Saturday, March 21, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 21: Duncan visits Philly to press for Gov. Wolf's education plan

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 21, 2015:
Duncan visits Philly to press for Gov. Wolf's education plan

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

Pennsylvania lawmakers must fix the school funding formula (letter)
York Daily Record By Susan Gobreski UPDATED:   03/20/2015 01:19:48 PM EDT
Susan Gobreski is the Director of Education Voters PA.
Harrisburg's annual budget scrum is underway, and reporters, school officials and parents across York County are playing what amounts to a very expensive guessing game: What's the bottom line for our kids?  The speculation is not surprising. After all, the line item for basic education funding is a huge question mark every single year, and the state's share is a critical piece of the funding puzzle.  But this guessing game is also a reflection of a much more significant challenge that our lawmakers need to address. Right now, Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not have a predictable and sustainable basic education funding formula for K-12 public education.
Not only does it not make sense, it's unfair. A ZIP code, or the political winds of a particular budget season, should not determine if a student has access to a quality education.
It is time for lawmakers to implement a funding formula that ensures that every student in Pennsylvania has access to a quality education, no matter where they live.

Duncan visits Philly to press for Gov. Wolf's education plan
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in Philadelphia today to stump for Governor Tom Wolf's education budget, which he says could turn around the prospects of a state that ranks "dead last" when it comes to equitable school funding.   "Pennsylvania can't be fiftieth anymore,"   said Duncan after a visit to the E.M. Stanton Elementary in South Philadelphia.  "If the legislature can come together in a bipartisan way, then the children here in Stanton, and in Philly, and across the state would have access to so much more than they have today. That's the hope, and that's the goal, and that's why I keep coming back here."  Duncan praised Stanton for doing great things on a shoestring. And local officials such as Mayor Michael Nutter, Superintendent William Hite, and acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera praised Duncan in return.

U.S. Secretary of Education visits South Philly school
POSTED: Sunday, March 22, 2015, 3:01 AM
SEVENTH-GRADER Seandra Berry crowded into the library at Edwin M. Stanton Elementary yesterday for a visit with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Then, flanked by her peers and teachers, she told Duncan that Stanton students need more funding for basic supplies, technology, a full-time nurse and a counselor.  "All schools in the country deserve to have equal opportunities," Berry said.  Duncan joined Superintendent William Hite Jr., acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera and local community and school leaders at Stanton, in South Philadelphia, for an open discussion at 11 a.m. on the importance of public school funding.

"The funny thing is, both the governor and the Legislature seem to have similar goals. They both want to see schools funded adequately. They both want to do something to bring the state's taxation system into the 21st century. They both want to reduce or eliminate property taxes."
Editorial: Time to work together for Pennsylvania
The Hanover Evening Sun POSTED:   03/20/2015 09:48:56 AM EDT
After Gov. Tom Wolf proposed increasing state funding for school districts, Senate Republican leaders sent a letter to the state's school superintendents telling them not to count on getting the additional money.  The governor's office called it a political stunt. A few days later, Gov. Wolf's acting education chief sent school districts an email, asking superintendents to submit plans outlining how they plan to spend the new cash.  Senate Republicans called it a political stunt. And, in a way, both were.  As Gov. Wolf and the Legislature begin cobbling together a state budget by the end of June, the political lines are drawn. Gov. Wolf has proposed sweeping reform of the state's tax structure, while looking to increase the state's share of funding for local schools -- something fiscally challenged urban districts desperately need. His proposals were met with predictable opposition.  At issue is, well ... everything. And a lot of questions remain about, well ... everything.

Editorial: Jackpot dreams: Wolf should focus on a budget, not a wish list
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board March 20, 2015 12:00 AM
Imagine if all the people buying lottery tickets first had to provide an itemized list stating how they’d spend their expected winnings.  That’s akin to what Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered the state’s 500 school districts to do. OK, the schools aren’t taking a chance on the lottery. They’re waiting to find out how much state money they’re likely to get for the 2015-16 school year. But at this stage, it’s still just a gamble.  Mr. Wolf has promised the districts an extra $400 million for basic education and $100 million for special education. In anticipation of that, acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera told the districts to submit spending plans by May 15 that demonstrate what they’ll do with the extra money, spelling out how their intentions match up with 14 options that will be permitted — primarily classroom initiatives that include early childhood education, summer learning, music, art, foreign languages, class size, educational materials and library services.  There’s one big problem. Mr. Wolf first has to persuade the state Legislature to go along with his proposed allocations, and the odds of that happening are looking worse right now than the odds of winning Powerball.

Editorial: Solving the pension crisis
Observer-Reporter Editorial Published: March 19, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf has a plan to lift Pennsylvania from the $50 billion hole that is its public pension crisis. Unfortunately, even if the Republican-controlled Legislature were to roll over on its back and approve the plan as it stands, it’s not enough.  The problems began during those boom times of the 1990s. Under Gov. Tom Ridge, pension plans were made more generous, and the state and most agencies and school districts lowered or stopped making the required payments to the plans, which were rising on their own along with the stock market. Then, the bottom dropped out in 2001, and the economy took another devastating hit in 2008, and along with it, those pension plans. It became apparent that soon not enough money would be in those plans to pay the pensions because of the retired state workers and public school employees.  To save their pension plans, school districts, for example, must now make huge contributions that increase each year, and without some relief, the only way to afford the payments will be to drastically cut programs and payroll and, at the same time, levy enormous property-tax increases.

Wolf and advocates push for big ticket high-quality preschool in Pa.
By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on Mar 20, 2015 07:47 PM
Early childhood advocates are asking families across Pennsylvania to scrounge through their couch cushions on behalf of high-quality preschool programs.  Advocates hope that Pennies 4 Pre-K, a new initiative by advocacy group Pre-K for PA, will draw attention to a much larger pot of funding that could be headed their way: $120 million in Gov. Wolf's proposed education budget.
Appearing at the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) this week, Wolf promoted his budget as a long-term investment.  "Children who participate in high-quality preschool education perform better in school. They graduate in higher rates," said Wolf. "If all those things happen, our society works better and so does our economy."

On March 26, join us at Widener Law School to talk pension reform with top experts
By PennLive Editorial Board Email the author on March 20, 2015 at 10:24 AM, updated March 20, 2015 at 10:38 AM
Public employee retirement costs.  They're the $50 billion beast threatening to swallow state government. And as Gov. Tom Wolf embarks on his first budget, talk of reform is guaranteed to dominate debate this spring and summer.  Lawmakers, school districts and business leaders are calling for comprehensive pension reform, saying that it's the only way to protect our schools and communities from greater tax increases. Others say that we need to give a 2010 law on pensions more time to work.  What would pension reform mean to you?  Do we really need it, and if so, what would it look like?    On March 26, join PennLive/The Patriot-News, The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Foundation and other sponsors as we  play host to a panel of experts atWidener University Law School to discuss solutions, next steps and the scope of this very challenging public policy issue.

Olney Charter staff seeks to unionize
A GROUP OF TEACHERS and staffers at Olney Charter High School yesterday filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting the federal agency conduct an election that would allow employees to become unionized.  The filing included signed union authorization cards from Olney employees and stated that the new union would be part of the Alliance of Charter School Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, according to the petition.  More than 70 percent of the 150-person staff signed on to the effort, which may face a challenge from Olney's charter operator, ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania.

The Interview: Retiring 'Notebook' editor Paul Socolar
Daily News POSTED: Sunday, March 22, 2015, 3:01 AM
PUBLIC SCHOOLS watchdog Paul Socolar, 59, announced last month that he's leaving his longtime post as editor/publisher of The Notebook. But he's not yet test-driving rocking chairs or fishing lures.

Pittsburgh Public Schools committee 'elevates the coolness' of fathers' involvement in kids' education
By Jill Harkins / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 17, 2015 12:05 AM
In a field where mothers often lead PTOs and female teachers lead classrooms, the Male/Fatherhood Involvement Committee of Pittsburgh Public Schools is encouraging men to believe that their involvement in a child’s early education isn’t just a possibility, it’s also a privilege and a duty.  “Just because it’s a female-dominated environment doesn’t mean that I can’t still be as impactful,” said Dwayne Barker of Northview Heights, who chaired the committee for three years beginning when his son was in preschool at the district’s Spring Garden Early Childhood Education Center

Alle-Kiski Valley school districts respond to governor's funding proposals
Trib Live By Liz Hayes Saturday, March 21, 2015, 12:01 a.m. Updated 9 hours ago
Allegheny Valley Superintendent Cheryl Griffith used the term “refreshing” to describe the letter she and superintendents statewide received this week detailing Gov. Tom Wolf's education funding plans.  “It's really forward-thinking criteria,” Griffith said of the 14 areas listed by Pedro A. Rivera, Wolf's Acting Secretary of Education, on which the proposed $400 million increase in basic education funding could be spent.  “All school districts will be required to strategically use the portion of their Basic Education Funding increase that exceeds the inflation-based index for their choice of evidence-based programs as well as to restore cuts to programs and personnel that school districts were forced to make as a result of (past) state budget cuts,” Rivera wrote on Tuesday.
Proposed York-area art-based charter school to hold informational meeting
York Dispatch By SEAN PHILIP COTTER 505-5437/@SPCotterYD POSTED:   03/20/2015 11:36:30 AM EDT | UPDATED:   ABOUT 21 HOURS AGO
A proposed arts-based charter school that would be located in the Central York School District will be the topic of an informational public meeting on Saturday.  The name of the proposed K-8 school and the organization that's trying to create it are Arts to the Core, and the meeting will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the York Learning Center at 300 E. Seventh Ave. in North York.
The meeting is an opportunity for interested individuals to meet some of the trustees for the proposed school, which aims to open for the start of the 2016-17 school year, said Jess Staub of Gavin Advertising, which is handling the publicity for the school. She said the organization's founder, Richard Caplan, will be the main presenter, and several other trustees will be present.

Souderton Area School District committee reviews budget, aims to keep taxes at Act 1 index
Montgomery News By Jarreau Freeman @JarreauFreeman on Twitter Published: Friday, March 20, 2015
Franconia >> The aim is to not raise taxes above the 1.9 percent Act 1 index set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Souderton Area School District Business Affairs Director William Stone said during March 11’s finance committee meeting. Although the district has a $3.3 million deficit to contend with, administrators seem to be working toward that goal.  During a budget update, Stone gave a rundown of the 2015-16 expense and revenue budget.  The district is targeting a $115.8 million revenue and expense budget.  If the district raised taxes to the 1.9 percent index, it’s estimated to lower the shortfall by $1.8 million, according the budget presentation.  The Act 1 index is set by PDE each year and determines how high a district can raise taxes.

Special Edition -Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 18 - 20, 2015
FairtTest Submitted by fairtest on March 20, 2015 - 1:56pm 
Normally, FairTest sends out these news clips summaries once a week, early each Tuesday afternoon. With school standardized exam season now in full gear, however, the flow of stories about testing resistance and reform actions is accelerating rapidly. This special edition  -- with updates from more than half the 50 states over just three days -- reports on the first, too-modest steps by policy makers across the U.S. to respond to the growing grassroots pressure for assessment reform.   As more students opt out, parents demonstrate, school board members pass resolutions and polls show strong public opposition to test misuse and overuse, we are confident that there will be many more updates by next Tuesday and in the coming weeks.

Schools Wait to See What Becomes of No Child Left Behind Law
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH and TAMAR LEWIN MARCH 20, 2015
CLEVELAND — Ginn Academy, the first and only public high school in Ohio just for boys, was conceived to help at-risk students make it through school — experimenting with small classes, a tough discipline code and life coaches around the clock.  Its graduation rate was close to 88 percent last year, compared with 64 percent for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District as a whole. And it has enjoyed some other victories. There is the junior whose test scores are weak but who regularly volunteers at a food bank. And the senior proudly set to graduate this spring who used to attend school so irregularly that he had to be collected at home each morning by a staff member.  But under No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of the George W. Bush administration, the academy, which opened in 2007, was consistently labeled low performing because it did not make the required “adequate yearly progress” in raising test scores.
Nicholas A. Petty, the principal, said, “I wouldn’t say stop making us be judged by the tests at all, but get a better system that really monitors students on more of an individual basis.”
Photo  As Congress debates a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law, Mr. Petty may well see that happen.

Register Now for EPLC Forum on the State Education Budget –  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, 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 -

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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