Wednesday, November 25, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 25: Staff will stay through Thanksgiving holiday to work on #PABudget; Maybe next year we should just offer them free shrimp in June

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3800 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup November 25, 2015:
Staff will stay through Thanksgiving holiday to work on #PABudget; Maybe next year we should just offer them free shrimp in June

What is a “community school” and will they help the city’s students? Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane  November 25
When to Listen: Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane can be heard over the airwaves from 10-11 a.m. and 11-noon Eastern time weekdays on 90.9 FM in the Delaware Valley, and rebroadcast from 11-midnight as well. Radio Times is also heard live on the Sirius - XM channel NPR Now 122, weekdays from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern.

How did your state senator vote on SB76 (amendment to HB683)?
Pennsylvania State Senate Roll Call Vote November 23, 2015

"But even if the bill eventually clears the Senate and makes it through the House (which is, by no means, assured. It's been defeated there in the past.), Gov. Tom Wolf also opposes the legislation, as do a range of professional organizations, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the NAACP and a number of education-related advocacy groups.
That's because deep structural problems, which no property tax bill has ever addressed (including the one acted upon by the Senate Monday) still remain.  Namely, how to reliably fill the $14 billion revenue hole that would be created by eliminating local property taxes.
As Levy reported, the bill arrived on the Senate floor without any independent analysis of how much the bill's proposed tax shift would generate.
And it was not clear that the 91-page bill could raise the "precise amount of school property taxes to be collected by districts next year, or even that it was required to raise that amount before taking effect," Levy reported."
The Pa. Senate made the right call on a bad property tax reform bill - here's why: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 24, 2015 at 8:40 AM, updated November 24, 2015 at 9:06 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Effective property tax reform legislation, much like the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti and consistently good professional baseball in Philadelphia, is one of our great political myths: Everyone swears they've seen it, yet there's no actual documentary evidence to support its existence.  So it was no surprise Monday when the state Senate narrowly voted to shoot down legislation scrapping real estate taxes in favor of higher state sales and personal income taxes. Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, a Democrat, cast the tie-breaking vote that sent it down on a 25-24 vote.  As our pal Marc Levy of The Associated Press reports, there's a chance the bill, which was opposed by the floor leaders of both parties, could yet resurface.  One of its co-sponsors was absent Monday and a new Republican senator from Allegheny County is set to take office later this week.

"In summation, divided leaders not governing in the Keystone State seem suddenly energized to do so by prospects of partying in the Empire State.  Maybe next year we should just offer them free shrimp in June."
Of budget deadlines, NYC and (yes!) free shrimp
by John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist Updated on NOVEMBER 25, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
I'M SURE, like me, you're shocked to find today's deadline for a new state budget is passing without resolution.  It is - like reason, wisdom and political acumen in the capital city - absent without leave.  Hard to believe since just last week Gov. Wolf said he'd sign a new budget bill today.  That could have met projections by legislative leaders who agreed their agreed-to "framework" for new spending and taxes would be law Thanksgiving Day.  Not happening.

Staff will stay through the Thanksgiving holiday to work on legislation that can be run that week.   Details on what remains of the budget framework announced two weeks ago were scant Tuesday night as legislative leaders tried to keep mum on specifics about what lies ahead as the budget situation became as intense as ever in the nearly five-month long budget stalemate.
Pre-Thanksgiving flurry leads to more negotiations on to-be agreed to budget framework
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, November 24, 2015/
After the Senate unexpectedly announced Tuesday evening they would return to session that night and try to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s stopgap budget veto, a flurry of activity between the four legislative caucuses and the governor’s office left Republicans and Democrats to try and negotiate a full-year spending plan that can be passed sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Legislators have yet to decide on when they will reconvene, but all seemed to agree that there will be no voting session held until the week of November 30th.

Pa. budget negotiations head into home stretch after another temporary disruption to budget framework
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 24, 2015 at 9:52 PM, updated November 25, 2015 at 12:40 AM
The "framework" is back on.
After a significant bump in the road that led to short-lived threats of a veto override attempt Tuesday afternoon, Republican legislative leaders emerged from a meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf with fresh commitments to strive toward a final, negotiated state budget agreement.  The broad parameters of the deal remain: 
* A significant, well-above-inflation-rate increase in state aid to public schools. 
* Some new, still-to-be-determined tax increases to help balance the approximately $30.7 billion spending plan.
* Significant changes to the current state-owned monopoly on liquor sales.
* Implementation of a new pension plan for future state and public school hires that adds a 401(k)-style defined contribution component.
An expanded school property tax relief program that was scrapped last weekend apparently remains off the table.  Details of the still somewhat fragile plan were scarce Tuesday night, in part because many of them have yet to be locked down. But there was initial relief that it didn't collapse over a pension formula issue that could be the first of many speed bumps between here and the finish line.

Is Pa. budget deal back on track? Work continues after whirlwind of finger-pointing
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 11/25/15, 5:34 AM EST
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> A two-day whirlwind of accusations, counter-accusations and a threat to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a short-term spending bill yielded no firm assurances Tuesday night that Pennsylvania’s five-month budget stalemate would end soon.  Wolf’s office on Tuesday night said Republicans were guilty of “theatrics” in calling back the Senate into session and threatening to override the Democrat’s Sept. 29 veto of a four-month spending bill.  It reiterated his call for a budget by Dec. 4, but made no mention of a deal to replace one that had collapsed in recent days.  “Talks continued with Republican leaders tonight and will take place in the coming days,” Wolf’s office said in a brief statement.  Earlier Tuesday, Wolf hammered Republicans, saying leaders of the commanding House and Senate GOP majorities could not secure enough rank-and-file support for a sales tax increase they had proposed because their ranks include too many “who just want to blow things up.”

State Senate backs off plan to attempt veto override on budget
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 24, 2015 11:01 PM
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania state budget negotiations seemed to fall apart and come back together in hours Tuesday as Senate Republicans planned a vote to override Gov. Tom Wolf's veto of a short-term spending bill but called it off after a meeting in his office.  “These things go back and forth all the time,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said as he left the governor’s office Tuesday evening. “Things go up and down. People get excited.”  Mr. Corman said a budget framework is in place and that staff will work through the weekend so members can begin voting next week.  “We’re very comfortable and optimistic that we can have this done in short order next week,” he said.  Mr. Corman’s office had said in the afternoon that the Senate would reconvene Tuesday night to attempt to override Mr. Wolf’s veto of a bill that would have provided four months of state funding.  The budget framework in place would make investments in education and include changes to the 

No-compromise budget stance is damaging Pa. | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff on November 25, 2015 at 6:00 AM,
That sound coming from Harrisburg Monday was the "thud-thud-thud" of a shaky, pyramidal budget deal losing its foundation and collapsing upon itself.  The tentative accord that had been reached by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders — an additional 1.25 percent in sales tax to generate $2 billion in property tax cuts and beef up school funding — was all but declared dead.  And just to pile on the uncertainty, the state Senate deadlocked Monday on Senate Bill 76, the diversionary tactic that would abolish the school property tax. Lt. Gov. Mike Stack cast a tie-breaking vote, but Republicans vowed to recruit absent votes to keep the illusory tax-killing plan on the front burner. That would be a mistake.  Things are so grim in this five-month budget standoff that counties are preparing to sue the state. Nonprofit social service agencies are struggling. Some school districts are discussing shutdown plans.

BLOG: Funding Our Schools Is Good For Everyone
By: PA Deputy Secretary of Policy and Planning Sarah Galbally November 24, 2015
As the details of the state budget are ironed out, Governor Wolf is continuing to fight for historic increases to basic and special education funding, along with pre-k. He understands the plight of school districts that have struggled to make ends meet while they await crucial state funding, and that it is time to end this five-month budget impasse. He understands the importance of compromise, offering several concessions over the last few months to issues like pensions and liquor, but throughout this entire process, he has stayed true to his most important goal: funding our schools. Restoring the devastating cuts made to our schools over the last four years is Governor Wolf’s number one priority. The additional funding will allow Pennsylvania to turn the page on an ugly chapter of history that expanded class sizes, cut vital programs, and caused massive teacher furloughs and layoffs. Pennsylvania’s children have been paying a hefty price ever since.

Blogger note: Education Plus Academy Cyber CS School Performance Profile Scores for 2013 and 2014 were 59.0 and 50.0.  According to PDE a score of 70 is passing.
Education Plus cyber charter closes its learning centers
by Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer Updated on NOVEMBER 24, 2015 — 2:21 PM EST
Hundreds of parents and students enrolled at Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter School were left stunned and scrambling Tuesday when the troubled cyber announced it was closing its learning and tutoring centers and laying off 30 teachers and other staff immediately.  Nicholas Torres, the CEO, said that the Education Plus was retaining the lead teachers from the six learning centers, and that displaced students would be able to continue to receive instruction from them online in their homes, if they choose.  They would also have access to some supplemental special-education services at the centers.  The closings affect 410 K-8 students, including 260 in the Philadelphia area, who have been receiving online instruction in classrooms at the centers.  The change, he said, will have no impact on the other 130 students across the state, who have been receiving their instruction at home via the Internet.

Community Schools: City officials share community-based plan for city schools
BY HAYDEN MITMAN  PhillyVoice Staff NOVEMBER 23, 2015
City officials gathered at Tanner G. Duckrey Elementary School in North Philadelphia, on Monday morning, to discuss lessons they have learned from a recent trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, to learn about the school system there and how some of the ideas that work there could be implemented into Philly's schools.   As explained by mayor-elect, Jim Kenney, he, and a group that travelled to Ohio last week -- including city council president Darrell Clarke (D-5th dist.) and Otis Hackney, the principal of South Philly High School who has been tapped to be Kenney's chief education officer -- learned about a "community schools" program that brings government and community resources to schools in an effort to improve education opportunities for local kids.   "Our job is to make sure you reach the potential you have in your life," Kenney told a room full of school children on Monday.  While the mayor-elect acknowledged that its too early to discuss just how this community school plan would work in Philadelphia -- he said they still need to talk to parents and teachers at schools throughout the city to determine what each school needs -- Kenney shared ideas he saw in Ohio that he thought could work here.

Staffing woes plague Philly District schools this year
A breakdown in providing substitutes, on top of a surge in teacher vacancies, has left some students doing busywork.
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa  on Nov 24, 2015 03:28 PM
For Djervin Uylimos, the beginning of his high school career has not been what he expected.
Not at all.  In September, the Northeast High School freshman was signed up for seven classes – English, world history, algebra, physical science, Spanish, health, and gym.  A typical roster. What is not typical is that for much of the semester so far, he has had no teacher in four of these classes.  So he has spent hours in the classroom with whatever staff member can fill in – doing busywork or turning to his smartphone.  “Some of the classes, they don’t even bring any teachers,” he said. “Sometimes they bring a teacher, but they don’t teach us because they don’t know the course.”  It has been a bewildering, scary experience for the 15-year-old, who immigrated from the Philippines six years ago.

Does Philly need a citizens' commission to better engage the public?
the notebook By Catherine Offord  on Nov 24, 2015 02:50 PM
Education Voters of Pennsylvania has proposed a Citizens’ Commission for Education to provide a formal platform for public participation in the District.  The commission’s structure is undetermined, but a petition to City Council requesting the establishment of a commission as a “mechanism” for participation has so far received more than 300 signatures. Organizers hope the move will jump-start a discussion about increasing civic engagement in District decision-making.  “What we currently have is inadequate,” said Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, also known as Ed Voters PA.  “People need a better way to look at and discuss what’s happening in the School District of Philadelphia,” she said.  Gobreski said the proposal arose from the lack of opportunities for the public to get formally involved in Philadelphia’s education system. The petition stresses the need for “a better mechanism for authentic public participation” and asks City Council to convene a “formal representative body, such as a Citizens’ Commission.”

Blogger Rant: PA's "Supervoucher" EITC and OSTC programs divert millions of tax dollars to private and religious schools without fiscal or academic performance accountability.
In Philly rally, dozens call on Wolf to fast-track scholarship process
Many Pennsylvania schools and organizations that rely on state money have been suffering as the budget impasse has cut off funding.  Now, some scholarships for low-income students are at risk of disappearing because of a holdup in tax credit approvals.  A crowd of about a hundred parents, students and educators held up signs and chanted, "Scholarships, not politics," outside Gov. Tom Wolf's Philadelphia office yesterday to make that point.  They demanded the scholarship process -- held up by the budget impasse -- move ahead.  Businesses fund K-12 scholarships for low-income students and earn tax credits.  The Educational Improvement Tax Credit allows schools to raise general scholarship money and also funds innovative educational improvement programs for public schools through business tax credits.  The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit provides scholarships to students residing within the boundaries of the state's lowest-achieving schools to transfer to other higher performing public or private schools.

Nonprofits urge tax credit action
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com3:04 p.m. EST November 24, 2015
They say millions in donations could be lost if businesses aren't approved for tax credits
Nonprofits around Pennsylvania, including some in York, are raising the alarm that millions of dollars businesses donate in exchange for tax credits could be lost if the state doesn't soon approve them, something the governor's office says is being held up by the budget impasse.  What's at issue?  The Educational Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship tax credit programs allow businesses to donate to nonprofits that offer education services and scholarships to low-income children in exchange for tax credits. The businesses have to get approval from the state Department of Community and Economic Development first.

Congress to vote on No Child Left Behind rewrite in early December
Lancaster Online by Alejandro Rios November 24, 2015
Congress is close to a vote to rewrite the No Child Left Behind education law.
The compromise bill would reduce the federal government’s role in education policy, while still requiring students to be tested in reading and math in grades 3 through 8, and once in high school, according to the Associated Press.  The full text of the legislation won’t be available until Nov. 30, according to Education Week, which reported the law would be known as the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” The House will vote on the bill the first week of December followed days later by a vote in the Senate, according to the Associated Press.

"And according to two people involved in making state education policy, Mr. Cuomo has been quietly pushing for a reduction, even to zero. That would represent an about-face from January, when the governor called for test scores to determine 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation."
Cuomo, in Shift, Is Said to Back Reducing Test Scores’ Role in Teacher Reviews
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR NOV. 25, 2015
Less than a year ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York proclaimed that the key to transforming the state’s education system was tougher evaluations for teachers, and he pushed through changes that increased the weight of student test scores in teachers’ ratings.  Now, facing a parents’ revolt against testing, the state is poised to change course and reduce the role of test scores in evaluations. And according to two people involved in making state education policy, Mr. Cuomo has been quietly pushing for a reduction, even to zero. That would represent an about-face from January, when the governor called for test scores to determine 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Ranking States on Birth–3rd Grade Policies That Build Strong Readers
POLICY PAPER | NOVEMBER 23, 2015 by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, Laura Bornfreund, Shayna Cook
Right now only about one-third of all children attending school in the United States can read proficiently by fourth grade. The numbers are even more dismaying for our most vulnerable students. How can state policymakers lessen the achievement gap and improve literacy outcomes for all children? A new report from New America’s Education Policy Program examined the state of early education policy in all 50 states and Washington, DC and offers a framework for moving forward.   From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth- 3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers, ranks states on 65 indicators in seven policy areas. The report found that most states are not taking a comprehensive approach when it comes to developing children’s literacy skills. Accompanying the research are interactive maps of state progress displayed via New America’s data visualization and policy analysis tool, Atlas

Accountability and the ESEA reauthorization deal: Your cheat sheet
the notebook By Alyson Klein for Education Week on Nov 24, 2015 01:53 PM
The newest proposed version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act—is almost over the congressional finish line, with votes in both chambers of Congress imminent.  So how would accountability work under the ESSA, if approved? And how does it compare to the No Child Left Behind Act, Classic Edition, and the Obama administration's waivers?  Your cheat sheet here. Top-line stuff on accountability first, then some early reaction. Scroll down further if you want the nitty-gritty details on accountability.  And scroll down even further if you want more details on other aspects of the deal (an update of past Politics K-12 cheat sheets, including some new information on which programs made it into the agreement and which are on the chopping block, thanks to thishelpful fact sheet from the Committee for Education Funding).

Truth For America: New alum testimonials about @TeachForAmerica
Blog Posting by Julian Vasquez Heilig Nov 24, 2015
I received an open letter to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from a Teach For America alum. She was assigned to teach special education in California for 2014. Teach For America has about 80 new TFA teachers in LAUSD. TFA recently received mid-year LAUSD board approval for a 31% increase in the size of their corps specifically to "teach" special education. TFA spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on their marketing and recruitment. They have also expertly placed their alums (who are everywhere but the classroom) in positions of power to convince you that sending untrained teachers to teach our most vulnerable students is an acceptable— even brilliant idea. However, do you really want to know how unprepared Teach America's teachers are? Read and watch the testimonials from Sonya and Rebecca about teaching special education as #TeachForAmerica corps members...

Privateers and Profiteers: How and Why are they Undermining Public Education?
Living in Dialogue Blog by Anthony Cody November 24, 2015
As we near the end of the Obama administration, it is a good time to take a closr look at what has happened to public education over the past seven years.  Some very powerful people have used money and the political influence that money buys to undermine and set the stage for the elimination of public education as we have known it for the past 100 years.  To be sure public education has always been flawed, but there was an aspiration in what the Washington state supreme court recently called “common schools,” that we should have schools funded and governed by citizens, that serve all members of our communities. That social compact is in the process of being ripped up by people who believe that in the absence of a profit motive, public institutions are incapable of innovation.  How is this being done?

Testing Resistance & Reform News: November 18 - 24, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on November 24, 2015 - 2:18pm 
The pending Congressional overhaul of "No Child Left Behind" will not in any way undermine the national, grassroots high-stakes testing resistance. Instead, it provides additional incentives for parents, students, teachers, administrators and community leaders leaders to press for even more meaningful assessment reforms at the national, state and local levels. This week's stories of progress come from 22 states as well as the college admissions arena.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

"So Einstein went back to the blackboard. And on Nov. 25, 1915, he set down the equation that rules the universe. As compact and mysterious as a Viking rune, it describes space-time as a kind of sagging mattress where matter and energy, like a heavy sleeper, distort the geometry of the cosmos to produce the effect we call gravity, obliging light beams as well as marbles and falling apples to follow curved paths through space."
A Century Ago, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Changed Everything
New York Times By DENNIS OVERBYE NOV. 24, 2015
PRINCETON, N.J. — By the fall of 1915, Albert Einstein was a bit grumpy.
And why not? Cheered on, to his disgust, by most of his Berlin colleagues, Germany had started a ruinous world war. He had split up with his wife, and she had decamped to Switzerland with his sons.  He was living alone. A friend, Janos Plesch, once said, “He sleeps until he is awakened; he stays awake until he is told to go to bed; he will go hungry until he is given something to eat; and then he eats until he is stopped.”  Worse, he had discovered a fatal flaw in his new theory of gravity, propounded with great fanfare only a couple of years before. And now he no longer had the field to himself. The German mathematician David Hilbert was breathing down his neck.

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

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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