Friday, August 21, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 21: Pa. school districts brace for prolonged state budget battle

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 21, 2015:
Pa. school districts brace for prolonged state budget battle

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

Aide to Gov. Wolf visits Reading Eagle says budget talks getting serious
Reading Eagle By Karen Shuey  Friday August 21, 2015 12:01 AM
John Hanger says he is starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
The secretary of policy and planning - a key post in Gov. Tom Wolf's inner circle - has been in the negotiating room as his boss and the majority Republican legislative leadership battle over a state spending plan that is more than seven weeks past its due date.  "We've made important progress in the last 10 days but we've got a significant number of issues that we still need compromise on," Hanger said Thursday during a meeting with the Reading Eagle editorial board.  Hanger, a one-time primary opponent of Wolf's who served as the state's top environmental official under former Gov. Ed Rendell, said the administration is focused on fighting for a balanced budget that increases funding for public education and sparks economic development.  Here are three notable takeaways from the secretary's visit:

Gov. Wolf not fazed by GOP’s take it or leave it education for pension reform offer
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, August 20, 2015
Speaking to the latest budget developments Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf said the take it or leave it nature of the offer made by Republican leadership is “not unusual in negotiations.”
The Republican proposal provides $400 million for education funding if the governor agrees to a new pension reform proposal that is a modified version of a plan passed the legislature in June.  “We’re talking and I continue to think this is a good step forward,” he said. “They embraced the idea of $400 million of additional money in basic education and education is really important to me.”  Gov. Wolf said he still reviewing the pension reform offer, stating he is waiting to see numbers from a state actuary in order to guide his decision.  He stated those numbers are expected by Monday or Tuesday.  “I think we both are looking for more evaluation,” he said.  He otherwise commended the Republicans for “real movement” by showing a willingness to give “full support” in terms of the $400 million for basic education.

GOP modified pension reform plan met with chilly reception by some Democrats
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The GOP’s latest proffer on pension reform has been met with a chilly reception by some legislative Democrats, who say Republicans are thus far operating off of talking points and not proposed a plan that would actually work.  In tweets by mid-afternoon Wednesday, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) said the plan is the wrong answer for the budget.  “The ‘new’ GOP pension plan looks a lot like old #SB1 plan,” one tweet read.  “At first blush based on sketchy detail, GOP pension idea appears to increase systems' unfunded liability. Wrong answer for #PaBudget," said another from Rep. Dermody’s account.  According to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), the modified pension reform plan differs from Senate Bill 1 by including a 16 percent employer contribution, removing legal issues brought up by Gov. Wolf in his veto message, as well as including a one percent employer contribution to the cash balance side of the plan.

Pa. school districts brace for prolonged state budget battle
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Aug 20, 2015 06:15 PM
The school year is soon to begin, and districts across the state of Pennsylvania are faced with a troubling proposition: How do you stay afloat when a very large chunk of your budget is nonexistent?  School leaders face this question as first-year Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and leaders of the Republican-held state House and Senate continue to disagree about how to frame the state's spending plan.  As the first day of classes draws near, districts have not received any of the state aid that would typically begin flowing in August.  "Right now, we're obviously not getting any money in – that has a huge effect on the district," said Gary Kiernan, business manager for the Susquehanna Community School District.  Susquehanna, a small, rural district in Northeastern Pennsylvania nestled among natural gas fracking rigs, typically gets more than two-thirds of its funding from the state government.  To get through the first few months of school without that aid, Susquehanna will have to deplete its cash reserves. The district relies on a yearly budget of $14 million and currently has an unassigned fund balance of about $600,000.

Salisbury school board joins Bethlehem in withholding charter school payments
By Kevin Duffy Special to The Morning Call August 20, 2015
With no state money coming into the district due to the budget impasse in Harrisburg, the Salisbury School Board has decided to withhold payments for charter schools.
In doing so, Salisbury joins the Bethlehem Area School Board, which approved a similar measure on Monday.  In a motion approved unanimously Wednesday, Salisbury decided to withhold a percentage that is tied to last year's state subsidy, or the amount of funding received from Harrisburg during the last fiscal year. That amounts to 20 percent of the district's operating budget, board Secretary Robert Bruchak said.  Eighty percent of Salisbury's budget comes from local tax dollars, with the remaining 20 percent coming from state subsidies, he said.  Board President Russell Giordano said the impasse among lawmakers in Harrisburg over finalizing Gov. Tom Wolf's budget is akin to the initial budget cycle overseen by former Gov. Ed Rendell. That year — 2003 — the budget wasn't finalized until 176 days after the June 30 deadline.

Spring-Ford Area School Board member calls for march on Harrisburg over budget
The Phoenixville News By Eric Devlin, on Twitter POSTED: 08/19/15, 8:49 AM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Royersford >> Fed up over the lack of a state budget, Spring-Ford Area School Board members have decided to voice their displeasure with Harrisburg.  Board member Joe Ciresi called for a march on the capitol at Monday night’s meeting. The march, scheduled for Sept. 8, would unite every school board member and resident from across the state.  “It’s time that we take a stand,” Ciresi said, “as a school district, as a community.”  Lawmakers at the state capitol have been in the middle of a budget impasse since June 30. Spring-Ford has approximately $25 million at stake as the budget impasse continues, according to Superintendent David Goodin.  A march on Harrisburg, Ciresi said, is overdue and he’d like to see Spring-Ford be the one to unite all 4,500 board members from across the state, along with their respective residents, in protest.  He said he was frustrated by the state’s inability to pass a budget, given the fact that every school board was mandated to pass its own.

"In 1980, Pennsylvania provided 51 percent of the funding to public education. That share has since been reduced to 36 percent, with further cuts coming under the former Corbett administration.  Not only has this underfunding by the state critically affected our schools—it has also radically increased our property taxes to make up for what the state is not contributing."
It's time to unite behind the cause of increased school funding; Jill Sunday Bartoli
PennLive Op-Ed  By Jill Sunday Bartoli on August 20, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Our group, The Concerned Women of Greater Carlisle, urges all our fellow citizens to join with us and call, write to and visit your legislators to insist on a budget that fairly and adequately supports our public schools.  Our teachers, our students and our public schools need your concern and your support for fair, equitable and sustainable funding.  It is shameful that Pennsylvania is ranked 46th in equity of school funding.  Some PA schools have per-pupil spending of $22,140. Other schools have closed libraries, no music or art classes and per-pupil spending of $8,584.  There is no mystery about how students learn best and succeed.  Abundant research documents the necessary ingredients, which are always found in the highest performing schools, public and private:  challenging and engaging courses of study, well supported and respected teachers, enrichment programs, small class sizes and a supportive staff of librarians, counselors, nurses and social workers.

Lawmakers see own funds dwindle in Pennsylvania budget fight
PA lawmakers say they're running out of money
Morning Call By Mark Scolforo Of The Associated Press August 20, 2015
HARRISBURG — The country's largest full-time legislature will soon have to decide where it will get the money to pay thousands of employees and other costs as its surplus, once more than $200 million, is rapidly dwindling amid Pennsylvania's budget crisis.  The four caucuses' funds are expected to be depleted in the coming weeks or months, thanks in part to the partisan budget standoff now well into its second month. Illinois is the only other state in the country without a budget or temporary spending plan in place.  Democrats, led by Gov. Tom Wolf, are locked in slow-moving negotiations with the Republicans who control both chambers.  "We have enough to reach early September," said House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton. "Several options are under consideration but we have not decided on a particular course of action."

"According to Wolf, the district is required to pay the charter schools an inflated $40,315.42 for each special education student. This is more than twice the expenditures on its own students with special education needs and more than any other district in the commonwealth. Chester Upland, Wolf said, has a recurring and growing annual budget deficit that it cannot fix absent drastic measures to address their dire financial crisis."
Wolf: ‘No more quick fixes’ for Chester Upland schools
Philly Trib by Larry Miller Tribune Staff Writer  Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015 5:15 pm
Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week that unless swift measures are initiated to help the financially distressed Chester Upland School District, its projected $22 million budget deficit will double.  The governor, along with Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Chester Upland School District receiver Dr. Francis V. Barnes, filed an amended financial recovery plan in Delaware County’s Court of Common Pleas for the school district on Tuesday to address the ongoing financial problems.  Chester Upland’s 2015-2016 budget shows a projected deficit of more than $22 million, the governor said, and without drastic corrective action to put the district on sound financial footing, its accumulated deficit will grow to more than $46 million.

Audit finds overbilling and underbilling at Nittany Valley Charter School
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comAugust 20, 2015 
An audit by the state Auditor General’s Office didn’t quite go in Nittany Valley Charter School’s favor.  And Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said it could be because the school didn’t get proper guidance from the state Department of Education.  A report released on Wednesday by DePasquale said the first-ever audit of the school showed the “need for improved involvement by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and a general overhaul of the 1997 charter school law.”  “What’s going on at Nittany Valley Charter School in Centre County underscores the need for changes in the Department of Education,” DePasquale said in a prepared statement. “The education of students must be paramount. To do that, charter schools and school districts need to be able to count on the Department of Education for guidance and technical support.”
The audit covered Oct. 20, 2013, through April 8, 2015. It also included the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years as it pertained to state subsidies and reimbursements.
The audit showed Nittany Valley Charter School incorrectly billed six school districts for enrolled students — some were overbilled and others were underbilled.

York City schools training aims to create more leaders
Training aims to build teams in buildings to improve student learning
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   08/17/2015 10:42:10 AM EDT
Having more leaders in a school means more people to pick up the tasks that need to get done on a daily basis, more teachers involved in the daily decisions that impact their classrooms, and more people focused on improving instruction.  And in the end, it should mean better teaching and learning for kids, according to John DeFlaminis, executive director of the Penn Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.  "That's what we're in this work for," he said.  With that idea in mind, the York City School District is embarking on a three-year project with the university, working to train educators and create teams to address the needs in their individual schools.

SRC rejects Esperanza's charter application, OKs $22M revamp of student info system
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa and Fabiola Cineas on Aug 20, 2015 10:49 PM
The School Reform Commission Thursday rejected a bid by Esperanza to open a K-5 elementary school, which would have given the faith-based organization a full K-12 feeder pattern in its North Philadelphia neighborhood.  Esperanza submitted a revised application after being denied in February, when the SRC approved just five of 38 applications for new charters.  The denial, which came on a 3-1 vote, was due to concerns about the performance of students in Esperanza's middle school, which has been in full operation for just a year.  Rev. Luis Cortes, who heads Esperanza, and David Rossi, CEO of Esperanza Charter Schools, said they would keep coming back to the SRC until the charter is approved. They do not plan to appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board, they said after the vote.

Philly School District turns down Esperanza's charter application
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, August 21, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2015, 9:35 PM
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission moved Thursday night to block a proposed charter school's new application and to sell two unused buildings.  Esperanza Elementary Charter School first came before the SRC in the winter, hoping to open a school in North Philadelphia. It already operates a charter high school and middle school in the area.  The SRC turned down the application in February and denied it again Thursday, saying that although Esperanza has excelled at the high school level, its performance has been uneven for middle school.  Commissioner Bill Green praised Esperanza's work at the high school level, and said that he hoped the organization reapplies after concerns about its middle school programs have been worked out.

Principals file charge against school district
THE SCHOOL district's principals union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district after officials informed the union that it will outsource substitute principals, the Daily News has learned.  Lawyers for the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators filed the charge July 8 with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, claiming the district's actions violate the union's collective bargaining agreement with the district.

Are Traumatized Students Disabled? A Debate Straight Outta Compton
An unprecedented, class action lawsuit brought against one Southern California school district and its top officials could have a big impact on schools across the country.  On Thursday in Los Angeles, a U.S. District Court judge will preside over the first hearing in the suit against the Compton Unified School District. To understand thecomplaint, you need to understand Compton.  The city, located just south of LA, has long had a violent reputation. Last year, its murder rate was more than five times the national average. Now, a handful of students say they've been traumatized by life in Compton and that the schools there have failed to give them the help they deserve.

New York Schools With Many Students Who Skipped Tests Won’t Lose Money
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR AUG. 20, 2015
School districts will not be penalized for having large numbers of students refuse to sit for the New York State standardized tests this year, education officials said on Thursday, ending months of uncertainty over how they would respond to a growing antitesting movement.  For months, state and federal officials warned that districts that fell below a 95 percent participation rate might lose federal funds, while the leaders of the so-called opt-out movement have dismissed these as empty threats.  More than 200,000 third through eighth graders declined to take the exams this year. In a number of districts, students who refused to take the tests outnumbered those who did.  As recently as last week, the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, said that she was not sure if the federal Education Department would withhold money from districts with high opt-out rates. She declined to rule out the possibility that the state would do so on its own.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: August 12 - 18, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on August 18, 2015 - 3:36pm 
School doors are opening in many parts of the country but test scores from last spring are just beginning to be released. The big news in many jurisdictions is the huge surge in the number of families who opted out, a movement that is sure to grow in the 2015-2016 academic year. In many state capitals and Washington, DC policy makers are responding to mounting grassroots pressure by reducing test overuse and misuse -- we are making progress, but there's still a long way to go!  If you have been on vacation, you can catch up on assessment reform news through FairTest's weekly news clip archives at:

Twenty-two PA high schools in these rankings…..
Newsweek: America's Top High Schools 2015
The Newsweek High School Rankings assess schools based on a broad range of data to determine which institutions do the best job of preparing students for college. A star next to a school’s name indicates that it meets our Equity measure by helping low-income students score at or above average on state assessments.

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.

INVITATION: Twitter Chat on Pennsylvania Education Funding
Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m.
The next Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations is set for Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.
On the last Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m., the following organizations go to Twitter to discuss timely topics, ask questions and listen to the public’s responses:
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA);
  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS); and
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units
Join the conversation. Share your ideas, lurk, learn and let us know what you think about the state of support for public schools. It’s a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. If you’ve never tweeted before, here are directions and a few tips:

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 <>

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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