Thursday, October 29, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 29: Dems kill GOP veto override; Corman: R's recognize that they need to offer something Wolf will sign

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PA Ed Policy Roundup October 29, 2015:
Dems kill GOP veto override; Corman: R's recognize that they need to offer something Wolf will sign

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.

Editorial: Time to level education funding field
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 10/28/15, 2:00 AM EDT |
The William Penn School District in Delaware County is not going away in their fight for a level playing field when it comes to funding education in this state.  Now it’s time for the rest of the state to stand beside them.  William Penn is one of six struggling school districts, along with Lancaster, Panther Valley, Greater Johnstown, Shenandoah and Wilkes Barre who finally had to go to court in an attempt to get what Pennsylvania was unable to deliver.  A fair shake when it comes to how education funding is shared in this state.
Too often children in struggling towns – like those in William Penn and the others – are penalized simply because of their zip code. They all share something: A disproportionate number of their students who live in depressed economic conditions, and a local economy that fails miserably to raise the kind of revenue needed to put them on a par with other districts just a few miles away.
In other words, students in William Penn and the other districts don’t get the same bang for their buck when it comes to education funding. When they raise taxes, which they have been forced to do repeatedly because of shortfalls in the funding delivered by the state, they don’t raise the same amount of money as those in more well-to-do districts.  For families in William Penn, it means watching as a tax hike in Springfield or Haverford delivers much more revenue than when they do likewise.  In other words, an unlevel playing field, leaving parents, students and staff in impoverished districts constantly trudging uphill simply to achieve the same level of education.
The districts finally decided to ask the court to do what the governor and Legislature – both Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf – have failed to do: Fix this system.

"Every day, the negative impact on school districts becomes more widespread," said William LaCoff, president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association in written testimony. "In short, many districts are exhausting their options in order to keep the school doors open despite the missing state funds."
As budget impasse effects continue to be felt, another funding effort fails
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, October 28, 2015
As legislators Wednesday learned about the impact of the state budget impasse on schools and the Auditor General continued to provide updates on the costs of the budget impasse to Pennsylvania’s school districts, the Senate failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto of a stopgap funding measure passed in September.  The Senate Democratic Policy Committee began Wednesday’s budget-related discussions by hearing from schools on the impact of the ongoing state budget.

"For now, House and Senate GOP leaders are working privately to deliver a compromise, and it is proving difficult. A smaller counteroffer to the $2.4 billion tax package Wolf sought earlier month is under construction, but Republicans also recognize that they need to offer something Wolf will sign, Corman said.
“So we’re trying to achieve that, whether we can or not, remains to be seen,” he said."
Democrats kill GOP’s veto override in Pennsylvania Senate
Washington Times By MARC LEVY and PETER JACKSON - Associated Press Wednesday, October 28, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate blocked a GOP bid to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a short-term spending plan Wednesday, as attention began turning to a compromise being worked on by top Republicans in a bid to break a four-month stalemate.  The Senate’s vote came on the 120th day of a partisan budget battle between the first-term Democratic governor and the Legislature’s huge Republican majorities.  A successful override of Wolf’s Sept. 29 veto of a short-term, $11 billion Republican-written spending package would have required at least three Democrats to join all 30 Republicans in voting “yes.” Instead, in a show of solidarity with Wolf, all 19 Democrats opposed the override.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, beseeched Democrats to support a four-month infusion of money for schools and social services providers while policymakers work out their differences. In his floor comments, he singled out superintendents from Democrats’ districts who were in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

"He noted a difference in trying to come up with a plan now and a plan before June 30th has to do with trying to recognize some of the governor’s priorities and how they fit in with key Republican concepts in terms of pension reform, liquor privatization, and property tax relief all while keeping the burden on Pennsylvania taxpayers as low as possible and dealing with the structural deficit.  “Now we’re trying to recognize some of the governor’s priorities, now we’re entering a new world here,” he stated. “That has its own layer of discussions.”
Corman: “We’re trying to put something together that deals with not only this year’s budget, but next year’s budget as well”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Following Wednesday’s failed stopgap veto override vote, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) briefed a small group of reporters on the status of budget discussions.  While he said the House and Senate Republicans haven’t agreed on a plan yet, they recognize “the ball is in our court” in trying to come up with a plan since the governor’s plan failed.  “We’re trying to come up with a comprehensive plan that would keep the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish through pension reform, keeping the tax burden down, while at the same time recognizing some of the governor’s priorities,” he said. 

Pennsylvania budget update: There's progress on one side of the table
Penn Live By Charles Thompson |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on October 28, 2015 at 10:45 PM
Pennsylvania's Republican legislative leaders couldn't get Democrats to join them in a veto override vote Wednesday.  But, for them, the day wasn't a total loss.  After several hours of meetings between top House and Senate GOP leaders and staff, sources said those one-party talks are slowly honing in on the framework of a "big" new majority caucus plan.
That plan, several sources familiar with the talks said but asked not to be identified in order to discuss details, would be a "budget-plus" package that would also address reforms to the state's two major public pensions plans, liquor privatization and significant school property tax relief.

"When it comes to who is responsible for the overdue state budget, 51 percent of voters say the blame lies with the state legislature, while 32 percent say Wolf is responsible. "
Two-thirds of Pa. voters say state is 'on the wrong track': F&M poll
Penn Live By Lisa Wardle | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 29, 2015 at 4:30 AM, updated October 29, 2015 at 4:31 AM
The October poll of Pennsylvania registered voters, released today by Franklin & Marshall College, shows widespread dissatisfaction with state politicians and the general state of Pennsylvania politics.  Nearly two-thirds of registered voters believe the state is "on the wrong track," up from 54 percent in August. Meanwhile, 39 percent say that government and politicians are the biggest problems facing the state.  Thirty-six percent of registered voters believe Gov. Tom Wolf is doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor, down from 39 percent in August.  Wolf's approval rating is higher among Democrats, with 57 percent of those in his own party approving of his performance. Overall, his ratings are similar to Gov. Ed Rendell and Gov. Tom Corbett at this point in their first terms.

GOP’s budget veto override fails in Pennsylvania Senate
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 10/28/15, 11:42 AM EDT
HARRISBURG >> Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate aren’t going along with a Republican bid to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a short-term spending plan designed to break a four-month stalemate.  Wednesday’s vote in the Senate came on the 120th day of a partisan budget battle between the first-term Democratic governor and the Legislature’s Republican majorities.  The override required 33 of the Senate’s 49 members, but all 19 Democrats voted against it. Wolf on Sept. 29 vetoed the $11 billion Republican spending package that sought to release billions in federal dollars.  Meanwhile, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reports that borrowing by Pennsylvania’s school districts is on the rise. DePasquale says school districts have borrowed more than $430 million to keep their doors open, a number that could hit $1 billion in early December.

At the Capitol, a predictable #PaBudget dance - and they wonder why there's no results?: John L. Micek
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 28, 2015 at 3:01 PM, updated October 28, 2015 at 5:00 PM
So here, 120 days into the budget impasse, is a look inside the funhouse that is the state Capitol.  At 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held a press conference to talk about the serious, budget-related cash crunch confronting Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.  Stalemate-related borrowing is set to hit a staggering $500 million, the visibly upset York Democrat said.  The interest rates and fees associated with the borrowing could hit an eye-watering $14 million, he noted.  That's $14 million that's going straight to the banks, not to kids, not to classrooms, not to programs.  Just banks.
The situation confronting the districts is "bad now," but will become "borderline disastrous," if Republicans who control the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf don't cut a deal by Thanksgiving, he said.

Budget impasse-related school borrowing approaches $500 million
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 28, 2015 at 2:05 PM, updated October 28, 2015 at 2:58 PM
The picture that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale paints of the impact that the state budget impasse is having on school districts isn't pretty.  A month ago when he reported at least 17 school districts and two intermediate units had borrowed $346 million to meet expenses while waiting on state dollars to arrive. Since then, 10 more districts – including Fairfield Area School District in Adams County and Steelton-Highspire School District in Dauphin County – have jumped on the borrowing train (See chart below).  Adding these 10 new loans to the ones that other districts and intermediate units have already borrowed brings the total to $431 million. Interest and fees associated with that borrowing could potentially reach $14 million, DePasquale said on Wednesday at a Capitol news conference.

Auditor: Budget crisis could push school debt to $1 billion
CHRIS PALMER, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 3:07 PM POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 11:05 AM
HARRISBURG - More than two dozen school districts across Pennsylvania have borrowed $431 million to stay afloat during the state's budget crisis, and the total could exceed $1 billion if a deal is not reached by December, the state auditor general said Wednesday.  "We go from bad to borderline disastrous if something isn't done before Thanksgiving," Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said at Capitol news conference.  He spoke on the 120th day of Pennsylvania's budget stalemate - and just hours before another sign of gridlock emerged. The state Senate, led by a united Republican majority, tried and failed to override a previously-vetoed stopgap budget, which would send cash to schools and human services agencies while a final deal is negotiated.
Democrats unanimously rejected the measure, echoing Gov. Wolf's sentiment that their energy should be spent discussing a final accord.

VIDEO: DePasquale gives second update on how budget impasse is impacting schools
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, October 28, 2015 Video runtime 5:01
This afternoon in the Capitol Media Center, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported that since 17 school districts and two intermediate units have borrowed more than $346 million since late September, 10 more districts have reported borrowing in October to keep classrooms open. 

Scranton School Board to act on funding issues
Scranton Times Tribune KATHLEEN BOLUS, STAFF WRITER Published: October 28, 2015
SCRANTON — Scranton School Board members will discuss and vote on the next steps to fund the district through the state budget impasse.  During a 6 p.m. meeting on Nov. 4, the directors will: authorize a tax anticipation note for the 2015; file a motion with Lackawanna County Court for the unfunded debt because of the lack of a state budget; and authorize any necessary measures to finance the unfunded state subsidy, according to an email from the district. The meeting will be held in the board room of the district administration building, 425 N. Washington Ave., Scranton.
The state budget stalemate began on July 1.

Pittsburgh schools approve partnership with Wilkinsburg
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 28, 2015 11:29 PM
Pittsburgh Public Schools have joined the Wilkinsburg School District in agreeing to a six-year partnership that will send some of the smaller community’s students to a big city school.  While the boards of both now have approved a letter of intent that outlines 18 terms of agreement in the partnership, the path to approval in each district played out differently.  On Tuesday, the Wilkinsburg board unanimously approved the letter of intent.  In Pittsburgh, board directors debated for more than an hour Wednesday night over various terms within the agreement, including the tuition rate and Wilkinsburg student access to magnet programs during the first year of the agreement.

Philly NAEP scores below average for urban areas; nationally, scores slip
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Oct 28, 2015 04:01 PM
Students nationwide showed a marked dip in math performance and a somewhat smaller decline in reading proficiency, according to 2015 results of the only standardized achievement test administered across the country by the federal government.    It was the first reversal of a steady upward trend that held for the more than two decades that U.S. students have been taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.   Philadelphia students continue to score below the national average for big cities, according to analysis of the scores from 21 urban areas. Both nationally and in the city, there arehuge achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups. 
Here are some key facts on the NAEP and its significance.

Marple Newtown School District teachers, school board remain at odds
By Leslie Krowchenko, Delco Times Correspondent POSTED: 10/28/15, 10:19 PM EDT
MARPLE >> Approximately 100 members of the Marple Newtown Education Association, many wearing shirts reading “I support the children of Marple Newtown,” attended Tuesday night’s school board meeting as a visual reminder of their current contract status.  The teachers, who signed a two-year agreement in June 2013, have been working without an agreement since it expired June 30. Despite the situation, the 299 MNEA members have continued their in-class and extra-curricular activities without interruption.

NPE Action Fund Endorses Helen Gym for Philadelphia City Council
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch October 28, 2015 //
The Network for Public Education Action Fund endorses Helen Gym, a fighter for public schools and children.  NPE Action is proud to join the growing list of organizations endorsing Helen Gym in the Primary Election for a City Council At-Large seat in the city of Philadelphia.  NPE President Diane Ravitch has lauded Helen as a hero of public education and an inspiration for us all. When asked about Helen’s candidacy, Diane said she is “a great advocate for children and education. Philadelphia needs her eloquent voice on the City Council.”  Helen is the mother of three Philadelphia public school students, a former public school teacher, and a fierce advocate for public education in Philadelphia and beyond. She has been a dedicated community activist for two decades; her work has touched on issues regarding taxation, civil rights, criminal justice, jobs, labor, and neighborhood development. She is a founding member of Parents Across America, and the co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, a nationally recognized group of public school parents advancing broad causes for social justice in the Philadelphia public schools. Helen also serves on the editorial board of Rethinking Schools, a social justice education journal.  Philadelphia principal Chris Lehmann, founder of the renowned Science Leadership Academy, said, “Helen Gym has been a champion for the children and the teachers of Philadelphia. She is a tireless advocate who will work to improve public education in our city, and therefore, help Philadelphia become the city we all know it can be.”

"For the most part, fans of subtle discussions about complex K-12 education policy issues have gone begging this presidential debate season.
The Democratic debate earlier this month, for example, featured some talk about higher education access and early learning, but just a few passing nods to K-12
And aside from a few extended remarks about the Common Core State Standards and school choice, public school policy hasn't really made waves in the two GOP debates so far in the 2016 cycle either. "
Vocational Education, Arming Teachers, Block Grants Get Air Time in GOP Debate
Education Week Politics-K12 blog By Andrew Ujifusa on October 28, 2015 10:23 PM
If you were hoping that the release of test scores on "The Nation's Report Card" would spur any notable discussion of K-12 policy at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, you got just a few scraps.  In the main ten-candidate GOP debate, hosted by CNBC and held at the University of Colorado, BoulderOhio Gov. John Kasich reiterated his plan to consolidate some 100 programs in the U.S. Department of Education into four block grants for states to use. But although he made a broad attack on the regulatory power of federal agencies like the Education Department, he didn't use the debate to specify what exactly those block grant programs would look like or deal with.   Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, made a brief plea for a bigger focus on career and technical education in high school, "So that [students] can graduate ready to go to work." That came up in the context of Rubio's position on the H1-B visa program. And he wondered aloud why the country has effectively stopped offering vocational education—but it hasn't. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which gets more than a $1 billion a year, was reauthorized in 2006. 

What the national drop in 2015 NAEP test scores really means
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 28  
The 2015 scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are out, and the news isn’t good for those who think standardized test scores tell us something significant about student achievement.  NAEP is often called the nation’s report card because it is the only measure of student achievement given periodically to a sampling of students around the nation. It is seen by many as a high-quality test though it has many critics, too, some of whom say that the NAEP definition of “proficiency” is unnaturally high, and that the test cannot measure many of the qualities students must develop to be successful.

Gülenists face white-collar crime charges in United States
Followers of Fethullah Gülen are allegedly operators of Concept Schools and several other charter schools in the United States. Gülen faces an inquiry in Turkey over his Movement's alleged attempt to overthrow the government.
With an inquiry into defrauding state funds and abuse of visa applications, the FBI has turned up the heat on schools linked to the controversial Gülen Movement of retired Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, a prime suspect in terror investigations in Turkey
Fethullah Gülen, a notable resident of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania and a prime suspect in a number of terror investigations in Turkey, faces further troubles in his adopted country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating a school chain linked to his shady Gülen Movement for charges of fraud. The investigation is looking into allegations that the charter school chain diverted state funds it acquired to individuals and institutions tied with the movement, which faces terror charges in a number of investigations in Turkey, where it is formally called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization or FETÖ.  The investigation is likely to boost Turkey's cause in its fight against the organization accused of overthrowing the Turkish government. Turkey had already employed an international law firm to assist in a global investigation into the activities of the Gülen Movement, which operates a worldwide network of schools and companies.

WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

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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