Tuesday, December 1, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 1: Pa. budget this week seems unlikely

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 1, 2015:
#PAbudget this week seems unlikely

"Three weeks ago, Wolf and top lawmakers announced they had struck a deal on the broad outlines of a budget agreement. It included a spending plan of about $30.75 billion, up about 6 percent, that included $350 million in new money for public school instruction and operations, an increase of about 6 percent.  Negotiators have not settled the politically thorny question of which of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts will benefit the most from the new aid."
Pa. budget this week seems unlikely
York Daily Record by Marc Levy, Associated Press7:20 p.m. EST November 30, 2015
HARRISBURG — Talks between Gov. Tom Wolf and top lawmakers continued Monday as the Thanksgiving break ended, but there was scant detail and a lot of silence about how they intended to end a five-month-old budget stalemate.  Lawmakers were not in voting sessions Monday as aides continued to meet to reach consensus on a sprawling budget package. It also seemed certain that lawmakers would not be ready to put a budget package on Wolf's desk by Friday, as he had requested a week ago.  "We just have to work through one issue after another, but certainly there are a number of unresolved issues, some very small, some very consequential," said Drew Crompton, a top aide to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told Republican senators in a Monday memo that a Wednesday voting session was canceled because "we will not be ready to begin budget deliberations and voting."  The House was to resume session Tuesday.  The first-term Democratic governor and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature are saying little about their talks, including where they will find the money to narrow a long-term budget deficit and pay for a big boost in education spending sought by Wolf.

Work continues on details of “house of cards” budget
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, November 30, 2015
Monday, the first day after the Thanksgiving holiday, the details of what a final budget agreement will look like remained shrouded in mystery, as staff continued meetings to flesh out the details of what has been described by some as a “house of cards” budget.  After last week’s near-collapse of a potential budget agreement, legislative leaders emerged from a meeting with a governor with what appeared to be new resolve to complete a still-fluid budget framework in the weeks before Christmas.   According to multiple sources, staff from all legislative caucuses and the Wolf administration met over the weekend to keep that spirit alive and discuss various aspects of a final budget.  House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) told The PLS Reporter that at least a dozen meetings took place at the staff level between Thanksgiving and Monday, where they were “trying to put all the pieces together” to get agreement between all four legislative caucuses and the governor’s office.  “I think we all knew what the broad strokes were,” he said. “Then trying to reach a compromise on those is always the most difficult issue, but I think there was quite a bit accomplished over the weekend.”

How to close a budget deficit?: Pa. talks may be turning to erasing some longstanding sales tax exemptions
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 30, 2015 at 8:29 PM, updated November 30, 2015 at 10:55 PM
When Pennsylvania lawmakers return to the Capitol this week they may be asked to end some longstanding exemptions to the state's 6 percent sales tax in order to help balance a roughly $30.7 billion state budget.  Seen by some Republican leaders as preferable to raising sales or personal income tax rates, this option was generating lots of buzz entering the weekend as legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf struggled to end the five-month budget impasse.  The buzz is to be expected, some say.  "There are many sectors of the economy that have been exempted (from the sales tax) that are now very concerned," Steven Crawford, managing vice president of the Wojdak Associates lobbying firm, said when asked about the proposal.

William Penn School District feeling effects of Pennsylvania budget impasse
Delco Times By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent POSTED: 11/30/15, 10:46 PM EST 
LANSDOWNE >> Money is getting tighter by the day for the William Penn School District.
While Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders continue to struggle over an agreement on a state budget, the district’s board of directors put the possibility of taking out a loan on the table in an attempt to keep the lights on.  The board authorized the ability to do so at last month’s business meeting, and reiterated their plan recently should there be no budget by December. The school district would pursue a tax and revenue anticipation note through a competitive request for proposal process.

Hearings for new Philly charter applicants set for next week
By the Notebook on Nov 30, 2015 03:09 PM
Hearings for 12 would-be school operators looking to open new charter schools will begin next week.  The School District will review applications for 13 new schools, which, if approved, could increase the city's public charter school enrollment by more than 9,000 students. One applicant, KIPP, is proposing to open two schools.  Last week, one of the applicants withdrew its proposal to create a James Baldwin Charter High School in Mantua focused on serving LGBT students, according to the District.  Two sets of hearings are planned. Preliminary hearings will take place on Dec. 7 and Dec. 11 (see schedule below), and a more-detailed round of hearings is slated for January.  In 2014, a provision in the state's school-funding-enabling cigarette-tax hike required the District to end a seven-year moratorium on new charter schools that had been implemented to help stabilize District finances. When the charter ban was lifted, the floodgates opened and a startling 40 applications were filed.  Far fewer applicants are seeking to open new charters this year. The District said 14 applications were filed this year.

Testing, testing: A look at other assessments
the Notebook By Fabiola Cineas  on Nov 30, 2015 11:14 AM
PSSAs and Keystone exams are probably the best-known assessments.
In Pennsylvania, the PSSAs and Keystones are probably the most familiar standardized tests, in part because of the high stakes associated with them.  But students in the School District of Philadelphia take a number of other assessments each year whose names are less well-known. Some help identify for the teacher that a child is not making sufficient progress in learning to read, and others pinpoint why.  These assessments include the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA2), AIMSweb, the Kindergarten Entry Inventory (KEI), the Writing and Reading Assessment Profile (WRAP), and the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), an assessment that measures students’ early reading skills, was discontinued in the District after the 2014-15 school year.  Generally, the purpose of these so-called formative assessments is to give teachers a snapshot of students’ reading performance at a particular moment. They are instructional tools because they determine the level at which a child can read independently as well as the instructional reading level – the level at which a child can read with some support. Teachers can also use these assessments to chart a student’s growth in reading over a school year and entire academic career.  Such tests differ from the PSSA and Keystones in terms of whom and what they assess, when and how they are administered, and how the results are used to evaluate students and schools.

Letters: Shale tax would threaten growth
Philly.com Letter by Erica Clayton Wright, Marcellus Shale Coalition Updated on DECEMBER 1, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
FRIDAY'S EDITORIAL, "Who Do They Work For?" provides a misleading representation of natural-gas development in Pennsylvania, while completely ignoring the meaningful economic and environmental contributions Marcellus Shale development has delivered for the commonwealth.  Philadelphians don't have to look far to see the benefits. Thanks to shale, refineries in South Philadelphia and Delaware County that were on the verge of being shuttered for good are back in business. This transformation is sparking new manufacturing growth, good-paying jobs - especially for our region's building trade union members - and a stronger regional economy.

Districts feeling substitute shortage
Bucks County Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Monday, November 30, 2015 6:00 am
When an area school district needs a substitute teacher, it's typically able to find one about 95 to 98 percent of the time.  At least that was typical until this school year.  In October, the so-called "fill rate" for the Quakertown Community School District was 71 percent. In Palisades, the number was 80 percent, but only 50 percent for the rural district's Tinicum Elementary School.  In Central Bucks, the state's third-largest school district, the October fill rate was 82 percent. The Bucks County Intermediate Unit, which helps educate special needs students in all 13 county districts, has had its fill rate drop below 70 percent.  "This is a challenge many school districts are faced with," said Zach Schoch, Quakertown's human resources director.  Rebecca Roberts-Malamis, assistant to the executive director and in-house legal counsel for the BCIU, said since the start of the school year the substitute teacher shortage has been the topic of each monthly human resources advisory meeting among the 13 districts.  "It definitely is widespread," she said. "We're feeling it all over. Classrooms in almost every school district in Bucks County are finding it equally hard to get substitutes."  School districts in Montgomery County are also feeling the pain. Robert Reichert, business manager for Hatboro-Horsham, said "we're in the same boat. There is a substitute teacher shortage. We're starting to see that."

Slaying the gerrymander
Philly.com Editorial Updated on NOVEMBER 30, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
Public disgust with politics is widespread for good reason. Voters routinely see elected officials using power to suit their own interests rather than the public's. Pennsylvania politicians provided a blatant example when they sat down to draw new district lines for state and federal legislators in 2011.  Required every 10 years as the population grows and shifts, redistricting is meant to ensure that each voting district has roughly the same number of people. Districts are also supposed to be as compact as possible, keeping neighboring communities together. But the state politicians in charge of the process used sophisticated data-crunching to juggle and squiggle district lines to favor their candidates and squelch the opposition.  A look at Pennsylvania's Seventh Congressional District, stretching from Philadelphia's western and northern suburbs to the countryside of Berks and Lancaster Counties, shows the kind of mischief that resulted. The Seventh resembles a mutant bat, with huge, ragged wings joined by a tiny body. It made the Washington Post's list of the nation's 10 most gerrymandered congressional districts.

Mayor-elect Kenney begins meeting constituents
by Julia Terruso, Inquirer Staff Writer Updated on DECEMBER 1, 2015 — 1:07 AM EST
More than 300 people gathered at Central High School on Monday night to meet Mayor-elect Jim Kenney and tell him what they want for their city.  The town-hall meeting was the first of five Kenney will hold this week and brought together a range of people and priorities, many centered on the North Philadelphia community.  Some offered ideas: Why not let the state run Philadelphia International Airport? How about a competition that gives tax breaks to the cleanest neighborhoods?  Others voiced concerns, largely of a dire need for better schools and safer streets.

Trial involving Philly school officials accused of violating First Amendment rights to begin
by SOLOMON LEACH, Daily News Staff Writer leachs@phillynews.com, 215-854-5903 Updated on DECEMBER 1, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
A CIVIL CASE involving five current and former Philadelphia School District employees accused of violating the First Amendment rights of an ex-administrator who wrote a book about education is set to begin this week in federal court.  Richard Migliore, who spent 34 years in the district as a teacher and assistant principal, claims the then-principal of Mastbaum Vocational/Technical High School and senior district officials retaliated against him after his book, Whose School is It? The Democratic Imperative for Our Schools, was published in 2007 and after he twice addressed the School Reform Commission regarding school governance.

21-day strike ends, but Peters Township teachers still don't have contract
Education Week by Associated Press Published Online: November 30, 2015
CANONSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Classes have resumed in a western Pennsylvania school district following a 21-day teachers strike, but the educators still don't have a contract.  About 4,300 students went back to school in on Friday. State law mandated they return in order to get the required 180 days of instruction by June 15.  Nearly 300 teachers in the suburban Pittsburgh district went on strike Oct. 28. Disputed issues include salaries, class size and the length of work days.  According to the district website, state law calls for nonbinding arbitration after a strike. If an agreement still isn't reached, teachers can strike a second time for a limited duration.  The teachers' previous five-year contract expired Aug. 31.

ESEA Reauthorization: The Every Student Succeeds Act Explained
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on November 30, 2015 10:59 AM
The newest proposed version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act—has officially been released.  Votes in both chambers of Congress are expected over the next couple weeks. If all goes as planned, the bill will reach President Barack Obama's desk by the end of the year—and he's expected to sign it.  So what is in the ESSA, when it comes to accountability, testing, programs, and more? And how does it compare to No Child Left Behind Act, Classic Edition, and the Obama administration's NCLB waivers?

Why many high-stakes testing foes see ‘modest’ progress in No Child Left Behind rewrite
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 1 at 4:00 AM  
Now that U.S. lawmakers have unveiled final draft legislation rewriting the No Child Left Behind education law and are expected to vote on it soon, the question is how much will really change for public schools if it becomes law. The bill, titled the Every Student Succeeds Act, calls for a substantial shift of authority over education policy from the federal Education Department to states and districts, and explicitly limits the role the U.S. education secretary can play in local education decisions. As my colleague Emma Brown wrote here, it “attempts to thread the needle between conservatives who want to shrink the federal government’s footprint in education and civil rights advocates who worry that some states, left to their own devices, will obfuscate or ignore the poor performance of schools serving low-income and minority students.”  Here is an analysis of how the legislation, should it become the new education law of the land, will change testing policy. It was written by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is  valid and educationally sound. Neill comes down on the side of those who think the new legislation is an improvement over the old law, but that more work would need to be done to create a more sensible accountability system for public schools.

Kenney holding five town halls to get feedback from Philly residents
Got a question or concern for Philadelphia Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney? You could have your chance to tell him in person this week.  Starting tonight, Kenney will hold a series of five town hall style meetings in the north, south, west and northeast sections of Philadelphia.   During a press conference earlier this month, he said the ideas and issues that come out of these meetings will be passed along to members of his large transition team, which will put out a final report in January laying out the Kenney administration's priorities.  "I think it's always important that not only are we inclusive of every community and every neighborhood in the city, but that we listen to what people have to say," Kenney said. "They pay taxes, they live and work in our city and they have something to say and we want to make sure that they're included."  All members of the public are invited, but are encouraged to RSVP online atKenneyForPhiladelphia.com. Those who can't make the meetings in-person can give their input at the same website. 
Here's the schedule:
Central High School, 1700 W. Olney Avenue
Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, 6:00pm - 7:00pm
South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad Street
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, 7:30pm - 8:30pm
School of the Future, 40th & Parkside Avenue
Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Mayfair Community Center, 2990 Saint Vincent Street
Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Strawberry Mansion High School, 3133 Ridge Avenue
Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

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 www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute 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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