Thursday, July 23, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 23: Education Groups to Leaders in Congress: Get ESEA Rewrite Over Finish Line

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 23, 2015:
Education Groups to Leaders in Congress: Get ESEA Rewrite Over Finish Line

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

PA Lowest Performing Schools: Before reform, fund properly By Adam Schott and David Lapp POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2015, 1:08 AM
Adam Schott is director of policy research at Research for Action. 
David Lapp is a staff attorney at the Education Law Center.
Earlier this summer, the state Senate advanced a far-reaching proposal to put public schools with low test scores under direct state control. As evidenced by statements by Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D., Phila.) and others, the legislation appears likely to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations around Gov. Wolf's request that significant resources be added to the state's education budget.  In support of the legislation, lawmakers and some advocacy organizations have cited school turnarounds in Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. But comparisons to these other states require close scrutiny.  First, there's the issue of resources.  While supporters of state takeover legislation have properly argued that money alone can't cure what ails the state's lowest-performing schools, it is also true that Pennsylvania public schools have endured more than five years of inadequate, unpredictable state funding. We have a practice in Pennsylvania of expecting our public schools to do more while providing schools and students with less.

For some Pa. schools, fiscal hardship will drag on
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON JULY 22, 2015
Pennsylvania schools represent a growing chunk of the school districts with the most desperate finances in the country, according to one credit rating agency.  Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit of eight Pennsylvania school districts since March, and it says the worst of those aren't likely to recover anytime soon.  The rating agency points to a crushing mix of rising costs due to delayed pension payments, growing charter schools, alongside a failure – or inability – to squeeze much more out of their local residents with higher property taxes. Many districts are also waiting for the state to reimburse them for years-old construction projects.

"Enrollment at PA Cyber has declined from its peak in 2013 of 11,500 to about 10,000. Conti said fluctuating enrollment is due in part to increased competition from some local school districts offering online learning options, along with some consolidation among students and families."
PA Cyber lays off 43 employees, including 21 teachers
Beaver County Times Staff reports Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 10:15 am | Updated: 4:14 pm, Tue Jul 21, 2015.
MIDLAND -- The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School announced Tuesday it is laying off 43 employees, including 21 teachers.  In a press release, PA Cyber called the move a "strategic restructuring to support current and projected enrollment and to align staffing to operate in response to changes to funding levels."  Midland-based PA Cyber has 700 full- and part-time positions. The 22 non-teaching positions being cut were not described in the school's release.   "This restructuring follows a comprehensive review where the school evaluated every facet of its operations. PA Cyber renegotiated external contracts for curriculum, technology and managed services; consolidated internal and external operational functions; and adjusted its instructional model to achieve approximately $12 million in cost savings," the release said.  “While these cost savings closed the gap, they did not get us where we needed to be ...," PA Cyber chief executive officer Michael Conti said in the release. "The next step was to implement a restructuring that enables PA Cyber to strategically allocate resources to best meet the needs of our students, while ensuring we operate within our current budget.”

NSBA Joins Key Education Groups in Urging Congress to Push Forward to Fix No Child Left Behind
NSBA Press Release July 22, 2015
Alexandria, Va. (July 22, 2015) - The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and nine other national education organizations sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urging them to proceed to conference as soon as possible to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The joint letter calls upon Congress to act swiftly, and press forward on ESEA reauthorization by the start of the new school year.  With both the House and Senate having passed their respective education bills, NSBA remains steadfast in working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pass a final bill that restores community ownership to local school boards, maximizes federal funding for Title I, and excludes private vouchers, tuition tax credits, or existing voucher programs.  “Today's collective call to action by NSBA and other leading education groups keeps the interests of our nation’s 50 million public school students at the forefront of the legislative debate here in Washington,” stated Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director. “We are pleased that the House and Senate passed their respective fix for No Child Left Behind, and NSBA calls upon lawmakers to act now to pass a bill that underscores the importance of local governance and community ownership in public education.”

Education Groups to Leaders in Congress: Get ESEA Rewrite Over Finish Line
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Lauren Camera on July 22, 2015 10:16 AM
The same 10 major education organizations that called for the Senate to prioritize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act rewrite and put it on the chamber floor for debate are at it again. This time, they're urging congressional leaders to move swiftly into conference.  In a letter sent Wednesday to the majority and minority leaders in both the House and the Senate, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of each chambers' education committee, the education groups insisted that they "build on the momentum generated this month around ESEA reauthorization by proceeding to conference as soon as possible."  The groups include, among others, the two national teachers' unions—the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers—the Council of Chief State School Officers, the School Superintendents Association (AASA), and the National Association of State Boards of Education.
"We are now closer than we have been in the last eight years to producing a new law as both houses of Congress have passed ESEA reauthorization proposals," the letter reads. "However, as you are well aware, there is still more work to be done before we reach our goal."
You can read the entire letter here.

Ten National Education Groups Urge Congress to Keep Up Momentum on ESEA Reauthorization
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Education Association
  • The School Superintendents Association
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Association of School Business Officials
  • International National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National School Boards Association
  • National Parent Teacher Association
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
July 22, 2015
Dear Speaker Boehner, Representative Pelosi, Senator McConnell, and Senator Reid:
The ten undersigned national education groups, representing educators, principals, school boards, superintendents, chief state school officers, state boards of education members, parents and PTAs, and school business officials appreciate your strong commitment to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year. As we stated at a joint press conference in June, America’s children, educators and parents cannot wait for a reauthorized ESEA. This bill is long overdue, and we do not have a moment to waste. We are now closer than we have been in the last 8 years to producing a new law as both Houses of Congress have passed ESEA reauthorization proposals. However, as you are well aware, there is still more work to be done before we reach our goal. To this end, we strongly urge you to build on the momentum generated this month around ESEA reauthorization by proceeding to conference as soon as possible.

How The Big New Education Law Could Cut Testing Time
NPR by Anya Kamanetz JULY 22, 2015 8:03 AM ET
Both houses of Congress have now passed versions of the bill that would update the largest federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, for the first time since 2001. They are big, meaty and complicated, and now they have to be reconciled into one messy Dagwood sandwich of a bill to go to the president.  There's one slice in the pile that hasn't been widely discussed. The Senate version of the bill contains several amendments aimed at addressing one of the hottest issues in education: standardized testing. "This bill would ... reduce the burden of testing on classroom time," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in his official statement about the Senate bill.  At first glance that seemed to me like a surprising claim. After all, the bedrock federal requirement remains in place: testing every student, every year, in math and reading, from grades three through eight and once in high school.  However, while the law required, and still requires, annual testing, it doesn't specify how much or for how long. While the federal testing mandate remains, the new bill would encourage states to reconsider how that testing is implemented.  In other words, "test every kid every year" might not necessarily mean testing them for weeks on end.

The Contours of a Deal on ESEA Are In Sight By Michael J. Petrilli 07/21/2015
As everyone knows, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education act is closer to the finish line now than at any time in the past eight years. (The law was due for an update in 2007—soon after NASA sent New Horizons to Pluto. That was a long time ago.)
For a great overview of where things stand, it’s hard to beat this excellent rundown by Alyson Klein of Politics K-12. But that won’t stop me from trotting out my ever-so-popular color-coded table. (Previous editions herehere, and here.)  The items that are “up in the air” are those that the Senate, House, and Obama administration will wrangle over in conference.

NPE Statement on the Every Child Achieves Act
Network for Public Education July 2015 
There is much we applaud in the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). Although the bill is far from perfect, it is better than the status quo.  ECAA represents a critical step forward, placing an absolute ban on the federal government intervening in how states evaluate schools and teachers. It bars the US Department of Education from either requiring or incentivizing states to adopt any particular set of standards, as Arne Duncan did through Race to the Top grants and NCLB waivers.  The Every Child Achieves Act would prohibit the federal government from requiring that teachers be judged by student test scores and would prevent the federal government from withholding funds from states that allow parents to opt out of testing, which Duncan most recently threatened to do to the state of Oregon.  And it would take the federal “high-stakes” from annual testing—the consequences of which have a disparate negative impact on students of color and those of highest need.  ECAA does not “lock in” the Common Core, but rather allows the states to set their own standards without having to meet a litmus test set by the federal government.  States could thoughtfully design and revise standards and their teacher evaluation systems with stakeholders, without fear of losing a waiver that protects their schools from being labeled as failing.

Connellsville receives visit from Gov. Tom Wolf on his 'Schools That Teach' tour
Herald Standard By Natalie Bruzda Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 2:30 am | Updated: 6:50 am, Wed Jul 22, 2015.
CONNELLSVILLE — Connellsville Area High School on Tuesday became the latest district to receive a visit from Gov. Tom Wolf on his “Schools That Teach” Tour.  He said his visit, which came in the midst of the current state budget impasse, was a stop on his way back to Harrisburg, where he said he’s committed to passing a budget that addresses core issues facing Pennsylvania, including the education system.  “I think all of us recognize in Harrisburg that we have to do right by our education system,” Wolf said. “We’re not going to have a future if we don’t do that.”  Wolf said he chose to speak at Connellsville, a district that recently furloughed 39 teachers, because it is a “great example a school that is struggling under the system we have now.”  “We need a better system,” Wolf said.

Wolf school tour stops in Connellsville
Trib Live By Karl Polacek Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 1:06 a.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday laid out his program for funding Pennsylvania schools during a visit to Connellsville Area High School during his “Schools That Teach” tour.  Standing in the hot sun in front of the high school, Wolf said the problems facing Connellsville Area School District are not unique.  Wolf, a Democrat, is battling with members of the state Legislature in attempts to pass a 2015-16 budget. The House and Senate are controlled by the Republicans.  Kevin O'Donnell, acting superintendent at Connellsville, said Wolf had been provided details of the problems being faced by the district, including a deficit and the recent furlough of at least 40 professional staff members.  “My message is this is happening all around the state,” Wolf said. “We're really facing a choice. This is a democracy, and in a democracy, I work for you. And we need to do what is right for all of the residents.”
"A member of the Senate Education Committee, Folmer recently finished work as one of 15 members on the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission that came up with recommendations to more fairly fund education to close a gap between wealthy suburban districts and poorer rural and urban schools.  "We got to a point where we came up with a fairer way to distribute the education dollars," he said. "At least we have done that. But we have to get that passed."
Sen. Mike Folmer weighs in on state budget impasse
Lebanon Daily News By John Latimer @johnmlatimer on Twitter UPDATED:   07/22/2015 06:09:22 PM EDT
Sen. Mike Folmer's presentation at Wednesday's Community of Lebanon Association luncheon focused on his effort to legalize medical marijuana.  But afterwards he had plenty to say about the state budget impasse that is in its third week, since Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a $30 billion spending package approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature.  The governor followed that up by vetoing GOP-backed pension reform and liquor privatization bills, causing a showdown with Republicans that has not been resolved.  Folmer, a Republican, said after weeks of finger-pointing and political posturing by both sides, he saw some signs of encouragement when GOP leaders sat down with Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday.  "I heard they had a decent meeting (Tuesday). Up until then, it was the great divide," he said.

Time for Pa. lawmakers to pass a budget and fund schools | Guest column
By Express-Times guest columnist  By Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer Pa. state representatives on July 20, 2015 at 12:41 PM
As we write this, about two weeks have passed since the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania General Assemblypassed a budget bill, which Gov. Tom Wolf quickly vetoed.  Since then, Pennsylvanians have heard a lot of rhetoric about the supposed quality of the spending plan or the righteousness of the veto, but we want to address some inescapable facts not up for debate.  The Allentown School District has suffered the last four years due to a serious divestment in education. The school district has been forced to lay off more than 400 quality teachers and support staff, which has caused class sizes to balloon and test scores to drop. And, as this is happening, property taxes have increased by a whopping 20 percent to make up for this shortfall in state funds.

SEN. THOMAS J. McGARRIGLE: Gov. Wolf’s political attack ads don’t work
Pottstown Mercury Opinion  POSTED: 07/23/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
State Sen. Thomas J. McGarrigle is a Republican who represents the 26th Senatorial District in parts of Chester and Delaware counties.
It is time for Gov. Tom Wolf to end the negative campaigning and begin working with the General Assembly. Nine months after the 2014 General Election and he is still sending out negative ads peppered with inaccuracies and the same tiresome rhetoric.  His mailer claims I am looking to “give hand-outs to big oil and gas companies” at the expense of educating our children. Governor Wolf is clearly unaware then of Senate Bill 519. This is the bill I introduced in the Senate, 13 days after taking the oath of office, that would establish a 4-percent tax on the Marcellus Shale industry and dedicate that funding to our state’s public education system.  The governor’s mailers claim that I do not support providing property tax relief. Yet I am a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 76, a bill that aims to eliminate property taxes. His proposal would merely reduce them and provide no mechanism to prevent them from going back up in the future.  There is no defense of the governor’s short-sighted veto of a proposed budget I voted for that would have boosted support for schools by $500 million without his massive tax increases. There is no explanation for vetoing the entire budget – something no governor has done in 40 years — even when there was bipartisan agreement on two-thirds of budget. In an act of political gamesmanship, the Governor has held the entire State hostage.

Chris Freind: Gov. Wolf’s budget plan is unacceptable
Delco Times Opinion By Chris Friend, Times Columnist POSTED: 07/21/15, 11:08 PM EDT
Who’s afraid of the big, bad (Tom) Wolf?  Not the Republican Legislature.
Pennsylvania’s new governor submitted a budget proposal that would raise taxes by a whopping $4.5 billion. That plan was promptly bitten in half by the GOP, with both sides now light years apart. And since the June 30 deadline has passed with no resolution, the Keystone State finds itself in a drawn-out budget stalemate.  Good.  What the governor does not yet understand is that he has little public support for his plans, making him a lone Wolf on the impasse. And so long as the Republicans don’t cave, they will win the day, and by extension, so will the people.  Let’s review the major sticking points:

House takes procedural step with eye toward a budget agreement
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, July 22, 2015
The House Appropriations Committee took a step Wednesday to put a budget vehicle into place for the eventuality of an agreed-to budget plan between Republicans and Gov. Tom Wolf.  House Bill 1460 cleared the committee along a party-line vote and contains the exact same language as the budget bill passed by the General Assembly and vetoed by Gov. Wolf just over three weeks ago.  While an agreement still seems to be a ways off, committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) said the move was necessary as part of House rules in order to make sure an agreed-to product can be considered in a timely manner.  “House rules require the posting of a General Appropriations bill for second consideration, it takes about two weeks in advance of when this bill will actually be voted on the floor,” he told committee members. “We are voting House Bill 1460 today so we can get it a first reading and get it in position for second consideration whenever we’re able to reach a negotiated agreement with the administration.”  He called the bill a document that can later be amended to reflect a budget deal.

House panel passes budget bill but don't get your hopes up. It's not done yet.
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 22, 2015 at 2:18 PM, updated July 22, 2015 at 2:19 PM
Don't be fooled by the House Appropriations Committee's approval of a budget bill on Wednesday. It doesn't mean an end to the 22-day-old budget stalemate is in sight.
The committee's 21-11 party-line vote was merely a procedural move to speed up the process in passing an eventual budget agreement – or possibly a stopgap budget – when the time comes.  The state has been operating since July 1 without an enacted budget. Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled House and Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf met on Tuesday and reported some progress in narrowing their differences or at least gaining an understanding of the justifications behind their positions but there's no deal yet.  The $30.2 billion spending plan contained in the bill is identical to the one that passed the House and Senate late last month and subsequently vetoed in its entirety by Gov. Tom Wolf.  But House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, told committee members that it takes about two weeks to move a bill into position for a final vote in the chamber so getting House Bill 1460 through the committee will shave off a few days when an agreement is reached.

Talks continue on Wilkinsburg sending students to Pittsburgh schools
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 22, 2015 10:11 PM
While no agreement has been reached on whether Wilkinsburg can send its high school students to Pittsburgh Public Schools, talks are continuing and appear to be serious.  "Pittsburgh is open to working out a way to do it," said Pittsburgh school solicitor Ira Weiss after a city school board meeting tonight. "That's why we're talking to them."  Pittsburgh school board member Mark Brentley Sr. raised the issue during the meeting, saying he wishes the move could take place this fall. He called it a win-win, given Wilkinsburg is looking for a partner and Pittsburgh needs students. He urged the district to "open our arms."

Phoenixville High School physics team relaxing after Thailand competition
West Chester Daily Local By Eric Devlin, on Twitter POSTED: 07/21/15, 6:51 PM EDT
Phoenixville >> After traveling halfway around the world to participate in arguably the biggest competition of their lives, the members of the International Young Physicists Tournament from Phoenixville High School are taking a much needed break. But that hasn’t stopped Superintendent Alan Fegley from gushing about the team’s success.  “They did very, very well,” he said. “We’re very pleased. They came in right in the middle of the pack, which is a wonderful location for them to be in.”  Thirty-two teams from around the globe descended upon Korat, Thailand, for the week-long tournament, better known as the “Physics World Cup.” Five students from Phoenixville comprised the first team to represent the United States in the tournament since 2007. The competition ran from June 27 through July 4.  Best described as part science fair, part debate competition, the tournament is composed of teams going head-to-head in discussion-based sessions called ‘Physics Fights.’ There’s no final exam in this competition. To win the tournament, teams present the results of the work they’ve done to try to solve 17 non-examination research problems. Judges then score points to the team that can best explain its research, or to the team that manages to poke the most holes in the results of the research done by others.

Scaled-Back FERPA Overhaul Introduced in U.S. House
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Benjamin Herold on July 22, 2015 9:43 PM
Long-awaited bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday would significantly reshape the country's most prominent student-data-privacy law, but stop short of the radical makeover that lawmakers had proposed earlier this spring.
The "Student Privacy Protection Act" aims to expand the scope of student information that is protected by law, place new obligations on both educational institutions and third parties who handle that information, and ban the use of such information for direct advertising to students. It would also allow for fines of up to $1.5 million on educational institutions that violate the law.  The bill, if enacted, would represent a meaningful update to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. As currently written, FERPA, as the 41-year old law is commonly known, is widely viewed as inadequate for addressing the privacy challenges presented by the flood of digital devices, software, and apps into U.S. schools over the past decade.

Call In Day July 29th - Urgent: Budget stalemate hurting schools. Contact your legislators.
Education Law Center July 22, 2015
On Wednesday, July 29, the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding and Education Voters-PA, will be participating in a statewide call-in day to contact our legislators.  Pennsylvania students will begin going back to school in just a month and state lawmakers still have not passed a budget.  Please set aside 10 minutes on Wednesday, July 29 to call your state legislators to tell them that we need them to go back to Harrisburg and put Pennsylvania's children first by passing a budget that begins to solve the school funding crisis.  To find your legislators, follow this link.
We know that just 10 calls in a day to one legislator can make a difference in what he or she does. Please make two phone calls and make a difference for children this year!

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

Save the Date for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration will be live soon!

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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