Monday, September 28, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 28: Researchers from the National Center for Educational Statistics rank PA students as among the best in the nation

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup September 28, 2015:
Researchers from the National Center for Educational Statistics rank PA students as among the best in the nation

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PSSA Scores Tank; Researchers from the National Center for Educational Statistics rank PA students as among the best in the nation.
PA Ed Policy Roundup September 27, 2015:

GOP will allow tax vote, if Democrats secure enough support
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY Published: Yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Leaders of the Pennsylvania Legislature's Republican majorities will allow a floor vote on a budget package that includes an income or sales tax increase if Democrats can secure enough support to pass it, officials said Friday.  House Minority Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton, said Democrats are actively pursuing the avenue in a bid to break a nearly three-month-old budget stalemate. Republicans opened the door to such a floor vote during a closed-door meeting Thursday with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  "This is an interesting challenge that they've issued," Hanna said. "'If you guys think you have the votes, go get them and we'll run them.'"  Until Thursday, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, had said they would not agree to a budget package that included an increase in the sales tax or income tax. That refusal has created a significant obstacle to Wolf's pursuit of a multibillion-dollar tax increase that he says is necessary to wipe out the GOP's funding cuts for schools and human services enacted under Wolf's Republican predecessor, Tom Corbett, and eliminate the deficit.  Still, Reed and Corman do not believe Democratic minority leaders can win over enough Republicans or, for that matter, Democrats.

Hope for Pennsylvania budget breakthrough as local groups look for solutions
By John Guerriero  814-870-1690 Erie Times-News September 27, 2015 01:14 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- The Republican-controlled Legislature in Harrisburg passed an $11.2 billion stopgap budget that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto.  That would seemingly put the legislative and executive branches of state government back to square one in the 89-day budget impasse, and keep school districts, nonprofit agencies and others that rely on state revenue in a precarious funding situation.  But there's some hope.
While Wolf and House and Senate leaders from both parties met Thursday with "really no developments," another meeting is planned Monday, said Wolf's spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.  Sheridan said the legislative leaders had questions about Wolf's liquor- and pension-reform proposals. Sheridan said the governor hopes they "find them to be workable solutions and want to keep talking about them."

Pennsylvania budget impasse baffles school officials
Observer Reporter By Chelsea Dicks Staff Writer, , Francesca Sacco Staff writer, and Mike Jones
Greene County Bureau Chief Published: September 25, 2015
The ongoing failure of Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders to reach a budget agreement has school officials on edge.  West Greene Superintendent Thelma Szarell found irony in receiving six letters from the state Department of Education over the past three months reminding the school district it needs to stay up to date on employee pension payments to the state.  “It’s kind of an odd thing that the (state) budget hasn’t been passed, but we’re expected to make the payments we owe to the state while they can’t even take care of their own school districts,” Szarell said.
The budget impasse has lasted nearly three months as negotiations between the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf ground to a halt. Meanwhile, school districts across the state watch with “uncertainty” as they wait to see when the budget will be passed to allow school funds to be released, Szarell said.  The issue over the Public School Employee Retirees’ System, or PSERS pension fund, hit a boiling point in Upper St. Clair when the school board there votedMonday night to authorize its finance director to withhold payments related to the employer’s obligations, but not the employees’ withholding. 

Budget impasse squeezes some school districts’ payments to charters
PSBA website By Christen Smith, Staff Reporter, Capitolwire Reposted with permission
As of Thursday more than two dozen school districts have shortchanged or suspended tuition payments to charter schools amid the ongoing budget stalemate.  While the decision isn’t unexpected, a charter school advocate and former Corbett administration spokesman says it is, in fact, illegal.  “The Charter School Law does not permit school districts to withhold funding from charter schools in the absence of a state budget,” said Tim Eller, executive director of the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The bulk of funding for charter schools is funneled through school districts, and with many of them refusing to pay, charter schools are being financially strangled. This is affecting thousands of students who attend charter schools across the state.”  Current state law requires districts to funnel 12 equal monthly tuition payments to charters by the fifth day of each month, however, no provisions exist for how to proceed during a budget impasse.

Harrisburg School District cuts charter payments during budget stalemate
Penn Live By M. Diane McCormick | Special to PennLive on September 24, 2015 at 1:06 PM, updated September 24, 2015 at 2:42 PM
Harrisburg School District will withhold half its charter school payments as long as the state budget is in standoff, under a school board vote Monday night.  The board voted to cut in half its monthly charter school payments of about $900,000 until state funding materializes for the 2015-16 school year.  Until a budget is adopted, districts can cut charter school payments by the same ratio the state pays toward their budgets, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has advised its members.  In Harrisburg, the cut is 50 percent "because that's approximately proportional to the percentage of our revenue that comes from the basic education subsidy," said board Vice President James Thompson.  "When that basic education subsidy is paid, then the school district will pay the other 50 percent," Thompson said.  "That's what a lot of school districts across the Commonwealth are choosing to do because there has been no passage of the state budget," added board member Lola Lawson.

Poor credit puts crunch on Pa. school districts
Trib Live By Katelyn Ferral Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Pennsylvania ranks second nationwide for the number of school districts with credit ratings that are the equivalent of “junk,” highlighting the challenges of a dwindling tax base coupled with increasing pension payments amid a state budget stalemate.  The state has four districts, three of them in Western Pennsylvania, whose credit was downgraded to “speculative,” the equivalent of junk, this year by Moody's. Michigan leads the country with seven districts.  “It's a black eye on the whole state of Pennsylvania,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.  East Allegheny, McKeesport, Penn Hills and the Philadelphia school district carry junk ratings. Five districts in the state have ratings just above junk: Charleroi Area, Frazier, West Mifflin, Mid Valley and York City, according to Moody's.  Abysmal credit ratings make it more expensive for districts to borrow money, a cost taxpayers will eventually pay.  They can restrict districts' ability to borrow, a challenge more could have as they seek short-term loans to pay employees because of a budget impasse that's freezing state funding.

Pennsylvania spends plenty of education - pension reform is key to discussion: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor  by Gene Barr on September 24, 2015 at 3:00 PM, updated September 24, 2015 at 3:01 PM
GENE BARR is president and CEO, PA Chamber of Business and Industry, Harrisburg
A strong education system is a priority on which everyone can agree. However, continuing to throw more money at education without addressing the reasons why schools are diverting tax dollars from the classroom, as Susan Spicka recently advocated for in her column, is not a responsible policy solution.  According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Pennsylvania ranks in the top 10 in the nation for overall K-12 per-pupil spending. Pennsylvania is not suffering from a lack of tax dollars going toward education. What we are suffering from is the ability to ensure those tax dollars are reaching students.  With an unfunded liability of more than $53 billion, Pennsylvania's pension debt represents the greatest fiscal challenge the state and school districts.  Until elected officials enact substantial, structural public pension reforms, more and more taxpayer dollars will be directed towards growing pension obligations instead of to resources for students and teachers.

Nearly all Pa. legislators accept pay during state budget gridlock
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
State Rep. Mark Mustio began saving for this day in January.  He planned to forgo collecting his $85,338-a-year salary in the event of a budget stalemate between newly elected Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature, and he wanted to be prepared financially.
“I thought it would be the proper thing to do,” said Mustio, a Republican from Moon.  The last paycheck he took was issued July 1. The day before, Wolf vetoed an on-time, $30 billion Republican-passed spending plan.  “I didn't collect it this month. I won't do so in October or November or December, until we have a budget,” he said.

Steel-High School District weighs $6.24M temporary fix as budget impasse continues
By Follow on Twitter on September 24, 2015 at 9:10 PM
Count Steelton-Highspire School District among the organizations facing uncertainty as a result of the state budget impasse.  The district's school board is considering a $6.24 million tax-revenue anticipation note (TRAN) to cover expenses as it waits for state revenue delayed by the impasse. The board decided Thursday night to table the decision until it receives more specific information from the state and completes paperwork associated with the TRAN, said Travis Waters, assistant to the superintendent.  Tax-revenue anticipation notes are a form of short-term debt in which an entity borrows against future revenues to cover current costs.

Mifflin County SD Board approves borrowing funds
Line of credit allows district to obtain over $5.2 million to maintain operations
By joe cannon - Special to The Sentinel , Lewistown Sentinel September 25, 2015
LEWISTOWN - The Mifflin County School District, beginning to feel the crunch being brought on by the lack of a state budget, is entering into an agreement with Juniata Valley Bank to borrow up to $5,225,000 through a line of credit, following action taken Thursday by the district's board of directors.

"The goal is to graduate kids who have options. They can go on to a community college or a four-year degree program. They can also start a career with a marketable skill and three years of training behind them, making them more likely to secure a job and higher wages, instead of floundering out in the job market, where more than 10 percent of young adults with only a high school diploma are unemployed and more than 20 percent live in poverty, according to Pew Research Center."
A High School Where College Is Not the Goal
At Randolph Technical High School in Philadelphia, students are learning about carpentry, culinary arts, and auto repair. Has the system given up on them, or has it saved them?
The Atlantic by GILLIAN B. WHITE  SEP 24, 2015
PHILADELPHIA—The halls of Randolph Technical High School looks like almost any other public school in an urban core: a labyrinth of classrooms and lockers housed in an old building, hallways loud with constant chatter and chaos as students and teachers bustle around. But inside these classrooms, students are just as likely to be found working dental X-ray machines or learning how to sauté vegetables as they are to be sitting at a desk, learning about math or history.
Eighteen-year-old Johnika Tavares just graduated from Randolph in June with a specialization in health care. She’s now taking classes at a nearby college and working as a home health aide. She’s able to grasp the concepts and medical terminology easily, she says, because she’s seen most of it already during her time at Randolph.
Joe Williams, who now runs Randolph’s welding program, is another former student. Last year, he says, he had a 100 percent success rate—all of his seniors got jobs. The profession is so highly in demand that he’s been able to help secure partnerships with five outside companies, creating a job pipeline for students. “You’ll have a 17-year-old graduating making $45,000 or $50,000 a year as opposed to working for a fast food company, flipping burgers,” he says.

Don't believe the (lack of) hype - the 2015 Supreme Court elections are a big deal: Rick Bloomingdale
PennLive Op-Ed   By Rick Bloomingdale on September 25, 2015 at 1:00 PM, updated September 25, 2015 at 7:47 PM
Rick Bloomingdale is president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. He writes from Harrisburg. 
Most of us probably don't think that off-year elections matter.  Between all the other statewide and national campaigns that come through Pennsylvania, it would be easy to let elections in odd numbered years go by with little notice.   This year, however, Pennsylvanians have a crucial choice to make about the direction of the commonwealth.   The outcome of the election for state Supreme Court will determine many issues that impact working people and their ability to sustain their families.   The top posts in our judicial branch of government are responsible for the final say on important matters of economic justice and worker rights.   Deciding everything from redistricting, public education, pensions, worker safety, voting rights and women's issues- it would be hard to find a single Pennsylvanian who doesn't have a stake in the outcome. 

'The READ! by 4th campaign is reaching out to area schools of education to help them provide teachers-in-training with deep knowledge of evidence-based instructional methods – the knowledge that embodies the rocket science needed to promote early literacy. That challenge is the topic of an upcoming workshop."
Preparing teachers to deliver high-quality reading instruction
the notebook By Nancy Scharff on Sep 25, 2015 12:28 PM
Teaching reading is rocket science! And Philadelphia’s citywide campaign to get all 4th graders reading at grade level, READ! by 4th, is committed to delivering that "rocket science" preparation for our city’s teachers. The campaign is working in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to meet this major challenge.  This past summer, with support from the William Penn and Lenfest Foundations, the District embarked on a three-year effort to ensure that all K-3 teachers have access to the highest-quality professional development and instructional materials – the knowledge and materials needed to help students become proficient readers and writers. More than 500 teachers and principals participated in a weeklong literacy institute designed to support them in implementing evidence-based literacy instruction. Teacher feedback was strongly positive.  But the summer literacy institutes are only a first step. To ensure that teachers arrive in schools fully prepared, we need to enhance the quality and content of the preparation in literacy instruction that teacher education programs offer. 

Queen Village Neighborhood Association shares good news about Philly Schools
Philadelphia Free Press By Nicole Contosta Staff Reporter Sept. 23, 2015
When parents consider the curriculum offered at local public schools, science labs, after school academic clubs, art, music, a garden and Spanish classes don’t always fit into the equation.
But that’s not the case for students enrolled at the George W. Nebinger Elementary School, 601 Carpenter Street. Nebinger offers all of the above as well as cultural and economic diversity to its students.  "The narrative out there is that the Philadelphia School District is in free fall. And why would any sane person stick around when they had kids?" Jeff Hornstein, President of the Queen Village Neighborhood Association (QVNA) asked rhetorically during a general membership meeting at the Nebinger School Thursday, September 17th. "We know on the ground that that’s not the case. We have amazing neighborhood schools. And they’re amazing because they have great principals, great community support and great partnerships."  Hornstein’s comments on support and partnerships provided a good framework for last week’s meeting. It demonstrated how schools in Queen Village like Nebinger and the William H. Meredith School, through community support and partnerships with organizations such as the Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia Reads, and Drexel University, are able to offer more than what the cash-strapped school district can provide.

Videos portray charter school students encouraging walkouts in Allentown
By Jacqueline Palochko  Of The Morning Call September 25, 2015
Videos shared on social media show a teacher has been preparing students from the Medical Academy Charter School during school hours to participate in a campaign against the Allentown School District that includes protests at board meetings and a student walkout every day for a week.  Michael Frassetto posted videos on his Facebook page that show students in charter school uniforms in a classroom at the Catasauqua school telling people to show up at Thursday's Allentown School Board meeting.  About 50 students and parents turned out. Chaos erupted when students rattled glass windows and demanded to be let in when the school board locked them out, saying the meeting room was full. The group also marched into an Allentown City Council committee meeting, demanding to be heard.

House Speaker Boehner, Key Architect of NCLB, to Resign From Congress
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on September 25, 2015 9:55 AM
UPDATED: Speaker of the House John Boehner will resign from his position and give up his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of October, the New York Times reported Friday.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, was elected House Speaker in 2010. He was the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce committee when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, and played a key role in shepherding NCLB through the legislative process. At certain points, foreshadowing subsequent battles he would have with conservative tea party representatives while serving as speaker, he had to overcome objections from conservative GOP colleagues that the bill that became NCLB gave too much influence to the federal government on education policy.   Boehner will be the last of the four lead authors of NCLB in Congress to leave, following former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. (hat-tip to Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute).   However, Boehner fell short of his original objective to include a voucher program in the NCLB bill. 

Before retiring, Jan Resseger staffed advocacy and programming to support public education justice in the national setting of the United Church of Christ—working to improve the public schools that serve 50 million of our children; reduce standardized testing; ensure attention to vast opportunity gaps; advocate for schools that welcome all children; and speak for the public role of public education.  Jan chaired the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education for a dozen of those years.
Charter Sector Sucks Public Funds Out of Underfunded Public Schools
Jan Resseger's Blog Posted on September 25, 2015 by janresseger
Now that charter schools have been operating for two decades, our collective experience with these publicly funded and privately managed schools is increasingly raising questions about their impact on the traditional public school districts of which they are supposedly a part.  The deep fiscal threat is far more basic than the scandals arising from place to place due to lack of regulation by state legislatures.  Charter schools serve only about 6 percent of children across the United States.  Here are four recent reports in the press.

If You Thought Charter School Funders Might Be Losing Steam, Think Again
Inside Philanthropy by AuthorStefanie Garden September 24, 2015
Over the past 15 years, funders have poured a fortune into backing charter schools. And while there is fierce debate over the effectiveness of such schools, one point seems less controversial: The rise of charters, with the attendant choice and market competition, hasn't spurred a revolution in public schools writ large, as many funders had hoped. The share of school kids in public charters has risen nearly five-fold since 2000—yet is still below 5 percent.
That's not exactly a solution on the fast track to scale, and as the scholar Jay Greene has pointed out, even the biggest ed funders like Walton and Gates wield puny resources compared to the size of the K-12 system—a mammoth $600 billion-a-year enterprise. Meanwhile, some notable ed reform disappointments, such as those in Newark and Milwaukee, have underscored the obstacles that charter proponents can face in trying to remake entire urban school systems. 
All of which is why we've been on the lookout for signs that ed philanthropists may be losing steam when it comes to pushing charters, choice, and competion. We've speculated that some recent initiatives to improve how students learn may signal a shift to other priorities among funders.   Now, though, news out of Los Angeles makes it clear that the charter movement still has plenty of energy and ambition. 

"Opt Out has spread across the state of New York like a wildfire. In the spring of 2014, between 55,000 and 65,000 students refused to take the 3-8 Common Core tests, with about half of those numbers coming from Long Island. In 2015, the number was in excess of 200,000 test refusals—which meant that 20% of all possible test takers’ parents said, “not my child”.
The Power of Opt Out to Preserve Public Education
Network for Public Education Feature by Carol Burris September 27, 2015
Jeanette Deutermann did not intend to become the leader of the most effective opt out organization in the United States. She was a suburban mom trying to figure out why her son no longer wanted to go to school.  The year that Long Island Opt Out began, Tyler Deutermann was an unhappy fourth grader with school anxiety that was increasing every day. During the month of February of 2012, Jeanette began investigating why her son who once loved school so much, now hated it.

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.

"This will be an opportunity for the community to discuss its collective aspirations for our next superintendent. We hope you'll join us for an evening of learning and discussion about how we as a community can support our Board in its search for our schools next leader."
Getting a Great Superintendent
Pittsburgh, PA Wednesday, October 7, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT)
A+ Schools and its partners are hosting a community discussion about innovative talent search models that have attracted high quality leadership to key roles in the City of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools.  Come hear from Valerie Dixon, Executive Director and Founder of the PACT Initiative, Leigh Halverson, Strategic Project Advisor to the President, Heinz Endowments, Patrick Dowd, former school board member and Executive Director of Allies for Children, Robert Cavalier, Director, Program for Deliberative Democracy at Carnegie Mellon University, and Alex Matthews, former school board member discuss the key lessons they've learned from being part of selection processes for key leaders in our City.  

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.

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:

Registration is open for the 19th Annual Eastern Pennsylvania Special Education Administrators’ Conference on October 21-23rd in Hershey. 
Educators in the field of special education from public, charter and nonpublic schools are invited to attend.  The conference offers rich professional development sessions and exceptional networking opportunities.  Keynote speakers are Shane Burcaw and Jodee Blanco.  Register at

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.

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 <>

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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