Wednesday, October 21, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup October 21, 2015: Editorial: Time’s up, Harrisburg: Enact a budget for Pa.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 21, 2015:
Editorial: Time’s up, Harrisburg: Enact a budget for Pa.


Wolf offers possible path to help Erie schools
Penn Live By David Wenner | dwenner@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 20, 2015 at 8:29 PM, updated October 20, 2015 at 9:10 PM
The Gov. Tom Wolf administration on Tuesday night said it wants to help Erie and other school districts hurt by the state budget impasse, and is considering steps to help them obtain low interest loans, and to pay districts' interest costs once a budget is passed.  A statement from the administration said, "The administration is working to assist districts in any way we can. Our administration is working with districts and Treasury to offer intercept agreements to school districts that will guarantee loans for districts and enable them to obtain lower interest rates on the loans. Governor Wolf also supports an appropriation in the final budget that reimburses districts for any interest accrued on loans taken out as a result of the impasse. The administration will continue to work with districts to mitigate the effects of the impasse and he will continue working toward a final agreement on a budget. The governor's budget makes schools a priority by investing $500 million additional dollars in K through 12 education, an important step in restoring the funding that was cut from schools over the past four years."

End the budget impasse, superintendents tell state
Scranton Times Tribune by KATHLEEN BOLUS, STAFF WRITER Published: October 21, 2015
ARCHBALD — School superintendents around the state called for state legislators to end the budget impasse and uphold every student’s right to a fair and funded education.
On Tuesday, Carbondale Area Superintendent Joseph Gorham joined Erie City School District Superintendent Jay D. Badams, Ph.D., and Solicitor Tim Wachter and Western Beaver County School District Superintendent Robert H. Postupac, Ed.D., on a webcast to discuss how severely the lack of a state budget is impacting their districts.  Seated at the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit with Business Manager David Cerra and board member Paul Kaczmarcik, Mr. Gorham addressed the other administrators who shared similar concerns. Other state intermediate units and districts were listened in on the webcast.  All three districts are relying on local revenue and had to take loans to get their school systems through the new year.

Editorial: Time’s up, Harrisburg: Enact a budget for Pa.
Lancaster Online Editorial The LNP Editorial Board October 20, 2015
THE ISSUE: Today Pennsylvania’s state budget is 111 days late, and into a fourth month of counties being unable to pay social service agencies for mandated services. At a recent conference, district superintendents expressed worry that it might take the closing of public school doors to force productive negotiations on a state budget. Moody’s Investors Service on Friday revised its outlook on Pennsylvania’s debt to negative, citing “extreme political gridlock” that frustrates the state’s ability to “find solutions to its fiscal imbalance.” Late last month, state Auditor General Eugene DePasqualereported that “17 school districts and two intermediate units had to borrow more than $346 million to meet expenses and keep classrooms open,” with interest and fees that could reach $11.2 million.
Compromise is needed, and it looks like Pennsylvanians are going to have to demand it.
Tom Wolf, our Democratic governor, and the Republican leaders of our House and Senate seem incapable of even acting like they want to compromise.  There’s been lots of activity. The governor proposed a budget. Republicans passed their own. The governor vetoed it. Republicans sought to override portions of Wolf’s veto; the vote failed. Republicans passed a stopgap budget, which the governor also vetoed. Then Republican leaders agreed to give the governor a vote on his budget, and it failed in the House.
It’s been a political reality show, and not at all entertaining.
What’s needed is a serious effort at compromise.

'UTTERLY IRRESPONSIBLE': Neshaminy joins growing number of school districts in calling on governor, state lawmakers to enact a budget
Bucks County Local News By D.E. Schlatter Digital First Media Sunday, October 18, 2015
NESHAMINY >> The failure of Pennsylvania lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf to work out a budget compromise is keeping much-needed state dollars from school districts, most of which are feeling the fiscal pinch, including Neshaminy.  At its Oct. 13 work session, the school board voted 9-0 vote to pass a resolution calling on the governor and General Assembly to pass a budget so that state education money can be released.  “This is government gone bad,” School Board Member Mark Shubin complained. “It’s utterly irresponsible.”  He also urged the public to write their state lawmakers demanding that a budget be immediately enacted.  By law, a state budget was to have been in place July 1, but dickering over taxes and other line items have delayed lawmakers and the governor from reaching a compromise.  “The budget impasse needs to end so that the children in Neshaminy and the Commonwealth can be served efficiently,” Board Member Anthony Sposato read from the resolution.

Gov. Wolf says he will not allow funds to go toward struggling school districts until budget is passed
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 20, 2015 1:07 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf said this morning that he will not authorize the state Department of Education to release funds to individual school districts that claim a hardship during the state budget stalemate.  Speaking at the opening of the new Hulton Bridge between Oakmont and Harmar, Mr. Wolf said he met with officials from the Erie school district on Monday. The district had asked the state treasury for an advance on its state subsidy, but treasury officials said they needed authorization from the Department of Education to release any money.  Mr. Wolf said he understands the struggles that school districts and nonprofit social service agencies are having during the three-month budget battle, but he won't authorize individual payments to them until a full budget is passed. The Democratic governor is at loggerheads with Republicans who control both houses of the Legislature and don't support his call for tax increases to resolve what he considers chronic revenue shortfalls in the budget.  "It's a problem. I understand that," Mr. Wolf said of funding for schools and nonprofits. "I'm holding out for a budget that's realistic.
"We are trying to do what's right in the long run."

Gov. Wolf rejects school district's request for advance from state Treasury: Report
By Teresa Bonner | tbonner@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on October 20, 2015 at 2:33 PM, updated October 20, 2015 at 2:34 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf, during an appearance in Pittsburgh, said he will not allow the state Department of Education to release funds to school districts claiming a hardship, the Post-Gazette is reporting.  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.  Treasury spokesman Scott Sloat said the Treasury doesn't make loans, but if the state education department determined that payments to schools were justified as "a critical and necessary function of state government," Treasury would consider making a payment.  The Post-Gazette reported that Wolf said he is sympathetic to the plight of school districts who are not receiving state subsidies due to the budget impasse, but won't authorize any such payment until a budget is in place.

Wolf says he cannot advance money to strapped public schools
ANGELA COULOUMBIS AND CHRIS PALMER, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: October 20, 2015, 7:14 PM
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf said Tuesday that his administration will not advance aid to public schools that appeal for assistance as the budget impasse threatens to drag into a fifth month.  During a stop in Pittsburgh, Wolf told reporters that while he understands school districts are struggling financially, he cannot authorize payments to them until a new spending plan is in place, said spokesman Jeff Sheridan. The state has been operating without a fiscal blueprint since July 1, holding up critical state aid to public schools, counties, and nonprofits that provide social services.  "We'd like to get them a final budget that fully invests in education," Sheridan said Tuesday.  Wolf's comments came a day after the Erie school district asked the governor's office for a $47 million, no-interest advance so that it could keep its doors open without taking out bank loans.

"Our view is that unless a union is actually breaking the law and making illegal contributions to political campaigns, union fees and the issue of how unions spend those fees is a matter better left between unions and their members, not something that needs political intervention.  Opponents call the legislation "a solution in search of a problem." We call it a waste of time, a bill that takes away from the serious business the legislature should be tackling – that of finding a way out of the financial crisis Pennsylvania finds itself in today."
Editorial: Paycheck protection bill a waste of time
Chambersburg Public Opinion Editorial by Vicky Taylor 10/19/2015 10:03:08 AM EDT
With the state more than halfway into the fourth month of its fiscal year without a budget, you would think the state legislature could think of better things to argue about than the misnamed "paycheck protection" bill.  Like, for instance, making a serious effort to solve the state's financial crisis.  But instead the Senate passed an amended SB-501, a bill that looks suspiciously like a union busting effort.  The bill, also known as "Mary's Law," is named after Pennsylvania teacher Mary Trometter, who gained statewide attention last year when she filed a complaint with the state's labor relations board over a campaign mailer urging her husband to "join Mary" in voting for Tom Wolf, who in January became Pennsylvania's governor.  Mary apparently was not a Wolf supporter and objected to the Pennsylvania State Education Association's use of her name in the mailing.

The school funding lawsuit is moving forward and it is time for Pennsylvanians to get involved!
Education Voters PA website
The courts matter and with an important Supreme Court election coming up on November 3rd, it is critical that Pennsylvanians get involved in the discussion of the role the courts play in ensuring that our state government fulfills its constitutional obligation to provide a "thorough and efficient" system of public education for all children in the Commonwealth.
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).

PA: Opt Out Bill Proposed
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Wednesday, October 21, 2015
PA House Bill 1634 is as short as it is sweet. It adds the following language to the section of PA law that require the Keystone exams (our own version of the Big Standardized Test).
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no child may be required to take a Keystone Exam if the parent or guardian of the child notifies in writing the superintendent or chief administrator that the parent or guardian wishes for the child not to take the Keystone Exam.
(c) No student may be penalized by a school district, the State Board of Education or the  Commonwealth for failing to take a Keystone Exam if the parent or guardian of the child has provided notice under subsection (b).
(d) No student may be required to take a Keystone Exam as a condition for high school graduation.
Currently, Pennsylvania families can opt out of testing only for religious reasons. The state cannot ask you what your religious reasons are, and so the effect is that PA parents can opt out any time they want to. But this makes the opt-out less equivocal, and it reduces parents' need to stand up for their principles by lying about their principles (The test makes me want to holler "God damn it" so, it's kind of a religious objection).

Two Lancaster County school districts seek loans, consider cuts amid state budget impasse
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer OCtober 20, 2015
When it comes to the state budget, Damaris Rau thinks that Pennsylvania's politicians could use a lesson from kindergarten.   "Let's talk about it. Let's solve this problem with our words," the School District of Lancaster superintendent said in a press conference Tuesday.  Lancaster is one of two local school districts where officials are taking steps to borrow money as the state exceeds 110 days without a budget. Columbia Borough School District also is seeking a loan. Lancaster also is considering program cuts to deal with delayed state payments.  Rau, along with other school and city leaders, called on lawmakers to pass a state budget during a press conference at King Elementary School.  Officials at a majority of other Lancaster County school districts reported being okay budget-wise until spring, but superintendents at several of those districts also said they are disappointed by continued partisan politics between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Phoenixville district protests property tax relief reductions
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 10/20/15, 7:03 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Phoenixville >> In an ongoing dispute rooted in the state’s failure to pass a budget, the Phoenixville Area School Board is protesting the latest move by the state to appropriate charter school funding that could cost property owners $99,000 in tax relief.  The Phoenixville Area School District sent a letter of protest last week to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, opposing the two appropriations, which will reduce the amount of tax relief available through the Homestead tax relief program.  The program is budget-neutral for the district, and works by taking state refunds and passing them through to registered homesteads in the form of property tax reductions.  “That is local taxpayer money,” Phoenixville Superintendent Alan Fegley said of the money the state took. “We think this is illegal.”  But Pennsylvania Department of Education officials told The Mercury Tuesday that although they don’t agree with the law authorizing the state to take the money, they have no choice but to follow it.

Elementary students press Philly mayoral candidates on playgrounds, arts, guns
WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry OCTOBER 20, 2015
What civic issues press on the minds of the city's fourth- and fifth-graders?
The two top mayoral candidates got a chance to find out Tuesday at an event held at Philadelphia School District headquarters and hosted by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.  Some of the fourth-grade class at Isaac Sheppard Elementary in West Kensington reminded Democrat Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Bailey on the need for more extracurriculars in schools.  Fourth-grader Abdul Luna read a letter he wrote to the candidates.  "We could really benefit from art, music, gym, sports, recess games and many more things too," said Abdul. "First, I think we should have these things because it will make our students more social and active with each other."  Murray Bailey pledged to the children that she'd return needed resources to schools, no matter action at the state level.  "It's really important that we invest in those, and that means sometimes we're not going to be able to do other things that we used to do in the city," she said. "But it's really important to fund the schools, because if we don't do that, then you guys aren't going to be able to reach the potential that I know you can."

A plot to 'charterize' Philly schools? Kenney sees one
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 1:52 PM POSTED: Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 12:41 PM
Students asked Philadelphia mayoral candidates Tuesday about playgrounds and guns, about jobs and drugs.  And one group of Philadelphia schoolchildren asked about charter schools.  Democratic nominee Jim Kenney wasn't shy.  "I believe in my heart that there was an effort to make every school a charter school," he said. It was a state effort, Kenney said, a plan to deliberately make the Philadelphia School District fail, then replace it with charters.  Kenney, the presumptive next mayor in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, did not elaborate.  He and Republican nominee Melissa Murray Bailey spoke at a forum sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, attended by more than 100 fourth and fifth graders, and broadcast live to other students.  Later, in an interview, Kenney spelled out his stance against turning any more schools into charters just yet.  "I don't want charter expansion until we get charter reimbursement back," he said.

"If Hite's plan represented real reforms, maybe it would be worth the $20 million price tag. But the facts show they are not. Overnight expansion has been a disaster for Roosevelt and other schools. Transformation schools, so far, show little more than cosmetic changes. Data on Renaissance schools clearly show that the whole program should be scrapped. Hite is a lifelong educator, and he knows what real reform entails: smaller class size; one-on-one reading interventions; a library in every school; full support staff including classroom aides for students with special needs, English language learners and kindergarten. They have always been worth investing in."
Rushed reforms fail our schools
Philly.com Opinion by LISA HAVER POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 12:16 AM
Lisa Haver is a retired Philadelphia teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
THE SCHOOL FORMERLY known as Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown landed at the bottom of the list of Philadelphia schools' Pennsylvania System of School Assessment reading-proficiency scores this year. Math-proficiency scores are 0.3 percent. It pains me to say that, because I taught there for four years in the '90s. It wasn't a bad school then. We had a good principal who respected teachers, many of whom had been there almost 20 years. There was a full-time librarian, a full-time nurse and two full-time counselors. A committee of teachers developed a series of innovative project-based curricula.  Roosevelt has made it through serial budget cuts and district neglect. But the most recent, perhaps fatal, wound was inflicted by the School Reform Commission's decision two years ago to convert it to a K-8.

School transfer plan to remain secret until Wilkinsburg votes
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 20, 2015 10:39 PM
The final details of a proposed partnership between Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Wilkinsburg School District won't be available to the public until after the Wilkinsburg board votes on it next week.  Community members who attended the Wilkinsburg school board’s workshop session tonight raised questions about a lack of communication of the details of the proposal to send Wilkinsburg students in grades 7-12 to Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood.  Wilkinsburg board president Ed Donovan said the public would not have access to the final proposal before next Tuesday's meeting, the same meeting during which board members are to take a final vote. Pittsburgh school directors will vote the next night, Oct. 28.
Details of the plan, Mr. Donovan said, are still "in progress."

Testing Resistance & Reform News: October 14- 20, 2015
Submitted by fairtest on October 20, 2015 - 1:49pm 
U.S. Senators and Representatives return to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC this week after their early fall recess. High on the Congressional agenda, along with funding federal programs and leadership fights, are the final steps to overhaul the discredited "No Child Left Behind" law.  Make sure your elected officials know that you want real assessment reform, not more failed policies. Meanwhile, the testing resistance movement continues to raise issues and win victories in many states across the nation.
National Tell Congress: End Federal Test-and-Punish Policies Now
http://www.fairtest.org/tell-congress-keep-federal-accountability-mandates
National Time to Move On From Evaluating Teachers by Student Test Scores
http://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2015/10/13/its_time_to_move_o...
National U.S. Schools Would Benefit From Less Testing, More Equitable Funding
http://neatoday.org/2015/10/09/u-s-public-schools-could-benefit-from-les...

The Evidence That White Children Benefit From Integrated Schools
NPR by ANYA KAMENETZ OCTOBER 19, 2015 6:04 AM ET
Recently a neighborhood in Brooklyn made national headlines for a fight over public schools. Lots of affluent, mainly white families have been moving into new condos in the waterfront area called DUMBO, and the local elementary school is getting overcrowded.  The city wants to redraw the zones in a way that would send kids from this predominantly white school to a nearby school where enrollment is over 90 percent black and Hispanic and which draws many of its students from a public housing project. Some parents on both sides of the line balked.  "Liberal hypocrisy," was the headline in the conservative National Review.  The tacit assumption was that sending children to a majority-minority school would entail a sacrifice, one that pits their own children against their (presumably) progressive ideals.  But there's plenty of evidence that suggests the opposite: White students might actually benefit from a more diverse environment.
Here are three reasons why.


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.

SCHOOL CHOICE: THE ROLE OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE COURTS IN IMPROVING EDUCATION
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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