Monday, October 26, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 26: Day 118: "I would remind readers that Gov. Tom Corbett couldn't advance measures on public pensions and the liquor system despite enjoying ample Republican majorities in the House and Senate."

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 26, 2015:
Day 118: "I would remind readers that Gov. Tom Corbett couldn't advance measures on public pensions and the liquor system despite enjoying ample Republican majorities in the House and Senate."

HARRISBURG (OCTOBER 21, 2015) – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding today submitted a formal request to Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly, urging them to promptly reach a budget agreement that enacts the funding formula adopted by the state Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) and increases basic education funding by at least $410 million.

Leaders from more than 50 organizations signed a letter delivered to state lawmakers, warning that failure to sufficiently fund public schools and correct glaring disparities in the way public education is funded will shortchange children and continue to hold back the state's economy.

Joint Public Hearing - PA House and Senate Education Committees Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, 10:00 am Hearing Room #1 North Office Building
Joint public hearing on substitute teacher issues.

"I would remind readers and the writer that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett couldn't advance measures on public pensions and the liquor system - which became two GOP must-haves only after a Democrat took the governorship - despite enjoying ample Republican majorities in the House and Senate."
Guv could use budget partners
Philly Daily News Letter by Rep. Dwight Evans Pennsylvania 203rd District POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2015, 12:16 AM
POLITICAL COLUMNIST John Baer's Monday missive, "Tom Wolf's paradise lost," laments that Gov. Wolf lost a chance to cakewalk in a political paradise instead of floundering in a pit of partisan intransigence while seeking a 2015-16 state budget.  I would remind readers and the writer that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett couldn't advance measures on public pensions and the liquor system - which became two GOP must-haves only after a Democrat took the governorship - despite enjoying ample Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
I hold Wolf's political acumen and persuasion skills in the highest regard. However, a budget compromise also requires leadership on the other side - leadership that realizes that the "art of the deal" requires a similar tack toward the center.  It can be done, just not in a vacuum. Corbett's signature $2.4 billion transportation bill, which is rebuilding the state's transportation infrastructure, required heavy lifting that was not shirked by former Republican leaders, namely House Speaker Sam Smith and Senate Majority Leader Dom Pileggi - and Democrats willing to put up tough votes for the betterment of the commonwealth.

"No budget, no break"
TALK ABOUT FIDDLING while Rome is burning.
The Republican-controlled state Legislature is poised to take a two-week session break. (Perhaps to get some rest before a fresh round of budgetary inertia.)  "It doesn't make any sense for the Legislature to be on break while services are being cut in the neighborhoods," Democratic state Sen. Art Haywood said after a news conference yesterday at Center in the Park in Germantown, where dozens of senior citizens held up signs and chanted, "No budget, no break."

Blogger note: The school funding lawsuit will be going before the Supreme Court in 2016. This lawsuit could play a pivotal role in providing sufficient and equitable funding to Pennsylvania students.  KEYSEC will continue to highlight coverage of the Supreme Court candidates……
The school funding lawsuit is moving forward and it is time for Pennsylvanians to get involved!
Education Voters PA website October 2015
In September, the petitioners filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to send the case to a full trial. On November, 2 the state, which has previously argued that simply opening school doors and keeping the lights on constitutes a “thorough and efficient” public school system in PA, will file its own brief.  It is time for Pennsylvanians who care about public education to get involved and to show strong support for a system of public education that gives every child in PA an opportunity to learn. You can write a letter to the editor, pass a resolution in support of the school funding lawsuit and participate in social media advocacy (info about this will be coming soon).

Pennsylvania Supreme Court elections, 2015
Ballotpedia website 2015
Pennsylvania voters will fill three vacancies on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on November 3, 2015: two vacancies created by retirements, and one vacancy created by an incumbent's primary loss. This is the most competitive supreme court race the commonwealth has seen since 2009 when Joan Orie Melvin (R) was elected to the high court.[1] Court elections in 2011 and 2013 were uncontested retention elections for incumbent justices. With three of seven seats on the ballot in 2015, the outcome of this historic election could not only change the partisan makeup of the court, but it could also impact future decisions.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court seats
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 25, 2015 12:00 AM
As today’s story makes clear, many voters will decide whom to support for Supreme Court justice based on little more than the candidates’ party affiliation. And such ties do indeed tell you a lot about the candidate in court races, where candidates are often constrained about what they can say about themselves.  “Party affiliation is huge in judicial elections, largely because have so little useful information in making a decision,” said Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.  But Ms. Marks said voters “want to evaluate candidates’ reputations for fairness and integrity, as well as their experience.” And the stakes are high.  Whichever party takes two or more of the three seats available on the court will control it come 2016. That will shape not just the way state law is interpreted, but the political boundaries by which our lawmakers are chosen: After the 2020 census, the court will play a key role in redrawing district maps for state legislative districts.

'The most significant race in recent memory' for Pa. Supreme Court
York Daily Record by Chris Palmer, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS) UPDATED:   10/25/2015 08:18:38 PM EDT
HARRISBURG - The low-wattage contest for Pennsylvania's Supreme Court got a few jolts of energy last week, thanks to a blitz of television ads and the release of pornographic emails tied to a sitting justice.  Probably not what the seven candidates envisioned when they launched their campaigns.  After all, their race is the only one nationwide this year for a state's high court. And it's the first time since a British monarch ruled the state that three of the court's seven seats are simultaneously up for grabs - meaning either party could secure a majority on a bench tasked with interpreting far-reaching laws.  "It's probably the most significant race in recent memory," said Kyle Kopko, political science professor at Elizabethtown College, noting the court could decide cases affecting the death penalty, legislative redistricting, and Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's ability to stay in office.

Letters to the Editor: Important court posts are on the ballot
Delco Times Letter  by Lora Lavin, Delaware County League of Women Voters  POSTED: 10/25/15, 9:13 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
To the Times: Your vote on Nov. 3 is very important. We will be voting to fill three vacancies on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and one vacancy each on Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth and Superior courts. How will you vote?  For nonpartisan information on the candidates, Google LWVPA or League of Women Voters of Pa. 2015 Voters Guide. Better still, if you have time, view videos of league sponsored debates by Googling Pennsylvania Cable Network. You will not only see and hear the candidates but learn a lot about our appellate court system, how it works and how it could be improved.

Letters to the Editor: Important court posts are on the ballot
Delco Times Letter  by Rafi Cave, William Penn School Board Vice President, Yeadon
POSTED: 10/25/15, 9:13 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Ultimately one day we’ll look back on this legislation a lot like we do with civil rights, gay rights and voting rights. The right to equal opportunity in public education in Pennsylvania is along the same life-changing lines as the landmark civil rights changes before it.  Pennsylvania can take the lead role in the future of hundreds of thousands of kids and the households they include. To this point, the state Judicial System, the state General Assembly and the state Department of Education has taken a very passive posture and now the Fair Funding Lawsuit has now moved to the state Supreme Court. It’s now that judges and legislators will need to decide what side of the current civil rights violation they’re on.

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania-Citizen Education Fund NONPARTISAN VOTERS GUIDE 2015 Municipal Election November 3, 2015

Supreme opportunity
The Inquirer endorses Christine Donohue, Judy Olson and David Wecht to fill three vacancies on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court. 
INQUIRER EDITORIAL BOARD POSTED: Sunday, October 25, 2015, 1:09 AM
Three hundred eleven years ago, the last time Pennsylvania's highest court had three vacancies, their replacements were up to the royal governor and, by extension, the queen. The three court vacancies to be filled on Nov. 3, two of them due to scandal, don't reflect the best work of the democracy that determines the composition of today's state Supreme Court. Dramatic reform, not to say another revolution, is in order.  Fortunately, Pennsylvanians have the power to reshape the court this time, as well as a field of promising candidates to do so.

PPG: For Supreme Court: The best choices are Olson, Donohue and Wecht
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board October 25, 2015 12:00 AM
The election of a justice to sit on the state Supreme Court is one of the most important decisions a voter can make. This year, Pennsylvanians get to choose three on Nov. 3.
The unprecedented number of vacancies, caused by the retirement of Chief Justice Ronald Castille and the resignations of Joan Orie Melvin and Seamus McCaffery for misconduct, means that the makeup of the state’s highest court will be dramatically altered when the seven-member panel begins its new session in February. Its decisions, which set precedent on matters ranging from child custody to the death penalty, affect every Pennsylvanian and will do so for decades. 
Earlier this year, 12 candidates were in the race; the May primary winnowed the field to three Democrats and three Republicans plus an independent who filed in July. Fortunately for the voters, three are clearly the best qualified to help rebuild the reputation of the nation’s oldest appellate court. They are Republican Judith F. Olson and Democrats Christine L. Donohue and David N. Wecht.

Pennsylvania Business Council endorses Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, Democratic Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue and Republican Superior Court Judge Judy Olson.
Big biz group wants women to run Pa. Supreme Court
IT SORT OF makes sense.  An ongoing porn mess paints the state's highest court and the extended criminal-justice system as some lewd lodge of lascivious men.  A certain attorney general suggests that all her legal woes, maybe all that's evil anywhere, is due to a cabal of crass, craven men.  So the solution seems simple: Let women run things.  And that's exactly what's proposed by an unlikely source: the Pennsylvania Business Council, whose more than 150 members include major corporations, such as U.S. Steel, PECO, PNC, Shell and Hershey.  The council is endorsing and pushing ads for a bipartisan slate of women for the three open seats on the seven-member state Supreme Court.  The slate is Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, Democratic Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue and Republican Superior Court Judge Judy Olson.

Contributions in Pennsylvania Supreme Court race tops $10M
Penn Live By Peter Jackson | The Associated Press  on October 23, 2015 at 6:56 PM, updated October 24, 2015 at 7:21 AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Political contributions to candidates competing for an unprecedented three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court surpassed the $10 million mark heading into the final week, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.  The fundraising total far exceeds that of any previous election for the high court; candidates in 2007 raised about $7 million.  Contributions through mid-September, including six candidates eliminated in the May primary, totaled $8.2 million. The latest reports pushed the figure to about $10.5 million.

Expert: Race still a factor in school discipline
He blames U.S. social, judicial history for creating implicit bias
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 26, 2015 12:00 AM
A packed room was completely silent Thursday evening as photos of Michael Brown’s dead body lying in a street in Ferguson, Mo., flashed across the screen.  The subsequent photos of protesters and police introduced a lecture on the abandonment of race-neutral discipline policies in schools.  More than 100 local students, teachers, administrators and educational advocates packed into a lecture hall at the University Club on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus for a visit from Russell Skiba, a professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Indiana University Bloomington in Bloomington, Ind.  “We’ve been disabused of the notion that somehow we’d gotten past the issue of race in America and that we could be race-neutral in dealing with these issues in America,” he said.

No progress on Philly substitute fill rate this week
the notebook By Catherine Offord on Oct 24, 2015 11:19 AM
Ongoing efforts by the School District and its private provider of substitutes, Source4Teachers, are still failing to have a visible impact on the proportion of empty classrooms being filled across Philadelphia, according to the latest figures.  Incentives designed to encourage teachers to take on substitute positions with Source4Teachers in recent weeks have included adjustments to the pay scale and written invitations to retired teachers. But the fill rate in Philadelphia’s classrooms remained at just 20 percent this week.  As reported Thursday, according to the contract between Philadelphia School District and Source4Teachers, obtained by the Notebook through a Right-to-Know request, the company is only paid for the teachers it successfully places in schools. What’s more, the District reserves the right to terminate its agreement with Source4Teachers without penalty at only 14 days notice.

Peters Township School District edges closer to strike
Trib Live By Elizabeth Behrman Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, 8:54 p.m.
As the threat of a teacher strike nears, the tension between the Peters Township School District and members of the teachers' union prompted a mediator to recommend that the two groups cease face-to-face negotiations.  The two parties negotiated again Sunday and again failed to reach a contract agreement. They will meet one more time Tuesday evening, and if they don't agree then, the teachers plan to go on strike Wednesday.

Confirmed: Standardized testing has taken over our schools. But who’s to blame?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 24 at 2:10 PM  
Who’s to blame?
A new two-year study on testing in U.S. big-city public schools reveals what many students, parents and teachers have been screaming about for years: Kids take too many mandated standardized tests. What’s more, there is no evidence that adding testing time improves student achievement, it says.  The average student in America’s big-city public schools takes some 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and the end of 12th grade — an average of about eight a year, the study says. That eats up between 20 and 25 hours every school year, the study says. As for the results, they often overlap. On top of all that are teacher-written tests, sometimes taken by students along with standardized tests in the very same subject.

Superintendents in Florida Say Tests Failed State’s Schools, Not Vice Versa
New York Times By LIZETTE ALVAREZ OCT. 25, 2015
MIAMI — When protests from parents and teachers erupted against the new Common Core tests here, Florida thought it had a solution: It dropped the tests.   But it abruptly switched sources for the exams, hoping the substitute would be more palatable.  Now, nearly six months after students finished taking their exams, Florida faces an even worse rebellion, led by the state’s 67 school superintendents. In speeches, letters to the editor and appeals to state officials, they are arguing that the tests were flawed — first, because they were developed for Utah schools and based on the curriculum taught there, and second, because of a string of disruptive technical glitches when they were rolled out here.  The superintendents are challenging the state’s plan to use the scores to give schools grades from A to F and to influence some teachers’ evaluations. Standing behind them are the Florida PTA, the state’s School Boards Association, teachers and administrators.

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 <>

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 for more information.

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

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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