Tuesday, July 28, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 28: 51 yrs after LBJ declared "war on poverty", 51% of public school students live in poverty

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 28, 2015:
51 yrs after LBJ declared "war on poverty", 51% of public school students live in poverty

Wednesday, July 29 is Call to Action for Public Education Day
Pennsylvania students are going back to school in just a month and state lawmakers still have not passed a budget.  Please set aside 5-10 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. 

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

"No talks are scheduled this week and several key players are expected to be on vacation next week."
Progress slows in Pa. budget talks
Dashing hopes of a thaw in the frozen state budget talks, Pennsylvania's House speaker said Monday that he would not support taxes "of any kind" without a concession on liquor privatization, and raised the prospect of overriding Gov. Wolf's veto of a Republican spending plan.  Rep. Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) assailed the Democratic governor's proposal to tax natural gas drilling, and insisted Wolf consider his party's plan to raise money by privatizing the state-run wine and liquor stores, which the governor has opposed.  "The governor has to be more realistic: He has to understand the people of Pennsylvania are not for his massive tax increase," Turzai said.
His comments came after two negotiating sessions last week that suggested progress on a budget, which was supposed to be passed by July 1. Turzai said there had been "constructive dialogue" but only "around the edges."

As budget standstill continues, Pa. House speaker urges override of Wolf veto
The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.  "We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon Monday.  Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.  "I haven't even asked anybody in terms of a count," said Turzai. "I ask, what's their perspective on the governor's budget proposal, and what was their perspective on our proposal?"  It is rare for the Legislature to successfully trump a governor's veto. An override requires a two-thirds majority vote, so both the House and Senate would need to pick up Democratic support.

"Reacting to the possibility of a veto override, House Democratic Caucus spokesperson Bill Patton told The PLS Reporter that the votes won’t be there from House Democrats to get to a veto override.  "The Speaker has raised the idea in a few conversations but the votes aren’t there, nor will they be. An attempt to override the veto would be fruitless and counterproductive," he said in an email. "Other Republican leaders know that and they have reached out to the governor and Democratic leaders for more substantive budget talks."
The Wolf administration also had tough words for the Speaker in response to his remarks.  “Speaker Turzai continues to stand with oil and gas companies instead of our children and our schools by opposing a commonsense severance tax. The speaker and his Republican colleagues passed a budget that only included $8 million for our schools, which is less than two percent of the funding needed to restore their cuts," said Gov. Wolf's press secretary Jeff Sheridan.
"This type of irresponsible budgeting has led to struggling schools, soaring property taxes, multiple credit downgrades and a multi-billion dollar deficit. Pennsylvania has tried it the Speaker’s way and now it’s time to put the middle class first and rebuild Pennsylvania.” 
Budget veto override still a possibility, Speaker Turzai says
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, July 27, 2015
Speaking to the Pennsylvania Press Club Monday, House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said the General Assembly may try to push an override of Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget-bill veto.  “[Our goal] is to actually get the governor to recognize that he does not have the votes for what he has put on the table and he does not have the support of the citizens of Pennsylvania for what he has put on the table and he has not backed off of it at all,” he said. “We have to look at overriding if we aren’t going to have a substantive discussion.”  He said the House voted down the governor’s tax package 193-0.  “You don’t get to negotiate from a figure that has almost zero support,” he said. “That’s not how negotiations work.”  While he said there is no specific timeline for a veto override to be considered; if there is no productive movement, he will seek the support of conservative Democrats who he believes do not support the governor’s revenue package to override the veto of House Bill 1192.  “The governor does not understand he does not have the support for his spend number,” he told reporters following the luncheon. “I’m hoping he’ll be more realistic as we move forward.”

"House Republicans would need 16 to 18 Democrat votes to roll back the governor's rejection of their $30.2 billion spending plan, depending on whether they can win back two defectors from their own caucus."
Key Pennsylvania House Democrat says override votes on Gov. Wolf's budget veto aren't likely
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 27, 2015 at 5:53 PM
A leader of the conservative wing of the state House Democratic Caucus said Monday House Republicans will have trouble finding the votes needed to override Gov. Tom Wolf's June 30 budget veto.Rep. Nick Kotik's comments came in response toremarks earlier in the day from House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, suggesting an override push may be necessary if Wolf doesn't start negotiating more realistically to reach a delayed state budget.

"Turzai went a bit further Monday, stressing that he also remains virulently opposed to a new shale gas tax – the symbolic centerpiece of Wolf's tax plan.  … Pennsylvania, at present, is the only state that doesn't place some form of tax on gas produced through new hydro-fracturing technologies."
Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai says Gov. Tom Wolf is not negotiating realistically on state budget
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 27, 2015 at 4:42 PM, updated July 27, 2015 at 7:51 PM
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai said talks on the delayed state budget aren't moving forward yet in large part because Gov. Tom Wolf hasn't accepted the reality that his positions lack serious support in the General Assembly.  That's also why Turzai, a Republican from Allegheny County, said Monday he believes he and his GOP allies have the high ground in the stalemate at the moment.  Turzai, in a Pennsylvania Press Club appearance Monday, noted House and Senate leaders dueling with Wolf have passed a $30.2 billion plan that – in their view – fully funds school and state government services without state tax increases.

This year's state budget stalemate in Pennsylvania has turned into its own kind of living room war
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 27, 2015 at 8:30 AM, updated July 27, 2015 at 9:24 AM
Call this the year of the budget campaign.  Everywhere you look in Pennsylvania, someone is trying to move the needle measuring public attitudes toward who's right, and who should give in the protracted state budget debates.  And this year, in what seems to be a first, well-financed interests are bringing their broad themes right into your family room (television ads) or if you're really lucky, your kitchen table (mailers about specific lawmakers' stance).  It's not clear yet if either side has gained a big public relations advantage: no new statewide surveys have been taken on attitudes about the Harrisburg stand-off since the state passed its fiscal year deadline on July 1.  But it's very clear now that neither side is willing to unilaterally disarm in the battle of the airwaves.

Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf makes the case for his budget at Willow Hill Elementary School
Pottstown Mercury By Dan Clark, dclark@timesherald.com@Danclark08 on Twitter POSTED: 07/27/15, 5:03 PM EDT
ABINGTON >> Gov. Tom Wolf stood with local officials outside of Willow Hill Elementary School on Monday to stress the importance of making changes to the way public education is funded and why he’s holding out for it during the budget impasse.  Monday marked the 27th day without a budget in Pennsylvania and Wolf made a brief speech reiterating the need for the state to play a larger role in funding education.  “The budget I got on June 30 did not have what I think we need to have the future we deserve as Pennsylvanians,” he said.  In his speech, he said a budget could have been passed on time, but called the Republican budget a “smoke and mirrors budget full of one time fixes” that is similar to budgets passed under former Gov. Tom Corbett.  “That has taken us to schools that are not funded. It has taken us to a property tax system that is really unfair to seniors and working families who are trying to pay property taxes and has actually created an antagonism on their part to education that doesn’t do any of us any good,” Wolf said.

School district assessment appeals vital to tax fairness | Guest column
Express-Times guest columnist  By John E. Freund III and Jonathan M. Huerta on July 27, 2015 at 2:11 PM, updated July 27, 2015 at 3:38 PM
John E. Freund III is a partner with King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul and chair of the firm's Education Law Practice Group. The firm represents school districts and municipalities throughout Pennsylvania.  Jonathan M. Huerta is an attorney with King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul and member of the firm's Education Law Practice Group.
Pennsylvania homeowners are facing a $2 billion tax increase over the next decade — the shocking estimated loss in property tax revenue predicted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association if special interests and their political action committees, such as the Pennsylvania  Apartment Owners Association PAC, have their way with lawmakers in Harrisburg. They have targeted legislators seeking to change an 80-year-old law that permits taxing authorities, including school districts, to file assessment appeals on large, highly profitable commercial properties that are severely undertaxed. When properties such as large shopping centers, apartment buildings and casinos are significantly underassessed, local residents are forced to subsidize those property owners in the form of unnecessary property tax increases or painful cuts to school staff and educational programs, police and fire protection, senior programs or  other important services.  In his recent guest column on lehighvalleylive.com, Paul Small of the Altman Management Group claims the 30 percent of Lehigh Valley residents who are renters will be harmed through rent increases if his firm and his colleagues in the Apartment Owners Association are required to pay their fair share of taxes. This is simply untrue! It is common knowledge in the industry that apartment owners charge renters what the market will bear, irrespective of expenses. No more, no less. Additional property taxes are not passed on to the tenants any more than a reduction in such taxes based upon an owner-initiated appeal is passed on to tenants. When apartment owners win a tax appeal, the owner, not the tenant, benefits.

Broaden education policy beyond standardized tests
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board Monday, July 27, 2015 6:00 am
THE ISSUE: After many failed attempts, federal lawmakers appear poised to rewrite No Child Left Behind, an education law that has embittered teachers by  mandating high-stakes standardized testing. The House and Senate have passed separate education bills that would reduce the federal government’s reach into American classrooms, and members of Congress are negotiating to reconcile those bills.  No Child Left Behind, the law directing federal education funds for K-12 education since enactment in 2002, has disappointed just about everyone — parents teachers and lawmakers included.  Tying school ratings to standardized testing was supposed to incentivize teachers and improve student outcomes across the board, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, the threat of federal and state punishment for underperforming schools has forced teachers into stressful, do-or-die test-prep regimens that cannibalize time and resources.

Testing mandates have narrowed our children’s learning
Lancaster Online Opinion by MARA CRESWELL McGRANN | Special to LNP July 26, 2015
Mara Creswell McGrann is a city resident and parent of three children in the School District of Lancaster. The Millersville University graduate and her husband are small-business owners in Lancaster.
My three children have never known anything but No Child Left Behind — the 2002 legislation that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  NCLB was supposed to expose where schools were failing traditionally underserved groups and ensure that all children would score proficient or advanced on math and reading tests by the year 2014. NCLB relied heavily on standardized test results, threatening schools with being closed, taken over, suffering financial sanctions for low scores, or some combination. This led to the narrowing of school curriculums — especially in our nation’s poorest districts — primarily to only two subjects: math and reading.  After pressure from citizens clamoring for a new approach, each chamber of Congress passed its own version and both are improvements over NCLB’s “test and punish” design. Both would continue mandated annual federal testing in kindergarten through eighth grade, but without federal sanctions for low scores. Under the Senate bill, states would have the responsibility to decide what to do about schools deemed to be failing. As a School District of Lancaster parent, I feel that the Senate bill creates a much needed opportunity to focus on the specific needs of our diverse student population, including students from dozens of countries, a high percentage of special needs children, and children in poverty. Such children would benefit greatly from creative methods of teaching and a broad curriculum — rather than one limited by a focus on teaching to the test.

Learn more about Wednesday's Saucon Valley teacher contract hearing
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 28, 2015 at 6:15 AM, updated July 28, 2015 at 6:16 AM
It's been a quiet summer in the Saucon Valley School District ahead of a nonbinding arbitration hearing.  On Wednesday, the school board and teachers return to the bargaining table for a hearing before neutral arbitrator Timothy Brown, a labor attorney.  Saucon Valley Education Association members have been working under an expired contract since July 2012. Contentious negotiations have led to a contract stalemate.  The hearing will allow the two sides to prevent their evidence, school board labor attorney Jeffrey Sultanik explained.

"According to the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), 51 percent of the students attending the nation’s public schools now come from low-income households."
Poverty and Education: From a War on Poverty to the Majority of Public School Students Living in Poverty A Report on the Spring 2015 ASCD Whole Child Symposium
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Report, Spring 2015
The United States’ longstanding narrative around poverty, especially its damaging effects on children and their ability to succeed academically, has often been depicted as a problem confined to specific regions or localities, such as inner-city neighborhoods, and occurring mostly within specific ethnic or minority populations. Recent research helps debunk myths such as these and forces our nation to confront a harsh new reality: For the first time in recent history, the majority of U.S. public school students now live in poverty. According to the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), 51 percent of the students attending the nation’s public schools now come from low-income households.

Critical Education Policy Studies Group Swarthmore College POSTED IN #CRITEDPOL
CEPS director, Edwin Mayorga, is preparing to teach Ed Policy Fall 2015 (follow us at #CritEdPol). One of the central topics of study will be the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We are gathering readings regarding ESEA’s history and the current discussions and debates regarding its re-authorization on Capitol Hill. Shout outs to Wayne Au, Jeremy Benson, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Michael Dumas, Maria Hantzopoulos, Alexandra Miletta, Carly Huelsenbeck, Terri Wilson, Jodie Barnhart, Kyla Torre, Alisa Algava, Lois Weiner & Cynthia Liu (and the K12 News Network) for contributing to this list. If you have others to add feel free to add it through the comments box below.

"Happy moments like these occur every day in U.S. public schools. But they are even more heartening when witnessed against the bleak backdrop of Reading, where students and educators confront barriers to learning every day—some exacerbated by the gross underfunding of their schools, others the result of it.  Reading is one of the nation’s poorest cities. It’s also one of the most poorly funded school districts in America. Like students in disadvantaged communities across the nation—who are disproportionately students of color—kids in Reading suffer from a school finance policy that does not come close to providing them with education resources on par with those of their wealthier peers."
These Kids Are Just Pawns': The Rising Toll of Inequitable School Funding
Most lawmakers agree that low- income students, like all children, deserve a great public school— until it’s time to pay for it.
NEA Today — JULY 20, 2015 • BY AMANDA LITVINOV —
This article is the first in a NEA Today series that explores obstacles to education that create an opportunity gap for disadvantaged students. With the number of children living in low-income families reaching record highs, these issues are affecting more communities across America and the public schools that serve them.
In a kindergarten classroom at Riverside Elementary School in Reading, Pa., one of the 5-year-olds seated cross-legged on the rug is so eager to be called on it looks as if his arm is being pulled from above. His teacher, Lori Sherman, has just read them a book about the rainforest and asked if anyone remembers the word for the characteristic that allows animals to blend into their surroundings.  Finally, his name is called.  “Mosiah?” “Camouflage!” he says through a smile.  In a trailer at nearby 12th and Marion Elementary School, a fourth grader who knows the difference between prime and composite numbers nearly topples her chair backwards in her enthusiastic bid to give the answer.

North Carolina's School Vouchers Ruled Constitutional by State Supreme Court
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on July 23, 2015 5:23 PM
North Carolina's highest court has ruled that the state's school voucher program is constitutional, according to The Charlotte Observer.  The North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina School Boards Association filed the original lawsuit against the Opportunity Scholarship Program at the end of 2013, shortly after it was created by the legislature.  The program gives publicly funded scholarships of up to $4,200 to low-income students to use at private schools.

North Carolina: A Bizarre Decision, A Dark Day for Children and Public Education
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch July 24, 2015 //
North Carolina’s high court ruled 4-3 in favor of vouchers yesterday.
Even those who like the idea of using public funds to send students to private and religious schools, as well as to pay for home-schooling, may have trouble stomaching this bizarre decision.  Sharon McCloskey writes in NC Policy Watch just how bad this decision is, how it will set back the education of large numbers of children by using public money for home schooling and for schools that have no accredited teachers, no curriculum, no standards. This cannot be the way to prepare for the 21st century. It sounds instead like a headlong rush back to the nineteenth century.

WSJ: Tar Heel School Voucher Victory
A scholarship program for poor kids survives a union legal assault.
Wall Street Journal July 26, 2015 6:25 p.m. ET
School vouchers may be the most effective anti-poverty program around, yet they’re fought tooth and hammer by the teachers unions. Late last week the North Carolina Supreme Court awarded a victory to poor kids by protecting vouchers from another union attack.

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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