Sunday, June 14, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 14: Campaign for Fair Education Funding: Three Opportunities for You to Participate

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3650 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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 14, 2015:
Campaign for Fair Education Funding: Three Opportunities for You to Participate

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015

Campaign for Fair Education Funding: Three Opportunities for You to Participate in an Event

1. #FairFundingPA Twitter Chat: 1 p.m., Monday, June 15 
Join the Conversation: Tweet using #FairFundingPA on Monday, June 15 from 1-2 PM EST. Not on Twitter? Find out how to set up an account by watching our short video. Already signed up? Learn how to use hashtags and participate in a Twitter Chat/Party by watching this clip. 

2. Call to Action for Public Education Day: Monday, June 15
Call your legislators to advocate for a better funding system for our schools. Click here for instructions and talking points.  It only takes 5 minutes to make a lasting impact!

3. Rally for Fair Funding: Tuesday, June 23
On Tuesday, June 23 the Campaign for Fair Education Funding along with hundreds of parents, students, teachers, and community leaders from across the state will rally for fair education funding at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
WHO:  The Campaign for Fair Education Funding
WHAT: Rally for Fair Funding
WHERE:  The state Capitol, Harrisburg
WHEN: Tuesday, June 23 (12 p.m. press conference)
WHY: We cannot afford to let our students fall behind
Want to join us?  Fill out this form and someone from the Campaign will get in touch with you.
(Free transportation is being provided from Pittsburgh. Reserve a seat here.)

"Wolf wants to impose a 5 percent tax on extracted natural gas to raise the cash for schools. Pennsylvania is the only natural-gas producing state in the country that lacks such a tax, he said.  "We need to stop being toyed with," Wolf said. "We need to recognize that if we did have one, like all the other states, we could have money that we could invest in our education system.""
Gov. Wolf sits down with Inquirer, talks schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, June 13, 2015, 1:07 AM POSTED: Friday, June 12, 2015, 6:08 PM
Note to Philadelphia students, teachers, and parents: Gov. Wolf sees you.
Five months into his term as Pennsylvania's chief executive, he has already spent more time in Philadelphia School District buildings than his predecessor, who never visited one.
Wolf said he has seen and heard and read things that worry him. Take the plight of Lingelbach, the Germantown elementary school that ran an operating budget of $160 for the entire year, brought to light in an Inquirer article and flagged by the governor as a problem he needed to address.  "We have schools that have been starved of the resources they need to operate," Wolf said Friday in his Philadelphia office. "What I saw was great promise. . . . I also saw a lot of problems caused by simple underfunding."  Wolf, a Democrat, has spent much of the early days of his administration stumping for education funding, crisscrossing the state to make a case for a budget that would pump nearly $1 billion more into public schools - including at least $159 million in new money for Philadelphia.

"But according to the latest federal data, Pennsylvania ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to equitable school funding between wealthy and low-income school districts."
Pedro A. Rivera: Equity in Pennsylvania’s education funding benefits school districts and communities
Wilkes Barre Times Leader by Pedro A. Rivera Contributing Columnist June 11. 2015 11:20PM
For Pennsylvania school students the year has ended or is winding down: class trips, field days and graduations populate the calendar. But while students of all ages are counting down to summer camp or summer jobs, school administrators, school boards and teachers are already considering what next year’s classrooms will look like.  It is widely agreed upon that Pennsylvania’s children are our state’s greatest asset, and that without an educated and career-ready workforce the commonwealth’s future is dim. But according to the latest federal data, Pennsylvania ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to equitable school funding between wealthy and low-income school districts. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement while visiting a school on a trip to the state this spring.  Nearly everyone I’ve encountered agrees education needs adequate funding, which is why I applaud the promising work I’ve experienced as part of the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission. As it stands, Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a funding formula to drive education dollars. Establishing a fair funding formula will go a long way toward achieving equity across our state’s 500 school districts.

Bethlehem AAUW supports equitable funding for Pa. schools | Letter
Lehigh Valley Live Express-Times Letters to the Editor  by Ruth Skoglund, President, AAUW-Bethlehem on June 12, 2015 at 1:05 PM, updated June 12, 2015 at 1:06 PM
On behalf of the Bethlehem Branch of the American Association of University Women, I am writing to show our members' collective support for a fair and equitable funding formula for public schools in Pennsylvania, as reflected in the goals of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding (a coalition of more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania) and outlined in the education budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf.  In addition, AAUW strongly supports the proposed cyber charter school funding reform in the budget that would save school districts $160 million in taxpayer money each year statewide and allow them to reinvest this money into school districts to restore programs and services that have been cut in recent years.

Local Montgomery County education advocates urge legislature to adopt fair education funding formula
Pottstown Mercury By Brendan Wills, on Twitter POSTED: 06/12/15, 3:37 PM EDT
NORRISTOWN >> The day after the Basic Education Funding Commission extended its deadline to deliver a recommendation for a funding formula for Pennsylvania basic education to the Legislature, public school administrators and teachers across the commonwealth took to their local courthouse steps to urge the legislature to fairly fund schools.  Norristown Area School District Superintendent Janet Samuels stood on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse Thursday in front of education advocates to ask that all legislators think of students attending school districts that struggle to come up with funds to adequately educate their children.

"Last month William Hartman, a professor at Pennsylvania State University's College of Education, and Timothy Shrom, business manager of the Solanco School District, appeared before a statewide symposium on school funding and made a grim forecast.  Hartman and Shrom predicted that without major changes, most districts won't have enough money over the next three years to balance their budgets and that 60 percent of them will be pressed to make severe spending cuts. The gap between Pennsylvania's rich and poor districts will grow even wider, they predicted."
Rite of summer: Cost of schools raising property taxes
Joe Rooney, a Delta Air Lines pilot who is raising five kids in Abington Township, is about to get a higher tax bill, and he isn't particularly happy about it.  "We are not bringing in enough money for the spending we are proposing," said Rooney, whose annual $3,922 property-tax bill on his Maple Avenue home stands to increase by $113 as of July 1.  Rooney, who is running for school board, believes the Abington School District hasn't done enough to rein in what he views as an outsize, $147 million budget for the 2015-16 school year, $101 million of which will be provided by him and other property owners.  Throughout the state, the property tax remains the prime funding source for schools, part of a system that Gov. Wolf characterized as unfair in an Inquirer interview Friday.

"Meanwhile, a key piece of the budget puzzle has yet to be finalized. The state Basic Education Funding Commission plans to issue a report this week recommending a new formula for distributing $5 billion in basic education funding to school districts. The commission’s recommendations would need approval from the lawmakers and governor to take effect."
Pa. budget deadline approaches
Wilkes Barre Citizens Voice by ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF Published: June 14, 2015
HARRISBURG — For nonprofit agencies that rely on state aid to help parents, the poor and the sick, it’s happening again: a state budget seems unlikely to be approved before the deadline in two weeks.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature appear far apart on a state budget due June 30.  An impasse after that deadline would leave state government without authority to spend money and create a great deal of uncertainty about the continued flow of state aid. In 2009, a partisan budget battle left food banks, child care centers and social service agencies without funding for months.  For Pennsylvania to maintain full spending authority after the deadline, lawmakers must pass and Wolf must sign a budget package that includes a fiscal bill detailing where tax revenue comes from and a school code that distributes state aid to school districts.  Wolf and GOP legislative leaders discussed budget issues last week, but still grapple with such basic concepts as the size of a revenue deficit that needs to be addressed.  Wolf pegs the deficit at $2 billion due to an overreliance on one-time revenue sources, while GOP lawmakers contend the deficit is much smaller, in the $1 billion range, as tax revenues ticked up in recent months.

Who are the players in Budget Battle 2015? A Readers Guide
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 12, 2015 at 3:49 PM, updated June 12, 2015 at 3:52 PM
It's been said, more than once, that you can't tell the players without a scorecard.
So here's your handy clip-and-save guide to the key personalities in the debate overGov. Tom Wolf's proposed 2015-16 state budget.

"Year-to-date General Fund collections of $27.7 billion are above the official estimate by $619 million."
General Fund Revenue Collections Bring in $1.96 Billion
PA House Republican Appropriations Committee Economic Brief June 2015
General Fund revenue collections for the month of April were $1.96 billion, which was $50 million more than expected. Collections of $99 million for corporation taxes came in above Department of Revenue projections by $2 million. Sales tax collections of $746 million were lower than expected, coming in $37 million below the official estimate. The Personal Income Taxes collected were $775 million, which was above estimate by $13 million. Year-to-date General Fund collections of $27.7 billion are above the official estimate by $619 million.

In Harrisburg, a plan to stall, change Keystone exam
Testing might be over for Pennsylvania students this year, but debate about how one of the state's standardized tests should change is just heating up.  This week, the state Senate's Education Committee unanimously passed a bill that would delay when the Keystone Exams, a state-wide assessment of literature, algebra I and biology, would take effect as a requirement for high school graduation.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, lead sponsor of that bill, said even though the tests won't be required to graduate until the Class of 2017 are seniors, the Keystones are already holding back students in his district, particularly those on a career and technical education track.

Blogger's opinion: Taxpayers should not lose their voice when a parent makes a choice.  It is important to remember that not one of PA's 500 school districts authorized a cyber charter school.  Millions upon millions of tax dollars are being sent to cybers, none of which have achieved a passing School Performance Score of 70 in either of the past two years.  Most cybers never achieved AYP under several years of No Child Left Behind.  Many school districts now provide online or blended learning programs at significant cost savings.
Flurie, Barnett and Rossetti: Reforms welcomed by CEOs of public cyber charter schools
Morning Call Opinion June 12, 2015
 Maurice Flurie is CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy, Joanne Barnett is CEO of PA Virtual Charter School, and Patricia Rossetti is CEO of PA Distance Learning Charter School. They wrote this commentary in cooperation with CEOs of all Pennsylvania cyber charter schools.
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, and 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.

Pennsylvania school boards association challenges charter school transparency
By Evan Grossman |   June 11, 2015
One side calls it a publicity stunt.  The other calls its request for financial information on Pennsylvania’s 180 charter schools a reasonable investigation into how taxpayer money is being spent.  DIGGING DEEP: The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is pressing charter schools across the state for financial data, which charter advocates have taken issue with.
When the Pennsylvania School Boards Association carpet bombed the state’s charter schools with a massive Right to Know request to provide detailed fiscal data last month, the inquiry was met with skepticism from charter advocates.

Mars school board adopts budget with no tax increase
Post Gazette By Sandy Trozzo June 12, 2015 12:00 AM
The Mars Area school board has approved a budget without a tax increase for the eighth consecutive year.  Also at their Tuesday meeting, board members hired Lindsay Rosswog, a 2004 graduate of Mars Area High School, as a substitute assistant principal at her alma mater at a salary of $62,000.  They also approved computer programming classes at the middle school and approved a new contract with their food service provider that allows the district to opt out of the national school lunch program at the high school.  The $45,293,360 budget holds the tax rate at 99 mills, which has been the rate since 2007. That means the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $990 in school taxes.

No vacation for hunger: Summer food programs feel the heat
By Danielle Fox / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 12, 2015 12:00 AM
Although LeMoyne Community Center served nearly 10,000 meals during its 2013 summer food program, director Joyce Ellis said her group reached only 5 percent of eligible children in Washington County.  “That sent me to a whole other place, knowing there are still 95 percent of kids out there who were starving,” Miss Ellis said.  It’s a similar story for the North Butler Feed My Sheep food pantry and other programs across the country that work to relieve childhood hunger in areas where poverty, limited mobility and federal regulations combine to leave children without lunch in the summer months.  As the number of food-insecure children grows, program directors are looking to new ways — including home gardening, cereal drives and mobile lunch deliveries — to fill in where school meals leave off.

Octorara labor negotiations still stalled
Lancaster Online by DEBBIE WYGENT | LNP CORRESPONDENT June 13, 2015 6:00 am
The Octorara Area School District on June 8 once again unanimously rejected a formal state fact-finding report with recommendations for a new labor contract with the district's union, the Octorara Area Education Association.  Although school finished June 5, about 200 teachers and support staff, wearing red school colors, had returned to school to hear the board's decision and then stood in unison and silently walked out of the junior high school auditorium following the vote.

Avon Grove board OKs general fund budget
West Chester Daily Local By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For 21st-Century Media POSTED: 06/12/15, 2:43 PM EDT
PENN >> During its June 11 meeting, the Avon Grove School Board approved the general fund budget for 2015-16 in the total amount of $85,240,569. This is an increase of 4.41 percent over the current year budget. The board also approved the capital projects fund budget in the amount of $3,191,287.  To support the budget, the board voted to set the property tax millage for next year at 28.157 mills, a 2.4 percent increase from the present rate. The district also expects to use about $3 million from the fund balance. About half of that amount will be needed to cover the district’s required contribution to the PSERS retirement system.

Council has money for school district. . .wait, not so fast
Philly Daily News Editorial June 12, 2015
CITY COUNCIL this week advanced a package of bills that raises taxes to provide an additional $70 million in aid to the School District of Philadelphia.  Only it doesn't.
A provision nestled in one of the bills would divert $25 million of the $70 million to Council's own budget to be held hostage, as it were, until the district satisfies Council that it is doing the right thing when it comes to unspecified items.  Neither Council President Darrell Clarke nor other members have said publicly what they want. But Jane Roh, Clarke's spokesperson, said the goal was to stop the district from outsourcing substitute teacher and school nurse jobs to outside providers, i.e. replacing union workers with non-union workers.

"Students in high-poverty schools are forced to waste tremendous amounts of instructional time preparing for, practicing, or taking standardized tests. Most students took about 20 days of tests and pre-tests this year. All the test-taking skills taught and employed during these days are useless in real life.
Teachers in high-poverty schools are required to teach to the standardized tests; in fact, their jobs depend on it. Homework is often in the style of test questions downloaded from a central test-oriented website. This mode of instruction and form of homework would astonish those of you who attended middle-class or upper-middle-class schools.
Course offerings to high-poverty students have been narrowed to focus their studies on reading and math. It is common for these schools to provide little or no band, chorus, art, or foreign languages. Some schools have required students to take double periods of reading and math. Some require kids to take classes specifically to improve test-taking or study skills. These children’s knowledge of geography, history, social studies, and science is often abysmal—because these subjects are hardly taught."
Data Smokescreen Covers Up Real Problems in Public Education
Campaign for America's Future by BERNIE HORN JUNE 12, 2015
Last week, a very distinguished panel convened by the National Research Council published an Evaluation of the Public Schools of the District of Columbia. The report is 341 pages long and cost millions of dollars to produce. What’s most impressive about this evaluation is how very far removed from reality it is.  The experts who contributed to the analysis relied principally on data sets that covered the city’s DC-CAS standardized tests, the NAEP nationwide standardized tests, and the local teacher evaluation model called IMPACT. They also considered other data such as graduation rates, attendance, dismissal, and teacher retention. The third of three major recommendations from this evaluation cannot be denied: the school system needs to address the so-called “achievement gap,” which—as noted elsewhere—has been greatly exacerbated since “school reform” came to the District in 2007.  What are recommendations one and two? The first is to create “a comprehensive data warehouse.” The second is to pay for ongoing independent evaluation of this data. Really.

"Some school organizations feared that schools' access to free online academic materials and video could get relegated to second-class status if telecoms were allowed to create fast and slow lanes."
Federal Court Allows FCC Open Internet Rules to Go Forward
Education Week Marketplace K12 Blog By Sean Cavanagh on June 12, 2015 7:54 AM
An appeals court decision will allow federal rules that supporters say protect a free and open Internet to go forward—over the objections of telecommunications providers.  Those rules were established by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year, amid a furious campaign by the telecom industry and other interests—and amid waves of broad public angst over the possibility of additional restrictions on the flow of Internet access.  A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals said it will not postpone FCC policies on "net neutrality," despite a request for delay sought by the U.S. Telecom Association. The judges said the request had not met the "stringent requirements" for a delay. That means the rules will go into effect Friday, FCC commissioners said.  That doesn't mean the legal fight over the rules is over. The court agreed with the telecom industry's request that both sides in the cases turn in a plan for submitting briefs, and a schedule for briefing the court within two weeks.  Numerous consumer groups feared that the FCC would open the door for telecoms to allow well-heeled content providers to pay for faster Internet access to online consumers, relegating others to an Internet slow lane.

EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - Sunday, June 14 at 3:00 p.m. 
Part 1: Marcus S. Lingenfelter discusses the National Math & Science Initiative and how it supports improved math and science education in Pennsylvania and other states.
Marcus Lingenfelter is the Vice President of State & Federal Programs with the National Math + Science Initiative
Topic 2: Dr. Terry Madonna discusses Pennsylvania's political and legislative landscape, and implications for funding for public education.
Dr. G. Terry Madonna is the Director of the Franklin & Marshall College poll, Professor of Public Affairs, and Director of the Center for Politics & Public Affairs
All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell
Visit the EPLC and the Pennsylvania School Funding Project web sites for various resources related to education and school funding issues.

Rally in West Chester for a State Budget Chester County Kids Deserve
Tuesday, June 16th at Noon  Location: Old Courthouse Steps in West Chester  Corner of High and Market Streets
Join parents, teachers, students, school staff, community advocates, and local leaders to demand a state budget that invests in your community, your students, and your schools.
Speakers include: Carolyn Comitta, Mayor of West Chester
Dr. Robert Langley, Lincoln University,
Lincoln-AAUP President
Dr. Curry Malott, West Chester University
College of Education
Dr. Kenneth Mash, East Stroudsburg University,
APSCUF President
Susan Carty, President, PA League of Women Voters, Retired Educator
Contact Doug Brown at 717-236-7486 for more information

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015
On June 23 at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Education Voters will be joining together with more than 50 organizations to send a clear message to state lawmakers that we expect them to fund our schools in this year’s budget. Click HERE for more information and to register for the June 23 All for Education Day in Harrisburg.  Join us as we speak up for the importance of funding our schools fairly and at sufficient levels, so that every student in PA has an opportunity to learn.  Community, parent, education advocacy, faith, and labor organizations will join together with school, municipal, and community officials to hold a press conference and rally at 12:00 in the main rotunda and to make arrangements to meet with legislators before and after the rally.  We must send a strong message to state lawmakers that we are watching them and expect them to pass a state budget that will fund our schools this year. Please come to Harrisburg on June 23 to show broad support for a fair budget for education this year.

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

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.

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
Sign up to support fair funding »
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 »

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.

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