Monday, September 21, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 21: Ed Sec'y Rivera: Stopgap budget not the remedy for Pennsylvania’s schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup September 21 , 2015:
Ed Sec'y Rivera: Stopgap budget not the remedy for Pennsylvania’s schools

Senate Republicans continue questioning governor’s liquor, pension proposals
The PLS Reporter by Jason Gottesman/Friday, September 18, 2015
Two days after Gov. Tom Wolf proposed making changes to Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor system and public pension systems, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said his caucus is still reviewing the proposal and coming up with more questions.  “The trickiest part right now is getting a handle on what the liquor proposal is,” he said Friday, noting his caucus only received in writing the same information given to the press by the administration. “Particularly in liquor, that’s really, really open-ended.”  He said while the proposal could be good, it could also be disguised as something else.  “Before we can make any kind of assessment on whether it’s acceptable or not, we probably have to get more questions answered,” he added. “So we are putting together some questions [for the administration], so that hopefully they can clarify for us.”
He said most prevalent questions thus far are if any state stores will close and whether current liquor store employees will be transitioned out.

Stop-gap budget clears Senate despite governor’s vowed veto
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, September 18, 2015
As expected Friday, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a short-term spending plan along party lines, putting the measure in a position to be acted on by the House when that chamber returns to session next week.  Gov. Tom Wolf earlier in the week vowed to veto the measure, which would provide over $11 billion in state spending for a four month period retroactive to July 1. The bill would have also provided around $29 billion in full year federal funding for programs receiving those dollars.  Senate Appropriations Majority Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) told members on the floor that the passing of the plan was a “reasonable and necessary choice” given the currently stalled state of budget negotiations.  “We must be willing to utilize every strategy, leverage every tool we have at our disposal,” he said of the need to get funding to schools, social service organizations, and local governments depending on the state funds.  Noting the plan follows a vetoed plan passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in June, Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) argued the plan is another bad move.  “This is the Sharknado 2 of budgets,” he argued on the floor. “It’s not relief the majority is providing, it’s false hope.”  Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) was similarly dismayed at the budget’s prospects and the state of budget negotiations.

Pedro A. Rivera: Stopgap budget not the remedy for Pennsylvania’s schools
Times Leader Opinion by Pedro RIvera PA Secretary of Education First Posted: 11:30 pm - September 20th, 2015
Some things about the school year run like clockwork.  Buying backpacks and school supplies, parent back-to-school-nights, even the first report card comes out around the same time every year. The school year is full of predictability. However, just because something is predictable, doesn’t make it satisfactory.  Over the past four years, the commonwealth’s schools predictably received cuts to their funding – like clockwork. Last week, some legislative leaders showed their unwillingness to meet Gov. Tom Wolf at the table for an honest negotiation on education funding. It’s true some schools are struggling, or will soon struggle, without state funding, but a stopgap budget will effectively lock in systemic inequities that have built up over the past four years.  Pennsylvania’s schools need a comprehensive plan that restores years of predictable cuts to education, and makes an investment in our future. The governor offered a commonsense severance tax on natural gas to fill those gaps and bring our state funding for schools one step closer to equity.  In the meantime, the Department of Education will continue to help school districts find solutions to any financial hardship, so they can pay their bills on time while continuing to educate our students.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Weekend Roundup September 20 , 2015:
Budget Op/Eds; Budget Impacts
Keystone State Education Coalition

"On Monday, Erie’s school board will hold a special meeting to consider Badams’ suggestion that the district temporarily shut down or stop paying staff. Badams would like to hire four more teachers — a starting teacher’s salary is about $40,000 — but that money will be sucked up by the roughly $200,000 cost to borrow the $30 million necessary to keep the district running through December.  “This is serious,” Badams said. “I think part of the reason that not much attention is being paid to the impasse is because there’s no tangible consequences.”
Increasingly desperate measures taken amid budget stalemate
Times Leader By MARC LEVY - Associated Press 12:22 pm - September 20th, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — For Jay Badams, shutting down Erie schools would be devastating.
It would send kids back into the streets where three students were killed over the summer. It would stop paychecks to school staff. But the finances at the 12,000-student district — among Pennsylvania’s biggest — are desperate because of an entrenched state government shutdown. And the cost to borrow money is steep enough that Badams is willing to consider closing the district’s doors until state aid starts flowing again.  “There is no good answer,” said Badams, Erie’s school superintendent. “The only good answer is to release our funds. We can fund our prisons, but we can’t fund our schools. What does that say about our state’s priorities? I’m angry.  Badams, and his anger at Pennsylvania state government, has plenty of company. School districts, counties and nonprofit social services organizations are taking increasingly desperate measures to scrape by, as billions of dollars are held up in Harrisburg. Small business owners and nonprofit and government administrators are laying off workers, taking out loans or stopping payment on bills to get by.  The stalemate shows no sign of ending any time soon: Gov. Tom Wolf, a first-term Democrat, and the Legislature’s huge Republican majorities have deep divides over fiscal policy, education funding, public pension benefits and the state-controlled wine and liquor stores.

Phoenixville School District will pay a fraction of charter school obligations
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 09/20/15, 2:17 PM EDT
Phoenixville>> A week after announcing it would pay half of what’s owed for teacher pensions, Phoenixville Area School District officials are going one step further to cover costs during the state’s budget impasse.  Superintendent Alan Fegley announced Thursday the district will only pay the local share, or 82 percent of what it normally does, to charter schools. The remaining 18 percent share will not be paid until a new budget is adopted.  Pennsylvania has not had a budget for 81 days.  Having spoken to Renaissance Academy CEO, Gina Guarino Buli, to inform her of the situation, Fegley said she took the news well.  “They’d like to see 100 percent, don’t get me wrong, but she understands the idea and concept of shared pain,” he said. “It is shared pain.”
Fegley called the fact that legislators in Harrisburg have not yet reached a deal on a new budget that would fully fund schools “inappropriate” but thanked Renaissance Academy for understanding the needs of the district.

A clash of priorities: Gov. Tom Wolf v. the Republican caucus
Lancaster Online by Tim Stuhldreher Staff Writer September 20, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf has listed the following as his key budget priorities:
• Restoration of education funding
• Property tax relief
• Closing the state’s structural deficit
• A natural gas severance tax
Republicans in the state legislature oppose Wolf’s tax hike proposals. They are pushing for liquor privatization and conversion of state pensions into a 401(k)-style system, arguing that pensions are a leading cost driver for the state.  On Wednesday, Wolf made two counterproposals: turning the state liquor store system over to private management and creating a “stacked” or hybrid pension system.

"Zeiger is livid, not because of her own heavy workload, but over the larger issues, and what she sees as the failure of officials at the School District and in Harrisburg to come through for students.  "What is the job of these people? If we didn't do our jobs, we'd all be fired," Zeiger said."
Philly educator: 'How can you teach with 70 kids?'
Seventy-seven students are jammed into Lisa Zeiger's first gym class at Mastbaum High School.  The second class isn't much better - there are 71. The third goes down to 68.  Zeiger, a veteran Philadelphia teacher, calls it her "managed chaos."  Under the blue-and-red banners commemorating championship Mastbaum Panthers teams, she sets up "stations" - students shooting baskets, tossing a football, playing volleyball, but some bored, hot kids just sit on the bleachers by the end of the class.  A second adult - another Mastbaum teacher pulled from his or her preparatory period, generally - is in the room to help manage things, but "that's just so no one escapes," Zeiger said.  She's only half joking.  Classes are supposed to have no more than 33 students. But just a few weeks into a new year, Philadelphia public schools, like many around the state, are coping with the effects of a budget stalemate in Harrisburg.

3 years later, Hite remains a polarizing figure
WHEN THE SCHOOL Reform Commission voted to close 24 Philadelphia public schools in spring 2013 - about six months into Superintendent William Hite's tenure - much of the city was shocked and outraged.  Some saw it as the fulfillment of the infamous Boston Consulting Group report. Many called it a heartless business decision by an outsider, displacing thousands of kids, parents and teachers.  Now, almost three years after he assumed the role of superintendent in October 2012, Hite remains a polarizing figure. He is dogged by critics who see him as a lackey sent to dismantle traditional public education, but he also has his share of supporters who say he has steered the system through an unprecedented financial crisis and is poised to make positive changes if given adequate funding.

Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Formula Video
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association gives an overview of the newly proposed Basic Education Funding Formula.
POSTED ON JUN 29, 2015 IN PSBA NEWS Video RUntime 4:31

PSBA launches an alumni network
Are you a former school director or in your final term? Stay connected through the PSBA Alumni Network. Your interest in public education continues beyond your term of service as a school director. And as a PSBA alumnus, you have years of experience and insight into the workings of public education and school boards. Legislators value your opinions as a former elected official. Take that knowledge and put it to work as a member of the PSBA Alumni Network.
For a nominal yearly fee of $25 a year or $100 for a lifetime membership, you will receive:
  • Electronic access to the PSBA Bulletin, the leading public education magazine in Pennsylvania
  • Access to legislative information pertaining to public education and periodic updates via email.
To join, complete the registration below. For more details or questions, contact Member Engagement Director Karen Devine at or (800) 932-0588, ext. 3322.

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. 

School Leadership Conference online registration closes Sept. 25
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:

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


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