Wednesday, March 18, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 18: Lancaster County school leaders sound call for new state funding formula

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 18, 2015:
Lancaster County school leaders sound call for new state funding formula

Hornbeck: After 20 years charter schools are not the answer

Lancaster County school leaders sound call for new state funding formula
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 10:02 pm | Updated: 10:05 pm, Tue Mar 17, 2015.
The last time state funding for public schools was connected to student population numbers was in the early 1990s.  That means that Penn Manor School District's allocation is based on data from when Superintendent Mike Leichliter was still in college, he told an audience of about 100 people at Millersville University on Tuesday night.  "The funding formula is no longer a formula. It was an amount that was set 25 years ago," he said.  "Since that time, the state funding of schools has increased by just a small percentage each year. It’s not based on enrollment. It’s not based on any kind of weighted factors like your special needs population.”

Public forum will offer taxpayers an important chance to engage in school funding debate
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 6:00 am
The Issue: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted last week that Pennsylvania has the largest spending gap — 33 percent — between rich and poor school districts in the country. Vermont is second on the list, with a spending gap of 18 percent. “We still have school systems that are fundamentally separate and unequal,” Duncan said. The School District of Lancaster and five other school districts now are suing state officials over what the districts believe to be inequitable funding.
The school funding system in Pennsylvania is “broken,” as former Solanco Superintendent Martin Hudacs put it in LNP on Sunday.  Taxpayers know it. Parents know it. Educators know it. And, thankfully, our lawmakers, who have the power to do something about it, also know it.
The bipartisan legislative Basic Education Funding Commission is trying to come up with a formula for funding the commonwealth’s school districts. Lancaster County’s own Sen. Lloyd Smucker and Rep. Mike Sturla sit on that commission, as does Acting Education Secretary PedroRivera, former School District of Lancaster superintendent.  Pennsylvania is one of just three states that do not have a school funding formula based on student enrollment and characteristics.

"Wolf's Budget Secretary Randy Albright said Monday that the administration wants to cap reserves at four percent for all school districts"
Wolf plan would cap school districts' 'rainy day' surplus at 4 percent
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 16, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf wants to cut property taxes and keep them low, but not just by shoveling more state aid toward Pennsylvania's school districts – his proposal would also attach more strings to their taxing power.  Right now, school districts are permitted to increase property taxes while hanging onto a certain amount of surplus funding. Depending on their overall spending, school districts can keep eight to 12 percent of their budget in reserve, even if they're not earmarking the money for some future expense.  Wolf's Budget Secretary Randy Albright said Monday that the administration wants to cap reserves at four percent for all school districts, "meaning that if a district had more than four percent in fund balance, then they would not be able to increase their local property taxes at all."

Wolf administration wants to know how districts would spend $400M
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 17, 2015 at 9:23 PM, updated March 17, 2015 at 10:15 PM
Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera ruffled Republican feathers by asking superintendents to share with the Department of Education their plans for using the $400 million Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing to invest in direct support to schools next year.Submitted   One week after Senate Republican leaders warned superintendents against counting on the $400 million increase in direct support to school districts that Gov. Tom Wolf proposed in his budget, the Wolf administration is asking districts to detail how they will spend it.  In a letter to superintendents included below, Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera called on districts to submit plans by May 15 identifying the evidence-based option they plan to spend the money on to improve student learning and how they intend to measure the results.

"The governor said his goal is two-fold: to increase education funding and make the mechanism for doing that more fair by reducing the reliance on property tax. Called the Pennsylvania Reinvestment Education Act, Wolf’s funding increase is financed with help from a 5 percent severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas that is coupled with a proposal to cut property taxes in half by replacing them with higher personal income taxes and an increase in sales tax."
Governor Tom Wolf takes education funding tour at Cent. Pa. school
The Times Herald By John Latimer, on Twitter POSTED: 03/17/15, 9:39 AM EDT |
Since unveiling a budget last month that invests heavily in public education and proposes changes to the way it is funded, Gov. Tom Wolf has been visiting school districts across the state as part of his Schools That Teach Tour.  On Monday, the governor came to Ebenezer Elementary School in the Cornwall-Lebanon School District to see the type of education children are receiving there.

In Letter to Superintendents, Governor Wolf Announces Plan to Ensure Historic Education Investment Reaches the Classroom
Governor Wolf's website 03/17/2015
Harrisburg, PA - As part of Governor Tom Wolf’s historic commitment to public education, his administration today sent a letter to superintendents across the commonwealth detailing accountability measures to ensure the education funding proposed in his 2015-2016 budget is spent directly on students in the classroom to allow them to compete in a modern economy.  “Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom of the country in state investment in kindergarten through 12th grade education. We need to change that,” Governor Wolf said. “My proposed budget makes historic investments in education at all levels and includes essential accountability measures to make sure these new resources are spent in classrooms.”  Governor Wolf’s plan proposes a $400 million increase in basic education funding, the largest in Pennsylvania history, as well as a $100 million increase in special education funding.  In the letter, Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera called on districts to submit plans to ensure new investment reaches the classroom and to measure results for Pennsylvania’s students.

Senate Republicans Oppose Wolf Administration’s Mandate on School Districts to Provide Reports on Unauthorized Funding
Senator Scarnati's website  March 17, 2015
 (HARRISBURG) – The Wolf Administration is overreaching its executive power by mandating that Pennsylvania school districts provide the Department of Education with reporting of how non-appropriated funding would be spent, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-16), Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-27) and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-13).  Senate Republicans took significant issue with a letter sent today to school superintendents by Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera that required school districts to submit spending plans for a portion of the suggested increased funding in the Governor’s proposed 2015-16 budget.

"Wolf would spend an additional $400 million for basic education and $100 million for special education by putting a new, higher tax and fee on natural gas drillers. He'd change the cybercharter school formula to save districts an additional $162 million."
Schools left hanging in growing budget battle between Gov. Tom Wolf and Legislature
By Steve Esack Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau March 17, 2015
HARRISBURG — In five years as superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District, Joseph Roy has grown accustomed to a quirk in state law that forces school boards to lock in an annual budget before the governor and lawmakers hammer out their own spending plan.  He and his staff can usually read the Capitol tea leaves well enough to reasonably estimate how much money the district can expect and budget appropriately. Not this year, though.  The extra $5.5 million Gov. Tom Wolf would give Bethlehem is so much, Roy is not sure how to account for it. Aside from Bethlehem's proposed 15 percent increase, which is one of the highest in the state, this year's guessing game has gotten even harder due to the widening partisan divide between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature.  On Tuesday, Wolf's acting education chief, Pedro Rivera, emailed superintendents in 500 school districts and ordered them to submit plans to the Department of Education by May 15 stating how they will spend the new money.  Wolf would spend an additional $400 million for basic education and $100 million for special education by putting a new, higher tax and fee on natural gas drillers. He'd change the cybercharter school formula to save districts an additional $162 million.

Don't be fooled - Wolf's property tax plan won't keep property taxes down: David Argall
PennLive Op-Ed  By David Argall on March 17, 2015 at 2:00 PM
State Sen. David G. Argall, a Republican, represents the 29th Senate District, which includes all of Schuylkill and part of Berks County
Many local football fans have watched their favorite NFL team make numerous trades and acquisitions over the past two weeks. Some of those trades leave fans scratching their heads and wondering what the front office is doing to help the team get to the Super Bowl.  Two weeks ago, I heard a similar reaction from local residents to Gov. Tom Wolf's trade offer to give Pennsylvanians permanent increases in state income and sales taxes in exchange for a temporary reduction in school property taxes--a raw deal for taxpayers.  The administration tried to tie their property tax "relief" proposal to state House and Senate plans that were developed  over the course of the last several years by more than 80 grassroots taxpayer groups across Pennsylvania.

Editorial: School district suit only way to even field
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 03/17/15, 12:06 AM EDT 
Bill Adolph is not exactly doing backflips over new Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget and tax plan.
The could be a problem for the governor.  Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, is the majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, through which any fiscal plan for Pennsylvania must pass.  “This is a gigantic tax increase, OK? A gigantic tax increase,” Adolph matter of factly stated this week during the first week of hearings on the controversial spending plan. “I do believe the PIT (personal income tax) and the sales tax is on the middle class. And the governor picked and chose where he sent the money to.”
Wolf and state Democrats instead say it’s a matter of balancing and fairness. They stress that what people lose in increase in the income and sales tax are balanced by decreases in property taxes.  The Democrat who showed incumbent Tom Corbett the door after just one term — something that has never been done in Pennsylvania — wants to use the increased revenue to fix the state’s education funding mess, which was exacerbated during Corbett’s four years, and at the same time tame out-of-control property taxes.
In the meantime, school officials, students and families in Pennsylvania wait.

Pennsylvania lawmakers try again to change laws governing teacher layoff
Two bills proposed in Harrisburg would permit school districts to furlough teachers based on the economic needs of the district.
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 17, 2015 3:24 PM
Efforts are underway once again in Harrisburg to change the state law that calls for teachers to be laid off by seniority and certification area.  Today State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, introduced Senate Bill 5 and state Rep.Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, introduced House Bill 805.The proposals call for school districts to be able to consider teacher performance when laying off teachers. The proposals also would permit school districts to furlough teachers based on the economic needs of the district.  In his memo about the legislation, Sen. Augment stated, "While Pennsylvania continues to recover from the recession, school districts need and deserve the flexibility to make personnel decisions based on performance. Unfortunately, the Public School Code is clear that when furloughs are permitted, seniority alone dictates what teachers stay and go. This illogical mandate has inevitably resulted in the removal of some of the best and brightest teachers across the state which is not only unfair to all those in the teaching profession but to children, as well."

Philly schools chief Hite talks tax increases, 'friends of' groups, and his own tenure
In each of the past few years, the Philadelphia School District has asked the city and state governments to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.  The district has said that the increased funding would allow it to greatly increase educational outcomes for the city's children.   In past years, funding requests never came close to being fulfilled. But this year, plans at the city and state level are on the table to nearly fulfill the district's $309 million ask.  WHYY/NewsWorks' Kevin McCorry sat down with schools Superintendent William Hite to discuss a wide range of topics, including the prospect of additional revenue, the role of "friends of" groups, and his own long-term plans.

Candidate Williams' grade as school founder: incomplete
SHORTLY AFTER the newly created School Reform Commission was sworn in to assume control of the struggling city school district in early 2002, the Daily News began to receive word about a West Philadelphia charter school that had big problems of its own.  It wasn't just any charter school, and it wasn't just struggling.  It was the Renaissance Advantage Charter School - founded by state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams - and the school was falling apart, according to teachers and parents who spoke to the paper for a March 11, 2002, article.  They cited low student test scores; a lack of resources, including textbooks and weak leadership from board president Williams; and a revolving door of principals.

Interview with Yong Zhao: How Should Learning Be Assessed?
KQED Mindshift Blog by Luba Vangelova | March 16, 2015 | 4 Comments
This is the second of a two-part conversation with Yong Zhao about standards, testing and other core elements of the modern system of education, and the assumptions that may be standing in the way of meeting the real learning needs of all children. He is a professor in the college of education at the University of Oregon and author of Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World andWorld Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial StudentsThere is already a strong backlash against politicians and school administrators because of high-stakes standardized tests, and the way results are used to justify school closures. Some parents and educators have encouraged families to “opt out” of tests, such as those related to the Common Core State Standards, as a way to protest these practices and the effects they are having on children, families and communities. However, Yong Zhao, education professor at the University of Oregon, recommends that parents, educators and policymakers go a step further, and use the moment to re-examine the role of testing—and the issue of accountability—more broadly.

Connecticut Superintendents issue ‘clear and compelling vision’ for school reform
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss March 18 at 4:00 AM  
As Congress debates how to rewrite No Child Left Behind, a dozen district superintendents in Connecticut have issued a manifesto that spells out their view of real school reform that moves away from the standardized test-based accountability systems dominant for more than a dozen years.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 11 - 17, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 17, 2015 - 2:52pm 
As the peak of spring standardized exam season nears, parents, students, teachers, superintendents, school board members, and state officials are escalating campaigns to stop testing overuse and misuse.  Once again this week, testing resistance and reform stories come from more than half the 50 states demonstrating the breadth and depth of the national movement

Closing Arguments Begin in Test Cheating Trial of 12 Atlanta Educators
New York Times By ALAN BLINDER MARCH 16, 2015
ATLANTA — After more than five years of controversy and five months of testimony, a prosecutor used seven words on Monday to recap the accusations against the dozen Atlanta educators seated in a courtroom here.  “They cheated,” the prosecutor, John E. Floyd, told the jurors in Fulton County Superior Court. “They lied. And they stole.”  Mr. Floyd’s scornful summary came near the start of what will be days of closing arguments centered on whether significant increases in standardized test scores in Atlanta’s public schools came about because of endemic cheating and what prosecutors say was criminal misconduct that included racketeering. The trial, set up by a March 2013 indictment, as well as a state-commissioned report and a series of articles published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, could lead to decades in prison for the defendants.
And with the death this month of Beverly L. Hall, the longtime Atlanta superintendent who was also charged and was to stand trial separately, the proceedings have taken on the burden of being the climax of the scandal that embarrassed this city.

Spying on students? Education publisher Pearson monitoring social media activity
By Perry Chiaramonte Published March 16, 2015
A copy of the leaked letter penned by a NJ school superintendent over Pearson's monitoring of students' social media. (  One of the world’s largest education publishing companies, which crafted the standardized tests for the new Common Core curriculum, has been monitoring social media accounts to see if students refer to their exams.  Pearson -- a British-based publishing house with it's U.S. headquarters in New Jersey -- has the contract to develop and provide the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) standardized tests. PARCC is one of the two agencies that developed the Common Core program.  Word that Pearson was monitoring social media posts for students commenting on the exams was first reported on the blog of Bob Braun, a former education reporter for The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey.

The Walmart family is teaching hedge funds how to profit from publicly funded schools
Business Insider by ABBY JACKSON MAR. 17, 2015, 12:44 PM
Charter Schools are drawing promoters from a place you might not think of: Walmart.
The Walton Family Foundation — the philanthropic group run by the Walmart family — sponsored a symposium at the Harvard Club for investors interested in the charter school sector, last week.
The event, hosted in Manhattan, was called "Bonds and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools," and was cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  With the explicit intent of helping investors "Learn and understand the value of investing in charter schools and best practices for assessing their credit," the event featured experts on charter school investing from Standard & Poor's, Piper Jaffray, Bank of America, and Wells Capital Management, among others.

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 -

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.

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.

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