Sunday, December 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 13: Could this be the week for #PABudget?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 13, 2015:
Could this be the week for #PABudget?

Campaign for Fair Education Funding: PA Lawmakers need to deliver a #PABudget that meets the needs of every child.  Ask them to at:

Today might be an excellent day to reach out to your House members.  Phone numbers are here:

If you have newly elected members on your school board who would like to receive the PA Ed Policy Roundup please have them send their email addresses. Thanks!

Could this be the week? Protracted Pa. state budget talks to center on final issues this week
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 12, 2015 at 9:14 PM, updated December 12, 2015 at 10:05 PM
Everybody at the Capitol hopes this is the week that brings closure to Pennsylvania's extended state budget impasse.  But they also acknowledge there's still some significant negotiating to do before what's expected to be a $30.8 billion, 2015-16 spending plan that is likely to contain tax increases is put to bed.  Here's a final week (we're being optimistic) scorecard on the big questions:

"Of all the bills that are being reviewed, he said the Education Code bill has the most work needed, pointing to problems with the distribution of school funds and charter school reforms.  “Many members of our caucus are pro-school choice and pro-accountability,” he said. “Also, the way that the monies are distributed is concerning. There’s no doubt we think it’s skewed and we think that needs to be discussed.”
Speaker Turzai on budget: “There are open issues in each and every area”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, December 11, 2015
Following a Friday morning call by a number of House Democrats for House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) to bring their chamber back to session to complete the budget and related bills, Speaker Turzai this afternoon announced the cancellation of Saturday’s scheduled session.  The House is set to reconvene Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. to begin caucusing—and perhaps holding committee votes—on those bills.  In updating the schedule, the Speaker also provided some insight on the differences that remain between House Republicans and those who are still working toward the once agreed-to budget framework that continues to list between success and failure in continually uncertain waters.  “There are open issues in each and every area,” he said pointing to a number of papers worked up by House Republicans on issues with the budget, related code bills, and pension and liquor reform bills.

"A House session planned for Saturday was called off, with representatives due back at work around dinnertime Sunday."
Negotiators put Pa. budget talks on Saturday pause
Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Legislature appear headed for another week of grappling over how to end a five-month budget stalemate.  The pressure is ratcheting up on them amid growing social services layoffs, threats of school shutdowns and the looming end of the calendar year.  A determined House Republican majority showed no sign of any willingness to accept a package of Senate-passed legislation as last week wound down.  There's a long list of disputed issues attached to the budget bills that is only making the lines of division clearer. 

Pa. budget agreement unlikely to happen this weekend; schools, counties borrow nearly $1B
Penn Live By The Associated Press  on December 12, 2015 at 9:15 AM, updated December 12, 2015 at 12:58 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Legislature appear headed for another week of grappling over how to end a five-month budget stalemate while pressure ratchets up on them amid growing social services layoffs, threats of school shutdowns and the looming end of the calendar year.  A determined House Republican majority showed no sign of any willingness to accept a package of Senate-passed legislation as last week wound down, and a long list of disputed issues attached to the budget bills only made the lines of division clearer.  With state aid shut off to schools, social services and counties, school boards have begun to discuss staying closed after the winter holiday break and more programs are closing. Borrowing by school districts and counties is approaching $1 billion.

House Speaker Mike Turzai pumps the brakes a bit on Pennsylvania budget optimism
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 11, 2015 at 7:44 PM, updated December 11, 2015 at 7:52 PM
House Republicans may not have won their fight to trim $500 million from the still-evolving state budget this week.  But that doesn't mean, House Speaker Mike Turzai said Friday, they've given up trying to put their imprint on the roughly $30.8 billion 2015-16 state spending package.  Speaking at a late-day press conference in his Capitol office, Turzai said his 119-member will still have its say on issues like limiting new taxes, promoting liquor privatization and growing the role for charter schools in low-achieving school districts.  "There are open issues in each and every area," Turzai said, "and we're moving forward to see if we can resolve any of the outstanding issues."  Turzai's remarks came at the end of a week in which, perhaps mostly in the interest of having their say, House Republicans passed a less-ambitious and less-expensive budget, only to see it rejected by their Senate GOP counterparts.

'The Senate has done its job,' Corman, in NYC, says of #PaBudget talks
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 11, 2015 at 8:46 AM
NEW YORK _ At 7:45 a.m. on Friday morning, over bagels, coffee and gossip, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman summed up the current state of budget talks this way:  "We're waiting on the House," said the Bellefonte Republican, who was doing a drive-by Friday of this year's Pennsylvania Society gala before heading back to Harrisburg.  "It's in their ballpark. We've sent them a complete list of bills. Let's see where they go," he said.  And with the Senate out of session until at least Sunday, the Republican floor leader defended his quick jaunt to Midtown:
"The Senate has done its job. The House isn't in session. I made some commitments for today. And I'll go back tomorrow," he said.

Pennsylvania's state budget talks, at loooonnnnng last, enter home stretch
By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 11, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated December 11, 2015 at 11:35 AM
The six-month Pennsylvania state budget impasse - after months of political gridlock - is showing significant signs of breaking up.  That's probably going to mean a tax increase for Pennsylvanians. (Negotiators from all sides are expected to meet this weekend to settle on a final mix of taxes and other income sources designed to raise $650 to $700 million in the current fiscal year; growing to more than $1 billion on a full-year basis.)  It will mean the single-biggest raw dollar increase in aid to public schools that this state has ever seen, plus significant boosts to aid for higher education.  And it's possible that it may make some cultural history by bringing along a plan that, for the first time since creation of the state-owned liquor stores, would allow an adult to buy a bottle of wine at a supermarket or restaurant.  Now comes the hard part.

Inky Editorial: House lacks leadership
by Inquirer Editorial Board. Updated: DECEMBER 11, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
The failure to pass a budget in Pennsylvania is a failure of leadership. For more than five months, legislators and Gov. Wolf have tossed proposals back and forth without coming to agreement on the same issues they faced when the governor introduced his budget in March.  Negotiation skills should be prerequisite for anyone who aspires to be a legislator. That's how you get the most for your constituents. But instead of negotiating an acceptable budget compromise, Pennsylvania legislators have been caught up in a sickening game of chicken that is making the public the biggest loser.  The situation is so bad that some Philadelphians are fondly looking back at how Vince Fumo used his legislative skills to broker compromises when he was a state senator, setting aside the fact that Fumo's craftiness was also what landed him in prison for corruption. That said, the absence of skilled negotiators is a big reason that the budget is overdue.  In fact, the House Republican caucus seems to be in a leadership crisis. The Senate and governor have finally agreed on a spending plan, but House leaders can't corral support for the compromise budget in their chamber. That's a breathtaking admission of failure. Leaders who can't lead aren't leaders; they're water carriers.

Rendell to pols, business leaders: Kick in for schools
Updated: DECEMBER 12, 2015 — 10:58 PM EST
by Tricia L. Nadolny, Jonathan Tamari, and Chris Brennan, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS.
NEW YORK - Former Gov. Ed Rendell on Saturday challenged Philadelphia's business and political elite to contribute personally to Mayor-elect Jim Kenney's $60 million goal of providing universal pre-kindergarten throughout the city.  Speaking at the main gala of the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend, he made a broad appeal to the well-heeled crowd, saying that poverty remained a stubborn problem throughout Pennsylvania in spite of the renaissance enjoyed in parts of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He said that taking action to aid the state's struggling youth was "the least we can do."  "We have an obligation to do something to end the level of poverty that exists in the middle of all this opulence," he said in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, decorated in Christmas lights and glimmering candles, with garland hanging from the balconies.  The crowd of more than 1,400 was made up of business leaders and elected officials who headed north for the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend, an annual affair for fund-raising, boozing and gossiping since 1898.  This year's gathering has been more subdued than others; packed with those who hoped to influence the state's politicians, but lacking in politicians to influence.

House Democrats blast Speaker, urge immediate return to session
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, December 11, 2015
House Democrats called on Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) to return their chamber to session on Friday to conclude work on budget documents and end Pennsylvania’s 164-day old budget impasse.  “As we speak, there is legislation that is ready to be voted on,” said Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware). “Instead, Speaker Turzai has scheduled a vacation day rather than have us do the people’s work.”  The group of about two-dozen House Democrats said not only should they be in session on Friday, but also remain in session until the budget is finalized.  Rep. Kevin Schreiber (D-York) argued that had the legislature remained in Harrisburg since the beginning of the budget impasse, it’s more likely than not a budget would’ve been finished by now.  He pointed out the House has only been in for 34 voting session days during the 164 day stalemate.  “We have the ability to take up a vote to end this impasse and provide for historic increases in education and a responsibly balanced budget,” he said. “Yet, here we are, another day when we are not in session.”

Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: DECEMBER 11, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
PEOPLE LIKE to to treat this year's budget fiasco in Harrisburg as the same-old-same-old, a typical partisan squabble where each side tries to score points over the other.  There are partisan games going on this year and passing any budget with tax increases is a nightmare.
This year is different, and not only because this particular budget fight has lasted into December. It is also different because it reveals the change in the culture in Harrisburg.
To oversimplify, there are two groups in the state capital - the politicians who believe in government and those who do not.  So far, the "Do Not's" have been in control of the process. Most are clustered in the Republican party.  Given the choice between higher taxes and a government shutdown, they would prefer a shutdown.  Most of them are tea party adherents who came to Harrisburg with a mission to get the government off people's back. They see taxation as a form of confiscation of private property. They see compromise as a form of treason.

Dems turn their fire on Pa. House Speaker Turzai
Something changed in the past week for Democrats watching Pennsylvania's budget impasse drag on.  They found a villain in House Speaker Mike Turzai.  It began last Saturday, when House Republicans said they would withdraw their support for the tentative budget agreement reached with Gov. Tom Wolf and the Senate. And it intensified in the days that followed, as Turzai repeated his concerns about the 6 percent spending increase included in the spending plan approved by the Senate with the governor's blessing on Monday.  Throughout the summer, GOP House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, was the face of the chamber's Republicans as he discussed their concerns and updated the press on budget negotiations.  But since the House Republicans walked away from a tentative deal with the Senate and Wolf administration, Turzai, R-Allegheny, has taken center stage as the caucus mouthpiece.  "I'm a leader, and I'm reflective of where our caucus is," Turzai told reporters Friday. "The House Republican caucus is a fiscally responsible group of legislators. They have always wanted to hold the line on taxes. They have always wanted to hold the line on spending."  So far, Republicans in the Senate have been careful not to malign their House counterparts – at least not publicly.

'Where are you, Mr. Speaker?': House Democrats slam Republicans for taking Friday off during budget impasse
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 11, 2015 at 12:43 PM, updated December 11, 2015 at 1:58 PM
Democrats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives want to vote on two proposals that would end the 164-day state budget impasse. But they're not in session on Friday.
House Democrats held a press conference Friday to criticize House Speaker Mike Turzai's decision to adjourn until Saturday afternoon. The Pennsylvania Senate has forwarded two $30.8 billion budget plans to the House.  The House -- which had its $30.3 billion plan gutted and sent back by the Senate -- has been unable to come to an agreement with Gov. Tom Wolf or Senate Republicans and Democrats over a budget.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a GOP-crafted budget bill Tuesday that is not being supported by their fellow Republicans in the Senate or Gov. Tom Wolf.  Rep. Leanne Krueger-Brankey, D-Delaware, said House members have the opportunity to pass a budget framework that has been negotiated by all four caucuses and Gov. Tom Wolf.  But instead, she said, Turzai cancelled a crucial voting session on Friday.

"The estimated $100 million boost that would come to Philadelphia in the framework agreement nearly equals the annual funding  lost when the state eliminated the "charter reimbursement" line-item – one that helped the district cover the added, systemic costs of charters. That was cut in the first budget passed during former Gov. Tom Corbett's tenure."
Philly district leaders criticize Pa. Senate's school takeover legislation
Philadelphia School District leaders are questioning the need for a potential new state law that would require the state to take drastic intervention at five "persistently low achieving" Philadelphia schools per year.  The provision passed Pennsylvania's Senate in a bipartisan 42-9 vote Thursday evening.  "I'm not sure of the point," said district Superintendent William Hite. "We're all for accountability and turning around our low-performing schools. I would much rather have the flexibility to make these decisions locally."  The "opportunity schools" provision gives the state secretary of education discretion to choose the five schools from a list of chronic low performers on the state's school performance profile index.  The schools would then come under the purview of the Pennsylvania Department of Education for a minimum of three years. A maximum of 15 schools could be under state control, and the provisions would apply only to Philadelphia.
The department would have five intervention options:
  • turn over operations of the school to an outside education management organization;
  • convert the school to a neighborhood-based charter;
  • close the school and facilitate transfer of students to higher performing schools;
  • authorize a new charter and guarantee admission preference to any students who reside in the catchment of the low performing school;
  • or replace the principal and at least half of the school's staff.
The bill does not mandate additional resources to support the interventions – leaving the Legislature to decide.

Hite: Pa. school plan is 'a recipe for disaster'
by Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer. Updated: DECEMBER 12, 2015 — 1:07 AM EST
Tucked into a late-night school-code bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate this week are details that some education-watchers - including the Philadelphia superintendent - say could cripple city schools.  Aimed squarely at the Philadelphia School District, the "opportunity schools" language would remove from local control up to five low-performing schools per year.  The state Department of Education would seize the struggling schools for at least three years, with the option to either turn them over to a charter or outside manager, or close them.  Both Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan on Friday sounded alarms over the provisions - which all Philadelphia senators voted for, seemingly as part of a budget deal that would bring to the district a $100 million boost in state aid.   Long wary of Philadelphia and its schools, some Harrisburg Republicans have demanded increased accountability in exchange for more funds.  Hite noted that Philadelphia has begun turnarounds - including charter conversions - at more than 30 schools in the last several years, despite extreme budget challenges.  "I do question why there is specific legislation just for Philadelphia when probably no one else in the commonwealth has turned around the number or percentage of schools we have," the superintendent said. "There's no proof that there's no will to do this here. What we haven't had is the revenue."

Surprisingly, Hite wants to stay
SRC will vote Thursday to extend his contract until 2022.
the notebook December 11, 2015 by Dale Mezzacappa
William Hite wants to stay on as superintendent of schools in Philadelphia for at least another seven years.  He wants to stay despite the constant struggle for money with the city and the state. Despite the inability to form a working relationship with the teachers’ union. Despite a few disastrous decisions, like the outsourcing of substitute teaching services. Despite a growing list of mandates from the state and city that cramp his leadership and judgment.  Why?  “All in all, the worst thing that could happen now is that we hit reset,” Hite said in an interview. “I think one of the things that is really important is a level of continuity and stability when faced with the level of challenges that we are faced with.”  The School Reform Commission will vote on Thursday, Dec. 16, to extend his contract through August 2022 – well into the next decade. 

Derry Area School District votes to set up line of credit as state budget impasse drags on
Trib Live By Greg Reinbold Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
The political jockeying in Harrisburg that has delayed adoption of a state budget for months might force Derry Area School District to borrow money to continue operating through the end of the school year.  In an addendum to its reorganization meeting agenda Thursday, the school board voted to authorize the administration to establish a $6 million line of credit with Ameriserv Financial.  Joe Koluder, administrative assistant for business affairs, said there are no fees to establish the credit line, and the administration does not plan to draw from the credit unless the state budget impasse continues into February.

Some preschools shutting down until more state money becomes available
Trib Live By Natasha Lindstrom  Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, 12:39 p.m.
Sue Buffton did her best “not to fall apart” Friday morning as she drove toward a preschool in Brookline.  She counted along the way four state wine and spirit stores, lit in colorful, sparkling Christmas lights.  Then she thought about the pre-kindergarten classrooms under her management that will sit empty, starting Friday, because the state budget is 165 days late. The Wolf administration mandated that until the impasse gets resolved, state money can be released only to maintain “essential” government services.  Buffton let out a sigh.  “When did the state liquor stores become more essential than what we do?” asked Buffton, who counsels teen parents and oversees getting low-income children into preschool as director of early childhood education programs at the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center. She consoled staff saddened that the nonprofit is suspending services for seniors, closing its family center and halting its preschool programs, with about 150 of its 700 students relying on state funding.

Schools continue to grapple with 'Huckleberry Finn'
by Justine McDaniel, Inquirer Staff Writer. Updated: DECEMBER 11, 2015 — 1:08 AM EST
After The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1885, the book was boycotted in some places in the United States for portraying friendship between a black man and a white boy.  "In its time, it was derided and censored," said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, which tracks challenges to books.  Today, Mark Twain's classic - about a boy who flees his abusive father and travels down the Mississippi River with an escaped slave - is still sometimes challenged in American schools, but for nearly the opposite reason: its liberal use of the N-word and perceived racist portrayals of black characters.  This week, a Montgomery County school removed Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum after a group of students said the book made them uncomfortable.  After a forum for students and faculty, the administration of Friends' Central School decided to strike the book from the 11th-grade American literature class, principal Art Hall said in a letter to parents this week.

Reach Out & Read website Thursday December 10, 2015
We're thrilled at the overwhelming bipartisan support for a bill that recognizes the importance of pediatric early literacy promotion. President Obama has just signed into law the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, titled the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177), that seeks to ensure the provision of a quality education for all children.  Significantly, this bill authorizes the Reach Out and Read model in federal education policy for the first time. In signing the bill, President Obama talked about expanding access to early childhood education as one of its three aims. Increasingly, research shows that the foundation children need to succeed in school and beyond is built in the early years, from infancy. We are pleased that Reach Out and Read has been recognized as a leader in the field of early learning, and that our model, reaching families with young children through pediatric care, is recognized in this important legislation.
Inclusion of pediatric early literacy promotion in this act is fully consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement, published in 2014, recommending that pediatricians incorporate book promotion and literacy guidance as an essential element of pediatrics starting in infancy.

A Guide to Social Impact Bonds
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 11, 2015 //
“In the Public Interest” is an organization dedicated to warning the public about the dangers of privatizing public services.  It has written a guidebook to explain to citizens what Social Impact Bonds are, how they work, who they benefit, and why they are dangerous for our society.  Shar Habibi, ITPI’s director of research, writes:
“Our guide is a must-read for any citizen or decision-maker trying to understand these new financing structures. It will help you ask tough questions to ensure that private dollars don’t create perverse incentives, fail to serve the neediest cases (also known as ‘creaming’), or distort measures of success for our most important social services.
“Ultimately, Pay for Success ignores the deeper cause of many of our growing social problems: underinvestment in the public interest. America desperately needs more investment in all our public services. Prevention-focused public funding of critical public services—like pre-K for all children and help for juveniles who end up in the criminal justice system—is our simplest and least expensive solution.”

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
Remaining Locations:
  • 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
  • Delaware Co. IU 25 — Feb. 1
    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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