Wednesday, December 2, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 2: #PABudget: "The devil is in the details…and we haven't gotten details."

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 2, 2015:
#PABudget: "The devil is in the details…and we haven't gotten details."

School Funding Lawsuit: Parents, school districts urge courts to intervene in school funding crisis
Press Release December 1, 2015
Contact: Barb Grimaldi, Public Interest Law Center, 267-546-1304,
Ian Gavigan, Education Law Center-PA, 267-825-7713,
Harrisburg, Pa. –Parents and school districts challenging Pennsylvania’s school funding system told the state Supreme Court today that it should decide the case on the merits and reject the state’s plea to toss the case because of its complexity and difficulty.  In a reply brief filed Monday the petitioners defended their position that the courts can and must examine claims that the state is failing its constitutional obligations to adequately fund “a thorough and efficient system of public education” in a manner which does not discriminate against low-wealth districts. 

"The clinic is part of Reach Out and Read -- a national nonprofit that partners with medical providers to give free books at doctor's visits and promote school readiness, with a special emphasis on children from low-income communities."
Following doctor's orders: Take a few books and read regularly
Pediatricians prescribe many things, but a prescription for books may surprise parents.  Research shows many parents don't read enough to their children, and literacy gaps can emerge in kids as young as 18 months.  In response, doctor's orders are to read bedtime stories, sing and talk to keep infants and toddlers from falling behind.  Dr. Elena Huang was examining 17-month-old Keith Patrick recently at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia.  Like every child from 6 months to 5 years old, he gets a new book at every checkup.  "So you remember we've given him books before," she tells Keith's dad, Larry. "And now we try to pick one that might be some of the things he's doing, like learning his body parts."
She turns to the toddler and coos, "Like, where's your nose? Where's your mouth?"

Partnering with medical providers to ensure success in school for all of America’s children.
Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by integrating children's books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud into well-child visits.   The Reach Out and Read evidence-based program builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy. As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Reach Out and Read incorporates early literacy into pediatric practice, equipping parents with tools and knowledge to ensure that their children are prepared to learn when they start school.

PASBO: State of the State Budget

PA Association of School Business Officials YouTube Video Published on Dec 1, 2015
PASBO State of the State Budget Dec. 2015 Video Runtime 2:37

State budget update: 'We have a lot of tough decisions to make over the next week,' Reed says
Penn Live By Jan Murphy and Charles Thompson  on December 01, 2015 at 7:26 PM, updated December 01, 2015 at 9:30 PM
It appears the state House is ready to start the process of ending the five-month-old state budget impasse that has interrupted money from flowing to school districts, human service agencies and other vendors who do business with the commonwealth.  Following a three-hour closed-door discussion with his caucus on Monday, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, emerged to share his cautiously optimistic view that a budget package could land on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk awaiting his signature over the next week.  "We have a lot of tough decisions to make over the next week and we're going to work together with our Senate colleagues and the House Democrats as well as the administration to get this done," Reed said. "It's December 1. It's time to bring this budget to an end." 

More Republicans cancel PA Society plans as House member caucus on detail-less budget framework outline
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Tuesday, both caucuses of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives met to discuss the five-party budget framework legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf agreed to just a week ago.  While the broad strokes of the plan remain the same—increased education spending, some sort of liquor reform, and pension reform—the details as to how those priorities would be achieved and how the money will be raised to fund them remained giant question marks.  “There’s still some details that need to be worked out with the administration and the Senate, particularly as it relates to education funding distribution models and that sort of stuff,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) after a three-hour, post-session Republican caucus meeting.  “This was the first step in the process of getting action on all these items within the next week,” he added.

Few details as Pa. budget impasse lingers
by Chris Palmer, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau Updated on DECEMBER 2, 2015 — 1:08 AM EST
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's budget impasse entered its sixth month Tuesday, with scant new details about what shape a final deal might take.  Frustrated lawmakers emerged from closed-door meetings with few revelations about if, how, or where progress had been made. Some rank-and-file House members wondered aloud what they might eventually vote on, and when.  "The devil is in the details," said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks). "And we haven't gotten details."  Scott Petri, another Bucks County Republican, said it seemed as if rumors swirl faster in the Capitol than real information.  "You feel like you're left in the dark," said Petri, noting that he was not even certain if the briefing memos he was given by caucus leaders matched those distributed to Senate colleagues.  The frustration stood in contrast to the optimism that Gov. Wolf and Republican leaders have sought to project. After rescuing their so-called framework from collapse last week, the two sides touted an agreement that would boost school spending by $350 million and reform the state's pension and liquor systems.  But key details - such as the shape of those changes, and the manner in which school aid would be raised and distributed - remained unanswered Tuesday.

GOP leader says House considering broader use of sales tax
Morning Call by MARK SCOLFORO December 1, 2015 8:44 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House said Tuesday budget negotiators were considering whether to apply the state's sales tax to more goods or services in a bid to end a 5-month-old stalemate.  Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, told reporters after an hourslong Republican caucus that budget talks remain fluid.  "There are still some details that need to be worked out with the administration and the Senate, particularly related to education funding and distribution models, that sort of stuff," Reed said.  The House will be in session until a budget package passes, including during the coming weekend, he said.  "We have a lot of tough decisions to make over the next week," Reed said.  There are numerous goods and services that are exempt from the Pennsylvania sales tax, which is 6 percent in most of the state, 7 percent in Allegheny County and 8 percent in Philadelphia.

High-stakes tests are being reconsidered
At every level, policymakers are warming up to advocates’ calls to make the exams less intrusive and more effective.
the notebook By Bill Hangley Jr. on Dec 1, 2015 12:20 PM
School Reform Commissioner Bill Green says the pendulum has probably “swung too far in favor of standardized tests.” But he supports frequent assessments for student data collection.  When it comes to standardized testing, Helen Gym and Bill Green may not exactly be on the same page, but they’ve both been reading the same book.  “It’s like any pendulum – has it swung too far in favor of standardized tests? Probably,” said Green, the reform-minded School Reform Commission member and champion of data-driven decisions.  “We want to be looking at quantitative measures, not just qualitative measures. But we’ve definitely gone too far to the extreme,” said Gym, a self-described populist, who won a City Council seat on a platform of protecting public education.  Gym and Green are just two of a growing number of policymakers and advocates who believe that the time has come to re-assess what schools assess and how they do it.  Even as testing embeds itself ever deeper in school district practices nationwide, growing evidence suggests that high-stakes tests can detract from quality instruction while unfairly punishing underfunded districts and struggling schools. Parents, students, teachers, and local leaders are growing increasingly vocal about their concerns, and decision-makers at every level – local, state and federal – now say they want to find ways to make tests more effective and less intrusive.

Can you solve these 6th-grade math questions?
By the Notebook on Dec 1, 2015 01:45 PM
The following multiple-choice questions are from a selection of sample test items provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the 6th-grade PSSA exam in math. Calculator use is permitted. The exam also includes open-ended questions where students are expected to explain their answers.

Four charter organizations apply to convert three Philly elementary schools
Four charter management organizations have applied to take over operations at three district elementary schools and run them as neighborhood-based charters, the School District of Philadelphia announced Tuesday.  Superintendent William Hite proposed renaissance charter conversion for Cooke, Huey and Wister elementary schools on Oct 1.
Cooke: Responding to a request for qualifications to manage Cooke, located in Logan, the district received one letter of interest, from the Great Oaks Foundation.  Great Oaks – which runs four schools in Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Wilmington, Delaware – makes "high-dosage tutoring" a centerpiece of its model.  In addition to a full-time staff, Great Oaks says it would hire AmeriCorps volunteers to act as full-time tutors, providing them housing and a small stipend.

Four firms apply to take over three struggling Phila. schools
by Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer Updated on DECEMBER 2, 2015 1:08 AM EST
Who wants to run three struggling schools that the Philadelphia School District plans to give away to outside companies?  Four firms - a local charter organization, a West Philadelphia charter school, and two outside companies that run charters elsewhere - raised their hands, submitting proposals to manage city schools, officials announced Tuesday.  Mastery Charter Schools, which runs 13 schools in Philadelphia and five in Camden, wants to manage Wister Elementary in Germantown.  The Great Oaks Foundation, a New York-based company that runs charter schools there as well as in Newark, N.J., Bridgeport, Conn., and Wilmington, wants to take over Cooke Elementary in Logan.  And two outfits will vie to run Huey Elementary in West Philadelphia. One, Global Leadership Academy Charter School, runs a stand-alone charter school in West Philadelphia. The other, SABIS Educational Systems, has its U.S. headquarters in Minnesota and runs 12 charter schools throughout the country. It has roots in Lebanon, and administers public and private schools around the world.

From a newlywed and new homeowner: Don't turn Huey into a charter
An open letter to Superintendent Hite
the notebook letter By Cecily Harwitt on Dec 1, 2015 02:29 PM
Dear Dr. Hite, In my role as statewide campaign director for POWER Interfaith, I’ve sat across the table from you more times than I can count. For the last three years, I’ve been fighting for a full and fair education funding formula at the state level that would help all Philadelphia children get the incredible education that they deserve. I write this letter in that spirit, but in a different capacity – as a newlywed and new homeowner.  After living in and building community in West Philly, my husband and I were thrilled to plant roots here for the long haul. We were excited to be so close to beautiful Malcolm X Park and directly across the street from Huey School. Our neighbors, many of whom went to Huey themselves as children, welcomed us with open arms. We knew that Huey, like many under-resourced Philadelphia schools, was struggling, but we were ready to roll up our sleeves and see what we could do to support the school’s improvement.
But 12 days after we moved in, you made your announcement about turning Huey, along with Cooke and Wister, into Renaissance charter schools. As members of the school community, my husband and I have attended every community meeting your staff has held. Having spent a fair amount of time supporting the District, (he as a veteran teacher in both charter and traditional public schools; I as an education organizer) neither of us was prepared for the disenfranchisement and lack of agency we feel as stakeholders in this process.

"The latest attempt by the republican controlled legislature didn’t even have an “independent” analysis of how much their proposed tax shifting changes would net. What kind of company or household makes a budget plan without knowing if their flow of income would meet the needs of the budget?"
Tame the animal called property taxes - wisely!
Lebanon Daily News Opinion by Mike Sobol11:12 a.m. EST December 1, 2015
Pennsylvania homeowners have a menace called property taxes. Most taxes are based upon one’s ability to pay, but not residential property taxes.  Retired folks, others barely able to afford a home, and renters are all targeted by the ever-consuming animal called property taxes. This animal has no mercy for folks who don’t have the ability to feed him. Some have to choose between feeding the animal or feeding themselves. Others lose their homes! Why do we tolerate this?  The republican legislators desire to eliminate all school property taxes. There are two problems with that proposal. First, how do you ensure that the net amount of money raised by new sales and/or income taxes is sufficient to replace all lost property taxes? Second, what happens in the future when another recession hits the nation decreasing sales, which reduces sales tax and income tax receipts? How’s that loss covered in their plan?

"When the latest proposal in the Pennsylvania Senate would have eliminated school property taxes, (but not County, township, borough property taxes and not school property taxes for bond indebtedness), and replaced them with increased sales and income taxes, it was voted down by one vote from the lieutenant governor on November 23. Reasons cited by legislators who voted against included the loss of control by local school boards over their own budgets, the expansiveness of goods and services that would be subject to sales tax, and the shifting of tax burden from businesses and commercial to individuals since business properties would also benefit from the elimination of school taxes. One point not emphasized is the unprecedented amount of control Harrisburg would have over the entire statewide school system in controlling disbursement of additional funds."
Colliton: Shouldn’t we be done with Pa. budget now?
Daily Local Letter by By Janet Colliton POSTED: 11/30/15, 4:17 PM EST
If you want to know how long Pennsylvania has gone without adopting a State budget you can check the website for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. It clocks the days, hours, minutes and seconds. When last I checked it was 152 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes and 11 seconds.  While Pennsylvania does not often make the list of top ten’s in the country, usually falling somewhere in the middle, we have a distinction here. There are only two states in the U.S. that have not yet adopted their annual budgets – Illinois and Pennsylvania. If we delay much longer Pennsylvania could bear the distinction of being the last of 50 states. A vote is being predicted for this week. We will have to see whether that materializes.
If adopting a budget had no practical significance, this would just be a matter of a long wait but, as with so many other things, there are consequences. Vendors, including but not limited to social service agencies and nonprofits, are not paid meaning that many have needed and will need to borrow to meet expenses including payroll even if the budget is resolved now. Other organizations such as school boards do not know what will be the source or amount of their funding which makes it problematic at best for them to budget. If State governments were like private individuals this would be like deciding not to pay your bills until you figured what account you preferred to use. Obviously private individuals could not make that decision.

PA School Performance Profile scores for 2012, 2013 and 2014; PDE considers 70 to be a passing score
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS: 59.0, 50.0, N/A
Pennsylvania Distance Learning CS: 54.7, 50.9, 49.2
Option for beleaguered cyber charter's students
by Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer Updated on DECEMBER 2, 2015 — 1:08 AM EST
A cyber school based in Allegheny County is offering a special enrollment window for families displaced by the foundering Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter School.  PA Distance Learning, a K-12 cyber with 550 students statewide, said it decided to offer a special start date of Monday for families affected by the Education Plus decision to lay off its staff because of financial problems.  "We were saddened to hear of this happening to a fellow cyber school," Patricia Rossetti, CEO of PA Distance, said in a statement. "Fortunately, we are able to be of assistance to these families, and we immediately wanted to offer them a place to continue their educational journey with minimal interruption."

Online schools are losing support, creating divisions in the national charter school movement
By Patrick O'Donnell, The Cleveland Plain Dealer Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 30, 2015 at 9:23 AM, updated November 30, 2015 at 10:15 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Poor test results at online schools are creating divisions in the charter school community in Ohio and nationally, leading some national leaders to question whether e-schools should even be part of the charter school movement anymore.  At the top of the list is Nina Rees, head of the nation's largest charter school organization, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who is distancing herself from online schools and the damage they are causing to the public perception of charters overall.  After a visit to Ohio earlier this month, Rees said e-schools - schools where kids take all their classes by computer at home, instead of in classrooms - are dragging down the overall performance of charter schools in Ohio and other states.  "If you were to eliminate the (test scores of) online schools, the performance of the state would dramatically improve," Rees said.  And she questioned whether online schools make sense as charters – privately-run public schools that are open to any student that wants to enroll in them. Taking classes online, instead of in classrooms, doesn't work well for all students she said, but public schools have to accept kids that are not a good fit.

How schools would be judged under ‘Every Student Succeeds,’ the new No Child Left Behind
Washington Post By Emma Brown November 30  
Federal lawmakers on Monday released the final text of a compromise bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind, including closely watched language outlining how the nation’s K-12 schools would be judged — and how struggling schools would be improved — if the legislation passes.  The bill, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act, would largely shift authority from the federal government to states and districts, giving local officials far more power to define what it means for a school to be successful and to decide how and when to intervene in schools that persistently fail to live up to expectations.  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.  Specifically, under the Every Student Succeeds Act:

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 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 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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