Wednesday, September 23, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 23: PA Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Make School Funding Fair

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PA Ed Policy Roundup September 23, 2015:
PA Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Make School Funding Fair

Pennsylvania budget impasse: How long can it go?
TribLive BY MELISSA DANIELS September 21, 2015
How much longer can Pennsylvania’s budget impasse last? If history is any indication, quite a while.  Friday saw another one-step-forward, two-steps backward budget play in Harrisburg, when the state Senate passed a stopgap plan to partially fund state government programs. But the measure is bound for a veto from Gov. Tom Wolf, who lambasted the plan as a hypocritical ploy during a press conference last week.  And so the impasse continues.  Tom Kozlik, a municipal strategist from PNC, researched budget battles from the past 60 years:  Of the 12 previous late budgets, see how most were resolved before Labor Day? And how all but two were resolved before Christmas? Also note how some only ended with the creation of new revenue streams, a top priority for Wolf this year?

PA budget's the same old movie
THE STATE BUDGET mess is no surprise to anyone familiar with Pennsylvania politics.
You like movies? It's like the movies. Even good ones are predictable.  Our show is the rerunning result of a system of governing long in practice.  The Legislature, like Congress, operates first in service to itself and second (if at all) to its citizens.  The fight of the moment, Gov. Wolf vs. Republican leaders over taxes and spending and stopgap measures, is but the latest example.  Here's the plot, and why it's so humdrum.

Reed: Republicans likely to change governor’s liquor, pension proposals
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, September 22, 2015
House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) told The PLS Reporter Tuesday that while the assessment of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposals regarding liquor and pension reform are still ongoing, initial reviews indicate that Republicans will likely offer changes to those proposals.  “We’re still reviewing [the proposals], certainly we don’t have all the information from the administration yet, there are a lot of details that are important to formulating a concrete decision on it,” he said. “I would expect that there are some changes that we would make on both particular items.”  He said House and Senate leaders would meet on the proposal later Tuesday to try to get a better handle on the proposals’ details.  Noting specific concerns upon an initial review, Rep. Reed said the liquor proposal has a lot of unanswered questions pertaining to the structure, but he feels changes can be made to make the proposal “workable.”  On pensions, he stated the primary concern of Republicans is ensuring that the current problem is not repeated in the future.

"Barry Kauffman, the director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said the process used Tuesday “raises cynicism among the public and doubt as to the propriety of the way the House is being operated.”
People should know if their representative was on the floor and consented to positioning the bills, he said.  “What we’re talking about is arguably the single most important bill that the Legislature works on in a given year, and the only bill that is constitutionally mandated to happen every year — the state budget,” Kauffman said. “It certainly gives short shrift to a proper and accountable process.”
Pennsylvania House session lasts minutes, no roll call taken
Delco Times By Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press POSTED: 09/22/15, 3:00 PM EDT 
HARRISBURG >> Pennsylvania lawmakers held an unconventional House session Tuesday that lasted just minutes, was not broadcast as usual and did not include a roll call.  The only business that occurred was to position two bills so that members can vote later this week on the pair of Republican stopgap budget bills that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has threatened to veto.  At least half the 203 members were present, which is the minimum quorum required to conduct business, House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer said. Because there was no roll call, he said, federal rules require members who want to be paid for attending the session to submit a statement saying they were in Harrisburg.

The appeal notes the lack of equitable state funding means wealthy districts with strong real estate tax bases spend far more than poor districts with weak tax bases. As a result, total spending per student ranges from $9,800 to $28,400 among Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.
....And the suit points out that, while the state adopted a new funding formula to fix inequalities found in the costing out study, that formula was abandoned in 2011. Education spending “in Pennsylvania today remains approximately $580 million below pre-2011 levels and billions below the levels the costing-out study found necessary to prepare students to meet state standards.”
Group that includes W-B Area School District appeals funding lawsuit to state’s top court
Times Leader By Mark Guydish - September 21st, 2015 -
A group of advocates and school districts that includes Wilkes-Barre Area has filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a suit pushing for fairer state education funding.  The suit, known as Penn School District et al. v. Department of Education et al. contends the state legislature has failed to adequately and equitably fund public education, violating the state constitution.  The case was dismissed by a lower court, and the appeal argues the Supreme Court justices should order a full trial.  The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board voted in June, 2014, to join the suit filed by six school districts, seven parents of children, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP. The legal work is being spearheaded by the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Make School Funding Fair
Education Law Prof Blog By Derek Black Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Last fall, plaintiffs filed suit against Pennsylvania, arguing that education is a fundamental right under the state constitution and that the state has violated that right by repeatedly failing to ensure adequate education resources.  That claim moved through the trial court quickly and is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has yet to fully entertain these issues, having dismissed school funding cases in the past as non-justiciable. Something tells me that this time might be different.  As discussed several times on this blog over the past few years, the state has been so derelict in its obligations to its students that its action could be declared unconstitutional under any minimal and deferential standard one might imagine.

Plaintiffs in school funding case file brief in Pa. Supreme Court
the notebook By David Limm on Sep 22, 2015 03:41 PM
Lawyers for plaintiffs in a case seeking to overturn Pennsylvania's system of funding schools as unconstitutional filed a brief with state Supreme Court last Friday.  The case, brought by several school districts, parents, and groups, was dismissed in April by Commonwealth Court judges, who ruled that school funding -- how much money is spent on education and how it is distributed -- is a matter for the state's legislative and executive branches to decide.  An appeal for the case to be heard in the state's highest court was filed in May by the Public Interest Law Center and Education Law Center, who are representing the plaintiffs.  The brief argues that Pennsylvania's school funding system is broken, making the availability of high-quality public education a "function of community wealth rather than a constitutional guarantee.”  Pennsylvania's constitution ensures a "thorough and efficient system of public education" for all students.

Fundraising picks up for Pennsylvania Supreme Court hopefuls
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 09/22/15, 3:00 PM EDT 
HARRISBURG >> Candidates for Pennsylvania’S highest court are starting to disclose their fundraising totals in what promises to be an expensive campaign for three open seats.
Democrat David Wecht reported Tuesday that he raised $1.2 million during the 13-week period that ended Sept. 14. That pushed his overall fundraising for the campaign above $2 million, but his campaign is still carrying a $135,000 loan.  He’s a Superior Court judge from Pittsburgh.  Republican Anne Covey reported nearly $175,000 in contributions, nudging her overall total toward the half-million-dollar mark. She reported no debts. She’s a Commonwealth Court judge from Bucks County.  Independent Paul Panepinto (pann-eh-PIN-toh) put up $200,000 of his own money to jump-start the campaign he launched in July. He listed debts totaling $449,000. He’s a Philadelphia judge.

Dems outraise GOP in Pennsylvania high court race
Trib Live By The Associated Press Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, 8:09 p.m.
HARRISBURG — An infusion of cash from organized labor and Philadelphia trial lawyers helped Democratic candidates outpace Republicans in summer fundraising, setting the stage for a high-stakes campaign for three open seats on Pennsylvania's highest court, campaign finance reports filed Tuesday show.  The Democratic candidates collectively took in $2.4 million during the 13-week period that ended Sept. 14, while the three Republican nominees received $334,000.  
David Wecht led the field, raising $1.2 million to replenish a campaign bank account that had shrunk to less than $10,000 during the May primary campaign for the state Supreme Court.  Trailing Wecht were fellow Democrats Kevin Dougherty, who took in $664,000 and Christine Donohue, who received $563,000.

State lawmakers say state ready to help Erie district with funding
By John Guerriero  814-870-1690 Erie Times-News September 23, 2015 12:10 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- The state has worked with 31 other school districts so they can keep operating during the three-month state budget impasse, two state lawmakers from the Erie area said.
The Erie School District could be the 32nd, but the district hasn't closed the door on other options that would include closing schools or asking employees to work without pay.  State Reps. Patrick Harkins, of Erie, D-1st Dist., and Ryan Bizzarro, of Millcreek Township, D-3rd Dist., said they don't think it should reach that point.  The Erie School Board on Monday gave Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams the authority to close schools, if needed, as the impasse between the GOP-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf drags on.  Badams stressed that a shutdown affecting nearly 12,000 students would be a last resort and the district is still exploring other options, including borrowing money to allow the district to keep operating beyond Oct. 2 -- the day it would run out of money unless it gets additional tax revenue.

Spring-Ford board members march on Harrisburg
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 09/22/15, 4:33 PM EDT | UPDATED: 59 SECS AGO
Royersford >> In what was described as an effort to lead the way toward a new state budget, representatives from the Spring-Ford Area School District marched on Harrisburg Monday.
School board Vice President Tom DiBello, board members Dawn Heine, Bernard Petit and Joe Ciresi, along with residents Christina Melton and Colleen Zasowski, hit the road toward the state Capitol to protest the lack of a state budget and the budgetary process. There they were joined by representatives from the Chester Upland School District in Delaware County. The two groups spoke to members of the press and legislators about the issues that affected them the most, such as education funding and property tax reform.  “We made it clear that Spring-Ford, while we may be financially stable, more so than the other school district that was there with us, Chester Upland, we are concerned with where we stand with this budget,” Ciresi said during Monday night’s board meeting. “We’re concerned with the process of the budget, the way the state funds the budget and how they really never come to us as districts to talk to us.”

Chester Upland charters to settle special-education costs out of court [updated]
Editor's note: This story has been updated.
Delaware County Judge Chad Kenney's announced Tuesday an "agreement in principal" between area charter schools and the Chester Upland School District.  That deal comes after two rounds of hearings in Kenney's courtroom over the cost of special-education tuition to charter schools.  Kenney had been considering a state-backed financial recovery plan that would reduce special-education payments to Chester Upland charter schools from $40,000 per student to $16,000.  In a statement, the judge said a "memorandum of agreement" was being prepared between the schools and the district. No details of the agreement have been released.

Pittsburgh schools hold back charter school payments
Trib Live By Gideon Bradshaw Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, 5:09 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools will reduce its payments to charter schools to reflect funds the district hasn't received during a nearly three-month state budget impasse.  Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane said the district notified charter schools earlier this month that it would pay 54 percent — the portion of district revenue that comes from local sources — of its charter school payments, starting in October.  About 3,800 students who live in the city school district attended charters last year, according to district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh.  The district budgeted $52.1 million in payments to charters this year. The general fund budget for Pittsburgh Public Schools is $556.7 million.

IU9 considers borrowing funds due to state budget woes
Bradford Era By FRAN De LANCEY Era Correspondent | 0 comments Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 10:00 am
SMETHPORT — The Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit Nine is considering borrowing funds due to the state budget impasse.  IU9 directors approved a motion Monday authorizing the educational agency's administration to inquire about a $2 million line of credit.  "Kim DeGolier, director of business and management services, is working diligently with banks," said IU9 executive director Don Wismar.  "At this point, we're paying the necessary bills," he added.   In a related matter, Wismar stated the importance of the 14 school districts in the agency's service area of McKean, Potter, Cameron and Elk counties paying their assessments. "It's our only source of income," he said. "If the districts don't pay, we're in trouble."  Pennsylvania's Intermediate Units, which replaced the former county offices of education, work cooperatively with local school districts to provide services which the districts cannot afford or prefer not to offer individually. Among these are special education, remedial math and reading classes, school psychologists, curriculum services and vocational and technical education.

Bangor's ex-superintendent contract an 'egregious waste,' auditor general says
By Kurt Bresswein | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 22, 2015 at 9:22 PM, updated September 23, 2015 at 1:00 AM
The Pennsylvania auditor general, whose office alleges the Bangor Area School District paid its superintendent $142,608 for a no-show job, calls the arrangement an "egregious waste of taxpayer money."  Patricia Mulroy ( file photo)   Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a statement about his office's findings that former Bangor Area schools Superintendent Patricia Mulroy took home that sum in salary and benefits for consulting services she failed to provide.  "There's no other way around it," DePasquale stated Monday. "This agreement was an immense disservice to students and taxpayers. I want to ensure that every available dollar of education funding goes toward classroom learning."

State’s longest teacher union labor dispute drags on in Old Forge
Citizens Voice BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: September 22, 2015
OLD FORGE — Wearing matching sweatshirts and carrying picket signs, teachers walked along Marion Street on Monday morning.  Old Forge Junior/Senior High School, with dark classrooms and empty hallways, stood behind them.  “I can’t believe we’re here again,” Superintendent John Rushefski said from his office, as the 70 teachers began their first day on strike.  In the longest teacher union labor dispute in the state, teachers said they had little choice.  “It’s unfortunate we’ve gotten to this point,” Old Forge Education Association President Shawn Nee said.  In the sixth year of working under an expired contract, the union remains concerned with proposed changes to health care and the structure of retroactivity pay. The district claims it cannot afford the union’s demands.

"For all the progress in improving educational outcomes among African-American children, the achievement gaps between more affluent and less privileged children is wider than ever, notes Sean Reardon of the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford. Racial disparities are still a stain on American society, but they are no longer the main divider. Today the biggest threat to the American dream is class."
Education Gap Between Rich and Poor Is Growing Wider
New York Times SEPT. 22, 2015 by Eduardo Porter
The wounds of segregation were still raw in the 1970s. With only rare exceptions, African-American children had nowhere near the same educational opportunities as whites.
The civil rights movement, school desegregation and the War on Poverty helped bring a measure of equity to the playing field. Today, despite some setbacks along the way, racial disparities in education have narrowed significantly. By 2012, the test-score deficit of black 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds in reading and math had been reduced as much as 50 percent compared with what it was 30 to 40 years before.  Achievements like these breathe hope into our belief in the Land of Opportunity. They build trust in education as a leveling force powering economic mobility. “We do have a track record of reducing these inequalities,” said Jane Waldfogel, a professor of social work at Columbia University.  But the question remains: Why did we stop there?

CMD Publishes Full List of 2,500 Closed Charter Schools (with Interactive Map)
PRWatch By Jonas Persson on September 22, 2015 - 12:46pm
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy is releasing a complete state-by-state list of the failed charter schools since 2000. Among other things, this data reveals that millions and millions of federal tax dollars went to “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The exact amount is unknown because the U.S. Department of Education is not required to report its failures, where money went to groups to help them start new charters that never even opened.  This data set also provides reporters and citizens of each state an opportunity to take a closer look at how much taxpayer money has been squandered on the failed charter school experiment in their states. The data set and the interactive map below are based on more than a decade’s worth of official but raw data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  This release comes as the U.S. Department of Education and industry insiders currently deciding which states to award half a billion dollar in grants designed to bolster the school privatization industry under the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP).

Common Core: ‘the gift that Pearson counts on to keep giving’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 23 at 4:00 AM  
Mercedes Schneider is a veteran teacher in Louisiana who has been educating students for more than two decades, as well as an education researcher who has been highly critical of corporate school reform. She is also the author of two books, “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education,” and the newly published “Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?”  The following is an excerpt from her book about the Core. It is about the education company Pearson and it is revelatory in showing the connections between some education reformers and corporate leaders.

Follow on twitter @Progressive4Ed
Introducing the 2015 “Progressive Education Fellows,” an online gathering of prominent advocates, activists, thinkers, and writers in the progressive education movement.
The Progressive September 2015
The Fellows come together at a critical time for public education in the United States. Not since the Civil-Rights-era battles over school desegregation has the debate about public education been so intense and polarized. The Fellows come from every region of the country, and from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of expertise. They are teachers, administrators, journalists, parent activists, and leaders of the movement to defend public schools. You can find their writing here at The Progressive website, and also follow them on Twitter. Read what Lead Fellow Jeff Bryant has to say on why we need the Fellows project.

“It ain't over `til it's over”
Yogi Berra, Master Yankee Catcher With Goofy Wit, Dies at 90
New York Times By BRUCE WEBER SEPT. 23, 2015
Yogi Berra, one of baseball’s greatest catchers and characters, who as a player was a mainstay of 10 Yankee championship teams and as a manager led both the Yankees and Mets to the World Series — but who may be more widely known as an ungainly but lovable cultural figure, inspiring a cartoon character and issuing a seemingly limitless supply of unwittingly witty epigrams known as Yogi-isms — died on Tuesday. He was 90.

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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