Friday, June 5, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 5: YES - YOU: Come to Harrisburg June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 5, 2015:
YES - YOU: Come to Harrisburg June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!

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

Wolf said he wants to see an effective state budget, even if it is not passed on time.  "If the choice is between having an on-time budget that really doesn't address the problems honestly, to a budget that's a little late because it does address the real issues, I'll take a late budget that addresses the substantive issues," he said.
Governor Wolf: "I'll Take a Late Budget"
WICU Erie By John Last Posted: Jun 04, 2015 5:36 PM Updated: Jun 04, 2015 6:19 PM
The deadline to pass a state budget is June 30.  So, Governor Tom Wolf is keeping busy defending his budget proposals.   The governor sat down with for a satellite interview with 12News/SEE News. He told reporter John Last that citizens are tired of the political games that are usually played during the budget process.  He says he was elected to bring change.  He wants the legislature to approve his ideas to impose a severance tax on gas drillers to pay for public education.  He also wants a boost in the sales tax and income tax.  He says that money would allow school districts to lower property taxes.   "One way or the other, we have to invest in education.  And, one way or the other, we've got to make sure schools like Erie, like York, like the schools in Tioga County, Perry County, work," Wolf said.

Turning up the budget heat in Harrisburg
WHYY Newsworks BY PHIL GREGORY June JUNE 5, 2015
A Pennsylvania budget deadline looms at the end of the month, but Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers remain divided on a spending plan.  Entities that rely on the state for funding have cautioned about the headaches caused by lengthy budget standoffs. But Wolf has said he's not resigned to a late state budget.  "I understand the problems that causes for nonprofits, for social service agencies. I understand the problems it causes for people looking for some predictability in terms of their job," Wolf said Thursday.  Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature remain divided over their various proposals and priorities, including the governor's education spending increases, the Senate's public pension reductions, and the House's property tax cuts.

EDITORIAL: Local schools achieve zero-tax hike budgets despite state delay
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 06/04/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
No one wants to see a higher tax bill, and property owners in at least three area school districts and likely a fourth, are getting their wish this year.  School boards in Pottstown, Daniel Boone Area and Phoenixville Area have already approved budget plans with a zero tax increase, and Pottsgrove is so close it’s nearly a sure thing.  The trend, if it can be called that, has not gone unnoticed in other neighboring districts.  Boyertown Area School Board member John Landino said in voting for a $106 million budget with a 2.49 percent tax hike that the districts which have approved no tax increase are banking on an increase in school funding coming from Harrisburg.  Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget restores cuts to basic education and increases the state’s share of funding for public education to 50 percent with a commitment to invest $2 billion in public education over the next four years. For Pottstown School District, his proposal would mean an additional $1 million in state funding in the coming year and a property tax cut of more than 55 percent in the year that follows.  However, there is no guarantee that a Republican-controlled Legislature and Wolf, a Democrat, will vote for and sign a budget that provides additional funding.

"For the state's test scores to draw sanction, more than 5 percent of all Pennsylvania students would have to refuse testing.  Given that standard, Philadelphia's opt-outs rate is still relatively low. Some suburbs saw a greater proportion of their students opt-out than Philadelphia. In the Lower Merion School District, a district one-twentieth the size of Philadelphia, 272 students opted out of PSSAs.  That's still a large increase over Lower Merion's opt-out rate last year, something opt-out advocates view as a victory."
Sanctions or success: Hundreds of Philly students opted-out of standardized tests this year
This spring, Tonya Bah sent a letter to parents with children at Wagner Middle School in West Oak Lane, where her daughter Fulani is in the eighth grade.  In the letter, she shared why she didn't think standardized tests helped students at Wagner, and explained how to opt them out using the School District of Philadelphia's protocol.  "If enough of us refuse the tests," Bah wrote, "the message to the state will be clear: We will not accept the label of failure for our students, for our schools."  In all, 171 Wagner parents responded to the letter, pulling about a third of the students in the school out of statewide standardized tests call the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment or PSSAs.

"State representatives and senators have formed a work group “aimed at hammering out redistricting reform legislation” that would help spread the power of Democracy. The impetus: A recent Penn State study that found members of Congress are nearly seven times less likely to cross party lines to vote on legislation."
Capitol Ideas: Lawmakers fed up with Pennsylvania's puppet-like legislative districts
Morning Call By Steve Esack Call Harrisburg Bureau June 4, 2015
Ever need a good laugh?  Then check out some lawmakers’ legislative district maps on the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ website. Some of the maps look like the political cartographers spent way too much time watching Sid & Marty Krofft's children’s shows in the 1960s.  Republican Rep. Martina White’s district looks like a “Land of the Lost” dinosaur eating Northeast Philadelphia. Democratic Rep. Mike Schlossberg’s Allentown district resembles a giant crab muscling its way into Bethlehem. Republican Rep. Keith Greiner’s district looks like sleestak eating Intercourse, Lancaster County. Democratic Rep. Ryan Bizarro’s district doesn’t really look like an animal or puppet, but “Sigmun and the Sea Monsters” must be some of his constituents because half his district is in Lake Erie.

PSEA: Proposed pension overhaul a 'disaster' for teacher recruiting
By Sam Janesch / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau June 4, 2015 5:12 PM
HARRISBURG — State and public school employees remain opposed to a pension system overhaul that Republicans say is essential and would save billions over three decades.
Speaking at a House committee hearing Thursday, Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the overhaul represented “intergenerational theft,” because future public school teachers and state workers would be paying some of the state debt through the changes proposed to the pension plans.  “It will be a disaster trying to recruit new highly qualified employees into the system,” Mr. Crossey said. The PSEA is the state’s largest teachers union.   Pension restructuring legislation quickly passed the Senate last month and would require state and school employees hired before a 2010 pensions law to choose between paying a higher contribution to their retirement, or having their benefits accrue at a lower rate.

Souderton Area School Board charges legislators to create fair education funding formula
Montgomery News By Jarreau Freeman @JarreauFreeman on Twitter Published: Thursday, June 04, 2015
FRANCONIA >> Souderton Area School District is joining the cause and wants their voices heard for a fair way to fund basic education in the state.  During May 28’s school board meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution charging legislators to create an equitable way to fund public schools in Pennsylvania.  “This board stands behind … this resolution 100 percent,” board President Scott Jelinski said. “This board has been tasked with getting more involved with the laws that are in Harrisburg. We really need to keep a tighter eye on what’s going on and that’s our goal. As a board, I really think we are pushing through.”  Montgomery County Intermediate Unit Legislative Services and Grants Development Director Tina Viletto, who spoke at a North Penn School Board meeting in April, said that at this time there is no “clear, consistent determination as to how a school district receives its funds [from the state].”  Souderton is joining North Penn, who passed a similar resolution last month, encouraging legislators to consider a fair funding formula. The North Penn School Board also expressed support of the Circuit Riders — a group that is campaigning for fair education funding in the state by promoting the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. The campaign is an initiative spearheaded by approximately 50 educational, religious and business organizations working to develop their own funding formula proposal to be submitted to legislators for future consideration.

School districts dispute AIU figures on overdue billings
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 5, 2015 12:00 AM
The state of finances in the special education department of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit appears to be getting murkier a week after the agency eliminated 20 positions and executive director Linda Hippert said there was $6 million in overdue billings from school districts.
Dan Matsook, acting superintendent of the Wilkinsburg School District, acknowledged a past due bill of more than $2 million for special education services and said the financially strapped district is setting up a payment schedule.  But other district officials listed with past due bills of six figures or more, including Baldwin-Whitehall, Sto-Rox and Woodland Hills, dispute the fact that their payments are overdue.

"The contract will be funded, in part, by taxpayer increases in alignment with Act 1 under the assumption of an index of about 1.9 percent annually. The district also anticipates revenue increases generated by new commercial development.
Contract terms call for teachers to have an increase in their healthcare premium, starting with an 8 percent contribution in the first year, and increasing to a 13 percent contribution by year five, as well as modifications in their prescription plan. The prescription plan changes require teachers to use CVS pharmacies and follow guidelines regarding generic drugs, allowing the district to see $850,000 in savings over the five years of the contract.
The contract also includes language that protects the district from incurring the 40 percent additional costs resulting from and Affordable Care Act provision expected to go into effect in 2018."
Garnet Valley School Board, teachers ink five-year deal
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin, Times Correspondent POSTED: 06/04/15, 11:36 PM EDT
CONCORD >> The Garnet Valley School Board and Garnet Valley Education Association have approved a five-year contract after 18 months of negotiations. The board voted Thursday night with unanimous support.  On June 3, the education association, which has a membership of 389, ratified the contract with a “healthy majority,” said association President Kathleen Petrini.  The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2014, ending June 30, 2019. The agreement includes a 3.8 percent average salary increase over the five years of the contract, aligning Garnet Valley closely with surrounding districts.

York City teachers approve contract
York Dispatch By ERIN JAMES 505-5439/@ydcity POSTED:   06/04/2015 04:54:55 PM EDT
York City teachers voted Thursday to accept a new collective-bargaining contract, possibly bringing some long-awaited clarity to the financially struggling district's most significant expense.  Teachers would see a "nominal" pay increase over the next two years, according to union president Ira Schneider, who declined to release a copy of the tentative agreement because the contract is not official until the school board votes to approve it.  The board meets Monday evening.  The agreement: Teachers have also agreed to work a few additional days per school year — from the current 190 days to 192 in 2015-16 and 193 in 2016-17, Schneider said.  Daily work hours would also increase by 40 minutes, he said.  Schneider said the tone of negotiations — which started two years ago — changed recently with the state's appointment of a new chief recovery officer.

Conneaut wants to avoid tax hike though it faces more than $1M shortfall
Meadville Tribune By Earl Corp Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2015 5:45 am
LINESVILLE — Conneaut School Board is determined to pass the district’s 2015-16 budget without a tax increase. And even while the board doesn’t plan to increase taxes, it is also still looking for ways to trim a more than $1 million deficit.  Business Manager Kara Onorato informed the board the $1.6 million budget deficit had been trimmed by about $340,000 due to retirements and transportation savings. The district’s current $1.3 million deficit is roughly $640,000 less than the $1.94 million deficit Onorato originally showed the board in March.  There will be five teacher retirements, but the district is filling only three of those sports, Superintendent Jarrin Sperry said. That represents $257,000 in savings to the district.  Moving the emotional support classroom from Conneaut Valley Middle School to Conneaut Lake Middle School will also save the district $65,000.  Since classrooms and teachers are budget items, the district has the right to move them to suit its needs without the board having to vote on the move, board President Jody Sperry said.

Philly Council introduces framework of school funding strategy
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's plan to raise $105 million in recurring revenue for the city schools by hiking property taxes nearly 10 percent has hit a brick wall in City Council.
Council members have spent much of the spring looking for an alternative to fill the school district's budget hole.    A compromise is evolving, though it is far from final.   City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, a champion of education, said she can't stomach the thought of a $105 million property tax hike.  "I've been against real estate taxes," she said Thursday. "I'm always against real estate taxes, I hate a real estate tax."  Among other things, the compromise City Council is considering calls for raising about $50 million  from real estate taxes and increasing the city's use and occupancy tax about $10 million.  

Phila. schools set to outsource teacher substitutes
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, June 4, 2015, 5:42 PM POSTED: Thursday, June 4, 2015, 5:22 PM
The Philadelphia School District is poised to pay a Cherry Hill firm up to $34 million to provide substitute teachers for its classrooms over two school years.  Expected to be enacted later this month, the move to privatize 1,324 jobs will save the school system $10 million annually and mean fewer lost learning opportunities for students, officials said.  But the action has already ignited controversy.  Outraged over the outsourcing of substitute spots and other positions now held by its members, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has planned informational pickets for Friday. All per-diem and long-term substitutes are now unionized.

Over Soup Dinner, Philadelphia Teachers Network for Classroom Funding
Education Week Teacher By Ross Brenneman Published Online: June 3, 2015
Philadelphia  On a Sunday evening this spring, a few dozen teachers have lined up for soup here on the 15th floor of an office building. Through the windows, they can catch a panoramic view of the city, if their eyes don’t stop to linger on a sweeping buffet of Girl Scout Cookies just to the left. But they aren’t here just for the atmosphere or the food: In a couple hours, one of the educators in attendance will walk out with a cool $200 to use for their classroom.  That’s the idea behind PhilaSoup, a microgrant dinner event where attendees hear different pitches from educators for classroom projects that need funding and vote on which ideas most deserve a pot of money, raised from entrance fees. It's "Shark Tank" meets DonorsChoose, although that analogy might undercut the positive atmosphere in the room.

School Vouchers for All? Nevada Law Breaks New Ground
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on June 4, 2015 9:19 AM 
Sweeping. Groundbreaking. Historic.
Those are the words school choice advocates are using to describe a new Nevada law that will give public school parents near total control over the way state education dollars are spent on their children.  Why? Because the level of school choice this law will permit in Nevada is unprecedented: All parents of public school students will be allowed to use state funding earmarked for their child toward tuition or other expenses related to a nonpublic education.  That includes religious private schools and even home schooling.  By comparison, in the handful of other states that offer similar-styled programs, they're reserved for certain small populations—mostly students with disabilities. Those states also have caps on how many students can participate, while Nevada does not.  Under Nevada's new law, which was passed by the legislature last week and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday, the only stipulation for eligibility is that a student must have been enrolled in a public school for 100 consecutive days. That means 93 percent of students in the state will be eligible for the new program, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

"Windsor Locks Public Schools, which adopted the Core standards two years ago, is now pushing the educational envelope even further by seeking to have their students earn diplomas on the basis of competency alone."
Student-centered learning is based on competency, rather than seat-time
Hartford Courant By Jennifer Coe Reminder News June 4, 22015
Student-centered learning puts the focus on the student
While a good portion of the country is still debating the merits of the Common Core standards, a local school district is moving beyond the controversy. By implementing new strategies under which education professionals will marry Common Core and "student-centered learning," Windsor Locks Public Schools, which adopted the Core standards two years ago, is now pushing the educational envelope even further by seeking to have their students earn diplomas on the basis of competency alone.  Student-centered learning is a philosophy of education which takes the spotlight off of the test and the teacher and puts it on the student. There is a strong focus on students making a healthy connection with caring adults from very early on in the education process. They are directed to demonstrate competency in a subject, rather than finishing the requisite number of hours allotted for a subject, and ultimately, be awarded a diploma based on mastery of knowledge and skills.

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
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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 »

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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