Tuesday, May 5, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 5: Primer: Four Background Pieces on PA School 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 5, 2015:
Primer: Four Background Pieces on PA School Funding

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

Funding, Formulas, and Fairness: What Pennsylvania Can Learn from Other States' Funding Formulas
Education Law Center Report February 2013

A look back: How Pennsylvania has distributed money for education since the 1960s
By the Notebook on Oct 2, 2014 10:39 AM

Overview of 50 States' Funding Formulas
By Mike Griffith, Education Commission of the States
Presented to PA Basic Education Funding Commission October 2014

The ABC's of Basic Education Funding in Pennsylvania (video)
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding December 18, 2014 Video Runtime 3:31
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials provides a short, easy to follow tutorial on how funding works and the challenges lawmakers confront.
PASBO answers the question: What is Basic Education Funding?

Rising free and reduced school lunch figures: Does it show growing poverty rate in midstate?
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | jmattera@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 04, 2015 at 10:22 AM, updated May 04, 2015 at 11:17 AM
The portion of students with free and reduced lunch — a possible indicator of poverty — is on the rise at districts across south-central Pennsylvania.  In the last decade at school districts in Dauphin, Cumberland, York, Lebanon, Lancaster and Perry counties, free and reduced lunch eligibility has risen by an average of 11.38 percent (Cumberland County) to 17.55 percent (Lancaster County), according to state Department of Education data.  While it's been disputed whether free and reduced lunch data is a good metric for measuring the poverty rates, Derry Township School District spokesman Dan Treddinick said such data along with recently reviewed census figures exemplify what the district has been seeing anecdotally.  The traditionally well-off school district has seen its free and reduced lunch eligibility nearly triple — going from 7.8 percent in 2005 to 20.7 percent this school year. Across the Susquehanna River, Mechanicsburg Area School District's eligibility rates rose from 16.69 percent to 31.12 percent in the same time frame.

Gov. Tom Wolf says Pennsylvania's revenue surge doesn't affect his tax recipe
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 04, 2015 at 6:21 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 7:17 PM
State revenues are surging to the finish line.  A new report from Pennsylvania's Independent Fiscal Office shows that state general fund revenues are now likely to finish the 2014-15 fiscal year June 30 some $594 million over its initial projections.  That's good short-term news that also puts the IFO's latest estimate $374 million ahead of the revenue base upon which Gov. Tom Wolf built his sweeping 2015-16 budget plan this winter.  But while any surplus is good, it's not enough, Wolf said Monday, for him to make unilateral adjustments to the historic tax increases he's called for to pay for ramped-up education funding and other objectives.

Independent report contains good short-term budget news for state
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau May 4, 2015 11:16 PM
HARRISBURG — The state’s budget picture could be less bleak — at least in the short-term — according to one independent analysis.  Facing a budget shortfall most recently estimated at about $1.5 billion, the commonwealth’s Independent Fiscal Office says the state has more revenue so far this year than expected, and has revised its revenue forecast to reflect an additional $594 million.  The analysis by the Independent Fiscal Office found unexpected bumps in corporate net income tax payments worth $334 million and an extra $220 million in unclaimed property revenue.  It’s unclear what’s driving the increase in corporate payments, said IFO executive director Matthew Knittel, and thus the office is not assuming the trend will continue to the next fiscal year.

'It's a mess,' Bethlehem schools chief on Keystone Exams project-based tests
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 04, 2015 at 8:35 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 9:23 PM
The Bethlehem Area School District is pushing for mandate relief from Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams project-based assessments.  Starting with the class of 2017, students must pass three subject-based end-of-course exams. If students can't pass the exams, state laws calls for them to complete a project-based assessment.  But the assessments the state designed are rather rigid. Students and teachers don't get to select the projects. Rather, students must take a series of online modules, estimated to take from eight to 40 hours.  Bethlehem Assistant Superintendent for Education Jack Silva said the assessments are time and technology intensive. And students will have to wait for the state to evaluate portions of the exams before moving on to the next module.

"This education reform legislation, which has the backing of House GOP leadership, is expected to be put to a vote by the full House in the coming weeks and become part of the upcoming state budget negotiations."
Eliminating seniority-based teacher layoffs bill wins committee support
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 04, 2015 at 3:41 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 3:45 PM
School districts would be free to layoff teachers based on their performance evaluation rather than seniority under legislation that the House Education Committee approved on Monday.  Rep. Steve Bloom Discusses His Bill That Eliminates Seniority-based Furlough DecisionsBloom's bill allows for districts to layoff teachers for economic reasons and allows those furlough decisions to be based on teacher evaluations rather than seniority. However, if a layoff decision comes down to two teachers with the same performance rating, the less senior one would be the one to go.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp., also would extend the three-year time period before new teachers could be eligible for tenure to five years and allows school districts to furlough teachers for economic reasons.

Pa. teacher layoffs based on evaluations, not seniority, gains support
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 04, 2015 at 5:48 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 5:58 PM
Pennsylvania school districts could lay off teachers based on their personal evaluations, not their seniority, under a proposal passed by the House Education Committee on Monday, PennLive.com reports.  State Rep. Steve Bloom, R-Cumberland, sponsored the bill that also extends the teacher tenure period from three to five years and allows furloughing teachers for economic reasons, PennLive reporter Jan Murphy writes.  Currently, school districts cannot furlough teachers due to financial constraints.  The House GOP leadership is backing the education reform legislation and it's expected to be voted on by the full House in the coming weeks. It will likely become part of state budget negotiations, PennLive reports. The Senate Education Committee has an identical bill before it, the website reported. 

Financial picture improves for city schools, York City School District says
York Daily Record By Dylan Segelbaum dsegelbaum@ydr.com @dylan_segelbaum on Twitter UPDATED:   05/04/2015 06:07:06 PM EDT0 COMMENTS
The York City School District's financial picture has started to stabilize during the past several years, said Richard Snodgrass, the district's business manager.  That's due to factors that include additional state money and the district's attempts to control costs better, he said.  At the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the district should have a fund balance of about $6.7 million. That helps provide a cushion, he said, as the money the district gets does not all come in at once.

Ridley School District holds line on taxes
Delco Times By Barbara Ormsby, Times Correspondent POSTED: 05/04/15, 11:34 PM EDT
 RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >> There will be no increase in school taxes for Ridley School District residents, according to the proposed final budget for 2015-2016 approved by the school board at its May meeting.  The real estate millage rate will remain at 39.25 mills, or $3.93 for each $100 of assessed value. For a house assessed at $100,000 the school tax bill will remain at $3,930 for the upcoming school year.  District Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel said the tax reduction under the state’s Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Reduction program is not yet determined.

Pottsgrove School District weighs cuts to music, art programs
Reading Eagle By Paige Cooperstein  Sunday May 3, 2015 12:01 AM
When William Einhorn was laid off as the strings instructor in the Pottsgrove School District to save money in 2010, the orchestra program quickly fell apart.  "It became a postscript in the music program," said school board member Dee Gallion at a recent school board meeting. "The problem was there was no teacher to champion that program."
Gallion said there were no orchestra performances outside the school day and no special trips like other ensembles had.  Einhorn later served as a substitute in the music department before eventually being reinstated to a full-time role because of the strong community outcry to revitalize the orchestra.  Gallion said 190 new elementary school students have joined the orchestra since Einhorn returned as the director.  Five years after Einhorn's layoff, the school board is again contemplating making cuts in the music and art departments to help erase a budget deficit.

Budget with tax increase, rebate gets OK in State College
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comMay 4, 2015
There will be an increase in school taxes for residents in the State College Area School District.  But in a 6-2 vote, the board approved a tax rebate program at a meeting on Monday night for eligible residents, to help offset the cost.  The proposed final budget of $136,135,898 passed in a 7-1 vote and calls for a 5.49 percent increase in taxes. Jim Pawelczyk was the lone no vote.  And starting July 1, the supplemental property tax rebate program will be offered to residents.  According to a report from the district, the program will allocate $200,000 to eligible residents for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Lower Dauphin School District preliminary budget keeps taxes at 18.42 mills
Penn Live By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive on May 04, 2015 at 10:37 PM, updated May 04, 2015 at 10:57 PM
Real estate taxes would remain steady for residents of the Lower Dauphin School in the 2015-16 school year under a proposed budget.  The preliminary budget passed Monday night by the school board would keep taxes at 18.42 mills. That means a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $1,842 in real estate taxes.  The $59.4 million budget is 2.2 percent higher than this year's. But if the district removes the extra $1.1 million it will have to pay in pensions this year, the increase is only .3 percent, according to superintendent Sherri Smith. The district will be paying $6.6 million toward the Public School Employees Retirement System this year.

"The Williams campaign's last TV ad buy was around $65,000, a fairly modest purchase. American Cities, the super PAC funded by three wealthy suburban donors, on the other hand, has been spending more than $700,000 a week on ad buys, and if it were to put that kind of firepower behind attack ads, the effect would be formidable."
Williams launches first attack ad in Philly mayor's race
Two weeks before the May 19 Democratic primary, state Senator Anthony Williams has launched the first attack ad of the Philadelphia mayoral campaign. The target, to no one's surprise, is former City Councilman Jim Kenney.  With the Baltimore riots a fresh memory and police community relations a topic of widespread concern, Williams' ad recalls comments Kenney made in a 1997 Inquirer article when he was talking about about restrictions placed on police use of force.

Elementary students grill Philly mayoral candidates
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, May 4, 2015, 12:13 PM
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams jokingly promised extended recess and summer break.
Nelson A. Diaz name-checked notable Philadelphia School District grad Questlove - though he called him Love Quest.  And James F. Kenney told those in the audience he loved them very much.  Five of the six Democratic mayoral candidates took the stage for a very different type of forum Monday: The questioners were fourth and fifth graders from district schools around the city. The event was sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.

Is Testing Students the Answer to America’s Education Woes?
New York Times Room for Debate UPDATED MAY 4, 2015 6:47 AM
Patricia Levesque, former deputy chief of staff for education under Gov. Jeb Bush, is the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education for all students.
Kevin Welner, a professor of education and the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the co-author, most recently, of "Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance."
The testing of public school children across the country is winding up for the year. And in New Yorkthis week, academics are meeting todiscuss the teacher evaluation process of which these tests play a crucial role. But in all the talk about testing students, holding teachers and principals accountable for performance and the growing opt-out movement, one question remains: Is the testing regime, which has essentially been in effect for over a decade, working?

No Longer Counting Who's Poor in School
US News and World Report By The Hechinger Report May 4, 2015 | 9:10 a.m. EDT
The use of the main statistic that determines poverty in school is getting complicated.
Social justice looms large for many, if not most, education journalists. We care about the often substandard education of low-income children and the gap between the haves and have-nots. Take a look at the winners of the Education Writers Association awards on April 20, 2015. Most were writers who told the stories of students in poverty.  Beginning this school year and going forward, measuring and describing that poverty is about to get much muddier. That’s because the main statistic used to determine poverty in a school – the number of students who receive free or reduced-priced lunches – is starting to get diluted. According to new rules that went into effect this 2014-15 school year, a school can provide free meals to all students if certain minimum thresholds are met. They no longer have to count exactly how many students are poor. And no other statistic that measures school poverty is as readily available.

The Big Problem With the New SAT
New York Times Opinion By RICHARD C. ATKINSON and SAUL GEISER MAY 4, 2015
Richard C. Atkinson is president emeritus of the University of CaliforniaSaul Geiser is a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley.
AT first glance, the College Board’s revised SAT seems a radical departure from the test’s original focus on students’ general ability or aptitude. Set to debut a year from now, in the spring of 2016, the exam will require students to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of subjects they study in school.  The revised SAT takes some important, if partial, steps toward becoming a test of curriculum mastery. In place of the infamously tricky, puzzle-type items, the exam will be a more straightforward test of material that students encounter in the classroom. The essay, rather than rewarding sheer verbosity, will require students to provide evidence in support of their arguments and will be graded on both analysis and writing. Vocabulary will move away from the obscure language for which the SAT is noted, instead emphasizing words commonly used in college and the workplace.

SAVE The DATE: 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

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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