Tuesday, July 8, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 8, 2014: Education will be Corbett's weakness heading into general election, poll finds

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 8, 2014:
Education will be Corbett's weakness heading into general election, poll finds


Pa. budget, related bills remain in Harrisburg limbo
AMY WORDEN, ANGELA COULOUMBIS, AND KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, July 7, 2014, 6:56 PM
HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania budget deadline has come and gone, with critical pieces of legislation still in limbo - including the fiscal blueprint itself and the much-anticipated Philadelphia cigarette tax - and tension rising again in the Capitol.  A week after its passage by the legislature, Gov. Corbett has yet to sign the $29.1 billion general appropriations bill for 2014-15. Nor has the General Assembly finalized a key budget-related bill - the fiscal code - that directs spending for schools and hundreds of other items.  Corbett has until Friday to sign or veto

Pa. budget still up in air, could wind up in court
Delco Times By MARC LEVY Associated Press POSTED: 07/08/14, 5:43 AM EDT |
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Key budget-related legislation on tap for consideration Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Senate covers topics from how oil and gas drilling should be regulated to how billions of dollars for public schools should be spent, despite complaints that it trips over constitutional guidelines that bills be limited to a single subject.
Aides to top Republicans say courts have allowed the Legislature’s practice of creating a wide-ranging “fiscal code” bill that guides how money from a general appropriations bill is to be spent, as long as each subject is linked by clear wording to how the money is spent.

Lights, camera, budget? Work on Pa.'s delayed 2014-15 budget set to resume
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com  on July 08, 2014 at 5:45 AM, updated July 08, 2014 at 5:48 AM
The Pennsylvania budget that isn't gets its next-best shot at completion Tuesday, as the state Senate returns to Harrisburg to take up the fiscal code, one of the final pieces of the puzzle.
Not keeping track over the holiday weekend?
Here's a quick recap. The state's 2014-15 fiscal year began July 1, so far with a $29.1 billion general fund spending plan sitting unsigned on Gov. Tom Corbett's desk.

Philly lawmaker cautions that cigarette tax for schools not a done deal
Whyy Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JULY 8, 2014
Last week, the Republican-held, tax averse Pennsylvania House of Representatives gave its blessing to Philadelphia's $2-per-pack cigarette tax.  The tax is expected to generate $40 million to $45 million for the struggling schools this year and double that for years to come.
But the measure still must win approval from the state Senate before moving to the governor's desk.  And state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D-Philadelphia, offered some advice during a City Hall news conference Monday: Don't spike the football on the 5-yard line.

WITF Smart Talk: School Budgets and Public Opinion Polls; Tuesday 9 am
Tuesday on Smart Talk will feature guest host Dr. G. Terry Madonna, Franklin and Marshall College, Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, Professor of Public Affairs, and Director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll.
For the first half of the show we’ll talk about school budgets.  The Pennsylvania Association of School Board Officials (PASBO) with the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) last month released their fourth annual report on School District Budgets. About 56% of districts contributed data to this report that focuses on the financial challenges districts are facing.  Joining Dr. Madonna to speak about this research is Joe Bard Executive Director of Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARRS), and Jeff Ammerman Director of Technical Assistance of PASBO

Education will be Corbett's weakness heading into general election, poll finds: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com on July 07, 2014 at 7:59 AM, updated July 07, 2014 at 8:37 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Hopefully, the last firecracker has cracked and you're reasonably well-rested from a raucous holiday weekend.  We here at Capitol Notebook World HQ are feeling like a mere shell of our former bomb as the new work week begins. But we're confident that condition is transitory and will fade as our cells absorb both caffeine and the powers of Earth's yellow sun.
Gov. Tom Corbett enters the second week of July as he left the first week -- sans a signed budget and avec the legislative drama surrounding his spending plan still unfinished.
But all hope is not lost: The Senate returns to session on Tuesday to send Corbett a key piece of enabling legislation that could finally run down the curtain on this summer's production of "How to Succeed in Politics Without Trying (Or Succeeding)."
From there, it's off to the general election campaign against Democrat Tom Wolf.  And, thanks to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released last week, we know that public education funding will be near the top of voters' shopping lists as they compare the two candidates.

Only Himself to Blame
Wall Street Journal By  ALLYSIA FINLEY July 7, 2014 2:44 p.m. ET (paywall)
The one GOP governor in the country almost certain to lose this November is Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett, who rode to office in 2010 on a tea party wave while Republicans secured control of both legislative chambers. What has the governor since done to reverse his political fortunes? Not much of anything, which may be his problem.  A poll last week by Franklin and Marshall College showed the governor trailing his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 22 points, which is on par with recent Rasmussen, Quinnipiac and Public Policy...

"We're basically suing the state for adequate funding,"
Shenandoah Valley School District to be part of class action lawsuit involving funding shortfalls
Republican Herald BY JOHN E. USALIS (STAFF WRITER Published: July 5, 2014
SHENANDOAH - The Shenandoah Valley school board voted to have the district involved in a school funding class action lawsuit to force the state to adequately fund low-income schools.
The board's vote at its June 25 meeting was 6-0.  Called the "Equity Lawsuit," the legal move is being promoted by the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, whose self-described mission is to promote equal opportunity for quality education for all students in every school and community in Pennsylvania.  After the school board meeting, district Superintendent Stanley G. Rakowsky said he supports the initiative.
"We're basically suing the state for adequate funding," Rakowsky said. "We're going to be part of a class action lawsuit. There is an attorney, Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, who is proceeding with litigation intent on compelling the (Pennsylvania) General Assembly to act consistent with its obligations to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It's saying that law says they have to do it and here are the schools that are being affected by it."

STATE REP. DUANE MILNE: Pa. should flunk Keystone Exams for graduation
Pottstown Mercury By Rep. Duane D. Milne, Guest Columnist POSTED: 07/03/14, 5:02 PM EDT
As we look forward to the start of the 2014-15 school year, I am calling on my fellow Pennsylvania citizens to join me in demanding a halt to the implementation of the Keystone Exams as proposed.  In short: The Keystone Exams, if adopted as is, will require Pennsylvania high school students in general to take and pass state-based standardized tests in certain subjects in order to graduate from their local high school. That is, these state tests can effectively override the graduation standards and student evaluations (i.e., “grades”) as set, monitored and implemented by local communities via their locally elected school boards and local teachers and administrators. To put it bluntly: The general rule will be that your children or grandchildren are not going to receive their high school diploma without passing these state tests.

House Democrats reject 'Big Gimmick' Republican budget; call for fresh start
PA House Democratic Caucus Legislative Review July 7, 2014
House Democratic lawmakers rejected a state budget plan (H.B. 2328) put forth by House and Senate Republicans, calling it irresponsible and full of $1.7 billion in unsustainable revenues, questionable projections and one-time funding gimmicks that will do real harm to Pennsylvania now and in future years.  The Republican budget is unfair to most Pennsylvanians – schoolchildren, middle class families, workers, women, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. It's because Gov. Corbett and the Republicans have no new ideas. No matter the problem, their answer is always the same – cut corporate taxes, shortchange education and other services, and increase the burden on Pennsylvania’s local governments, residents and families.

As area school reserves dwindle, taxes climb for 2014-15
Scranton Times-Tribune BY KYLE WIND AND KATHLEEN BOLUS Published: July 7, 2014
As more of Northeast Pennsylvania’s school officials worry their districts will go broke within the next five years, they are passing higher costs on to homeowners to stave off staff and program cuts.  Residents in 13 of 15 of the region’s school districts will pay higher real estate taxes in 2014-15, a Times-Tribune analysis of recently approved final school budgets found.
Statewide, officials in 77 percent of school districts who responded to a survey last month expected to raise taxes — less than the local rate of 86.6 percent — according to the state Association of School Business Officials and state Association of School Administrators.

Pennsylvania lawmakers table teacher seniority bill, special ed funding
Watchdog.org By Mary C. Tillotson  /   July 7, 2014 
Pennsylvania lawmakers considered reforming special education funding and ending the system of seniority-based layoffs, but ultimately failed to act before the legislative session recessed last week.  Lawmakers could bring the issues back up when they meet briefly in the fall, but the session ends shortly before the November election in which all the House seats and half the Senate seats are up for election.

DN Editorial: Designed for failure
Underfunded schools can't give troubled students the support they need
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 3:01 AM
IT'S GRATIFYING, of course, that Harrisburg will allow Philadelphia to impose a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to raise money for the school district. But, as a recent study so starkly revealed, the money is wholly inadequate for the Herculean task faced by our school district.
The study, released last month, revealed that 17 percent of students have "been involved with the child welfare and/or juvenile justice system" - a number that grows to 20 percent in the city's high schools. In other words, one out of five high school students has been in trouble with the law, has been traumatized, neglected and victimized, and has been removed from the family home and put into placement.  That information alone is heartbreaking. But the fact that schools aren't able to save these children is tragic. They have needs that simply can't be met in schools without counselors, aides, nurses, psychologists. And their performance shows it.

Cautious optimism on final passage of cigarette tax
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 3:01 AM
ABOUT A WEEK AGO, the Philadelphia cigarette tax to help fund city schools appeared dead in the General Assembly. By this afternoon, it could be headed to Gov. Corbett for his John Hancock.  A key member of the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg said yesterday that he is cautiously optimistic the measure will pass, with the state Senate expected to vote today on House Bill 1177 - the legislation that includes the cigarette tax. It would generate about $45 million for the distressed school district in the first year.

A Hollow Victory for Philly Schools
City and District win cigarette tax fight, but secure wretched status quo.
PhillyMag.com BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  JULY 7, 2014 AT 9:11 AM
Dave Davies nailed it, as he so often does, when he described last week’s surprise deal enabling Philadelphia to tax cigarettes and send the proceeds to the schools as simultaneously “awful” and a “stunning, come-from-behind legislative win.”
The $2-a-pack cigarette tax looked dead right up until Wednesday night, when a surprise amendment offered by State Rep. John Taylor-the lone Republican in Philadelphia’s 34-strong delegation to Harrisburg-won enough support for the initiative to enable it to pass the tax-averse House. 119-90  Considering the alternative, there's little doubt that this was a win for the city (and a reminder that a 100-percent Democratic delegation is clearly not in the city's best interest). Parents, students and educators owe Taylor, the rest of the delegation, Mayor Nutter and Council President Clarke (all of whom lobbied hard for this) their gratitude.
But let's look at what was won.

"Philly data show that the district paid $847 million in salaries in the 2012-13 school year and $101 million in pension costs. They also show that salary costs dramatically dropped three years in a row as pension costs dramatically increased.  But pension reform doesn't look likely in an election year."
Cigs for kids is leadership?
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST POSTED: Monday, July 7, 2014, 3:01 AM
LET'S TALK about governing and leadership.
And no smart-aleck remarks like, "Well, if you mean in Philly or Harrisburg, there isn't much to talk about."  Don't be a cynic. That's my job.  Why, just last week, Philly folks managed to get Harrisburg to allow increasing the local cigarette tax $2 per pack to raise money for city schools.

Phila. teacher has White House lunch with Obama
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Monday, July 7, 2014, 7:37 PM
Philadelphia teacher LeShawna Coleman had some interesting lunch company Wednesday: President Obama.  Coleman, a 13-year Philadelphia School District veteran, teacher coach, and English as a Second Language teacher, had expected to travel to Washington for a U.S. Department of Education event about teacher equity. (The Education Department introduced a program Monday to get more strong teachers in the nation's poorest schools.)
But last week, she learned she was one of four teachers nationwide chosen to lunch with the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The other teachers came from schools in Arkansas, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia.

"When planning the budget, Watkins said that a $24 million structural deficit presented itself, mostly due to massive charter school allocations. Each student residing in the Chester Upland School District that attends a charter school means that the district must pay out the estimated cost of educating that student, which stands at more than $9,100 per pupil, and more than $35,000 for a student deemed as having special needs. The district expects to pay out $54 million to charter school in the coming fiscal year."
Chester Upland receiver OKs budget with tax hike
By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 07/07/14, 11:14 PM EDT |
CHESTER — Receiver Joe Watkins approved a $118 million spending plan Monday night for Chester Upland School District’s 2014-2015 fiscal year, and the school board approved a 3.4 percent tax increase.  The board convened for a rare public meeting at 6 p.m., during which it approved Watkins’ request for the tax hike by a 6-3 vote after brief discussion. The board’s vote precluded the need for Watkins to seek a court order forcing the tax increase, as he did last year when the board refused to raise the tax levy.

Former school official charged with theft from federal program
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The former executive director of the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, which provides educational services to school districts in Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties, was charged today with theft from a federally funded program.  The charge filed in U.S. District Court accused Cecelia H. Yauger, 56, of Grove City, of using an American Express card provided by the intermediate unit for an unspecified amount of non-business spending.


NEA wants Duncan's resignation
Inquirer by KIMBERLY HEFLING, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS POSTED: Monday, July 7, 2014, 11:59 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's largest teachers' union wants Education Secretary Arne Duncan to quit.  Delegates of the National Education Association adopted a business item July 4 at its annual convention in Denver that called for his resignation. The vote underscores the long-standing tension between the Obama administration and teachers' unions - historically a steadfast Democratic ally.  A tipping point for some members was Duncan's statement last month in support of a California judge's ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state's public school teachers. In harsh wording, the judge said such laws harm particularly low-income students by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.

At National Charter Conference, the Numbers Add Up
Edushyster Blog Posted on July 7, 2014
Except for the ones that don’t…
*The numbers add up.* That was the theme of this year’ s National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conference in Las Vegas, an event that drew me like a moth to a high-performing flame. The numbers that are adding up, of course, refer to the growing number of charter schools, their students, and their scores (their scores!), not to mention the swelling ranks of advocates, politicians, actors, TV news personalities, pollsters and [insert unlikely charter supporter here] that have leaped aboard the charter express, now headed direct to achievementville. But what of the lesser numbers—the ones that are, well, less than prime—and hence, don’t quite add up?  Was there anyone who would speak for them? 

Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University offers common-sense ideas about closing the achievement gap. She says that testing is less important than teaching. No surprise there.
She reviews an OECD study about teachers. What it shows is that teachers in the U.S. work longer hours under more difficult conditions than teachers in many other nations.
“Now we have international evidence about something that has a greater effect on learning than testing: Teaching. The results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), released last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offer a stunning picture of the challenges experienced by American teachers, while providing provocative insights into what we might do to foster better teaching — and learning — in the United States.

New Initiative to Provide All Students Access to Great Educators
U.S. Department of Education Launches ‘Excellent Educators for All Initiative’
U.S.Department of Education JULY 7, 2014
As part of its efforts to ensure that all students have equal access to a quality education, today the U.S. Department of Education is announcing the launch of the Excellent Educators for All Initiative. The initiative will help states and school districts support great educators for the students who need them most.  “All children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, zip code or family income. It is critically important that we provide teachers and principals the support they need to help students reach their full potential,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation's teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better. Local leaders and educators will develop their own innovative solutions, but we must work together to enhance and invigorate our focus on how to better recruit, support and retain effective teachers and principals for all students, especially the kids who need them most.”

Joy Resmovits reports that the Onama administration plans to enforce a provision of NCLB that requires states to put experienced and highly qualified teachers in schools serving high numbers of poor and minority students.  Will this create a crisis for Teach for America, whose corps members have no experience?  Since this administration believes that teachers can be judged by student test scores, watch for policies attempting to reassign teachers from affluent suburbs to inner-city and rural schools. Watch for the next step, when those highly qualified teachers are reclassified as “bad” teachers if they can’t raise scores.

Philadelphia District and Teachers' Union Locked in Dispute Over Seniority
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on July 7, 2014 1:17 PM
Two weeks after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to get involved in an ongoing dispute between Philadelphia public schools and the Philadelphia Teachers Union over whether the  district can bypass seniority in making decisions about layoffs and staffing, the two sides are still arguing over whether the district has the right to do so.
The outcome of the dispute could have national implications amid renewed debate over teacher tenure rules following the recent Vergara v. California decision, in which the court ruled that California's teacher tenure laws "deprived students of the quality education they're entitled to" under the California constitution and violated their civil rights.
The Philadelphia debate must also be considered in a local context. The district is financially strapped: Last week, it passed a $2.6 billion budget with a $93 million hole—part of which it expects to fill with $42 million in revenues from a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes and savings from the teachers' union, whose contract expired last August.

Cultivating Talent: Gifted Children and STEM
Educated Reporter Blog JULY 3, 2014 NATIONAL SEMINAR: RESOURCES FROM NASHVILLENATALIE KORNICKS OF THE DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL FOR EWA
You don’t walk into a shoe store and say here’s my eighth-grade son, give him an eighth-grade shoe.  “You measure his foot,” said David Lubinski, professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.
Lubinski used this metaphor to illustrate why education should be tailored toward a child’s academic abilities. Specifically, he was referring to those children who are gifted, which was the discussion topic during a panel discussion moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s education reporter Leslie Brody at EWA’s National Seminar in May in Nashville.


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

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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