Monday, July 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 13: Senate Expected to Finish Work on NCLB Rewrite This Week

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3700 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 July 13, 2015:
Senate Expected to Finish Work on NCLB Rewrite This Week

Did you catch our weekend postings?
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."
Saturday, July 11, 2015

Outlook: Long-Debated Education Bill on Path to Conference
This week's main event is the expected Senate passage of a No Child Left Behind rewrite.
National Journal BY FAWN JOHNSON July 12, 2015 
Don't look now, but the Senate is actually having a constructive debate on a contentious issue.  In an environment that has been tense and marked by bullying on everything from defense spending to trade policy to the fate of the Export-Import Bank, the Senate's debate over a carefully negotiated bipartisan education bill has gone remarkably smoothly. The chamber has held dozens of votes on amendments, some of which were controversial and voted down, and accepted dozens more without conflict. Everyone seems to be breathing a sigh of relief.  The Senate is expected to finish its work on the education bill this week, marking a major milestone for educators and advocates who have been looking for a rewrite of No Child Left Behind for eight years. The House passed its more-conservative version of the legislation last week, with an eye toward a conference committee with the Senate. Democrats oppose the House version, but they also know that it can't move any further to the right in conference if President Obama is expected to sign it.

Sen. Casey pushes for funding for early education
York Dispatch By JESSICA SCHLADEBECK 505-5438/@JessDispatch POSTED:   07/13/2015 12:40:09 AM EDT
An amendment to the No Child Left Behind act, one that is expected to face a vote in the Senate sometime this week, could provide more than $30 billion to be invested in voluntary, locally driven pre-K programs.  U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., introduced the amendment, which would fund universal pre-kindergarten classes by ending the corporate inversions tax loophole that allows American companies to claim they are headquartered overseas and, ultimately, avoid taxes.  "Upon enactment, it would provide an innovative federal and state partnership to improve early learning," Casey said.  The amendment would provide more than $30 billion in paid-for mandatory formula and grant funding to states for high-quality, full-day preschool for 4-year-old children from families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that would be an annual income of $48,500.  Pennsylvania could see $817 million over five years, serving an estimated 93,930 children, according to Casey's office.

How Did PA Senators Casey and Toomey Vote on the First of Several Voucher Amendments Considered for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act?

“Our students deserve the best education possible, but our public education has become overly burdened by standardized tests,” he said. “Frustrated teachers and parents – not to mention students – are all saying the same thing. We need to do something about excessive testing in our public schools.  “My bipartisan amendment provides a solution to many of the redundant, low-quality and unnecessary testing,” he said. “It will empower teachers and parents by enabling already-existing federal funds to state and local education agencies to develop curriculum plans to make better use of tests for the student.  “I have heard from teachers, students, and administrators from across the Sixth District on the burdens of redundant and excessive testing in our schools, and my amendment helps to address this concern,” said Costello, who has frequently pointed to his own family’s role as local educators.
New education bill has Costello amendment
West Chester Daily Local By Michael P. Rellahan,, @ChescoCourtNews on Twitter POSTED: 07/11/15, 2:58 PM EDT
Legislation that would re-write the so-called No Child Left Behind education law adopted by Congress during the Bush Administration has narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives, containing an amendment co-authored by a Chester County legislator.  U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th, of West Chester and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, wrote an amendment to the new bill that would scale back what they called excessive standardized testing in public schools.  Following passage of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act on Wednesday, Costello issued a statement about its importance, and his amendment’s intended effect.

"The legislation passed by the House this week also includes language authored by Meehan that gives more flexibility to local school boards. The language prohibits the Department of Education from creating burdensome regulations and reporting requirements inconsistent with the stated intent of the law.  Both provisions were added as amendments to the House-passed Student Success Act in the 113th Congress and included in the underlying text of the bill passed by the House today."
House Education Bill Includes Meehan Proposals to Protect Students from Predators, Give Flexibility to Districts
Congressman Meehan Press Release Jul 9, 2015 
WASHINGTON, DC– An education bill passed by the House this week includes language authored by Rep. Patrick Meehan that prevents school districts from facilitating the out-of-state transfer of employees who have abused children.  H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The legislation was approved by the House on Wednesday evening. The legislation ends the practice of interstate confidentiality agreements between schools and child sex abusers.

Blogger's note: it is anticipated that the PA Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the pending school funding lawsuit sometime this fall…..
"The winners could play a role in deciding state policy on issues such as school funding, labor regulations, and the death penalty. They also could change the court's political make-up, now 3-2 in favor of Republicans, with two vacancies."
Money makes a difference in state judge races
How many lawyers does it take to fund a Supreme Court race?
Almost a thousand, according to recently filed documents that provide a detailed picture of who gave to whom in this year's race for three seats on the state's high court.  Why they gave - and what the benefits may be - are not always clear.  Among the lawyers who collectively gave about $1.5 million to judicial candidates are some who likely will eventually represent clients before the state's high court.  The host of litigators is joined by political action committees, unions, business owners, and regular folks who, from Jan. 1 to June 8, made 4,130 contributions totaling $5.6 million in a state that has no limits on individual spending.  Money is essential in typically low-profile judicial races to build name recognition, and 12 candidates spent at least $2.7 million on advertising, primarily television, before the May 19 primary.  Now Democrats Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty, and David Wecht and Republicans Anne Covey, Judy Olson, and Michael George will compete for 10-year terms on the court.

Editorial: It’s time for compromise in Harrisburg
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 07/11/15, 10:08 PM EDT
Tom Wolf stormed into the governor’s mansion vowing to be a different kind of governor.  Well, if you’re comparing him to his predecessor, Republican Tom Corbett, he’s been good to his word. That’s not necessarily a good thing.  Regardless of what else you think about Corbett, one thing he did manage to do was something his predecessor, Democrat Ed Rendell, did not. Corbett delivered four consecutive budgets – on time and without a tax hike.  Of course, it very well may have been those austere spending plans that opened the door for his exit. Wolf believed he came to Harrisburg with a mandate for change.  Unfortunately, voters who could not wait to dump the unpopular Corbett did not do the Democrat Wolf any favors when it comes to the Legislature. Republicans actually increased their majorities in both the House and Senate.

Wolf willing to explore sales, income tax hike alternatives
WPXI By MARC LEVY The Associated Press Posted: 2:48 p.m. Friday, July 10, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that he would listen to ways to wipe out a long-term deficit and increase education aid without raising sales or income taxes, but he also insisted that the deficit be addressed honestly and without what he calls "smoke and mirrors."  Wolf's comments to reporters, following a speech to the Pennsylvania American Legion convention at a downtown Harrisburg hotel, came on the 10th day his administration is without signed budget legislation that gives it the authority to pay all of its bills in the new fiscal year.  A key sticking point identified earlier in the week by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman was Wolf's insistence on an income or sales tax increase to support state spending. Asked if he could get what he wanted for education and the deficit without raising income or sales taxes, Wolf, a Democrat, said he was not sure.  "I don't know how you do that, but I'd like to see," Wolf said. "There might be some ways and I'd be happy to work with ways" to do it.  He added that budget-makers must be honest about a long-term budget deficit that has prompted rating agency downgrades and left Pennsylvania's creditworthiness in the nation's basement.  "We can't use smoke and mirrors that we've used in the past," Wolf said. "We've got to get to it in a real way to a balanced budget. I'm willing to talk about things, but I haven't heard anything yet."
Negotiations were at a standstill Friday, with no new talks scheduled.

Almost time to get serious about the state budget
Pottstown Mercury By Peter Jackson, The Associated Press POSTED: 07/11/15, 12:23 PM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> It’s almost time to get serious at the Pennsylvania Capitol.
Almost, because this is only the second week that the state government has been operating without a budget — not long enough for most taxpayers to feel the legal constraints on spending $30 billion-plus of their money they rightfully expect to see invested in programs and services this year.  There’s still time for the Republicans who control the Legislature and freshman Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to come to terms on a compromise budget before the stalemate becomes a crisis.  But there had been time before the fiscal year ended June 30, too, and both sides spent it mostly talking past each other. Ultimately, Wolf vetoed a rash of bills the Legislature’s Republican majority passed without input from Wolf or Democrats.  Amid growing anxiety among nonprofits and county agencies over a potentially lengthy disruption of money that supports the state’s social-services safety net, there’s no indication of a restart of budget talks or that positions are softening.

"It all overshadows the fact that lawmakers and Wolf have staked out some common ground on the property tax issue, no matter how rough the rhetoric gets."
Pennsylvania budget impasse drowns out property tax relief conversation
By Andrew Staub | PA Independent July 13, 2015
Finding a way to give Pennsylvania homeowners relief from their school property taxes is hard enough on its own, but doing it during a budget impasse that’s lurched two weeks into July is even more difficult.  While there’s some consensus on how to shift billions of dollars of school funding onto other taxes, Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf are fighting over the budget and other complicated issues, such as privatizing wine and liquor sales, public pension reform and more taxes on the gas-drilling industry.  Adding property tax reform to the list might be putting too much on the plate of a Legislature that will never be accused of moving quickly, said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College.  “I think it’s the least likely of all the things that are being discussed to take place because you don’t have to have the budget contingent on it,” he said.  Wolf vetoed a GOP budget that didn’t raise taxes and ignored his top priorities, property tax relief among them. He also vetoed a Republican liquor privatization plan and followed that Thursday with a veto of the party’s pension reform bill, a move that only further inflamed discord at the Capitol.

To get a #PaBudget deal - go for what you need, not what you want: Tony May
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tony May on July 12, 2015 at 11:15 AM
How do you resolve the current budget stalemate now that we are a week and a half into the new fiscal year without a legal state spending plan?  Quick. Take a yellow legal pad and draw a vertical line dividing the sheet into two equal halves.   Head the left column with "Three things the Governor wants."  Head the right hand column with "Three things the GOP leaders want."  Put this in column one: Extraction tax on Marcellus Shale; More money for basic education and tax reform.  In the GOP column write: Liquor reform; pension reform and no major new taxes  We know this has to be the basic list for each side because they broadcast their demands early and often. 

Meet Tom Wolf, the James Bond villain Dr. No: Charlie Gerow
PennLive Op-Ed  By Charlie Gerow on July 12, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Thirty years ago the "bible" for negotiators was "Getting to Yes," the work product of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  Its premise is that "principled negotiators" can find acceptable solutions by determining which needs are fixed and which are flexible.  The book, which appeared on Business Week's "Best-Seller" list for more than three years, said that principled negotiation was based on several propositions, including separating people from the problem and insisting on using objective criteria.  As we head into the hot days of summer without any sign of white smoke from the budget enclave chimney, the 200-page volume should be mandatory reading.
A sequel, "Getting Past No," should be on the list, too. Sadly, that's where we're stuck right now.

"The Republican-authored budget passed on party-line votes by the House and Senate-- that Wolf rightfully vetoed --  is the kind of budget Pennsylvanians might have expected if former Gov. Tom Corbett had been reelected."
Gov. Wolf has compromised - your turn Republicans: Kevin J. Schreiber
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 12, 2015 at 1:00 PM
State Rep. Kevin J. Schreiber, a Democrat, represents the York County-based 95th House District.
Gov. Tom Wolf's original budget proposal promised real action on longstanding policy problems that politicians from both parties had long given lip service without action, and for which Pennsylvanians across the political spectrum had long been asking.  These included new investments in our schools and students, an end to over-reliance on property taxes that burden homeowners and harm communities, and an end to gimmick-based budgeting that results in perennial deficits and harmful credit downgrades for Pennsylvania.  While disagreement and debate on a large and complex budget are natural and desirable, the refusal to even consider Wolf's policy priorities  or to seek common ground is unacceptable.

Veto override tough proposition for GOP as Pa. budget impasse drags on
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Sunday, July 12, 2015, 9:30 p.m.
HARRISBURG — If a state budget impasse continues, conservative Democrats eventually will be willing to join Republicans and override Gov. Tom Wolf's veto of a no-tax-hike budget, House Speaker Mike Turzai predicts.  In an interview with the Tribune-Review, the Marshall Republican said he couldn't predict when that might happen, although observers say privately they suspect pressure will ratchet up on Wolf and lawmakers by August when nonprofits run low on cash and lawmakers' reserve funds dwindle.  “It's very difficult to say” whether so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats — mostly Western Pennsylvania conservatives — would support a veto override, said their leader, Rep. Nick Kotik of Coraopolis.  “It's pretty tough for a lot of guys, going against the governor,” Kotik said. He has said many don't support boosting state taxes.
Pa. tweaks law on background checks for those working with kids
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON JULY 13, 2015
Administrative staff, certain volunteers, and university employees are no longer required by Pennsylvania law to be fingerprinted and submit to criminal history and child abuse-background checks.  The tweaks to the child protection law were signed by Gov. Tom Wolf  July 1.  Lawmakers had beefed up background-check requirements last legislative session in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. But some groups thought the changes went too far – such as university professors who balked at having to be fingerprinted in order to teach their 17-year-old students.  Others were confounded by the employment descriptions lawmakers used to determine who would need the background checks. Schools weren't sure if parent volunteers would need clearances. Fire companies couldn't tell if their "junior firefighters" program meant all firefighters would need to be fingerprinted.  "We thought we'd been specific ... giving kind of generalized definitions of who would need a background check," said Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks, who sponsored the changes. "We really weren't. It still confused people."
The new law clarifies that only those who are direct supervisors and responsible for the welfare of children must get the background check.

See the Numbers: Local school superintendents' pay edges up
Lancaster Online By GIL SMART | Staff Writer Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2015 7:00 am | Updated: 8:52 am, Sun Jul 12, 2015.
Damaris Rau’s first day as superintendent at the School District of Lancaster is Monday.  The first in her family to attend college, she will be the first Latina superintendent in the district’s history.  And she’ll mark another first, too: At a salary of $181,000 for 2015-16, Rau tops the list of highest-paid local school superintendents.  Just last year, she would have been in third place. But since then, the highest-compensated superintendents in Lancaster County — former Hempfield superintendent Brenda Becker and Rau’s predecessor in Lancaster, Pedro Rivera — have stepped down.  Despite the departure of the highest-paid superintendents in the county, the average salary for local school chiefs continues to rise. The average figure at the 11 area districts that have set the superintendent’s salary for the 2015-16 school year is $156,615.  In 2012-13, the average salary for superintendents at all 17 districts that serve Lancaster County students was $144,701.

Inky Editorial: Pay price to educate
It's hard to argue with an independent arbitrator's recent ruling that the School Reform Commission must provide a full-time counselor for every Philadelphia school. The need is glaring and should be a priority. But putting the decision in the context of the School District's poor financial condition provides a different perspective.  It's too bad the arbitrator didn't issue his opinion until after City Council began its summer recess. Maybe the need to restore more of the 283 counselor positions vacated to save money in 2013 would have prompted Council to meet the district's request for an additional $103 million. Council budgeted only $70 million more.  Council won't reconvene until Sept. 10, which means the city schools have joined other Pennsylvania districts in shifting their attention to Harrisburg. The prognosis for relief there is guarded, with Gov. Wolf so far failing to get a Republican-dominated legislature to agree with his plan to add $1 billion to the education budget.

York City schools could be affected by proposed second state school-recovery process
Some question what it could mean in York, because city schools already has state intervention
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   07/11/2015 09:24:56 AM EDT
The York City School District already has state intervention as a result of past financial problems, but if a legislative proposal passes, some of its schools could end up in a second state-controlled process that could conceivably revive talk of charter schools.  Senate Bill 6 would create the Achievement School District, a state-run district that would have the ability to take over individual schools that fall among the state's lowest-performing. It would also give school districts some additional powers to take action in those schools. The bill has passed the Senate and now sits in the House education committee.  The state already has a recovery program, which York City School District is in, but that's for districts deemed in financial distress. The Senate bill would focus on academic performance.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker, the prime sponsor of the bill, said that if the state is going to drive additional money to needy schools, as a proposed funding formula would do, there's also a need to make sure those schools are improving.  "If we are going to provide additional resources, we ought to also provide as many tools as possible," to improve performance, he said.  But some have questions about the tools the bill would provide and how it would work in districts that are already seeing state intervention.

The US is on Track to Spend More on Interest Payments Than Investments in Kids
Corporation for Enterprise Development By Bruce Lesley, Guest Contributor on 06/24/2015
In this guest post, First Focus President Bruce Lesley describes the alarming trend in federal spending on children's programs. CFED President Andrea Levere spoke on a panel earlier today at the release of the First Focus "Children's Budget 2015," highlighting the potential for asset building and financial capability to improve the lives of children and their families.
The federal government makes more than 200 distinct investments in children. These include traditional children’s initiatives like education and child abuse and neglect prevention. They also include other investments that improve the lives of kids, like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).  Every year, First Focus publishes a Children’s Budget offering a detailed guide to federal spending on children and an invaluable resource for those seeking to improve the lives of America’s youth.

"Opponents of the program suggest that TFA corps members are replacing traditionally certified teachers, that TFA operationalizes and reinforces deficit ideologies about the students they work with by relying on a White-savior mentality, and that giving corps members only 18 hours of student teaching not only undermines the profession but hurts students.  More recently, others have pointed out that TFA has shifted entirely from focusing on teachers and teaching and more on influencing policy decisions as it seeks to install alumni of the organization as political puppets who work as principals, school board leaders, and other elected political positions."
Calling Out Teach for America's Myths
Huffington Post by T. Jameson Brewer Ph.D. Student, Researcher, Writer, Educator Posted: 07/10/2015 12:31 pm EDT Updated: 07/10/2015 12:59 pm EDT
Teach For America (TFA) turns 25 this year and, for at least the first 23 of those years, the organization was able to mark each year as a success as the organization grew in numbers, financial support, political clout, and wild public support. However, those years are slowly drawing to a close.  While TFA still receives tens of millions of dollars from the federal government and from private philanthropic organizations like the Walton Family Foundation -- an organization that benefits from systemic inequality and poverty yet is somehow interested in undermining the business of Wal-Mart by improving education (another conversation for another day) -- TFA has had a rough couple of years recently.  Notably, recruitment is down at TFA and they have shut down numerous offices and training sites throughout the U.S. (though, they continue to thrive internationally through the spin-off organization Teach For All). Much of TFA's current woes lie in the growing tide of criticism waged against the organization.

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
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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 »

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