Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 19: Former State Rep. Kathy Manderino to head new PA school funding campaign

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, business 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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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 19, 2014:
Former State Rep. Kathy Manderino to head new PA school funding campaign

(public hearing on Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania)
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:00 AM Hearing Room 1 North Office Bldg.

"Kathy Manderino has been named campaign manager for a new school funding campaign that includes more than 40 organizations representing educators, business, labor, faith-based organizations and civic and child advocacy groups who want to see the commonwealth find a long-term solution to adequately and equitably fund public schools."
Manderino to head new school funding campaign
EPLC Website August 18, 2014 (Text of August 18 press release from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children)
HARRISBURG – A former state lawmaker with a reputation for consensus-building will manage a newly formed, non-partisan campaign to address one of Pennsylvania’s most important and challenging issues: the funding of its public schools.  Kathy Manderino has been named campaign manager for a new school funding campaign that includes more than 40 organizations representing educators, business, labor, faith-based organizations and civic and child advocacy groups who want to see the commonwealth find a long-term solution to adequately and equitably fund public schools.  “School funding is, without question, one of the toughest issues facing Pennsylvania, but it’s also arguably the most important,” Manderino said. “So many facets of our commonwealth – jobs, culture, community, quality of life – are dependent upon and shaped by the education we provide for our children. How we fund that education really does dictate the future of Pennsylvania, and I’m excited to help advance such a critical discussion.”

School districts using emergency funds to balance budgets
Scranton Times-Tribune by SARAH HOFIUS HALL, STAFF WRITER Published: August 17, 2014
Many area school districts are raiding their rainy-day funds, leaving little left to pay for leaky roofs, broken furnaces and other emergencies.  Fueled by cuts in state funding and dramatic increases in mandated pension costs, some districts have even depleted their fund balances just to balance budgets and avoid cutting programs or laying off teachers.  Besides leaving districts with little left for emergencies, it is creating wide gaps in their future budgets.
“We’ve been in survival mode for five years now,” said Riverside Superintendent Paul Brennan. The district’s fund balance is now at $84,000 — or about four-tenths of a percent of its total budget of $22.7 million.  “We’re not comfortable with a number that low,” Mr. Brennan said.
Three of 10 districts in Lackawanna County — Scranton, Mid Valley and Old Forge — have fund balances that are negative, meaning liabilities are greater than assets.

Are some Pennsylvania school districts hoarding tax dollars, and violating state law by doing so?
Keystone Crossroads took a closer look at school budget data after recent reports that the Commonwealth's schools have a combined fund balance of $4.3 billion.
About half of that money is assigned or committed, and isn't subject to any state restrictions.
About half is unassigned – often referred to as "rainy day" funds - and limited by Pennsylvania School Code to between 8 and 12 percent of operating costs, depending on their budget.
Most of the state's 749 schools – including charters, vocational academies and technical colleges –are below the threshold.  But nearly 300 have "rainy day" funds that are $496 million above what state law allows.  State officials say it's a problem, and that legal loopholes and lack of consequences for school leaders have left people unprotected from being overtaxed as intended.
But others say large fund balances often signal prudent planning, and that the state's rules about how schools set aside money are mostly about managing its own financial obligations.

School district reserves rise despite $1 billion cut in state aid
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  on August 18, 2014 at 9:01 AM, updated August 18, 2014 at 10:57 AM
Mechanicsburg Area School District was sitting on reserves equal to 33.4 percent of its annual operating budget in 2012-13, but convinced its teachers to agree to a pay freeze the next year anyway.  Susquehanna Twp. School District raised taxes in 2013-14 even though it ended the year with enough in its reserve funds to cover 27 percent of its 2012-13 operating budget.
Venango County's Valley Grove School District had enough money in reserve in 2012-13 to operate the district for a full year with little need for any additional income.
Much has been said about the roughly $1 billion cut from school funding three years ago after federal stimulus dollars dried up. But little attention has been given to the fact that many Pennsylvania school districts still managed to build their rainy day funds in the years since.

Search the database: School district budgets and reserves comparisons, 2009 to 2013
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on August 18, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated August 18, 2014 at 9:08 AM
The following searchable database reflects the amount of money that the 500 school districts across the state held in their reserve accounts from 2009-10 through 2012-13, the most recent year data was available, along with their operating budgets for each of those years. 
To use this database, start by selecting a county from the list above, to see a listing of school districts in that county.  From the results page, you can see more data for a school district by clicking on the "Details" link. Once there, click "Search Again" to begin a new search, or "Back" to return to the results page.

Are PA Schools, with $4.3 Billion in Reserve Funds, Really Flush?
Just the (Dry) Facts
Policy Brief Explaining School Fund Balances:
Center on Regional Politics by David W. DAVARE AUGUST 2014
Recent publicity calling attention to the $4.3 billion in reserve funds accumulated by the state’s 500 school districts, 67 vocational/technical schools (AVTS/CTC), and 176 charter schools may suggest to some that these funds are being hoarded by school officials who are raising taxes or cutting services unnecessarily or exaggerating their need for additional state aid.
Here are the (admittedly dry) accounting facts.

Pennsylvania gas production hits another peak
By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 18, 2014 11:38 AM
Gas production in the state continued to hit records, with 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas coming out of the ground during the first half of the year, according to new data released from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.  During the previous six-month reporting period, operators posted 1.7 trillion cubic feet of gas production, while a year ago it was closer to 1.4 trillion.  Susquehanna County had the most gas during the past six months, with 455 billion cubic feet, or 23 percent of the state sum. Bradford and Lycoming counties followed.
In southwestern Pennsylvania, Washington County continued to lead the area in gas production with 198 billion cubic feet, followed closely by Greene County with 172 billion cubic feet.
Washington County also was once again the leader in liquids production in the state by a large margin with 1.8 million barrels of condensate, most of which came from Range Resources, and 204,316 barrels of oil, all from Chesapeake Energy.

Gas production from Marcellus shale sets record despite fewer new wells going online
TribLive By David Conti Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 10:33 p.m.
Pennsylvania drillers are pulling record amounts of natural gas from the Marcellus shale even as they bring fewer new wells online, according to state data released on Monday.  About 5,400 shale wells produced nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of gas during the first six months of the year, a 14 percent increase in production over the past six months of 2013, the data from the state Department of Environmental Protection show.  Energy companies accomplished the record despite connecting fewer than 500 new wells during the period. Previous semiannual reports showed an average of 675 new wells every six months.
Area school budgets cushioned by gas money
By Emily Petsko Staff Writer  epetsko@observer-reporter.com  published aug 16, 2014 at 10:16 pm (updated aug 17, 2014 at 10:48 pm)
Looking south from a parking lot at Trinity Middle School, one can see a glint of water through the trees – a reservoir. But not far beyond that, hidden from plain view, is a well extracting natural gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface.  If it weren’t for the royalty checks rolling into the district, administrators might not even know it was there.  Trinity is not an exception, either. Of the 19 public schools in Washington and Greene counties, nine are leaseholders – not including the Western Area Career and Technology Center, which was the first local school to sign on.
During the 2013-14 school year, the four schools whose wells are currently in production received almost $111,000 altogether in royalties. And when it comes to upfront money – bonus payments per acre of leased land – eight schools received nearly $2.2 million after signing leases between 2008 and 2014.

Activists call for probes into Ron Tomalis' 25% pension boost as Gov. Tom Corbett's higher education adviser
After Morning Call story, activists call for probes into Ron Tomalis' $7,000 boost.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 11:31 p.m. EDT, August 18, 2014
HARRISBURG — Using Halloween decorations as props, good-government activists called for investigations into whether Gov. Tom Corbett's former education secretary-turned-adviser floated through the administration as a "ghost employee" who will haunt taxpayers with a pending 25 percent pension boost.  "We are ghostbusters," activist Gene Stilp declared Monday at a news conference with Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital.  The duo is asking the State Employees' Retirement System to investigate whether Ron Tomalis earned a higher pension by working enough full-time hours as the governor's higher education adviser, or whether he was given a cushy job with no real responsibilities to pad his pension.
DN Editorial: Obstacle courses
Philly Daily News POSTED: Monday, August 18, 2014, 3:01 AM
ANOTHER WEEK, another crisis at the Philadelphia School District.  Last week, it was over whether the school year will begin on time.  Superintendent William Hite wisely decided it would, despite the fact that the district still is $81 million short of the money it needs to operate all year.
Still, Hite had to slash another $31 million from the budget. When they open on September 8, schools will be more dangerous and dirty - due to the cuts in the budgets for police officers and maintenance. Programs for drop-outs will be cut back. Transportation aid for high school students curtailed.  A thousand cuts large and small have been inflicted over the last four years due to deep reductions in state and federal support.

Help coach good teachers
Philly.com Opinion By Paul Dean POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 1:08 AM
For all the debate over education, there is one point on which almost everyone agrees: Good teachers make a difference.  Just how much teachers can do in the face of deeply impoverished communities and limited government funding may still be controversial. But neither the staunchest union booster nor the greatest champion of school choice and accountability is likely to argue that teachers don't matter.  Study after study has shown that high-quality teaching results in more student learning. The effect is magnified for low-income and minority students and amplified when a student receives consecutive years of good teaching.

Students left on corner as Philly district reduces busing service
"Transportation is a privilege, not a right," says the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Last week, the Philadelphia School District announced that 7,500 fewer high school kids would be so honored.  The move came as the district announced that it would close its $81 million budget gap with a mishmash of cuts and hopes.  In order to save $3.8 million, high school students living within two miles of school will no longer receive subsidized SEPTA transpasses. The previous threshold was 1.5 miles.

No more sweet teas & sugary treats as 'smart snacks' rules hit school cafeterias
By Barbara Miller | bmiller@pennlive.com on August 18, 2014 at 7:30 AM, updated August 18, 2014 at 8:37 AM
No more sugar-sweetened teas or calorie-laden cookies will appear in school lunch lines, as tighter school nutrition guidelines go into effect this year.  The latest phase of the National School Lunch Program guidelines, called "Smart Snacks in Schools," require snacks and a la carte items, like other lunch offerings, to be lower in fat, sugar and sodium.  One of the biggest changes for students will be in beverages, say several food service directors.  "Tea is a big issue – kids love the sweetened tea products," said Nick Milone, food service director in Cumberland Valley School District.

Food fundraisers have to be healthy — it's the law
TribLive By Kari Andren Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Goodbye, gooey iced cupcakes with sprinkles. Hello, whole wheat, reduced-fat brownies.
Athletes, musicians and school club members gearing up for fundraisers this fall will face a healthy twist.  With a few exceptions permitted by the state, food fundraisers held during school hours on school property must be healthier, with more whole grains, fewer calories and less sugar.  The guidelines are part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the 2010 federal law championed by first lady Michelle Obama that overhauled school lunch and breakfast menus.
US education: How we got where we are today
The standardized state of US schools today grew from the Reagan blueprint, ‘A Nation at Risk.’ Why that legacy matters now.
Christian Science Monitor By Sarah Garland, The Hechinger Report AUGUST 17, 2014
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On the last day of school in June, Principal Aurelia Curtis was harried. An auditorium full of teachers was waiting for her. But instead of congratulating them on a good year and sending off three retiring staff members, she was in her office signing the last of the 742 teacher evaluation forms for her staff of nearly 150 that she had to finish by an end-of-year deadline.  Ms. Curtis, a stern but beloved leader who shares her name with Curtis High School here in Staten Island, N.Y., where she began her career 30 years ago, spends more time these days filling out intensive teacher evaluations required by the state than she does talking to her teachers. Or that’s how it often feels.   “It has tied me up in so much paperwork,” she says. “I don’t have the time to have meaningful conversations with teachers.” 

The Pennsylvania Business-Education Partnership serves as a source for information sharing, research, analysis, joint communication, and advocacy on topics of education & career readiness.
Pennsylvania Business-Education Partnership Website

Tweet from Education Week journalist Sarah Sparks ‏@SarahDSparks 
I'm looking for women who can share their experiences of serving on #schoolboards. Pls tweet or use ssparks@epe.org

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Education Law Center Celebrating Education Champions 2014
On September 17, 2014 the Education Law Center will hold its annual event at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Education Champions. This year, the event will honor William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and the Stoneleigh Foundation, a Philadelphia regional leader on at-risk youth issues.

Pennsylvania Arts Education Network 2014 Arts and Education Symposium
The 2014 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 2 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA.  Join us for a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about the latest news from the field.
The Symposium registration fee is $45 per person. To register, click here or follow the prompts at the bottom of the page.  The Symposium will include the following:

National School Boards Action Center August 06, 2014 by Staff
Members of Congress return to their hometowns to meet with constituents locally and on September 8 they return to Washington, D.C.  As a public education advocate, you can help to influence their decisions and votes on legislation affecting your local public schools by reaching out to your members of Congress.  They will be especially interested in your concerns as this is an election year for the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the Senate.
Read the latest on federal education issues on Capitol Hill  in the NSBAC August Congressional Recess Talking Points and then contact  your members of Congress during the August recess.  You can call your members’ offices using the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 or use the National School Boards Association’s legislative action center at nsba.org/advocacy.  Consider becoming a Friend of Public Education to connect with National School Boards Action Center’s advocacy efforts and stay active year round.

Save the Date 2014 PAESSP State Conference October 19-21, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PAESSP State Conference, “PRINCIPAL EFFECTIVENESS: Leading Schools in a New Age of Accountability,” to be held October 19-21 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Featuring Keynote Speakers: Alan November, Michael Fullan & Dr. Ray Jorgensen
This year’s conference will provided PIL Act 45 hours, numerous workshops, exhibits, multiple resources and an opportunity to network with fellow principals from across the state.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference registration forms now available online
PSBA Website
Make plans today to attend the most talked about education conference of the year. This year's PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference promises to be one of the best with new ideas, innovations, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers. More details are being added every day. Online registration will be available in the next few weeks. If you just can't wait, registration forms are available online now. Other important links are available with more details on:
·         Hotel registration (reservation deadline extended to Sept. 26)
·         Educational Publications Contest (deadline Aug. 6)
·         Student Celebration Showcase (deadline Sept. 19)
·         Poster and Essay Contest (deadline Sept. 19)

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online -- bios/videos now live
PSBA Website August 5, 2014

The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for each candidate. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openSept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to cast the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes will be receiving an email in the coming weeks to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to cast the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

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