Thursday, March 19, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 19: OP-ED: Wolf plan taps bipartisan ideas

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 19, 2015:
OP-ED: Wolf plan taps bipartisan ideas

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York: Wed., March 25th, 6:30pm to 8pm at York Learning Center

OP-ED: Wolf plan taps bipartisan ideas
York Dispatch By STATE REP. KEVIN SCHREIBER D-95th District POSTED:   03/18/2015 01:37:31 PM EDT
As York countians who have known and worked with Tom Wolf for years, I doubt any of us were surprised to hear a budget proposal that was undoubtedly bold. But we also know the governor to be thoughtful and pragmatic. He is certainly well-aware that his address is just the beginning of a long state budget process that will — at its best — require tough compromises and — at its worst — engender harsh opposition attacks.
Clearly, Gov. Wolf heard on the campaign trail last year what every elected official in this commonwealth has been hearing for years — that rising property taxes must be addressed. The property tax issue is inextricably linked to public education funding. Over the last four years, schools across Pennsylvania have suffered from considerable funding reductions that led to massive layoffs, the elimination of valuable programs, and property tax increases in more than 90 percent of districts. The governor's budget would increase the state's share of funding for public education to 50 percent for the first time in at least four decades and cut school district property taxes by more than 50 percent for the average homeowner.
His plan will reduce the tax burden on the middle class, senior citizens and others who carry too much of the burden for funding our schools, and Gov. Wolf will work with the General Assembly to create a fair funding formula so that all students are assured the opportunity to receive a quality education no matter where they live.

"The governor has started the conversation to close the inequities in school funding and shore up the struggling school finances in our local districts. Now it’s up to legislators to continue the effort to adequately fund education for all Pennsylvania children and in so doing ease the tax burden on lower- and middle-income communities. This plan as it stand now doesn’t achieve that goal, but it does put front and center the funding gap burden.  We urge our area legislators to put the need to close the school funding gap front and center as well."
Pa. school funding gap hits home in Pottstown
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 03/18/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
The first budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf gives Pottstown an additional $1 million in state funding in the coming year and a property tax cut of more than 55 percent in the year that follows.
A Mercury analysis, as reported on Sunday, of information posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Education web site shows that among area districts Pottstown would receive the greatest benefit from Wolf’s proposals were they to be adopted by the Pennsylvania House and Senate.  But by all other analyses, that is highly unlikely.  While area school districts, particularly Pottstown and Pottsgrove, view the budget presented by Wolf with optimism, the uncertainties of the tax plan that accompanies additional education funding threaten to derail positive gains.  For Pottstown and other low-income districts in Pennsylvania, those positive gains are long overdue.  According to a report last week, Pennsylvania currently has the largest spending gap between rich and poor school districts, a gap of 33 percent compared to the next highest at 17 percent.  The Associated Press reported that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan cited data from the National Center for Education Statistics that showed high-poverty school districts spent 15.6 percent less than those in the group with the least poverty.

Vanaski: As Pa. schools' spending gap widens, kids learn to do without
Trib Live By Nafari Vanaski Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 11:27 p.m.
It seems a little off that where you live can determine the type of education you receive. But that's the way things are in Pennsylvania right now.  Some might say that sounds alarmist, or overstating things. If you think so, perhaps you should take a closer look at a report this week showing that the per-student spending gap between poor and rich school districts is wider than in any other state. In 2012, the money spent on an individual student in a poor district was 33 percent less than a rich counterpart.  Now what does that mean exactly?  “What it says very clearly is that we have, in many places, school systems that are separate and unequal.”  That's not me — that's what federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan told The Washington Post.
"The General McLane School District would receive $393,259 in increased state funding and $3 million in property tax relief under the plan.  The Erie School District, the largest in the region with nearly 12,000 students, stands to receive nearly $5.6 million in additional basic and special education funding and $37.4 million in property tax relief."
Gov. Wolf tours General McLane, talks budget
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News March 19, 2015 06:22 AM
EDINBORO -- The man elected to office on the promise of improving education for Pennsylvania students walked through a high school in one of the highest-performing districts in the region.
General McLane High School has what many schools don't: a machine shop, ample space for its renowned music program, a science classroom with microscopes lining the desks.
But even here there's more that could be done, Gov. Tom Wolf said.
"This is an example of a really good school district but that, if you look closely, could use better investment," Wolf said Wednesday after a 45-minute tour of the school.  The visit was part of Wolf's statewide "Schools That Teach Tour," an effort by Wolf to promote his 2015-16 education budget. The proposal includes a $400 million increase in basic education funding and a $100 million increase in special education funding as well as more funding for early childhood and college education. 

Wolf expects $3B a year by cutting sales tax exemptions
Morning Call By Marc Levy Of The Associated Press March 18, 2015
HARRISBURGPennsylvania state government would reap $3 billion a year under Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to expand a 6.6 percent sales tax to include transactions on 45 categories of products or services that are currently exempt, according to figures released by his administration Wednesday.  The new figures underscore how big a role the sales tax expansion would play in the Democratic governor's plan to pump $3.2 billion a year into cutting school property taxes and providing $2 billion in new aid to pre-kindergarten programs and public schools over his four-year term.  It would be a bigger source of money than either Wolf's proposal to raise the sales tax rate by 10 percent to 6.6 percent and the income tax by 20 percent to 3.7 percent. The tax revenue gained by removing the sales tax exemptions would almost rival the amount of new revenue under Wolf's plan to increase both the sales and income tax rates.  The biggest exemptions Wolf is proposing to remove include purchases of non-prescription drugs, candy and gum, tickets to entertainment events, and the services of real estate agents, lawyers, barbers and salons.

Turzai, Reed Question Governor’s Authority on School District Demands
Speaker Turzai's website 3/18/2015
HARRISBURG – Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) and House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) today questioned Gov. Tom Wolf’s authority to mandate the state’s 500 school districts expend time and resources on a plan to spend what is, thus far, an unfunded budget proposal.   A copy of the letter, below, was sent to each school district as well. 

School leaders stuck at center of battle between Gov. Wolf and Legislature
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 10:50 am | Updated: 12:55 pm, Wed Mar 18, 2015.
The partisan battle between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature over education funding has Michael Leichliter and Robert Hollister feeling pretty beat up.  “It’s a sad state of affairs that education has been used as a political pawn for many years, but now more people are finally aware of what’s going on,” said Hollister, superintendent of the Eastern Lancaster County School District.  It all started two days after Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a spending plan that set aside an additional $400 million for basic education by imposing a new tax on natural gas drillers and increasing state sales and personal income taxes.

Rescind school spending mandate, GOP leaders ask Gov. Wolf
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 18, 2015 10:51 PM
Republican leaders in the Legislature have asked Gov. Tom Wolf to rescind a mandate given Tuesday to school districts requiring them to submit spending plans to the state in order to receive increased state funding.  In a letter to the governor, House majority leader Dave Reed and speaker Mike Turzai questioned the Wolf administration’s legal authority to issue the mandate when there is currently no funding stream in place to finance it.
But the governor’s office said the mandate will remain.

What’s next for York City Schools?
FOX43 News POSTED 10:44 PM, MARCH 18, 2015, BY MELANIE ORLINS, UPDATED AT 11:04PM, MARCH 18, 2015
A feeling of relief was in the room at the York City School Board meeting. They met tonight for the first time since Chief Recovery Officer, David Meckley, resigned.  Meckley resigned because of the Wolf administration’s lack of support for the district’s recovery plan, which included turning all of the city’s schools into charter schools.  People who are against the district going full charter tell FOX43 for the past couple years there has been some tension in the room during school board meetings.

PSBA encouraged by proposed legislation to give school entities more flexibility in managing staff
PSBA website March 18, 2015
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is encouraged by legislation being proposed by Sen. Ryan Aument and Rep. Stephen Bloom that would provide school districts flexibility in managing its professional staff. Currently, school districts may not reduce staff due to economic reasons. Instead, districts may not take budgets into consideration, but can only reduce professional staff by eliminating entire programs or if student population significantly decreases.
The proposed legislation would allow districts to take economic factors into consideration and also allow for the furlough of teachers according to the needs of the district. Currently, staff reductions must be handled on seniority basis or “last in, first out.”

Stanford's CREDO: Philly charter schools especially beneficial for low-income minorities
New analysis by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has found that charter schools in urban areas show higher rates of growth on state standardized tests compared to traditional urban school districts.  The study found that minority students living in poverty got the biggest boost from attending a charter school.  Released Wednesday, CREDO's report examined test data from 41 urban regions from 2007-2012 using a "match" analytic that compares the growth of students living in the same neighborhoods who share similar demographic characteristics and similar starting test scores.

Revolt against high-stakes standardized testing growing — and so does its impact
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss March 19 at 4:00 AM  
The movement to boycott standardized tests and reform  test-based accountability systems current being implemented across the country is growing. Though exact numbers are impossible to know, students, teachers, principals, parents, superintendents and others are speaking out for the first time calling on policy-makers to roll back test-based school reform — and in many places students are simply refusing to take new Common Core and similar standardized tests. The impact of the agitation on policy is real, as Monty Neill, executive director of  FairTest, explains in this post. FairTest, or the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, is dedicated to eliminating the abuse and misuse of standardized tests.

Sharpen Your Pencils: Come to a Test-In on High Stakes Testing, March 21 at CMU
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey March 18, 2015
Get out your bubble sheet and sharpen your pencil. It’s your turn to take the test! Join us this Saturday to see what the PSSA and Keystone exams look like, take sample questions, talk to teachers, and discuss the impact of high-stakes-testing on students and our schools. It’s like an old-fashioned teach-in, only it’s a “Test-In.” Get it?
We’ll be learning from some great teachers and educators, including Dr. Greg Taranto. He was Pennsylvania’s 2012 Middle School Principal of the Year and is currently serving on Governor Wolf’s education transition team. Other speakers include Steel Valley teacher (and Yinzercation steering committee member), Steve Singer, and Pittsburgh Allderdice teacher, Jon Parker. Please RSVP on our Facebook event page, and then invite your networks.
The Test-In runs from 11:30AM – 1:30PM in the University Center at Carnegie Mellon. Free parking in the garage at Forbes & Beeler. Snacks provided! Co-sponsored by the Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh coalition and Carnegie Mellon’s Center for the Arts in Society.

Register Now for EPLC Forum on the State Education Budget –  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.
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 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 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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