles to energize the base
For now, conservatives not happy, and actions aren't winning over moderates.
THOMAS FITZGERALD, INQUIRER POLITICS WRITER LAST UPDATED: Sunday, July 20, 2014, 1:09 AM
Four years ago, Joe Szalwinski knocked on doors and "passed out more fliers than I can count" to help elect Tom Corbett governor of Pennsylvania.  This year? "I'll probably vote for him, but I won't work for him," said Szalwinski, 58, a tea party voter from Fishtown.
He was disappointed that Corbett had abandoned the legal fight after a federal judge threw out the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and by the governor's willingness last year to put extra money into Philadelphia schools.

Corbett carries the pension torch
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 20, 2014 9:09 PM
Governor Corbett isn't giving up the ghost of a public pension overhaul -- saying he may still call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue.  His preferred proposal still does not have enough support in the House and Senate, Corbett said at a roundtable discussion in Hummelstown Friday - one of many such events his office scheduled across the commonwealth last week.  The governor made daily statements about the plan to reduce retirement benefits of future public workers. Supporters say the changes would reign in long-term costs of public pensions. Opponents, most of them Democrats, say a better solution is to find new funding for pensions by raising taxes.
"They just feel, well you have to tax more," Corbett said. "Well, you'd have to tax and tax and tax everybody. You couldn't tax any one business enough."
The governor has begun to acknowledge that the proposal in question would not generate short-term savings for the state or school districts, both of which are buckling under rising pension costs due to the state's heavy debt on its two public pension funds.  "This is a first step," Corbett said of the House proposal that evaded a vote in July. "This stops the bleeding by moving everybody over to a different system."  Opponents say even the long-term relief Corbett promises is in question.

With election looming, Corbett tries to seize the narrative on school funding: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com on July 21, 2014 at 9:04 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With four months to go until the November general election, Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to regain the high ground on his record on public education funding -- and lawmakers' inaction on pension reform may just have given him the path to get there.  In case you've missed it, the Republican governor has been out on the stump almost non-stop for the last two weeks, hammering the Republican-controlled General Assembly for failing to deliver a reform plan before it broke for its annual summer recess.

Scarnati: "Gov. Corbett's numbers have only one way to go -- up," he said. "And after he spends $15 million or $20 million, they will improve."
Democrats expect gains in state Senate
Party hopes lead in governor’s race will bring majority
By James O'Toole / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Republicans have controlled the state Senate in Harrisburg for two decades.
But some Senate Democrats, buoyed by the polling lead of their candidate for governor and their own gains in the 2012 elections, contend they are on the verge of reclaiming the majority that has eluded them for a political generation.  "We're really excited,'' said Sen. Jay Costa, the Democrats' Senate leader. "We're really right on the cusp."
His opposite number, Sen. Joseph Scarnati, the Senate president pro tempore, says he's confident not just that the GOP will retain the majority, but that it has a real chance to enhance it.

Teachers are getting support they need to improve their practices and deepen students’ knowledge and skills
US Dept of Education Progress Blog July 2014
James Ellis, the principal of White Deer Elementary School in New Columbia, Pennsylvania, likes the conversations he and other administrators in his district are having with teachers about what great instruction looks like.  These discussions occur after school leaders observe teachers in action and are designed to provide helpful feedback and guidance on what teachers can do to improve in their jobs, such as by better managing their classrooms or helping students make more progress. The observations are part of Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system, which went into statewide use as a pilot for the first time this year. Under the old system, Ellis said he didn’t have the same deep discussions about what he saw or should have seen.

Guest Column: Let’s listen to the people
July 19, 2014 6:00 pm  •  By Jill Bartoli, For The Sentinel
Jill Sunday Bartoli, of Carlisle, is the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 199th House District seat.
Knocking on the doors of people in my hometown of Carlisle, and in the surrounding areas of Silver Spring, Plainfield and Newville, has given me renewed faith in the basic common sense and good will of fellow human beings.  People have welcomed me into their homes when it was freezing cold to warm up, or when it was blazing hot to cool down. They have shared their worries about their families, our public schools and the need to work together.
They have also shared their worries about the kind of world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren:


"Not to sound overly sanctimonious here, but how long do you think Common Core would last if the public relations money pushing it dried up? How many people believe strongly enough in it to volunteer their time to promote it?" 
Helmsley Steps Up Fight for the Common Core
Susan Ohanian's Blog July 2014
Ohanian Note: In case you missed it, here are a few Helmsley grants over the past couple of years to support Common Core--money to everyone from the Business Roundtable to Charlotte Danielson's enterprise
http://susanohanian.org/core.php?id=726

Five Inconvenient Truths for Reformers (1 of 2)
Education Week Learning Deeply Blog By Jal Mehta on July 16, 2014 11:49 PM
In a piece that Steven Teles and I published last year, we argued that a group of "jurisdictional challengers" were seeking to replace many of the functions of traditional educational entities. So we have alternative teacher certification alongside traditional certification, charter schools alongside traditional public schools, new graduate schools of education, like Relay, Sposato, and High Tech High alongside more traditional ones affiliated with universities; and even new foundations like Gates, Walton, and Broad seeking to supplant older ones like Ford, Carnegie, and Spencer. Unlike critics like Diane Ravitch, I do not take the position that these groups are simply corporate reformers seeking to privatize education; nor do I take the bullish view held by Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and others that these reformers are the likely saviors of public education. Given the scale of the challenge of helping all students engage in deeper learning, we need an all hands on deck approach, and thus I'm increasingly convinced that neither the reformers nor the traditionalists have the answer on their own, and that drawing together the best of both camps is the way to move forward.
To this end, I wanted to offer two posts, this and the next, that spotlight some of the blind spots or inconvenient truths for each. Down the road, I'll try to explain some places where I think the two groups might work together. Today it is the reformers turn. I'll stay away from the obvious ones that get bandied about in the blogosphere (reformers are too wedded to value-added measures, can't fire your way to better quality, etc.) and instead try to describe some that come out of our visits to dozens of schools, both charter and traditional public, over the past four years.

Five Inconvenient Truths for Traditionalists (2 of 2)
Education Week Learning Deeply Blog By Jal Mehta on July 18, 2014 3:12 PM
In a post yesterday I argued that moving towards deeper learning would require an all hands on deck approach that neither the "reformers" nor the traditionalists could achieve on their own. In the spirit of open discussion, I highlighted five blind spots or inconvenient truths for the reformers; today I do the same for those who would put their faith in the more traditional actors in the sector.

Georgia has an important run-off for State Superintendent of Education in the Democratic Party on July 22. If you care about the future of public education in Georgia, please vote.  Valarie Wilson came in first in the primary, with 32% of the vote. The runner-up, Alisha Thomas Morgan, received 26%.  The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, a strong supporter of public education. In reviewing her list of contributors, it appears that almost all of them live in Georgia. Wilson’s total contributions, after taking out loans, was $178,147. Of those, $174,572 came from supporters who live in Georgia; $3,575–or 2%-came from outside Georgia.
Valarie was elected to the local school board in Decatur in 2002 and served as its president from 2005-2011. She was elected president of the Georgia School Boards Association in 2012-13.
Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, has been endorsed by the corporate reformers, the hedge fund managers and billionaires, who support privatization, charters and vouchers.

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Research to Practice
The National Writing Project's resources for teachers\Inspiring Students to Write
The Philadelphia Writing project (PhilWP), a renowned local site of the National Writing Project, teaches writing and literacy as critical tools for learning. Penn GSE professor Dianne Waff works with teachers to move them and their students toward writing-intensive lives that connect learning, high student achievement, and personal growth.  The following tips come from experienced PhilWP Teacher Consultants (TCs), who offer ideas to encourage students to write and develop a love for words and creative expression.

BATS DC Rally July 28 10 am
BATS PRESS RELEASE Sunday, July 20, 2014
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an activist organization of over 50,000 teachers will be holding a rally in Washington D.C. to protest the devastating educational policies of the United States Department of Education and Arne Duncan.   The Rally will be held on July 28, 2014 at the USDOE Plaza beginning at 10 a.m. and will draw thousands of teachers, parents, students, and educational activists from around the country.  BATs will demand such things as ending federal incentives to close and privatize schools, promote equity and adequate funding for all public schools, and ban all data sharing of children’s private information.

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.
http://buckslehighedusummit2014.wikispaces.com/Home

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

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 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

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. 

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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