Friday, August 1, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 1: Pa. lawmakers fail to vote on cigarette tax crucial to Philly schools

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 1, 2014:
Pa. lawmakers fail to vote on cigarette tax crucial to Philly schools

"In the same bipartisan spirit that saw lawmakers in Harrisburg come together to enact transportation funding, we urge all of our elected leaders to continue working together to address an even greater challenge, the commonwealth's pension issues."
Legislature must get serious about pension reform Opinion By Rob Wonderling POSTED: Friday, August 1, 2014, 1:08 AM
Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
Employers in the Philadelphia area know that public pension reform is needed if we are to grow our economy and improve government operations.  Without legislative action soon, our pension obligations will continue to consume larger portions of the state budget and further strain the ability of state, county, and municipal governments, as well as school districts, to maintain, let alone improve, basic services.  Today, the state and school employee retirement systems of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia have a combined unfunded liability of more than $50 billion.
Philadelphia spends between 15 and 16 cents of every local tax dollar on growing municipal pension obligations, crowding out its ability to fund other city services such as schools, public safety, sanitation, and other essentials.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Folmer calls for inquiry of former state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis
By Bill Schackner, Mary Niederberger and Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 1, 2014 12:00 AM
The chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Thursday that the Commonwealth should take steps to assure taxpayers that Gov. Tom Corbett’s special adviser for higher education is being required to do work that would justify his $139,542 salary.  “I’m just saying it should be looked at,” said Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County.  His comments came hours after a Harrisburg activist called for additional state inquiries following a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story Sunday regarding former state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis.

Is Ron Tomalis a ghost or semi-ghost employee? Stilp calls for more investigations to find out
By Jan Murphy | on July 31, 2014 at 3:02 PM
Government reform advocate Gene Stilp is calling on two more state agencies to investigate what taxpayers are getting for the money being spent on keeping former state education secretary Ron Tomalis around as Gov. Tom Corbett's special adviser for higher education.
Stilp, a Democratic candidate for the state House seat now held by Republican Rep. Sue Helm, also is asking for Tomalis, of Camp Hill, to step aside without pay or benefits until the investigations are complete.

Cigarette tax vote canceled; schools' opening in jeopardy
By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 31, 2014 07:10 PM
Pennsylvania House Republicans have canceled a planned session on Monday to vote on a $2-a-pack cigarette tax in Philadelphia, jeopardizing the next school year for tens of thousands of students.  "Here we are again," said a frustrated Superintendent William Hite at a hastily called news conference Thursday afternoon.  Schools are now only weeks away from their scheduled opening day, but without assurances that the District will have enough funds to operate a functional system, much less one that offers an acceptable education.
The same thing happened last year, and the city's schools still don't have a guarantee of reliable, recurring revenue sufficient to their needs.

Pa. lawmakers fail to vote on cigarette tax crucial to Philly schools
State lawmakers are scrapping plans to approve a cigarette tax for Philadelphia city schools this summer and, in the meantime, they're asking the governor to send the school district a cash advance.  Philadelphia's mayor called it a disgrace.  The state House and Senate can't agree on a bill that includes authorization for Philadelphia to pass a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes to help fund its school system.  A planned vote next week in the House was cancelled, leaving the district without the injection of funds it was seeking.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and schools Superintendent William Hite say that without additional funding in mid-August, the school year will begin late, class sizes will increase, and about 1,300 school employees will be laid off.

Pa. House cancels Monday's session, scheduled to address Philly cigarette tax
PennLive By Christina Kauffman | on July 31, 2014 at 3:01 PM,
The House of Representatives voting session called for next week has been canceled, said House Chief Clerk Anthony Barbush.   Barbush said House leadership notified him they were canceling session for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, all three days it was to be held. 
He was given no information about possible sessions to be held at a later date, he said.   The House is set to reconvene in for the fall session in September, but the session scheduled for Monday was called to address a bill to enable Philadelphia to charge a cigarette tax to fund schools.

Cigarette-tax vote hits a Pa. legislative roadblock
POSTED: Thursday, July 31, 2014, 1:08 AM
HARRISBURG - The proposed new cigarette tax for Philadelphia may be hitting another legislative roadblock.  The House, on paper at least, is scheduled to return Monday and vote on a bill that would authorize the city to impose a $2-per-pack tax to raise money for its cash-strapped public schools.  But on Wednesday, Republicans who control the chamber were making frantic phone calls, trying to decide whether to postpone their return.
Hanging in the balance: Philadelphia schools, and whether they can open on time. Mayor Nutter, as well as city schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. have both said, unequivocally, that time was of the essence - and that if the legislature did not act swiftly, they would be unable to safely open schools in September.

Rep. Adolph blasts House leaders for canceling vote to fund Philadelphia schools
Keystone Kopp Blog by John Kopp July 31, 2014
House Republican leaders cancelled a vote on a Philadelphia cigarette tax that would provide critical funding to the School District of Philadelphia, citing a lack of consensus on the proposal.
A special summer session had been slated for Monday to consider the proposal, which would have placed a $2 tax on all cigarette packs sold in Philadelphia. The tax was expected to raise as much as $45 million in revenue for the beleaguered district, which has a $93 million budget gap.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said earlier this month that the district would have to lay off employees or consider delaying the start of the school year.  State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, issued a statement Thursday afternoon criticizing the decision to cancel the special session. Adolph serves as the majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Here is Adolph’s statement in full:

SLA principal Chris Lehmann wins national award
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 31, 2014 02:43 PM
Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of Science Leadership Academy, a STEM-based, inquiry-driven magnet school in Center City.  Christopher Lehmann, founding principal of Science Leadership Academy, is one of three winners this year of the presigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.  Lehmann was awarded the Rising Star award for his work in founding SLA and pushing to open a second SLA campus at Beeber Middle School last year.
The press release announcing the award said SLA "tackles the achievement gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects for highly qualified minority students. The school emphasizes college preparation and entrepreneurship through a technology-rich, inquiry-driven curriculum that is enhanced by a 1:1 laptop program." The school partners with the Franklin Institute.  Lehmann said he shares the award with the "students, teachers and parents who breathe life into a dream."

Guest Column: Pa. residents too smart to fall for guv's pension plan
Delco Daily Times Guest Columnist By MARIA DONATUCCI POSTED: 07/30/14, 10:58 PM EDT |
Maria Donatucci is a State Representative serving parts of Delaware County and Philadelphia
It’s my understanding that the hard-working people of Pennsylvania are tired – and understandably so. The latest state budget process showed that Gov. Tom Corbett is still tone deaf when it comes to the needs of everyday Pennsylvanians. Residents are tired of their schools being severely underfunded, of corporations continuing to get a free ride, and of their health care being jeopardized while the governor plays political games.  These are all valid concerns that need to be addressed, and fast. But Pennsylvanians should also be tired of Corbett’s feeding them lines about a flawed pension plan that’s destined to fail. The governor’s latest stunt is to tour the state touting his perceived benefits of the proposal, but these “advantages” don’t quite line up with reality.  One of the most important things to know about the plan is that it wouldn’t pay down the pension debt any faster than would Act 120, the legislation currently in place to address the state’s pension woes. Corbett wants to place new public employees in a hybrid pension plan, saying it would save money and reduce property taxes in the short term. However, even the author of the bill says it wouldn’t save a penny for school districts for more than 20 years. So Corbett’s false claims shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips to drop the current plan that’s already reducing pension debt.

Sink-or-swim model for teachers needs reform Opinion by BRUCE FRIEDRICH POSTED: Thursday, July 31, 2014, 1:08 AM
Bruce Friedrich taught for two years through Teach for America. He was named an "outstanding teacher" for his school during his second year.
My two years teaching at an inner-city high school through Teach for America (TFA) left me wondering:  Do we have a problem of ineffective teachers, as is commonly claimed, or is there something rotten at the heart of the system, which sets new teachers up for likely failure?
I entered my new job with no illusions about the difficulties that awaited me. I had run a shelter for homeless families for six years in the 1990s; while there, I had visited multiple inner-city schools - so I knew how tough they could be.  Nevertheless, I was excited about my new task: improving 75 high school juniors' reading skills by teaching social justice issues.

"That leaves some observers stunned that Congress may find it easier to require background checks for people who want to help children than for people who want to buy weapons that have been used to kill them."
Bill would require school background checks
By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau August 1, 2014 1:10 AM
WASHINGTON — A year ago, Sens. Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin struck a background checks deal that appeared to offer the best chance for lawmakers to curb gun purchases by criminals and mentally ill people with a history of violence. Their effort was no match for gun owners’ groups that convinced Congress that the senators’ bill was an assault on the Second Amendment.  Now the bipartisan duo is back with another proposal to require background checks — this one for people seeking jobs in public schools.  The bill from Mr. Toomey, R-Pa., and Mr. Manchin, D-W.Va., is now in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which could take it up in the coming weeks. The measure has widespread support, including from the nation’s largest teachers union. And the House unanimously passed a similar measure last session.

Fairtest: Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 23 - 29, 2014
Submitted by fairtest on July 29, 2014 - 3:12pm 
As summer winds down toward back-to-school season, there is ever more media coverage of the growing testing resistance and reform movement. At the same time, a pattern of reaction is emerging from the "stay the course" and "(testing) business as usual" camp. Though policy-makers in a few states have rolled back standardized exam requirements, many politicians are embracing study commissions, delaying consequences from new Common Core assessments, promising vague initiatives in the future, and otherwise dragging their feed to stall necessary changes  That may buy a little time, but it will not stop the increasing pressure for a full-fledged moratorium on high-stakes tests from FairTest and its many allies. 

PCCY: Join us in Harrisburg Aug. 4th to Fight for Philadelphia Schools
Join us in Harrisburg as we visit lawmakers to tell them the wisdom of siding with children over big tobacco by voting for the cigarette tax increase.  If this vote doesn't happen or, if it fails, there is a strong chance Philadelphia Public Schools will not open this September.
Buses are filling up quickly. Click here to RSVP today or call 215-563-5848 x11 or Buses depart 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 8:30am and return to Philadelphia about 5:00pm.  If you plan to drive, meet us in the Capitol at 10:30am in Room 39 of the East Wing.

Upcoming meetings on Philly District's school redesign initiative
the notebook By Marilyn Vaccaro on Jul 30, 2014 05:14 PM
The School District is planning a series of meetings and discussions about its new school redesign initiative, which was announced last week.  Two informational sessions will be held, one tomorrow evening and the second on Aug. 12. Those who participate will be able to learn more about the application process and the specifics of the initiative itself.   Through the initiative, the District is calling on teams of educators, parents, community groups, and other outside organizations to propose their own school turnaround plans. Ten winning design teams will be chosen in October and will receive grants of $30,000 to support planning costs.

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.

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.

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