Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 26: Sign up to support fair funding

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3600 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, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 26, 2015:
Sign up to support fair funding

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

Sign up here to receive a weekly email update on the status of efforts to have Pennsylvania adopt an adequate, equitable, predictable and sustainable Basic Education Funding Formula by 2016
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Campaign for Fair Education Funding website
Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

DId you catch our holiday weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 23, 2015: Put down that crappy beach novel; today's Roundup is hot…..

Editorial: Time growing short for fixing state pension crisis
West Chester Daily Local Editorial POSTED: 05/23/15, 6:22 PM EDT
The ticking time bomb tucked inside the Pennsylvania budget has not detonated – yet.
But that does not mean the crisis circling the state’s two major public employee pension plans is going away, or that it is not having a huge effect on people’s lives.  Just ask the people who used to drive school buses for the Springfield School District. Notice we used the past tense. The school board, struggling to keep up with the ballooning costs tied to the Public School Employees Retirement System, decided to outsource those services.  They’re not the only ones.  In Philadelphia, the financially ailing school system is considering outsourcing health services, which could lead to a showdown with unionized school nurses.  Across the region school boards are singing the same, sad song. Every cost – every body - is being scrutinized. That means fewer teacher aides, more outsourcing of services, a loss of familiar faces such as those who man cafeterias and front offices.  Much of it is fueled by two major factors – skyrocketing costs associated with health care and pension costs.

High-profile votes, fights preview Wolf’s challenges in June
Washington Times By MARC LEVY - Associated Press - Sunday, May 24, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - June is crunch time in the state Capitol and the challenges in front of Gov. Tom Wolf are becoming clearer in the Democrat’s first go-round with budget negotiations.  For Wolf, who took office in January, it will be perhaps the biggest test yet of his mettle, and an important sign of how successful he will be the rest of his term in persuading the state Legislature’s huge Republican majorities to support his priorities.  The last few days provided something of a preview of the battles awaiting Wolf’s administration and how it might handle them.  It ruffled Republican feathers in the Capitol this past week with a bare-fisted attack on the Senate Republicans’ top priority: a bill to scale back pension benefits for future and current public school and state government employees.
"Last year, close to $1.3 billion left traditional public schools to go to charters, and that's tax dollars," said Steve Robinson, senior director of communications for the school boards association, "and taxpayers have every right to know how that money is being spent."
School board group seeks charters' data
For the group representing Pennsylvania school board members, when it comes to the state's billion-dollar charter-school industry, there's no such thing as too much information.  But frivolous is the word charter-school operators are using to describe the blizzard of Right-to-Know requests submitted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  They were lodged with about 180 publicly funded charters in every corner of the state, seeking data on how those schools spend millions of dollars on such items as salaries, consultants, rent, ad campaigns, and a long list of other expenditures.

As of this morning zero responses have been recorded on this website from the 177 charter schools listed...
Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's May 15th 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)).

Philly's SRC approves another KIPP charter school
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 25, 2015
It's kind of like when a teacher allows you to correct your test and resubmit it for a grade.
There was fervent public debate about the possibility of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approving a slate of new charter schools in February.  In the end, five of 39 applicants got the go-ahead, with some tightened restrictions.  ast week, the SRC greenlit another charter last week to little fanfare.  KIPP's bid to open a new K-4 charter school in West Philadelphia was flatly denied in February – with Farah Jimenez abstaining and the remainder of the commissioners voting for denial.  Instead of fighting the rejection at the state charter appeals board, KIPP just addressed the red flags and kicked a revised application back to the SRC.

Philly school officials make their money pitch to City Council this week
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 25, 2015
The School District of Philadelphia will make its case for additional revenue before City Council Tuesday morning.  School district officials will urge council to agree to Mayor Michael Nutter's proposed 9.4 percent property tax hike.  Council has thus far given Nutter's plan a chilly reception, but members have yet to put forward plans to deliver any portion of the $105 million in new funding sought by the district. Council's hearings on the school budget were delayed until after last week's city primaries.  District officials will make the pitch that an additional investment from the city, in concert with Gov. Wolf's education-friendly budget proposal, will greatly improve academic performance and school culture.

"There's a lot of work to do, which is why it's disappointing that despite all the talk about schools leading up to last week's city election, little was being done to help them. City Council members criticized Mayor Nutter's proposed property-tax increase for schools but dared not take up the issue in the midst of their campaigns. As a result, Council's public hearing on the district's budget was put off until today. The School Reform Commission is required to adopt a budget by Sunday."
Talk doesn't fund schools
It would be a shame if the gains Philadelphia has made in lowering its dropout rate and increasing the number of students who graduate from high school were dealt a setback by inadequate school funding.  A report released last week showed that since 2006, the share of ninth graders graduating from Philadelphia high schools in four years has risen from 52 percent to 65 percent. Meanwhile, the dropout rate fell from 29 percent for the 2003-04 freshman class to 25 percent for the 2008-09 freshmen.

Well-schooled in the ways of Phila., SRC chair is still learning
What Marjorie Neff envisioned for her life after retiring in June was travel and undivided time with family, sprinkled with regular stints volunteering at her neighborhood school.
What the former Philadelphia principal got was quite different - one of the toughest positions in the city, unpaid at that, with political stakes so high the future of 200,000 children depends in part on how well she does her job.  When she told one of her sons over the winter she was about to become chair of the School Reform Commission, he was a little wistful: Why couldn't Neff be more like his girlfriend's mother?  "She went on a trip to Thailand and took up poetry," Neff said, laughing. "But I grew up in this system, and my children went through it. I'm not leaving this city. God willing, I'm going to have grandchildren and they'll go to public school."

Districts tighten social media contacts among teachers, students
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 26, 2015 12:00 AM
A rash of local teachers charged with having sexual relationships with students raises the question of whether there is an increase in the number of sexual predators among teachers or simply heightened awareness and increased reporting.  Although the answer may not be clear, one thing is certain: All of the teachers were charged after social media or text messages with their alleged victims were exposed.  The electronic messages, including cell phone texts and messages on Facebook and Twitter, left a digital trail for investigators to follow, making it easy to identify victims and present the suspected teachers with specific evidence of wrongdoing.  That leaves school officials tasked with trying to figure out how to embrace the seemingly limitless educational advantages of the Internet and social media tools, but preventing them from being used to initiate and foster covert, inappropriate relationships among staff and students.

Philipsburg-Osceola celebrates ranking of high school among state’s best
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comMay 25, 2015
It’s something that Philipsburg-Osceola Area Senior High School has never seen.
This year, the school was ranked 67th best high school in the state by U.S. News & World Report.  “This is the first time P-O has been ranked,” said Principal Robin Stewart. “I congratulate P-O high school teachers for their dedication to improving educational outcomes for our students.”  The list was released May 12, ranking the top 77 schools in Pennsylvania.  Stewart attributes the accolade to the need to improve.  “(It’s) never being satisfied that you do something that you’ve never done before, (and) always striving to be better and moving the educational system to be better,” she said. “Recognizing the achievements of teachers and students leads to being able to challenge all members of our educational community to continue to strive for greater success.”

"Another cost that weighs heavily on the budget, said board member Ron Williams, is the $6.1 million the district will pay into the state pension system, known as PSERS, which stands for the Public School Employees Retirement System.  Next year that cost will represent more than 10 percent of Pottstown’s total expenditures."
Pottstown moves forward with $57 million no-tax budget
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/24/15, 9:12 AM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN — The school board unanimously endorsed a proposed $57 million budget Thursday night that would not raise property taxes.  “In my 24 years on the school board, I cannot remember a budget that did not raise taxes,” said School Board President Judyth Zahora.  Although the 2015-2016 spending plan increases spending by 2.16 percent — or $1,207,190 — an increase in state funding in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would more than cover the amount.  In fact, there would be a surplus of about $280,000 if the governor’s budget were to be adopted unchanged by the General Assembly, a scenario that is considered unlikely.

Editorial: Conestoga Valley School District board needs to understand reality of Sunshine Act
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Friday, May 22, 2015 6:00 am
THE ISSUE: Conestoga Valley School District signed a contract May 11 with Malvern-based School Operation Services of Lancaster to provide the district with custodial, cafeteria and classroom aide workers. School board member Merle Esh, who presided over the meeting in the absence of president John Smucker, said Tuesday that the contract had been discussed by board members in executive sessions “due to personnel reasons.”  Here’s a primer for school boards on executive sessions and personnel matters, and the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.
Rule No. 1. You can discuss individual employees in executive sessions — i.e., in the dark, out of public hearing — but not if the individual employee asks for the matter to be discussed at an open meeting.
Rule No. 2. This means you need to give that employee notice, so he or she can request an open discussion.
Rule No. 3. You definitely cannot decide in executive session to simply do away with a whole swath of personnel.
CV Superintendent Gerald Huesken says the school board’s "executive session deliberations concerned specifically-known custodial, cafeteria and classroom aide employees,” and the board considered “the specific circumstance of individual employees.”  These discussions, he says, “were not about broad theoretical groups of employees.”  Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel at Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, says that’s a “very broad interpretation of the personnel executive session — too broad in my opinion.”  She adds: “Even if the personnel executive session did apply, the school still failed to allow the ‘specifically-known custodial, cafeteria and classroom aide employees’ to request the discussion happen at an open meeting, which is required by the Sunshine Act.”  That law is intended to ensure that public officials conduct the public’s business in public.  And a policy that outsources a whole class of employees is most decidedly the public’s business.

Lancaster County's spelling champion heads to national stage
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, May 25, 2015 6:00 am
As the last day of school approaches, studying spelling is the last thing on most kids' minds. But not for the 285 contestants in this week's Scripps National Spelling Bee.  Will Yaeger will represent Lancaster County in the 88th annual contest, which kicks off Tuesday in National Harbor, Maryland, about nine miles south of Washington.  The thirteen-year-old said on Friday that he'd been practicing spelling on a special Scripps site for an hour each night in recent weeks.

Blogger note: Are tax credit programs the new WAMs in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Christiana’s House Bill 752 would increase the amount of available tax credits for the EITC program from $100 million to $170 million, and the amount of available tax credits for the OSTC program from $50 million to $80 million.  That would be $250 million in diverted tax dollars being sent to private and religious schools that have little or no fiscal transparency or student performance accountability to the public.  The following NY Times Editorial is right on target.
NYT Editorial: A Costly Tax Break for Nonpublic Schools
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD MAY 22, 2015
Gov. Andrew Cuomo can talk passionately about improving New York’s “failing public schools,” but when he made that point at churches and a yeshiva last Sunday it was, at best, disingenuous. He was there to sell his bill that would help private and parochial schools, by offering big tax credits to their donors. This energetic effort for an expensive and possibly unconstitutional bill that Mr. Cuomo has named the Parental Choice in Education Act could cost the state more than $150 million a year. That money should be used to help almost 2.7 million public school students in the state, not given to wealthy donors subsidizing mainly private or religious schools.  Elizabeth Lynam, a budget expert for New York’s Citizens Budget Commission, called the bill “an extremely lucrative benefit likely to serve the state’s wealthiest taxpayers.” Many of the people who would get the credit already support their favorite private or parochial schools, she said. A tax credit to encourage them isn’t needed.

"Careful studies of the implementation of NCLB have shown that it has done what less bullish observers might have predicted from the outset. It has increased the focus on the education of poor and minority students, but it has not provided schools with needed tools to create higher quality schooling for these students."
Education reformers have it all wrong: Accountability from above never works, great teaching always does
Common Core or No Child Left Behind -- reformers always try to manage change from above. It fails & hurts our kids
Salon.com by JAL MEHTA SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2015 02:59 PM EDT
In late 2001, three months after the September 11 attacks, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) passed both House and Senate with strong bipartisan majorities and was signed by a Republican president. Promising to use the power of the state to ensure that all children were proficient in reading and math by 2014, proponents heralded the act as the greatest piece of federal education legislation since the creation of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. By requiring the states to set high standards, pairing them with assessments that measured whether students were achieving those standards, and holding schools accountable if students failed to do so, NCLB, in the eyes of its sponsors, would close achievement gaps and make America’s schools the envy of the world.  A decade later, the bloom is off the rose. While almost everyone today continues to share the aim of leaving no child behind, the act itself has come in for criticism from many quarters, to the point that Bush’s former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings declared that NCLB is now a “toxic brand” in American politics.  

Pollster Terry Madonna Joins the Next #FairFundingPA chat on Twitter
Terry Madonna will join the next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations on Tuesday, May 26 at 8 p.m. Madonna is Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. He is also the Director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll.
Topics will include, but not be limited to: Property tax reform, Governor Wolf’s budget proposal, and of course the need for a fair, predictable basic education funding formula. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.
On the last Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m., the following organizations go to Twitter to discuss timely topics, ask questions and listen to the public’s responses:
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA);
  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP)
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS)
Join the conversation. Share your ideas, lurk, learn and let us know what you think about the state’s support for public schools. It’s a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. If you’ve never tweeted before, here are directions and a few tips:

Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:00 am
St. Bernard Hall, Friendship Circle Senior Center - First Floor
1515 Lansdowne Avenue DarbyPA 19023.
East Campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
Please RSVP to panaacpyc@gmail.com by May 25

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

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Staff attorney Michael Churchill will speak about what schools need and where the money comes from in this Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) webinar on June 8. Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.

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