Friday, March 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 13: In PA, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 13, 2015:
In PA, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.

In 23 states, richer school districts get more local funding than poorer districts
Washington Post By Emma Brown March 12 at 8:00 AM  
Children who live in poverty come to school at a disadvantage, arriving at their classrooms with far more intensive needs than their middle-class and affluent counterparts. Poor children also lag their peers, on average, on almost every measure of academic achievement. But in 23 states, state and local governments are together spending less per pupil in the poorest school districts than they are in the most affluent school districts, according to federal data from fiscal year 2012, the most recent figures available.  In some states the differences are stark. In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts. In Vermont, the differential is 18 percent; in Missouri, 17 percent.
Nationwide, states and localities are spending an average of 15 percent less per pupil in the poorest school districts (where average spending is $9,270 per child) than they are in the most affluent (where average spending is $10,721 per child).

Districts, parents take Pa. government to court over education funding
Judges must order Pennsylvania's governor and legislature to guarantee the constitutional right of every student to a "thorough and efficient" education, attorneys told a Commonwealth Court panel Wednesday.  Plaintiffs in the case are six school districts, parents from five districts (including Philadelphia), the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS), and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference. They are represented by attorneys from advocacy groups the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP).  Circumstances have changed significantly since Pennsylvania courts declined to get involved in prior school funding cases brought in the 1990s, attorneys told the judges. Specifically, they said that the legislature has now established the benchmarks for a "thorough and efficient" education through state standards and requirements that students pass Keystone exams in several subjects in order to graduate.  The plaintiffs contend that through these requirements, the legislature has defined a "thorough and efficient" education and the courts are constitutionally obligated to make sure that each district has the means to provide it.  "Our argument was that the courts cannot give the legislature carte blanche, that it's important they be held accountable," said Michael Churchill, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), which is representing the plaintiffs.

Pennsylvania's pension plan is second-most underfunded in the U.S., study says
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 12, 2015 at 10:10 AM, updated March 12, 2015 at 11:05 AM
A new study by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators finds that Pennsylvania has the second most underfunded pension plan in the United States.
The study, published this month, analyzes state retirement plans and their annual required contribution from 2001 to 2013. Over that time period, New Jersey had the most underfunded pension plan with Pennsylvania in a close second place.  "For both states, the chronic underfunding began when required contributions had dropped to very low levels by historical standards, including to as low as zero for some plans, chiefly as a result of strong investment gains experienced from 1995 to 1999," the study said.

Basic Education Funding Commission holds hearing on fair school funding distribution
State officials in Harrisburg are continuing discussions about how to distribute funding for Pennsylvania schools.  The Basic Education Funding Commission held a hearing in Harrisburg on Thursday. They’re trying to come up with a new formula for doling out basic education funding to schools.  The 15-member bipartisan commission heard from representatives from three Central Pennsylvania school districts who testified about their recommendations for the funding in their districts. They talked about classroom size, demographics of the school district and infrastructure needs.  “Unique to Harrisburg, 48 percent of all properties are exempt from property tax of which 40 percent is state-owned.” Harrisburg School Board Vice President James Thompson said.

Q&A: How will Wolf’s property tax relief plan work?
West Chester Daily Local By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter POSTED: 03/09/15, 6:59 PM EDT 
Last week, many school advocates and district officials were waiting for more details on exactly how Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax relief proposal for 2016 will work.  Wolf, who announced his first budget proposal last week, said the plan — which would also call for increasing sales and personal income taxes — would direct $3.8 billion in property tax relief around the state starting in October 2016. His proposal aims to target more relief to high poverty, high tax districts.
Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, said school districts are in a state of “data immersion” in interpreting the budget details.
“There’s just a lot of stuff here,” he said, in terms of the proposed budget’s complexity and the sheer volume of changes. “What we’ve said is, it hits every hot button in school finance.”
Here’s a look at the tax relief proposal.

Questions persist over Allentown School District's fund balance
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call March 12, 2015
Questions continue about Allentown School District's fund balance
Questions about the Allentown School District's finances aren't going away.
At a special board meeting Thursday, Director Charlie Thiel read a statement before the board voted to approve a study of the district's business office. Thiel questioned the discrepancy in the district's fund balance over the past few months.  "From taxpayers to teachers and ultimately students, we are making decisions that affect people's lives," Thiel said. "I cannot make responsible decisions when we have significant fund balance variances."  The questions started in January after the district announced it had $11.6 million more in its fund balance than originally projected. Officials have given an explanation accounting for that money, but some school directors haven't been satisfied.

Only a fair tax system will fully fund Pa. public schools
the notebook commentary By Bishop Dwayne Royster on Mar 12, 2015 01:21 PM
Members of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild), an interfaith organization that has prioritized the fight for full funding for our schools, have been watching this debate as it unfolds and assessing what it means for our children. As people of faith committed to a prophetic critique of “the world as it is,” we must speak truth about what is being left unsaid. When it comes to the funding of our schools, economic inequality and education inequality in Pennsylvania are intertwined -- and we are not moving fast enough to fix it.  
In his proposal, the governor has taken an important first step toward prioritizing public education by asking for a dramatic increase in school funding. But his proposal is far from the “promised land.” Although we applaud any boost to education, the $400 million increase he wants for basic education spending is not nearly enough for districts statewide to restore reasonable class sizes, art, music, nurses, libraries, and other essentials for our children that many districts have cut back on or cut completely.

"Katz proposes raising some $45-50 million for schools from PILOTs (that's "payments in lieu of taxes") that would be assessed on the city's increasingly influential non-profit universities and hospitals ("eds and meds")."
Where is 'Citizen Sam' Katz on charter schools?
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch  THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2015, 7:01 PM
Is Sam Katz, the earnest 1970s Democrat turned Republican businessman turned documentary filmmaker and political independent, running for mayor again?  Signs point to 'yes'...with an 'IF' in 72-point type. Katz came within a percentage point (and maybe a torrential rainstorm on Election Day) from doing the unthinkable in 1999, winning the mayor's race as a Republican. How'd he do it? By positioning himself mostly to the left of the Democratic nominee (and eventual winner) John Street. That would be the strategy again...IF the current Dem frontrunner, state Sen. Tony Williams, emerges in May. If Williams loses to the more progressive Jim Kenney, the newly independent Katz probably sits it out.  That's an informed guess.

On Pi Day, a serving of why we need math Opinion By Darren Glass POSTED: Friday, March 13, 2015, 1:08 AM
Darren Glass is an associate professor and the chair of mathematics at Gettysburg College
On Saturday, our Facebook feeds will be peppered with references to Pi Day, a day of celebration that has long been acknowledged by math fans and that Congress recognized in 2009.  Every high schooler learns that pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter and that its decimal expansion begins 3.14 and goes on infinitely without repeating.  Mathematicians love pi because there are many interesting facts surrounding it. Other people seem to get a kick out of dates that demonstrate patterns. Yet others enjoy any excuse to combine math puns and baked goods - one national food chain is selling pies in honor of the date.
But why do we need a pi holiday?

Talking about Testing
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey March 12, 2015
The movement against high-stakes-testing has mushroomed this year. Students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, and even legislators across the country are talking about the overuse and misuse of testing. A glimpse of what they are saying in a moment, but first: here’s your chance to do some of the talking! Please hold these dates for two important events next week:
1.       Wednesday, March 18th, 6-8PM at Sci-Tech: The Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh community meeting will focus on school funding issues, including a session led by Yinzercation steering committee member, Kathy Newman, on the financial impact of high-stakes-testing. Come learn about these un-funded mandates, how they are hurting our schools, what they are costing state tax payers, and discuss what we can do about it. Dinner at 5:30pm and free childcare available.
2.       Saturday, March 21st, 11:30AM-1:30PM at Carnegie Mellon, University Center: Yinzercation is hosting a “Test In” for the community to come see the tests our kids are taking and answer sample questions. The event will feature Dr. Greg Taranto (a PA middle school teacher of the year and member of Gov. Wolf’s education transition team!) speaking about the impact of high-stakes-testing on students. You might remember his op-ed piece that went viral last year. We will also hear from several teachers, including Yinzercation steering committee member Steve Singer. Keep your eyes peeled for more information.

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 -

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
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:

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:

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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