Monday, June 1, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 1, 2015: June marks start of budget 'cacophony' in PA Capitol

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 1, 2015:
June marks start of budget 'cacophony' in PA Capitol

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm

The Capitol's hot topic? How long a budget deal will take
Cumberlink Sentinel May 29, 2015  Marc Levy Associated Press
HARRISBURG — It’s the talk of the Capitol: How long will it take for Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature to settle on a budget?  For many who rely on state government, it is a very serious matter. Employees, school districts, counties and not-for-profit social service organizations felt the brunt of drawn-out budget stalemates twice in the past 12 years under former Gov. Ed Rendell.  This year, the ingredients for a third such stalemate are at hand: A new Democratic governor with big promises to increase public school aid is facing a large budget gap and a Legislature controlled by Republicans who are betraying no signs that they think a tax increase is necessary.  Wolf said this week he hopes to sign a budget bill before the new fiscal year starts July 1 — but not just any budget bill.  “My key concern is that we do it right, we get a good budget,” Wolf told reporters.

June marks start of budget 'cacophony' in PA Capitol
Morning Call By Steve EsackCall Harrisburg Bureau May 31, 2015
HARRISBURG — For months, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers have been trying to build public support for their budget plans by holding roundtable discussions, political events and rallies at schools and businesses.  The partisan displays continued Friday with Wolf and his wife Frances visiting a college in Lancaster County to tout his plan to increase education spending, from preschool to university, by 12 percent as part of his proposed $33.8 billion budget. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, was in the same county on the same day headlining a discussion among Republican lawmakers and like-minded business leaders opposed to the main element of Wolf's education plan: a new tax on natural gas drillers.
The public events are meant to show supporters they are not backing down from their respective priorities prior to budget talks, said G. Terry Madonna, Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political science professor.  "At this point they can't concede before they get down to crunch time," he said.  The crunching starts Monday.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 31, 2015:
One in five U.S. schoolchildren are living below federal poverty line

Erie District has faith in Wolf budget
By ERICA ERWIN 31 May 2015 — Erie Times-News
The Erie School District's proposed final budget includes no tax increase and is balanced almost entirely by state money the district isn't guaranteed to receive.  But Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams said the proposal is a realistic one, and said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the district will receive at least some of the additional state funding included in Gov. Tom Wolf's 2015-16 budget proposal.  "I want to stress that my optimism is guarded, and it's resting very heavily on the belief that our legislators understand (funding) problems need to be solved and need to be solved quickly," Badams said.  The $157 million proposed final budget passed by the Erie School Board on Wednesday bridges what started out as a $7.4 million budget gap on the assumption that the district will receive much of what Wolf has proposed: $6.1 million in additional funding from the state, including nearly $3.9 million in additional basic education subsidy and $1.2 million in additional special education funds.  The district also expects to save about $1 million in online charter school tuition.

"A bill introduced in the House in January would make using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement optional for school districts. Dinniman's Senate bill would put a moratorium on it.  Neither bill has been brought out of committee, but Dinniman said he was optimistic: His bill has 28 cosponsors, more than a majority. It would put the moratorium in place until the state has provided equal funding for all schools and had time to analyze other means of student assessment, he said."
West Chester school district mobilizes against Keystone Exams
A Chester County school district is ramping up the fight against the Keystone Exams, while more than half of Pennsylvania's state senators have signed on to a bill that would put a moratorium on using the tests as a high school graduation requirement.  This week, a widely shared letter by Jim Scanlon, superintendent of the West Chester Area School District - which consistently ranks in the top 10 percent in testing statewide - put a spotlight on opposition to the tests, which have outraged hundreds of parents, students, and educators across the state.  "You've got kids starting to give up," Scanlon said.  State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D., Chester) called Chester County the "epicenter for this whole movement," saying that even in its top-performing schools, educators and students say the tests are detrimental.

“...personalized education of every student, every day; and it is difficult to measure factors that we consider to be essential."
Lower Merion School Board passes resolution on standardized testing
Main Line Times By Richard Ilgenfritz @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Published: Friday, May 29, 2015
Lower Merion school officials at its board meeting last week approved a resolution addressing ongoing concerns over mandated standardized testing.  The resolution had also been discussed at legislative committee meetings and an education committee meeting in early May. Those meetings were prior to the board passing the resolution by a unanimous vote during the May business meeting.  According to Maureen O’Leary, chairwoman of the legislative committee, the board’s plan is to pass along the resolution to legislators and others who might be interested in the subject.  (Scroll down to read full resolution)

Cyber schools would have to check truancy under Pennyslvania bill
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 1, 2015 12:00 AM
What began as a conversation between two local children’s advocates recently made its way to the state House of Representatives in the form of a bill to address truancy in charter and cyber charter schools.  The legislation, introduced last month by state Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights, would require such institutions to enforce compulsory attendance laws for their students. Under current law, charter schools or cyber charters are supposed to contact a student’s home school district when he or she misses three or more days without an excused absence, a process Mr. Costa and Pittsburgh Public Schools solicitor Ira Weiss said should stay in-house.

City Council to School District: Go Away Already
Council’s school budget hearings were a farce, but the real damage to Philadelphia schools is being done by the State.
Philly Mag Citified BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  MAY 31, 2015 AT 5:55 AM
  1. Council lamentations that the district is an insatiable monster that will not rest until it has devoured the life savings of every tax-paying Philadelphian. Example: “So you want all of the money, all of the time, basically.” — Council President Darrell Clarke.
  2. Council’s bizarre fixations on irrelevant minutiae. Example: “Cursive writing should be mandatory.” — Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.
  3. Council’s disturbing disinterest in the root causes of the district’s ongoing financial distress.
  4. Complaint after complaint about the district’s lack of transparency and failure to answer some pretty basic questions.
So, pretty much the usual.

"Gym: Philadelphia is a place where corporate education reform has done so much damage. No one is a bigger symbol of that damage than the hedge fund billionaires behind the Susquehanna Group. They poured nearly $7 million into a municipal election, dwarfing any amount of money coming from elsewhere. As I said in a press conference, these were three billionaires looking to destroy public education in a city they would never live in and hurting children they would never know. That about sums it up, and it’s why the public resoundingly rejected them and their narrow abusive agenda that had done so much harm not just to children but to entire neighborhoods and communities."
*Hope Always Wins the Day*
City-councilor-to-be Helen Gym talks about the movement behind her win—and a clear defeat for the education reform vision…
Edushyster Blog MAY 29, 2015 by EDUSHYSTER2012
EduShyster: That sound you just heard was me uncorking a box of champagne. But you still have to win the general election in November. Did I start celebrating too soon?
Helen Gym: No—you didn’t celebrate too early. I’m not worried about the race but I definitely want to make sure that in the final tally in November that I move up in votes and send a clear message about voters prioritizing public education and communities. And just to put things in perspective, Democrats outnumber Republicans in Philly by more than 7 to 1.

A dozen years later, KIPP'S first class graduates
One day in the summer before fifth grade, Courtney Scott was jumping rope with a friend outside her family's West Philadelphia rowhouse when her parents called her inside to meet a stranger.  The visit was not the only thing about KIPP Philadelphia Charter School that would be different. To ensure students were ready for college, principal Marc Mannella told the family, classes would run from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Enrichment programs would take up Saturdays, and they'd meet for three weeks before school even started that fall.  "I was not excited, to say the least," Scott, 22, recalled recently. She agreed to try KIPP for a year.  But what she began as a trial in 2003 turned into a 12-year transformation that culminated two weeks ago when Scott received her diploma from Haverford College.

Charter Sector Challenged by Quality of School Boards
Education Week By Arianna Prothero Published Online: May 29, 2015
A District of Columbia charter school spent millions contracting for services with a company owned by the school’s founder. And an Ohio charter spent more on rent than staff salaries—money paid to a company that was owned by the same education management group that ran the school.  Those two cases illustrate a recurring issue in the charter school sector: poorly prepared school boards that fail to stop questionable deals or flat out corruption.
When charter schools struggle or get shut down, weak governance is often the source of trouble. And many times, that issue is linked directly to the charter school's board, an entity that even many charter supporters say too often flies under the radar of public scrutiny.
Efforts to professionalize charter boards and raise the caliber of the people serving on them are gaining traction in some corners of the charter sector, even if policy and research focused on the role of those local boards remain scant.

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Date:  Tuesday, June 23, 2015  Time:7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Berks County Intermediate Unit, 1111 Commons Boulevard, Reading, PA 19605
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s education opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for public schools in Berks County.  State lawmakers who represent Berks County have been invited to attend to learn about challenges facing area schools.

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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