Monday, May 4, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 4: Saylor: "There's broad agreement that the current system is broken, it desperately needs to be fixed and people see this as their best chance ever of getting that done"

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 4, 2015:
Saylor: "There's broad agreement that the current system is broken, it desperately needs to be fixed and people see this as their best chance ever of getting that done"

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA

Revisiting a prior posting in recognition of National Charter Schools week:
Hornbeck: After 20 years charter schools are not the answer
As Philadelphia’s Superintendent of Schools, I recommended the approval of more than 30 charter schools because I thought it would improve educational opportunity for our 215,000 students.  The last 20 years make it clear, I was wrong.

Their View: Rural districts need fair spending formula
Centre Daily Times LTE BY JAMES ESTEP May 1, 2015 
James Estep is superintendent of the Mifflin County School District.
I have spent all of my 27-year career serving students in rural Pennsylvania school systems, 20 of which have been in school leadership positions.  In that span of time, I’ve learned a few things that I consider to be absolute truths.  First, our children work very hard, and it shows. More often than not, a majority of Pennsylvania’s public school students perform well in the classroom, and this historically has been even more true for our rural public school students.  Second, the performance and work ethic of our children can be directly attributed to our families and our dedicated teaching and administrative professionals, both of whom are committed to the well-being of kids.  Unfortunately, rural districts around the state are struggling, and if the state itself doesn’t change the way it funds public education, our children will fall behind.

How Wolf's budget would aid our schools
By JAY BADAMS Contributing writer03 May 2015 — Erie Times-News
Jay Badams is superintendent of the Erie School District (
Those of us who work in the field of education have long understood the impact of teaching and learning on our economy -- statistics abound that show the increase in lifetime earnings that accompanies an individual's educational attainment.  While supporting and advocating for increased education funding is part of my role as a school superintendent, I am also very encouraged by Gov. Tom Wolf's recognition of public education's ability to strengthen Pennsylvania's middle class and his proposal to shift school funding from a reliance on property taxes and, instead, make investments from revenue generated from a proposed 5 percent severance tax on the natural gas drilling industry. In fact, these two specific proposals reflect action on policy initiatives that have been offered by policymakers on both sides of the aisle for decades.

"There's broad agreement that the current system is broken, it desperately needs to be fixed and people see this as their best chance ever of getting that done," said House Education Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, a commission member. "So I think for those reasons I'm fairly optimistic that we can indeed do this."
Drive to depoliticize school funds adds intrigue in Capitol
Penn Live By MARC LEVY, Associated Press | May 2, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — It's the first thing each Pennsylvania state lawmaker checks in a governor's brand-new budget proposal: How much more money the public schools in their districts would get. Then it's closely watched until the governor signs a budget bill.
This year, a move to de-politicize the process that drives billions of dollars in state aid to public schools is injecting another level of intrigue as Gov. Tom Wolf seems determined to give schools their biggest-ever one-year increase.  Many are watching whether the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission can produce an objective formula to distribute the aid and win prompt support from the Republican-controlled Legislature and Wolf.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
"According to the Campaign for Fair Education Funding (, “Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a basic education funding formula to distribute sufficient resources both fairly and predictably. The result is a funding system that fails to provide enough resources to educational students to academic standards, produces a wide gap between the wealthiest and poorest schools, and is so unpredictable from year to year that school districts cannot effectively budget or plan.”  This wide gap was illustrated with side-by-side seating of Lower Merion acting Superintendent Wagner Marseille and William Penn Superintendent Joe Bruni."
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 2: Delco superintendents discuss education funding challenges

School-funding issue heads for high court
Republican Herald BY ROBERT B. SWIFT Published: May 3, 2015
HARRISBURG — This is one of the most important elections in decades for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and now, an important case involving public education funding is headed its way.  The scenario emerged when the lower Commonwealth Court threw out a lawsuit last month calling for an end to sharp inequities in what school districts spend to educate students. The Commonwealth Court found it is the General Assembly’s job under the state constitution to determine education funding issues, not the judicial branch.   The plaintiffs, including three school districts in Northeast Pennsylvania, plan to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The appeal could possibly be considered later this year, but it’s more likely to happen in 2016, observers said.
The seven-member high court currently has two vacancies and that could mean there was some trepidation about having just five justices decide such a major case.  Pennsylvania voters will solve that problem in November when they elect three justices to 10-year terms.

Three open seats on Pa. Supreme Court make for pivotal races
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 3, 2015 12:00 AM
One has sentenced a man to death, and been threatened with death himself. Another prosecuted a woman for providing abortion drugs to her daughter, while others challenged the ethics of fellow court officers.  They are among the 12 candidates — six Democrats and six Republicans — running for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And most voters barely know their names.  Three seats are open on the state’s highest court, after the retirement of Chief Justice Ron Castille and the scandal-tainted departures of justices Joan Orie Melvin and Seamus McCaffery.

"There's no borrowing in this plan, I can say that," said Browne, who chairs his chamber's Appropriations Committee.  The measure is expected to contrast with the plan presenting by Gov. Tom Wolf, who wants to bring down state and school pension costs without changing retirement benefits. The governor's plan would cut investment management fees and borrow $3 billion to shore up the school employees' retirement system, essentially refinancing the larger of the two state funds.
Pa. GOP plans to unveil pension system overhaul plan
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MAY 4, 2015
Pennsylvania's Senate Republicans plan to roll out a proposal to overhaul public pensions in early May, the first step toward making good on their promise to address pension debt before negotiating a commonwealth budget.  Caucus leaders have repeatedly suggested switching future hires into a 401(k)-style retirement system. Last month, the Senate majority leader said he might try to scale back unearned pension benefits for current state and public school employees.  But asked about the plan last week, said Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, was more comfortable talking about what isn't in Senate Republicans' proposed pension overhaul.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Sen. Pat Browne…

"Browne also has taken a lead role in trying to develop new school funding formulas by co-chairing two separate commissions. One commission recommended a new method, partially adopted into law under Gov. Tom Corbett, of paying for special education. The other commission, which is ongoing, was seeking a new, less political way to distribute per-pupil expenditures to the state's 500 school districts."
Sen. Browne, under investigation for possible DUI crash, in hospital with 'considerable injuries'
By Nicole Radzievich and Steve Esack Of The Morning Call May 4, 2015
Sen. Pat Browne, considered by many to be the Lehigh Valley's most influential state lawmaker, is in the hospital recovering from "considerable injuries" following a Saturday motorcycle crash that state police are investigating as a possible case of driving under the influence.  Browne of Allentown crashed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday while heading west on Interstate 78 in Allentown, according to state police at Fogelsville. He lost control as he entered the curve of the Exit 57 ramp to Lehigh Street. The motorcycle fell on its side and continued to slide on the road until it came to rest, the police report says.

PlanCon: School districts wait for reimbursements for renovation projects
TribLive By Matthew Santoni Saturday, May 2, 2015, 6:44 p.m.
A delay and more budget uncertainty could be ahead for Pennsylvania school districts awaiting state money for hundreds of construction projects totaling $1.2 billion.
Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed 2016 budget would reinstate a moratorium his predecessor imposed on applications for reimbursement and leave the funding level at about $306.2 million for projects in the system. Lawmakers had allowed the moratorium to expire in September and increased the budget for payouts under the 11-step approval process for the “PlanCon” program.  Of an estimated 350 projects working their way through the state's pipeline, 200 had reached Part H — the stage just before the state starts paying the district. About 60 districts started getting payments totaling $46.6 million when legislators increased the funding, said Hannah Berrick, director of advocacy at the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.
“It means more of the same,” said Michael Gleba, who succeeded Scaife as the foundation's chairman and CEO last year after serving as its president. The charitable focus — economic and public policy groups, most with conservative or libertarian views, and foreign policy think tanks — won't change, he said.
Scaife bestows 'game-changing' legacy of giving to region, nation
Trib Live By Mike Wereschagin Saturday, May 2, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Two Pittsburgh nonprofit foundations benefited substantially from the will of late Tribune-Review publisher Dick Scaife — one of them jumping to nearly six times its present wealth.
Sarah Scaife Foundation and Alle­gheny Foundation soon will receive $367.5 million each from Scaife, who died July 4. The cash infusions will double the former's assets and transform Allegheny Foundation from a $75 million entity into one worth nearly $443 million.
Public charities and organizations will ultimately benefit, too, as donations from both foundations markedly increase. Federal law requires foundations to donate at least 5 percent of their assets each year.  “This is quite a game-changer,” said Matthew Groll, who became Allegheny Foundation's chairman following Scaife's death. He previously was its executive director.  “For the last five years, we distributed an average of $3 million to $4 million a year, and approximately $100 million since Mr. Scaife established the foundation in 1953,” Groll said. “Those amounts will be eclipsed in short order, as our new distribution requirements increase to more than $20 million annually.”
T/E: Proposed 2015-16 final budget approved
West Chester Daily Local Staff Report 5/02/15, 2:55 PM EDT |
At its regular meeting on April 27, the Tredyffrin-Easttown School Board approved the proposed final budget for the 2015–2016 school year in the amount of $125,856,647.
The proposed final budget includes a tax rate increase of approximately 3.81 percent or $194 on the average assessed house in the district. The budgeted imbalance of approximately $5.3 million is addressed through property tax increases from the Act 1 index at 1.9 percent and approved referendum exceptions at 1.91 percent as well as a commitment from the fund balance. The T/E School Board and administration will continue to scrutinize the budget before voting on the 2015-2016 final budget at the June 15, 2015 regular board meeting.

Letter From The Editor: Learning a lesson in dedication from teachers
By Phil Heron, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 05/03/15, 11:03 PM EDT 
I used to think teaching was a cake job.
You know the drill. Done school every day at 3 o’clock. Weekends off. Long Christmas vacation. Miserable winter weather? Hooray! A snow day! And of course, let’s not forget that other fable: They only work nine months a year.  Then my son became a teacher. After graduating from college he took a job in a pretty tough school district in West Virginia.  As soon as my son’s vocation became clear, I made it a point to talk to teachers about their experience.  They all shared a common experience. They all told me their first year was brutal.  They weren’t lying.

Williams gets Inquirer nod in Philly mayor's race, amid some controversy
State Sen. Anthony Williams has won the coveted endorsement of the Philadelphia Inquirer in the Democratic mayoral primary.  Titled, "Williams, narrowly," the editorial announcing the Williams pick expresses some ambivalence about the choice. It says only two of the six candidates in the primary, Williams and former City Councilman Jim Kenney, have a chance to win, and that "the conspicuous support of an array of wealthy interests...makes for serious reservations about both."
It ultimately concludes that "because the unions backing Kenney already wield too much influence, the Inquirer's choice for the Democratic nomination is Anthony Williams."

Transcript: Bill Green, Tony Williams discuss Helen Gym and Thursday's Susquehanna Intl. dust-up [updated]
A strange thing happened after Thursday's labor rally for Philadelphia mayoral candidate Anthony Hardy Williams at Love Park.  Both Williams and School Reform Commissioner Bill Green blasted City Council candidate/education activist Helen Gym's "duplicity" at asking for the former's support, then joining in a news conference condemning some of his key supporters.  As WHYY's Dave Davies learned (and wrote), Gym and her campaign wholeheartedly disagreed with Green's and Williams' version of events. For the sake of the election-season public record, it bears going into what exactly was said.

NPE Endorses Helen Gym for Philadelphia City Council At-Large
The Network for Public Education May 2, 2015 NPE Endorsements
The Network for Education is proud to join the growing list of organizations endorsing  Helen Gym in the Primary Election for a City Council At-Large seat in the city of Philadelphia.
NPE President Diane Ravitch has lauded Helen as a hero of public education and an inspiration for us all. When asked about Helen’s candidacy, Diane said she is “a great advocate for children and education. Philadelphia needs her eloquent voice on the City Council.”

PhillyMag: The (New) Jim Kenney for Mayor
An endorsement by the editors of Philadelphia magazine.
BY PHILLYMAG  |  MAY 3, 2015 AT 5:59 AM
In many ways, this has been the weirdest of Philadelphia mayoral elections.
We mean that not in the sense of weird things happening — honestly, with the exception of Lynne Abraham doing a face-plant at a televised debate, it seems like not much has happened at all in this campaign — but more in the following sense: This doesn’t feel like the election Philadelphia was supposed to be having right now. Yes, ours is a city with large problems — widespread poverty, a school system that utterly fails families, a tax system that repels business — but it’s also, somehow, a city on the move and on the rise, with a palpable sense of energy about it. Population is growing, construction is booming, and Philadelphians of all ages, races and income levels are feeling more optimistic about the city than they have in ages. Surely, with that as the backdrop, this should have been a mayoral election that produced a candidate — or candidates! — ready to build on the undeniable momentum of the Nutter years and at long last wrestle Philadelphia’s toughest problems to the ground.

Legislators talk pensions, education funding at North Penn School District forum
By Jarreau Freeman @JarreauFreeman on Twitter Published: Saturday, May 02, 2015
Lansdale >> No topic seemed to be off limits at an education funding forum in the North Penn School District.  More than a dozen residents and North Penn School District officials gathered April 23 in the Penndale Middle School auditorium for a panel discussion on basic education funding.  Some of the main topics that the panelists discussed were charter schools, property taxes, pensions, the “hold harmless” provision and the state funding formula.  Moderated by North Penn Superintendent Curtis Dietrich, the goal of the forum was to educate and raise awareness among residents and legislators regarding education funding concerns.

Pa. law: Criminal checks for school moms?
Sara Byala, mother of a third grader at Wayne Elementary School, is looking forward to the class' Walk Through Wayne field trip this month. She and her husband even took the day off to chaperone the children as they tour shops in the small town and maybe make their own pizzas at a local restaurant.  And she will have a chance to do it again in a few years with a younger daughter: That's provided Byala is willing to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal-background check - thanks to a new state law passed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  The law, which takes effect July 1, is so sweeping school officials are wondering whether a homeroom mom would need to be fingerprinted before passing out cupcakes.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Standardized Testing (HBO)
Published on May 3, 2015 YouTube runtime 18:01
American students face a ridiculous amount of testing. John Oliver explains how standardized tests impact school funding, the achievement gap, how often kids are expected to throw up.

The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares
Children who grow up in some places go on to earn much more than they would if they grew up elsewhere. MAY 4, 2015
Location matters – enormously. If you’re poor and live in the Philadelphia area, it’s better to be in Bucks County than in Cumberland County or Atlantic County. Not only that, the younger you are when you move to Bucks, the better you will do on average.  Every year a poor child spends in Bucks County adds about $170 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county. Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $3,500, or 13 percent, more in average income as a young adult.  These findings, particularly those that show how much each additional year matters, are from a new study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren that has huge consequences on how we think about poverty and mobility in the United States

Why the movement to opt out of Common Core tests is a big deal
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 3 at 7:00 AM  
A school bus passes a sign encouraging parents to refuse that their children take state tests on Monday, April 13, 2015, in Rotterdam, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
The movement among parents to refuse to allow their children to take Common Core-aligned standardized tests has been growing in a number of states, as recent Answer Sheet posts have chronicled (here and here, for example). As opt-out numbers have grown, so too has reaction from officials who argue that frequent testing is valuable and that school districts could loss federal funds if too many students refuse to take the test (a threat that appears to be based on shaky ground.) Though testing supporters have attempted to minimize the importance and impact of the opt-out movement, it is having a big impact, as explained in the following post by award-winning New York Principal Carol Burris.
Burris, of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In 2010, she was selected as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She has written several books, numerous articles and many posts on this blog about the seriously botched implementation of school reform in her state — including the Common Core standards and the implementation of high-stakes Core-aligned exams — and about the misuse and abuse of high-stakes standardized tests. She recently announced that she had decided to retire early and to advocate for public education in new ways.

Sponsored by Coatesville and Media Area NAACPs
9:00 AM – 1:30 PM SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
Our children have to pass the state mandated tests in order to move on with life. SO - it is time for the PA Assembly to provide adequate and equitable funding to the public schools of Pennsylvania.
Pre-Registration is required for meals. Deadline for Pre-registration is May 12, 2015

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA
7:30 am: Light breakfast fare and registration; 8:00 am: Program
Harrisburg University Auditorium, Strawberry Square 326 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
Opening Remarks by Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University

SESSION I: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ACHIEVEMENT GAPS IN PENNSYLVANIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS with introduction by Rob Wonderling, President, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Member, Center on Regional Politics Executive Committee.
Presentation by Lynn A. Karoly, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 

SESSION II: WHAT CAN PENNSYLVANIA LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING SCHOOL SYSTEMS? with introduction by David H. Monk, Dean, Pennsylvania State University College of Education
Presentation by Marc S. Tucker, President and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy 
Sessions to be followed by a response panel moderated by Francine Schertzer, Director of Programming, Pennsylvania Cable Network 
Program presented by the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth

Common Core Forum: A Closer Look at the PA Core Standards
Thursday, May 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Radnor Middle School
150 Louella Avenue, Wayne, 3rd floor
Presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford,  Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor.  Supported by the Radnor School District
Panelists Include:
Fred Brown, K-12 Math Supervisor, School District of Haverford Township
Jon Cetel, Education Reform Agent, PennCAN
Mary Beth Hegeman, Middle School Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Cynthia Kruse, Delaware County Intermediate Unit
Susan Newitt, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Wendy Towle, Supervisor of Language Arts & Staff Development, T/E School District
Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education

PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Wednesday, May 6
Dobbins High School2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

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