Wednesday, October 14, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 14: K-12 Takes a Backseat in First Democratic Debate

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PA Ed Policy Roundup October 14, 2015
K-12 Takes a Backseat in First Democratic Debate

Pennsylvania budget talks are set to resume Wednesday

Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 13, 2015 at 5:40 PM, updated October 13, 2015 at 7:23 PM

The next chance to break the state budget impasse is upon us.
One week after the state House of Representatives defeated Gov. Tom Wolf's $1.8 billion tax increase package on a mostly party-line vote, legislative leaders expect to reconvene on-again, off-again state budget talks Wednesday.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said he is hopeful that with the House's strong rejection ofWolf's proposed personal income tax increase as a backdrop, the new talks will have a better chance of gaining quick momentum.  "Now that almost everyone has agreed that we're not going to have an across-the-board tax increase," Corman said Tuesday, in a reference to the House vote, "we're a lot closer together than we were.  "We think there's a real chance to have some sort of agreement fairly quickly."

Corman: There is a “general consensus” that a personal income tax hike will not be part of the final budget
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said there is a “general consensus” that a personal income tax increase will not be part of the final budget plan as he left bipartisan meeting between legislative leaders Tuesday.  “That reduces the field significantly,” he said, noting “most people believe” that following last week’s House vote defeating  the governor’s revenue plan, which relied heavily on a PIT increase to raise revenue, such an increase will not make its way into a final budget plan.  “Once that’s gone, that reduces the differences significantly and we can move forward and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.  Sen. Corman clarified, saying he can’t speak for the views of the administration and he won’t speak on behalf of legislative Democrats, “but I think they get it, that the votes aren’t there and we’re going to try to put a budget together without it.”  That being said, he explained revenue increases in some other areas might be part of the budget discussions, along with spending reforms as in the area of public pensions.

Wolf: 'I can't cave' in budget fight
CHRIS PALMER, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 11:03 AM
HARRISBURG - The path to resolving Pennsylvania's budget stalemate remained murky Tuesday, as Gov. Wolf and a top Senate ally appeared to double down on their long-held positions, while Republicans explored if they had the votes to enact a spending plan without the governor's signature.  In a radio interview, Wolf insisted he would not back off his calls for major changes to overcome the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit.  "I think there's a dawning awareness that I'm not going to cave on this, I can't cave on this," he told KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh, shrugging off last week's rejection of his tax plan by the Republican-controlled House. "I'm one of 12.7 million Pennsylvanians, and we've got to have our state on a sound financial basis. That's all I want."

All seven are to take part in a statewide TV debate this evening at Widener Law School's Harrisburg campus from 5 to 6:30 p.m.  The Pennsylvania Cable Network is airing the event live, replaying it at 8:30 p.m. and again Saturday at 3 p.m.  There's also a candidate forum at Community College of Philadelphia on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. if you want to see these folks in person.
It's time to judge the judges
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 12:16 AM
LET'S TAKE a few minutes to chat about our state Supreme Court.  You're perhaps aware it's going through a rough period.  One Democratic justice, Philly's Seamus McCaffery, resigned last year after being connected to an email porn probe.  That came after a Republican justice, Pittsburgh's Joan Orie Melvin, was convicted of campaign-related corruption.  Now a third justice, Republican Michael Eakin, of Central Pennsylvania, is under review, after being linked to emails the high court says it's "disturbed" by.  Things are so bad, court candidates now running are subtly and not so subtly referring to these problems in TV ads.

Hopefuls for Pa. Supreme, Superior, Commonwealth courts to take debate stages
Trib Liv By Melissa Daniels Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, 10:45 p.m.
Pennsylvania voters will have a chance to watch the candidates for the state's appellate courts face off in debates Wednesday and Thursday.  The Pennsylvania Cable Network will air a debate held at Widener College with the seven Supreme Court candidates beginning at 5 p.m.  
Republican candidates include Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey of Bucks County, Adams County Common Pleas Judge Michael George of Gettysburg and Superior Court Judge Judy Olson of Wexford.  Democrats include Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue of Point Breeze, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty and Superior Court Judge David Wecht of Indiana Township.

TribLive By Brian C. Rittmeyer Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, 12:31 a.m.
…..A new formula for distributing state basic education funding to school districts is held up in the budget dispute between Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature.
The formula is meant to provide school districts with funding that is sustainable and predictable, said Ron Dufalla, a circuit rider with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding and a retired school superintendent.  Deer Lakes Business Manager Dennis Thimons said the formula is not expected to result in significant changes to the district's state funding.  Dufalla gave a presentation on the formula Tuesday to the school board at the invitation of Superintendent Janell Logue-Belden.  “It's considered to be probably the fairest way to distribute basic education funding,” Dufalla said.  Basic education funding is the largest chunk of money districts receive from the state, with the fewest strings attached, Dufalla said.
He said there has not been a formula for distributing this money since the early 1990s.
Dufalla said districts would not lose any money they already receive. The formula would be used to determine new funding going forward from a base year.  Wolf and lawmakers disagree on what year would be the base year, in addition to how much to increase education funding.

“Sparagana said there are two things the state could have done to assist schools like those in Pottstown where a high proportion of families are low-income and the tax base cannot provide adequate funding — neither of which are included in the Auditor General’s recommendations.
First, “adequate funding to all school districts in the Commonwealth” would have allowed “instructional programs to be equitable for all students,” he wrote . “We know what to do from a teaching and learning perspective, we just need the resources to enhance opportunities for our students.”  Earlier this year, a special committee issued a set of recommendations to provide a fairer funding formula for schools, but it remains hostage to the budget impasse.  Additionally, schools like Franklin and Pottstown Middle School would be aided by a roll-back of “unfunded mandates,” Sparagana wrote.  “Why must we jump through additional hoops? We should not be punished because PDE has been called out by the Feds,” Sparagana replied.”
Pottstown schools chief responds to state auditor report
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 10/13/15, 6:46 PM EDT
POTTSTOWN >> Two Pottstown school buildings are among the 561 academically challenged schools that were “overlooked” by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, according to a recent report.  Last week Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an 89-page audit of the education department that found, among other findings, the department failed to provide additional assistance to poor-performing schools.  Included on that list of poor-performing schools were Franklin Elementary School and Pottstown Middle School.  “The Pennsylvania Department of Education is failing our students and the taxpayers by essentially overlooking 561 academically challenged schools,” DePasquale said, in a prepared statement accompanying the report’s release.

Deal ends Scranton teachers' strike, classes begin Wednesday
Education Week by AP Published Online: October 13, 2015
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Students in the Scranton School District in northeastern Pennsylvania will return to class Wednesday after a tentative contract deal ended a teachers' strike that began Sept. 25.  The Scranton Federation of Teachers had been picketing to protest efforts to cut salaries and health care benefits, and increasing classroom sizes.  The administration says the district has proposed health insurance concessions in exchange for step increase raises.
The tentative deal was struck Monday night.  The teachers were set to vote on the deal Tuesday afternoon, and it was expected to be approved. The school board must also ratify the contract, but classes and extracurricular activities were to resume.

"If the Susquehanna International Group sounds familiar it's because senior members of the privately held investment firm also injected millions into the failed Philadelphia mayoral campaign of Anthony Hardy Williams around the expansion of charter schools and support of vouchers."
Susquehanna Group's Yass donates $2.3 million to support Rand Paul campaign
Nearly half of all the money raised so far to support presidential candidates has come from some 150 super-rich families, and some of them have connections to the Philadelphia area.
Chief among them is Jeff Yass, executive at the Susquehanna International Group in Lower Merion. He's contributed $2.3 million to super PACs pushing libertarian Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.  According to Federal Election Commission reports, Yass gave generously to the Purple Pac, Inc., Concerned American Voters and America's Liberty PAC, all working to get Paul into the oval office.

Pennsylvania edu-crock: What a mess
Editorial By The Tribune-Review Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Beyond confirming that former state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis did little, if any, actual work as a special higher-education adviser to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's audit of the Education Department highlights many ways it needs to improve under Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf.  Mr. Tomalis' 14-month advisory role, which began in June 2013, had no job description but paid him the same $140,000 salary he enjoyed as a Cabinet member — and sweetened his annual state pension by $7,000.  The audit found just one email he sent and one entry on his electronic calendar for three months in 2014. As Mr. DePasquale put it, “that's nice ‘work' if you can get it.” Mr. Wolf's administration must ensure nobody else gets such “work.”  
The audit also found that from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2015, the department filled key jobs with retirees and fell short in helping 561 failing schools, including 100-plus in Western Pennsylvania. Oh, and the Education Department hasn't updated its master plan since 1999.

“The department has turned down all new cyber applications in the last three years, in part because most of the 14 cybers are among the lowest performing schools in the state. Cybers enroll more than 35,000 students in Pennsylvania.”
Rejected cyber charter tries a workaround
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 9:36 PM POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 5:18 PM
A proposed cyber charter school that was rejected three times by the state Department of Education has turned to the courts in its bid to open.  Insight PA Cyber Charter School, which has partnered with for-profit K12 Inc., has filed a petition in Commonwealth Court challenging the Charter Appeal Board's decision to deny its appeal.  The board on Aug. 31 upheld the Education Department's finding that K12 would be effectively running the school rather than Insight's nonprofit board.  Alan C. Kessler, Insight's lead attorney, declined to comment Tuesday. But in the Commonwealth Court filing, Insight challenged the appeals board's findings, contending it had "capriciously disregarded the department's arbitrary treatment" of Insight's prior applications.  Insight also alleged that the Education Department had engaged in an "effective moratorium" on the approval of new cybers since 2012.

Show explores how state funding affects schools
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comOctober 8, 2015 
STATE COLLEGE — After more than 200 hours of interviews that started last year, production staff for the touring performance “School Play” cut their research into a show that lasted about an hour.  The Philadelphia-based tour group made its way to State College Area High School on Thursday to spread the word — through the arts — about how state funding affects schools.  And it came during a time the state is about three months past due on approving a budget.  Creator Seth Bauer said every line in the documentary-style play was a direct quote from the more than 100 Pennsylvania educators, politicians, parents and others they spoke with.  But their work went beyond performing.  The actors, directors and writers worked with about 15 students during daytime workshops at the high school.  State High Thespians adviser and director Jill Campbell said the group held two sessions -- one about writing and the other on advocacy for the arts.  “You can just talk about public issues or you can address them through arts,” Campbell said. “This explores that issue visually.”

PSBA members elect new officers for 2016
PSBA website October 13, 2015
Members of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association elected new officers and a new at-large representative for 2016 at its Delegate Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at The Hershey Lodge & Convention Center.  The new officers and at-large representative will take their offices on January 1, 2016, as part of the 11-member PSBA Governing Board. As 2015 president-elect, Kathy Swope, Lewisburg Area SD (Union Co.), automatically assumes the office of the president. William LaCoff, Owen J. Roberts SD (Chester Co.), will assume the title of immediate past president in January 2016 when his term comes to an end as 2015 president.
Officers and at-large representatives elected at the Delegate Assembly are as follows:
Mark B. Miller, Centennial SD (Bucks Co.)
Vice president:
Michael Faccinetto, Bethlehem Area SD (Northampton Co.)
At-large representative (East):
Larry Feinberg, SD of Haverford Township (Delaware Co.)

Plenty of College Talk,  But K-12 Takes a Backseat in First Democratic Debate
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on October 13, 2015 11:09 PM
There were plenty of quick shout-outs to education during the Democratic presidential candidates very first debate in Las Vegas. But if you were hoping for a meaty discussion of the big issues facing K-12—testing, teacher evaluation, fixing low-performing schools—you were out of luck. (That's been a trend in the Democratic primary so far.) 

Near Silence on Education at First Democratic Debate
Gadfly on the Wall Blog by Steven Singer October 13, 2015
None.  Null.  Nada.
That’s how many questions CNN anchors asked presidential hopefuls about America’s public schools at the first Democratic Debate.
Imagine if Anderson Cooper and company had been silent on Climate Change. The candidates would have brought it up anyway. Bernie Sanders actually did talk about the threat to the environment when asked a question about national defense.  Imagine if moderators had no questions about gun violence. Candidates competed with each other to demonstrate which took a stronger stance against the National Rifle Association.  Imagine if no one asked about finance reform. On that stage each candidate tried to position his or herself as the new sheriff of Wall Street.  But when it comes to one of the most important issues of the day – our children’s struggling schools – the media apparently thought it was of no interest to the viewing public.
Admittedly both Hillary Clinton and Sanders briefly brought it up when asked about other things.

The next education secretary: Polarizing, powered by personal story
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Lyndsey Layton October 11, 2015
The nation’s next education secretary is a man driven by what might have been had he not found refuge in public schools.  John B. King Jr.’s mother died of a heart attack when he was 8, and then his father descended into Alzheimer’s disease, leaving King an orphan at age 12. He moved around a lot, staying with relatives. School became the safest, most stable and most nurturing place he knew.  “New York City public school teachers are the reason that I am alive,” King said at the White House this month, after President Obama announced that he would succeed Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the end of this year. “Those teachers created amazing educational experiences, but also gave me hope — hope about what is possible, what could be possible for me in life.”

Is kindergarten too young to suspend a student?
PBS Newshour by John Merrow October 12, 2015 at 6:25 PM EDT
At the largest charter school network in New York City, strict academic and behavior standards set the stage for learning. That doesn't exclude children as young as 5 or 6 years old, who can be given out-of-school suspensions if they don't follow the rules. Special correspondent for education John Merrow explores what that policy means for both the child and the school.

Parents Support Testing, but Think There's Too Much
US News and World Report By Lauren Camera Oct. 12, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EDT+ More
Parents of public school students support the use of standardized tests, but think they're overused and not necessarily helping their children improve.  That finding – one of many from a new survey of parent attitudes released Monday by the nonprofit communications organization Education Post – lies at the heart of the nation's ongoing testing saga, which has been marked by thousands of students opting out of state assessments and a growing number of states struggling with how to administer and use new tests designed to align with more rigorous standards.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:  School Play is going on tour!  Click below for more information about tour dates in your county.  All performances are FREE!
School Play, a documentary-based live theatre piece, is here to put school funding center stage. Compiled from a series of interviews, the play premiered in Philadelphia in April, 2015 and is now available for free for performances around the Commonwealth.

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:

Back to School Special Education Seminar October 20th
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Join us on October 20, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for our first special education conference of the 2015-2016 school year!
Building on last year’s successful Back to School seminar, this year you will hear about the current state of special education law and engage in dialogue about today’s most pressing matters.
  • Early Intervention
  • Inclusion
  • Assistive Technology
  • General update on the state of special education, both in Philadelphia and nationally
  • HUNE
  • The PEAL Center
  • Sonja Kerr
Our “Know Your Child’s Rights” Special Education workshops aim to educate parents, educators, attorneys and advocates so that they can advocate for the rights of children with disabilities. CLE credit is available for attorneys in Pennsylvania that attend the seminar in person.  Questions? Email or call 267.546.1303.

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.

Constitution Center, Philadelphia Monday, November 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Free for Members • $7 teachers & students • $10 public
Become a Member today for free admission to this program and more!
Click here to join and learn more or call 215-409-6767.
Does the Constitution guarantee an “equal education” to every child? What do the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions say about school choice, teacher tenure, standardized testing, and more? The Constitution Center hosts two conversations exploring these questions.
In the first discussion, education policy experts—Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ina Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia—examine the state of Philadelphia public education, what an "equal education" in Philadelphia would look like, and their specific proposals for getting there. They also explain what, if anything, the Pennsylvania state constitution says about these questions, and how state government interacts with local government in setting education policy.
In the second discussion, James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon and Joshua Lipshutz of Gibson Dunn—two attorneys involved in Vergara v. California, a landmark dispute over the legality of teacher retention policies—present the best arguments on both sides and discuss what's next in the case. They also explain what the U.S. Constitution and major Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of EducationSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 say about education and our national debates.

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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