Friday, February 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 13: PA House committee debates Common Core, Keystone exam requirements

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 13, 2015:
PA House committee debates Common Core, Keystone exam requirements

Upcoming Basic Education Funding Commission hearing scheduled in Dauphin County
PA Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 11 am Dauphin County, location TBA

Wolf unveils proposal for 5-percent natural gas tax
MICHAELLE BOND AND AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Thursday, February 12, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: February 11, 2015, 9:53 AM
With public sentiment behind him and a deficit on the horizon, Gov. Wolf on Wednesday unveiled his plan to impose on natural gas drilling a 5 percent tax that he said could generate $1 billion for the state's public schools. Bracing for pushback from the legislature, Wolf said lawmakers should follow the lead of pro-business states that have imposed drilling taxes amid the gas-industry boom.  "This is the best thing that could happen to the industry, because it's going to make all of us in Pennsylvania partners in the success of this industry," Wolf said at a news conference at a Chester County elementary school.

Wolf right on natural gas: Tax it and help our schools
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board February 12, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday proposed a 5 percent severance tax on the value of all natural gas extracted in Pennsylvania and an additional 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet extracted.
Pennsylvania at long last might be joining every other major natural gas-producing state in the nation by making sure its deposits, estimated among the largest in the world, benefit the entire commonwealth.

Pa. adoption of core standards, Keystone Exams remain as controversial
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 12, 2015 at 2:49 PM, updated February 12, 2015 at 2:57 PM
Pennsylvania Core Standards and Keystone Exams weren't popular when they were enacted a year and a half ago and that hasn't changed.  That became evident at a House Education Committee hearing on Thursday when these controversial grade-level learning goals and the subject-specific exams that will determine a student's eligibility to graduate high school, starting with the Class of 2017, were the focus of discussion.  Giving rise to this conversation that ran all morning and spilled into the afternoon are two bills that are awaiting consideration by the committee.  One bill would appoint a commission to review the core standards and recommend improvements. The other bill would scrap the seven yet-to-be developed Keystone exams and give public schools the option of using the Keystone Exams or any statewide assessment as a graduation requirement.

PSBA testifies on Keystone Exams and Academic Standards Commission
PSBA NEWS RELEASE February 12, 2015
Today, the PA School Boards Association (PSBA) President William S. LaCoff and Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan testified before the House Education Committee on HB 168 and HB 177, both of which PSBA supports. House Bill 168 removes Keystone Exams as graduation requirement and halts development of additional state tests. House Bill 177 creates an Academic Standards Commission to study and offer recommendations concerning the Pennsylvania Core Standards. PSBA supports this bill because it provides an avenue for further public review and an opportunity to suggest adjustments if necessary.
“School boards believe that assessments do not need to have high-stakes consequences to send meaningful signals to students and schools or to provide policymakers with useful information,” said LaCoff. “Testing should inform and enhance instruction, not impede instruction.”

Skipping the tests: Pennsylvania opt-out numbers doubled last year
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015 3:09 pm | Updated: 3:23 pm, Thu Feb 12, 2015.
Seeds of discontentment with standardized testing are taking root in Lancaster County.
The number of third- through eighth-grade students here who were opted out of state exams in math and reading rose to 87 last year, according to the state Department of Education. That's more than five times the 2013 number: 15.  The county figures mirror a statewide spike in math opt-outs from 490 in 2013 to 1,064 in 2014. (Statewide reading opt-out numbers were similar to the math figures but varied by a few students.)  Local opt-out advocates called the growth exciting, while school officials expressed mixed opinions. And as U.S. Congress considers rewriting key legislation related to testing, some in both roles are hoping for a wider change.

House committee debates Common Core, Keystone exam requirements
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau February 13, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURGPennsylvania’s academic standards and end-of-course high school examinations are in place. But not, if some legislators have their way, for good.
The House Education Committee on Thursday heard testimony on two proposals that could affect what the state’s public school students are required to learn.

The biology crisis at Overbrook High
OVERBROOK HIGH School has not had a biology-certified teacher since September.
The 129 students enrolled in biology, instead, have seen their teachers reassigned, classes changed and little instruction in the biology lab since the fall for a course that is a state requirement for high school graduation.

Inside Take: New Charters Should Be Unacceptable to All
Donna Cooper: “No child should be harmed so another child can be helped.”
Philly Mag Citified Opinion BY DONNA COOPER  |  FEBRUARY 12, 2015 AT 9:30 AM
Conditions in the School District of Philadelphia have hit a new low after four record breaking years of state disinvestment in education and years of meager improvements in school performance. That situation is poised to change for the better if the new governor and legislature heed the voter sentiment expressed in the historic ousting of a sitting governor largely because of his sweeping education funding cuts. Unfortunately, while the new players in Harrisburg are still unpacking their boxes, the School Reform Commission must decide whether to approve new charter schools and what cuts to impose on traditional schools to pay for charter expansion.

"Sharon Ward, director of PBPC, has accepted a position with the Wolf Administration as director of the Governor’s Budget Office, effective this week."
Announcement from the Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on February 12, 2015
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Keystone Research Center are pleased to announce that Sharon Ward, director of PBPC, has accepted a position with the Wolf Administration as director of the Governor’s Budget Office, effective this week.
Sharon has been with KRC since 2005 and shaped PBPC into one of the most effective state fiscal policy projects in the country. Sharon’s appointment is testimony to her deep knowledge of budget and taxes, and her unmatched work ethic and sense of responsibility. We are grateful for her work over the last decade and wish her success in her new role.

"The Public School Employee Retirement System is killing us," he said.
Salisbury school board approves preliminary budget
By Kevin DuffySpecial to The Morning Call
The Salisbury Township School Board approved its preliminary general fund budget for the 2015-16 school year, which may include pursuing exceptions for which the district may qualify.
The board approved a tentative general fund budget of $33,794,749, which would amount to a 1.03 percent increase over the current budget of $33,450,885.  If approved as proposed by the June 30 deadline, the spending plan would require a real estate tax levy of 18.1349 mills, or a 0.6 mill increase over the current rate of 17.4956.  Board President Russell Giordano said the district might pursue a referendum exception to the state Public School Employees Retirement System to increase the tax rate beyond its adjusted index. Districts are permitted to apply for such exceptions, when qualified, when adopting their preliminary budgets to gain flexibility.

Pennsylvania lawmakers renew push for more oversight of public borrowing
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads BY EMILY PREVITI, WITF FEBRUARY 12, 2015
Some legislators think the Commonwealth should have stricter rules governing how local government units and public school districts borrow money.  Citing the capital city of Harrisburg's debt crisis, they introduced four bills targeting the state's Local Government Unit Debt Act, or LGUDA, in 2013.   They did it in ceremonial fashion with a news conference at the publicly-owned incinerator tied to more than half the municipality's nearly $600 million obligation.

Fund Our Schools
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey February 13, 2015
Like a breath of fresh spring air in the middle of the winter, Gov. Tom Wolf this week talked about his plan to restore funding to our schools. After touring an elementary school on Wednesday morning, he announced a proposal to impose the 5 percent natural gas extraction tax that he promised during his campaign. He estimated it would raise about $1 billion in the first year and said the “lion’s share” would be dedicated to education – which would put the figure close to what Gov. Corbett cut from our schools.  Gov. Wolf explained, “We have to make sure that we’re funding schools adequately, and this is a source of funding that’s fair for Pennsylvanians. … We have the natural resources to actually do something about the problem here.” [Post-Gazette,PowerSource, 2-12-15] Further underscoring the fact that he really does get the problem, Gov. Wolf noted:
"The commonwealth ranks 45th in the nation in percentage of state funding for public education, and as a result, we have seen larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and vital program cuts. These cuts have made it more difficult for students to get a strong education in Pennsylvania’s public schools. This is the right thing to do for our children and our economy and to move Pennsylvania forward. [ 2-11-15]"

Education the centerpiece of Helen Gym’s run for City Council At-Large
UC Review By Nicole Contosta Staff Reporter Wed, Feb 11, 2015
The chant "run, Helen, run," reverberated throughout the Ethical Society of Philadelphia February 9th. There, hundreds of supporters gathered to cheer Helen Gym’s campaign launch for this spring’s primary election.  Gym, who formerly taught at the Lowell Elementary School, helped co-found Parent’s United - an organization geared towards strengthening Philadelphia’s public school system - as well as the Philadelphia Public Notebook. Thus in supporting her candidacy, Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), announced that it "enthusiastically endorses Helen Gym for City Council At-Large. We will support her campaign with the same energy and commitment that she has shown in her fight for quality public education in Philadelphia."

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Reaches High Of 81 Percent
The Huffington Post  |  By Rebecca Klein Posted: 02/12/2015 2:54 pm EST
The U.S. high school graduation rate reached a new high of 81 percent for the 2012–2013 school year, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Education.  Since 2010, states have been calculating their four-year high school graduation rates using a uniform measure, so that accurate comparisons can be made between different parts of the country. Eighty-one percent is the highest high school graduation rate the United States has seen since states began using this measure, a Thursday statement from the Education Department said.

Education Committee Sends No Child Left Behind Update To House
AP By Kimberly Hefling Posted: 02/12/2015 3:17 pm EST Updated: 28 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-led House education committee approved a partisan bill Wednesday to update the No Child Left Behind education law, maintaining annual testing requirements but stripping the federal government of much of its influence in local schools.
The bill, similar to one passed by the House in 2013 without one Democrat voting in support, was protested by Democrats. They said it would lead to the federal government abandoning its responsibility to ensure poor, minority, non-English-speaking and disabled children receive a quality education.  "Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have dismissed every plea for cooperation, and are pushing a bill that would take American public education in the wrong direction," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The bill passed 21-16 along party lines.

115 education groups: GOP No Child Left Behind legislation is vastly underfunded
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 12 at 11:27 AM  
The Republican-dominated House education committee just approved legislation, H.R. 5, that is a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act with funding levels that critics say are inadequate to properly support K-12 public education. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate’s education committee, has released draft legislation that has been hit as well by critics who say the funding levels are below the fiscal 2012 pre-sequestration total and would harm efforts to improve student achievement.  Here are letters written by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of some 115 national education groups, and sent to the leaders of the House and Senate education committees. They detail funding problems the committee has identified in both pieces of legislation, and included is a list of programs that would be affected if the legislation was approved as is.
The Committee for Education Funding was founded in 1969 with a mission to advocate for adequate federal financial support for the country’s public education system.  A list of its broad array of members — which includes universities, education advocacy groups, professional education organizations and more –  is at the end of this post.

Stop the Push Out
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey February 12, 2015
In Pittsburgh, students of color are 2.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students. Four out of every ten black students are suspended at least one time. And suspension is just one of the policies, practices, and procedures that “push out” students, making them less likely to graduate – a serious, and life altering outcome that feeds the “school to prison pipeline” and disproportionately impacts students of color and those with disabilities. [Beyond Zero Tolerance, ACLU report, 2013]  After meeting with parents all over the city, the Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh coalition has made school push-out one of its primary areas of focus. GPS is partnering with the Education Law Center, the Center for Third World Organizing, and other organizations to host a conversation about school push out and discuss what they will be doing this year to tackle the problem. Please join us:
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 5:30 PM Dinner, 6PM Meeting
Sci-Tech Academy (107 Thackeray Ave., Oakland)

More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing
WHO: Jesse Hagopian and Helen Gym
WHEN: February 13, 2015 at 7pm - 10pm
WHERE: Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Join us for a book event and discussion between teachers, students and parents of the new uprising against high-stakes testing with Jesse Hagopian, editor and a leader of the Seattle MAP test boycott Helen Gym, cofounder of Parents United for Public Education other speakers to be announced soon!

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York County 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 25
Where: York Learning Center, 300 E. 7th Ave., North York
Who: Panelists will include Emilie Lonardi, West York Area School District superintendent; Scott Deisley, Red Lion Area School District superintendent; Brian Geller, Northeastern School District director of operations; Troy Wentz, Hanover Public School District business manager; Ellen Freireich, York Suburban School Board member; Eric Wolfgang, Central York School Board member; Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Susan Spicka, advocacy coordinator for Education Voters of PA will facilitate the event.

PSBA 2015 Advocacy Forum
APR 19, 2015 • 8:00 AM - APR 20, 2015 • 5:00 PM
Join PSBA for the second annual Advocacy Forum on April 19-20, 2015. Hear from legislative experts on hot topics and issues regarding public education on Sunday, April 19, at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg. The next day you and fellow advocates will meet with legislators at the state capitol. This is your chance to learn how to successfully advocate on behalf of public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
·         Schedule of Events
·         Day One –PSBA headquarters
·         10 a.m. — Early Bird Arrival and Registration
·         10:30-12 p.m. — The State Education Agenda
The chairman of the Senate and House Education Committees will share their perspectives on the education agenda for the 2015-16 session of the General Assembly. Speakers: Senator Smucker, chairman, Senate Education Committee; and Representative Saylor, chairman, House Education Committee
·         Noon-1:15 p.m. — Welcome Lunch
·         1:00-12:15 p.m. — Special Welcome and Introduction: Nathan Mains, PSBA Executive Director and William LaCoff, PSBA President
·         12:30-1 p.m. — Speaker: Diane Ravitchnationally known education historian, policy analyst and author of Reign of Error.
·         1:15-2:00 p.m. — Education Priorities will be discussed with the Education Secretary Pedro Rivera
This session provides the latest information on the governor’s proposed state funding plans, the pension crisis and the latest on special education.
·         2:00-2:30 p.m. — Federal Education Update: NSBA
Director of National Advocacy Services Kathleen Branch will join Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman from NSBA, to speak about federal advocacy.
·         2:30-3 p.m. — Social Media Training (Speakers to be announced)
·         3-3:15 p.m. — Break
·         3:15-3:45 p.m. — Grassroots Advocacy: How to be an Effective Advocate
Hear from former Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D’Alessandro, school director from West Jefferson Hills SD and PSBA Allegheny Region 14 director, and Mark B. Miller, board vice president of Centennial SD and PSBA BuxMont Region 11 director.
·         3:45-4:15 p.m. — Legislative Update and Lobby Day Coordination
PSBA’s Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan will walk you through legislative issues and priorities that might be addressed the next day during legislative visits by members.
·         4:15-5 p.m. — Roundtable Discussion
Network with your fellow board members before visiting your legislator
·         5:00-5:15 p.m. — Break
·         5:15-6:30 p.m. — Dinner Buffet
Enjoy a legislative discussion on the 2015-16 budget and appropriations with Senator Browne
·         6:30 p.m. — Adjourn

Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager
Campaign for Fair Education Funding February 2, 2015
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding seeks a campaign manager who is a strategic thinker and an operational leader. This position could be filled by an individual or firm. The manager will lead the day-to-day operations of the campaign and its government relations, communications, mobilization and research committees and work in partnership with the campaign governing board to set and implement the campaign’s strategic direction.

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania Education Funding Lawsuit website
Arguing that our state has failed to ensure that essential resources are available for all of our public school students to meet state academic standards.

Sign up for National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Network
Friends of Public Education

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Pittsburgh Region Saturday, February 21, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit, 475 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA  15120
Harrisburg Region Saturday, March 7, 2015– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

PILCOP: Children with Emotional Problems: Avoiding the Juvenile Justice System, and What Does Real Help Look Like?
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
This session will help you navigate special education in order to assist children at home not receiving services, those in the foster care system or those in the juvenile court system. CLE and Act 48 credit is available.  This session is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice, a Pre-approved Provider of Continuing Education for Pennsylvania licensed social workers.  Click here to purchase tickets  

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:
These low rates will last for the month of January.
The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.
There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.   Featured speakers will be:
§         Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
§         Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
§         Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
§         Diane Ravitch in conversation with
§         Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
§         Randi Weingarten, AFT President
§         Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

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