Thursday, July 2, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 2, 2015: The risks of the new Pa. schools oversight plan

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 2, 2015:
The risks of the new Pa. schools oversight plan

Just a heads-up that the PA Ed Policy Roundup may be intermittent and/or late this week

“One thing all parties agreed to after Wednesday’s meeting was that staff meetings would begin immediately on topics, but substantive budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders would not begin again until after the July 4th holiday.”
Budget negotiators find new resolve, but remain far apart
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, July 1, 2015
After a 2:00 p.m. closed-door meeting Wednesday, top legislative leaders and aides from both parties in the two chambers of the General Assembly emerged with Gov. Tom Wolf and his high ranking staff boasting renewed resolve to find agreement on a General Fund budget, but recognizing the two sides remain far apart on numbers.  With the governor’s fiscal year-eve veto of the Republican-crafted budget bill sent to his desk, Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year started off without a spending plan in place, leaving the potential for vendors and human service organizations to be cut off from needed state funds.

“The governor on Tuesday evening vetoed a GOP-authored budget that would not have increased taxes and would have boosted funding for public schools, although not at the levels Wolf wants.  It marked the first time in more than 40 years that a Pennsylvania governor had struck down a budget in its entirety.  Wolf said he did so because he does not believe it adequately funds public education or provides property tax relief to homeowners.”
Pa. budget talks to resume next week
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Thursday, July 2, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 6:53 PM
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania will operate without a budget until at least until next week, when Gov. Wolf and Republican legislators are expected to return to the negotiating table.  Wolf met briefly behind closed doors Wednesday with a scaled-down complement of legislative leaders, emerging to say that the sides will resume negotiations next week.  "There is mutual respect, and we are going into this the right way," Wolf said. "The arms are unfolded, and we understand that we have to reconcile our ideas."  Without a budget to guide spending for the new fiscal year, which began Wednesday, the state begins losing some of its authority to pay bills.

Lawmakers sent home but told 'it is not summer vacation'
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 01, 2015 at 4:59 PM
While Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders continue their work on resolving their differences on a 2015-16 state budget in the wake of Wolf's Tuesday veto of a GOP-backed $30.2 billion spending plan, rank and file lawmakers will be back in their legislative districts awaiting a call to return to Harrisburg.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said starting next week, the legislative leaders and top-level staff will meet with Wolf Administration officials trying to narrow their differences.  "But I anticipate once we have an agreement on a budget document the members will be back in 24 hours to start the legislative clock running to get it moving," Reed said, following a meeting with the governor and other legislative leaders on Wednesday about what happens now.

Wolf budget vs. GOP budget: How much money would your school district get?
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 7:30 pm | Updated: 8:20 am, Wed Jul 1, 2015.
All Lancaster County school districts would get more money under competing state budget plans, but most districts would see smaller increases in a plan put forth by Republicans than in Gov. Tom Wolf's pitch.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg want to boost education spending and enact a new formula for distributing money to schools. But they disagree on how much money to give districts in 2015-16, where to get the money, and when to start using the formula.

Analyzing what's ahead in Pennsylvania budget stalemate
Morning Call By Steve Esack and Sam Janesch Call Harrisburg Bureau July 1, 2015
HARRISBURG — The Capitol awoke Wednesday, a day removed from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's historic complete veto of a Republican-driven budget, and life went on as usual.
There were no suspensions of service or workers' pay.
There were no mass protests or pickets.
There were no compromises.
But this show cannot go on forever. It's financially impossible.
This stalemate eventually will affect services and programs in state government, school districts, nonprofits and businesses if the administration and Legislature do not give in on some financial and political policies for the fiscal year that began Wednesday.  "Bottom line, both sides at this point have pretty hardened positions," said G. Terry Madonna, political science professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. "But everyone knows they have to reach some accommodation."

Expect drawn-out state budget impasse, Pa. political analysts say
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 11:36 p.m.
HARRISBURG — A deep ideological divide between Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf portends a protracted budget impasse without a state spending plan in place, political analysts said Wednesday.  “The Republicans are acting like Republicans, and Wolf is acting like the progressive Democratic liberal he is,” said Colleen Sheehan, a political science professor at Villanova University and former GOP House member.  More than a battle over issues, it's a standoff between “believers,” she said. “This is the divide in America today. We are at a crossroads.”  “I see it being a protracted problem. It just seems ideologies on the two sides are just too far apart,” said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University in Chester.
How does the lack of a Commonwealth budget affect school district budget requirements?
PSBA website July 1, 2015
As explained below, the answer to this question is a great example of a classic statutory “Catch-22.” The bottom line is that if the school board has not yet adopted a final budget for the new fiscal year, it should not delay any further. While the failure of the Commonwealth to adopt a budget on time may excuse school boards from strict compliance with the normal timelines, there is no practical advantage in delaying, and some significant potential disadvantages. Naturally, a budget adopted without benefit of knowing what the district’s state subsidy allocations will be must rely on very conservative assumptions that do not assume those state allocations will be any greater than they were in the prior fiscal year.
The School Code requires school districts to adopt final budgets and tax levies for the ensuing fiscal year no later than June 30, except in districts using a fiscal year beginning January 1. As a limited exception, when the General Assembly fails to enact the state budget by June 15, Section 671 of the School Code authorizes school districts to delay adopting the district budget up to 15 days after the Commonwealth’s budget is enacted, even if that goes beyond June 30. The requirement to give at least ten days public notice of intent to take final action on the budget still applies. The School Code also requires that all taxes be levied before the end of June, but allows an extension of up to 20 days after the Commonwealth’s budget is enacted.  The catch is that without a district budget, once the new fiscal year begins on July 1, the district cannot spend any money, whether derived from local or state revenue sources. A school district has no spending authority unless it has a budget in place, and it is illegal to spend money except as budgeted. School officials risk personal liability for making or approving unlawful expenditures.

Letters: The risks of the new Pa. schools oversight plan
Philly Daily News Letter by KATE SHAW & JOHN SLUDDEN Thursday, July 2, 2015, 12:16 AM
Kate Shaw is executive director and John Sludden is a policy analyst at Research for Action, a nonprofit education-research organization in Philadelphia.
EDUCATION is front and center as Pennsylvania's budget heads into overtime. A key element in this debate is whether additional school funding should be tied to new accountability measures in the form of House Bill 1225 and Senate Bill 6, both of which would allow a more forceful state hand in governing the state's lowest performing schools. (S.B. 6 passed the Senate on a party-line, 27-22 vote on Sunday evening.)  In the abstract, linking increased funding with oversight makes sense; however, this particular proposal deserves careful scrutiny.  
The bills would create an Achievement School District governed by a newly established seven-member state board, with four Republican appointees and three Democrats. The Achievement School District would be empowered to take over the state's lowest performing schools and implement one or more of the following prescriptions: replace the school principal and at least half the staff, contract with an outside school operator, convert to a charter or close the school.
Achievement School Districts have become trendy nationally. Legislators in Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin proposed similar measures in the last few months alone. Versions of the policy have been established in Michigan, Louisiana and Tennessee in the last decade. While Research for Action does not take a stance for or against specific policy provisions, we can provide some perspective to help inform this conversation.
There are three central questions to consider regarding Pennsylvania's Achievement School District proposals:
1) What do we know about similar efforts elsewhere and whether they work?
2) Does Pennsylvania have the capacity to oversee the state's lowest performing schools effectively?
3) Is the state's system for identifying poor performers fair?
Unfortunately, answers to these questions raise a number of red flags.

“Truebright, which opened in 2007, is one of more than 120 charters nationwide founded and operated by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who lives in self-imposed exile in the Poconos.
Truebright charter won't reopen in fall
The troubled Truebright Science Academy Charter School in Olney will close after all.
Rather than take its legal fight for survival to the state Supreme Court, the charter's board decided Tuesday night to dissolve the school.  "They are going to wind down their operation and dissolve the entity," said Brian H. Leinhauser, the school's lawyer.  On Wednesday afternoon, Truebright administrators e-mailed parents to inform them of the decision. They also posted a notice on the school website announcing the closing.

New law attempts to add clarity to background checks law
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 01, 2015 at 5:26 PM, updated July 01, 2015 at 7:26 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation on Wednesday that clarifies which employees and adult volunteers are requiredbackground checks if they work around children.  The revisions to the Child Protective Services Law attempts to clear up some of the confusion surrounding who the law applies to in an effort to make it less onerous and more in line with the law's original intention of keeping kids safe.  Among the changes that this legislation makes to the background checks law that passed last year is it pushes back the start date for when new volunteers must obtain their criminal background checks and child abuse clearances to Aug. 25, from the original law's July 1 deadline.  It also extends the renewal period to five years, from three years. It puts into statute that starting July 25, state police criminal background checks and child abuse clearances are free for people seeking them strictly so they can volunteer. That saves each volunteer a total of $20.

How qualified are Pennsylvania's teachers? The numbers say extremely
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 15, 2015 12:00 AM
In the first year of many school districts using a new statewide teacher evaluation system, a greater portion of teachers was rated satisfactory than under the old system.  In figures released by the state Department of Education, 98.2 percent of all teachers were rated as satisfactory in 2013-14 — the highest percentage in five years — despite a new system that some thought would increase the number of unsatisfactory ratings.  In the four prior years, 97.7 percent of teachers were rated satisfactory in all but 2009-10, when 96.8 percent were. These figures count teachers in school districts, career and technical centers, intermediate units and charter schools.  Among other things, critics of the old system questioned whether too many of the state’s teachers were being rated satisfactory in a system that relied only on observation and had only two categories: satisfactory and unsatisfactory.  The new system uses a variety of measures for four performance categories, which determine satisfactory or unsatisfactory ratings.

Pittsburgh public school teachers earn higher grades in new ratings
Twice as many get ‘distinguished’ label
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 2, 2015 12:14 AM
Once again, about 97 percent of teachers in Pittsburgh Public Schools have been rated proficient or distinguished, but this time twice as many — nearly half of the teaching force — were rated distinguished, the top level.  The district today released the aggregate ratings for 1,699 preK-12 teachers in 2014-15 — the second official year under a new system mandated by the state.  It also released the first ratings using new state-mandated systems for 86 principals and other school leaders as well as for 335 counselors, social workers and other nonteaching professionals. Those in these two categories were rated highly as well, with more than 98 percent in each rated proficient or distinguished.

Unsanitary, unsafe conditions found in Philadelphia schools
Periodically, city officials shine a spotlight on the condition of school buildings in the School District of Philadelphia. Not for the first time, what they saw isn't pretty.  Inspectors from city Controller Alan Butkovitz's office visited 20 schools between October and March. Their findings, detailed in a report out Wednesday, included electrical hazards, water damage, and permanently clogged toilets in the sample of schools.

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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