Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 24: Corman: "there is no other issue to discuss until we do public pensions"

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3525 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 24, 2015:
Corman: "there is no other issue to discuss until we do public pensions"

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

Who will be at the PSBA Advocacy Forum April 19-20 in Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg?
  • Acting Ed Sec'y Pedro Rivera
  • Senate Ed Committee Majority Chairman Lloyd Smucker
  • House Ed Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne
  • Diane Ravitch
  • House Majority Leader Dave Reed
  • House Minority Leader Frank Dermody
  • 2014 PSBA Tim Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D'Alessandro and Mark Miller
How about You?
Details and Registration for PSBA members (only $25.00) https://www.psba.org/event/advocacy-forum-day-hill-2015/

Faith leaders pray, fast for more than Wolf's $400M proposed increase for schools
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 23, 2015 at 2:23 PM, updated March 23, 2015 at 3:40 PM
Despite Gov. Tom Wolf's proposal to inject $400 million more into direct support for school districts next year to a historic high of $6.1 billion, faith leaders from across Pennsylvania say that is not enough to erase the racial inequities that exist in the way public schools are funded.  Gathering on Monday in the Capitol Rotunda, they prayed, launched a fast, and blew a shofar, an instrument used for Jewish religious purposes, to serve as a wake-up call for legislators and Wolf about the need for a more equitable and robust funding system to ensure that children across the state have access to a quality education.  Following the sounding of the horn that disrupted a House budget hearing in an adjacent room, The Rev. Gregory Edwards of Allentown called for an end to "the promotion of practice of educational apartheid" in Pennsylvania that results in racial and economic inequities in school funding.

Pittsburgh-area religious leaders promote fasting for more education funding
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 23, 2015 1:02 PM
A handful of local religious leaders stood at the steps of Wilkinsburg High School this morning urging people to conduct fasts over the next 100 days to call attention to inadequate and unfair funding of public schools.  The religious leaders, members of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, asked people not only to fast, but to call their legislators to explain why they are fasting. The 100-day deadline is June 30, the date by which the Legislature is supposed to have an approved state budget.  Organizers said they are asking people to fast for a day or more between now and June 30. The goal is to have at least one person fast per day and many across the state have already expressed a willingness.  Similar news conferences and prayer vigils were supposed to be occurring simultaneously in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Scranton.

Could Senate pension reform bill have contract impairment issues?
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, March 23, 2015
Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) was the featured speaker at March’s Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon and the centerpiece of his remarks fell on pension reform.  “It’s the issue, there is no other issue to discuss until we do public pensions,” he said. “We need to resolve that first so we can move forward.”  He even noted the budget’s passage will have to wait until pension reform is complete, even if that means waiting until the Fall which the governor has indicated he would open to working on pension reform.  “If that’s what he means, that’s what it means,” Sen. Corman said.

Senate Republicans reviving ex-Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to cut future pension benefits for current workers
By Steve Esack Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau March 23, 2015
HARRISBURG — In 2013, some Senate Republicans criticized as illegal and did not approve Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to reduce future retirement benefits for current state and school employees, lawmakers and judges to save money.  But now, four months after voters ousted Corbett from office, Senate Republicans have done an about-face.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Monday his caucus is preparing a pension reform bill similar to the one Corbett sought to cut into $50 billion in long-term debt.  It's unknown exactly what the Senate's new plan will look like, but it is being written by Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, who tried to get Corbett's plan approved. The new bill could be introduced in April, Corman said.  Corbett would have frozen pensions for state workers, legislators and judges starting Jan. 1, 2015, and for teachers July 1, 2015, which would guarantee them the retirement benefits they have contractually accrued up to that point. After those dates, employees would get reduced pensions they have yet to earn under a new formula. At the same time, Corbett would have closed the guaranteed pension system to new hires, who would receive a corporate-like 401(k) retirement plan that rises and falls with the stock market.

Corman: Pa. budget must include pension reform
HARRISBURG - A top Senate Republican on Monday said that if Gov. Wolf doesn't address the looming issue of pension reform during budget negotiations with the legislature, there will be no budget.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said finding a way to rein in the cost of public employee pension costs is a priority, and that he and his colleagues will not move a spending plan through if it is not addressed.  "We are not doing a budget without it," Corman said during a monthly press club luncheon in Harrisburg, comparing the state's pension problem to a "tsunami" that has already reached land.

Sen. Jake Corman proposes changing pension benefits for current state employees
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 23, 2015 at 2:11 PM, updated March 23, 2015 at 4:57 PM
The pension benefits of current state employees could change as the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly looks to reform the underfunded pension program, according toSenate Majority Leader Jake Corman.  Corman spoke to a group of reporters Monday about pension reform plans following a question-and-answer session with the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg.  Corman said he believes it is legal to change current state employee benefits to 2001 levels, despite a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling restricting changes to contractual obligations under the state constitution.  "I think this will give us real savings right now and achieve what we need to do," Corman said.

Educators Talk Budget Concerns In Special Hearing
WICU Erie By Justin Carter Posted: Mar 23, 2015 11:42 PM EDT
ERIE--- We are three months away from the possibility of having the largest increase in basic education funding in Pennsylvania: $400 million.  "For the last four years we've neglected education, and to me, that is a fundamental that we need to invest in," State Representative Patrick Harkins says.   So, you can understand just how much pressure is on for both state legislators and school administrators.  The Erie School District would receive $5 million if the budget was approved.  "We have been cutting our way to a balanced budget for the last five years, and we certainly had a lot of room to be more efficient and we made those cuts in the first few years," superintendent Dr. Jay Badams says.  Three Erie elementary schools closed and more than 200 positions eliminated, Dr. Badams went before the house democratic policy committee Monday night.

"To that end, they are preparing to invest perhaps millions of dollars in an independent campaign to support Williams.  Though Greenberg said he was unsure how much they would spend, he would not discount the possibility that it could approach the $5.38 million they spent backing Williams' unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2010.  The partners will play so dramatic a role on behalf of Williams because of his support of the issue they hold most dear - school choice, particularly for low-income families in Philadelphia."
Students First PAC: Group of donors fund Williams in the name of schools
Chris Hepp, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015, 1:07 AM
Joel Greenberg once donated $1 million to a struggling after-school music program in West Philadelphia, having read about it in the newspaper.  The Main Line financial trader didn't bother to return a reporter's call asking why he did so.  Greenberg is like that, those who know him say - passionate in his desire to help others, particularly children, and uninterested in self-promotion.  
"He does not want to be front and center," said Ina B. Lipman, executive director of the Children's Scholarship Fund, another cause that has benefited from Greenberg's largesse. "He just wants to do good work."  Regardless of his philanthropy, Greenberg's penchant for privacy has proved a distraction for a man who, along with his two business partners, can be expected to play a pivotal role in the Philadelphia mayoral race.  Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik, and Jeffrey Yass, all executives with the Susquehanna International Group in Bala Cynwyd, are about to spend a small fortune to try to elect Democratic State Sen. Anthony H. Williams mayor. After years of avoiding the news media, they now want people to know why.

This Feb. 2015 interactive chart from Penn Live details political donations by Greenberg, Dantchick and Yass' Students First PAC
Follow the money that accompanies charter school growth: interactive map
Penn Live By Nick Malawskey | nmalawskey@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on February 02, 2015 at 11:30 AM, updated February 02, 2015 at 2:31 PM
Below you'll find PennLive's interactive map of campaign contributions to politicians and their subsequent support of charter schools in Pennsylvania.  Click on a Donor to see who they are and where they donated. Click on a Republican or a Democrat to see what bills they supported.
A second click -- or a click in the open space of the interactive -- will reset the map.

Here's a 2014 KEYSEC posting on the same topic…
Follow the Money: Who gave/received school privatization contributions in Pennsylvania in 2014
Keystone State Education Coalition Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Six millionaires/billionaires contributed $1,482,604 to privatize democratically-governed Pennsylvania public education.

Here are some other prior Keystone State Education Coalition postings on the Students First PAC money trail:

Here's a group of folks supporting schools who don't have quite as much money as the Students First PAC…
Philadelphia "friends of" groups band together to support neighborhood schools
Marketing and fundraising. These are just two things that the newly minted Friends of Neighborhood Public Education  wants to do on behalf of Philadelphia's neighborhood schools, which sometimes get a bad rap.  The idea for a network of friends of groups brewed in the minds of founders Ivy Olesh, Christine Carlson and Jeff Hornstein, months before the initial meeting. All three are active in the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition's education committee.  A couple of months ago, "We sent out an email to ten people we thought might be interested," said Jeff Hornstein, president of the Queen Village Neighborhood Association and co-founder of the group. "Forty people showed up."  In March, the group held a summit at the Friends Center at 15th and Cherry streets, drawing about 150 people on a rainy Saturday morning.

Conestoga Valley district, teachers agree to four-year contract extension
Lancaster Online by Staff Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015 6:15 pm
Conestoga Valley School District and its teachers union have reached agreement on a four-year contract extension that the district says includes significant savings on health insurance premiums.  The school board approved the deal Monday at a special public meeting, the district said.

RIP: The School Property Tax
G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young March 23, 2015
Governors propose and legislatures dispose.
That particular political adage could be one that Tom Wolf, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, might ponder as he begins the likely lengthy process of steering his budget and tax proposals through the state’s Republican dominated legislature.  Wolf’s budget proposes major tax restructuring designed to reduce Pennsylvania’s property tax burden by 50 percent on the average taxpayer.  But if 50 percent, why not 100 percent-why settle for half a loaf?  Why not get rid of the property tax for school funding altogether?  It is a radical idea, an extreme idea, an unrealistic idea?  Actually, no!
Many legislative Republicans would like to do so, and Wolf is certainly moving in that direction. Pennsylvanians widely favor it as well.  Moreover, the argument for abolishing the property tax as a source of public school funding is compelling. Doing so would comprise one of those rare moments in government where officials have the opportunity to do something that is not only good politics, but also good policy and good economics.

Your Cheat Sheet for the Test (In)
Yinzercation Blog by Jessie Ramey March 23, 2015
In case you missed the Test-In on Saturday, here’s your cheat sheet. We learned so much from the principals and teachers who spoke with us. And from the parents and students who shared their experiences with high-stakes-testing. Even the Post-Gazetteattended. [Post-Gazette, 3-22-15] Be sure to study these class notes – there will be a test!

Secretary Duncan: “Step Up and Fund Education”
US Dept. of Education Homeroom Blog March 23, 2015
On Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Edwin M. Stanton Elementary in Philadelphia to highlight the need to support teachers and students by investing in our nation’s schools.  During the visit, Duncan joined U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Superintendent of Philadelphia schools Dr. William Hite, and acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera for a community roundtable discussion. Neighborhood residents, parents and teachers talked about how the community came together to keep the small school from closing a few years prior.  Secretary Duncan highlighted the need for equitable education spending in states, and called on Pennsylvania to “step up and fund education.” Recent data shows that students from low-income families in 23 states are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local education funding. In these states, districts serving the highest percentage of students from low-income families are spending fewer state and local dollars per pupil than districts that have fewer students in poverty.

INVITATION: Join next Twitter chat on PA education March 31, 8:00 pm
PSBA's website March 23, 2015
The next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations is set for Tuesday, March 31 at 8 p.m. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.

Join NPE in Chicago April 25-26
Curmuducation Blog Saturday, March 21, 2015
I don't get out much. I'm a high school English teacher in a small town, and kind of homebody by nature. When I leave town, it's for family or work. But in just over a month, on the weekend of April 25-26, I am taking a trip to Chicago for neither.   The Network for Public Education is the closest thing to an actual formal organization of the many and varied people standing up for public education in this modern era of privatizing test-driven corporate education reform. NPE held a conference last year, and they're doing it again this year-- a gathering of many of the strongest voices for public education in America today. Last year I followed along on line-- this year I will be there.

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 - http://www.pccy.org/resource/give-kids-a-smile-day/

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: 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.

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