Tuesday, October 20, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 20: High school graduation rates are on the rise in most states

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 20, 2015:
High school graduation rates are on the rise in most states

After GOP budget planning meeting, nothing definitive agreed-to and everything still on the table
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, October 19, 2015
Top House and Senate Republican leaders met for several hours Monday afternoon to discuss their budget strategy and attempt to get on the same page with a game plan that will try to bring about a final budget sooner rather than later.  However, that process seemed to be frustratingly difficult as staff and leaders dispersed their fourth-floor Capitol meeting room in waves as ongoing discussions left nothing definitive agreed-to between the two majority caucuses in the legislature.  “We’re just trying to work this thing forward, trying to come down to potential options going forward to finish the budget, [we’ve agreed to] nothing definitive yet,” said Senate Appropriations Majority Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) after leaving Tuesday’s meeting.

Some Republicans say use of new basic education funding formula should be reconsidered
The PLS Reporter: Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, October 19, 2015
While its use for additional school funds has unanimously been given the green light twice by Republicans in the House and the Senate, some in the GOP are seeing the twice-vetoed Education Code bills passed by the legislature as the perfect opportunity to revisit the use of the new basic education funding formula.  The new formula was developed after the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission held a number of hearings across the state before delivering their report with new funding recommendations in June.  While the Wolf administration was skeptical of the new formula’s usage for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, stating they wished to bring school districts back to pre-Corbett funding levels before using the formula to drive out new dollars, Republicans insisted on using the funding formula for funds that went above-and-beyond last year’s amounts.  A similar use of the new funding formula was seen in the Education Code bill passed along with the vetoed stop-gap funding measures in September.  While initially sources within the House Republican Caucus told The PLS Reporter that members were using the time during the budget impasse to learn more about how the use of the new formula would affect their particular districts, some members have gone so far as to call for a review of certain elements of the new formula and hold off on its usage until such time as the formula can be reconsidered.

"The outlook stated, in part: "we view the structural imbalance as not $2 billion but closer to $3 billion, or 10% of the budget, because the commonwealth has been under-contributing to its pension plans relative to its actuarial required contributions by roughly $1 billion.  "The commonwealth will struggle to close its budget gap while at the same time significantly ramping up its pension contributions."  Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed 16.3 percent personal income tax increase, designed in part to close that gap, was soundly defeated in the House of Representatives earlier this month, and so far, all alternative spending measures proposed by legislative Republicans have been vetoed."
Moody's lowers credit outlook for Pennsylvania to "negative," citing budget impasse
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 19, 2015 at 6:58 PM
If you can think for a moment of credit outlooks as the fiscal equivalent of a weather forecast, Pennsylvania's state government just got a bad one.  Moody's Investors Service on Friday revised its outlook for future general obligation debt issued by Pennsylvania from stable to negative.  The change did not have any immediate impact on the state's Aa3 credit rating - already one of the worst among the 50 states.  But it is a warning shot that further downgrades could follow, according to the ratings service.  And another downgrade, analysts trading in public-sector debt told PennLive Monday, could end up costing Pennsylvanians about $10 million or more per year in extra debt service on the nearly $2 billion in new bonds the state plans to float this year.

Rank-and-file Republicans challenge Gov. Wolf on “agreed-to” budget lines
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, October 19, 2015
Saying they are offering a “lifeline” to social service organizations and public schools, Representatives Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Dan Moul (R-Adams) announced today they are introducing as separate bills the 274 budget line-items they say Republicans and the administration agreed to, but were vetoed by the governor.  According to a news release from the two members, the 274 lines will be introduced in 12 separate appropriations bills.  The legislators said Monday that the rationale for this tactic is clear: these organizations need the money and the legislative math is in their favor.  “Although, of course, we are still in the process of negotiating a budget with the governor, we don’t need to be doing it while holding our human service agencies, and school districts, and school children as hostages,” Rep. Bloom told reporters during a Monday morning press conference.

Did the Erie schools' brassy request for a $47M advance just help break the #PaBudget impasse?
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 19, 2015 at 7:26 PM, updated October 19, 2015 at 10:48 PM
(Updated at 7:26 p.m to include comment from the Wolf administration and House Republicans)
Admit it, you never think about Erie. And if you do, it's not often.  But school officials from the City on the Lake may just have found a way to break Pennsylvania's four-month old budget impasse.  On Tuesday, District Solicitor Tim Wachter and Superintendent Jay Badams swung by the Treasury Department, where they asked for a $47 million advance on their state appropriation.  The way Wachter and Badams figured it, if Treasurer Timothy Reese could cough up nearly $1.9 million so broke House Democrats could make payroll, then certainly he could manage to do the same for school districts, right?  The two are still waiting for official word from Treasury -- which should come on Tuesday. But "we've received no indication that anyone is going to fight us on this,"Wachter said.

Pa. Treasury to Erie schools: We don't make loans but can help in another way
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 19, 2015 at 11:30 PM, updated October 19, 2015 at 11:33 PM
Treasury, while sympathetic to Erie School District's financial woes related to the state budget impasse, says it cannot provide a loan to the school district.  However, Treasury spokesman Scott Sloat said it would "seriously consider" issuing a payment to the district if the state Department of Education requisitioned a payment to prevent a school closure.  Erie School District Superintendent Jay Badams on Monday sent a letter to Treasury asking for a $47 million no-interest loan that would be repaid when the 2015-16 state budget is enacted.
In his letter, he cited a "loan" from Treasury to House Democrats to covers its payroll after the caucus ran out of money last month.

House GOP claims Treasury is picking winners, and Erie students shouldn't be losers
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 19, 2015 at 8:10 PM, updated October 19, 2015 at 11:35 PM
*This post was updated to include link to Treasury's response.
If the state Treasury can give the House Democrats a zero percent loan, House Republicans question how a similar request for a $47 million no-interest loan for Erie City School District can be denied without creating the appearance of special treatment.  The GOP caucus raised constitutional concerns over Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's appointed Treasurer Timothy Reese's decision to make a loan to the House Democratic Caucus when it ran out of money in mid-September to make payroll and pay for caucus operations.  It still holds those concerns, said House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin. "But that said, why the Erie School District be treated differently. Don't they deserve the same treatment as others?"  Erie, which last month threatened to shut down, is in the same boat as other school districts around that state that are running out of local revenue and looking to borrow money or have already borrowed to get by until a state budget gets school funding flowing again. 

PCPCS statement on the Redirection of Property Tax Reduction Revenue to Charters
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools website October 19, 2015
Last week, controversy arose regarding the decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to redirect money from Gaming Fund property tax reduction allocations from districts to charter schools. Here is background on the issue and the perspective of PCPCS on the PDE action.  Even before the current impasse with the state budget, many school districts refused to pass through state money to the public charter schools serving children from their districts. When that occurs, the primary legal recourse for the charter school is to request PDE to “redirect” state money legally due to the charter from the money that would normally be sent from the state to the district. Historically, that money would come from the basic education funding that the district receives from the state. With the budget impasse, there is no basic education money.  As a result of the budget impasse, some districts have decided to pay charters from local and federal tax dollars they continue to receive, but have stopped payments from the state basic education funds simply because they cannot pay the charters money they don’t have. This makes sense and is reasonable to “share the pain” caused to all public education by the budget impasse. However, some districts have used the impasse as an excuse to pay nothing to the charters, even though they continue to receive local and federal revenues. Most charters that are not receiving state money from their respective districts have filed for redirection from PDE.

PFT's Jordan blasts teacher vacancy situation
The District says that its new "leveling" policy is keeping vacancies temporarily high.
the notebook By Greg Windle on Oct 19, 2015 07:06 PM
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan spoke at Northeast High School on Monday to draw attention to the “District’s failure” to fill numerous teacher vacancies in the city’s public schools.  At Northeast, where there are 10 listed vacancies, Jordan said in a statement that the lack of teachers amounted to “1,815 students who are being denied full-time teachers every day.”  “Some of the 9th graders here have three or four entire periods with no full-time teacher,” he said.  Northeast is not the only school with many vacancies. Edison High School has seven listed vacancies as of Monday. Harding, Huey, and Strawberry Mansion all have five vacancies.
The School District lists 177 total teacher vacancies on its website as of today.

Thousands of Philly students still without permanent teachers
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 1:08 AM  POSTED: Monday, October 19, 2015, 5:45 PM
Seven weeks into the school year, thousands of Philadelphia schoolchildren have yet to be assigned permanent teachers.  On top of a substitute-teaching predicament that leaves hundreds of jobs unfilled every day, the Philadelphia School District - with 190 vacancies - has created a crisis, "either through neglect or incompetence," union president Jerry Jordan said Monday.  At Northeast High School alone, 1,815 students are affected by 11 unfilled teaching jobs and three vacancies created by long-term medical leaves, most of which were known about months ago, officials said.  Some students have no permanent teacher in four out of five of their major subjects.

Pennsylvania’s House Education Committee backs study of schools’ zero tolerance policies
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 10/19/15, 1:14 PM EDT
HARRISBURG >> Zero tolerance policies inside Pennsylvania public schools may soon get a closer look as lawmakers are considering whether to study how they work and what the alternatives are.  The House Education Committee voted unanimously Monday to direct the Joint State Government Commission to report back about the range of policies and the agreements under which local police are automatically called in.  Part of its focus will be on how the policies affect very young or disabled students. The full House will have to vote in favor of it for the six-month study to get underway.  The sponsor, Rep. Warren Kampf, R-Montgomery, said he came up with the proposal after hearing from a constituent about some of the ways zero tolerance policies are currently implemented.  He said there are some who feel the policies have an adverse effect on some students, that schools can be too quick to bring in police and that automatic suspension might not always be appropriate for children in first, second or third grades.

State will divert gaming money from School District of Lancaster to cyber charter schools
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer October 19, 2015
As school districts deal with stalled state funding until a budget is passed, they're counting on one source of income from the state: gaming revenue.  Each year the state distributes a portion of casino and slot machine taxes to school districts for property tax relief. One of those payments is due next week.  But School District of Lancaster won't be seeing its full payment.  The state comptroller's office will deduct about $58,000 from Lancaster's $2.5 million payment and redirect that money to two cyber charter schools.  The city school board voted last month to withhold partial payments to cyber charter schools during the budget impasse. Matt Przywara, chief financial and operations officer for the district said the decision would save the school district about $100,000 a month.  Charter and cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania receive their funding directly from the districts whose students attend the schools. The amount a district pays varies based on its own per-pupil costs.

Mon-Yough lawmakers seek meeting on gambling funds distribution
Trib Live By Patrick Cloonan Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, 5:56 a.m.
Three state lawmakers representing McKeesport Area School District and Clairton want a meeting early this week with state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera over the distribution to charter schools of gambling funds meant for property tax relief.  Sen. James R. Brewster, D-McKeesport, and Reps. Marc J. Gergely, D-White Oak, and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, want Rivera to halt the payment that will cost McKeesport Area all but $41,000 of a $1.2 million payment scheduled for Thursday.  “Public schools are facing incredible difficulties because of the lack of a state budget,” Brewster said. “Now, the little funding they are getting outside of the basic subsidy is being hijacked by charter schools.”

Camp Hill School Board reviews district PSSA test scores
By Allison Dougherty | Special to PennLive Email the author on October 19, 2015 at 10:45 PM
CAMP HILL – The Camp Hill School Board on Monday reviewed the district's 2015 PSSA test scores.  The district consistently performed above state averages, but Camp Hill's math and English language arts scores reflected the drop in scores experienced in most area school districts due to changes in the test, Superintendent David Reeder said after the meeting.  "The PSSAs are work in progress," Reeder said about the district.
The district will evaluate the test data and to develop a more detailed understanding of the scores and performance levels and identify any root causes for anomalies in that data.

Lower Dauphin School District PSSA scores "a good showing for a difficult test," superintendent says
By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive on October 19, 2015 at 9:29 PM, updated October 20, 2015 at 6:48 AM
Lower Dauphin School District's PSSA results are "a good showing for a difficult test," according to superintendent Sherri Smith.  The revamped standardized exams are more rigorous than they have been. According to assistant superintendent for secondary education Todd Neuhard, the grade 6 math test, for instance, more closely resembles what was once tested in grade 8. It will take a while for the curriculum to catch up.  Although scores might seem lower than in previous years, they are impossible to compare, administrators said at Monday's school board meeting.  But compared to state averages, the results are strong, they said.  According to the most recent results, 50 percent of Lower Dauphin Middle School's students in grades 6 to 8 were proficient or advanced in math. Compared to the state average of 34.3 percent, that was good.  In English Language Arts tests, 73 percent of the district's students were proficient or advanced, compared to 59 percent in the state. The tests rely more heavily on writing than earlier tests.

Wilmington school board member Lynn Foltz honored
New Castle News Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2015 4:00 am
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association awarded Lynn Foltz, a member of the Wilmington Area School Board, the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey.  The award was established in 2011 in memory of Tim Allwein, the association’s former assistant executive director for governmental and member relations. It is presented annually to an individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  A nominator praised Foltz for being a "tireless advocate for public education, a fearless champion for children, and an extremely dedicated board member.” Another said, “She continually mobilizes us into action relative to contacting our legislators regarding these important education issues. We have heard Lynn speak on many occasions at numerous venues, and only walk away more impressed each and every time.”  Foltz is a PSBA Region 2 Director, serves on the board at Midwestern Intermediate Unit 4 and co-chairs the Keystone State Education Coalition, a non-partisan public education advocacy group. In the past, she has been a member of the PSBA Board of Directors.

High school graduation rates are on the rise in most states
Washington Post By Emma Brown October 19 at 4:39 PM  
High school graduation rates ticked up in a majority of states in 2014, and graduation gaps between white and minority students narrowed in most states that year, according to new federal data.  Though nationwide data is not yet available, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the preliminary state numbers suggest that the country is on track for a rise in graduation rates for the third year in a row.  Eighty-one percent of the Class of 2013 graduated on time, the highest figure since states began calculating graduation rates in a uniform way in 2010.

News About the Network for Public Education
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch October 19, 2015 //
The Network for Public Education has split into two different entities.
The organization by that name will continue to support the improvement of public education and to produce studies, reports, meetings, and statements. Its new executive director is Carol Burris, who recently retired as principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York. Carol is a gifted writer; you may have read one of her many posts published by Valerie Strauss on The Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post. She also received many honors for her leadership as a principal. In accordance with IRS rules and regulations, NPE is a 501 (c) 3 and contributions to it are tax-deductible.  The other part of NPE is called the NPE Action Fund. It will endorse candidates and produce studies and engage in other activities and public information to support public education. The NPE Action Fund is a 501 (c) 4; contributions to it are not tax-deductible. Its executive director is Robin Hiller of Tucson, Arizona. Until now, Robin was the overall executive director of NPE; when we realized we had to be two separate entities to comply with the IRS, Robin chose to lead our political action arm. 

Campbell Brown’s insidious new lie: Charter schools, dark money and the war on teachers’ unions — and your kids
Charter school proponents -- and their wealthy friends -- have opened a new front on their war on public education
Salon.com by JEFF BRYANT MONDAY, OCT 19, 2015 05:58 AM EDT
Before Democratic Party presidential candidates readied for their first debate on CNN, they turned down an opportunity to meet at another forum.  That meeting was to be hosted by ex-CNN anchorwoman Campbell Brown, who now operates a media outlet, The Seventy Four, that promotes charter schools and other public education policies favored by wealthy foundations and individuals. Brown’s financial backers include the philanthropic organization of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the foundation of the family that owns Wal-Mart.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

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 www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute for more information.

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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