Friday, March 20, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 20: Here's why Pennsylvania needs a fair school funding formula: Rev. Richard Freeman, Rev. Gregory J. Edwards and Bishop Dwayne Royster

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 20, 2015:
Here's why Pennsylvania needs a fair school funding formula: Rev. Richard Freeman, Rev. Gregory J. Edwards and Bishop Dwayne Royster

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

Here's why Pennsylvania needs a fair school funding formula: Richard Freeman, Gregory J. Edwards and Dwayne Royster
PennLive Op-Ed  By Richard Freeman, Gregory J. Edwards and Dwayne Royster 
on March 18, 2015 at 2:00 PM, updated March 18, 2015 at 4:03 PM
The Rev. Richard Freeman is the president of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, a faith-based coalition in northwestern Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. He is the pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church in Braddock, Pa.
The Rev. Gregory J. Edwards is the Senior Pastor of Resurrected Life Community Church in Allentown and a leader with POWER Northeast, a diverse faith-based coalition in the Lehigh Valley. 
Bishop Dwayne Royster is the executive director of POWER Philadelphia and the founding pastor of Living Water United Church of Christ in Northeast Philadelphia. 
When it comes to funding our schools, economic inequality and educational inequality in Pennsylvania are inextricably intertwined. And we are not moving fast enough to fix it.    Gov. Tom Wolf has taken an important first step towards prioritizing public education by asking for a dramatic increase in school funding. But his proposal is far from the "promised land."  While 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. 

Editorial: Fair education funding fight goes to court
West Chester Daily Local Editorial POSTED: 03/20/15, 12:10 AM EDT |
Bill Adolph is not exactly doing backflips over new Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget and tax plan.
This 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 stated 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 Democrats instead say it’s a matter of balancing and fairness. They stress that what people lose in increases in the income and sales tax are balanced by decreases in property taxes.  The Democratic governor wants to use the increased revenue to fix the state’s education funding mess, which was exacerbated during Gov. 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.

Editorial: Pension reform a priority in Pennsylvania
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 6:00 am
THE ISSUE: Gov. Tom Wolf wants to issue $3 billion in bonds and cut management fees on the state’s two big pension systems by $200 million per year to pay down their combined $50 billion-plus in unfunded liabilities. Republicans in the state Legislature have called for structural changes that will make the state's pension systems more affordable in the future.  Payments on the pension funds for Pennsylvania’s teachers and state employees will be nearly $4 billion this year and are expected to grow to more than $4 billion next year.  That’s about 12 percent of the total state budget  — nearly 50 percent more than will be spent on the state’s correctional system and 50 percent less than the state expects to collect from its two levies on business profits, the Corporate Net Income and Capital Stock and Franchise taxes.  The governor is right about one thing: It’s time for the state to start paying its share of pension costs. Failing to pay its share is a big part of what caused the state’s pension liabilities to explode.

Wolf’s school tour reaches New Castle
By Nancy Lowry New Castle News Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015 7:17 am
Gov. Tom Wolf believes educating every child is the best means to ensure Pennsylvania’s future.
Through his “Schools That Teach Tour,” Wolf visited the New Castle Area School district yesterday, promoting his proposals directly to the voters hoping they pressure their representatives in Harrisburg to accept his plan.  Wolf has proposed a budget which increases public school funding by $500 million this year and $2 billion over the next four years.  Wolf was welcomed at George Washington Intermediate School by a brigade of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students by a sign and the New Castle High School Band’s playing of the fight song.

Superintendents react to mixed signals over school funding
Penn Live By Barbara Miller | on March 19, 2015 at 7:45 AM, updated March 19, 2015 at 11:14 AM
Superintendents have received some mixed messages from state officials in Harrisburg over the past week about the increase in school funding that Gov. Tom Wolf included in his 2015-16 budget proposal.   One day a letter arrives from Senate GOP leaders warning against counting on the $400 million increase in direct support to schools that Wolf proposed when preparing their district budget for next year. A few days letter, they get another from Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera asking them to share details about how they plan to spend that money. The very next day, they get copied on a letter to Wolf from House Republican leaders asking him to rescind Rivera's instructions.  So what is a superintendent to think? Should they plan on Wolf getting the historic $6.1 billion investment in basic education that depends on controversial tax increases to fund it or not?

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.

Whether Pa.'s schools get a big boost in funding depends on whom you ask
WHYY Newsworks  BY SARA HOOVER MARCH 19, 2015
Superintendents may get whiplash from trying to keep up with what Harrisburg wants them to do with proposed state funding. A partisan battle is heating up over state education dollars that school districts don't have--and may not even see.  Earlier this month, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his preliminary budget that included an additional $400 million for basic education and $100 million for special education funding.  Those extra monies seem to have given Pennsylvania's superintendents a new pen pal: the state capitol.  After the governor introduced his historic investment in education, Republican senators sent a letter to superintendents warning them not to rely on the projected state dollars and to take a "conservative approach" to their budgets.  This week, Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera sent a letter to superintendents that reinforces the idea schools will see increased state funding this year.

What's a school district to do?
John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist POSTED: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2015, 9:03 AM
If you're looking for a sense of how things are going in Harrisburg between the new Democratic Wolf administration and the Republican Legislature all you need to do is read the mail of any school superintendent in the state.  First, right after Wolf proposed new big spending for public education, GOP leaders fired off a missive to school districts essentially saying, yeah, well, don't count your chickens.  And Philly, as you know, is hoping for lots more chickens.  The letter, signed by Senate Republican leadership, including Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, notes Wolf's proposed $400 million increase in the multi-billion-dollar basic education subsidy and other new spending hinges on hikes in taxes "unsupported throughout the General Assembly."
Message: as you're making up your budgets (which are due before the Legislature finalizes its budget in July or whenever) don't figure on figuring in what Wolf wants to give you.

SB128: Pa. should make cyber charter school funding reform a priority
Phoenixville News By State Sen. Sean Wiley, Guest Columnist POSTED: 03/19/15, 2:44 PM EDT
Schools that teach. A very basic concept, yet one that has more complicated layers — with one layer costing about $426 million annually.  Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget included a new $1 billion cumulative investment in education as well as a four-year commitment of $2 billion in new money for basic education, special education and Pre-K. The governor focused on “schools that teach” because “for our children to succeed tomorrow, every child must have access to a great education, and teachers must have the resources they need to deliver a great education.”  Students and families have the choice of the type of education they want: traditional public school, tuition-based school, charter school, cyber charter school or a hybrid. I am an avid supporter of public education and I believe in innovation. I strongly believe we should use tools and mechanisms to educate each student in the way that is best for that child. I am not proposing abolishing methods that can reach children; rather, I believe it critical that we hold education providers to heightened standards of accountability and equity and feel it only fair as taxpayer’s dollars are at issue.

Pa. charter schools wary of the fine print in Gov. Wolf's budget
Cautious optimism flutters in the hearts of Pennsylvania educators, but less so among the state's charter schools.  Gov. Tom Wolf's first budget proposal showed an intention to invest substantially in public education.  Over four years, Wolf would like to boost the state's share of preK-12 education spending by $2 billion through a comprehensive set of tax increases, tied to a plan to offer relief from the local tax primarily used to fund education, the real estate levy. In Philadelphia, the tax relief funds would go to cut the wage tax.  Traditional public school districts and charters alike have much to gain if the Democrat can successfully navigate his vision through the capitol's Republican-held legislative chambers.  Despite their support for the improved funding, charter school leaders have been scratching their heads at some of the fine print.

Philly's Arise Academy charter will close in June
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 19, 2015 10:09 PM
Arise Academy, a charter school founded to educate children in the foster care system, will close its doors in June after six years of struggling to serve its difficult population and meet the requirements set out as a condition of its continued operation.  The School Reform Commission -- the first meeting with Marjorie Neff as the new chair -- voted Thursday night on a resolution to "surrender and forfeit" the charter and "close and dissolve" the school, which now has an enrollment of 94 students.  Under the agreement, the charter agreed not to appeal to the state and to a series of additional conditions, including that it continue to provide its students with all required educational services. 

$16.9 million North Warren schools budget calls for staff cuts
By Steve Novak | The Express-Times Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 19, 2015 at 6:45 AM, updated March 19, 2015 at 6:46 AM
This year's budget was tough enough without the rumors, according to North Warren Regional School District's superintendent.  While fears of axed middle school athletics and other programs were unfounded, Brian Fogelsonstill had to inform some staff members that their jobs could be eliminated.  "It's one of the toughest things I've had to do in my career," the superintendent said Wednesday.  Seven staff positions, including teachers and a guidance counselor, are to be cut under the proposed $16.9 million budget introduced Monday before a large audience of residents, teachers and students.  The biggest problem is declining enrollment, Fogelson said.

Making more than 100 teachers part-time one of Stroudsburg's budget scenarios
By Lynn Ondrusek Pocono Record Writer Posted Mar. 19, 2015 at 4:33 PM
If the Stroudsburg Area School District doesn’t take money from its fund balance or raise taxes, it could face a number of cuts.  Superintendent John Toleno presented two drastic scenarios that could fix the 2015-16 budget gap.  The district has to close a $4.5 million deficit before the budget is adopted. The budget must be adopted by June 30.

Philly City Council candidates' views on education: Helen Gym
By the Notebook on Mar 19, 2015 10:59 AM
On May 19, Philadelphians will hit the polls to winnow the field of City Council at-large candidates. Out of 28 declared candidates, only seven will be elected in November (including at least two from a minority party). Each party can run five candidates in the general election. The Notebook reached out to the candidates, asking their opinions on the election's most gripping issue: education.  Where do candidates stand on the School Reform Commission's decision to approve five new charter school applications? Whose job is it to find more money for public schools, the city's or the District's? Absent an agreement with the teachers' union, do they think the SRC is right to pursue concessions through the courts? And finally, what ideas do they have for how the District can fix its financial problems?  We are posting statements from City Council candidates responding to these prompts in the order we received them. Today's statement comes from Democrat Helen Gym, an education advocate, mother of three children in public schools, and co-founder of Parents United for Public Education. She is also a co-founder of the Notebook, where she has written regularly.

Write on: Penmanship proponents say cursive writing is more than just pencil pushing
By Mary Thomas / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 20, 2015 12:00 AM
The Three R’s — reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic — used to be considered educational cornerstones. Now it appears that at least one of those — writing — is falling victim to the Three T’s — time, tests and technology. But pockets of perseverance still exist.  For generations, knowing how to read and to write have been the hallmarks of an educated person. But the teaching of cursive handwriting in schools nationwide has been declining for decades, mostly due to increasing demands on teachers’ time, the need to prepare students to score well on tests identified with the Common Core standards in most states, and the perception that handwriting is as outdated as dial telephones in a technological age.

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 –  Philadelphia 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, 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.

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