Friday, September 11, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 11: Budget Impasse Impacts and Views

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 11, 2015:
Budget Impasse Impacts and Views

Make your voice heard at Education Action Day, Sept. 21
School directors and administrators from across the state will be converging on the State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21 for Education Action Day – your opportunity to push for a state budget and pension reform. Join PSBA in the Main Capitol-East Wing under the escalators at 10 a.m. A news conference will be held from 11 a.m.-noon, and from 1-3 p.m. you may visit with legislators. There is no charge for participation, but for planning purposes, members are asked to register their attendance online below. We look forward to a big crowd to impress upon legislators and the governor the need for a state budget and pension reform now!

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

More than 800 PA ed policy fans are following the Keystone State Ed Coalition on twitter - are you? @lfeinberg

Hanger: Wolf offering 'major concessions' in PA budget talks
Bucks County Courier Times by James McGinnis Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, September 10, 2015 4:00 am
Seventy days into the state budget stalemate, Gov. Tom Wolf is offering major concessions to Republicans in Harrisburg, including a 401(k)-style pension plan for new state workers, John Hanger, secretary of planning and policy, said Wednesday.  “We’re doing everything we can to compromise, but we will not collapse,” Hanger told a meeting of the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board. “I’m hopeful that we will soon have a budget. I cannot guarantee it.” The Bucks County Courier Times is the sister newspaper to The Intelligencer.  Two years ago, Wolf launched a campaign for governor, promising $1 billion more for public schools. Yet his education budget remains a sticking point in closed-door talks with Republicans in the Legislature.  “The governor is adamant. If he’s going to concede points, then (the Republicans) need to move substantially,” Hanger said. “I know what we’re fighting for, and the governor is in no mood to compromise on this core thing."  Other issues, from expanding liquor sales to pension reforms, remain on the table though.

Pass a stopgap: Wolf and the Legislature must overcome failure
Post Gazette Editorial By the Editorial Board September 11, 2015 12:00 AM
A stopgap state budget that would address the 10-week standoff between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would be both a victory and a defeat.
If a temporary funding measure could be enacted, the pressure would be off Pennsylvania school districts, human service agencies and other organizations that depend on state dollars to pay their bills. Such an action would be a victory for them because the assurance of a funding stream would save the cost of borrowing to keep things running while lawmakers debate larger, long-term policies.  For elected officials, though, a temporary budget would be a declaration of defeat.  Leaders of the two major political parties are no closer to reaching agreement on a spendng plan than they were when Mr. Wolf announced his budget proposal in March.  The Democratic chief executive and the Republican-controlled Legislature have opposing views on important issues: providing sufficient dollars for schools, imposing appropriate levies on Marcellus Shale drillers, selling the state’s liquor monopoly and changing public pension plans. House Speaker Mike Turzai told Post-Gazette editors this week that his fellow Republicans are counting first on at least $220 million from the sale of the state liquor system for new revenue, not new or higher taxes as Mr. Wolf has proposed.

"Pointing to what he said was close to $1 billion in education funding cuts in the last four years, Hughes said most school districts are dependent on the state for funding.  Pennsylvania has the largest deposits of natural gas in the nation, he said, yet “the Marcellus Shale industry is not paying their fair share.” Gov. Wolf has “proposed a modest and fair” severance tax, “which he wants to put into education, so more can have what Upper Dublin has.”
Dems address budget impasse in Upper Dublin, call for Marcellus Shale tax
Montgomery News By Linda Finarelli @lkfinarelli on Twitter Published: Thursday, September 10, 2015
UPPER DUBLIN >> The “fundamental issue” holding up an agreement on a state budget is a Marcellus Shale tax to help fund public education, state Sen. Vincent Hughes said at a Sept. 10 press conference at Upper Dublin High School.  Hughes, D-7, whose district includes parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia, along with other Democratic legislators advocated an increase in education funding and passage of an extraction tax on gas drillers as the “fair and equitable” thing to do.  Standing in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center of the high school, made possible by a voter referendum, Hughes said Upper Dublin was chosen as the backdrop for the event to highlight the disparity between wealthy suburban districts and Philadelphia, referring to class sizes, infrastructure and services.

House Democratic caucus gets $1.9 million advance from State Treasury
Treasury cites impasse, advances staff funding
By Kate Giammarise/ Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau September 10, 2015 11:51 PM
HARRISBURG — In an unusual move brought about by the state’s ongoing budget impasse, the State Treasury has said it will advance nearly $1.9 million to the House Democratic caucus so it can pay staff during an ongoing state budget stalemate.  Because the state entered the new fiscal year July 1 without a signed budget, the 253-member Legislature and its staff have been operating on reserve funds, which for the House Democratic caucus have been exhausted.  The treasurer’s office said in a statement, “sufficient legal justification exists to pay legislative employees even without a budget appropriation” and the agency intends to fulfill a payroll request submitted by the Comptroller of the House so that House Democrats can meet their payroll obligation next week.  “Without the ability to pay its employees, the General Assembly would be unable to enact laws related to the promotion and preservation of the general welfare — including the enactment of a budget. Therefore, just as it is necessary to pay executive and judicial branch employees who perform essential functions, it is necessary to pay legislative employees who perform the essential functions of the General Assembly,” according to the treasurer’s statement.

"In regard to the payment to the charter schools, the board will pay what it owes for the tuition, a figure Marnell explained is about $400 of every $1,000 that is owed. The rest of the money would come from state subsidies, which have not been received.  “School districts are being billed for tuition by charter schools,” Petonic said. “There is no state budget, so you don't know for sure what the state is going to allocate in the way of subsidies.”  He said if the district was to make full payments without knowing how much was to be received from the state this could cause the potential problem of “having to reopen the budget.”
Southmoreland School Board makes partial payments as Pennsylvania budget impasse drags on
Trib Live By Paul Paterra Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, 1:16 a.m.
The impasse with the state budget led to two actions by Southmoreland School District directors.  
The board voted unanimously Thursday to pay its portion of the quarterly payment due to the Public School Employees' Retirement System for the period ending June 30.  The board voted unanimously to pay what it owes for charter school tuition, but not the portion of the payment that would be covered by state subsidies.  Dealing with the retirement system, Solicitor David Petonic explained there were three options.  The board could vote to pay its portion, as well as the money that would come from the state to be sent to PSERS.  Before June 30, 1995, the state and the school district sent its portion directly to PSERS. A change in regulations that year made the state send the money to districts for their contributions to PSERS, which must be sent to the retirement system within five days upon receipt.  The Southmoreland School Board could vote to withhold any payment.

"Districts downgraded one notch by Moody’s include Crestwood, Dallas, Delaware Valley, Forest City Regional, Hazleton Area, Mid Valley, Mountain View, North Pocono, Pittston Area, Riverside, Tunkhannock Area and Wallenpaupack Area.  Standard & Poor’s issued warnings last week to Mid Valley, Old Forge, Riverside, Scranton, Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County, Tunkhannock, Hazleton Area and the Wilkes-Barre Area Career & Technical Center."
School districts face rating downgrades as impasse continues
Scranton Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: September 11, 2015
Along with struggling to make payroll and pay utility bills as the state budget impasse continues, school districts now face higher borrowing costs.  On Thursday, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded ratings for a dozen area school districts, and if the state does not pass a budget soon, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services warned last week that additional districts could be downgraded.  The impasse, at day 73 today, creates uncertainty with whether districts will be able to make debt service payments, according to the agencies. Districts statewide have already missed more than $1 billion in subsidy payments and many have already secured loans to pay bills.  Districts downgraded one notch by Moody’s include Crestwood, Dallas, Delaware Valley, Forest City Regional, Hazleton Area, Mid Valley, Mountain View, North Pocono, Pittston Area, Riverside, Tunkhannock Area and Wallenpaupack Area.  Standard & Poor’s issued warnings last week to Mid Valley, Old Forge, Riverside, Scranton, Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County, Tunkhannock, Hazleton Area and the Wilkes-Barre Area Career & Technical Center.
The state has been without a budget since July 1. Districts that have received warnings or have been downgraded are enrolled in the state’s intercept program, which allows the state to withhold subsidy payments from a district that fails to make a debt payment. The state then pays the bank directly. The lengthy budget impasse has heightened risks to bondholders, Moody’s wrote in a release.

What will PSSA scores show about kids? West Shore School Board members debate merits of the test
Penn Live By Rachel Bunn | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 10, 2015 at 9:49 PM, updated September 10, 2015 at 10:37 PM
Are kids being pushed until they break or pushed to do better?
That's the debate school administrators and officials are having as they reflect on data from this year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exam.  Members of the West Shore School Board grappled with what declines test scores mean for kids: is it an increased rigor to keep up with the rest of the world or is it pushing kids to do too much?  It's not news that the 2015 PSSA scores triggered worry among educators, with the new tests and new scoring system causing scores to sharply decline from the previous yearThe Pennsylvania Department of Education said the new test aligns better with the state's core standards, among other things, and this year will be the new baseline for comparison. The U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday it wouldwaive use of the new test scores as part of the School Performance Profile as the state transitions to the more stringent requirements. The profiles are used to judge both teacher and school performance.

Charter advocates back closing badly performing peers
It may sound counterintuitive, but two Philadelphia organizations that favor expanding successful charter schools are calling for changes to make it easier to close charters with poor academic track records.  In a position paper scheduled to be released Friday, the Philadelphia Charters for Excellence and the advocacy arm of the Philadelphia School Partnership call on the School Reform Commission and the legislature to streamline the closing of charters that are chronically low performers.  Now, they say, the process can drag on for years "while students attending these low-performing schools continue to receive a substandard education."  But the document says it is equally important that the high-performing charter schools in the city get the green light to expand to help accommodate displaced students.

Company hired to find subs for Philly schools isn't finding many
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, September 11, 2015, 1:06 AM POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2015, 4:09 PM
The private firm that scored a $34 million contract with the Philadelphia School District to staff substitute-teaching jobs - and promised that 75 percent of those positions would be filled on Day One - has fallen far short of its goals so far.  On Tuesday, the first day of school, it had filled only 11 percent of the jobs.  That left 477 city classrooms without teachers.  On Wednesday and Thursday the rate and number of vacancies were roughly the same.  "I think it's easy to say that we had hoped for a better result," said Owen Murphy, spokesman for the firm, Source4Teachers of Cherry Hill. "We fully anticipate that the learning curve will soon go away, and we'll soon be generating better results."  To date, Source4Teachers has 300 workers credentialed and ready to accept jobs, well under the number of substitutes needed in Philadelphia classrooms in any given day.

Proposed arts-centered charter school in York city faces questions
District administrators said an application lacked detail
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   09/10/2015 09:10:56 PM EDT
A proposal for an arts-infused charter school in the York City School District was picked apart Thursday night by district administrators who said it lacked detail.  The city school board held a hearing Thursday on an application for Arts to the Core charter school, planned to be a K-8 school that would infuse arts into core subjects. Charter representatives said they planned to seek certification from an organization called A+ Schools, which offers training in its arts-centered strategies.  A team of city school district administrators who reviewed the application took aim at what they said was a lack of information in the application. The applicants often countered that many of those details couldn't be determined until a charter was obtained and a school started.  For example, district administrators said there wasn't enough financial information or details on how special education services would be provided. There was no curriculum provided, they said.
Richard Caplan, the founder of Arts to the Core, argued that the school's educational strategy is based on "dynamic" curriculum development and that it wouldn't work with a pre-packaged curriculum. Other charter representatives said there might be documents that weren't submitted.  Allison Petersen, an attorney for the board, questioned the applicants, seeking more details, such as whether they would contract out for special education services or provide them in house.

Bracey & Schreiber: York City schools are on the right track (column)
York Daily Record Letter By Mayor C. Kim Bracey & Rep. Kevin J. Schreiber UPDATED:   09/10/2015 09:23:02 AM EDT
The beginning of the school year is undoubtedly an exciting time for the entire community. Parents are snapping "first day of school" photos and sharing them all over social media, teachers are easing the students' transition from summer to school, and students are meeting new classmates, learning new hallways, picking up an instrument or trying out for sports while generally figuring out where they fit in. Parents are meeting teachers, checking on homework, shopping for supplies and amazingly firing on all cylinders while simultaneously running on fumes.  These traditions and rituals occur in homes and school across our entire commonwealth. It does not matter what school district you are in, private, public or charter, the back-to-school season is a time of anxiety, excitement, optimism, new horizons and certainly a great deal of angst.

Unionville-Chadds Ford teachers, board agree to new 4-year contract
By Fran Maye, Daily Local News POSTED: 09/10/15, 12:38 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
EAST MARLBOROUGH >> The Unionville -Chadds Ford School Board and teachers in the district have accepted the recommendations of a fact-finder, paving the way for a new four-year contract.  The Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association approved the terms of the fact-finder’s report on Sept. 6, and this week, the school board voted 8-1 to approve it. School director Keith Knauss voted against approving the fact-finder’s report.  “The UCFEA is excited to get back to educating our students, which is our greatest priority,” said Scott Broomall, UCFEA president. “The report is fair and reasonable and mindful of all stakeholders involved in the process. It’s important that we have a voice in our workplace, that we can negotiate terms and conditions of our employment. We are delighted to have the board vote to support the fact finder’s report.”  Under terms of the new contract, teachers will average an annual salary increase of 2.4 percent over the next four years. In the final year of the agreement a teacher starting in the district with a bachelor’s degree will earn $50,000 per year while a top of scale teacher with 16-plus years experience, a master’s degree plus 60 graduate school credits will earn $105,441.

Upper Darby teachers get a new three-year contract
Delco Times By Linda Reilly, Times Correspondent POSTED: 09/10/15, 10:02 PM EDT 
UPPER DARBY >> The Upper Darby School Board ratified a teachers contract calling for an average pay raise of 2.7 percent for three years at the regular meeting.  The pact for the Upper Darby Education Association was approved by the board as part of the personnel report this week effective July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2018.  The contract calls for a 2.6 percent pay hike this year, 1.3 percent next year and 4.3 percent the third and final year.  “I am really proud of the association and the negotiating team to come up with an exceptional agreement on both sides,” Superintendent Richard Dunlap said.   In addition to the pay raise, the school year for the 941 teachers was increased to 191 days beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. The additional day will be used for professional development. Newly appointed teachers will participate in three days of orientation.

Rep. John Kline is still optimistic on No Child Left Behind rewrite this year
Washington Post By Emma Brown September 9 at 4:02 PM  
Congress has not yet officially launched a conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate revisions of No Child Left Behind. But Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the chairman of the House Education Committee, says that he is still hopeful that lawmakers will be able to send a bill to the president’s desk by the end of the year.  “The sooner we can move this through, the better,” Kline said to reporters Wednesday. He declined to offer a specific timeline but said that the presidential campaign will only suck up more of the oxygen in Washington as time goes on.  [What was missing — unfortunately — in the No Child Left Behind debate]  No Child Left Behind expired in 2007, but Congress has been unable to reach a deal to rewrite it. Kline, who announced last week that he does not plan to seek reelection in 2016, said his retirement will free up time, otherwise spent fundraising, to work on legislation.  But does it free him from political concerns, making it easier to find common ground with Democrats and emerge from conference with a bill that the president might sign?

Slicing the K-12 Data on Governors Running for White House
Incumbents or not, hopefuls tout records
Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: September 8, 2015
In his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker credits his push to get rid of teacher protections with boosting his state's 3rd grade reading scores.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another contender in the crowded Republican field, claims his championing of expanded school choice helped hike his state's high school graduation rates.
And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says his work on school accountability has translated into big achievement gains, including for minority students, in the Sunshine State.  So how much weight should voters give such claims?  Maybe not much, educational experts say. It's very tricky to draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship between a particular policy—for instance, a governor's decision to increase education spending or add more charter schools—and an improvement in student achievement, researchers say.  "In most cases, it's almost impossible" to truly credit a particular policy or policymaker with gains in student outcomes, said Laura Hamilton, the associate director of RAND Education, a research organization, in Santa Monica, Calif.

Tune in this Sunday, Sept. 13 at 3 p.m.: EPLC’s “Focus on Education” Show on PCN – PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will discuss public education finance reform and 2) representatives of the PA School Boards Association will discuss the work of school boards and school board directors
Part 1: Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will discuss public education finance issues.
Part 2: The work of school boards and school board directors, featuring: Steve Robinson, Senior Director of Communications, Pennsylvania School Boards Association Kathy Swope, President-Elect, PA School Boards Association and President, Lewisburg Area School Board
All EPLC “Focus on Education” TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.

SCHOOL PLAY - It's a touchy subject
Suzanne Roberts Theatre Philadelphia Wed. Sept. 16th 7:00 p.m.
School Play explores our attitudes toward public education using the real voices of Pennsylvanians from across the Commonwealth
The performance will be held next Wednesday, September 16th at 7:00 pm at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (480 S. Broad St., Philadelphia).  Tickets are free.  People can go to this link to RSVP:

Help fund the statewide tour of a live documentary play about the struggle to save public education in Pennsylvania.
After standing-room-only shows at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center in April, we’re taking this compelling play about the precarious state of public education back to the people who lent us their voices and stories. This October, we’re traveling across the state, putting on free performances to spark conversations and engage citizens.  School Play is a work of grassroots theatre, woven from the narratives of hundreds of Pennsylvanians affected by our state’s school funding crisis. The play is entirely crowd-sourced; the script is derived from the words of students, parents, educators and legislators, and is available online for anyone to perform.  Artists Arden Kass, Seth Bauer and Edward Sobel created School Play out of our personal concern for our kids and our communities. The result is a funny, sad, straight-talking documentary theatre piece, told through the words of real people.  You can read more about School Play here, here, here and here.

Register Now for the Fifth Annual Arts and Education Symposium Oct. 29th Harrisburg
Thursday, October 29, 2015 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Act 48 Credit is available. The event will be a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about important policy issues and the latest news from the field. The symposium is hosted by EPLC and the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network, and supported by a generous grant from The Heinz Endowments.

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 <>

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 open Aug. 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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