Wednesday, June 3, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 3: Acting Ed Sec'y Rivera: Equitable, adequate school funding important; Budget update

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 June 3, 2015:
Acting Ed Sec'y Rivera: Equitable, adequate school funding important; Budget update

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

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

Equitable, adequate school funding important
Lancaster Online Opinion by PEDRO RIVERA | Commentary Tuesday, June 2, 2015 3:52 pm
Pedro Rivera is Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of education, and former superintendent of the School District of Lancaster.
For Pennsylvania school students, the year is winding down: class trips, field days and graduations fill the calendar. But while students 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 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 districts. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement this spring while visiting a school in our state.

Gov. Wolf holds Facebook Town Hall
Lancaster Online By TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2015 4:06 pm | Updated: 6:40 pm, Tue Jun 2, 2015.
Gov. Tom Wolf touched on his key budget goals as he answered Pennsylvanians' questions during a "Facebook Town Hall" Tuesday evening.  The first-term governor said he expects "a few fireworks but mostly good conversations" as he and the Republican-dominated legislaturespar over the 2015-16 budget, which is due by the July 1 start of the fiscal year. 

Here's a link to Governor Wolf's Facebook Town Hall video - runtime 33:17

State budget: Wolf, GOP leaders talks begin to lay a foundation
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 02, 2015 at 4:44 PM
A day after House Republicans sent a message to Gov. Tom Wolf that they are not on board with his $29.9 billion spending plan or the tax package he proposed to support it, GOP leaders from both legislative chambers met behind closed doors at the budget table with the governor.  The budget-related drama that played out on the House floor on Monday was "brought up briefly" during the hourlong talks held in a conference room in the governor's office suite, said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, afterward. "But it wasn't a big part of the meeting."  Corman said the time that the GOP leaders spent with the governor in the Tuesday talks was mainly focused on "trying to set the foundation to build toward an agreement."

House Majority Leader Reed details “serious discussion” with governor during working meeting
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Republican leaders met with Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday morning to discuss the budget and related major topics including pension and liquor reform.  The PLS Reporter spoke with House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) about how that discussion went following Monday’s unanimous repudiation by the House of Gov. Wolf’s revenue plan.  “I think we had a serious discussion today, about not just the budget, but about pension reform and liquor privatization,” he said. “I think there was a commitment by all three parties involved that, look, we need to get down to details now and start making some decisions and get on about getting a budget done by June 30th.”  He called the meeting “productive” and said it would be followed up by additional staff meetings later in the week with leadership starting to meet again with the governor next week with the possibility of several meetings.

Three takeaways from state House hearing on pension system reforms
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 02, 2015 at 5:52 PM
The Pennsylvania House's State Government Committee held the first of two days of scheduled hearings on the Senate-authored public employee pension reform bill Tuesday.  The sessions are significant mostly because there were no such hearings in the Senate, which fast-tracked the bill last month in an effort to get it passed before the primary election recess.  The bill, Senate Bill 1, is projected to save about $18 billion in future costs to Pennsylvania's two major public employee pension systems through a mix of plan changes for future hires, and changes in future benefits earned by existing workers.

Pension reform likely before end of June
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The House took its first look at the Senate pension reform bill Tuesday and two House Republicans in charge of making sure the legislation gets passed prognosticated that a major pension reform bill will likely pass within the confines of the budget cycle.  “I think ultimately we’re going to get pension reform done as part of this budget,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana). “Whether that occurs in mid-June, late-June, who knows, that’s yet to be determined.”  Noting the House held its first hearing on Senate Bill 1 Tuesday and has another hearing scheduled for Thursday, Rep. Reed said following the hearings it will be up to legislative leadership and the governor to come to terms on a final product.

School board calls for drastic measure to highlight pension crisis
PSBA website June 1, 2015
The Quakertown Community School Board (Bucks Co.) recently called for all school boards to participate in an act of civil disobedience by violating state law and withholding their September pension payment to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS). PSBA understands the frustration Quakertown Community and all other school entities are experiencing with the gridlock in solving the pension crisis. Below is a link to a letter from PSBA President William LaCoff and Executive Director Nathan Mains explaining why PSBA cannot support such actions and outlining the ramifications of doing so.

VIDEO: Costa shows support for Shale tax to fund education
The PLS Reporter  Author: Alanna Koll/Tuesday, June 2, 2015 video runtime 2:34
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa was joined by democratic leaders and other democratic lawmakers to highlight and push legislation that would create a new $1 billion natural gas extraction tax for education in Pennsylvania. 

Invest in early education now, or expect higher costs later opinion by JOHN WETZEL POSTED: Monday, June 1, 2015, 1:08 AM
John Wetzel is Pennsylvania's acting secretary of corrections.
At a recent budget hearing, a state senator asked, "If you were to advise us as to an investment that we should be making in another agency, in another part of government, that would impact what you do, change the outcome of what you do, what would you recommend?"  My answer was easy: early-childhood education programs.  As I see it, every time we talk about corrections reform, it really must begin with the realization that improving the chances for children, especially those in our most disadvantaged communities, is not just a great investment financially, but our responsibility and the true answer to improving criminal justice in America.  Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit, bipartisan, national anti-crime organization, recently released a report documenting how Gov. Wolf's proposed $120 million increase for prekindergarten programs could boost high school graduation rates and, ultimately, reduce the number of people incarcerated in Pennsylvania. Further, the report says that investing in Pre-K now could save taxpayers more than $350 million.

Nutter, Kenney join education leaders to unveil 'early childhood-learning plan'
In a Children's Village classroom packed to the hilt with likeminded adults, Mayor Michael Nutter, Executive Director Eva Gladstein and mayoral candidate Jim Kenney joined with early-education leaders to unveil the city's "A Running Start Philadelphia: For Every Child, Birth to Five" plan.  The nascent, citywide early-learning plan aims to lay "the foundation for a coherent system to provide high-quality early learning for all children from birth to age five" via a public/private partnership.  It calls on the mayor and city council to appoint a 17-member commission which will present the city's mayor with an "implementation plan and funding proposals" for consideration by April 2016, four months after Nutter's successor takes office.

Philly SRC answers questions about itself, its decisions, in townhall-style meeting
Trying to get answers from a large bureaucracy can feel banging your head against a wall.
Last night, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission tried to break down some of its own barriers to communication in a largely unprecedented meeting devoted entirely to questions from the public.   The two hour meeting was moderated by WHYY's own Kevin McCorry, who injected his own follow-up questions on such topics as the contract with the teacher's union.  The meeting drew about 30 people who aren't journalists and don't work for the school district.  People watching via livestream from home could also submit questions, which then appeared in real time on a screen that dominated one wall of the auditorium.

East Falls resident opens 'Little Free Library' outside home as part of mission to increase access to books
Award-winning filmmaker Ron Kanter set up a Little Free Library in front of his East Falls home in April to serve his community on the honor system of "take a book, leave a book."  The library is a small cabinet built from various pieces of wood — like the backboard of a bed — with the intent of providing kids an opportunity to explore the box and, hopefully, pick up some new stories and literature.  "I think it's really important for children because if they establish a habit of reading, it's a lifelong habit," Kanter said. "There's lots of research of how important books are to academic development."  His inspiration for the library came to him when he heard budget cuts to Philadelphia School District public schools.  Even by the third grade, reading levels can predict a child's future. Shrinking access to books and extracurricular activities in Philadelphia, accompanied by research across the country that analyzes development through reading, inspired Kanter to try something different, even on a small scale.

YDR Editorial: Sen. Scott 'Chopper' Wagner says schools have plenty of funding (YDR opinion)
York Daily Record editorial UPDATED:   06/02/2015 09:43:39 AM EDT
State Sen. Scott Wagner went for a helicopter ride last week.  The York County Republican took a TV reporter along for the ride.  It looked like it was a lot of fun.  Too bad it seemed like a pointless stunt.  Sen. Wagner took WHTM's Dennis Owens for a ride, figuratively.
The senator flew over three central Pennsylvania schools hoping to illustrate that schools are not hurting for funding. In the report that aired, he flew over Cumberland Valley, Northeastern and Central York, showing that those high schools indeed looked impressive from the air.  That's about all it showed.  For one thing, Cumberland Valley has to be among the more affluent school districts in the state. Northeastern has one of the highest property tax rates in the county. And Central York, well, its educators aren't exactly sitting by the side of the road holding "Will Teach Your Kids For Food" signs.  Sen. Wagner told Mr. Owens that the flyover was intended to show that these school districts weren't "decimated," a word that he claimed was used by Gov. Tom Wolf's campaign to argue for increased state spending for education, or even hurting for money because they have football fields and tennis courts.
What it showed, instead, is that Sen. Wagner seems to have some simplistic views on education and the way it is funded in Pennsylvania.

Lawmakers Mull Putting a Hold on Keystone Exams
PALMYRA TOWNSHIP — Students in pennsylvania have to pass the Keystone Exams in order to graduate high school.  State lawmakers are considering putting that on hold.  It’s a  move that is welcomed by some educators and parents in the Poconos.  Students at Wallenpaupack Area high school have been taking the Keystone Exams this week.  Failing any one of them is not an option if students in the class of 2017 and beyond want to graduate.  “To base their graduation eligibility on a single assessment is really unfair, we`re asking for options,” said Wallenpaupack Area principal Jay Starnes.

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.

"Monday's budget discussion was accompanied by a presentation by Roxy Woloszyn of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a children's advocacy organization that is working with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.   "With this campaign, all different parts of the state have come together and said, 'The way we're funding our schools is not fair. It's not right and we need to change it.' " Woloszyn said.  She said Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not use a fair funding formula. The process by which the state metes out school funding is not transparent, she said, making it difficult for schools to plan for large-scale projects such as new educational programs or building improvements.  The formula proposed by the fair funding campaign would take into account how many students are living in poverty or are English language learners. It would also consider the local tax burden and local wealth."
Pottstown school board not looking at tax increase
Reading Eagle By Paige Cooperstein Tuesday June 2, 2015 12:01 AM
For the first time in recent memory, there are no plans for a tax increase in the Pottstown School District.  The district's $57.1 million tentative budget for 2015-16 would keep millage at 39.25. A property assessed at $100,000 would pay about $3,925 in school property taxes.  Board President Judyth Zahora, who has been on the board for 24 years, said she could not recall a budget that did not require a tax increase.  The tentative budget, which the board approved last month, anticipates a $500,000 increase in state funding.

Hite pitches suits for city schools
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 5:56 PM POSTED: Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 5:37 PM
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. looked out over the sea of suits and made his pitch for Philadelphia schools.  "With your support, your assistance, your passion to help the children of Philadelphia, we will get there," Hite told the audience of lawyers and businesspeople.  The pep talk came Tuesday at a "Support Our Schools" corporate partnership breakfast at the Center City law firm Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C.  After several years of cuts, Hite and the Philadelphia School District are courting investments in the 2015-16 school year. City leaders have asked the business community to help plug holes at individual schools, a message hammered home Tuesday.

Philly Has Boosted School Funding By a Staggering Amount Since 2011
Plus, Tony Williams talks about his defeat.
Phillymag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  JUNE 1, 2015 AT 7:23 AM
1. Philadelphia has significantly increased funding for the city’s schools since 2011, while money from the state and federal government has dried up.
The gist: It’s that maddening time of year in Philadelphia when school district officials go hat in hand to City Council to ask for more money. Perhaps you’ve wondered why the district requests additional funding every single year — and if there’s any end in sight to their begging. Or maybe you see it from the other side, and would like to know why Council is so irritable about a simple request to fund one of the most important functions of government. Patrick Kerkstra has answers to both questions in a must-read story from the weekend. In short, the city has significantly increased funding for the school district over the last few years, while federal dollars have decreased and state support has barely moved an inch.

Free test-preparation program for revamped SAT goes online by LISA LEFF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS  POSTED: Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 2:55 AM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The nonprofit organization behind the SAT college entrance exam has teamed up with a Silicon Valley pioneer in online education to make test preparation materials available for free starting Tuesday, a move aimed at making the college admissions race less stressful and more fair.  The College Board gave unprecedented access to the revamped SAT it plans to introduce next spring to Khan Academy, which has developed diagnostic quizzes and interactive practice tests that will be accessible to anyone with Internet access. Khan Academy, based in Mountain View, is known for its free web-based library of instructional videos and academic exercises.  College Board President David Coleman said the partnership aims to level the college admissions playing field by putting high-quality training within easy reach of students without the funds for commercial test-prep services or the family support often needed to stick with a self-paced practice book.

"The Louisiana Science Education Act, passed by the state legislature in 2008, permits science teachers to use supplemental materials to “critique” evolution, opening a backdoor that these teachers are using, as intended, to teach creationism. Such lessons are allowed under this Louisiana law, but they are illegal under federal law.  All it will take is for one Louisiana parent or student to sue the state for endorsing religion in public school.  “We know that one in eight high school biology teachers advocate for creationism, even though it's unconstitutional,” says Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education. “These emails make clear that many teachers are interpreting the Louisiana Science Education Act as allowing such unconstitutional and scientifically-misleading lessons.”
The Bible v. the Constitution
Politicians, school boards, principals, and teachers are pushing creationism on kids.
Slate by By Zack Kopplin June 2015
When a student in Louisiana opens her textbook in biology class, she might not have the standard Miller and Levine Biology with a dragonfly on the cover, and she might not ever learn about evolution. For some Louisiana public school students, their science textbook is the Bible, and in biology class they read the Book of Genesis to learn the “creation point of view.”  Through a public records request, I obtained dozens of emails from the Bossier Parish school district that specifically discuss teaching creationism. Shawna Creamer, a science teacher at Airline High School, sent an email to the principal, Jason Rowland, informing him of which class periods she would use to teach creationism. “We will read in Genesis and them [sic] some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present,” Creamer wrote.  In another email exchange with Rowland, a parent had complained that a different teacher, Cindy Tolliver, actually taught that evolution was a “fact.” This parent complained that Tolliver was “pushing her twisted religious beliefs onto the class.”Principal Rowland responded, “I can assure you this will not happen again.”  Another email was sent by Bossier High School assistant principal Doug Scott to Michael Stacy, a biology teacher at that school. “I enjoyed the visit to your class today as you discussed evolution and creationism in a full spectrum of thought,” Scott wrote. “Thank you for the rich content as you bring various sources to bear in your curriculum.”

Three New York Regents: The Tests Are Failing, not the Students
Diane Ravitch's Blog  By dianeravitch May 31, 2015 //
In an article in Long Island Business News, three members of the New York State Board of Regents criticized the state tests, on which 70% of the state’s students failed to meet “proficiency.” They said, the students didn’t fail, the tests failed. The tests have questions that are above the students’ understanding, there is not enough time to finish, they have questions that are confusing and intended to lure students to the wrong answer.
Regent Kathleen Cashin, an experienced educator, said the tests may be neither valid nor reliable. Regent Judith Johnson, an experienced educator, said that students are fearful that their teachers will be fired if they do poorly on the tests.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 27 - June 2, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on June 2, 2015 - 12:55pm 
Across the U.S., there has been no let up in grassroots pressure for meaningful assessment reforms at both the national, state and district levels as the final month of the public school year gets underway.

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.

Shippensburg rally targets education funding gap
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online By Dale Heberlig @DaleHeberligPO on Twitter UPDATED:   05/30/2015 06:13:24 PM EDT
Shippensburg >> A 6:30 p.m. rally Wednesday at the Spring Lot Gazebo in the 100 block of West King Street (U.S. 11) in Shippensburg is intended to send a message to Harrisburg to highlight the state's failure to fund public schools.  Organizer Susan Spicka of Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley points to the state's lack of an allocation formula and the subsequent political deals that deprive poor school districts of educational opportunities. She predicts a large turnout.  "Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not use a formula to allocate state taxpayer dollars to school districts," Spicka said. "Instead, the current state funding system is based on political considerations and deals lawmakers cut in Harrisburg. This must change. A child's ZIP code should not determine opportunities school."  According to Spicka, some legislators may not "get it."  She said, "I don't think they (legislators) know how tough it is and how much people care about their children's education."

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.

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.
Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Wolf administration Budget Director Sharon Ward will speak about What Schools Need and Where the Money Can Come From in a webinar on June 8th. Other presenters will include PILCOP attorney Michael Churchill and ELC interim executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr.  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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