Tuesday, July 14, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 14: Should schools receiving public tax dollars via EITC/OSTC tax credit programs be permitted to discriminate in hiring and firing practices?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 14, 2015:
Should schools receiving public tax dollars via EITC/OSTC tax credit programs be permitted to discriminate in hiring and firing practices?

Blogger commentary: PA legislators considering substantial increases in Pennsylvania's "successful" EITC/OSTC programs would do well to review today's news and opinions regarding the firing of what appears to be an experienced and well-qualified employee solely on the basis of her sexual orientation.  Perhaps Archbishop Chaput should consider the same level of responsibility, zeal and principle in returning those public tax dollars and refusing to accept any additional public funds, especially since they come at the expense, dollar for dollar, of every public school student in the state.

"The RAND study is believed to be the first of its kind at the state level. It follows a 2009 study by McKinsey & Co. that examined the impact of economic gaps on U.S. schools as a whole.  Pennsylvania performs quite well on such measures as students' test scores and graduation rates when stacked up against other states. But it has among the biggest disparities in performance among different demographic groups.  And it has the nation's widest gulf between spending in rich and poor school districts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics."
Rand Corp to Pa.: Closing achievement gaps worth big money
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 1:07 AM  POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2015, 5:34 PM
If Pennsylvania closed gaps in student achievement, the payoff would be enormous, according to a study released Monday. Had the Commonwealth wiped out achievement shortfalls based on race and ethnicity, family economic status, and parental education a decade ago, its gross domestic product would be as much as $44 billion higher and its students would sit near the top of U.S. and world rankings, according to the analysis by the RAND Corp.  The study, commissioned by Temple University's Center on Regional Politics, found that each group of Pennsylvania students stands to gain up to $5.1 billion in lifetime income earnings and overall benefit to society if graduation-rate gaps fall away.  "This puts precision on an intuitive feeling," said Joseph P. McLaughlin Jr., director of the center. "We have a potential to really give the economy a boost if we eliminate gaps going forward."  The work comes at a crucial time, with lawmakers in Harrisburg still unsettled on a state budget and an education-funding formula. A bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission has recommended that the state plow more money into supporting economically challenged students.

PA School Funding Lawsuit: PA Supreme Court Timeline
Thorough and Efficient website JULY 13, 2015BGRIMALDI2015LEAVE A COMMENT
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued a briefing schedule for the school funding lawsuit. We will file our brief by September 18, 2015. State officials will have 45 days to respond.

"Whether the religious-liberty principle applies to faith-based institutions that accept public money is under debate. Waldron Mercy, a 92-year-old private coed school with 532 students, has received more than $270,000 in state tax credits in the last two years, and more than 70 students have received financial aid since 2005 under a program called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, according to the school's website."
Chaput: Waldron right to fire gay teacher
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 1:07 AM POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2015, 3:25 PM
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Monday that the Mercy Sisters who run Waldron Mercy Academy showed "character and common sense" in firing a lesbian teacher who has been married since 2007.  In his first direct comment since the firing became public last week - after parents of two students found out about the marriage and complained - Chaput said in a statement, "Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief.  "There's nothing complicated or controversial in this. It's a simple matter of honesty.  "I'm very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the church. They've shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon."

Archbishop: School That Fired Gay Teacher Showed 'Character'
ABC News By MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — Jul 13, 2015, 4:07 PM ET
Roman Catholic school officials who fired a married gay teacher are not seeking controversy but showed "character and common sense" by following church teachings, Philadelphia's archbishop said Monday.  Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, in a statement, thanked Waldron Mercy Academy leaders "for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented ... in accord with the teaching of the church. They've shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon."  The church opposes gay marriage. Of homosexuals, Pope Francis has said: "Who am I to judge?"  Teacher Margie Winters recently told a newspaper that she lost her job last month as religious instruction director even though she had told the school about her same-sex marriage when she was hired in 2007. She was told she could be open about her marriage with faculty but not with parents at the school, Winters told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
"So that's what I've done," Winters said. "I've never been open. And that's been hard."  Nonetheless, she said, a few parents found out and complained to the school or the archdiocese. She was fired after she refused a request to resign, Winters said.  "In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current church teachings," Principal Nell Stetser said in a letter to parents obtained by the Inquirer, "but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings."

"Critics, including Gov. Tom Wolf, call this a "back door voucher" system; critics also maintain that the program directs public money to private schools with no oversight or regulations. Scholarships aren't limited to low-income students; currently, a family could be making over $100,000 a year and qualify.  The law says that the tax credits don't constitute public dollars, since the money never gets to the state's general fund, but is instead diverted to these programs. But taxpayers might think otherwise - since every dollar that goes to the tax credits is effectively siphoned from the revenue the state could be collecting. Last year, $150 million went to scholarships that allowed students to attend. That amount could increase to $250 million next year."
Scholarship program lacks oversight, social accountability
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2015, 12:16 AM
THE FIRING OF teacher Margie Winters by Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion on the basis of Winters' marriage to another woman comes at a time that guaranteed this to be a hot-button issue.  It's just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the legality of gay marriage, and months away from a visit from the pope, who is known for his messages of love, forgiveness and his suggestion of tolerance for gays. Layer this on top of many Catholics struggling to reconcile their faith against decades of church scandals involving child abuse by priests.  Many Waldron Mercy parents have rallied in support of Winters. Ultimately, resolving this issue will be up to the church and the school.  But there's another issue related to this incident that should concern us all: Waldron Mercy is the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars of state tax credits as part of a state program that allows companies to divert their corporate tax bill to support schools and scholarship funds that benefit students of private and parochial schools (as well as public schools). State Sen. Daylin Leach publicized the fact that this year alone, Waldron Mercy received nearly $200,000 in donations via the program.

Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput praises Waldron over firing of gay teacher
West Chester Daily Local By Andy Stettler, astettler@mainlinemedianews.com@andystettler on Twitter POSTED: 07/13/15, 1:24 PM EDT
Eleven days after a Waldron Mercy Academy director was allegedly fired for being in a same-sex marriage, the Philadelphia Archdiocese has said it had no involvment in the decision to fire the woman. In a statement released Monday, however, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput said he is “grateful” to those who made the desicion.  “Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief. There’s nothing complicated or controversial in this. It’s a simple matter of honesty,” Chaput writes.  I’m very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church. They’ve shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon,” Chaput writes.  Margie Winters, director of religious education, was fired this summer, according to a letter from the elementary school’s principal Nell Stetser.  Although the reasons for the firing have been kept confidential, Stetser refers to “life choices” as a potential reason for Winters’ termination.

Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC)
Waldron Mercy Academy website July 2015
The program provides tax credits to eligible businesses contributing to an Opportunity Scholarship Organization. Business contributions are then used by Opportunity Scholarship Organizations to provide tuition assistance in the form of scholarships to eligible students residing within the boundaries of a low-achieving school to attend another public school outside of their district or nonpublic school. A low-achieving school is defined as a public elementary or secondary school ranking in the bottom 15 percent of their designation as an elementary or secondary school based upon combined math and reading Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores.  Over the past two years, Waldron Mercy has received more than $270,000 in OSTC funds.  This has enabled us to award scholarships to more than 30 students for whom a WMA education would not otherwise have been possible.

Late afternoon budget meeting yields little progress toward compromise
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, July 13, 2015
A late afternoon budget negotiation session between legislative Republican leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf yielded little in terms of getting to a final budget product, but negotiators find some positive in that meetings will continue.  “[There is a] significant gulf,” said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) upon leaving the meeting. “The governor has not moved off of any of his massive tax increase proposals and it presents difficulty because the public does not support his tax increases and he doesn’t have the votes in the chambers for it.”  “That’s really it,” he said as he walked away from a gaggle of reporters.  However, it was Gov. Wolf who blamed Speaker Turzai for holding up negotiations—particularly as it relates to a natural gas severance tax, a key piece of the governor’s education funding plan.  “The thing that stunned me the most was the Speaker’s continued intransigence on the severance tax,” Gov. Wolf said of his takeaway from the meeting. “He’d rather do good things for his friends in the oil and gas industry than help find a way to fund schools.”  Gov. Wolf said the Speaker was “clearest” of all Republican negotiators in opposition to a natural gas severance tax.  That being said, as Republicans left the Monday afternoon negotiating session, those speaking to reporters expressed some level of skepticism toward a severance tax, though none explicitly said it’s off the table.

No budget breakthrough as Wolf, legislative Republicans meet
Morning Call By Mark Scolforo Of the Associated Press July 13, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf met in private Monday with leaders of the Republican majorities in the Legislature, but both sides reported no breakthrough in what has become a two-week budget standoff.  Wolf said afterward he wants to "move beyond the posturing" and toward more substantial discussions.  "Whatever we've been doing over the last however many months has not led to a very productive set of conversations," Wolf said.  Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, described the current level of acrimony as probably the highest he's seen, and he said it was coming from both sides. He was hard-pressed to describe any progress during the talks, which included a short private meeting at the end between him and the governor.  "Nobody got up and walked out of the room," Scarnati said. "I've been in budget meetings before where people just got up and (said) this meeting's over. That didn't happen, so look, I'm trying to see the glass is half full."

Wolf: GOP leader won't budge on shale tax
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2015, 6:38 PM
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf emerged from closed-door budget talks Monday saying he was "stunned" by what he called "the continued intransigence" of a top Republican legislator opposed to a new tax on natural-gas drillers.  Wolf said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), one of the legislature's most vocal opponents of the severance tax proposal, "would rather do good things for his friends in the oil and gas industry than help find a way to fund schools."  "We are not going to have a good future in Pennsylvania until we figure out how to fund schools," the governor said.

"Bravo, then to Wolf representing us against Royal Dutch Shell, PIOGA and BP. It is what he is supposed to do."
Wolf is right to push for a severance tax on Big Gas: Steve Todd
PennLive Op-Ed  By Steve Todd on July 13, 2015 at 2:00 PM, updated July 13, 2015 at 6:39 PM
Steve Todd is executive director of Todd Engineering LLC. 
In a recent op-Ed on PennLive, Louis D. D'Amico of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association claimed that "some in Harrisburg have commented that the severance tax is the "pelt" that the Wolf administration demands."  Who in Harrisburg calls it this?  I know a lot of folks in Harrisburg and have never heard one person call it anything except "our cut of the action", or "a severance tax".  Perhaps D'Amico and I know different people in Harrisburg.  The reason our Gov. Tom Wolf - whom Pennsylvanians elected by a landslide, some say as a protest vote against D'Amico's ally, former GOP  Gov. Tom Corbett - mentions this tax so often is because getting it is so important to us.    Bravo, then to Wolf representing us against Royal Dutch Shell, PIOGA and British Petroleum. It is what he is supposed to do.  Oil and gas should thrive or fail as the free market commands. It shouldn't do either, and should not have any more right to try than any other competitor, without paying its share of the take.  

Gov. Tom Wolf visits Pittsburgh to push for education funding
WPXI Posted: 3:40 p.m. Monday, July 13, 2015
PITTSBURGH —  Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was in Pittsburgh Monday, pushing for big changes to the budget proposal that currently has the state government at a standstill.
“We have underfunded education. We have played with the budget. We have done things the wrong way. We cannot keep doing that. We've got to stop it,” Wolf said.
During one of two stops in Pennsylvania Monday, Wolf spoke outside Ross Elementary School in the North Hills, attempting to sell his budget to voters.

Wolf promotes budget plan during visit to Bellefonte Area High School

 Pennsylvania residents have a serious choice to make, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday — a bright and promising future invested in education or one built on a plan that’s been tried and doesn’t work.  Wolf called out state lawmakers and residents during a stop at Bellefonte Area High School as part of his “Schools that Teach” tour — stops at school districts around the state with discussion focused on the four core elements facing Pennsylvania.  The first, he said, is the focus on investing in schools and education. Every child in the state needs a good education, he said, so we can have the economy we want.  “If we don’t invest in education, we’re not going to have good students,” he said. “We’re not going to have a good future. That’s just a fact.”
Investing in schools can be accomplished by the second element, he said — a “modest, reasonable severance tax” on the state’s flourishing gas industry.
Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/2015/07/13/4834012_wolf-promotes-budget-plan-during.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Wolf rallies for school funding in GOP Senate boss' district - tempers fray as budget standoff hits Week 3: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 13, 2015 at 1:05 PM
So how can you tell when things have taken a turn for the worse in the ongoing standoff over the state budget?  That'd be when Gov. Tom Wolf takes his"Schools That Teach" education funding tour deep into the home district of PennsylvaniaSenate Majority Leader Jake Corman and forgets to tell him that he'll be stopping by for tea, crumpets and heaping helping of rhetoric.  "I wasn't invited," a visibly peeved Corman, R-Centre, said during a quick conversation in his Capitol office this morning. "I found out about it late yesterday."  In case you're wondering why this matters, it's a longstanding tradition for governors and other elected officials to send advance word, and an invite, when they plan on holding an event in a lawmakers' district.

Hints of a stop-gap budget in Pa., but no big breakthrough
WHYY Newsworks by Mary Wilson, jJuly 14, 2015
A top Republican lawmaker suggested Monday that Pennsylvania may need a short-term budget as a compromise on a full spending plan proves elusive. "The Senate Republicans (and) the House Republicans don't want to see services for the most vulnerable in the commonwealth ... held up," said Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, as he emerged from a private meeting with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  The one-on-one meeting followed a larger confab between the governor and all four Republican legislative leaders.  "I'm open to all kinds of conversations," said Wolf after the meeting, when asked about his willingness to sign a stop-gap budget agreement.  Pennsylvania is entering its third week without a spending plan for the current fiscal year, and there is no apparent compromise on the horizon.

Republicans, Gov. Tom Wolf battle over proposed tax increases
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | calexandersen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 13, 2015 at 6:40 PM, updated July 13, 2015 at 8:35 PM
Republican lawmakers say the biggest proposal holding up budget negotiations is Gov. Tom Wolf's tax increases while the Democratic governor says it's unwilling negotiators.  Wolf met with Republican leaders Monday for ongoing budget negotiations after thegovernor vetoed the GOP-crafted budget in June. Republicans lawmakers criticized the governor for not compromising on his "massive" and "broad-based" tax increases.  Wolf has proposed increasing several taxes -- including those on sales and use, personal income, cigarettes and gas drilling -- to raise public education funding and provide for property taxes.  House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said Wolf's "massive tax increase" proposal presents difficulty in negotiating the budget. The public doesn't want their taxes increased and there's not enough support in the House or Senate to pass them anyway, Turzai said.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said the governor's "broad-based" tax increases have continued to be hold-out in moving forward with negotiations.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have been clear that they don't want to rely on broad-based tax increases for ongoing revenue.

House Democrats won't split with Gov. Wolf on budget, lawmaker says
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Monday, July 13, 2015, 5:21 p.m.
HARRISBURG — House Democrats from the Pittsburgh area won't cave in and vote to override Gov. Tom Wolf's veto of a Republican-crafted, no-tax-hike state budget, the Allegheny County delegation chairman said Monday.  Rep. Dom Costa of Stanton Heights responded to a Tribune-Review story in which House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, predicted Western Pennsylvania Democrats eventually would join Republicans in an override vote of the Democratic governor's veto.  “I don't want (Republicans) thinking they can wait this out,” Costa said. “I know for a fact the votes are not there — and they will not be there. The D's are not going to budge.”  Most analysts view that as an issue ripe for fall, if the budget impasse continues and funding for schools and nonprofit organizations runs low.
Senate GOP leader: Shale tax may be considered with offsetting legislation
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Monday, July 13, 2015, 3:51 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman isn't ruling out a severance tax on natural gas as a potential solution to the 14-day state budget stalemate.  Corman, a key budget negotiator, emphasized Monday he is not advocating the tax that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf wants.  “If we can put together a package that benefits the industry, we might be willing to consider it,” Corman, R-Centre County, told the Tribune-Review on Friday.  Asked to elaborate Monday, Corman noted the natural gas industry pays Pennsylvania $225 million a year through the state's impact fee, approved by lawmakers in 2012. With gas prices low, “we cannot take action that would damage this valuable vehicle for economic development and job creation,” he said.  “At the same time, if we could tailor a tax that may also have provisions that would allow the industry to continue to develop and maintain job growth, then it might be something we consider.”
Pa. might be the last to reach a budget deal
The commonwealth is one of five states that failed to compromise on a spending plan by July 1, as required.
HARRISBURG - Going on two weeks without a budget - and with no end in sight to the stalemate - Pennsylvania could become the last state in the nation to compromise on a new spending plan.
As of Friday, the commonwealth was one of five states required to pass a budget by July 1 that still had not.  Of them, three have agreed on temporary spending plans to keep services and payments flowing - unlike Pennsylvania, which has lost some of its spending authority.  Gov. Wolf has said that his administration will do everything it can to minimize the impact of a stalemate, but that it is important to him to get a strong final product.  "We have to have a budget, and we will agree on a budget," the first-term Democrat told reporters last week. "I just can't predict how long it's going to take."

"Governor Wolf has proposed to cap cyber school tuition payments to corporate operating companies at $5,950 per regular education students and use the special education funding formula to determine the rate for special education students. This makes sense  What doesn't make sense is that our area lawmakers continue to support their broken system that mandates our local school districts pay tuition of $9,000-$28,000 per student per year to corporate cyber school operating companies, especially since these cyber schools are among the very lowest performing schools in the state."
Letter: Cyber funding reform
Chambersburg Public Opinion by Petra Rueter, Shippensburg  07/13/2015 03:11:49 PM EDT
In their recently vetoed state budget, Republican lawmakers sided with corporations over children once again. The GOP budget rejected Governor Wolf's proposal to save PA school districts $160 million per year (more than $5 million for Cumberland and Franklin County school districts) simply by eliminating overpayments to corporate cyber charter school operating companies.  School districts can provide high-quality cyber school education for $6,000 per student per year or less. Governor Wolf has proposed to cap cyber school tuition payments to corporate operating companies at $5,950 per regular education students and use the special education funding formula to determine the rate for special education students. This makes sense.  What doesn't make sense is that our area lawmakers continue to support their broken system that mandates our local school districts pay tuition of $9,000-$28,000 per student per year to corporate cyber school operating companies, especially since these cyber schools are among the very lowest performing schools in the state.
When Republican lawmakers decide to go back to Harrisburg and get serious about negotiating a real budget, they must put cyber charter school funding reform on the table. If they don't, voters should certainly question their priorities. Any lawmaker who fights to protect the profits of corporate cyber charter school operating companies at the expense of our local school districts is most certainly not representing the best interests of the taxpayers and children in our communities.

Allentown School District trying to attract back high school dropouts
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 13, 2015 at 6:30 AM, updated July 13, 2015 at 12:07 PM
The Allentown School District is trying a new approach to get students that drop out to return to school.  "We're not sending them back into the old environment because that didn't work," Superintendent Russell Mayo said.  This fall the district is opening a re-engagement center in its William Penn Building, located at 401 Allen St. in the city.  The first of its kind in the Lehigh Valley, the center aims to track down students that have dropped out and find ways to help them overcome the obstacles that caused them to leave school. Students, ages 16-24. will be able to earn their high school diploma or GED through non-traditional avenues.

Harrisburg School District CRO Utley seeks academic and financial progress
Penn Live By M. Diane McCormick | Special to PennLive on July 13, 2015 at 9:13 PM, updated July 13, 2015 at 10:31 PM
At the end of her first day on the job on Monday, new Harrisburg School District Chief Recovery Officer Audrey Utley congratulated the school board for establishing fiscal stability, and she promised to leverage available resources toward academic progress.  Utley was appointed on July 6 by Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera to replace former CRO Gene Veno. While Veno helped the district reach solid financial ground under a state-approved recovery plan, test scores continued falling, and teachers lacked curriculum.  In remarks at the end of the evening's board meeting, Utley said her first day included a financial update from Interim Chief Financial Officer Bill Gretton.

York City schools could be affected by proposed second state school-recovery process
WITF Written by Angie Mason, York Daily Record | Jul 13, 2015 1:00 PM
Students, staff and community protested the possible conversion of York City School District to charter schools during the recovery process under former chief recovery officer David Meckley.  (York) -- 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.

NSBA Commends Senate for Promising Steps Toward Passage of Every Child Achieves Act
NSBA Press Release July 13, 2015
Alexandria, Va. (July 13, 2015)  -- As Senate floor proceedings to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act continue into a second week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is paying close attention to several issues of keen interest to America’s school boards. NSBA urges lawmakers to include provisions that reverse unnecessary federal intrusion and strengthen local governance, and oppose vouchers or any amendments that would divert federal dollars away from public schools.  In today’s opening remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, urged his colleagues to support  Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, calling for a clear and compelling result in the form of “…a bill that crosses the President’s desk.” The Senate approved an amendment, sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which would establish a committee to study student data privacy. Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) amendment, approved by voice vote, would help ensure that students are ready for postsecondary education and the workforce by encouraging states to incorporate career readiness indicators into their state accountability systems.
“We applaud Congress for its clear resolve to rewrite No Child Left Behind and achieve a modernized version of the education law,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. “Strong local governance is key to advancing student achievement and ensuring that school boards are able to act in the best interests of students, parents, and local communities.”  As this historic reauthorization process moves closer to final passage, NSBA will advocate to achieve a modern ESEA that provides our nation’s 50 million public school students access to a high-quality education.

Senate ESEA Debate: What to Expect This Week
Education Week By Lauren Camera on July 12, 2015 12:35 AM
When the U.S. Senate convenes late Monday to continue considering its overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it will begin with a pair of largely pre-agreed upon amendments but quickly move to more contentious debates at the heart of the reauthorization—proposals to increase accountability, give students and parents more school choice options, and prevent bullying, among others.  Meanwhile, pressure mounts on the bill's co-authors, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to get the measure across the finish line as competing congressional priorities continue to pile up, including spending bills, a highway funding bill, a forthcoming response to the Iran nuclear framework, and more.  And the U.S. House of Representatives approved its Republican-backed version of an ESEA rewrite last week (read more about that here), clearing a major hurdle to getting a bill to the president's desk.

“The research into the benefits of early learning is overwhelming,” Casey said. “This amendment is an opportunity to invest in our children and the long-term foundation of our economy while ending an egregious tax loophole that both parties agree needs to go.”
Casey has introduced bills to fund Pre-K education every year since 2008.
Sen. Casey proposes expansion of Pre-K
Lancaster Online By TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, July 13, 2015 1:54 pm  Updated: 2:04 pm, Mon Jul 13, 2015.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal to dramatically increase funding for early childhood public education.  The “Strong Start for America’s Children Act,” introduced by U.S. Sen Bob Casey, D-Pa., as an amendment to legislation reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, would provide more than $30 billion over five years for full-day education for 3-year-old and 4-year-old children.  Pennsylvania would receive $817 million, according to Casey’s office.
The cost would be offset by closing the so-called “corporate inversions” tax loophole, which lets U.S. firms avoid federal taxes by establishing nominal headquarters overseas.

The calamity of the disappearing school libraries
Lower-income students benefit the most from libraries. Yet, budget cuts are leading to a decline in their numbers.
The Conversation by Debra Kachel, Professor of School Library and Information Technologies Program at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania July 13, 2015 6.22am EDT
From coast to coast, elementary and high school libraries are being neglected, defunded, repurposed, abandoned and closed.  The kindest thing that can be said about this is that it’s curious; the more accurate explanation is that it’s just wrong and very foolish.  A 2011 survey conducted with my graduate students of 25 separate statewide studies shows that students who attend schools with libraries that are staffed by certified librarians score better on reading and writing tests than students in schools without library services. And it is lower-income students who benefit the most.  This clear empirical evidence has had little impact on budget cutters, however. They act – mistakenly – as though there is no link between libraries and educational achievement.  Here are the numbers and the arguments to which they need to pay attention.

"Prior’s dilemma has become increasingly common. Forty-two states across the country have moved in recent years to evaluate all teachers at least in part on student test score growth, according to the National Center for Teacher Quality. But tens of thousands of teachers work with students in grades that aren’t tested (like kindergarten) or subjects in which standardized tests typically don’t exist (like art, music, and physical education). "
Why Are Some Teachers Being Evaluated Using the Test Scores of Kids They Didn’t Teach?
Slate.com By Alexandria Neason July 13, 2015
By almost all accounts, Albuquerque, New Mexico, music instructor Nick Prior is an all-star teacher. He runs six choirs, which serve nearly 200 students at the city’s Eisenhower Middle School. His choirs have won state competitions three times, and in multiple categories. Last year, his students swept a national choir competition, earning first place in showmanship and musicianship. He won a statewide award for teaching from the New Mexico Music Educators Association in 2014.  But earlier this year, when Prior received his teacher evaluation, he was deemed “minimally effective”—earning just 33.25 points out of a possible 100 in the “student achievement” category that made up half of the document.  The reason? The “student achievement” had nothing to do with music. It was based on the state standardized test scores in reading and math of the lowest performing quarter of students in his school. Many of those students had never taken one of his classes. The other half of Prior’s rating was based on a combination of classroom observations, teacher attendance, and student and parent surveys. He scored at or above average in these areas, but not high enough to counterbalance the low student achievement rating. 

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.

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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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