Saturday, July 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 26: An out-of-the-box solution to Pennsylvania’s $50 billion retirement system debt

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 26, 2014:
An out-of-the-box solution to Pennsylvania’s $50 billion retirement system debt


Basic education funding commission to focus on fairness and restoring trust
PLSReporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, July 24, 2014/Categories: News and Views
The Basic Education Funding Commission established under Act 51 of 2014 held its first meeting Thursday with an eye toward focusing its work on establishing a fair and trustworthy basic education funding formula.  Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) stated the work of the commission will be of “tremendous importance to the overall work of state government.”  He added the General Assembly owes the people of Pennsylvania the recognition that education dollars come from all corners of the commonwealth and should be distributed fairly.   He also stressed the importance of recognizing that funding basic education is a constitutional obligation that needs to be fulfilled by providing for a system of public education that adequately provides for the education of Pennsylvania’s children.
“It’s a very important role, a difficult role, but if we have the opportunity to work together and include all interested parties across the commonwealth in our conversations and our work, I believe we will be successful,” he told the commission.

Basic Education Funding Commission appoints co-chairs, sets Aug.20 meeting date. 
Capitolwire.com — Under The Dome™ Friday, July 25, 2014
The Basic Education Funding Commission held its inaugural meeting Thursday at the state capitol, where the 15 members discussed the intention of the commission and elected Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, and Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, as co-chairs. Also serving on the commission are Senators Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, and Matt Smith, D-Allegheny; Representatives James Roebuck, D-Philadelphia, Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, Mark Longietti, D-Mercer; Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, Department of Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, and Department of Education Deputy Secretary Nichole Duffy. During the meeting, Clymer designated Rep. Bernie O'Neill, R-Bucks, as his representative to serve on the commission. O'Neill, who sponsored House Bill 1738 — which created the commission — said he kept the design of the bill “pretty much the same” as the Special Education Funding Commission created last year, who's recommended formula was written into the Fiscal Code earlier this month. He described the intention of the commission as “very simple” — revamp the basic education funding formula to “ensure fairness” and uphold the Legislature's constitutional obligation. The commission will next meet on Aug. 20 at 11:30 a.m. in the North Office Building, Senate Hearing Room 1 for a presentation by the Department of Education and the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

Sturla pleased to be part of Basic Education Funding Commission
PA House Democratic website July 24, 2014
HARRISBURG, July 24 – House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla said he is pleased to be appointed to the Basic Education Funding Commission which held its organizational meeting today at the state Capitol.
"I look forward to working with co-chairmen Senator Pat Browne and Representative Mike Vereb and the other appointees to this commission," said Sturla, D-Lancaster. "I'm eager to begin the serious discussion of an equitable funding formula that considers a variety of factors, with the end product hopefully providing an efficient and high quality public education for every student, no matter where they live in Pennsylvania. This is especially important since the past four state budgets have not shown education to be a high priority for the current administration."

Local legislators will play role in reforming public school funding
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 12:27 pm
One thing politicians, taxpayers and public education advocates can agree on is that the funding system for schools is broken.  But getting all those people to agree on how to fix the system is the difficult part.  That’s why the state has set up a Basic Education Funding Commission. The panel will study a new ways for distributing cash to the 500 school districts in the commonwealth.
And two Lancaster County lawmakers will play a part in guiding the discussion.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker and Rep. Mike Sturla will sit on the 15-member commission that will recommend how Pennsylvania should change how it funds public education. They got to work this week.

Mike Vereb named to Pa. education funding commission
By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald POSTED: 07/24/14, 4:16 PM EDT
NORRISTOWN — During the first meeting Thursday of the new Basic Education Funding Commission created to reform public education funding in Pennsylvania, State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-150th Dist.) was selected to serve as co-chairman.  “In a single word, this commission is about fairness,” said Vereb in a press release. “I want to work to establish fairness so that students in every area of Pennsylvania have access to a quality education. I want to make sure schools in Montgomery County and everywhere else across the commonwealth receive their fair share of funding. We recognize tax dollars are a limited resource and our responsibility is to find the best way to use the dollars that are available.”

Prior posting on the link between Rep. Vereb and Vahan Gureghian…
What Would Ronnie Say About Montco Republicans Now?
BY PHILLYMAG  |  AUGUST 22, 2011
…..The way Gureghian’s charter school in Chester works, the school itself is public. It receives taxpayer money. But a private, for-profit company—Gureghian’s Charter School Management Inc.—manages the school’s finances. It owns the buildings, leases them to the school, pays the teachers and, according to a 2008 report by the Inquirer, has collected $60.6 million in public funds since the school was started in 1999. Gureghian wanted to make sure the bill would exempt charter-school management organizations like CSMI from state sunshine laws. According to Republican State Representative Mike Vereb, who considers himself a friend of Gureghian, “The language that Vahan was looking to do had to do with vendors of a school … contractors.” The effect of such language would be to hide details of the financial operations of charter schools from public scrutiny. Presumably, this would make it harder for Gureghian’s competitors to copy his financial “recipe.”

GUEST COLUMN: An out-of-the-box solution to Pennsylvania’s $50 billion retirement system debt By Tim Potts
Author: The PLS Reporter/Thursday, July 24, 2014
The problem with our school employees’ and state employees’ retirement systems is real, and it’s forcing school districts to raise property taxes.  The retirement systems have a combined debt of nearly $50 billion. It’s a debt that must be paid, and it’s increasing, some say, by $10 million per day.  I serve on the Carlisle Area School District board of directors. I am among 4,500 school board members who are forced to raise property taxes to pay our share of the debt. School districts must pay half of retirement system costs, and the state pays half.
The share of property taxes our district pays toward pension costs has risen 2,004 percent since Act 9 of 2001. That’s the law that set the retirement systems’ death spiral in motion. Abetted by governors of both parties, lawmakers raised benefits for retirees, then refused to put into the system what they took out of it.

York residents talk about pension reform
York Dispatch By NIKELLE SNADER 505-5431/@ydschools POSTED:   07/24/2014 11:39:39 PM EDT | UPDATED:   ABOUT 14 HOURS AGO0
Calling the current pension systems "make believe," Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill/Berks, met with York residents Thursday to talk about a proposal for pension reform.
Pennsylvania has accrued $50 billion in debt related to the state and education pension systems, a problem Tobash said began when legislators promised unreasonable pension increases in past years.  "It is the biggest problem we've got in our state budget moving forward," Tobash said.
The new proposal, an amendment to House Bill 1353, would change the pension system for all new state and public school employees. Instead of staying under the current system, new employees would move to a hybrid plan that would allow the employees to continue partially under the current system but also be enrolled in a 401(k)-type plan.
The hybrid system is the first step toward reducing the existing debt and limiting the amount of pension growth in future years, Tobash said. If enacted, the plan is expected to save between $11 billion and $15 billion over a 30-year period.

Corbett’s education policies faulted
Johnstown Tribune Democrat by Dave Sutor dsutor@tribdem.com July 23, 2014
— A former Pennsylvania secretary of education graded Gov. Tom Corbett’s approach to education as “inadequate” on Wednesday.  Gerald Zahorchak made his comment during an event in support of Tom Wolf, the Democratic Party nominee in this year’s gubernatorial election, at the Holiday Inn Johnstown-Downtown. “Too many kids are going to be hurting,” Zahorchak said.  “We’ll pay for this long term when they go into their 20s and 30s and 40s and 50 years of age and they’re not productive.”

"In Philadelphia's 86-school charter system, there is at least $88 million in unassigned reserve funds. For most schools in the state, reserve funds can't exceed 8 to 12 percent of a school's operating budget. That rule doesn't hold for charters."
DN Editorial: Are we having fund yet?
POSTED: Friday, July 25, 2014, 3:01 AM
WE CAN'T talk about the struggles of the Philadelphia School District without taking aim at the inequities in the state's approach to funding the schools throughout the state.
For one thing, the per-pupil allocations for Philadelphia are lower than many other districts. Cuts made in basic education funding have often led to larger per-pupil cuts to poorer districts like ours and smaller cuts to wealthier districts. And a rational funding formula that would better account for the economic realities of each district rather than a flat generic formula had only a brief and shining moment before the Corbett administration abandoned it.

Open question: Records chief frets over future
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Friday, July 25, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, July 24, 2014, 6:47 PM
HARRISBURG - Some of the revelations resulting from the 10,000 open-records requests that Terry Mutchler has handled have been blockbusters. Among them: ex-Philadelphia schoolteachers still on the payroll years after their terminations; a Little League coach pilfering the organization's till; a school district serving spoiled food.  Despite bipartisan support and a rare public plea by leaders of both parties, Mutchler's future remains uncertain, three months after her six-year term as executive director of the Office of Open Records expired.

Dual Language eyes another old Catholic school in Bethlehem
The South Side charter school is negotiations with the Allentown Diocese to use Seton Academy in West Bethlehem while in legal fight with Bethlehem Area School District.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:18 p.m. EDT, July 25, 2014
HARRISBURG — The Dual Language Charter School is eyeing another old Catholic grade school as a possible second site should its legal problems end with the Bethlehem Area School District.  Earlier this week, Commonwealth Court in a 2-1 decision ruled that charter schools can open more than one school by amending the charters they hold with a local school board. The decision overturned rulings by the Bethlehem School Board and the state Department of Education's Charter Appeal Board.  Both boards had based their denials on the 1997 charter school law, which does not give local charter schools, except in Philadelphia, the right to operate more than one school under the same non-amended charter.
Computer Aid Inc. to open private school after charter application rejected
By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call 9:18 p.m. EDT, July 25, 2014
Computer Aid Inc. isn't letting the Allentown School Board stop it from opening its own school.
The South Whitehall Township computer services company, which had its application for a technology-focused charter school rejected in December, announced plans this week to launch a private school, beginning with four full-day kindergarten classes this fall.
The CAI Learning Academy will open in the same location as the charter school was proposed, 1033 W. Washington St., a former Catholic school building owned by the Allentown Diocese.
The company hasn't completely closed the door on opening a charter school, but decided it could open a private school more quickly and have more freedom than it would with a charter school, said Jessica Devlin, the school's director.
The path forward: Q&A with Chamber of Commerce's Rob Wonderling
the notebook By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 25, 2014 01:08 PM
As president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Rob Wonderling says that improving public education has become one of his group’s “top priorities.”
Where the chamber once focused primarily on things like summer internships and literacy programs, it is increasingly engaged with questions of leadership and finance. Wonderling served on the search committee that brought Superintendent William Hite to town. The chamber advised on the nomination and confirmation of School Reform Commission members Feather Houstoun, Pedro Ramos, Bill Green and Farah Jimenez. It has backed local property and sales tax increases. This summer it advocated on behalf of the proposed cigarette tax.
And now, the chamber has joined a coalition that will advise on a new funding formula. But unlike many, Wonderling is not convinced that the District faces a fundamental problem of underfunding.
Instead, he sees the formula discussions as a chance to rethink service delivery.
“You only get one shot to modernize core functions,” he says.
We asked Wonderling to share his thoughts on the business community’s interest in education, the prospects for funding increases and shale taxes, and the coming debates over what should be spent and how.

It cost $11.70 per hour to educate a child in PA in the 201-2013 school year.
AN UNCOMMON VIEW OF HOW MUCH IT COST TO EDUCATE A CHILD
There are so many critics of public education and its funding throwing around the B word these days that I feel that I should be wearing a pith helmet and chain mail. Once you utter the word (you should pardon the expression) BILLION, the lights start to blink, the horns begin to honk and fireworks can be seen close by.  I am not sure that most people can conceive of a billion anythings. If you saw the movie, “Now you see me,” you saw a stack of 3 billion euros piled on a pallet. In school finance parlance, we now have “experts” castigating schools and school districts for spending billions upon billions of dollars. You know what the next words are, “The amount of waste in education is (choose your epithet).”

At institute, educators explore what teacher leadership looks like
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 25, 2014 03:40 PM
As the School District announced that it wanted teams of educators and others to submit plans for school overhaul, a group of young Philadelphia teachers was holding a summer institute on teacher leadership.  For three days this week, 18 of them met under the auspices of Teachers Lead Philly on the campus of Swarthmore College to discuss their challenges, draw from the wisdom of veterans, tell their stories and work on skills including mentoring, curriculum design, and writing for publication.  "The summer institute is rooted in the idea that we really believe every teacher is a leader," said Kathleen Melville, a teacher at the Workshop School and communications director of the group. "But not all teachers think of themselves as leaders."
Teachers Lead Philly is a network of practicing teachers who seek to influence both classroom practice and public policy while promoting teacher collaboration and the building of school communities. 

Interview: Why Philly Students Can’t Win on Standardized Tests
It’s the textbooks, says Meredith Broussard.
Philly Magazine BY JOEL MATHIS  |  JULY 24, 2014 AT 11:06 AM
Meredith Broussard, an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University’s school of media and communication, examines the performance of Philadelphia public school students in a new piece at TheAtlantic.com, “Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing.
The answer, it turns out, is somewhat simple: The same companies make textbooks and the standardized tests. But Philadelphia students largely don’t have access to the textbooks that form the basis of their tests. Shockingly, she reports, the district’s textbook budget for the recent school year was … zero dollars per student.


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. 

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