Tuesday, June 9, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 9: Basic Ed Funding Commission Report Due Tomorrow

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 9, 2015:
Basic Ed Funding Commission Report Due Tomorrow



COMMUNITY MEETING: PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING IN BERKS COUNTY
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



"The Commission has until June 10, 2015 to submit a report with their final recommendations to the General Assembly."
Basic Education Funding
PASBO website
The Basic Education Funding Commission, authorized through Act 51 of 2014 (originally House Bill 1738), has begun its work of examining the current basic education funding in the Commonwealth. The Commission, co-chaired by Sen. Patrick Browne and Rep. Mike Vereb, consists of 12 legislators and 3 administration officials, and is tasked with making recommendations on the development of a new basic education funding formula and identifying the factors that should be used to determine the distribution of basic education funding to school districts. 

Basic Education Funding Commission website
Thank you for your interest in the Basic Education Funding Commission and for visiting the commission’s website.  The 15-member commission is tasked with developing and recommending to the General Assembly a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania school districts. The new formula will take into account relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support as well as other factors.  The Basic Education Funding Commission was created with the passage of House Bill 1738, sponsored by Representative Bernie O’Neill, which was signed into law by the Governor on June 10, 2014, as Act 51 of 2014.

Budgets: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Politically Uncorrected by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young June 8, 2015
June, that most beautiful of months, is associated with some of life’s larger pleasures: the beginning of summer, annual vacations, school graduations, Fathers’ Day, June brides—and, of course, state budgets. Pennsylvania law requires the budget to be adopted by June 30th.  This year, however, June’s glories may have to be savored without a state budget. Few observers expect the June 30th budget deadline to be met.  Since the past four budgets were passed on time, it’s a fair question to ask: why not this year, too?
One answer is obvious: Pennsylvania has returned to a divided government with one party (Republicans) controlling the legislature, while the other party (Democrats) controls the governor’s office. In this political configuration, institutional conflict between the governor and the legislature is always rancorous and budgets, with few exceptions, are always late.
But a second force is present this year that produces an influence rarely confronted in the budget process – political ideology. Normally ideology is to Pennsylvania politics as straight talk is to a politician: it isn’t practiced much.  Indeed, past budget debates mostly involved carving up the state’s resources, or in the phrase of one political scientist, determining “who gets what and who pays.” Legislative leaders were consummate wheeler-dealers, pragmatic to the core, with final budgets a product of compromise, bargaining, and with more than a little deal making.
But not this year. 

Our public schools are in crisis - and students are paying the price: Ian Noah Gavigan and Deborah Gordon Klehr
PennLive Op-Ed   By Ian Noah Gavigan and Deborah Gordon Klehr on June 08, 2015 at 1:00 PM, updated June 08, 2015 at 1:53 PM
Ian Noah Gavigan is a Research and Policy Fellow for the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. Deborah Gordon Klehr is the Interim Executive Director, Education Law Center of Pennsylvania.
Our state's public schools are in crisis and students are paying the price.
Academic performance is stagnating. Classroom sizes are growing as teachers, counselors, and other staff are laid off as a result of continuing budget cuts. Districts have eliminated core services and programs, and more cuts are possible.  This crisis results from two primary factors: in 2011, the state cut nearly $1 billion in basic education funds, and Pennsylvania does not have an adequate, fair formula to distribute basic education funding to the state's 500 school districts.

"The Education Law Center’s report buttresses supporters’ call for a change in the way education dollars are allocated. Counting both state and local public school spending, Pennsylvania gets a letter grade of A for effort in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
But when the way those dollars are distributed is considered, Pennsylvania ends up with grades of D in 2012 and 2010 and a grade of F in 2011."
Reports put a spotlight on Pennsylvania's education equity
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 8, 2015 12:00 AM
The word “equity” is getting a lot of attention in education lately.
The state last week sent its plan for “ensuring equitable access to excellent teachers for all students” to the U.S. Department of Education.  The Education Law Center in Newark, N.J., which advocates for equal education opportunity, and The Leadership Conference Education Fund in Washington, D.C., which promotes human and civil rights, teamed up to release two reports today on the need for fair school funding.  And, according to the law that established it, the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission in Pennsylvania is charged with reporting out by Wednesday on how the state can establish a fair school-funding formula.  Of today’s reports, one by both groups is called “Cheating Our Future: How Decades of Disinvestment by States Jeopardizes Equal Educational Opportunity.” The other is the fourth annual national report card by the Education Law Center on the fairness of school funding.

The 30 Pennsylvania schools Gov. Tom Wolf has visited so far — and why
Billy Penn By Anna Orso  June 8, 2015  at 8:45 am
In the 139 days since Tom Wolf was inaugurated as governor of Pennsylvania, he’s spent a significant portion of that time touring 30 schools across the state, from Erie to Kensington.
The new governor’s social media accounts have been littered with never-ending photos of him smiling with kids and shaking hands with teachers, walking the halls with aides and chatting up superintendents. It’s happened dozens of times over.  But why visit *so* many schools across the state? Simply stated: It’s budget time. And that means it’s also selling-the-budget time.  “The primary focus of the governor’s tour is talking with schools about their needs and how they will use the funding,” Jeff Sheridan, Wolf’s spokesman, told Billy Penn.  Wolf’s trek to schools across the commonwealth, dubbed the “Schools That Teach” tour, is now on a month-long hiatus in June while lawmakers  make back-room deals with each other so they can figure out how to best spend your taxpayer dollars over the next fiscal year. And those budget talks take a lot of time, especially when the new governor has made huge promises to better fund education while working with a Republican-controlled legislature that’s less than excited to compromise.

Education jargon, explained
WHYY Newsworks BY PAUL JABLOW JUNE 9, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 12
Twelfth an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers." 
Too often we hear school officials, experts, advocates, and yes, even journalist throw around terms like "Block grants" and "charter authorizer" with little explanation as to what these terms actually mean. Important education funding terms and concepts get lost in translation.  Here we breakdown jargon and loaded concepts into a glossary of education funding terms.

Blogger note: SB 6 is on the agenda for the PA Senate Education Committee meeting this morning along with SB 880 which would delay the graduation requirement associated with the Keystone Exams for two years.
SB6: Senate bill seeks to hold government responsible for under-performing schools
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online By Sarah Davis sdavis@publicopinionnews.com @svdavis56PO on Twitter UPDATED:   06/05/2015
HARRISBURG >> A bill making its way through the state Senate seeks to hold the government responsible for the state's lowest performing public schools, but local school leaders think it oversimplifies the path to under-achievement.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker's Educational Opportunity and Accountability Act would create a new entity called the Achievement School District. An executive director, overseen by a board appointed by the governor and leaders of the House and Senate, would lead the ASD.  According to a memorandum from Smucker, R-Lancaster, the "ASD will have the power to manage the school directly and implement transformative changes or convert to a charter school and may also authorize new charter schools to serve families living in the neighborhoods in the bottom one percent and may close the lowest performing charter schools without appeal to the Charter School Appeal Board."

Bill advances to limit checks for Pennsylvanians who work with kids
York Dispatch By MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press  06/08/2015 01:37:27 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — The full state House is about to consider changes to a new state law that requires background checks for people who work with children, despite some concerns the legislation is being watered down.  The House Children and Youth Committee voted 24 to 2 on Monday in favor of a proposal designed to make the checks less of a burden so organizations don't end up having to cut programs for children because of fewer volunteers.  The proposal limits the checks to those with direct contact with children who routinely interact with them.  It'll also make the checks apply for all types of work with children, so employees and volunteers don't have to produce duplicate checks.

Guest Columnist: Pension reform isn’t a problem since state approved Act 120
Delco Times By Mike Sturla, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 06/08/15, 10:42 PM EDT
State Rep. P. Michael Sturla, chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee, represents all of Lancaster city and parts of Lancaster and Manheim townships.
In 2010, the Legislature and governor faced rapidly rising employer pension contribution rates often referred to as the rate spike. In response, an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the House and Senate approved Act 120 which was widely viewed as a responsible pension reform solution that served as a roadmap to dealing with the crisis. Act 120 included shared sacrifice by reducing benefits for employees by $33 billion, increasing employee contributions, the retirement age to 65, the vesting period from 5 to 10 years and prohibiting early lump-sum withdrawals. It also reduced the cost of benefits for the employer by 60 percent and pays down the accrued pension debt caused largely by employer deferrals, benefit enhancements and investment losses from the economic downturns in 2001, 2003, and 2008. Employees who entered the system since Act 120 took effect are 100 percent funded and commonwealth’s cost is just three percent of payroll. The problem moving forward is not the revised defined benefit pension that new state employees are receiving, but the unfunded liabilities as a result of underfunding from the past.
When the increased debt payments prescribed in Act 120 started coming due in 2013, another crisis was declared. In order to address this pension “crisis,” we need to pay our debt obligation and respect workers constitutional rights, both prescribed in Act 120.

Philadelphia Futures celebrates 25 years of graduates
the notebook By Michaela Ward on Jun 8, 2015 03:12 PM
When asked why he wants to go to college, his answer is very simple. 
“My goal is to make something of myself," said Anthony Williams, a soon-to-be graduate of Bodine High School and the Philadelphia Futures Sponsor-A-Scholar program.  Last week, Philadelphia Futures held a ceremony to celebrate 25 years of the longstanding program, which helps the city's low-income, first-generation-to-college students get the tools, resources, and opportunities they need to succeed in high school and college.  The event, held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, honored 85 graduates from this year's scholar program and from College Connection, a new Futures initiative that provides intensive college preparation to high school juniors and seniors. Also celebrated were 60 college students who have participated in Futures programs.     This year, all 85 of the participants from both programs will graduate high school and attend college.  According to program officials, 57 percent of the Sponsor-A-Scholar program’s students who matriculated into college have gone on to graduate college. The program’s college graduation rate is rising, and officials project the rate will be 71 percent for the 2007-2011 classes.

The 2015-16 budget sets aside $200,000 for the Supplemental Property Tax Rebate Program. Board members voted to approve the resolution, which provides property tax rebates for widowers, disabled persons and certain senior citizens on fixed or limited incomes. The vote was 7-1, with Scott Fozard dissenting
State College school board OKs budget, tax rebate plan
Centre Daily Times BY FRANK READY fready@centredaily.com June 8, 2015
STATE COLLEGE — The State College Area school board passed the final 2015-16 budget Monday, a measure that will include 5.49 percent increase in taxes and a 8.3 percent growth in revenues.  “This is a unique year in our budgeting, because it’s the first year of the referendum for the high school project,” Randy Brown, district business administrator, said.
The referendum debt exception accounts for 3.59 percent of the overall tax increase, a total that also includes the hiring of a few new teachers and administrators, maintaining and upgrading district facilities, and direct contact with students through instruction.  For the average district residential taxpayer, that means a $156 increase in taxes — which, according to Brown, is $50 less than what was projected in January.  Jim Pawelczyk was the only board member to vote against the budget.  “For the most part it has been a successful budget process,” Brown said.

York school deal hikes pay, lengthens day
Under the agreement, the school day would increase by 40 minutes, and teacher salaries would go up at least 2.5 percent in each of the next two years
York Daily Recprd By Dylan Segelbaum dsegelbaum@ydr.com @dylan_segelbaum on Twitter UPDATED:   06/08/2015 09:30:09 PM
In a marked shift, the York City School Board on Monday unanimously approved a tentative agreement with the district's teachers' union that increases the school day by 40 minutes, along with boosting teacher salaries at least 2.5 percent for each of the next two years.  "This is unprecedented," York City School District Supt. Eric Holmes said. "And the School District of the City of York is moving in the right direction, and we're happy to have our partners — the teachers — on with us."  By adding 40 minutes to the school day, Holmes said that translates to an additional hour of instructional time for teachers. He called the agreement "bold," saying he did not know of any other district taking that step. Under the tentative agreement, teacher salaries would increase by 2.5 percent next year, and 2.75 percent during 2016-17 — numbers that fall within the district's proposed budget.

Camp Hill School Board reviews updates to next year's budget proposal
Penn Live By Allison Dougherty | Special to PennLive on June 08, 2015 at 11:24 PM
CAMP HILL – The Camp Hill School Board next week might finish up the district's 2015-16 budget.  On Mon., the board discussed the most recent updates to the district's preliminary proposed budget. In its current incarnation, proposed spending would come in next year at about $20.38 million, which is about 2.1 percent greater than this year's budget.  The proposal includes costs for two new teachers and increases in healthcare and retirement costs, among other expenditures.  On the revenue side, the district's state set index is 2.3. While the board has not finalized a millage rate for next year, Camp Hill has been approved for exceptions.

Northampton Area School District passes budget with real estate tax increase
By Kevin Duffy Special to The Morning Call June 8, 2015
The average homeowner will see a real estate tax increase of about $64 per year after school directors in the Northampton Area School District finalized their budget for the 2015-16 school year.  The board's approved tax increase of 2.27 percent represents a rate increase of 1.11 mills, taking the district from 48.89 to 50 mills for the upcoming school year.  The board voted 6-3 to approve the budget, with Roy Maranki, Jean Rundle and board President David Gogel voting no.  The millage increase amounts to a tax bill that will be $64.12 higher per year for a homeowner with an average assessment of $57,761.38, finance director Terry Leh said.  The school board approved a general fund budget of $96.1 million, a 4.93 percent increase from the current amount of $91.5 million.

Bethlehem schools adding Keystone Exam class
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 08, 2015 at 7:35 PM, updated June 08, 2015 at 8:25 PM
Bethlehem Area School District officials don't believe in the Keystone Exam's project-based assessments, but students will be enrolled in classes to complete them next year.  Starting with the class of 2017, Pennsylvania students must show proficiency on three Keystone Exams. If students cannot show proficiency, they are given a chance to take a project-based assessment during the school day.  The school board will vote later this month to add an elective class next fall that will run for 9 weeks or 18 weeks depending on student need. The course will count as either an English, biology or math credit for students. Once students finish the assessment, they will enroll in a regular elective course.

Charter schools should keep track of their students
Washington, PA Observer Reporter Opinion June 7, 2015
Charter schools, both of the brick-and-mortar and online variety, have been hailed as a free-market solution to many of the woes that bedevil public education. However, time has shown many of the students who pass through these schools perform no better academically than their public-school counterparts, and charter schools have been plagued by questions of exactly how accountable they are, even as they gratefully accept public money.  Take, for instance, the problem of truancy. Right now in Pennsylvania, a student can be enrolled in a cyber charter school, where they must check in online every day school is in session (though one assumes that process can be manipulated by a computer-savvy young person). If three days pass without an excused absence, then a student’s home school district is notified, and that district is left to investigate the absence, even though they have little or no daily interaction with the student.

Nation's 'Disinvestment' in Public Schools Is Crippling Poor Students, Reports Say
Education Week State Ed Watch By Andrew Ujifusa on June 8, 2015 8:16 AM
Six years after the national economy bottomed out, here's one generic view of K-12 finance: Budgets are more stable and can rely on more revenue than in 2008, and spending on K-12 has gradually recovered in many states over the last several years. So are prominent school funding advocates satisfied that states are now giving schools robust and well-targeted financial support?  Not even close.
"This should be easier, not harder," Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, told me in an interview.  The Education Fund is one of two advocacy groups, along with the Education Law Center, saying in reports released today that despite rosier revenue pictures and more ambitious student achievement goals, most states continue to hamstring schools, and poor students in particular, by failing to provide them more resources to help them meet these goals. 

The US is reporting an 81 percent high school graduation rate. Let's take a closer look.
Tweet by Anya Kamenetz ‏@anya1anya  NPR.org June 8, 2015

"Experts believe you can tell by third grade whether children will graduate high school based on clear early warning signs, or what they call the ABCs: attendance, behavior and course performance. Delonna struggles with all three."
In Washington D.C., Homeless Students Fight The Statistics
NPR by KAVITHA CARDOZA JUNE 07, 2015 9:39 PM ET
The US high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. But why? NPR Ed partnered with 14 member stations around the country to bring you the stories behind that number. Check out the whole story here. And find out what's happening in your state.
Delonna Jones is a 10-year-old with twisty braids and a toothy grin. She struggles with reading and is repeating the third grade at Ketcham Elementary School in D.C. this year. She says she gets distracted when other children tease her. "Kids like to pick on me," she says. "I get into fights sometimes."  Delonna is one of about 100 children, a third of this school, who are homeless. Nearly the entire school qualifies for free and reduced-price lunch. School is one of the few constants in Delonna's life, as with many other children here. She loves her third-grade teacher best. "She called me her favorite," Delonna says shyly.  Schools in D.C. — traditional and charter — have the nation's lowest graduation rates when compared to state averages. Just 62 percent of students complete high school in four years.

"None of this is particularly surprising, but private school enrollment rarely comes up in discussions about public school funding. The Education Law Center argues that it’s an important factor because when wealthy families opt out of public education, schools are left with higher concentrations of poor children, and there is less political will to boost funds for public schools."
Public versus private schools: Who goes where, by state
Washington Post By Emma Brown June 8 at 3:40 PM  
The proportion of children who attend public school ranges widely from state to state, from a low of 79 percent in the District of Columbia and Hawaii to 93 percent in Wyoming and Utah, according to the Education Law Center’s annual school funding report, released Monday.
And in every state, private school students on average come from wealthier families than public school students. In some cases, much wealthier: In the District, private school families’ income is more than three times that of public school families’ income, on average.


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 »

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.

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