Tuesday, March 17, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 17: Millersville University to host school funding conversation on Tuesday night

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 17, 2015:
Millersville University to host school funding conversation on Tuesday night

Hornbeck: After 20 years charter schools are not the answer

Millersville University to host school funding conversation on Tuesday night
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, March 16, 2015 10:17 am | Updated: 12:58 pm, Mon Mar 16, 2015.
Time/date: Tuesday, March 17 at 7 p.m.
Location: Lehrer Room in Millersville University's Bolger Conference Center.
Who's invited: parents, taxpayers, educators and any others interested in school funding in Pennsylvania.
School funding, it's safe to say, is on the minds of many Pennsylvania policymakers.
In the past year, six school districts sued state officials over insufficient funds, legislators toured the state to hear about the issue, and Gov. Tom Wolf made it a centerpiece of his recent budget proposal.  On Tuesday night, the conversation is coming to Lancaster County. Millersville University and Education Voters of Pennsylvania are hosting a community forum on education funding at 7 p.m.  The forum will be held at the Lehrer Room in the Bolger Conference Center on Millersville's campus. Local speakers include three superintendents, two school board members and a district business manager.

"Republicans in the Legislature have focused on cutting the pension benefits of future employees, although that promises no near-term relief from the rising pension obligation payment schedule for school boards and the state"
Wolf plan seeks to end rising school pension costs early
Penn Live By Marc Levy | The Associated Press  on March 16, 2015 at 6:39 PM, updated March 16, 2015 at 8:00 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Gov. Tom Wolf wants to make the state's first full pension obligation payments in more than a decade and end fast-rising obligation payments for school districts, a top budget official said Monday.  But the Democratic administration's plan to chip away at roughly $50 billion in debt for the pensions of state and public school employees faces a tough reception in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Top GOP lawmakers have focused instead on cutting future employee pension benefits.  The debt has piled up since 2001 during a period when Pennsylvania became one of the nation's worst pension-funding delinquents.  Under the plan, Wolf wants to borrow $3 billion by way of a bond issue and persuade Pennsylvania's two big public employee retirement systems to cut investment management fees by $200 million a year.

Senate pension reform plan coming soon
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, March 16, 2015
According to Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Majority Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the likely prime sponsor of a Senate pension reform bill, the Senate Republican’s pension reform plan is still being worked on and could see the light of day in April.  The caucus leadership has repeatedly said pension reform must be dealt with before any revenue increase considerations can be had.  “I want to have something our caucus will support before I put it in,” Sen. Browne told reporters Monday afternoon following a budget hearing with the Budget Office. “But, it’ll be very different from what the governor proposed.”

Budget secretary answers Senate committee's questions about Wolf budget plan
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 16, 2015 at 9:21 PM, updated March 16, 2015 at 11:14 PM
Pennsylvania senators voiced a lot of questions and concerns about Gov. Tom Wolf's budget plan Monday, in a hearing that put Wolf's Budget Secretary, Randy Albright, on the hot seat before the Senate Appropriations Committee.  These public meetings are really a prelude to the long budget debates ahead.  But beyond the expected majority Republican concerns about a proposed personal income tax increase's effect on Pennsylvania's small businesses, suburban areas getting short shrift in promised property tax reductions, and, generally, too much new spending, here are some moments that stood out as interesting mileposts for the debates to come. 

Senate Republicans grill governor's budget secretary on tax proposals
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau March 17, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Senate began its appropriations hearings Monday with hours of questions -- and comments -- for Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget chief.   As in the House, where budget hearings have been going for a week, the comments from members of the Senate Republican majority tended to draw attention to the Democratic governor’s proposals to increase state revenue by raising the sales and personal income tax rates.  Mr. Wolf’s proposal for Pennsylvania government also includes cutting business taxes and increasing education funding while meeting rising costs for items such as pensions.  “I understand it’s a difficult job,” Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, said at one point. “But I also understand reality, and there are so many taxes in this budget, there’s just no way this stuff is going to go through.”

PSERS earns 8.83% for calendar year 2014 and adds $4.2 billion in net investment income HARRISBURG, PA – The Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) today announced the Fund’s investment performance for the quarter ended December 31, 2014. PSERS earned 8.83% for the calendar year ended December 31, 2014 and added over $4.2 billion in net investment income for the calendar year.

Two troubling stats about Pa. schools - and what they mean to this year's budget debate: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 16, 2015 at 8:37 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
So if you've been paying attention to Gov. Tom Wolf's public schedule of late, then you probably know that he's been crisscrossing the state like some kind of super wonky Merry Prankster as he plugs his "Schools That Teach" education funding initiative.  The York Democrat's spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 proposes a $400 million increase to the state's basic education subsidy, raising it to a total of $6.1 billion.  He's also promised to raise the funding level by $2 billion over the next four years, funded on the back of a proposed 5 percent severance tax on Marcellus shale natural gas drillers.  Wolf also has promised a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the property taxes used to fund education, swapping it for a higher state sales and personal income tax. The overall goal is for the state to shoulder roughly 50 percent of the share of funding for public schools, up from the roughly 35 percent it's been for years.
But as our pal Joel Mathis at PhillyMag reports, two troubling stats show that the administration has its work cut out for it, particularly when it comes to leveling the playing field for poorer districts.  First off, Mathis cites as Washington Post analysis showing that, "in Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts."  Read More: Who's lining up for Wolf's budget plan
As Mathis notes, the funding gap is the highest in the nation, so much so that, even when federal dollars are thrown in, there's still a huge gap between the richest and poorest districts.
Second is a Research for Action analysis showing that the state "Student Performance Profile used to measure the academic performance of every school in the state (with sanctions coming against persistently low-performing schools) seems to be actually measuring the poverty level of those schools," Mathis writes, adding that "as the percent of a school's economically disadvantaged population increases SPP scores decrease."

PhillyDeals: Wolf's pension fix: What a bond can, and can't, do
Inquirer by JOSEPH N. DISTEFANO POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2015, 1:09 AM
Stop panicking about Pennsylvania pensions, says Randy Albright, Gov. Wolf's budget secretary.
Yes, the state's history of overpromising and underfunding, so veteran public workers (and elected officials) can collect nearly their old take-home pay as retirees, has dug taxpayers into a hole.  Sure, the state workers' (SERS) and school (PSERS) pensions have scraped together just around $75 billion of the $130 billion- plus they would need to invest to pay pensions for today's public employees and retirees until they're all dead.  To prevent the cash from running down - since worker contributions and the state's often-exotic investments bring in less than pensioners are paid each year - taxpayers have had to pay in more each year since the mid-2000s, squeezing out other state spending.  "A tapeworm" eating his budget, Gov. Tom Corbett called the pensions. Moody's last year cut Pennsylvania's bond rating to the third-lowest of the 50 states, citing its pension-finance failure. Only Illinois and New Jersey, with bigger pension problems, have worse credit.

Education top issue for city, poll finds
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 16, 2015 05:25 PM
poll from the Pew Charitable Trusts has found that residents rank education as the top issue facing Philadelphia, outpacing crime and the economy.  Opinion on the quality of the public schools has sunk over the past several years, the poll showed, but views on charter schools were mixed.   Only 11 percent of respondents want to keep the School Reform Commission, with 48 percent wanting to replace it with a local board of education and 41 percent having no opinion. If the SRC goes, 64 percent favor an elected board and just 11 percent want an appointed board, while 25 percent had no opinion.  Before the state took over the city schools and installed the SRC in 2001, the District was governed by a nine-person board appointed by the mayor. Philadelphia has never had an elected school board.  Responding to an open-ended question, about one in three people, or 32 percent, cited education as the most important issue facing the city, compared to 23 percent for crime and 22 percent for jobs and the economy.

Schools, not crime, the No. 1 issue, Phila. tells Pew
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2015, 3:53 PM
Education is the most important issue to Philadelphians - more important than crime, jobs, and the economy, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  City residents favor eliminating the School Reform Commission, want an elected school board, and "have an extremely low opinion of the performance of the public school system," according to a research study released Monday.  Philadelphians were mixed on charter schools in the poll - they view them generally positively, but most back the idea of spending more money on traditional public schools rather than creating new charter schools.  Thirty-two percent of city residents view education as the top issue, according to Pew, with 23 percent viewing crime as paramount and 22 percent jobs and the economy.

Philly teachers call on Kenney to be next mayor
Surrounded by teachers and students outside of John B. Kelly Elementary in Germantown Monday, Democratic mayoral hopeful Jim Kenney accepted the endorsement of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.   Kenney, a 23-year veteran of City Council, has been a vocal supporter of teachers throughout the campaign.  "Teachers and principals did not cause that problems that we're facing in the United States and in Philadelphia," Kenney said to the crowd gathered Monday. "They are holding on by their fingertips with lack of resources and lack of respect. We're going to fight as best we can to get them resources, but they're certainly going to have our respect."  The endorsement came after a citywide vote among the PFT's active members, which includes roughly 12,000 teachers, counselors, nurses and other school staff.

Charter school issue in York City School District would appear to be dead.
Capitolwire.com — Under The Dome™ Monday, March 16, 2015
York City School District’s chief recovery officer David Meckley announced his resignation late Friday. That announcement would appear to end the battle over whether the state will take over the district and convert it into charter schools, which was Meckley’s proposed way to address the school district’s fiscal and academic issues. The district was placed in “Moderate Financial Recovery Status” in December 2012, with Meckley appointed as chief recovery officer. The district’s school board adopted a recovery plan in June 2013, but then, more recently, balked at some of its provisions and failed to continue to implement the plan. At the end of 2014, the state Department of Education announced it was putting the school district into receivership, which would have allowed Meckley to implement his plan, but a York County judge issueda stay in that process to allow appeals to be considered. It would now appear that Gov. Tom Wolf intends to abandon Meckley’s plan to address the concerns driving the district’s fiscal and academic problem, and instead give the district more money with “strong accountability measures” attached. Claiming the district’s problems are due to a lack of funding, Wolf said in a statement reacting to Meckley’s resignation: “My budget would provide a $5.6 million increase in funding and more than $29 million in property tax relief for the York City School District.”

Study: Charters More Segregated than Public Schools in Pennsylvania
WESA 90.5 NPR Pittsburgh By LARKIN PAGE-JACOBS  March 15, 2015
Charter schools in the commonwealth have grown rapidly. Over a five year period beginning in 2006, enrollment in the state increased by 54 percent, and according to the most recent data, 6 percent of Pennsylvania students now attend a charter school.
But a study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at Penn State has found that charter schools are more racially segregated than their public school counterparts. 

Cost of Education: No easy answers to balancing fair teacher salaries, fair tax rates
By Rudy Miller | The Express-Times  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 16, 2015 at 6:02 AM, updated March 16, 2015 at 9:42 AM
Both elected leaders and union officials agree: Providing a first-class educational system taxpayers can afford is a balancing act.  Pennsylvania and New Jersey lie in a relatively wealthy part of the United States, so it stands to reason teachers in those states earn more than the average American teacher, according to local education officials.  The average Pennsylvania teacher made about $64,000 for 2013-14 and the New Jersey average was $70,000. They're the sixth- and 10th-highest salaries among the 50 states and Washington D.C., according to the National Education Association.

Cost of Education: Teachers look for solutions to Pennsylvania education funding crisis
By Rudy Miller | The Express-Times Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 16, 2015 at 6:15 AM, updated March 16, 2015 at 8:40 AM
While local school boards have a big say in what teachers earn and what taxpayers pay, they're greatly constricted by decisions made in Harrisburg.  Multiple crises must be resolved in order for education to remain on track, according to state and regional teachers union officials.
"A top priority is to try to solve the school funding crisis overall," said Wythe Keever, the assistant director of communications for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

"School director candidates offered varied reasons for the increased interest in school board races, but Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion director Chris Borick, Ph.D., speculated heightened public interest in education issues could be a factor. Last year, during the governor’s race, polls repeatedly showed education as the top issue on the minds of voters. Gov. Tom Corbett’s failure to continue the education funding levels under Gov. Ed Rendell contributed to local property tax hikes, mass layoffs of teachers and cuts to programs.
“Clearly, the issue has been more prominent in the minds of voters and often the perception among voters might tend to make them more interested in running for the types of seats that have an influence on policy,” Dr. Borick said."
School board candidacies surge on May primary ballot
Scranton Times-Tribune by BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, STAFF WRITER March 15, 2015
Candidacies for Lackawanna County school boards surged this year compared with two years ago, fueling a sharp increase in contested primary election races countywide, a Sunday Times review of nomination petitions for both years found.  The surge was led largely by contested school board races in the Carbondale Area, Dunmore, Old Forge and Valley View school districts.
The increased percentage of contested school board races happened even though the number of available nominations rose to 108 in 2015 from 88 in 2013.
In 2013, only more than a third (36.4 percent) of Democratic and Republican school board races had contests. This time, more than half of Republican (51.9 percent) and almost three in five (57.4 percent) of Democratic school director nominations are contested.  Contested means there are more candidates than available nominations. Each available school board seat has two available nominations, one Republican, one Democrat.  Overall, the number of contested nominations in all the major county and local races rose to more than three in 10 (30.9 percent) this year from about one in five (21.1 percent) in 2013.

Register Now for EPLC Forum on the State Education Budget – Harrisburg on March 18, Pittsburgh on March 19, and Philadelphia on April 1
Education Policy and Leadership Center Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum
You are invited to attend one of EPLC’s Regional Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s Proposed Education Budget for 2015-2016    Space is limited. There is no cost, but an RSVP is required.  The program will include a state budget overview presented by Ron Cowell of EPLC and a representative of the PA Budget and Policy Center. The presentations are followed by comments from panelists representing statewide and regional education and advocacy organizations. Comments from those in the audience and a question and answer session will conclude the forum.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015– EPLC Education Policy Forum on the Governor’s State Budget Proposal for Education – 8:30-11 a.m. – Hilton HarrisburgHarrisburg, PA – RSVP by clicking here
Thursday, March 19, 2015– EPLC Education Policy Forum on the Governor’s State Budget Proposal for Education – 8:30-11 a.m. – Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center – PittsburghPA – RSVP by clicking here.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015– EPLC Education Policy Forum on the Governor’s State Budget Proposal for Education – 10 a.m.-12 Noon – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PARSVP by clicking here.

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/

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.

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.

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