Saturday, November 7, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 7: What Local Control? Voter Referendum for Any & All School Tax Increases in the Mix with Budget Deal in the Works

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 7, 2015:
What Local Control?  Voter Referendum for Any & All School Tax Increases in the Mix with Budget Deal in the Works

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

"The Governor and legislators are seriously discussing mandating referendum as part of a property tax package.  This concept is gaining traction and is being discussed as a possible part of a budget agreement."
PSBA: As Budget Discussions Continue - Tax Referendum a Serious Consideration
Last month the Senate Finance Committee reported out Senate Bill 909 (Sen. White, R-Indiana) that requires school districts to place a referendum question on the ballot for any and all property tax increases. It amends Act 1 of 2006 to eliminate the index and the remaining allowed exceptions for pension obligations, special education and school construction.  The Governor and legislators are seriously discussing mandating referendum as part of a property tax package.  This concept is gaining traction and is being discussed as a possible part of a budget agreement.    Referendum ties the hands of locally elected school boards by eliminating their ability to build a budget, pay for mandated costs and make tax decisions based on their financial needs. School districts, already struggling to maintain their financial operations in light of the budget impasse, will face critical, long-term fiscal distress.  PSBA is asking you to take action and contact the Governor and legislators now ... tell them “NO” to a voter referendum requirement.  Click here to take action. If you need further information on the impacts of this proposal review these documents developed by PASBO: Impact of Eliminating the Act 1 Index and Impact of Eliminating the Act 1 Exceptions

PSBA Webinar Update on the budget crisis and membership discussion
Monday NOV 9, 2015 • 7:30 am, noon or 6:00 pm
PSBA will be hosting a special complimentary members-only webinar on the budget crisis and discuss how your advocacy efforts can help push back on referendum and other issues that are affecting public education in Pennsylvania. During the webinar we will offer a Q&A where you will have the opportunity to voice your local school directors’ concerns and find out what you can do to help public education in your district and across the state. This complimentary webinar will be held Monday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.
Register online for one of three times:

"One item that is of significant concern is the fact that there are serious discussions at the budget table about requiring a backend referendum for any and all property tax increases. This issue is being discussed under the guise of ensuring “accountability” when additional BEF dollars are driven out to school districts. "
PA Association of School Administrators Education Update November 2, 2015
State Budget Update – This week the Senate attempted a veto-override vote on SB 1000, the stopgap budget bill that was passed by the legislature and vetoed by the governor last month. The bill, brought up quickly and without much discussion, failed to get the 2/3 vote required to override the veto, with a 30-19 tally along party lines.  Budget meetings between the House and Senate Republicans continue, as they work to get agreement within their caucus on a budget proposal. While there is a heightened push to attempt to finalize a budget by Thanksgiving, there is still a very long way to go, and only the most optimistic believe it can be done by the holiday. Discussions with the administration are set to resume as well.

State budget deal in the works?
Steve Esack Contact ReporterCall Harrisburg Bureau November 6, 2015
HARRISBURG — It is November and as the leaves fall and Christmas decorations light up store shelves, the state budget, which was supposed to be done during swimsuit season, is not complete.  But that could change soon.  A deal could be done by Thanksgiving, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said in a memo he emailed Friday to the Republican caucus. If so, expect more session days in the Capitol, he said.  "Our goal is to work with our colleagues in the Senate to produce a budget deal that will bring this budget impasse to an end and move Pennsylvania forward," Reed wrote.  The memo says the possible deal would include key House GOP budget priorities concerning changes to the state's Prohibition-era alcohol laws, moving future public-sector employees into 401(k)-style pension plans, and offering local property tax relief to homeowners. Reed's memo makes no overt references to any tax increase Democratic Gov.Tom Wolf has requested and up until this point the Legislature's Republican majority and some Democrats have refused to give him.

GOP leader predicts budget deal; Wolf says, 'Close'
CHRIS PALMER, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Saturday, November 7, 2015, 1:07 AM POSTED: Friday, November 6, 2015, 3:14 PM
HARRISBURG - A key House Republican said Friday that he hoped to have a budget deal finalized by Thanksgiving, and Gov. Wolf said an agreement to end Pennsylvania's five-month-old impasse could be "very close."  In an email Friday afternoon to fellow legislators, Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) became the first elected official to predict an end date to the stalemate. Without elaborating, he said negotiators "are making progress toward the framework" of a final deal that could include changes to the state's liquor and pension systems, increased education funding, and offer property-tax relief.  Around the same time, Wolf made an appearance at a conference in Philadelphia and said a deal was "very, very close."  "I think we're almost there," he told an interviewer at ThinkFest, hosted by Philadelphia Magazine.

Pa. Budget Stalemate Drags On; No Compromise In Sight
NPR Morning Edition NOVEMBER 06, 2015 5:08 AM ET Audio runtime 2:35
Pennsylvania is entering its fifth month without a budget. The standoff is snarling payments to schools and nonprofits. At the dispute's center are a liberal governor and a conservative legislature.

Help the Notebook as we examine standardized testing in Pa.
the notebook By Paul Socolar on Nov 6, 2015 05:16 PM
The debate about standardized testing has taken center stage in recent weeks, with theObama administration acknowledging that its policies have contributed to a climate of overtesting in schools.  The Notebook's December print edition will take a deeper look at the role and impact of standardized testing in Pennsylvania. We've kicked off our coverage with online stories on recent national developments, the latest PSSA exam results, and the trends on the national NAEP exam.  And we need your help!
This is a hot-button issue that affects everyone involved in schools. We will be exploring topics like the requirement that students pass Keystone exams to graduate from high school, the use of test scores in teacher evaluation, cheating on standardized tests, teaching to the test, the opt-out movement, and the Black-White test score gap.  If you have information you would like to share, or if you would like to be interviewed for this edition, please let us know by filling out the attached, confidential form.

What does the changing Pa. Supreme Court mean for school funding, charters?
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Nov 4, 2015 06:29 PM
The results of Tuesday's Pennsylvania Supreme Court election could have wide-ranging implications for a number of high-profile cases related to education issues.  Three Democrats swept the open seats on the state's highest court – shifting the balance of power to 5-2 in the party's favor when they assume the bench in January.  Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue, 62, of Pittsburgh; Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty, 53; and Superior Court Judge David Wecht, 55, of Pittsburgh defeated their Republican opponents and one independent.  Traditional public education advocates closely followed the race, anticipating that a shake-up in favor of the Democrats could mean rulings favorable to their interests.  The biggest education-related case that the new court is expected to hear will be one brought by the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center that asserts that the legislative and executive branches of state government have failed to deliver "a thorough and efficient" education to all children, as promised in Pennsylvania's Constitution.  In April, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the case, arguing that education funding should be decided by the legislature, not the judiciary. The two law centers appealed to the Supreme Court in May. The plaintiffs contend that the state has skated on its constitutional obligation by adopting content standards and performance expectations without providing the funding needed to meet them.

"He said the main problem was the responsibility of the local districts to pay into the retirement funds of teachers called PSERS (Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System)."
State Rep. Lawrence joins seniors in frustration over property taxes
By Chris Barber, Daily Local News POSTED: 11/06/15, 3:36 PM EST |
Oxford >> It was clear from the conversations on Monday afternoon that state Rep. John Lawrence was just as frustrated about property taxes as the senior citizens he was speaking to,  Lawrence, R-13, of West Grove paid a visit to the Oxford Senior Center, where about 30 members gathered to find out what could be done about the soaring school taxes that were crippling them financially. The taxes, typically ranging in the thousands of dollars annually, are particularly difficult for retired people who are living on fixed incomes and are billed based on the value of houses they own.  “It makes no sense to push out elderly into subsidized housing or the Pocopson Home because they can’t afford taxes. And property tax does not take into account your ability to pay,” Lawrence said.

Blogger note: PA Cyber CS SPP scores for 2013, 2014 and 2015 were 59.4, 55.5 and 65.3
Pa. Auditor General Launches Comprehensive Audit Into Pa. Cyber Charter School
November 6, 2015 6:30 PM By Andy Sheehan
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There are serious new concerns about the current spending practices at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.  The school’s founder, Nick Trombetta, is charged with fraud, accused of stealing millions in tax dollars from the school and spending it on himself. But while Trombetta awaits trial, Pennsylvania tax dollars are still being poured into the education empire he built.  In the coming months, prosecutors will try to prove that Trombetta funneled millions in tax dollars into non-profit and for-profit companies he founded with the ultimate aim of enriching himself.  But while Trombetta is now gone from PA Cyber Charter, questions about the school’s spending remain.  In particular, some question the amount of money being spent on curriculum.  For years, PA Cyber Charter paid $50 million a year for online curriculum to The National Network of Digital Schools, now called Lincoln Learning Solutions.

Blogger note: Education Plus Academy Cyber CS SPP scores for 2013 and 2014 were 59.0 and 50.0; no 2015 score was reported
Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter shutters two centers, citing state budget impasse
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Saturday, November 7, 2015, 1:07 AM POSTED: Friday, November 6, 2015, 4:59 PM
More than 20 children enrolled at a cyber charter school are scrambling to make other arrangements after the school abruptly shuttered two tutoring centers Friday.  Officials at the Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter School said financial problems caused by Pennsylvania's budget stalemate prompted them to close the Brandywine Achievement Center in Exton and the Bridgeville Partner Tutoring Center in Allegheny County.  A dozen students received regular help and tutoring at the Exton center; nine went to Bridgeville.  "It is a sad day for our students, their families, and our staff," Lydia E. Jerchau, head of school, said in an email to The Inquirer. "Our team is working with those students and their families to ensure that their education is not negatively impacted and that services will continue despite their being uprooted from those centers."

Dover trial experts, teachers talk evolution
York Daily Record  by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com5:32 p.m. EST November 6, 2015
Ten years after a federal trial put a spotlight on evolution and science class, there are still lessons to be learned in how teachers address that subject, and others, in their classrooms.  December marks a decade since the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District decision, in which a federal judge ruled that intelligent design is not science and that teaching the topic in public school was unconstitutional.  The Dover Area School Board, in 2004, had adopted a policy requiring intelligent design -- the idea that life is so complex its creation must have been guided by an "intelligent designer" --  to be mentioned in ninth-grade biology class.  A handful of expert witnesses, attorneys and faith leaders who worked with the plaintiffs gathered Friday at York College to talk with York County science teachers about addressing the subject of evolution and lessons learned from the Dover trial. A couple dozen educators attended the workshop, arranged by Dover teachers Robert Eshbach and Jen Miller, and York Suburban science teacher Leigh Foy.

Stargazing: Andromeda Galaxy
Post Gazette By Dan Malerbo, Buhl Planetarium and Observatory November 3, 2015 12:00 AM
This autumn, try and locate M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Andromeda is the most distant object in the universe visible to the unaided eye. When you observe Andromeda, you are looking at the light of billions of stars more than 2 million light-years distant. Away from the bright lights of the city, Andromeda will appear as a hazy patch of light. If you aim your binoculars or telescope at it, you should see the galaxy’s oval shape. However, don’t be disappointed if you can’t see its spiral arms. Very large telescopes produce the stunning images of Andromeda you see on television and online.  To locate Andromeda, first find the “Great Square” of Pegasus. The star in the upper left corner of the square is Alpheratz. This star is also part of the Andromeda constellation, which is made up of two long rows of stars. Move two stars over on the top row then up, and you will see a smudge of light. That hazy smudge is the Andromeda Galaxy.

"According to The New York Times, in the 2012-13 school year, Success Academy suspended between four percent and 23 percent of its students at least once. Meanwhile, the suspension rate at traditional public schools that school year was just three percent."
Survival of the fittest at Success Academy
The Hill Congress Blog By Judith Browne Dianis November 04, 2015, 05:00 pm
Is a child disposable?  Do adults get to decide which children are worthy of education paid for by tax dollars?  Depending on whom you ask at Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools, the answers may be a resounding, “yes!”
A bombshell discovery at Moskowitz’s network of charters recently revealed the privately run, publicly funded school system maintains a list of students they no longer wish to serve.
Moskowitz claimed several of her schools’ “Got to Go” lists were anomalies, though cherry-picking at charter schools is nothing new. From the Noble network of charter schools in Chicago to KIPP Academy in Washington, D.C., charters have long been accused of removing children deemed undesirable and troublesome from their academic settings.  It’s precisely the thing racial justice activists have warned against.  Parents and community leaders have suspected charter schools artificially inflate test scores by either forcing out students who need extra support or refusing to admit them in the first place.  Through repeated suspensions, multiple calls home for minor infractions or flat out recommendations that parents take their children elsewhere, Success Academy Charter Schools appears to self-select the students they deem worthy of educating.

EPLC's FOCUS ON EDUCATION on PCN Sunday at 3:00 pm.
 Guests Dave Patti @PaBizCouncil and House Ed Comm Chair Rep Stan Saylor @RepStanSaylor

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. 

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

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting <>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit for more information.

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

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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