Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 23: Fair & Adequate Funding: See You in the Capitol Rotunda at Noon Today

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 23, 2015:
Fair & Adequate Funding: See You in the Capitol Rotunda at Noon Today


PA Senate Education Committee Meeting 9:30 am Tuesday June 23, 2015
Room 461 Main Capitol
To consider SB910 , Codifying the Basic Education Funding Commission’s School Funding Formula

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.

COMMUNITY MEETING: PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING IN BERKS COUNTY
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.

Republican lawmakers on path to passing budget Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf doesn't support
Morning Call By Marc Levy Of The Associated Press June 22, 2015
HARRISBURG — The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature appeared more firmly on course Monday to passing a state budget opposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, raising the likelihood of a veto and an extended stalemate.  Nine days out from the start of Pennsylvania's next fiscal year, the House and Senate had no major votes scheduled as Republican leaders conducted most of the work behind closed doors.  They gave few details about their efforts to hammer out a budget plan and measures to overhaul public pension benefits and privatize the state-controlled wine and liquor stores that could pass both chambers.  But they acknowledged the likelihood that the only plans Wolf will get on his desk before July 1 will be negotiated by Republicans.

Legislators play blame game over budget negotiation impasse
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, June 22, 2015
As the end of Pennsylvania’s fiscal year grows closer, leaders from all four caucuses began pointing fingers in earnest Monday, blaming one another for why negotiations on the budget and related pieces of legislation like pension reform and liquor privatization have stalled.  Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate emerged from a Monday morning budget-related meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf expressing frustration at an impasse in overall negotiations they say is caused by Speaker Mike Turzai’s (R-Allegheny) unwillingness to move forward without a deal on liquor privatization.  “The hold up in my view, and I think the consensus is, that wine and spirits privatization is the thing that’s bringing everything to a halt,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).  “It’s a matter of priorities,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny). “We have the Speaker of the House here worried about booze and how we buy booze instead of worrying about our kids and how we’ll educate them.”

Signs of stalemate build in Harrisburg
ANGELA COULOUMBIS AND MADISON RUSS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
LAST UPDATED: Monday, June 22, 2015, 7:24 PM
HARRISBURG - The prospects for a state budget deal dimmed Monday as Democrats and Republicans in the Capitol ramped up their rhetoric and raised the possibility of a budget stalemate.  With eight days left before a new fiscal year, the Wolf administration and the GOP leaders who control the legislature still appeared far apart on the key issues driving budget talks: property tax reform, liquor privatization and a fix for skyrocketing public pension costs.  Republicans groused that Wolf was rejecting key parts of their pension proposal, while the Democratic governor complained he could not get GOP lawmakers to discuss his priorities.   http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20150623_Signs_of_stalemate_build_in_Harrisburg.html#elkPsVktX2C6BmIr.99

Are state budget talks at a standstill? GOP lawmakers say yes
Penn Live by Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  mail the author | Follow on Twitter on June 22, 2015 at 4:29 PM
Have state budget talks reached a stalemate with eight days left before the new fiscal year starts?  That is how House and Senate Republican leaders seemed to portray how their negotiations with Gov. Tom Wolf left off last week.  Wolf made it clear to the Republicans that he has no appetite to move to a defined contribution pension plan for future state and school employee hires, which the Republican lawmakers regarded as a must-have in any agreement about pension reform.  "The governor, on his own, really took off unilaterally any chance for any type of defined contribution plan for new hires at all," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, in an impromptu news conference with Capitol reporters on Monday. "We don't think that is negotiating in good faith."

Democratic lawmakers: 'We're not going to negotiate away retirement security' for public employees
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 22, 2015 at 5:04 PM, updated June 22, 2015 at 8:06 PM
Democratic lawmakers worked to refute claims made by top GOP lawmakers that Gov. Tom Wolf is not addressing the state's underfunded pension programs in budget negotiations.
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody and Democratic Whip Mike Hanna said on Monday the governor has been addressing the state's pension issue while in negotiations.

Republicans criticize Gov. Tom Wolf for 'not negotiating in good faith' on pensions
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 22, 2015 at 3:46 PM, updated June 22, 2015 at 5:24 PM
Top Republican lawmakers said they made their budget negotiations clear to Gov. Tom Wolf: He must address the state's underfunded pension programs before everything else.    House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnatiheld a brief press conference Monday after reports of budget negotiations with the governor.  Senate Bill 1 would move the state from its state from a defined benefit plan to a 401-K pension system for future employees.

Pa. budget talks sour as both sides dig in
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON JUNE 23, 2015
The tentative optimism about a timely state budget is giving way to partisan backbiting as lawmakers enter the last week before their deadline to approve a new spending plan for Pennsylvania.  Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature appear to be stuck, both sides unwilling to compromise major priorities tied up with the state's spending plan due June 30.  "I think what's becoming a road block is that I'm not seeing a real interest in having an honest conversation," said Wolf, emerging from his office Monday after a meeting with Democratic legislative leaders. He's expected to meet with GOP leaders Tuesday.

Editorial: Remedy offered; now get to work
Bucks County Intelligencer  Editorial Posted: Monday, June 22, 2015 12:15 am
When it comes to school funding, state government is supposed to play the role of Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. In other words, school districts with fewer resources (read: less money) are supposed to get more state funding. The idea is to create parity or close to it.  Ideally, all kids in the state should receive a comparable education regardless of family income or a community’s wealth. In fact, communities populated with McMansions generate a mountain of property taxes for their school districts versus towns where less costly housing rules. And so the state is supposed to even things out when it divides up education revenue, which this year amounts to about $5.5 billion.  In reality, the state funding formula is out of sync with reality and skewed by politics. The result is that state education dollars are doled out without apparent attention to need. It’s outrageous, not to mention unfair. And embarrassing.
Consider these figures reported by the Associated Press last week:
  • Reading, ranked by the state as No. 1 in poverty, is 51st highest in per-student state aid.
  • Erie, ranked 29th poorest, is 196th in per-student state aid.
  • Allentown, ranked 36th poorest, is 130th in per-student state aid.
  • Philadelphia, ranked 58th poorest, is 145th in per-student state aid.
If those numbers make sense to you, help us understand the logic. What they suggest to us is what they suggested to the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission. The commission spent the last year studying the state’s education funding formula and found that the way the state divvies up the money is in need of sweeping change.

Pa. school districts make an 'educated guess' of next year's budget
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF JUNE 22, 2015
Making a budget before knowing how much money you have might seem like putting the cart before the horse. But that's exactly what many school districts in Pennsylvania are doing.
The state budget is technically due June 30, but Gov. Tom Wolf stated publicly as early as April that the state might not meet that deadline. By law, school districts must adopt their budgets by the end of the month.  In its fifth annual survey of school districts, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) rounded up stories of how school leaders are planning around budget uncertainty.  In all, 346 districts, from 66 of the state's 67 counties, responded. Of those districts, 71 percent said they're raising property taxes this year. Eighty percent are taxing at or above their Act 1 limit, a cap the state created to keep property taxes in check.

Forecasting Fiscal Futures of Pennsylvania School Districts: Where Law and Current Policy Are Taking Our Public Schools
Center on Regional Politics Policy Brief by William Hartman & Timothy Shrom May 2015

"Raising taxes to the legally permissible Act 1 index would generate $1.1 million in additional revenue. Increases in pension payments alone exceed $2 million for 2016."
Letter: Public schools face insolvency
Pocono Record Letter by Merlyn Clarke Posted Jun. 22, 2015 at 9:33 PM
the early 1990s President George Herbert Walker Bush abrogated his “no new taxes” pledge and raised taxes. While this contributed to his electoral defeat, it nevertheless put the nation’s finances on a sounder footing, ushering in one of the most prosperous decades in the nation’s history that included not only balanced budgets but also surpluses.  Raising taxes is never popular. However, if raising taxes contributes to fiscal solvency and long-range economic prosperity, a courageous statesman will rise to the occasion.  No such option exists for many Pennsylvania school districts today, certainly not for Stroudsburg School District. Raising taxes to the legally permissible Act 1 index would generate $1.1 million in additional revenue. Increases in pension payments alone exceed $2 million for 2016.  Added to pensions are increases in healthcare, and the ever-climbing mandated tuition payments for charter/cyber schools, projected to exceed $3,000,000 in 2016, all beyond district control.

Letters: Funding follies cause trauma in Philly schools
Philly Daily News Letter by Lisa Haver POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2015, 12:16 AM
Lisa Haver, a retired Philadelphia teacher, is co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Email her at philaapps@gmail.com.
CAN THE DNA of a school system by altered permanently?
For decades, the accepted wisdom in the nature v. nurture debate held that our brains are fully formed at birth, that our DNA cannot be changed. But recent research has shown that trauma, especially in early childhood, can effect changes not only in the DNA of the victim but in that of subsequent generations.  Can the DNA of a school system be harmed irreparably?  So many factors have contributed to the unaddressed trauma of Philadelphia's students: the expansion of charter schools, some closing without warning due to mismanagement or outright fraud; the yearly standardized testing - even in early grades - used to label students and to justify the permanent closing of neighborhood schools; the sense of abandonment felt when entire faculties are replaced for hasty turnarounds or transformations.  All of these changes, often sold as "reforms", have affected the district and its students in ways that may never be repaired.

Central Dauphin School Board finalizes 2015-2016 budget
By Marijon Shearer | Special to PennLive on June 22, 2015 at 10:56 PM
As expected, Central Dauphin School Board wrapped up its 2014-2015 meeting schedule Monday by approving the final version of a $174 million general fund budget for the school year that begins July 1.  The new spending plan calls for a 1.79 percent hike in property taxes, just under the 1.9 percent index allowed for Central Dauphin next year by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The increase adds about $39 to the annual bill of a taxpayer with property assessed at $150,000.

Norristown Area School District board votes to raise property taxes 1.86 percent
By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald POSTED: 06/22/15, 10:08 PM EDT
 NORRISTOWN >> The Norristown Area school board unanimously adopted the district’s $142,370,350 2015-2016 final budget Monday night, including a 1.86 percent property tax increase and the elimination of three teaching positions from the high school.
The tax increase raises the millage rate to 33.179, which means $3,301 in taxes per each $100,000 of assessed value of a district resident’s home.
The teaching positions eliminated include one art, one music, and one physical education position. Each teacher currently in those positions will be reassigned elsewhere in the district and no furloughs will be required.

Daniel Boone School Board votes to eliminate cafeteria, teacher positions
Reading Eagle By Samantha Tighe  Tuesday June 23, 2015 12:01 AM
Thirty cafeteria workers within the Daniel Boone School District were laid off, after the school board unanimously voted in favor of a new contract with Nutrition Group, Inc. for food services during Monday night's meeting.  A majority of the cafeteria workers were in attendance, sporting matching shirts with a slogan, "Lunch is better local."  Nutrition Group, a company based in York, had agreed with the school board to hire most, if not all, the current cafeteria workers under new contracts for at least a year. Wages will stay the same, and in some instances possibly increase, while workers will retain similar benefits, the board said.  Depending on their current contract, several cafeteria workers could lose the sick days they have accumulated.  Additionally, the school board gave its final approval to the 2015-16 budget, which holds taxes steady but also eliminates several teaching positions.

Bethlehem shows support for new charter school site but still holds up approval
By Lynn Olanoff | For lehighvalleylive.com Follow on Twitter on June 22, 2015 at 8:35 PM, updated June 22, 2015 at 8:58 PM
The Bethlehem Area School District supports a new location for the Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School but still postponed a vote on the new school building Monday.   The district has been fighting the South Side school's efforts to find a larger location since 2013. The administration on Monday recommended the school board support the school's move to the current Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts building on East Broad Street.  The board also appeared supportive of the move. Members said they wouldn't vote to authorize the new location until they see that planned renovations there are publicly bid.

Judge: Pa. education department on the hook for 'curriculum deficiencies'
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF JUNE 23, 2015
Who is responsible when budget cuts require a school district to drop classes?
Following budget cuts started in the 2011-2012 school year, parents in Philadelphia filed 825 complaints to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Their complaints ranged from overcrowding in classrooms, to cutting back on courses such as art and foreign languages, to a lack of guidance counselors in schools.  In a lawsuit against the department, seven of those parents -- along with the Public Interest Law Center and Parents United for Public Education -- claimed the state ignored its own protocol to investigate the complaints under its purview to correct "curriculum deficiencies."

A promising idea for Lancaster city, School District of Lancaster
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board Posted: Monday, June 22, 2015 6:00 am
An idea still in the discussion stage would ask private donors to support higher education among students in  the School District of Lancaster. Modeled on programs in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, students who graduate from the School District of Lancaster with decent academic and attendance records would get generous college scholarships to two- and four-year postsecondary schools — including trade and technical education.
Think your newspaper never publishes good news?  We could give you a list of examples to the contrary, but let’s focus on a potentially transforming one for the moment.  Dozens of Lancaster community leaders met this month at the Ware Center to hear a description of the Pittsburgh Promise from its director, Saleem Ghubril.  Launched in 2008, the program gives students who complete ninth through 12th grades in Pittsburgh city schools up to $40,000 toward classes accredited Pennsylvania two-year or four-year institutions of postsecondary education.

Phoenixville Area School District calls for fewer standardized tests
By Eric Devlin, edevlin@21st-centurymedia.com@Eric_Devlin on Twitter POSTED: 06/22/15, 5:25 PM EDT
Phoenixville >> Officials in the Phoenixville Area School District recently sent a message to lawmakers in Harrisburg — ease up on testing.  In a resolution approved during Thursday night’s meeting, the school board called on legislators to minimize the amount of mandated standardized testing and the use of standardized testing for teacher and school evaluations.  “We are not in favor of the amount of testing time or prep time for testing,” said board member Kevin Pattinson.  In the resolution, the district says that the amount of time required to prepare students for state-wide exams, like the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and the Keystone exam — an end-of-the-year exam that tests Algebra 1, biology and English language arts — takes away the ability for a deeper study of curriculum.

Grading the Common Core: No Teaching Experience Required
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH JUNE 22, 2015
SAN ANTONIO — The new academic standards known as the Common Core emphasize critical thinking, complex problem-solving and writing skills, and put less stock in rote learning and memorization. So the standardized tests given in most states this year required fewer multiple choice questions and far more writing on topics like this one posed to elementary school students: Read a passage from a novel written in the first person, and a poem written in the third person, and describe how the poem might change if it were written in the first person.  But the results are not necessarily judged by teachers.  On Friday, in an unobtrusive office park northeast of downtown here, about 100 temporary employees of the testing giant Pearson worked in diligent silence scoring thousands of short essays written by third- and fifth-grade students from across the country.

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.

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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 »

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