Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 11: Commonwealth Court to hear first arguments on Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 11, 2015:
Commonwealth Court to hear first arguments on Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit



The next PA Basic Education  Funding Commission Public Hearing will be on Thursday, March 12th at 10:00 am in Hearing Room 1, North Office Building, Harrisburg



Court to hear first arguments on Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit
State officials will argue on Wednesday to have a school funding lawsuit dropped.
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 9:45 am | Updated: 4:00 pm, Tue Mar 10, 2015.
Last fall, School District of Lancaster and five other districts filed a lawsuit against the governor, the secretary of education, legislative leaders and the State Board of Education in Commonwealth Court.  The complaint argued that the state's school funding system is "irrational" and "does not deliver the essential resources students need."  Pennsylvania is one of only three states that do not have a predictable education funding formula based on student enrollment and characteristics.

Court to weigh fate of Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit
Centre Daily Times BY MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press March 11, 2015 
HARRISBURG, PA. — A lawsuit that claims Pennsylvania doesn't provide sufficient funding for public schools is about to face a major hurdle in the courts.  Commonwealth Court on Wednesday will consider whether the case should continue. It's been filed to force lawmakers and the governor to pump more money into education.  The school districts and others who filed the lawsuit argue the current system violates the state constitution's equal protection and education clauses.  Republican leaders in the Legislature say three prior lawsuits with similar aims were denied by the courts. They say school funding is a profoundly political question that the courts aren't positioned to answer.  The legal challenge comes after four years of tight state budgets have forced cutbacks at public schools. Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf called for higher education spending.

Lawsuit asks the Court to ensure that all students -- including those living in low-wealth districts -- have the basic resources they need to meet state academic standards.
Meet Us in Court on March 11th
Education Law Center
On Wednesday, March 11th at 9:30 a.m., the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania will hear oral arguments in our school funding lawsuit which challenges the legislature's failure to adequately support and maintain Pennsylvania's public school system. This historic case, which the Education Law Center filed with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and pro bono counsel O'Melveny & Meyers, asks the Court to ensure that all students -- including those living in low-wealth districts -- have the basic resources they need to meet state academic standards. We ask the court to hear this case and enforce the rights of our children to a "thorough and efficient" system of public education as guaranteed to them by our state constitution.
Please come and support us as we fight for vulnerable students and all public school students across the state. The hearing will be held at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Courtroom 5001 in Harrisburg, PA.  If you plan to attend or have questions, contact Spencer Malloy at smalloy@elc-pa.org. (The courtroom is walking distance from the Harrisburg Amtrak Station.) 

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.

Pa. governor touts education funding plan during Chambersburg school tour
Herald Mail Media by Jennifer Fitch Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:45 pm | Updated: 10:49 pm, Tue Mar 10, 2015.
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf toured Benjamin Chambers Elementary School on Tuesday, taking the opportunity to share more information about how he plans to reduce property taxes using other forms of revenue.  While many of Pennsylvania’s 500 public-school districts now keep 8 percent to 12 percent of operating costs in reserve, they would be capped at 4 percent under his “Schools That Teach” plan unveiled last week, Wolf said.
With additional dollars coming from an increased personal income tax, an increased and expanded sales tax and a new severance tax on natural-gas drilling, school districts would need to cut property taxes to stay within a 4 percent cap for reserves, Wolf said.
“The state is going to play the role the taxpayer has played,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Stack discusses state budget at Ridley High School
Delco Times By Barbara Ormsby, Times Correspondent POSTED: 03/10/15, 11:52 PM EDT |
RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >> Lt. Gov. Mike Stack Tuesday shared with some seniors at Ridley High School how Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would impact public education in the state.  “I’m visiting the Ridley School District because I’m hear to talk about getting more funds for education,” Stack told students in Carmen Sergi’s senior seminar government class and advanced placement government students. “Pennsylvania ranks 45th in funding for public education and that says we are not investing in the future. Gov. Wolf wants to restore a billion dollars in funding for public education. The bottom line is we have to find a better way to fund public education at a higher level.”  In part, Wolf’s proposed budget would increase basic education funding by $2 billion over the next four years by implementing a 5 percent natural gas extraction tax, with an eye toward reducing homeowners’ school property taxes by 50 percent.

Dallas SB listens to fair funding presentation
By Marcella Kester For Times Leader Last updated: March 10. 2015 3:55PM - 545 Views 
DALLAS — The Dallas School Board listened to a presentation on public school funding, voted on personnel changes and heard group updates on Monday evening.  Sandra Miller, the area’s local representative for Campaign for Fair Education Funding, gave a presentation to the board, claiming that Pennsylvania’s public schools don’t have a formula to figure out how much money each district should receive and hasn’t had a working formula to distribute basic education funding since about 1992.  “We need to have a stable funding system in Pennsylvania,” Miller said.

Bethlehem school officials worried about Keystone Exam project-based Assessments
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 10, 2015 at 6:45 AM, updated March 10, 2015 at 2:49 PM
Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy thinks the new Keystone Exam project-based assessments are a "disaster waiting to happen."  Starting with the class of 2017, all Pennsylvania students must pass three-end-of course, subject-based exams. If students fail to show proficiency on the exam twice, the state has developed a project-based assessment system.  Districts are tasked with administering these alternative assessments, which will be scored by statewide panels of teachers, principals and curriculum specialists.
But districts are struggling with how to schedule students to complete the assessments, Assistant Superintendent for Education Jack Silva said.

"Project-based assessments, which must be done during school hours, can take from eight to 40 hours, depending on how much a student is struggling. Students take the assessments until they get a satisfactory score."
Failure on Keystone Exams concerns BASD officials
By Jacqueline PalochkoOf The Morning Call March 10,2015
BASD administrators concerned about what happens to seniors who fail Keystone Exams
Bethlehem Area School District officials are concerned about what happens when a high school senior doesn't demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone Exams.  At Monday's committee meeting, Chief Academic Officer Jack Silva told the school board that the state mandates a senior take a project-based assessment if he or she takes the Keystone Exams twice and still isn't proficient. Starting with the Class of 2017, high school students will have to pass a series of Keystone Exams in order to graduate.  But Silva and Superintendent Joseph Roy have concerns about the project-based assessment.  "It's a disaster coming across the state," Roy said. "This is a major, major issue for high schools across the commonwealth."

Lawmakers keep striking out on pensions - when will they get a clue?: Stephen Herzenberg
PennLive Op-Ed  By Stephen Herzenberg on March 10, 2015 at 1:00 PM, updated March 10, 2015 at 3:21 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf is ushering in a new political opportunity in Pennsylvania. His budget is a home-run for Pennsylvanians, actually focusing on things that matter to voters - quality education, more and better jobs, government that works.  Despite this new opportunity, some lawmakers want to continue their tired efforts to gut the state's secure pension system and move employees toward a 401(k)-style plan.  They are threatening to hold the governor's budget hostage until the pension "crisis" is addressed - under the guise of cutting costs for taxpayers.   The problem? Lawmakers not ready to address education and jobs have yet to offer a pension plan that would save any money.

Neff and Green present a unified front despite SRC shake-up
Neff on the PFT contract: "We can't spend money we don't have, and we have to have work-rule changes."
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Mar 10, 2015 05:51 PM
In the wake of the recent School Reform Commission shake-up, Marjorie Neff and Bill Green presented a unified front Tuesday at a lighthearted news conference at Philadelphia School District headquarters.  Green, a former city councilman who left his post to become SRC chair in January 2014, was stripped of the leadership position by Gov. Wolf on March 1.  Wolf tapped Neff – a former District principal and teacher who became a commissioner in July – to become chair, saying that she "shared his vision for investing in public education."  On Tuesday, both commissioners met with reporters in hopes of refocusing the public's attention on what they described as a shared quest to improve educational outcomes for the city's children.

New SRC chair, same line on teachers' contract
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 5:11 PM
Expect no major position shifts on the reshuffled School Reform Commission, its leaders said Tuesday.  That means the SRC is still holding a hard line in negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said the new chairwoman, Marjorie Neff.  "We have to have a contract that is fiscally responsible. We can't spend money we don't have, and we need work-rule changes that allow Action Plan 3.0 to go forward," Neff said, referring to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s blueprint for moving the Philadelphia School District ahead.  Neff and Bill Green spoke to reporters Tuesday, a day after Green announced he would not pursue a legal challenge to Gov. Wolf's removal of him as leader of the SRC.


Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 4 - 10, 2015
FairTest website Submitted by fairtest on March 10, 2015 - 1:26pm 
Once again, this week's stories come from more than half the states as the testing resistance and reform movement rapidly accelerates across the U.S. and wins more victories.

As Demand for Welders Resurges, Community Colleges Offer Classes
New York Times By PATRICIA COHEN MARCH 10, 2015
HOUSTON — Ryan Gassett had already put in a full day, moving heavy boxes and furniture for $15 an hour, when his introductory welding class began at 10 p.m. By the time he arrived at Lone Star College north of Houston, the highway toll collectors at the exit for the school had closed for the night and the campus janitors were mopping bathrooms.  The graveyard-shift course was not his first choice, Mr. Gassett, 19, explained, but “there were no other openings.” So he took what he could get.  In recent decades, welding — like other blue-collar trades that once provided high-school graduates with a reliable route to the middle class — seemed to have about as promising a future as rotary phones. But many of these once-faltering occupations are finding new life in Texas and the Gulf Coast region, where an industrial revival built around the energy boom continues to spawn petrochemical plants and miles of new pipeline despite the plunge in crude oil prices.



Delaware County and West Philly Dentists to provide FREE dental care to children 0 – 18 years old during spring break the week of March 30 – April 3 for “Give Kids a Smile Day.” 
For this event, sponsored by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local dentists will provide free screenings and cleanings for children.  Give Kids a Smile Day is especially for children who do not have health insurance or who have not had a dental exam in the last six months. Appointments are necessary, so please call PCCY at 215-563-5848 x32 to schedule one starting Monday, March 16th.  Volunteers will be on hand to answer calls. Smile Day information can also be found on the school district website and on PCCY’s website - http://www.pccy.org/resource/give-kids-a-smile-day/

Nominations for PSBA offices now open: Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA. Persons seeking consideration for a position as an officer or at-large representative of the Association shall file at PSBA headquarters to the attention of the Leadership Development Committee chair in an envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL an Application for Nomination on the form approved by the PSBA Governing Board, accompanied by a photograph, letters of recommendation and such other supporting materials as may be specified on the Application for Nomination form for the purpose of further documenting the candidate’s involvement in activities of the association, relevant community service and leadership experiences or other qualifications.


PCCY Spring Training:  Hit a School Funding Home Run for Kids  Advocacy Training Workshop March 18 or 21
This year we have an unprecedented opportunity to make public education funding more fair and to get more of it for schools across Pennsylvania. Voters spoke in November when an incumbent governor—widely perceived to be responsible for drastic education cuts, was unseated while his opponent ran on the promise to increase school funding. A funding commission has been established to research and develop recommendations for a new funding formula. Now is our time to let our elected officials know we take investment in education seriously.
Please join Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) for our annual advocacy training to learn how you can win fair and increased funding for our students.
By participating, you’ll be joining a statewide movement. PCCY is a part of a statewide coalition of 50 (and growing) organizations committed to getting a fair funding formula passed by 2016.
Attend our training to:
·         Learn
o        Why education funding in PA is broken and how a funding formula can fix it
o        Best practices for amplifying your voice for PA kids
o        How to develop an advocacy plan tailored to fit your schedule and strengths
·         Connect with
·         Others throughout our region who are as passionate about public education as you are
·         Leave
·         Inspired and ready to take action for PA
Workshop Details:
When: The same workshop will be offered on two different days for your convenience.
Wednesday, March 18th, 6:00-8:00pm or Saturday, March 21st, 9 am - Noon
Where: United Way Building, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Philadelphia, 19103
For additional information, email info@pccy.org.
This event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested. Children are welcome.
Click here to sign up:

Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia offering two special education seminars in March
Leaving Gifted Kids Behind Tuesday, March 24, 2015 1:00 -- 4:00 P.M.
In this session, participants will learn how Pennsylvania law affects and supports gifted children, as well as practical tips for ensuring gifted services. We will also discuss race and gifted services.
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.  

This session will focus on giving you the tools you need to support children with emotional problems, including those in the foster care system or those in the juvenile court system.
Note: This session was originally scheduled for February 17, but had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather. Tickets purchased for the original date still apply. 

United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 19103
Tickets: Attorneys $200       General Public $100      Webinar $50   
Pay What You Can" tickets are also available

2015 Pennsylvania Budget Summit
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Hilton Hotel, Harrisburg Pennsylvania
PA Budget and Policy Center
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will host its Annual Budget Summit on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at the Hilton Harrisburg. Join us for an in-depth look at the Governor's 2015-16 budget proposal, including what it means for education, health and human services, and local communities. The Summit will focus on the leading issues facing the commonwealth in 2015, with workshops, lunch, a legislative panel discussion, and a keynote speech.
Space is limited, so fill out the form below to reserve your spot at the Budget Summit.

The State of Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM
United Way Building, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
Join Law Center attorneys for a briefing on the basics of education funding, a recap of the March 11th oral arguments in the school funding lawsuit, information on the new administration’s budget proposal and more.  There are limited spots available for this free event. 1.5 CLE credits will be offered to participating attorneys.

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Lancaster County Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York: Wednesday, March 25th, 6:30pm to 8pm at the York Learning Center, 300 E. 7th Avenue, York.
More info/registration: http://www.educationvoterspa.org/index.php/site/news/2015-events/

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Cumberland County: Wednesday, April 1, 7:00 pm at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center, 340 North 21st Street, Camp Hill.
More info/registration: http://www.educationvoterspa.org/index.php/site/news/2015-events/

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.

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.
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

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:

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