Friday, November 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 13: Budget Reactions; Referendum Concerns; Prelim ESEA Reauth Deal

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup November 13, 2015:
Budget Reactions; Referendum Concerns; Prelim ESEA Reauth Deal

Register for PSBA Budget Action Day on Monday, Nov. 16 — Join us!
Capitol Building, Harrisburg NOV 16, 2015 • 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Wolf defends compromise deal as one Pennsylvanians will like
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 11/12/15, 12:55 PM EST 
LANCASTER, Pa. >> Pennsylvanians will like the results of the deal under negotiation to end a state government budget stalemate now in its fifth month, Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday.  Wolf, a first-term Democrat, has said little about elements of the sprawling deal since they were announced Monday by top Republican lawmakers. Under the proposed deal, Pennsylvania’s sales tax would increase to become the second highest in the nation, while the state’s Marcellus Shale natural gas industry scored a legislative victory, beating back Wolf’s efforts to increase taxes on it.  Wolf acknowledged that the deal secures about half the amount of school property tax reductions that he had originally sought in his March budget plan. Meanwhile, the proposed property tax reduction of about 15 percent would be financed by a 21 percent increase in the sales tax, which Democrats complain is the tax that hits the poor the hardest.  However, Wolf is billing the deal as delivering a record increase in aid to public schools, his biggest priority, and the first substantial school property tax reductions as part of his broader goal to narrow huge funding disparities between Pennsylvania’s wealthier and poorer school districts.

Gov. Tom Wolf: budget compromise 'moves Pennsylvania forward' with higher sales tax but lower property taxes
Lancaster Online by Jeff Hawkes Staff Writer November 13, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday in Lancaster he's not getting everything he wants in a proposed budget deal, but Pennsylvanians will benefit from lower property taxes and an historic increase in school funding.  Wolf, a first-term Democrat, said increasing the sales tax from 6 to 7.25 percent won't hurt the poor if property tax relief funds are "distributed in a progressive way" and high-poverty school districts are fairly funded.  "There are some amazing big things that are changing as a result of this framework, if we can bring it across the finish line, that I think all Pennsylvanians on the whole should like," Wolf told reporters after attending a Lancaster event. "Did we get everything? No, but this moves Pennsylvania forward."  Budget negotiators announced earlier this week that the broad outlines of a deal to resolve the four-and-one-half month impasse are in place. Wolf on Thursday said he thinks a final budget is possible by Thanksgiving, and pledged a quick release of state funds to beleaguered school districts and human-service providers hurt during the impasse.

Possible Referendum Requirement for All School Tax Increases Gets Hammered by PA Public School Advocates
Cheltenham Citizens' Call Posted On Nov 11 2015
With state budget negotiations between Democratic Gov. Wolf and the Republican legislative leadership finally appearing to be on a fast track, a measure that may or may not be in the final deal has school boards and many education advocates on red alert.  Even with early reports that education could be the beneficiary of $400 million in new funding for the first budget year, a statewide coalition of education advocacy organizations is anything but happy about a proposal circulating – some say out of the governor’s office – that would require school districts to hold binding referenda in their communities prior to final approval of local budgets supported with any level of property tax increase.  The Act 1 index and exceptions would be dissolved.  In a letter to the governor and state legislative leaders the Campaign for Fair Education Funding called the proposal a “drastic change in state policy” that “would have a devastating impact” on districts’ local budgetary control and their ability to provide quality education.

"The largest and fastest growing costs are the pensions mandated by the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and charter schools, the report said.  According to the report, state-wide school district expenditures for salaries have decreased by nearly $1 billion since 2011-12. Salaries and health care combined have decreased in two out of the past three years.  While districts are often chided for "irresponsible spending," expenditures for everything except PSERS and charter schools only went up 1.26 percent since 2011-12, less than the rate of inflation, the report said.  PSERS and charter school costs have outpaced the revenue which districts are allowed to raise under the Act 1 index, the report said."
Palmyra school board members hope districts don't have to go to referendums to raise taxes
Penn Live By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive on November 12, 2015 at 8:31 PM, updated November 12, 2015 at 8:37 PM
Forcing school districts to go to referendums for any property tax increases would devastate districts, several Palmyra Area School District officials said during Thursday's meeting.  Board member Ralph Duquette said that rumors that it will happen as part of state budget negotiations were the main topic of discussion at an IU 13 meeting he attended.  He said the state budget impasse is creating problems, forcing the IU to take out a $20 million loan.  He said he and other members of the IU board and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association are asking school directors to attend Budget Action Day on Nov. 16 at the state capitol to hear from legislators about the budget stalemate.  Duquette handed out a report from the PSBA explaining what is driving the increases in school district spending – expenditures the districts have no control over.

As budget framework emerges, preschool advocates fear they'll be squeezed out: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 12, 2015 at 3:48 PM, updated November 12, 2015 at 3:49 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republicans may be working out the fine print details of a nascent state budget framework, but advocates for early childhood education programs already fear the state's youngest residents could get squeezed out of a final deal.  "If there is one clear way to spend state money and know you are making a real difference, it's on Pre-k," said David L. Cohen, the Comcast executive who's part of a coalition pushing for the increased funding.  And even though a final agreement on a spending plan that's now five months late is still a week or two away, at minimum, Cohen and his allies have been working the phones and prowling the Capitol, urging budget negotiators to give the programs a serious cash bump.

Editorial: Public pension crisis had to be fixed
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 11/12/15, 10:34 PM EST 
While much of the buzz surrounding this week’s budget deal in Harrisburg has focused on a hefty increase in the state sales tax – and the absence of any new levy on the state’s natural gas operations – there is a lesser debated, but not less important issue addressed.  The framework for the budget agreement heralded by Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders in the Legislature will finally take dramatic action to confront what has been referred to for years as the “ticking time” bomb in the state budget.  That would be the massive unfunded liability in the state’s two large public employee pension plans.  The budget deal would shift $500 million from the state’s slot-machine revenue and put it into a special account dedicated to paying off pension obligations.  In addition, new hires – both school employees and state workers – would get a diminished traditional pension benefit, plus a 401(k)-style plan with a 2 percent contribution. Welcome to the world most employees in the private sector have toiled in now for years. The defined-benefit pension has become as rare as Sixers victories. Most workers now are instead enrolled in defined contribution plans, for the most part 401(k) plans invested in the stock market.

Editorial: There’s an end in sight to Pa. budget standoff
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 11/11/15, 9:27 PM EST
Welcome to Pennsylvania, home of split-personality voters – and divided government.
Now we’re about to find out how much this dysfunctional voting pattern is going to cost.
Tired of four years of austere budgets and cuts in education funding under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett – and despite his protests that it was the absence of federal stimulus funds, and not his policies, that were to blame – voters showed the Republican the door.  Democrat Tom Wolf attacked Corbett early and often on education funding. He made clear his intention to seek new revenue to restore the nasty education cuts, as well as putting the state back on an even financial footing.  Foremost among those proposals was Wolf’s clarion call, backed by some Republicans, to enact a new tax on the state’s Marcellus Shale natural gas operations. It’s another area he clobbered his predecessor – who passed up such calls in favor of an “impact fee” that raised less revenue – over the head with again and again during the campaign.  Voters sent Corbett packing and stood with the York County businessman, knowing full well his tax proposals.  So putting together a state budget, including those tax proposals, would be no problem, right?  Uh, not exactly.

Property tax elimination vote coming despite budget framework?
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, November 12, 2015
The sponsor of a Senate bill to completely eliminate Pennsylvania’s school property tax says he will be offering an amendment next week that encompasses his proposal despite the governor and legislative leaders working on another proposal.  Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) told The PLS Reporter Thursday that he plans to bring up the complete elimination plan next Tuesday as an amendment to a bill being considered on the Senate floor.  “I believe we have the votes,” he said. “We have 24 cosponsors, [and] I have other members who have told me they will vote for this even though they are not cosponsors, but there’s only one way to find out, so we’re going to read the roll call on Tuesday.”  He said despite the governor and legislative leaders from all four caucuses unveiling a budget framework earlier this week that focuses on reducing or eliminating property taxes for homeowners and farmers by raising the sales tax 1.25 percent across the commonwealth, the vote Tuesday could not be more real.  “I believe that when this clears the Senate for the first time in history, that changes everything,” he said. “That certainly changes the dynamic in the House.”

"It is believed that a wine and spirits privatization bill will be part of the overall final budget framework agreement."
New liquor privatization bill introduced
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, November 12, 2015
A new bill to privatize wine and spirits sales in Pennsylvania was introduced Thursday by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny).  The bill—House Bill 1690—is scheduled to be voted on in the House Liquor Control Committee Monday at 11:00 a.m.  According to a cosponsorship memo attached to the legislation, the plan will divest the Commonwealth of all of its wine and spirits stores.  “In order to divest the retail system, the legislation provides for the closing of all the state stores,” the memo reads. “It provides a safeguard to ensure that the citizens of Pennsylvania will receive the same or better service they are currently experiencing before a state store is closed.

Pennsylvanians getting drilled all over again
Philly Daily News Attytood by Will Bunch Updated on NOVEMBER 12, 2015 — 6:27 PM EST
So in what's been a pretty hectic week so far, as the world counts down to the arrival of red Starbucks coffee cups and the end of Western civilization as we've come to know it, Gov. Wolf and Pennsylvania lawmakers kind of sneaked in a budget deal. And there's definitely some good things in there, including a significant increase in the amount of money for schools. And here's the best part of this tentative framework for a budget -- everybody's paying his or her fair share!  Haha, for a second there I had you going, didn't I? Are you new to the Keystone State or something? Of course everybody isn't paying his or her fair share. Big Oil and Gas is getting another Get-Out-of-Taxes-Free Card. The rest of us? We're getting fracked. Again.

Higher sales tax pitch for Pa. draws concern
York Daily Record by Brett Sholtis, bsholtis@ydr.com7:36 p.m. EST November 12, 2015
Shoppers accustomed to adding 6 percent to price tags might soon be adding 7.25 percent instead, a change that has drawn mixed feelings from the business community.  In the latest twist in the Pennsylvania state budget stalemate, Gov. Tom Wolf and top Republican lawmakers agreed to raise the state sales tax to 7.25 percent, which would rank Pennsylvania second only to California, which has a 7.5 percent tax. The sales tax, if approved as part of a budget deal, would pay for a record increase in education funding, and would replace a previous proposal to pay for education funding by taxing the natural gas industry.  Wolf has said many details remain to be worked out, but he hopes to have a budget approved by Thanksgiving.

'I'm trying to keep an open mind': Lawmakers reserve judgment on sales tax increase proposal
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 12, 2015 at 12:48 PM, updated November 12, 2015 at 1:32 PM
Cumberland, York and Dauphin County lawmakers are holding off supporting or criticizing a proposal that would raise the sales tax as part of the state budget.  After months of negotiations, Gov. Tom Wolf has joined leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to develop a framework for the budget. While the details have yet to be hammered out, leaders in the four caucuses have proposed parts of the framework.  One of the most significant proposals is to raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent. That additional money would be used to to cut residential property taxes by $1.4 billion, or about 15 percent.
Lawmakers from Cumberland, York and Dauphin Counties weighed in on the proposal:

'I will be a no vote' and other lawmakers respond to proposed sales tax increase
Penn LIve By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 12, 2015 at 4:00 PM, updated November 12, 2015 at 4:14 PM
Few midstate lawmakers are saying whether or not they support a proposal to increase Pennsylvania's sales tax as part of the state budget framework.  Leaders with the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced a framework for the state budget -- which is nearly five months overdue. The framework, which has received initial support from all four caucuses, provides broad ideas with few specific proposals.  One of the proposals that's been presented is raising the sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent. That additional money would be used to to cut residential property taxes by $1.4 billion, or about 15 percent.
Lawmakers from the midstate weighed in on the proposal:

Proposed state budget framework still has many details to resolve
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 12, 2015 1:20 AM
HARRISBURG -- There are many parts to the proposed framework to end the months-long Pennsylvania budget impasse, and with them, many unanswered questions and concerns for observers across the spectrum of politics and issues.  School business officials are applauding proposed increases of $350 million in basic education funding and $50 million in special education funding. But they worry that the proposed swap of a higher state sales tax for reductions in local property taxes could lead to a requirement that school boards secure voter approval for any increase in property tax rates. Currently, districts are allowed to increase taxes by an annual index and also seek exceptions for pension or special education costs before turning to the voters.  “We think it would be draconian,” said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. “I don’t think people are jumping up and down to say, yes, increase my property taxes.”  Republicans say some sort of restriction should be enacted to ensure that taxpayers are not left with a permanently higher sales tax -- the framework calls for an increase in the statewide rate from 6 percent to 7.25 percent -- along with a temporary reduction in property taxes that is then gobbled up by subsequent local tax hikes.

PBPC: Getting to Good -- An Analysis of Pa.'s Tentative Budget Framework
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on November 12, 2015
To download a pdf of the brief click here
Over the past 48 hours, news report have trickled out about a tentative budget agreement between Republican legislative leaders and the Wolf Administration. Lacking the information for a full analysis, we will instead lay out criteria for evaluating any budget deal; assess what the early information indicates about the likelihood of this tentative budget agreement meeting these criteria; and suggest how the negotiators might improve the budget framework as they further develop its details.  The criteria: Pennsylvania needs a budget that invests in people and is supported by sustainable revenues that are raised in a fair and progressive way. More specifically, a good budget for this year should:
  • restore funding to education (at all levels) and to human services;
  • provide property tax relief targeted to moderate- and low-income homeowners and to older rural and urban communities;
  •  solve the state’s structural budget deficit without resorting to one-time gimmicks;
  •  collect revenues in a progressive way that counters, or at least does not exacerbate, Pennsylvania’s regressive tax system – the sixth worst in the nation.
Given these criteria: A severance tax on natural gas drillers is a critical means by which to provide new, sustainable revenues that are raised fairly. The omission of a severance tax from the framework budget agreement being considered by the governor and general assembly is a fatal flaw that undercuts the ability to achieve a good budget. The governor’s original proposal was to allocate most of the severance tax revenue to education funding. A severance tax would create a sustainable and growing source of revenue to ensure adequate education funding not only this year but in the years to come, a major step towards reducing the structural deficit. Absent this sustainable source of revenue, identifying adequate education funding will be more difficult in every annual budget negotiation. 

EITC/OSTC: Letters: Gov't failing kids on scholarship
by INA LIPMAN Updated on NOVEMBER 13, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
Ina Lipman is executive director of Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia.
FIVE MONTHS overdue, the impasse over the state budget has caused tremendous hardship for many communities: from school districts borrowing money to operate, to social service organizations cutting programs for families in need until state grant money is allocated. Although challenging, when the budget eventually passes, those funds will refill their coffers and programs will be able to move forward.  However, for thousands of low-income children in our city who are benefiting from the state's Education Improvement and Opportunity Tax Credit programs (EITC and OSTC) they will suffer a permanent loss: They will not be able to return to their schools next fall.

How Pa. School Budget Cuts Affect Spring-Ford
High-poverty school districts are losing more and more funding. See what Montgomery County schools are suffering the most.
By JUSTIN HEINZE (Patch Staff) November 12, 2015 
New research demonstrates that Pennsylvania schools with less funding suffer disproportionately when it comes to having funding restored,  Districts that have had the least amount of their funding reinstated since huge statewide budget cuts in 2011 are the same districts that suffer from low income, high poverty, and have higher non-proficiency rates.  The study, entitled “Undermining Educational Opportunity: Pennsylvania’s Unequal Restoration of School Funding,” was executed by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, which describes itself as a nonpartisan think thank that focuses on how new policies affect working families.  The initial cuts in 2011 were three times higher in high-poverty school districts than in low-poverty districts, according to the study.  Because schools with the poorest achievement scores lost the most funding, a return of funding to high-poverty districts would be the best way to maximize student achievement across the state, the study says.

Departing East Penn school director: Corporatization of education turns teachers into villains
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call November 12, 2015
Samuel "Sandy" Rhodes III has been to the East Penn School Board what Clarence Thomas is to the United States Supreme Court: a man of few words.  But on Monday at his final board meeting, the quietest school director gave a soliloquy blasting the corporatization of public education with high stakes testing that reduces what schools and teachers do to a couple of scores.  "The institution of high stakes tests, introduced by education corporations to create the perception of failure in public schools has led to the public questioning the quality of America's public education system which has led to a search for villains," Rhodes said. "The villains chosen have been educators."  "Corporate interests, who created the tests, have the ear of public officials," he said. "These officials receive generous campaign contributions from companies that make, distribute and grade the standardized test. This is a multibillion-dollar industry."

Parents, teachers, and others at three schools currently slated for conversion to charters as part of the District’s now five-5-year-old Renaissance turnaround initiative, have called for community schools as an alternative. Eighteen labor and community organizations have signed on to this demand.
Opportunities and challenges of community schools
the notebook By Ron Whitehorne on Nov 12, 2015 03:13 PM
With Mayor Michael Nutter departing City Hall in January, his legacy in education is facing some scrutiny. He gets good marks for his focus on raising graduation rates and support for more funding. But his agenda also included closing neighborhood public schools and the expansion of charter schools (and to a lesser extent magnet schools), policies that drew strong opposition.  Mayor-elect Jim Kenney is on record as favoring an education agenda that includes community schools. Over the length of his term, he would like to create 25 of these schools, neighborhood public schools that build community partnerships and bring under one roof the social services and supports that students and their families need.  In implementing this ambitious and transformative community school strategy, Kenney will face major challenges. But the local political landscape, and a shifting national picture, will definitely provide unprecedented opportunities for a progressive education reform agenda.  Included among Kenney’s education advisory team are people who advocate for community schools. Chief among them is Otis Hackney, who as principal of South Philadelphia High School, is pioneering the model for how to create community schools in the city.  City Council President Darrell Clarke, too, has made clear that he also favors a community schools initiative. 

Philly School District to create task force on testing
One goal is "to make sure testing is not eclipsing everything else we do in the District," said SRC Chair Marjorie Neff.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa and Greg Windle on Nov 12, 2015 06:11 PM
The Philadelphia School District plans to convene an assessment task force to study the impact of all the tests administered to city students and make recommendations for changes.
Chris Schaffer, deputy chief for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said that the task force will include parents, teachers, community members, and perhaps students.  The goal is to have its members in place by the December break and start meeting in January to reconsider the District's approach to testing.  "The task force will have access to all assessment information and staff to help inform our assessment plans for the future – inclusive of recommendations to adjust the frequency, duration, and types of assessments we administer. This group will consist of school and community members representative of the District's landscape," Schaffer said.

Judge: Philly schools should heed seniority, hire counselors
by Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer Updated on NOVEMBER 12, 2015 — 3:52 PM EST
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has won another round in its battle with the School District over seniority and counselor staffing levels.  A Common Pleas Court judge denied the district's request to overturn an arbitrator who found that the district had violated the union contract in 2013 when it ignored seniority in recalling laid off counselors.  In an order filed Tuesday, Judge Linda A. Carpenter also backed the arbitrator's decision that the PFT contract required each school to have at least one counselor on staff.  Union President Jerry Jordan said Thursday that he "was delighted with Judge Carpenter's decision that clearly there should be one counselor in every school for the children."  He added: "I think that this is a big victory for the children. I hoped that her ruling would be the end of this, and that the counselors would be restored to the schools."  But that will not be the case.  A district spokeswoman confirmed that the district had filed an appeal in Commonwealth Court Thursday but declined further comment.

Marple Newtown, teachers agree on new contract
Delco Times By Leslie Krowchenko, Times Correspondent POSTED: 11/12/15, 10:27 PM EST 
NEWTOWN >> A joint statement posted Thursday on the Marple Newtown School District website announced the district and Marple Newtown Education Association have reached a tentative contract agreement. The settlement was achieved during Monday night’s negotiating session.  “The MNEA team is pleased and satisfied that we have reached a tentative agreement,” said union President Larysa Dragonetti, a music teacher at Worrall Elementary School.  The teachers, who signed a two-year agreement in June 2013, have been working without a contract since it expired June 30. The association team, members of the school board and administration and a mediator have been conducting contract negotiations since January.

Time's Up: Full-Time Virtual Charters Must Become Transparent Together
Forbes by Michael Horn CONTRIBUTOR NOV 12, 2015 @ 07:31 AM 14 VIEWS
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
A new three-party National Study of Online Charter Schools by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University and Mathematic Policy Research found that students enrolled in full-time virtual charter schools made, on average, far less progress than their counterparts in traditional schools.  In response, the full-time virtual charter schools were quick to denounce the methodology behind the research and suggest that it paints a flawed picture of their schools’ performance. Others joined in criticizing the methodology behind some of the study’s claims.  Put aside the he-said, she-said debate. Put aside that it’s likely that both the authors of the study and the schools themselves have points in their favor—the full-time virtual charter schools themselves have in the past been transparent about some of their academic struggles, and, at the same time, in their criticism of the study, those same schools are surely right that the characteristics and motivation of some of their students for attending full-time virtual charters makes them quite unlike the “virtual twins” the study purports to have found for the purposes of comparison. Put aside the crystal clear anecdotes that go beyond the on average results—something education researchers are not good at doing—that show that for certain students in certain circumstances, full-time virtual charter schools are absolutely the best place for them to learn and that these students have not only been successful in these environments, they have also thrived in ways they would not have in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Put aside the fact that full-time virtual charter schools are not for everyone and may now be serving students who are not good fits for what they offer.
Put it all aside because the fact is that full-time virtual charter schools, which are funded by public dollars, are on the defensive in the battle of public perception, which will, at some point, have public policy consequences.

"The AERA listed eight technical requirements that should be met before the models can be considered valid and said that generally speaking, it isn’t possible for teacher and principal evaluation systems to meet those requirements.
The National Research Council, the American Statistical Association and the Rand Corporation have previously cautioned against using value-added scores to make personnel decisions."
Education researchers caution against using students’ test scores to evaluate teachers
Washington Post By Emma Brown November 12 at 11:09 AM  
The American Educational Research Association became the latest organization to caution against using value-added models — complex algorithms that attempt to measure a teacher’s impact on student test scores — to evaluate teachers and principals.  A growing number of states have begun using value-added models, or VAMs, to judge and in some cases fire teachers. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how to ensure that such models provide valid, reliable and accurate information about teachers, AERA said in a statementreleased Wednesday.  AERA cautioned against using these formulas for “high-stakes decisions” about educators.  “Many states and districts have incorporated VAM in a comprehensive system to evaluate teachers, principals, and educator preparation programs,” the statement says. “There are considerable risks of misclassification and misinterpretation in the use of VAM to inform these evaluations.”

Preliminary Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization deal
NSBA Newsroom  on November 12, 2015    Charlotte Blane
Less than a week following the National School Boards Association's (NSBA) joint push with other leading education groups, urging lawmakers to “get ESEA done,” the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) appears to be progressing.  Leaders from the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) purportedly are preparing for the next steps with a House-Senate conference committee reportedly convening soon and a reconciled bill could be considered by both chambers in December.   NSBA will continue to monitor the progress and advocate for a final education bill that underscores the importance of local governance and community ownership, so that our nation’s 90,000 school board members will be better positioned to offer all students a world-class public education. 

Sources: House and Senate Negotiators Have Reached Preliminary ESEA Deal
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on November 12, 2015 6:53 PM
UPDATED - Christmas seems to have came early this year for education advocates. After weeks of long and hard negotiations, House and Senate lawmakers have reached preliminary agreement on a bill for the long-stalled reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, multiple sources say.  The agreement will set the stage for an official conference committee, which would likely kick off next week. The legislation could be on the floor of the House and Senate by the end of this month, or early next, sources say. (Nothing set in stone on timing just yet.)  So far, the word isn't official. Neither the House nor the Senate education committee has confirmed.  No hard-and-fast details available yet, although those are likely to trickle out in coming days. But if I were a betting woman, I'd put money down that there will be some language asking states to intervene in the bottom five percent of their schools, and schools with high drop-out rates.  No provision for so-called Title I "portability," smart money says. (School choice fans might have something to cheer about anyway). And many smaller programs may have been rolled into a big giant block grant, according to folks familiar with earlier drafts of the proposal.   Sources familiar with previous versions of the agreement also say the odds are good that a new program for early childhood education made it into the compromise.

Clinton, GOP Presidential Candidates Weigh in on School Choice
Education Week Charteres & Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on November 12, 2015 3:29 PM
Even though education was largely ignored in the most recent GOP presidential debate, it still managed to elbow into the campaign spotlight this week starting with former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's remarks on charter schools.  During a town hall meeting in South Carolina over the weekend, Clinton was asked by Roland S. Martin, a commentator for TV One, about her views on school choice, and during her answer said this:  "Most charter schools, I don't want to say every one, but most charter schools, they don't take the hardest to teach kids," Clinton said. "Or if they do, they don't keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation."  The claim that charter schools cherry-pick students is nothing new, but it's a real sore spot for school choice supporters. Charter groups and advocates, including former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, were swift and forceful in their response to Clinton's comments. 

"While test participation by elementary school students exceeded 95 percent, student opt-out rates reached 31 percent on 11th grade math tests and 25 percent on all 10th grade math scores.  Across all grade levels and in both English and math, white students were far more likely than their black and Latino classmates to miss the tests as a result of parental refusals.  At a press briefing Thursday, interim education commissioner Elliot Asp acknowledged a concern about how representative the scores are in higher grades that saw large number of parental refusals, most likely in affluent areas."
Tens of thousands of Colorado students opted out of PARCC tests last spring, new data shows
Parent refusals — or opt-outs — were minimal in lower grades, soared in high school
Colorado Chalkbeat By Eric Gorski @egorski November 12, 2015 - 10:02 a.m. MST
More than 65,000 Colorado students were held out of last spring’s PARCC tests by their parents, according to newly released data that for the first time documents the strength of the so-called opt-out movement in the state.  Roughly 1 in 10 Colorado students skipped the math and English assessments as a result of parent refusals.  Test-taking rates were high with young students, began to sink in higher grades and plummeted among high schoolers, many of whom saw little value in sitting for yet more standardized tests as they prepared for the next chapters in their lives. 

Testing Resistance & Reform News: November 4 - 10, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on November 10, 2015 - 1:01pm 
The U.S. assessment reform movement continues to rack up victories, as summarized in a new report from FairTest and another week of clips from around the nation. 

PSBA New School Director Training
School boards who will welcome new directors after the election should plan to attend PSBA training to help everyone feel more confident right from the start. This one-day event is targeted to help members learn the basics of their new roles and responsibilities. Meet the friendly, knowledgeable PSBA team and bring everyone on your “team of 10” to get on the same page fast.
  • $150 per registrant (No charge if your district has a LEARN PassNote: All-Access members also have LEARN Pass.)
  • One-hour lunch on your own — bring your lunch, go to lunch, or we’ll bring a box lunch to you; coffee/tea provided all day
  • Course materials available online or we’ll bring a printed copy to you for an additional $25
  • Registrants receive one month of 100-level online courses for each registrant, after the live class
Nine locations for your convenience:
  • Philadelphia area — Nov. 21 William Tennent HS, Warminster (note: location changed from IU23 Norristown)
  • Pittsburgh area — Dec. 5 Allegheny IU3, Homestead
  • South Central PA and Erie areas (joint program)— Dec. 12 Northwest Tri-County IU5, Edinboro and PSBA, Mechanicsburg
  • Butler area — Jan. 9 Midwestern IU 4, Grove City (note: location changed from Penn State New Kensington)
  • Allentown area — Jan. 16 Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Schnecksville
  • Central PA — Jan. 30 Nittany Lion Inn, State College
  • Scranton area — Feb. 6 Abington Heights SD, Clarks Summit
  • North Central area —Feb. 13 Mansfield University, Mansfield

Register for PSBA Budget Action Day on Monday, Nov. 16 — Join us!
Capitol Building, Harrisburg NOV 16, 2015 • 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
For more than four months Pennsylvanians have gone without a state budget, and school districts are feeling the pain.  As the budget stalemate continues, many school districts across the state are depleting savings or borrowing to meet expenses. In addition to loan interest payments and fees, schools are taking many other steps to curtail spending and keep school doors open.
PSBA is asking you to join us at the Harrisburg Capitol on Monday, Nov. 16 to take action. Let our legislators know that a state budget is critical to the education of our public school children in Pennsylvania.  Budget Action Day, Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA; Monday, Nov. 16, 2015; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.  Meet at 9 a.m. in the Majority Caucus Room, Room 140, to hear from legislators on top issues that are affecting the budget stalemate and receive packets for your legislative visits. 

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

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

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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