Tuesday, August 18, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 18: State budget impasse means Bethlehem school district will partially pay charters

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 18, 2015:
State budget impasse means Bethlehem school district will partially pay charters

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

"The district owes seven charter and cyber charter schools $1.19 million this month. Sending the schools 70 percent will save $479,445, according to district finances."
State budget impasse means Bethlehem school district will partially pay charters
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 17, 2015 at 8:18 PM, updated August 17, 2015 at 10:16 PM
The Bethlehem Area School District is starting to feel the financial pinch from the state budget impasse and it thinks charter schools should share the pain.  Until Pennsylvania passes a 2015-16 budget, the school district plans to only send 70 percent of the tuition payments it owes to charter schools.  The school board voted 7-0 Monday night in favor of withholding some of the money. District officials say they believe they are the first district in the state to vote to do so.  Charters are privately operated public schools. When a Bethlehem student attends a charter school, the district must send tuition payments to the charter.  Board President Michael Faccinetto explained the district only receives 70 percent of its funding locally, so issuing partial payments will help the district stay solvent.  "It's a cash flow issue," Faccinetto said.  Once the district starts receiving its state subsidy payments, the remaining money will be sent to the charters, he said.

Pa. Cyber Charter School cuts 41 staff members after another contentious meeting
Beaver County Times By Tom Davidson tdavidson@timesonline.com |1 comment Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015 10:30 pm | Updated: 10:50 pm, Mon Aug 17, 2015.
MIDLAND — With their jobs on the line for the second time in as many months, Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School employees packed the school's board room to plea for a different outcome.  They didn't get it, even after an hour of impassioned speeches were made at Monday's meeting of the Midland-based school's board of trustees.  The moves were made to save $2.8 million for the 2015-16 school year, according to board President Bryan Hayden.  The board entrusted PA Cyber's Chief Executive Officer Michael Conti and his management team to decide the cuts based upon seniority and the school's union contract with the newly ratified PA Cyber Education Association, Hayden said.  Forty-one names were on the list of people to be cut, which included 21 teachers. 

"PSBA continues to work with legislators to put meaningful charter reform into place. With more than $1.3 billion leaving traditional schools for charters and cyber charters last year, it is critical that taxpayer money is spent wisely. The common-sense reforms suggested in this report will save taxpayers millions of dollars and provide a better education for our students."
June 2015 PSBA Special Report: The Critical Need for Charter School Reform
PSBA has released a new special report the critical need for charter school reform. Click here to read the full report.  Charter schools were created in Pennsylvania in 1997 as an educational experiment based on the premise that if you give educators more flexibility to innovate, achievement will increase. After more than 15 years of “experimenting” with charter schools in the commonwealth, it is time to update the Charter School Law. PSBA, educators and taxpayers know it is time for increased charter school accountability, changes that account for the fundamental differences between brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, and the addition of provisions that would hold charter schools to a higher academic standard.  In its report, PSBA outlines a number of specific and necessary changes to Charter School Law that reflect school director experience and feedback how to create equitable educational circumstances for all public schools and their students. PSBA believes the areas that need to be addressed include student and financial accountability, revision of the special education charter funding formula, governance and transparency, enhancements to charter school authorizers’ oversight practices, and enrollment caps.

"The gesture comes with strings attached. The offer stands only if Republicans support Wolf's proposed $400 million boost in education funding. But Republicans look ready to turn it down. Crompton said leaders would not make such a promise in return for what they consider to be paltry pension changes. Moreover, he said, they fear the governor's schools funding vision would require tax hikes they don't support."
Governor Wolf's new pension offer lands with a thud
WITF Written by Mary Wilson | Aug 18, 2015 3:29 AM
(Harrisburg) -- A tentative proposal from Governor Tom Wolf to change state pensions isn't sparking much agreement.  The governor has floated a "scenario" under which he would scale back retirement benefits for state and school workers, but top Republicans say the changes don't go far enough.  "It's just not even in the ballpark of what we would think we could acceptably sell to Republican members in the Senate," said Drew Crompton, chief counsel to GOP Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati.  Under the Wolf offer, traditional pensions would be preserved for most employees, with the highest earners receiving a 401(k)-style retirement benefit. The state would borrow money with a pension obligation bond.  The administration says the maneuver could be structured to minimize risk.  The proposal would also limit the extent to which workers can boost their pension payout in the last few years of their employment. The offer could cut as much as $17 billion from the state's roughly $50 billion pension debt, according to the Wolf administration - that's much more than any savings booked by Republican-backed proposals.  "If that's not a substantial, significant overture to jumpstart the conversations," said Albright, "I guess we would be scratching our heads about what else it would take."

Republicans unimpressed with governor's pension proposal
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau August 18, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — As the Pennsylvania state budget impasse continues through its seventh week, Republican legislative leaders say they are unimpressed with an offer on pension overhaul by Gov. Tom Wolf.  Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, had told legislative leaders he was willing to consider accepting parts of a Republican pension overhaul bill that he vetoed in July, such as an anti-spiking measure for current workers, as well as a limit on the traditional defined-benefit pension for future hires with large salaries.  But Republicans, who control both the Senate and the House, do not seem interested.  “It’s an alternative proposal, one that falls far, far short of anything that we would accept,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Monday. Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said Republican members “don’t think it goes anywhere near where it should.”

"Republicans should be willing to give on education spending. Together with increased pension obligations, the shrinking share of education spending borne by the state is driving up property taxes. Pennsylvania ranks 44th in the portion of school funding paid for by state government. Addressing this properly would reduce inequities in funding (ranging from less than $8,700 to nearly $27,000 per student, per year) and reduce the burden on property tax payers."
A ray of hope for a budget deal in Harrisburg
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board August 18, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf offered a compromise on pension reform late last week, proposing to cap the dollar amount of state and public school employees’ salaries that counts toward their guaranteed benefits and add a 401(k) component to achieve an administration-estimated $17.3 billion in future savings. A Republican pension bill Wolf vetoed last month included an estimated $11.1 billion in pension savings by switching future hires to a defined-benefit, 401(k)-style plan. Wolf tied his pension-reform offer to his proposed $400 million increase in public school funding; a Republican budget Wolf vetoed included a boost of $100 million.
There appears to be hope for a budget compromise in Harrisburg.
Republican leaders insist that pension reform be part of any budget deal. It’s a position with which we have agreed, given the mounting pressure being placed on state and school district budgets by the state’s $53 billion in unfunded liabilities on Pennsylvania’s two large pension funds. And those pressures are not going away.  We also have agreed with Wolf on education funding. His call for increased and fairer funding for public schools was a large part of why he won the November election.  These are two big items, and a one-for-one trade on them would be a big step toward ending a budget stalemate that looks set to hit the 50-day mark when Wolf and legislative leaders meet Wednesday.  The governor might have to move on his $100,000 cap on earnings that count toward pension benefits. A Republican bill that failed in the last session would have set a $50,000 cap. Still, the governor’s offer was a good opening bid.

Their View: Education, tax relief are Wolf’s priorities
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY SHARON WARD August 17, 2015 
Sharon Ward is the director of the governor’s Budget Office.
Our commonwealth is at a critical crossroads. On June 30, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the Republican budget, a budget that fell short of what is needed to fix our schools, improve early childhood education, and help our seniors by providing much-needed property tax relief. Equally important — the budget was not balanced. Accepting it would have increased the deficit to more than $3 billion. By failing to adequately pay our bills or plan for the future, the budget would have had significant ramifications for Pennsylvania’s financial status for many years to come.  Pennsylvania — like every state and many countries around the world — borrows funds to pay for capital projects, such as roads and bridges, new buildings, and improvements to water and sewer infrastructure. The idea is that a new highway or new municipal sewer line will serve customers for 30 or 40 years, so the expense is paid in annual increments. This way everyone who will benefit from the expense, whether it is next year or in 30 years, will contribute toward it.

My Turn: Taking politics before people
Sunbury Daily Item Opinion by Sen. Gene Yaw Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015 4:52 pm
Like many of my colleagues in the Pennsylvania Senate, I was deeply disappointed that Governor Wolf chose to veto a $30.18 billon, no-tax, balanced state budget plan that would have made new investments in education, improved the funding mechanism for our schools and provided funding for critical state services. The Governor’s impractical veto of the entire spending plan leaves us no closer to an agreement now than when he first introduced his budget proposal in March, which is a true disservice to the people who elected him on the promise of a “fresh start.” The real question here: What is the governor’s motive?  The only thing to be gained by threatening an interruption of government services is political leverage. To put the well-being of millions of state residents at risk for the sole purpose of getting his own way is unbelievably arrogant and thoughtless. In pursuing this scorched-earth policy, the governor has jeopardized funding for numerous programs and services relied upon by millions of state residents. He has done so not for the sake of good public policy, but rather for the worst of reasons — politics and a perceived political advantage.

Hempfield school board hears Open Campus update
Lancaster Online ROBYN MEADOWS | LNP Correspondent August 17, 2015
Students at Hempfield, Penn Manor and Manheim Township school districts are able to enroll in more online courses in Open Campus PA this school year thanks to streamlined operations.  Debbie Lugar, program director, gave the Hempfield School Board a progress report on Open Campus PA at the Aug. 11 meeting.  Open Campus PA is a consortium among Hempfield, Penn Manor and Manheim Township school districts that started in 2012 and offers online courses to students.  The program is growing. For the 2015-2016 school year, the program has received 460 course requests and will be able to accommodate 412 of those, Lugar said. Compare that to the 2014-2015 school year of 263 course requests and 240 courses taken, she said.  And Open Campus PA "is now in a position to increase its advertising campaign," Lugar said.  "We are ready to accommodate more students," she said.  Hempfield Superintendent Chris Adams said when Hempfield students enroll in the program instead of a cyber-charter school, it saves the district money.

Nearly 100 men show up at Harrisburg schools to greet arriving students on first day
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | cvendel@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 17, 2015 at 3:22 PM
HARRISBURG- A local activist encouraged nearly 100 men to show up at Harrisburg schools Monday morning to greet students arriving for the first day of school.  Floyd Stokes, a children's book author and president of Harrisburg-based American Literacy Corp., got the idea from news coverage of a similar event in Chicago.  "We need you...to just stand at the entry of a school, give the students, teachers, parents and staff a high 5 and tell them to have a great year," Stokes wrote in an email last week to potential volunteers. "A little bit of your time will go a long way!"  Harrisburg Police Chief Tom Carter visited three schools as part of the program, including Harrisburg High School.  Harrisburg Community Policing Coordinator David Botero said he greeted children at Foose Elementary, along with John "Ski" Sygielski, president of Harrisburg Area Community  College and several others.  Botero estimated about 85 men participated at eight schools across the city. Some men formed tunnels with their outstretched arms that students ran through to enter the school buildings, Botero said.  "We wanted the students to feel like rock stars," Botero said, adding that he'd love to see the program continue next year complete with a red carpet.

Hempfield area teachers get 5-year contract
Trib Live By Renatta Signorini Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, 11:51 p.m.
Members of the Hempfield Area Education Association will be working under a new contract beginning Sept. 1.  The association's members and Hempfield Area school directors on Monday night ratified the five-year union contract.  “I think we brought back a contract that we can all live with,” said Director Sonya Brajdic after the vote.  The school directors approved the agreement unanimously.  The contract will run through July 31, 2020.  “It's a contract that's fair to both sides,” said union President Joe Scheuermann.  The agreement includes an average annual salary increase of 1.87 percent through the duration of the pact, according to a news release. Teachers will contribute 10 percent toward their health care premiums.

Resignations leave vacancies at Cameron Co. school district
The Bradford Era By AMANDA JONES Era Correspondent amandajonesera@yahoo.com  Posted: Friday, August 14, 2015 10:00 am
EMPORIUM — Several positions at the Cameron County High School will go unfilled following teacher resignations.  High school mathematics teacher Ryan Neal and English teacher Julie Prutznal both had their resignations accepted by the board during Thursday night’s regular meeting.  “When people leave, I’ll do my best to try and not replace them until our budget gets to where it needs to be or I can’t make it work anymore,” stated Superintendent Christine Holjencin.

Penn Hills cuts 46 of 71 crossing guards to save money
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 15, 2015 12:00 AM
The financially troubled Penn Hills School District has cut nearly two-thirds of its school crossing guards.  The district has reduced the number of guards from 71 in 2014-15 to 25 this school year. Last school year, the crossing guards cost $600,000, an amount split by the district and the municipality.  In an email exchange, district spokeswoman Teresita Kolenchak said, “Possible overstaffing in this area was brought to our attention last year. Given the differing circumstances in which we started and ended the year, the matter did not get addressed. However, given our current circumstance, we are looking at all areas of the district.”

Op-ed: Teach for America stumbles because its teachers aren’t prepared
Salt Lake Tribune By Eric Ruiz Bybee Aug 15 2015 03:00PM
Teach for America is celebrating its 25th anniversary, but, for the second time in two years, its recruitment numbers are down. The program, which handpicks college graduates to teach in high-need schools, has been so popular that 18 percent of the graduating class at Yale applied in 2010. So what happened?  To explain the decline, Teach for America's co-CEOs point to the improving economy, a broader decline in applications to teacher preparation programs and an "increasingly polarized public conversation around education" and "polarization around TFA." However, this assessment overlooks another important factor: criticism and pushback from Teach for America alumni like me who felt ill-prepared to be classroom teachers.

Mike Petrilli: How Arne Duncan Turned the Federal Role into a Disaster
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch August 17, 2015 //
Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute has been a strong supporter of school choice and the Common Core. On the whole, he and TBF have applauded Arne Duncan’s move to promote charter schools, to ignore the voucher proliferation, and to push Common Core on the states (as if they were “state-led,” which they were not).  However, Petrilli now has had a change of mind. (For the record, I support those who are willing to rethink their views and change their minds.) He now recognizes that Arne overreached and caused a counter-reaction. The most atrocious action by Duncan was to force test-based teacher evaluation on the states, with no evidence that it would improve education. It was a disaster. It hasn’t worked anywhere, and it has increased teaching to the test and teacher demoralization. If you are looking for the cause of the widespread teacher shortage, look to the policies of the U.S. Department of Education since 2009.  Petrilli writes, with humility, that he was wrong.

One fateful decision. Years of neglect. Five once-average schools remade into the worst in Florida.
Tampa Bay Times Aug. 14, 2015 By CARA FITZPATRICK, LISA GARTNER and MICHAEL LaFORGIA Times Staff
In just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county’s black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.  First they abandoned integration, leaving the schools overwhelmingly poor and black.  Then they broke promises of more money and resources.  Then — as black children started failing at outrageous rates, as overstressed teachers walked off the job, as middle class families fled en masse — the board stood by and did nothing.  Today thousands of children are paying the price, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.  They are trapped at Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose — five neighborhood elementary schools that the board has transformed into failure factories.
Every year, they turn out a staggering number of children who don’t know the basics.
Eight in 10 fail reading, according to state standardized test scores. Nine in 10 fail math.
Ranked by the state Department of Education, Melrose is the worst elementary school in Florida. Fairmount Park is No. 2. Maximo is No. 10. Lakewood is No. 12. Campbell Park is No. 15.
All of the schools operate within six square miles in one of Florida’s most affluent counties.
All of them were much better off a decade ago.

PCCY: Get on the Bus to Harrisburg August 25th
As parents, teachers and advocates, you know first hand how difficult it is to get the resources needed to support our students. Harrisburg continues to be mired in political gridlock and has failed to pass a budget for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. 
Teachers, parents and students have no idea what they will be walking into come September for the start of school. We say enough is enough.
We are contacting you because on August 25th the PA House is scheduled to return to the Capitol—and we want to be there to meet them. Could you give us a few hours of your day and help make it clear that we demand a budget? 
  • Join your neighbors and other concerned citizens who believe that investing in our kids is non-negotiable
  • We’ll provide: FREE Transportation to and from the Capitol and lunch; a brief training on the bus, materials, and day of schedule
  • Scheduled visits with elected officials  
Kids are off from school so bring them with you – after all, it concerns their future!
  • Bus will depart from in front of the United Way Building at 7:45am at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
  • We will return to Philly by approximately 4:30pm.  (Discounted parking ($8) available at the Sheraton Hotel at 17th & Race)
  • If you plan to drive yourself, we will meet at the Capitol between 10am and 10:30am.

The John Stoops Lecture Series: Dr. Pasi Sahlberg "Education Around the World: Past, Present & Future" Lehigh University October 8, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Baker Hall | Zoellner Arts Center | 420 E. Packer Avenue | Bethlehem, PA 18015
Free and open to the public!
Ticketing is general admission - no preseating will be assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.
Please plan to stay post-lecture for an open reception where you will have an opportunity to meet with students from all of our programs to learn about the latest innovations in education and human services.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

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

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openAug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Register Now 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 is live at:

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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