Friday, March 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 27: No spending limits: Will pro-school choice Susquehanna Group principals buy the Philly mayoralty race for Tony Williams?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 27, 2015:
No spending limits: Will pro-school choice Susquehanna Group principals buy the Philly mayoralty race for Tony Williams?



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/



Gov. Wolf challenges Pa. schools to cut overhead
WHYY Newsworks BY SARA HOOVER MARCH 25, 2015
School districts across Pennsylvania have consistently made budget cuts for the past five years, and Gov. Tom Wolf is challenging them to find more.  The governor says employee suggestions have already found ways to save more than $100 million at state agencies as part of GO-TIME, the Governor's Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management & Efficiency. So he's asking schools to come up with their own cost-cutting ideas.  The Wolf Administration would like to see districts brainstorm ways to cut $150 million dollars from their spending on administration and transportation — the same amount he's ordered government agencies to save.  Ed Smith, business director for Upper Darby School District, says they've already reduced administrative staff to the point where individuals are doing five or six jobs.  "I liken it to going on a diet. We've lost all the pounds that we can lose, I think," he said. "And in fact unless we were to get more the funding, the next cut would be to take a limb off."  He says the district already participates in several cost-saving consortiums for buying energy, supplies and health insurance.

Gov. Wolf's investment in public education is a down payment on a better future: Katie McGinty
By PennLive Op-Ed  By Katie McGinty on March 26, 2015 at 2:42 PM, updated March 26, 2015 at 3:01 PM
Katie McGinty is the chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf.
It's been nearly a month since Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his first state budget, with a promise of immediately restoring the massive $1 billion in cuts that crippled our education system over the last four years.  These cuts to our schools shortchanged our children and forced local taxpayers to carry the burden of balancing the state budget. It created a ripple effect in Pennsylvania's economy and job market.

Voters upbeat so far about Wolf; 59% polled supporting his tax plan
Trib Live By Tom Fontaine Thursday, March 26, 2015, 3:21 a.m.
Pennsylvania's registered voters are more optimistic about the state's future than they have been in five years, a poll released Thursday shows.  Pollster G. Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Opinion Research said the change in the governor's mansion could be helping to fuel the optimism.  About 40 percent of those surveyed in the Franklin & Marshall College Poll have a favorable opinion of Gov. Tom Wolf. That's higher than former Gov. Tom Corbett posted at any point during his lone term, polling figures show.
“We're just getting started with Wolf. We'll see what happens when things get rocky,” Madonna said, noting that favorability ratings for Govs. Corbett, Ed Rendell and Tom Ridge all plummeted within 10 months of when they took office.  “The question becomes, can they right the ship?” Madonna said, predicting Wolf figures to face his first major storm as he tries to get a budget through the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Mixed messages making school budgets a challenge
PA Independent By Evan Grossman | Watchdog.org March 26, 2015 | By Eric Boehm
Imagine sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him everything you want for Christmas. Then, imagine Santa removing his beard and telling you, Don’t count on it.  In a way, that’s what’s happening in Pennsylvania.  NAUGTY OR NICE? A thickening cloud of uncertainty hangs over Pennsylvania school funding until state and local budgets promising piles of money are ratified.  In one ear, school superintendents hear Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration ask how they would spend the biggest education investment in state history.  In the other, they hear House Republicans warning them to craft conservative budgets, telling them not to count on additional funding.  It’s quite the conundrum.  “For small districts like us, it’s unbelievably difficult, to say the least,” said John Kurelja, superintendent of the tiny Warrior Run School District.

Killion, Tobash detail hybrid-style pension solution
By Kristina Scala, Delaware County Daily Times  03/26/15, 11:34 PM EDT |
Middletown>> Delaware County state Rep. Tom Killion, at a forum Thursday, pushed to fortify a hybrid-style pension plan that failed to garner bipartisan support under former Gov. Tom Corbett.  The forum detailed a two-year-old pension blueprint introduced by state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, of Schuykill County.  “When you are in the hole, you need to stop digging,” Tobash said in front of about 50 people at Penn State Brandywine Thursday.  Legislators are looking to sort out a $53 billion pension debt while minimizing a financial burden on taxpayers. Tobash and Killion, R-168, of Middletown, support a dual-system approach that would shift risk to incoming state and school employees.

"Campaign reports filed earlier this year showed that three principals of the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group had contributed $250,000 to the committee last year. One of the three, Joel Greenburg, said in a recent interview that the trio plans to back Williams with significant support in the Democratic primary.  The Susquehanna Group principals, who are strong backers of charter schools and school vouchers, contributed more than $5 million to Williams' 2010 gubernatorial campaign.  American Cities is registered with the state of Pennsylvania as an "independent expenditure only" committee, which means it can raise unlimited contributions and spend whatever it chooses in the race as long as it doesn't coordinate with the candidate it supports."
Independent group backing Williams for Philly mayor starts $500,000 ad campaign
WHYY Newsworks DAVE DAVIES OFF MIC  A BLOG BY DAVE DAVIES MARCH 27, 2015
American Cities, the independent expenditure group backing state Sen. Anthony Williams in the Philadelphia mayor's race, has placed a television ad buy in excess of $500,000 for a media campaign that begins Friday, according to three sources familiar with with the placement.  American Cities spokesman Joshua Morrow confirmed that the ad buy was "substantial" and that the ads go up Friday, but declined to discuss the dollar amount of the purchase.

Tony Williams Is Finally Starting to Own School Choice
At a mayoral forum Tuesday, he argued passionately in support of charters. Is it a turning point in the campaign?
PhillyMag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  MARCH 25, 2015 AT 12:54 PM
For years, mayoral candidate and state Sen. Anthony Williams has been Pennsylvania’s highest-profile Democratic champion of charter schools and vouchers. When he ran for governor in 2010, he received a whopping $6 million-plus from three multimillionaires who back school choice. He’s sponsored voucher legislation. He founded a charter school. Williams has arguably been more passionated about school choice than any other policy question he’s wrestled with in his career.  But not on the mayoral campaign trail.  His first TV ad doesn't mention school choice once. His education policy paper doesn't say anything about vouchers, and though it touches on charters, it mostly focuses on reinstating charter reimbursement funding from Harrisburg. At a press conference earlier this month, Williams said it was "curious" that he had been dubbed the charter-school advocate in the mayor's race, since his contenders had expressed support for charters, too.

Paying for high-quality pre-K cast as investment in Pa. future
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF MARCH 26, 2015
One Wednesday morning at the Paley Early Learning Center in Northeast Philadelphia, 4-year-old Quincy was learning how to write the letter 'L'. Tracing arrows with his finger, he repeated after his teacher the different parts of the letter: a long line and a short line.  Quincy is one of about 13,000 pre-K students in Pennsylvania's Pre-K Counts, a program for families making under 300 percent of the poverty level. For context, about 39,000 children in Philadelphia alone qualify for the program.  Other kids might soon have a chance to enter free pre-K. Gov. Tom Wolf's new budget proposes a "down payment" on early education spending, in the form of an additional $100 million to Pre-K Counts and $20 million more for Head Start next year.
That's a lot of building blocks.

"Without the new city and state money, the district would face an $85 million deficit, due largely to fixed costs such as charter-school payments, pensions, and health-care costs rising faster than revenues."
Philly schools counting on an extra $264 million next year
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, March 27, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, March 26, 2015, 7:40 PM
The Philadelphia School District is projecting a budget of $2.9 billion next year - a forecast that banks on $264 million in new city and state money that is not assured.   The School Reform Commission unanimously adopted a "lump sum" financial statement Thursday that would pump more money into city classrooms rocked in recent years by cuts. It would represent a 10 percent increase over last year's spending plan.  But the plan relies on $159 million in new money from the state and $105 million from the city, sums proposed by Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter, respectively, but that would have to be approved by skeptical lawmakers.

"Among Hite's recommendations for use of those funds is to restore counselors and nurses, whose ranks have been decimated by cuts since 2011.
Other recommendations include adding AP courses, putting students in small groups for "differentiated instruction," credit recovery courses for over-age students, tutoring and Saturday programs to help students prepare for Keystone exams, more arts and music programming, initiatives to improve school climate, and coaching for teachers so they can offer better literacy and math support to English language learners and special education students."
District 2015-16 budget, if funded, would add $130 million directly to schools
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Mar 26, 2015 04:07 PM
The SRC adopted a "lump sum" budget Thursday night that assumes more than $264 million in new revenue from the city and state that has been proposed by Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter but is by no means guaranteed.  The District needs to use $85 million of that just to keep services at current levels, according to Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski. It plans to use the rest to restore money to schools and embark on some of Superintendent William Hite's new initiatives.
Of that amount, about $130 million would be added to school budgets for use as principals see fit. That increase works out to more than half a million dollars for the average school.

Who’s Next: 16 young teachers and leaders shaping education in Philly
Billy Penn By Anna Orso March 26, 2015
There are few issues in Philadelphia that captivate the attention of the city in the same way that education does. It’s been identified as the issue of the upcoming mayoral election, it’s the talk of political candidates across the city and it’s the catalyst for dozens of activism groups in Philly. In no small part, according to surveys from places like Pew backed up by the U.S. Census, it’s the key to the city keeping people from moving out to the growing suburbs.  There are hundreds of teachers and education leaders making a difference every day in the lives of this city’s children. Billy Penn, with the help of The Philadelphia Public School Notebookhas selected 16 young people who are working every day to improve how this city educates kids.

"Wolf’s plan is remarkably similar to Senate Bill 76, supported by many within the Republican ranks and would increase the personal income tax to 4.34 percent. The legislation also broadens the sales tax and raises it to 7 percent.  The key distinction, Miskin said, is that it comes with total elimination. That would ensure school districts don’t raise rates in the future, leaving residents with higher property, sales and income taxes."
Bipartisan property tax reform tangled in partisan Pa. budget debate
Pottstown Mercury By Andrew Staub, PA Independent POSTED: 03/25/15, 4:03 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
HARRISBURG >> Based on some of the political rhetoric pouring from the Capitol, it’s easy to think an expanse the size of Lake Erie separates Democrats and Republicans when it comes to property tax reform.  There’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf using his campaign Facebook page to warn the good people of Chambersburg that their school taxes could rise 3.5 percent because – tisk tisk – “some Republicans are happy with the status quo” and won’t cozy up to his budget proposal, which includes $3.8 billion in property tax relief.  Then you’ve got Steve Miskin, the top spokesman for state House Republicans, shaming Democrats on Twitter for supporting Wolf’s plan to overhaul the sales tax to help pay for reduced property taxes.

Parents, teachers implore Allentown School Board to restore cut music, art gym and library programs
By Kevin DuffySpecial to The Morning Call March 26, 2015
Included among the teachers and parents who pleaded Thursday to the Allentown School Board to restore programs lost due to budget cuts, the words of Gwen Mullen may have made the strongest case.  "My mom always tells me, 'You won't know until you try it!'" the second-grader from Ritter Elementary School said, reading from a single sheet of paper while standing on tippy-toes at the podium, the microphone curled downward, as close to her face as possible.
She was talking about bringing back music, art and gym classes and library time for elementary students, all of which have been cut significantly since 2011. She asked for them back because participating in them might some day make her "a music teacher, a singer, a gymnast, an art teacher, a librarian, or any of these things."

Pittsburgh Public Schools ended 2014 with a surplus
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 25, 2015 10:53 PM
After starting 2014 with a budgeted $14.4 million operating deficit, Pittsburgh Public Schools officially has ended the year with a $15.9 million surplus.  The numbers were part of a financial report given by chief operating officer Ron Joseph at tonight's school board meeting.

Parkland School District faces $1.2M deficit; board OKs LCCC budget
By Precious Petty | The Express-Times Follow on Twitter on March 26, 2015 at 6:59 PM, updated March 26, 2015 at 7:18 PM
Next year's Parkland School District expenditures are expected to outpace this year's by about 4.2 percent, according to a 2015-16 budget presentation.  Employee benefits, purchased property services and supplies are responsible for the biggest percentage increases, district Business Manager John Vignone said during Tuesday night's presentation. Next year's projected expenditures total $158.5 million, compared to $152.2 million in 2014-15.  Vignone said he and his team are still working to bridge a budget gap, but have made progress since earlier this year.

York superintendent: District already putting improvement plans in action (column)
York Daily Record By Eric Holmes UPDATED:   03/26/2015 08:52:57 AM EDT
Eric B. Holmes, Ed. D., is superintendent of the School District of the City of York.
Over the past several months there has been great discussion regarding the future of York city schools. While those discussions have occurred, we in the district have remained focused on educating children. Recognizing that the status quo is unacceptable, our goal over the last two years has been to implement initiatives that zero in on improving academic achievement.
The centerpiece of our efforts is instituting a universal pre-kindergarten program to provide pre-k classes to every 4-year-old in the City of York. This added year of instruction helps children learn the fundamental skills they need to be successful later in life. It also benefits York city families, often single-parent led and financially challenged, by providing a predictable schedule and safe environment for their children to learn. Our preliminary goal for the 2015-16 school year is to expand from 10 to 13 classes. Achieving a change like universal pre-kindergarten does not occur overnight, but we are on our way and will not stop until our ultimate goal of 22 classrooms is met.


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?
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.
Details and Registration for PSBA members (only $25.00) https://www.psba.org/event/advocacy-forum-day-hill-2015/

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 Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA –RSVP 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/


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/

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