Thursday, May 21, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 21: School funding lawsuit headed to the Pa. Supreme Court

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 21, 2015:
School funding lawsuit headed to the Pa. Supreme Court

Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508

School Districts, Parents Take School Funding Challenge to State’s Highest Court
Thorough and Efficient Blog  MAY 20, 2015 posted by BGRIMALDI2015
On May 20th, school districts, parents and two statewide associations filed an appeal in Pennsylvania Supreme Court challenging last month’s Commonwealth Court decision, which dismissed a lawsuit contesting the state’s failure to adequately and equitably fund Pennsylvania’s public schools as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution. The state Supreme Court is obligated to hear the appeal.   “Our Supreme Court bears the responsibility for ensuring that our most precious constitutional rights are protected. We hope that that the high court will agree that this responsibility includes public education, the most important issue facing our Commonwealth,” said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Battle over fairness of state education funding heads to Supreme Court
Penn Live By Matt Miller | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 20, 2015 at 2:55 PM, updated May 20, 2015 at 2:56 PM
A coalition of parents, school districts and public interest groups filed an appeal Wednesday with Pennsylvania's Supreme Court challenging the Commonwealth Court's dismissal of its lawsuit over state education funding.  Commonwealth Court dismissed the suit against the state Education Department last month after concluding that funding for public education is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts.  The coalition is seeking a revamp of Pennsylvania's education funding system, claiming the Legislature is violating the state constitution by financing public schools through an inequitable formula. The current system creates an imbalance of financing between poor and wealthy districts and jeopardizes the civil rights of disadvantaged students, the alliance contends.  Members of the coalition include the school districts of Lancaster, William Penn, Panther Valley, Greater Johnstown Area and Shenandoah Valley, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the state conference of the NAACP.

Commonwealth Court decision on Pa. school funding appealed
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 20, 2015 2:43 PM
Six school districts, seven parents and two statewide associations have taken to the state Supreme Court their case to force the state to provide adequate and equitable school funding for all children.  The organizations today filed their appeal of last month's Commonwealth Court decision which said the power to make decisions on school funding rests with the General Assembly, not the courts. The plaintiffs in the case known as William Penn School District, et al, v. Department of Education, et al, maintain that state officials are failing to meet their constitutional obligation for an adequate and fair system of public education.  The case was filed in November by seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, and six districts: William Penn School District, Panther Valley School District, School District of Lancaster, Greater Johnstown School District, Wilkes-Barre Area School District and Shenandoah Valley School District.

School funding lawsuit headed to the Pa. Supreme Court
A LAWSUIT ACCUSING the state of failing to adequately and equitably fund education is headed to the state Supreme Court.  The plaintiffs, which include six school districts and two statewide organizations, filed an appeal yesterday challenging a Commonwealth Court decision last month to dismiss the suit, claiming that school funding is a function of the Legislature, and therefore not a matter for the courts.  "Our Supreme Court bears the responsibility for ensuring that our most precious constitutional rights are protected. We hope that the high court will agree that this responsibility includes public education, the most important issue facing our commonwealth," Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, one of the groups representing the districts, said in a statement.

Fair education funding needed (letter)
York Daily Record Letter by Joan Benso, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children UPDATED:   05/20/2015 04:11:34 PM EDT
As a leader in the statewide, nonpartisan Campaign for Fair Education Funding, I was pleased to read in the May 18 Daily Record that Rep. Seth Grove, the newly elected chairman of the House Republican's South Central Caucus, wants to change how Pennsylvania funds our public schools, particularly in regards to revising the funding formula for basic education.  Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a basic education funding formula, and it has the widest funding disparity across its school districts of any state. This puts a squeeze on our school districts, with many being forced to lay off staff or cut programs. A bipartisan state commission created to develop a new funding formula will be releasing its recommendations in June. We hope the commission's findings — along with the resolve of state officials like Rep. Grove — will be the catalyst for the governor and Legislature to enact a fair, student-driven and predictable education funding system that provides sufficient dollars to educate all students to meet academic standards, no matter where they live. 

School boards group wants charter, cyber schools to release financials
By Sara K. Satullo | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 19, 2015 at 10:40 AM, updated May 19, 2015 at 12:07 PM
Right-to-Know requests don't typically make headlines.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association might be changing that.
Friday the organization announced that it had sent Right-to-Know requests to all 180 charter and cyber charter schools in the state seeking information on their finances.  The association wants to know what the schools pay administrators, spend on advertising and real estate contracts amongst other topics.   The group says its ultimate goal is transparency since charter and cyber schools are funded by taxpayer dollars. Last year, traditional public schools sent almost $1.3 billion to charter and cyber charter schools, the association reports.
Under state law, agencies have five days from receipt to fulfill the request, deny it or request a 30-day extension.

PARSS Voices Support for School Board Association’s Right to Know Requests of Charter Schools
PSBA website by Joe Bard May 20, 2015
On May 15th Pennsylvania School Boards Association filed Right to Know requests for financial information with all 180 of Pennsylvania’s charter schools. PARSS (the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools) strongly supports these requests.  Charter schools were created by the General Assembly and Governor Tom Ridge as an alternative to traditional public schools. A major objective was stated as the desire to improve traditional schools by giving them competition. What the proponents of charters didn’t specify was that it should be fair competition.
The financial burden of paying for charters falls entirely on local taxpayers. What they get in return for this obligation is almost no information on how the money is being spent. The lack of transparency and accountability is at cross purposes with the goal of traditional public vs. charter school competition.

Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's Right-to-Know Requests
PSBA filed a Right-to-Know request with Pennsylvania charter and cyber charter schools on May 15, 2015. PSBA is tracking the response from each charter in the table below and updating it on a weekly basis. According to Right-to-Know Law, public entities have five days from receipt of an open records request by the agency’s open records officer to either 1) provide the requested records (indicated by a green check); 2) deny the request and give reasons for the denial (indicated by a red X); or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for specific legal reasons (indicated by an (E)).

Cyber-charters are 'schools that teach,' Gov. Wolf: Maurice Flurie, Joanne Barnett and Patricia Rossetti
PennLive Op-Ed on May 20, 2015 at 2:00 PM, updated May 20, 2015 at 2:02 PM
By Maurice Flurie, Joanne Barnett and Patricia Rossetti
Maurice Flurie is the CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy; Dr. Joanne Barnett is the CEO of PA Virtual Charter School, and Patricia Rossetti is the CEO of PA Distance Learning Charter School.
As educators of schools that teach more than 36,000 students, we welcome reforming Pennsylvania's charter school law.  We are, however, extremely disappointed that the needs of students and opinions of parents are seemingly being ignored in the current political debate.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education  has increased its oversight of public cyber charter schools over the past three years. The accountability measures of House Bill 530, recently passed in the House and currently residing in the Senate, will only improve those efforts. These changes are welcomed by the CEOs of all 14 public cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania.  As additional accountability measures are discussed, it is important for taxpayers and lawmakers to remember that charter and cyber charter schools serve a critical role in the educational landscape of Pennsylvania.

Here's a related prior KeySEC posting…..
Even when you compare cyber charters to high-poverty traditional schools & high-poverty charter schools, they still underperform
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup for November 18, 2014:

Don't forget to read to posted comments…..
Want Pa. schools to flourish? Try this Tennessee model that worked: Kevin Huffman
PennLive Op-Ed  By Kevin Huffman on May 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM
Legislators in Pennsylvania are wrestling with critical education policy issues that will impact millions of children across the state.  Gov. Tom Wolf made increased education funding a centerpiece of his campaign, and the persistent funding gaps and corresponding program cuts in school districts should be addressed.  By any measure, additional funding is key.  But increased funding alone will not solve the challenges plaguing the lowest performing schools in the state. How can Pennsylvania ensure that these new resources will drive positive change for public school children stuck in chronically underperforming schools?  In Tennessee, where I served as commissioner of education until earlier this year, the state faced a similar, vexing question: how do we do turn around the worst performing schools in the state?

Pension Reform: Quakertown urges Pa. school districts to create crisis
Intelligencer By Amanda Cregan Correspondent Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 10:45 pm | Updated: 1:13 am, Thu May 21, 2015.
In an act of civil disobedience, Quakertown Community School District is calling on all Pennsylvania school districts to create a crisis in Harrisburg by refusing to pay its share of pension costs.  Wednesday night, Quakertown school leaders hosted a Legislative Council meeting for Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton county members of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  Quakertown Community school board President Paul Stepanoff urged the 500 school boards across Pennsylvania to join the district in taking action against a growing statewide pension crisis that has wreaked havoc on nearly every district’s budget for the last few years.  Public schools have been forced to cut academic and extracurricular programs, reduce staffing, delay building repairs and renovations, draw down reserve funds and enact significant property tax increases to pay for a spike in pension costs for retired teachers and other school faculty.  By creating a crisis in Harrisburg, the governor and state legislators would be forced to take action to resolve the ongoing Public School Employees Retirement System funding crisis, according to Stepanoff.

Bill would get Pa. started on fixing its pension crisis Opinion By John D. McGinnis POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 1:08 AM
For more than 10 years, taxpayer dollars in Pennsylvania have been improperly diverted from the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS). If a corporation misappropriated retirement funds in this way, its executives would be put in jail, and justly so.  But in state government, legislators write the laws and governors carry them out, so any bad, irresponsible behavior can be made perfectly legal.

In maintaining bond rating, Fitch says PA is continually unable to address fiscal challenges
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, May 20, 2015/Categories
Bond rating company Fitch Ratings Tuesday maintained the Commonwealth’s current bond rating of AA- with a stable economic outlook.  However, Fitch noted not all is going positively for the Commonwealth, indicating the Commonwealth has shown a “continued inability to address its fiscal challenges with structural and recurring measures” which has led to a bond rating lower than most states.  “After an unexpected revenue shortfall in fiscal 2014, the current year budget includes a substantial amount of one-time revenues and expense deferrals to achieve balance and continues the deferral of statutory requirements to replenish reserves which were utilized during the recession,” Fitch said in a statement releasing the bond rating.

Bellefonte school board approves tentative budget
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO May 20, 2015 
BELLEFONTE — In a 7-1 vote, the Bellefonte Area school board passed the 2015-16 final preliminary budget at a meeting Wednesday night at Bellefonte Area Middle School.
Board member George Stone was the lone opposing vote. Board member Mike Danneker was absent.  The $47.84 million budget calls for a 2.4 percent increase in taxes to help fund more than $18.5 million that would go toward salaries and about $6.5 million that would go toward health insurance through Capital BlueCross.  What this means for the average taxpayer is that they would pay $57.02 more annually, according to a report from the school district.
The average home assessment value in the district is $49,773.

Spring-Ford rejects $144 M budget
West Chester Daily Local By Eric Devlin, on Twitter  POSTED: 05/20/15, 6:22 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Royersford >> Accusing each other of chest-pumping, and complaining about what was said at previous meetings, seemed to be the only things that the Spring-Ford Area School Board managed to accomplish in relation to its final budget Monday.  In a 3-4 decision, the board rejected the administration’s recommended $144.4 million budget, which called for a 1.9 percent tax increase. Board members Dawn Heine, Bernard Petit, Tom DiBello and Joe Ciresi voted against the budget. Board members Kelly Spletzer and Todd Wolf were absent.
With a millage rate of 0.026, under the proposed budget, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would have had to pay an additional $2,623.60 a year or an extra $49 a month in real estate taxes. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Act 1 time line, a proposed final budget must be approved 30 days before a final budget can be adopted. It also must be available for public inspection at least 20 days before adoption. By that time line, the board must now pass a proposed budget at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Oxford School Board approves preliminary final budget for the 2015-16 school year
West Chester Daily Local By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY, 21st Century Media POSTED: 05/20/15, 6:15 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
OXFORD >> At their May 19 meeting, the Oxford School Board approved the preliminary final budget for the 2015-16 school year in the amount of $63,736,343, an increase of 4.68 percent over the current budget of $60,888,690.  A 1 percent tax increase is needed to fund the budget, plus $4,036,842.91 from the District’s fund balance. That will increase the millage rate to 30.5347, which translates to an increase of $39 in the bill of the average home owner with property assessed at $130,318.  Board member Joe Tighe prefaced the budget approval with an historical tax comparison of Oxford and other districts in the county. Charts showed that while Oxford had a .61 percent tax increase last year, an average of $24 per household. There was no increase in taxes for Oxford in the preceding year of 2013-14.

York City schools as 'model' for improving distressed districts
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   05/20/2015 10:23:02 PM EDT
Less than six months after the state tried to seize control of the York City School District, a new administration wants the district to become Pennsylvania's "model" for improving financially and academically distressed school districts.  But before the district can claim that status, there is much work to be done.  The state's new secretary of education, Pedro Rivera, visited York on Wednesday to meet with district staff, school board members and local media.  Rivera said he and Gov. Tom Wolf want York City to be the model for improving urban education statewide.

What’s working? What’s not?
Researchers and advocates are trying to better understand why more Philadelphia students are graduating.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 20, 2015 07:58 AM
The on-time high school graduation rate in Philadelphia has risen from 52 to 65 percent over the last eight years. A new report shows that the most rapid progress has been among traditionally at-risk groups including Black males, Hispanics, students in foster care, and those involved in the juvenile justice system.  The improvement, much of which occurred during a period of shrinking District resources, coincided with the work of Project U-Turn. That is the city’s longstanding and multifaceted project to stem the tide of students who drop out of school by ramping up and coordinating services they need. The general rise in graduation rates mirrors an increase nationwide over the same period, but not all urban areas showed gains.  In the latest report growing out of the project, researchers analyzed individual student data from seven cohorts of first-time 9th graders, beginning with the class that started high school in 2002 and continuing through the class that started high school in 2008. The goal was to provide more detailed information on what had been driving the increases and gain insights into which initiatives and policies were effective.

How, and how much, are teachers paid in Pennsylvania?
By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on May 20, 2015 01:59 PM
Philadelphia educators, parents, students, and community and labor groups rally to support teacher contracts outside School District headquarters at 440 N. Broad St
In the Multiple Choices podcast, Keystone Crossroads senior education writer Kevin McCorry joins with Paul Socolar, publisher and editor of the Public School Notebook, and Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa to explain and explore the history, complexities and controversies of public education funding in Pennsylvania.
A lot, relatively speaking. The average starting salary for a teacher in Pennsylvania as of the 2012-13 school year was $41,901. Nationally, that number puts the state ninth for highest starting teacher pay, behind Alaska, California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Wyoming.  The average starting teacher salary for the country that year was $36,141.  But that's only the starting salary, which can be an unreliable indicator of the overall pay structure in a school system. How high salaries go — and how quickly they climb — is subject to a number of factors discussed below. First, some context.

"Three billionaires gave more than $6 million to support a candidate in favor of school choice, namely state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, in this year's Democratic primary for Philadelphia mayor.  But at the polls Tuesday night, voters pushed more buttons for public education stalwarts like Helen Gym instead"
Was school choice on the ballot in Philadelphia Tuesday?
Three billionaires gave more than $6 million to support a candidate in favor of school choice, namely state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, in this year's Democratic primary for Philadelphia mayor.  But at the polls Tuesday night, voters pushed more buttons for public education stalwarts like Helen Gym instead.  While the mayoral candidates resisted being painted with a broad brush -- traditional public vs. charter -- in the days leading up to the election, endorsements seemed to paint a different picture. PACs backing Williams funded by pro-school choice billionaires put out ads while the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers stumped for former City Councilman Jim Kenney, who won the nomination.  NewsWorks reached out to some educators and advocates and asked if the results constitute a reckoning for charter schools.

"In doing so, the electorate also rejected the chosen candidate of the charter-school movement, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, and his wealthy Main Line backers who spent nearly $7 million on their libertarian agenda.  Helen Gym -- who'd been one of the leaders of protests against the SRC, and who successfully exposed some of its school-closing manipulations -- is on track to join the City Council next January. And voters overwhelming approved a non-binding vote seeking to win back local control of the school district."
Philadelphia finds that bridge to the 21st century
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2015, 5:54 PM
Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode lost Tuesday night. OK, that's literally true, in that at-large city councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and ex-councilman Frank Rizzo, son of the late mayor and police commissioner, both were defeated in the Democratic primary. But it's even more profoundly true in the metaphorical sense: That the 20th-Century politics embodied by their fathers, iconic Philadelphia mayors of 1970s and 1980s, has finally gone the way of pay phones, 8-tracks and rabbit-ear antennas.

Philadelphia Voters Approve Measure in Favor of Elected School Board
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on May 20, 2015 10:50 AM
Philadelphia voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday to abolish the School Reform Commission, the unelected board made up of gubernatorial and mayoral appointees that runs the school system, and put a locally-elected board in charge.  The non-binding vote in Tuesday's primary follows in the footsteps of voters in another city, Chicago, where residents voted overwhelmingly in February to end their appointed school board, the members of which are chosen by the mayor.  The measures in both cities are non-binding, and both would require the support of their respective state legislatures and governors to go into effect.
The Philadelphia ballot measure asked for the governor and the legislature to abolish the five-member School Reform Commission and return the schools to local control.

Bernie Sanders issues bill to make 4-year colleges tuition-free
Senator Bernie Sanders has officially introduced a bill that would eliminate undergraduate tuition. Titled the “College for All Act,” the bill would eliminate the $70 billion dollar tuition costs at all 4-year public colleges and universities.  Under the plan, the Federal Government would cover 67% — $47 billion dollars each year — of the costs.  States would be required to produce the remaining 33% of the costs, or 23 billion dollars.

"Long Island Opt Out, led by parent Jeanette Deutermann, endorsed candidates in yesterday’s school board elections across the two counties that comprise the Island. Fifty-seven of the 75 candidates endorsed by LIOO won their races"
Long Island: Opt Out Candidates Sweep Elections!
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch May 20, 2015 //
Amazing news!  Long Island Opt Out, led by parent Jeanette Deutermann, endorsed candidates in yesterday’s school board elections across the two counties that comprise the Island. Fifty-seven of the 75 candidates endorsed by LIOO won their races. This includes seven of Deutermann’s liaisons for Opt Out.  Their message was: “We are taking back our schools.”  Long Island is the national hotbed for opt outs. It is a model for the nation. Parents are organized and active; they have the support of many principals and superintendents.  Jeanette Deutermann has spearheaded this effective resistance to high-stakes testing. She belongs on this blog’s honor roll as a champion of public education.

‘Opt Out’ Becomes Anti-Test Rallying Cry in New York State
BOICEVILLE, N.Y. — It started with a speech in the fall, to parents who had gathered in the auditorium to learn what to expect during the nascent school year.  “I spoke at the open house and said, ‘We hope you’ll opt out of the tests,’ ” said Heather Roberts, vice president of the Bennett Intermediate School parent teacher association. Last year, 92 percent of eligible students in the Catskill Mountains district that includes Boiceville took their standardized English tests. “Jaws dropped.”  Soon there were forums, T-shirts with snappy slogans and fliers translated into Spanish. During pickups and play dates, in classrooms and at lunch, parents and students would ask one another: “Are you opting out?”  By the first day of testing in April, two of every three students in the district who were expected to take the exams were refusing to lift their pencils.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 13 - 19, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on May 19, 2015 - 1:59pm 
The end of the 2014-2015 school year is drawing near, but the movement to roll back standardized exam overkill has not slowed for a moment. Both in Washington DC and in dozens of state capitals the pressure from grassroots testing reformers is forcing policymakers to debate proposals to reduce testing overuse, eliminate some high-stakes consequences and stop penalizing students who opt out.  At the same time, the volume of commentaries supporting real assessment reform is growing rapidly.

Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Conneaut School District
Mr. Jarrin Sperry, Superintendent, Ms. Jody Sperry, Board President
Corry School District
Mr. William Nichols, Superintendent
Fort LeBoeuf School District
Mr. Richard Emerick, Assistant Superintendent
Girard School District
Dr. James Tracy, Superintendent
Harbor Creek School District
Ms. Christine Mitchell, Board President
Millcreek School District
Mr. William Hall, Superintendent Mr. Aaron O'Toole, Director of Finance and Accounting
Keynote Speaker
Mr. Jay Himes, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

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