Saturday, July 11, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 11: Wolf: "The people of PA want funding for education, and they support a common sense severance tax to pay for it."

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 11, 2015:
Wolf: "The people of Pennsylvania want funding for education, and they support a common sense severance tax to pay for it."

Amid criticism, Wolf, Republicans offer hints of compromise on budget
By Steve Esack and Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call July 10, 2015 5:45 p.m.
Amid criticism, Wolf, Republicans offer up hints of compromise on budget
On the 10th day of the state's budget impasse, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf visited a South Whitehall elementary school to drum up support for his $33.8 billion spending plan that would increase education funding and reduce local property taxes by raising a host of state taxes by a cumulative 16 percent.  "You need to make your voice heard," Wolf said Friday outside Cetronia Elementary. "The people of Pennsylvania want funding for education, and they support a common sense severance tax to pay for it."  About 110 miles away, some Republican lawmakers were at a York County school. They were explaining why they support a GOP-backed $30.1 billion budget, which Wolf has vetoed along with bills to sell the state liquor store system and change public pensions.  "It is time for the governor to start reading bills before vetoing them," Rep Stan Saylor, R-York, said in a statement. "The General Assembly sent him a budget bill that increases funding for our schools without the need for tax increases and forces state government to live within its means."  On Friday, prior to Wolf arriving at Cetronia Elementary School, he made a speech to the Pennsylvania American Legion convention at a downtown Harrisburg hotel.
Afterward, the governor told reporters he was willing to drop his stance on the need for higher income and sales taxes to raise education spending and end the years-long deficit.

Could delaying property tax discussions be the issue that helps to break Pa. budget logjam?
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 10, 2015 at 1:50 PM, updated July 10, 2015 at 2:42 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he doesn't do his negotiating in the press.  So bear in mind that what you're about to read wasn't so much an offer as an answer to a question.  But it may be an answer worth keeping an eye on as the Great 2015 Budget Stalemate slogs through July.  Wolf was saying Friday morning that you can't do real property tax relief for Pennsylvania homeowners without shifting much of the burden for funding local school to the state personal income or sales tax.  "I don't know any way we can have real property tax relief without it (increases in those two, broad-based state taxes)," said Wolf, who has proposed raising the income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent and the sales tax from 6 percent t0 6.6 percent to do just that. 

Gov. Wolf to budget supporters: 'I need your help'
By Sarah Cassi | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 10, 2015 at 3:45 PM, updated July 10, 2015 at 4:28 PM
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf came calling Friday in South Whitehall Township, selling his proposed state budget and asking for help.  "I need your help. This is a democracy, this is a shared responsibility," Wolf said in the parking lot outside Cetronia Elementary School, home of the Hedgehogs.  If residents support his budget, Wolf said, "I need (the legislators) to hear it from you." Wolf vetoed a $30.2 billion document passed solely by Republican state lawmakers. The state's new fiscal year began July 1.

Governor Wolf willing to explore tax alternatives
WITF Written by The Associated Press | Jul 10, 2015 12:54 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf says he'll listen to ways to wipe out a long-term deficit and increase education aid without raising sales or income taxes, which Republicans oppose.  Wolf says he's willing to explore ideas, as long as Pennsylvania state government's deficit is addressed honestly and without what he calls "smoke and mirrors.''   The Wolf administration is on day 10 of the new fiscal year without signed budget legislation that gives it the authority to pay all of its bills.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said earlier in the week the stalemate will last for as long as Wolf insists on higher income or sales taxes to support state spending.   But Wolf vetoed the Republicans' budget bill, saying it felt short of his priorities and used unacceptable stopgaps. 

"We had more than a few companies coming to Pennsylvania who were amazed that we had no [shale gas] severance tax," Hanger said of his time as environment secretary in the Rendell administration. "Privately, they thought Pennsylvania was being a chump for not having one."
Wolf, shale industry do battle over proposed severance tax
ANDREW MAYKUTH LAST UPDATED: Saturday, July 11, 2015, 1:07 AM
The shale gas industry and allies of Gov. Wolf ratcheted up rhetoric this week over a key component of the state's stalemated budget debate: Imposition of a severance tax on natural gas production.  The Marcellus Shale Coalition says the proposed tax is the harshest in a series of hostile actions the Wolf administration has taken against the gas industry, one of the state's better-performing economic sectors in the last decade.

From booze to pensions, here's how the #PaBudget fits into a bigger battle with Big Labor: Friday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 10, 2015 at 8:30 AM, updated July 10, 2015 at 8:32 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
The Internetz aren't cooperating with us here atPennLive World HQ this morning, so we're going to keep things short and sweet. If you read yesterday's post, then you've probably caught onto the fact that organized labor has a huge stake in Budget Impasse 2015.  From the debate over school funding to pension reform and booze privatization, the key issues of the fight over Gov. Tom Wolf's nearly $34 billion spending plan hit Big Labor where it lives.

State budget stalemate: 9 ideas on how to resolve it
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | July 10, 2015, 4:01PM
Pennsylvania is now in its second week without a state budget and the sides are still pretty steadfast in their positions. So we asked some longtime Capitol observers – including some who have been in the throes of past state budget disagreements as well as those who have reported on them – what they see as a possible way to break through the impasse. Here is what they had to say.

Wolf, GOP remain at odds
York Dispatch By GREG GROSS 505-5433/@GGrossYD  07/10/2015 05:24:35 PM EDT
A group of House Republicans from York and surrounding counties blasted Gov. Tom Wolf's recent veto of the state budget and other GOP-driven bills.  Friday, the day the Republicans gathered at the York County School of Technology in York Township for a news conference, marked the 10th day Pennsylvania has been without a budget, Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, noted.  When the state's 2014-15 fiscal year ended last week, Wolf vetoed a $30.2 billion Republican budget and a separate GOP-crafted bill to privatize Pennsylvania's state-controlled liquor and wine sales.  On Thursday, Wolf also vetoed a bill that Republicans say would have reformed pension plans for future state and school employees.  "To date, the governor has vetoed all these measures and refused to compromise," said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.  More than 20 local Democrats, some holding signs — some of which had "Tax shale to fund schools" written on them — turned out to demonstrate at the news conference. As it came to a close, some in the crowd chanted "No more (former Gov. Tom) Corbett budgets," in reference to the Republican-backed budget.

What’s The Latest Poll Say? July 10, 2015
PCCY Media Library July 10, 2015
Yesterday households across the state received an email from some Republican House lawmakers asking recipients to take a poll on various state tax and spending proposals.  Among the questions one sticks out as particularly poor form.  It reads, The governor is proposing $506 million in new K-12 spending, with nearly 32% of that money going to the Philadelphia School District… do you agree with this? 
It’s pretty outrageous that any state elected official would use a citizen survey to foment hostility toward one of the most distressed school districts in the nation that educates the largest number of poor and minority students in the Commonwealth.
Better yet, if the Representatives had used the survey to inform the recipients that Philadelphia weathered 32% of the education funding cuts imposed in FY 2011, they could claim some reliability with the answers.
Some area Republican lawmakers let PCCY know off the record that they were uncomfortable with the question.  We’ve also heard that constituents are calling the lawmakers’ offices and are pretty hot about the Philly bashing.   And, for the record, State Representative Bill Adolph from Springfield, Delaware County stands out from the crowd because he dropped the question entirely from the survey that he sent out!  Kudos to Rep. Adolph!
One of the loudest voices in the state legislature’s Philly-bashing crowd is State Representative Stan Saylor from York County.  Rep. Saylor has been mounting an aggressive attack on the Wolf Administration’s proposal to restore state education cuts because the Philadelphia School District could nearly rebound from the FY 2011 state aid cuts.
PCCY has a survey question that we think makes more sense for residents of the state. Would you support new funds going to school districts that received increased state school aid over the last fifteen years despite dramatic declines in student enrollment?  That’s the situation in Southeastern York, just one of the many districts in State Representative Stan Saylor’s legislative district.  There student enrollment dropped by 12% in the last fifteen years but state funding rose by $2.4 million in the same period.
Representative Saylor is not alone in having districts with fewer students receiving more state funding.  Representative Daryl Metcalfe, the standard bearer of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, represents South Butler school district that lost 13% of its students in the last 15 years, while its state funding grew by $1.2 million.
For those keeping score, Philadelphia’s student population grew by 4% in the last 15 years

"The reason for this massive difference can be traced directly to the unwillingness of many lawmakers in Harrisburg to even consider a severance tax.
With Pennsylvania being the only major gas-producing state without one, Gov. Wolf has proposed a reasonable 5 percent plus 4.7 cents per 1,000 feet of volume tax. This is in line with the severance tax implemented in neighboring West Virginia. Yet in budget talks over the last few weeks, lawmakers in leadership positions repeatedly refused to consider a severance tax of any kind.
This type of stonewalling can only be attributed to two things — either some lawmakers are intent on fighting Governor Wolf just for the sake of fighting, or their relationship with the Marcellus Shale lobby is too solid to rock the boat."
Guest Editorial: Budget must take aim at education
The Sentinel Guest Editorial by Susan Spicka July 09, 2015 9:00 am
Susan Spicka is Advocacy Coordinator for Education Voters of PA
When Pennsylvania voters elected Gov. Tom Wolf last November, they put their faith in someone they knew would fight for public education — reverse the damaging cuts made to schools over the last four years, and invest in every level, from pre-K to college.  That’s exactly what Gov. Wolf did in his first budget proposal, dedicating $1 billion this year with a pledge to invest $2 billion over four years — funded through a commonsense severance tax on oil and natural gas extraction. Unfortunately, the recent budget that was proposed has — once again — demonstrated misguided priorities: it caters to special interests at the expense of Pennsylvania’s public school children.  Gov. Wolf vetoed this budget plan, first and foremost, because it failed to fix our schools. The budget passed by the Republican House and Senate members only provided an additional $8 million for public education. That’s less than 2 percent of the $500 million for basic and special education proposed by the governor, and needed to restore the cuts to education over the last four years.

"The ramifications of this election, however, are quite substantial because the Supreme Court consists of five judges. Since the people will be able to vote to radically shift the ideology of the court, it becomes increasingly important to know where the candidates are receiving that money, especially since one of the consistent criticisms against the direct election of jurors highlights the need for candidates to fundraise from large donors and special interests."
Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidates spent $1.1M on ads in two weeks by JONAH HAHN, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION Friday, July 10, 2015, 9:38 AM
In Pennsylvania, candidates heavily fundraised and advertised aggressively in the lead-up to May’s primary election for the three open seats on the commonwealth’s Supreme Court. A Sunlight Foundation analysis of documents obtained through its Political Ad Sleuth tool reveals that candidates bought over $1.1 million worth of television advertisements in just the two weeks leading up to the primary.  The election narrowed the field down to six candidates: Kevin Dougherty, David Wecht, Christine Donohue, Judith Olson, Mike George and Anne Covey. Although information on Donohue could not be obtained, the other five actively purchased ad spots. According to financial disclosure reports, Dougherty spent over $531,000 on three media buys during that final period of time, by far the most amount of money. This gap in spending between Dougherty and the field is consistent with the earlier findings of the Brennan Center.

Layoffs, deficit raise new questions about ASPIRA charters in Philly
WHYY Newsworks BY BILL HANGLEY JULY 10, 2015
A multimillion dollar budget deficit and an unannounced round of layoffs has left Philadelphia School District officials with more questions than ever about the finances and management of one of its largest charter providers, ASPIRA Inc.  ASPIRA recently announced dozens of layoffs at Olney High School, a 1,600-student neighborhood Renaissance school in the Olney section of North Philadelphia. A total of 36 staff members were released – including 22 classroom teachers and 14 instructional aides – due to a $2.7 million deficit.
In the wake of those layoffs, which will increase class sizes from the low twenties to as many as 33 students per class, ASPIRA officials say they're confident that the school can maintain its current levels of academic performance.  But teachers say that's a dubious proposition, given the challenges of managing larger classes with diminished support for Olney's neediest students.  And district officials say they're actively investigating the origins of Olney's current deficit, even as they continue to seek answers from ASPIRA about a number of other longstanding financial concerns. ASPIRA officials have said that Olney's deficit springs from various changes in pension-funding laws, but district officials say they cannot confirm that at this time.  The stakes are high for ASPIRA, which runs five charters and has been held up by district officials as one of the city's top-performing operators. It was hand-picked last year to take over the Muñoz-Marín Elementary school.

The book — “Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out” — is edited by T. Jameson Brewer, a former TFA corps member and and a doctoral student in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Kathleen deMarrais, professor and head of the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia’s School of Education.
The editors of the book say they view it as a counter-narrative to that given by the organization, and it reveals some of the problems within the structure of TFA that they believe hurt teachers and students. Following is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of the book by Wendy Chovnick, a former corps member in Washington, D.C. schools,  who also served as chief of staff to the executive director in the Phoenix TFA office. You can read more about her experiences here, in this interview I did with her in 2013.
‘Good Intentions Gone Bad’ — excerpt from new book about Teach For America
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 10 at 10:14 AM  
A new book about  the 25-year-old Teach For America tells the story of the controversial organization through the eyes of alumni who share their experiences and insight about working in TFA.  TFA was founded by Wendy Kopp based on her 1989 Princeton Universityexperience — and it has become a powerful force in the corporate school reform movement, winning tens of millions of dollars from the U.S. Education Department and millions more from private philanthropists to continue its work.  It became famous for its program of recruiting thousands of new college graduates and giving them five weeks of training in the summer before sending them into high-poverty schools to work as teachers (not interns), leading to criticism that their corps members were not properly prepared for teaching high-needs students and that they were being recruited by school districts at the expense of veteran teachers. As growing criticism and a polarized education reform debate has harmed TFA recruiting, the organization has been experimenting with new training programs.

How Much Tougher Is Common Core?
The controversial standards are challenging states—and students—to reach a higher bar of achievement.
The Atlantic by MIKHAIL ZINSHTEYN  JUL 10, 2015
In an early glimpse of how much tougher state tests could be in the Common Core era, a new federal report released in July shows that early adopters of the controversial standards are assessing their students using far higher bars of difficulty.  While this new report is unlikely to settle the battle between Common Core advocates and foes, it does indicate that one of the original purposes of the standards—challenging students in math and reading more so they’ll be better prepared for the rigors of college and  their careers—seems to be proving fruitful. But tougher tests aren’t contingent on adopting the Common Core: Texas, one of the few states that has eschewed the standards, is also among the few states using tests that are much more challenging.  The Common Core adopters Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina joined Texas in offering tough math and English tests to its fourth- and eighth-graders.  Though the report, released by the National Center on Education Statistics, contains many moving parts, its basic premise is that because states set their own rules for testing difficulty, those rules—or “cut scores”—should be compared to a common yardstick. The U.S. has such a benchmark: The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the gold standard in measuring how much students know and viewed by many if not most education experts as a more exhaustive assessment than anything the states offer.

EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - Sunday, July 12 at 3:00 p.m. 
Part 1: Discussion on the Financial Condition of School Districts in Pennsylvania
Jay D. Himes, Executive Director, PA Association of School Business Officials and
Dr. Tim Shrom, Business Manager, Solanco School District
Part 2: An Interview with Dr. Don Francis, President, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania
All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell
Visit the EPLC and the Pennsylvania School Funding Project web sites for various resources related to education and school funding issues.
"Focus on Education" is a monthly program focusing on education issues in Pennsylvania. The program has most recently covered topics including  the National Math + Science Initiative; Pennsylvania's Political and Legislative Landscape and Its Implications for Funding Education; Ethics in School Districts, the Role of Intermediate Units, Reactions to Governor Wolf's 2015-2016 State Education Budget Proposal; and Physical Education and Health Education Issues for Students. Past programs are posted on the EPLC site.
"Focus on Education" airs on the second Sunday of each month at 3:00 p.m. EST on Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) and then airs again several times throughout the same month.

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award now open
PSBA July 7, 2015
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  The 2015 Allwein Award nomination process will close on Aug. 28, 2015. The 2015 Allwein Award Nomination Form is available online. More details on the award and nominations process can be found online

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.

Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Formula Video
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association gives an overview of the newly proposed Basic Education Funding Formula.

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 »

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