Thursday, December 11, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 11: Federal Spending Bill Would Fund Pre-K Grants, Not Race to Top

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for December 11, 2014:
Federal Spending Bill Would Fund Pre-K Grants, Not Race to Top

School funding commission needs real costs, says Smucker
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Wednesday, December 10, 2014 4:40 pm
State lawmakers know that education leaders want poverty levels and other school district characteristics to be factored into Pennsylvania school funding.  Legislators on a commission reviewing the school funding formula have heard that plea repeatedly as they toured the state this fall.  What they haven't heard much of, though, is the real costs of educating different student populations, according to Sen. Lloyd Smucker, of LancasterSchool District of Lancaster officials shared some of those numbers. at a Basic Education Funding Commission hearing on Wednesday at McCaskey East High School.

Basic Education Funding Commission Public Hearing
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 10:00 a.m., McCaskey East High School 1051 Leigh Avenue Lancaster, PA 17602
Agenda and links to testimony from yesterday's hearing

Law Center Testifies to the Basic Ed Funding Commission
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia website December 10, 2014
Michael Churchill testified  before the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission, noting the Commonwealth cannot demand students live up to standards while purposefully staying blind to how much it costs to meet those standards. 
Churchill urged the commission to set the current public education funding structure on its head by making uniform local tax efforts and increasing state contributions. He made three key points in his testimony. First, the state shifts an immoderately heavy burden of compensation onto local tax bases. As Mr. Churchill points out, “Pennsylvania has been an outlier on its state appropriation to K-12 education for at least 15 years, always in the lowest 10 states, and sometimes in the lowest three.” Second, the state then distributes its funding in a manner that does not reflect the tax efforts of the district. Third, the current system of funding distribution is fundamentally flawed because it has not properly assessed how much it costs to adequately prepare a child to meet proficiency standards.  Here is Michael Churchill’s testimony in full:

Pennsylvania schools sue state in bid to reform funding
Six districts, along with NAACP, say state fails poor areas by relying too heavily on property taxes for school funding
Al Jazeera by Peter Moskowitz   @ptrmsk December 11, 2014 5:00AM ET
SHENANDOAH, Pa. — The halls of Shenandoah’s schools are clean and orderly, the students quiet and focused. But the district has one school counselor, one guidance counselor, one art teacher and one gym teacher for more than 1,000 students. It no longer has a librarian. Funding for buses was cut in 2011, and students who live in the borough of Shenandoah have to be driven to school or walk, some over a mile.  The small and economically struggling town about two hours northwest of Philadelphia is one of six school districts, along with advocacy groups and the state’s NAACP, suing the state in an attempt to force it to rework how it funds school districts.
Advocates say that without a rejiggering of the formula, many school districts are bound to fail to meet the needs of their students.  The problem, they say, boils down to how the state funds schools. Pennsylvania is one of three states without a statewide funding formula for public education, according to the Education Law Center, a nonprofit group representing plaintiffs in the suit. While most states use property taxes in their funding formulas, Pennsylvania’s lack of a formula means that local taxes account for a larger share of school funding. Nationally, property taxes make up an average of 44 percent of school budgets, but in Pennsylvania the taxes make up 53 percent on average and much more in some districts.

State needs a rational fix for its method of funding charter students with disabilities
the notebook By David Lapp  on Dec 10, 2014 10:45 AM
David Lapp is a staff attorney at the Education Law Center. This article was adapted from testimony he delivered to the state legislature’s Basic Education Funding Commission.
Pennsylvania’s calculation for funding special education in charter schools is broken. In Philadelphia, special education tuition paid by the District to charter schools has doubled from $11,000 per student to over $23,000 per student in just 12 years. During the same period, special education revenue to the District from the state stagnated at under $5,000 per student.
Rather than basing charter tuition on what the charter spends or needs, the calculation is based on what the charter’s authorizing district spends on its own students with disabilities. That total expenditure is then divided by 16 percent of the district’s student population. The assumption is that since 16 percent is roughly the average percentage of students with disabilities in the commonwealth, it is a close enough estimation to use in the calculation for all districts.

Wolf taps Hanger to be policy director
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 1:56 PM POSTED: Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 1:39 PM
HARRISBURG - Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has begun filling key positions on his senior staff roster.  Wolf on Wednesday announced he had selected John Hanger to be his new secretary of Policy and Planning, a high-profile job that involves helping the governor craft and realize policy priorities. Hanger was the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Ed Rendell.  Wolf also named Mary Isenhour as his secretary of Legislative Affairs. In that job, Isenhour will have to navigate the politically tricky landscape within the Republican-dominated legislature. Isenhour was a key strategist to Wolf during his campaign, and now is the co-chair of Wolf's Inaugural Committee.  Wolf also tapped Obra S. Kernodle IV to be his deputy chief of staff, and the director of the Office of Public Liaison. Kernodle was Mayor Nutter's deputy of legislative affairs, as well as political director for both Nutter's 2011 reelection bid and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams' campaign in 2009.

'Not a time for rookies': Wolf hires one-time rivals, cabinet secretaries for key positions
By Christian Alexandersen |  on December 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM, updated December 10, 2014 at 3:51 PM
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf's appointment of two former Gov. Ed Rendell cabinet secretaries speaks to the value he is placing on experience as he prepares to take office in January.  Wolf announced Wednesday the hiring of several key staff members, includingJohn Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Hanger will serve as the secretary of planning and policy.  Both Hanger and Wolf's new chief of staff Kathleen "Katie" McGinty were onetime rivals of Wolf when they sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.   Wolf, Hanger and McGinty also all served as members in Rendell's cabinet.

GOP Mayor Brooks to help Wolf take office
Trib Live By Patrick Varine Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Murrysville Mayor Bob Brooks is a relatively rare bird: a Republican on a gubernatorial transition team full of Democrats.  Brooks was tapped as one of 11 members of Governor-elect Tom Wolf's transition team, a group that is tasked with helping Wolf find suitable cabinet and committee members and establish a baseline for where the state is at and where it is headed.
“It's interesting to me that he's so enthusiastic and wants to do everything as well as it can be done,” Brooks said of Wolf. “By Jan. 20, he wants to have his cabinet pretty well in place.”
The team held its first meeting last week, and Brooks said although specific assignments still are being handed out, his focus likely will be on state police, homeland security, veteran groups and the military.
"This week the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimated that in 2015-16, a 5 percent extraction tax would yield $675 million for the state, as opposed to just $270 million from the impact fee. That’s with gas going for a price of $2.67 per thousand cubic feet. The U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates we can expect a slight uptick in natural gas prices. If it goes to $3.48 per thousand cubic fee, that would result in an $881 million revenue boost. That is three times what the state will get from the impact fee."
Delco Times Editorial: Corbett missed boat on extraction tax
Delco Times POSTED: 12/10/14, 11:25 PM EST | UPDATED: 16 MINS AGO
Tom Corbett rolled into the governor’s mansion four years ago largely on a very popular theme. The Republican pledged he would not raise taxes.  Four years later, he is packing his bags in large part for the same reason.  Campaigning as a no-tax-hike crusader is one thing; governing that way is quite another.  When faced with daunting revenue shortfalls – including having to do without several million dollars in federal stimulus funds that had been used by the Rendell Administration to patch any number of fiscal potholes – Corbett faced some very tough choices.
He decided to cut. Corbett dug in his heels and stuck to his guns when it came to the bottom line. The austere series of budgets – including some very tough cuts in education – became his legacy.

Phila. school district takes its case to Commonwealth Court
HARRISBURG - With much at stake, lawyers for the School Reform Commission on Wednesday asked the five judges of Commonwealth Court to affirm their power to cancel the teachers' contract.  The law that created the SRC acknowledged that in times of distress, the commission must have at its disposal special powers, said attorney Mark Aronchick.
"The polestar is the children, not the protection of some collective bargaining interest that protects the interest of teachers," Aronchick told the judges in Harrisburg.  Philadelphia Federation of Teachers lawyer Ralph Teti said that the SRC lacks the authority to abrogate its contract.
"I think they overstepped their boundaries greatly," Teti said. "Their view of it is if we have a contract on Monday, we can cancel it on Tuesday."

Appeals court seems baffled by Philly teachers contract strife
"Dysfunctional ... abnormal ... extreme."
These were just a few of the words a Commonwealth Court judge used Wednesday to describe the relationship between the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and its teachers union.
The hearing in Harrisburg reviewed the SRC's Oct. 6 decision to unilaterally terminate the PFT contract and impose health-care concessions on members. Most teachers union members currently don't pay a share of their premiums.

Philadelphia City Council Supports School Funding Lawsuit
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia webiste December 10, 2014
Philadelphia City Council adopted a resolution in support of our School Funding Lawsuit.
Reaffirming Pennsylvania’s constitutional guarantee of “a thorough and efficient system of public education”, the resolution emphasizes that this core responsibility has been neglected since 2011 when the state “reversed progress towards equity in education funding.”
While the severe budget cuts of 2011 have detrimentally impacted local communities with disadvantaged tax bases throughout Pennsylvania, the resolution underscores that “these adverse effects can be acutely felt here in Philadelphia” as evidenced by concerning increase of class sizes, the dismissal of teachers as well as critical support staff, and the degradation of other aspects of students’ education.
Noting that Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the nation without a fair funding formula when it comes to education, the City Council’s resolution thus calls upon the state legislature to uphold its constitutional duty and administer a more equitable policy of funding distribution.
Click here to read more about our School Funding Lawsuit

Philly City Council to Vote on Standardized Testing Resolution!
Caucus of Working Educators POSTED BY THE CAUCUS BLOG 5SC ON DECEMBER 08, 2014
Councilman Squilla, Councilwoman Sanchez, and Councilwoman Blackwell have introduced a resolution to City Council calling on the School District to scale back its standardized testing.

Obama’s $1 Billion Preschool Expansion Gets Backing From Disney
Bloomberg News By Angela Greiling Keane  Dec 10, 2014 6:00 AM ET  
Walt Disney Co. (DIS), and toymaker Lego A/S’s foundation are among the contributors of more than $330 million to an early childhood education initiative the White House is announcing today.
The private-sector giving is part of a $1 billion package to expand education for preschoolers as part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to give every child in the U.S. access to “high-quality” preschool.   Obama today will speak at an early childhood education summit at the White House, talking about his initiative that includes curbing school suspensions and expulsions of young children.

FACT SHEET: Invest in US: The White House Summit on Early Childhood Education
The White House Office of the Press Secretary December 10, 2014
Last year, President Obama called upon Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool for every child in America, proposing investments that would support a continuum of early learning opportunity from birth through kindergarten entry.  In January, he challenged more Americans – elected officials, business leaders, philanthropists, and the public – to help more children access the early education they need to succeed in school and in life.  Over the course of the past year, significant progress has been made, and bipartisan cooperation has led to a substantial increase in federal investment in early education.
Today, the President convenes state and local policymakers, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, and advocates for the White House Summit on Early Education, highlighting collective leadership in support of early education for America’s children.  Leaders will share best practices in building the public-private partnerships that are expanding early education in communities across the country.  Participants will discuss effective strategies and programs that support and bring high-quality early childhood education to scale.   
Leading private and philanthropic organizations will commit to new actions at the White House Summit that spur greater access to high-quality preschool and early learning.  Together with federal awards, this amounts to a collective investment of over $1 billion in the education and development of America’s youngest learners.  It includes:  

Federal Spending Bill Would Fund Preschool Grants, But Not Race to Top
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Lauren Camera on December 10, 2014 12:19 AM
Congress unveiled its long-awaited spending bill Tuesday evening, which would fund most of the government, including the U.S. Department of Education and federally funded education programs, through September 2015.   The measure, if adopted by both chambers and signed by President Barack Obama, would avert a government shutdown that could take place Dec. 11, when the current stopgap funding bill is set to expire. The House is tentatively scheduled to pass the bill Wednesday with the Senate following suit Thursday.
The proposal is a hybrid continuing resolution/omnibus, which quickly garnered the inside-the-Beltway moniker "cromnibus."  The bill would hold education funding largely steady, but would include some increases for early childhood programs

Obama’s Race to the Top loses all funding in 2015 omnibus spending bill
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 10 at 2:35 PM  
President Obama and firstlLady Michelle Obama both would see key initiatives whacked if the $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled by congressional leaders this week passes without changes in these areas: the president’s chief education initiative, Race to the Top, loses all funding, and the first lady’s effort to nutritionally improve school lunches takes a hit with language that allows schools to take their good old time about meeting a mandate on serving whole grain.
The Education Department would take a slight hit in funding; at $70.5 billion, down $133 million below the fiscal year 2014, but special education grants to states would get $25 million more than last year, up to $11.5 billion. Funding for the somewhat controversial School Improvement Grant program is maintained at $506 million. (It’s somewhat controversial because there are big questions about its overall effectiveness.)

Embattled NY education commissioner quitting to become top adviser to Arne Duncan
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 10 at 7:19 PM  
For months parents and education advocates have been calling for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner John King. They got their wish. King is leaving his job and moving to Washington, to manage the U.S. Education Department’s operations as a senior adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, according to a spokesman in the state education office.
The spokesman didn’t say why King decided to leave now. But earlier this year  Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expressed his unhappiness with King over the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, saying in a letter to top education officials in the state that “Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.”

New York State Education Commissioner to Leave for Federal Post
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR DEC. 10, 2014
New York State’s education commissioner, John B. King Jr., who has been a staunch advocate for the Common Core standards anda frequent target of those who criticize them, announced on Wednesday that he would step down at the end of the year to take the second-highest-ranking job at the federal Education Department, senior adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan.
Dr. King, 39, a former charter school leader who was appointed commissioner in 2011, presided over major revisions to curriculum as well as the way that teachers are evaluated and trained. The most significant change during his tenure was New York’s transition to the Common Core, a new set of learning goals embraced by most states. New York was one of the first to test its students against the new standards, and when scores plummeted, teachers and parents blamed him for not giving schools enough time to adjust.

In a first since Katrina, New Orleans school to return to local political control
By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune on December 09, 2014 at 4:04 PM, updated December 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM
More than nine years after the wholesale state takeover of New Orleans public schools, one of those schools has decided to return to the Orleans Parish school system. Friends of King made the decision in a unanimous vote Tuesday for Martin Luther King Jr. Charter, reversing its decision of the month before.  "I'm your representative," School Board member Ira Thomas said after the vote, beaming.  Six Friends of King members were present, and three absent.
King is the first of 57 state takeover schools in New Orleans to return to local control.

FCC to Vote on Big Funding Increase for E-Rate Program
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Sean Cavanagh on December 11, 2014 10:42 PM
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a major increase in funding for the E-rate program, a step that many school and library officials have sought for years, yet one that has drawn a cold response from some Republicans.  The proposal unveiled last month by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would raise the overall funding cap for the program—which has been stagnant for years—from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually.
In an era when many school budgets are only beginning to rebound from the Great Recession, and funding to meet schools' pressing technology needs remains tight, the FCC plan would amount to a substantial infusion of cash for K-12 systems.

Discipline, Disabilities, School to Prison, Disproportionality
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Presenters include Sonja Kerr; Howard Jordan, ACLU; Dr. Karolyn Tyson; Michael Raffaele, Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This session is designed to assist participants to understand the specifics of the federal IDEA disciplinary protections, 20 U.S.C. §1415(k) as they apply to children with disabilities. Topics will include functional behavioral assessment, development of positive behavioral support programs for children with disabilities, manifestation reviews and avoiding juvenile court involvement. 
Questions? Email or call 267.546.1317.

January 23rd–25th, 2015 at The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia
EduCon is both a conversation and a conference.
It is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

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