Wednesday, August 12, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 12, 2015: PA. starts 7th week without a budget; PA standardized test opt-outs tripled in 2015

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 12, 2015:
PA. starts 7th week without a budget; PA standardized test opt-outs tripled in 2015

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

Pa. starts seventh week without a budget
The engineers of the Pennsylvania budget impasse will sit down for another design meeting Wednesday afternoon.  The new fiscal year began July 1. Negotiations between the governor and top lawmakers have been held about once a week since then.  "We had productive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai after a budget confab last month. "We really rolled up our sleeves."  Despite all the purported progress, there's been no breakthrough on any of the issues that continue to divide the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature. They remain far apart in their views on taxes, education funding, public pension changes, and the fate of the state liquor system.

"Wolf said that under Republican leadership, schools in Pennsylvania have been underfunded by the state and has forced local governments to raise property taxes."
Gov. Tom Wolf, Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro make case for budget
By Dan Clark, The Times Herald POSTED: 08/11/15, 5:23 PM EDT
NORRISTOWN >> Gov. Tom Wolf and Montgomery County commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro were in the county seat on Tuesday calling on the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a budget that adds up, not one that just appears to do so.  The governor called the Republicans’ tactics smoke and mirrors and said there needs to be a serious discussion over Pennsylvania’s finances.  “The thing that I am most concerned about is the sham that we have in Harrisburg called the budget that was presented to me on June 30,” Wolf said. “It was a disgrace. If I had taken a budget that looked like that, when I was running a business, to my banker he would have thrown me out of his office and rightly so. It doesn’t balance. The math really doesn’t add up.”  Wolf called on Republicans on Tuesday to stop playing games and pass a fiscally sound budget. He said the one they passed on June 30 does not make sense.  “It assumes next year’s revenues will be $100 million higher than the independent fiscal office figures it’s going to be,” Wolf said of the Republican budget. 

Wolf: GOP budget plan a 'disgrace'
CHRIS PALMER, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 2:20 PM POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 2:16 PM
Gov. Wolf Tuesday dampened any hopes that Pennsylvania's six-week budget stalemate was nearing an end, holding a news conference to reiterate his own long-stated spending priorities while assailing those of his Republican counterparts.  Describing the GOP budget proposal as equal parts "sham," "insult," and "disgrace," Wolf said his plan would close a budget gap while increasing school funding and reducing property taxes.  Republicans have opposed increases of other taxes that would pay for the Wolf proposal.  "We have got to get to the point where our financial house is in order," Wolf said.  The event in Norristown came during a hiatus in ongoing negotiations between the first-term Democrat and Republican legislators.

Pa. Budget Stalemate Could Cost School Districts Money
WSEE Erie By Matt Knoedler Posted: Aug 11, 2015 10:26 AM EDT
We’re into the sixth week without a budget in Pennsylvania. Now, the stalemate could threaten the savings of local school districts, including Erie’s Public Schools, forcing them to break open their piggy banks.  Erie's Public Schools receives about 60 percent of its funding from the commonwealth. That’s roughly $96 million for the upcoming school year, including an additional $6.5 million in Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget.  But without state funding, the district plans to tap into its reserve accounts, said Brian Polito, the district’s chief financial officer. Along with using local real estate tax revenue and a $12 million tax revenue anticipation note, the district plans to borrow money from health insurance and worker's compensation funds. That funding would carry the district through September.  But borrowing from the reserve funds means losing interest the district would otherwise earn. Moreover, the district could lose money after paying back interest on other borrowed cash.  "If we had to go out and borrow additional funds, then we would be paying interest we wouldn't normally pay,” Polito said.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature passed a budget that under-funds Southeastern PA schools by $33 million. 
PCCY website
Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties are home to 61 school districts serving more than 330,000 students —some of which are among the highest performing in the state. However, 46 districts are not receiving adequate funding from the State, and 58,000 students are not on grade level.  Elected officials and public citizens like you must work together to ensure that every child in Southeastern Pennsylvania gets a quality education.

Pa. standardized test opt-outs tripled in 2015
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 7:45 am | Updated: 12:41 pm, Tue Aug 11, 2015.
The number of students opted out of state tests tripled in 2015, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  PSSA math opt-outs rose to 3,270 students from 1,064 in 2014. PSSA English language arts opt-outs rose to 3,245 from 1,068. Those are the largest jumps in the nine years of available data.   (Note: in 2014, students in grades 3 through 8 took reading PSSAs, and students in grade 4 and 8 also took a writing test. Those components were combined in 2015.)  Keystone Exam opt-out numbers were not available.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: August 5 - 11, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on August 11, 2015 - 12:46pm 
As K-12 classrooms across the country ready to reopen, scores from last year's tests are starting to be released.  And, with Congress on summer recess, education committee staffers are working behind the scenes on reconciling provisions of the NCLB-overhaul bills passed by the House and Senate.  This is a great time to make your views about the need for assessment reform known to both state and federal policy makers.

Letter to the Editor: Don’t strip schools’ right to challenge assessments
Delco Times Letter by Nathan Mains, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association POSTED: 08/11/15, 8:07 PM EDT
To the Times:  I’m sure everyone reading this is an upright citizen. You keep your lawn neat and tidy. In the winter you may be the first out to shovel the snow from your walk, and perhaps your elderly neighbor’s too. You pay your taxes on time, and you even pay a little more to cover that strip mall down the road. What’s that? You don’t? Well whether you think you do or not, chances are your hard-earned tax dollars are going to subsidize the taxes of that strip mall, or office building, or apartment complex in your community and you didn’t even know it.  As a taxpayer if you feel the value of your property is being overtaxed you have the right to appeal the current assessment and potentially lower your taxes. Likewise, taxing bodies such as townships, boroughs and school districts can conduct an assessment appeal if it believes the value of a property has increased beyond its assessed value.  This process allows municipalities to tax fairly so these corporate properties aren’t paying less than their fair share, and you’re not picking up the tab for their underpayment. Critics (yes, typically those corporate entities) are trying to take this authority away from school districts. Like all of us, they don’t want to pay more taxes, but nor should the families of a community chip in and subsidize their taxes.

Pa.'s top court to rule on Philly SRC bid to scrap teachers' contract
By Kristen A. Graham LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 10:02 PM POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 9:41 PM
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will decide whether the School Reform Commission has the power to cancel its teachers' contract, justices said in an order dated Monday.  The SRC did so last October, attempting to impose new economic terms on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The union immediately challenged the legality of the action.  Commonwealth Court justices sided with the union in January, but now the matter rests with the Supreme Court, the court affirmed in its order.  Neither the union nor the district was immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

Supreme Court takes case over Philadelphia teachers’ union cancelled collective bargaining agreement
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, August 11, 2015
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Monday granted an appeal by the School Reform Commission and School District of Philadelphia of a Commonwealth Court holding allowing an injunction to remain in place over the SRC’s and district’s nullification of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.  According to the allocatur grant, the court will look at the following issue:  “Whether Sections 693 and 696 of the Distressed School Law and Act 46 of 1998 authorized the School Reform Commission and the School District of Philadelphia to cancel their collective bargaining agreement with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and impose new economic terms?”  By way of background, the SRC—under the auspices of an ongoing fiscal crisis in the Philadelphia School District—nullified an expired collective bargaining agreement and imposed new economic terms while the SRC and the union were not at an impasse over the CBA.

Letter to the editor: Sen. Jake Corman on wrong side of major issues
Centre Daily Times Letter by MARIA A. SWEET, STATE COLLEGE August 11, 2015 
Sen. Jake Corman is on the wrong side on all three major issues facing Pennsylvania.
1. The gas tax would support schools and give property tax relief to the growing older population in Pennsylvania. Further, money saved in property taxes would help homeowners upgrade and repair their homes while activating the local economy. I call on Corman to support the gas extraction tax.
2. Pennsylvania liquor stores provide $100 million yearly revenue to the state general fund. The proposal to sell them for $220 million leaves a shortfall of $100 million per year in future years. Further, the more than 4,500 employees with benefits contribute to our economy. The senator needs to protect Pennsylvania’s revenue that brings relief to taxpayers.
3. The Employees Pension Fund was shortchanged by legislators beginning with the Ridge administration, resulting in insufficient accrued funds. Employees paid full contribution. Privatization and a 401(k) plan will aggravate the problem. Pensioners, often ignorant of finance, will be at the mercy of hedge fund managers for their future security. Corman needs do the right thing and restore the pension fund.
I am puzzled at the senator’s position on issues that hurt hard-working, taxpaying citizens of his district and of Pennsylvania. He should revisit these positions with a mathematical (not ideological) perspective.

Arts charter school application submitted to Reading School District
Reading Eagle  Tuesday August 11, 2015 12:01 AM
Organizers of an arts charter school have submitted their application to the Reading School District.  Dr. Thomas Lubben, founder and CEO of TLC Arts, submitted a charter application for The Berks Arts Academy Charter School on Thursday, according to district officials.
Lubben has said he hopes to open the school, which would accommodate 400 high school and middle school students, at the former Central Catholic High School building for the 2016-17 school year. It would be modeled after schools Lubben has opened in Lehigh County.  The application comes despite the school's inclusion in FBI search warrants for City Hall.  The school - as well as Allentown real estate developer Abe Atiyeh, who is involved in the project - were among 24 targeted clients, individuals and entities included the July 10 raids of City Hall and the home of Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer.  Lubben has insisted the FBI investigation does not involve the school and will not impact his plans.  The Reading School Board will hold hearings for the charter application this fall. Dates for the hearings have not yet been set.

East Allegheny school board approves new teachers' contract
Post Gazette By Anne Cloonan August 10, 2015 9:03 PM
The East Allegheny school board tonight approved a new six-year contract with the East Allegheny Education Association, the district's teachers union.  The contract will begin retroactively on July 1, 2012, and run until June 30, 2018.  As part of the contract, teachers agreed to no wage increase and no "step movement" in pay based on years of service and education during the 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. Employees below "step 16" on the salary scale will be eligible for a raise based on step movement during the 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Teachers at step 16 of the salary scale who have a bachelor's degree plus 24 years of experience earned $92,468.49 in the first three years of the contract.

Frank Bruni: Can We Interest You In Teaching?
The New York Times Opinion  by Frank Bruni AUG. 12, 2015
Teaching can’t compete.
When the economy improves and job prospects multiply, college students turn their attention elsewhere, to professions that promise more money, more independence, more respect.
That was one takeaway from a widely discussed story in The Times on Sunday by Motoko Rich, who charted teacher shortages so severe in certain areas of the country that teachers are being rushed into classrooms with dubious qualifications and before they’ve earned their teaching credentials.  It’s a sad, alarming state of affairs, and it proves that for all our lip service about improving the education of America’s children, we’ve failed to make teaching the draw that it should be, the honor that it must be. Nationally, enrollment in teacher preparation programs dropped by 30 percent between 2010 and 2014, as Rich reported.  To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of the people who do go into teaching exit the profession within five years.  How do we make teaching more rewarding, so that it beckons to not only enough college graduates but to a robust share of the very best of them?

Catholics wrestle with teachings as gay employees dismissed
Education Week by AP Published Online: August 10, 2015
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pope Francis refined his vision for the church last week when he said long-spurned divorced and remarried Catholics should be welcomed with "open doors." And he has famously parsed centuries of thought on homosexuality into a five-word quip: "Who am I to judge?"  Yet the Archdiocese of Philadelphia opened its door only briefly when married gay teacher Margie Winters, trailed by supporters, arrived Monday with 23,000 petitions seeking reinstatement to her job at a Catholic elementary school.  "The school and the Sisters of Mercy allowed me to work there for eight years. Once the diocese was notified, something changed," said Winters, who was disappointed that a security guard, and not a church official, took her petitions at the chancery door.  Winters, 50, lost her job at Waldron Mercy Academy in June after a parent complained about her 2007 marriage to a woman. Her case highlights the shifting fault lines over gays in the church — and in church workplaces — just before the pope visits Philadelphia next month for the World Meeting of Families.  Jesuit-run Fordham University is standing by its theology chairman whose same-sex marriage made the New York Times wedding section this year, while at Seton Hall University, the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, recently reassigned the head chaplain after the priest denounced gay bullying and later came out as gay.
Around the U.S., more than 50 people have reported losing their jobs at Catholic institutions since 2010 over their sexual orientation or identity, according to New Ways Ministries, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics based in Mount Ranier, Maryland.  Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, wading into the issue amid Winters' case, stressed that Catholic schools are responsible for "teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief," referring to the church's condemnation of homosexual activity. He said the Mercy officials showed "character and common sense" for sticking to church teachings.

The flood of stories about education in New Orleans began well before the 10th anniversary of the flooding that destroyed most of the city’s terrible schools.  Is education better or worse now that the city is virtually all-charter?  Is this a model for urban America, or a gigantic hoax?  So far, I haven’t seen much in the way of middle ground.  Here are SIX truths (as I see them), THREE predictions, and ONE piece of advice.

Chicago public schools to lay off 1,500 teachers and staff by MARY WISNIEWSKI, REUTERS POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 3:01 AM
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Public Schools on Monday began notifying nearly 1,500 teachers and support staff who are being fired amid a previously announced, $200 million budget cut and a shift in student enrollment.  The announcement came as CPS released its $5.7 billion 2016 budget, which includes a historic $1.1 billion budget deficit driven by rapidly rising pension payments.  The layoff notices will affect 479 teachers and 1,012 other staff members out of more than 41,500 employees, according to the school system.

Why tonight's Perseid meteor shower will be especially awesome
York Dispatch By DEBORAH NETBURN Los Angeles Times (TNS) POSTED:   08/10/2015 08:30:07 PM EDT
The Perseid meteor shower maximum is almost upon us, and this year especially, you don't want to miss it.  The annual August meteor shower is one of the most prolific natural light shows of the year with up to 100 shooting stars streaking across the sky per hour at its peak.  It's also the brightest of the annual meteor showers. In 2013 NASA declared the Perseid meteor shower the "Fireball Champion" because it had the most shooting stars that shone at least as brightly as Venus in the night sky.  This year the meteor watching should be especially good because the shower peaks between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, coinciding with the new moon.  With no moon in the sky, even the dimmest meteors will be visible if you can get yourself far away from man-made light pollution.  "Moonlight is the bane of meteor watchers because bright moonlight washes out faint meteors," said Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky and Telescope. "It is nature's own light pollution."  The last time the Perseids peaked at the same time as the new moon was in 2007.

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 <>

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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