Monday, July 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 27, 2015: Pottstown school leaders advocate for state budget with more schools funding

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 27, 2015:
Pottstown school leaders advocate for state budget with more schools funding

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

EDITORIAL: Pottstown school leaders advocate for state budget with more schools funding
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 07/27/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
Pottstown schools are often the example — the poster child — for the inequity in school funding in PennsylvaniaPennsylvania has the worst record for fair schools funding in the nation, and Pottstown is one of the places where its effects are most evident in a tax burden required to achieve the level of education necessary for children to succeed.  So it was appropriate last week that Pottstown school leaders were among the first to take the state Legislature to task for its lack of providing adequate school funding.  Led by Superintendent Jeff Sparagana, educators held a press conference at the recently renovated Rupert Elementary School to urge lawmakers in Harrisburg not only to get moving on a state budget but to adopt a tax-and-spending plan that increases schools funding.  The local educators noted the difference between the budget first proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf and the budget passed by the Republican-controlled House.  “The budget that the Legislature passed calls for a $300 million decrease, or 75 percent less, than the basic education funding proposed by the governor, resulting in a loss of over $365,000 of the projected increase for the Pottstown School District,” Sparagana said.

Advocacy group, Pottstown School District officials seek more state funding
Reading Eagle By Paige Cooperstein  Friday July 24, 2015 12:01 AM
Pottstown consistently ranks among the top 10 tax-burdened communities in the Pennsylvania, but local educators say that's not translating into additional state funding for borough schools.  "Fair and adequate funding for all public schools in the commonwealth is a moral responsibility," Dr. Jeffrey Sparagana, Pottstown superintendent, said during a press conference Thursday.  Property values in Pottstown have steadily decreased over the last 10 years, while school property taxes have steadily increased and state support often remains flat, Sparagana said.  He said Pennsylvania ranks 12th in the U.S. in terms of spending per student, but 45th in equitably dividing funds based on school district needs such as enrollment, poverty levels and the local tax base.  Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a Philadelphia-based advocacy group, organized the press conference at Rupert Elementary School with Pottstown school officials.  The organization urges citizens to push the Legislature to pass a budget that would invest an extra $410 million in public education and adopt a fair funding formula.

Pottstown speaks out for better education funding
West Chester Daily Local By Evan Brandt,, @PottstownNews on Twitter POSTED: 07/25/15, 3:49 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Pottstown educators stepped into the state budget battle Thursday, calling on local legislators to adopt a budget that significantly increases funding for public education.  In a press conference staged on the front steps of Rupert Elementary School, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana was joined by school board member Kim Stillwell and teachers’ union president Beth Yoder in supporting the budget initiatives that Gov. Tom Wolf first proposed this spring.  “The budget that the Legislature passed calls for a $300 million decrease, or 75 percent less, than the basic education funding proposed by the governor, resulting in a loss of over $365,000 of the projected increase for the Pottstown School District,” Sparagana said.  Sparagana’s math jibes with a 21st Century Media analysis published Sunday that found a $3 million difference in basic education funding for nine area school districts between Wolf’s proposed budget and the one passed by the Legislature — enough to pay 45 teachers the average salary in the area.

Some PA school districts missing out on $1 billion in state aid
By Evan Grossman | July 24, 2015
Pennsylvania’s imperfect education funding system has shorted some school districts more than $1 billion, one lawmaker says.  The state, says Rep. David Parker, R-Monroe, has underfunded 180 districts because of a controversial “hold harmless” funding formula, which maintains school districts are guaranteed to receive no less state funding than the year before. Pennsylvania school districts are locked into a fixed payment, regardless of enrollment fluctuations, which has contributed to inequities in education spending since the policy was enacted in 1991.  “It is politics gone bad,” Parker said.  Parker estimates his constituents were underfunded by more than $717 million over time and have been forced to make up the difference in rising school taxes. He wants to end hold harmless, adopt a new funding formula and distribute $412 million in corrective funding to the underfunded districts.

"Attacks by so-called “dark money” groups aren’t new. But observers are troubled by the volume of the ads, especially in a budget crisis.  “We’re definitely seeing dark money flooding into state and municipal politics,” said Paul Ryan, senior legal counsel at Campaign Legal Center, a national political reform group. “It’s potentially disastrous, because it undermines voters’ right to know who is trying to influence them.”  “We’re seeing the nationalization of our state politics, and a campaign cycle that never ends,” said Franklin & Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna."
‘Dark money’ ad blitz surrounds budget debate
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 26, 2015 12:12 AM
As Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislators slog through a summer-long budget fight, things are looking grim for public schools and human service agencies that rely on state funding. But look on the bright side: Thanks to advertising by groups with inscrutable names, at least bulk-mailing firms and TV executives have reason to smile.  Turn on your TV, for example, and you’ll likely see America Works USA, a group tied to national Democrats, faulting a Republican budget proposal that “lets oil and gas drillers off the hook, fails to fund education and deepens the deficit.”  “Let’s save jobs,” counters a spot aired by Citizens to Protect PA Jobs. “Don’t raise taxes on Pennsylvania-made energy.”  Both organizations are what the IRS calls 501(c)(4) entities — nonprofits that can engage in political activity without identifying donors, as traditional political campaigns must do.

"Sturla said that while Republicans did increase funding for education in one line item, they took funding away in other areas, such as eliminating the reimbursement of school districts for two months’ worth of money they pay into Social Security.  “They can’t call the federal government and say, ‘Sorry the state didn’t pay us now we can’t pay you,’” Sturla said. “So for example, in the Colonial School District, where we stand right now, they claim the budget was actually going to give this school district $81,000 more next year. What they failed to point out is they were reneging on $312,000 worth of Social Security payments to that district.”
Pennsylvania Democrats call for Republicans to compromise on budget negotiations
By Dan Clark, The Times Herald POSTED: 07/24/15, 6:14 PM EDT
PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP >> As the third week without a state budget comes to a close, a group of Democratic Pennsylvania lawmakers stood together outside of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School on Friday and called on their Republican counterparts to engage in negotiations that will fix the commonwealth’s financial problems.  “We’re here today to talk about the need to have a budget pass that serves the citizens of Pennsylvania,” House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, representing Lancaster County, said at the news conference. “The message here is pretty simple. We need a budget that has no structural deficit, and on that I don’t believe there’s any compromise.”   The ultimate messages of Friday’s news conference to Republicans were to eliminate the deficit, tax gas drillers, enact property tax relief and better fund education.

Rethink the role of schools
Yes, reform education funding in Pennsylvania, but let’s not stop there
Post Gazeette Opinion By Thomas J. Hylton July 26, 2015 12:00 AM
As Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders wrangle over the governor’s proposals to increase education spending, it might be useful to step back and consider ways to do better with existing resources.  Pennsylvania already spends a lot of money on K-12 education — more, per student, than three-quarters of the 50 states. The United States spends more, per student, than all but four countries — Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria.  While the vast disparity in spending between Pennsylvania’s poor and wealthy school districts has been widely acknowledged, there is also a significant disparity among poor districts. Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg, for example, spend nearly twice as much, per student, as other high-poverty districts such as Erie, Altoona and Reading.  The greatest problem is the source of revenue. Local school property taxes are an enormous burden on Pennsylvania’s cities and towns, and the primary impediment to their revitalization. For 60 years, urban property values have declined as ever-rising real estate taxes have helped drive residents and businesses out of traditional towns and into the suburbs. The urban exodus has left behind increased concentrations of poverty and the need for costly local services, perpetuating a downward spiral.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has characterized Pennsylvania as the largest natural gas-producing state without a severance tax, with 31 states specifically taxing the extraction of liquid fuels.  Severance tax supporters, led by Mr. Wolf, argue that the state is not getting a fair fraction of the gas’s true value and it is missing out on a chance to boost funding for statewide priorities like public education. This year the governor proposed a severance tax that could exceed 5 percent of the value of gas and natural gas liquids from shale wells.  Republicans control the General Assembly, and their leaders — particularly in the House — have opposed the severance tax and other levy hikes proposed by the governor. As a result, there is no state budget, nearly a month after the statutory deadline.  In addition to millions of dollars in campaign contributions, the companies have deployed battalions of lobbyists.
Gas severance tax faces stalemate for fifth year
By Rich Lord and Laura Legere / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 26, 2015 8:01 PM
As Democrat Tom Wolf became the favorite, the nominee, and finally the governor-elect last year, the gas industry’s tilt toward the Republican Party became even more pronounced than it was in 2010, setting the stage for a fifth year of stalemate in Harrisburg over whether to enact a severance tax.  Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat in office as the Marcellus Shale gas boom began, pitched and dropped a severance tax proposal several times. The General Assembly committed to adopting a tax by October 2010 but could not agree on terms before the legislative session ended.  Also in 2010, Republican Tom Corbett courted gas industry executives on the way to winning the governorship. People and political action committees associated with the gas industry favored Republicans with three times as much campaign money as Democrats during that period, according to Marcellus Money, a project of Common Cause Pennsylvania and the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.

How gas industry gained Corbett influence
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 27, 2015 12:00 AM
Second of two parts. Sunday: Tom Corbett, even before winning his party’s 2010 nomination, began wooing the gas industry. Today: Post-nomination, the money rolled in, buying a seat at the administration’s table.
The briefing memo from a Pittsburgh-based fundraiser recounted the star-studded first encounter between Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial front-runner and a leader of its growing gas extraction industry.  “Please note that you met [Range Resources CEO] John Pinkerton at a Corbett for Governor fundraiser in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania with Jeb Bush,” according to the memo, prepared for an Aug. 30, 2010, luncheon hosted by Mr. Pinkerton for Mr. Corbett. “John Pinkerton flew in for the event and gave [Florida] Governor Bush a ride back to Dallas.”  The briefing memo — one of hundreds of Corbett campaign documents recently obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — went on: “Expected attendance is 20 people. This event will raise in excess of 50k.”  That would represent a sliver of the money Mr. Corbett raised from gas interests during his 2010 general election win, which gave him the governorship and cemented his party’s role as friend of the now-mature industry. While Mr. Corbett is now a private citizen, his party’s partnership with the industry continues to reap dividends for both sides. The gas companies operate without a severance tax, and their political giving in Pennsylvania favors Republicans four times as much as Democrats.

Here's what Mike Folmer got wrong about public schools: Michael Crossey
PennLive Op-Ed  By Michael Crossey on July 26, 2015 at 1:00 PM
Michael Crossey, the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, was a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District in Allegheny County.
Here we go again.  That's what I always think when I read the tortured arguments some legislators use as a rationale for opposing funding for students in our public schools.  Yes, I said opposing funding for public school students.  State Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, trotted out some of those arguments in a PennLive op-Ed on July 23, making quite a show of pulling numbers out of context to make the odd point that our public schools have too much money.  Too much money?  That's a hard argument to make to the 1.7 million students who have lost programs, opportunities, and educators to the nearly $1 billion in school funding cuts the Legislature approved in 2011.  But, instead of working to find ways to solve the school funding crisis, Sen. Folmer actually commends himself for his generosity and treats us to some side show calculations about school spending.

Nearly a month into #PaBudget standoff, how would you grade Wolf, Legislature?: The Sunday Brunch
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 26, 2015 at 8:17 AM, updated July 26, 2015 at 8:47 AM
Good Sunday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
We're into the final furlong of July and Pennsylvania taxpayers will enter the working week without a new state budget. Thus, now seems as good a time as any to see how Gov. Tom Wolf is doing midway through his freshman year.  Thankfully, our good friend Mark Scolforo of The Associated Press has done the heavy lifting for us, reaching the conclusion that the York Democrat, who often speaks fondly of his degrees from Dartmouth and M.I.T., has so far notched an "incomplete.Gov. Tom Wolf Discusses Budget Impasse With Republicans Over PizzaGov. Tom Wolf Discusses Budget Impasse With Republicans Over Pizza
But a close inspection reveals that there's plenty of blame to go around.

Budget stalemate leaves Gov. Wolf's record so far incomplete 
Penn Live By The Associated Press on July 25, 2015 at 1:00 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf holds a political science doctorate, but these days he's a freshman with an incomplete in the first big test of his administration — getting a budget through the Republican-controlled Legislature.  Pennsylvania is now more than three weeks into its new fiscal year without a spending plan in place, raising an obvious question about what happened to the Democrat's often stated intention to be, as he said at his January inauguration, "an unconventional governor" who will work across the aisle.  This week saw the first glimmer of hope that a deal might be possible, when he and GOP negotiators emerged from behind closed doors to make upbeat sounds about progress and announce they'll meet again soon.

In Kensington, concerns and 'nuanced' case for merging two low-performing public schools
In the old Kensington High School building, two distinct schools have their own budgets, principals and classes. There's even a physical barrier, a kind of wall between the two spaces.  Essence Whiting, a rising sophomore at one of the schools, Kensington Urban Education Academy, said there are doors in the wall, but students stay on their own sides. She said she prefers Kensington Urban -- which has just over 300 students -- and relationships she has at the smaller school over her old middle school, where the grades were three times as large.  "I know most of the teachers at my current school, and I know the principal, I know the secretaries, I know some of the lunch ladies," said Essence.  Community and activist groups lobbied for a decade to turn some of Philadelphia's large neighborhood high schools -- including Kensington High School -- into smaller schools.  In 2008, activists got their wish. Kensington High became four small schools, each with a different academic focus, known collectively as the Kensington Multiplex.  This March, the School District of Philadelphia announced it would reunite two of those schools, prompting an outcry from students and some teachers.

Philly Student Union Written by  The Philadelphia Student Union Monday, 20 July 2015 19:48
When Superintendent Hite was brought to Philadelphia, his purpose was clear: enact the Boston Consulting Group’s plan for the School District of Philadelphia. This plan detailed the closing of dozens of schools in the district and a following reorganization of what was left into decentralized, independently managed “achievement networks.”    Last week, the School District of Philadelphia announced a list of new hires, individuals who will be in charge of the separate networks. Let’s take a look at a few. The title listed is the one that they are currently entering at the School District of Philadelphia

"My article quotes Metro Nashville Public School board member Will Pinkston who explains how “the charter school movement has hijacked education policy” by using the ASD as an opening to impose more privatization of public schools without any local consent of the educators and families affected.  Pinkston accuses the ASCD of engineering “hostile takeovers” of local schools that marginalize community input, much like federal mandates imposed by NCLB did. “It’s immoral to force this kind of change on people who don’t want it,” he states.
It also doesn’t work."
"Achievement School District" - Get Ready For The Next Wave Of Education “Reform”
Education Opportunity Network Blog by Jeff Bryant July 24, 2015
Education activists are rejoicing that the latest versions of No Child Left Behind reauthorization coursing through Congress may give struggling schools a way to have more control over their own governance and destiny.  NCLB originally mandated such unreal expectations on schools the vast majority of them would be branded “failed.” New legislation, as currently written, would change that.  Prominent education groups representing teachers and administratorslike this turn of events and want bills from the House and the Senate to quickly proceed to conference.  Should the onerous provisions imposed on schools by NCLB indeed be lifted, lots of struggling schools will breathe easier without the “failed” brand looming over their buildings. But if this new flexibility comes to pass, it’s no time to take a victory lap if you’re someone who believes teachers, parents, and students should have a voice in how their local schools operate.  As anti-democratic pressures appear to be easing on the federal front, they are ratcheting up in states across the country. In fact, the next form of education “reform” may be as bad or worse than what NCLB imposed.

Outcome vs. Process: Different Incarnations of Personalization
Yong Zhao's Blog 20 JULY 2015 3,585 ONE COMMENT
There are different views of personalized learning. My advocacy for personalization has been occasionally misunderstood as supporting the narrow view of personalized learning driven by big data and learning analytics with technology or online learning in general. Below is an excerpt of a chapter from a book I coauthored with a group of teachers and school leaders: World Class Learners Bundle to be published by Corwin. Hope it helps clarify my take on personalized learning.–Yong
To personalize is to design or produce something to meet individual requirements. In education, personalization is often used in the forms of “personalized learning,” “personalized education,” or “personalized instruction.” The term personalization is often used interchangeably with individualization, and sometimes with customization. The general idea is to enable individual students to have an educational experience that meets their individual needs.

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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