Saturday, March 7, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 7: As Wolf pushes budget plan, Republican senators warn schools not to count on new money

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 7, 2015:
As Wolf pushes budget plan, Republican senators warn schools not to count on new money

The next PA Basic Education  Funding Commission Public Hearing will be on Thursday, March 12th at 10:00 am in Hearing Room 1, North Office Building, Harrisburg

"We are not going to address any new revenue until we get pension reform, period," said Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County.
Solving Pa.'s public pension problem a toughie for state leaders
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
Solving Pennsylvania's pension problem has eluded state leaders for more than decade but it's not for lack of trying.  The $50 billion-plus debt that two state public pension systems have accrued for benefits owed to current and future retirees has given birth to a number of ideas that have gone nowhere.    On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf added a new plan to the mix. On Wednesday, a faction of mostly conservative House members, led by Rep. John McGinnis, R-Blair, offered another. And soon, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, will propose yet another.  To hear the House and Senate Republican leaders talk on Tuesday following Wolf's budget address, they plan to use their interest in achieving pension reform as leverage against Wolf's desire to increase taxes and spending.

Governor Tom Wolf's proposed budget restores $1 billion in funding to education and cuts property taxes. See how you and your community benefit: 
Governor Tom Wolf's website 03/05/2015

Gov. Wolf visits Allentown elementary school to sell proposed education spending
By Edward Sieger | The Express-Times Email the author on March 06, 2015 at 12:57 PM
As he campaigned last year for governor, Gov. Tom Wolf said he heard about the need for property tax relief and the importance of education. And he heard the call from all areas of the state, from rich and poor, from Democrats and Republicans.  "I'm assuming everyone in the (state) legislature heard the same thing," Wolf said Friday.  The first-term Democrat made his comments standing in the library of Muhlenberg Elementary School in Allentown, where he was selling his budget proposals that dramatically increase education funding, slashes property taxes and increases other taxes to pay for his vision.

"Along with the tour, Wolf has launched a Schools that Teachwebsite that tells how much each district would save in property taxes and under cybercharter school reform proposed in his budget.  Allentown, for example, would see a $64.2 million reduction in property taxes and $1.1 million in savings under cybercharter reform.  A suburban district such as East Penn would see less — a $13.5 million reduction in property taxes and $368,000 savings in cybercharter costs."
Wolf on increased school spending: 'This is what the people want'
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call March 6, 2015
Coming back to the Allentown school where he pledged last fall to make education a top priority, Gov. Tom Wolf again underscored the need for more funding and reform in public education.  The Democrat toured Muhlenberg Elementary School on Friday morning, days after he proposed a 2015-16 budget that would restructure and raise taxes to give a substantial increase to the financially struggling Allentown School District and significantly cut property taxes.  Wolf was last at the school on North 21st Street during a campaign stop in November. Friday's visit was part of his Schools that Teach tour. He also stopped at Downingtown STEM Academy High School in Chester County this week and will be touring other schools across the state to promote his budget.

As Wolf pushes budget plan, Republican senators warn schools
Lancaster Online by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 03/06/2015 8:41 PM 
HARRISBURG, PA.  Gov. Tom Wolf took his campaign for a state budget with more education funding to Allentown on Friday, while school superintendents got a letter from Republican Senate leaders warning them not to count on the new money.  Wolf said people across the state have told him they want schools — and property tax relief — to be priorities, and he emphasized the role schools play in the state's economy.  "If we want a strong economy, we need a good education system," Wolf said.  The letter sent this week by four high-ranking Republican state senators advised districts not to factor in Wolf's proposal as they craft preliminary budgets.

Senate Republicans warn school officials about budget proposal
Post Gazette Early Returns Blog Published by Karen Langley on Friday, 06 March 2015 4:06 pm.
Senate Republicans are warning Pennsylvania school officials against counting on the funding increases that Gov. Tom Wolf proposed this week.  A letter that went out after his address:
Dear Superintendent:
As you know, earlier this week Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his FY 2015-16 proposed state budget. Given the extraordinary level of spending increases proposed in the Governor's overall plan, we encourage you to take a conservative approach to your state revenue estimates and advise against adjusting your school district's preliminary budget to reflect his education proposal.
Education funding is a significant priority in each year's budget; however, it must be put in the context of the overall budget picture, both in terms of expenditures and revenues. The proposed budget recommends a $400 million increase in the basic education subsidy while the overall budget includes historic revenue and spending escalations that necessitate $4.7 billion in tax increases that are unsupported throughout the General Assembly.
We recognize the difficult task school administrators have in making decisions about anticipated revenue from the Commonwealth given that the full extent of the Governor's proposed increases may not be contained in the Commonwealth's final budget. The Senate remains committed to addressing the underlying fiscal cost drivers of school districts, most importantly pension reform.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. As the critical work of ensuring the overall financial stability of the Commonwealth continues, know that we will advocate for education funding to be a priority during budget conversations.
Senator Joe Scarnati
Senator Jake Corman
Senator Pat Browne
Senator John Gordner

Senate GOP leaders warn superintendents not to expect Wolf's historic increase in school funding
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 06, 2015 at 6:17 PM, updated March 06, 2015 at 6:19 PM
Two days after Gov. Tom Wolf proposed making a historic investment in education, superintendents had their hopes dashed of seeing that history being made courtesy of the Senate Republican leaders.  A letter sent out to these school officials on Thursday urged them to take a cautionary approach when developing their district budgets for the next school year.
"Given the extraordinary level of spending increases proposed in the governor's overall plan, we encourage you to take a conservative approach to your state revenue estimates and advise against adjusting your school district's preliminary budget to reflect his education proposal," it stated.  The letter signed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman of Centre County, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne of Lehigh County, and Senate Majority Whip John Gordner of Columbia County goes on to say education funding is always a priority in every year's state budget but it must be put in context of the total budget picture.

Wolf Administration Denounces Senate Republicans ‘Just Saying No’ To Helping Schools
Governor Tom Wolf's website 03/06/2015
Harrisburg, PA - The Wolf Administration today denounced a letter sent by the Senate Republican leadership to school districts across the state. The letter warned district superintendents to lower their expectations about the levels of funding to be provided by the commonwealth in the 2015-2016 budget. On Tuesday, Governor Wolf presented a budget proposal calling for the restoration of massive cuts made over the past four years to Pennsylvania’s struggling schools. The Senate Republicans’ response rejected this push for a historic reinvestment in education.
“Unfortunately, the Republican leadership is just saying no to challenging the status quo by putting forth the same old Harrisburg obstruction instead of real ideas to help Pennsylvania’s struggling public schools,” Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said. “Governor Wolf has proposed a bold and expansive plan to reinvest in our schools and our economic future. The Governor called for robust debate and collaboration in his budget address.  This is the opposite of that. This is a political stunt.”  In contrast to the negative expectations being set by Republican leaders, Governor Wolf’s budget sets the table for historic investments in education. Over the last four years schools across Pennsylvania have suffered from $1 billion cuts that led to massive layoffs, huge property tax increases, and the elimination of valuable programs. The data also shows that as education classroom funding fell, so did student scores in reading and math.

How would Gov. Wolf's proposed tax shifts affect you? Here are 8 scenarios
Penn Live By Teresa Bonner |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 06, 2015 at 6:46 PM, updated March 07, 2015 at 6:59 AM
Gov. Tom Wolf's budget is proposing to raise the state's personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent, increase the sales tax from 6 to 6.6 percent and broaden the number of items to which it will apply, and use the money raised from those tax increases to reduce school property taxes.  His administration said most families will pay less under his plan, with the average family receiving a net tax decrease of about 13 percent.  But the determination of who gains and who loses depends on several factors - income, whether you own or rent your home, which school district you live in, and how much you spend on taxable items each year.
To try to give a clearer idea of what effect the tax plan could have on an individual, PennLive calculated how large a reduction in homeowners in different school districts would see in their school property tax homestead exemption.

What happens to your taxes under Wolf's budget plan?
So what does Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budget mean for the average Pennsylvanian living in the Philadelphia area? Let me introduce you to two of my friends.

"About 400,000 Philadelphians live in poverty. That's close to the total population of Pittsburgh and Allentown combined - the state's second- and third-largest cities. It includes nearly four out of every 10 children in Philadelphia."
Reducing poverty would benefit all Philadelphians
Phil Goldsmith has been managing director of Philadelphia and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District.
Several years ago, I offered to give a new resident of Philadelphia a tour of the city. She was grateful but declined. Having lived in the suburbs, she said she knew Philadelphia quite well. After some back and forth, it was clear what she knew was Center City. My tour included the other Philadelphia: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  One Philadelphia is vibrant. New condos, ample restaurants, an exciting cultural scene, fashionable shops - something for every generation from millennials to baby boomers. The energy is palpable as you walk the streets - safely.
But there is the other Philadelphia, where poverty lives and gives birth to unemployment, crime, high dropout rates, and, worst of all, hopelessness.  For many people, this part of Philadelphia is out of sight and out of mind.

DN Editorial: Does $105M = education?
It just might, if put in the able hands of Superintendent Hite
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Friday, March 6, 2015, 12:17 AM
IN HIS BUDGET address, Mayor Nutter framed his proposal to raise $105 million for the school by raising property taxes by 9.3 percent in this way: "I don't want to raise your taxes, but I do want to educate our children."  But, do we have any guarantee that the money raised by higher taxes will meet that goal?  Will Philadelphia's public-school students, many of whom lag so far behind in the basics, really be educated?

The Drama of the SRC
Governor Wolf wants Marjorie Neff to be the SRC’s last chair. But then what?
The Philadelphia Citizen by Jeremy Nowak March 6, 2015
Last Sunday, Governor Wolf replaced Bill Green as the School Reform Commission Chair with longtime public school educator and fellow SRC member, Marjorie Neff.  What does this tell us about the Governor ‘s SRC strategy, his broader perspective on public education and overall governance? I interpret the move through three lenses: politics, temperament, and policy.

Leaders ask Gov. Wolf to make changes to York City schools (column)
York Daily Record Letter by By Eric Menzer, Bill Hartman and Loren Kroh  UPDATED: 03/06/2015 11:02:37 AM EST
Governor Wolf, like you, we are committed to reversing the academic failure of the York City School District. Based on our extensive research on K-12 education and our study of the District, the failure of the York City School District clearly is not due to inadequate funding.  While fair funding for every school district is important, it is not the total solution, and based on past history in York, is not likely to improve student performance. The real causes of the failure are:
Poor governance and leadership;
Lack of workforce accountability and flexibility;
Lack of innovation and creativity;
Lack of consistent implementation of pedagogy.
Such a broken, dysfunctional system cannot be fixed simply by throwing more money into it.
That only makes a failed and dysfunctional system more expensive and provides no return on investment.

Kline says House will still vote on ESEA rewrite
Education Dive By Roger Riddell | March 5, 2015 
·         Dive Brief:
·         Despite a setback late in February, U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) still expects a vote on the House rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
·         The House education committee chairman says conservative opposition to the rewrite of the law, also known by the name of its Bush-era reauthorization, No Child Left Behind, caught him off-guard, attributing it not just to groups like Heritage Action for America and Club for Growth, but also a blog post that it would reinforce Common Core and give the government authority in private schools.
·         What the bill would actually do, if passed, is maintain the annual testing status quo, allow more authority on the state level regarding how federal funds are spent and failing schools are addressed, bar the U.S. education secretary from imposing standards or conditions in exchange for waivers, and allow public ed dollars to follow low-income students to other schools, among other things.

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 -

Nominations for PSBA offices now open: Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA. Persons seeking consideration for a position as an officer or at-large representative of the Association shall file at PSBA headquarters to the attention of the Leadership Development Committee chair in an envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL an Application for Nomination on the form approved by the PSBA Governing Board, accompanied by a photograph, letters of recommendation and such other supporting materials as may be specified on the Application for Nomination form for the purpose of further documenting the candidate’s involvement in activities of the association, relevant community service and leadership experiences or other qualifications.

Lawsuit asks the Court to ensure that all students -- including those living in low-wealth districts -- have the basic resources they need to meet state academic standards.
Meet Us in Court on March 11th
Education Law Center
On Wednesday, March 11th at 9:30 a.m., the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania will hear oral arguments in our school funding lawsuit which challenges the legislature's failure to adequately support and maintain Pennsylvania's public school system. This historic case, which the Education Law Center filed with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and pro bono counsel O'Melveny & Meyers, asks the Court to ensure that all students -- including those living in low-wealth districts -- have the basic resources they need to meet state academic standards. We ask the court to hear this case and enforce the rights of our children to a "thorough and efficient" system of public education as guaranteed to them by our state constitution.
Please come and support us as we fight for vulnerable students and all public school students across the state. The hearing will be held at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Courtroom 5001 in Harrisburg, PA.  If you plan to attend or have questions, contact Spencer Malloy at (The courtroom is walking distance from the Harrisburg Amtrak Station.) 

PCCY Spring Training:  Hit a School Funding Home Run for Kids  Advocacy Training Workshop March 18 or 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.

The State of Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM
United Way Building, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
Join Law Center attorneys for a briefing on the basics of education funding, a recap of the March 11th oral arguments in the school funding lawsuit, information on the new administration’s budget proposal and more.  There are limited spots available for this free event. 1.5 CLE credits will be offered to participating attorneys.

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Lancaster County Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York: Wednesday, March 25th, 6:30pm to 8pm at the York Learning Center, 300 E. 7th Avenue, York.
More info/registration:

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.

Sign up for National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Network
Friends of Public Education

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:

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