Monday, December 28, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 28: What if Gates, Waltons, Zuckerbergs spent some fraction of their pet project dollars on early literacy/reading programs?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 28, 2015:
What if Gates, Waltons, Zuckerbergs spent some fraction of their pet project dollars on early literacy/reading programs?

Need to catch up on the Roundup holiday weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 27: PA Legislature left town; Wolf's big decision: sign or veto bill in 6-month impasse

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 24: No Merry XMAS, No Wise Men in Hbgh; House goes home; Senate Recycles #PABudget Vetoed in June

"As the world’s biggest philanthropist, Gates has been at the center of a national debate about whether democracy is well served when private individuals fund pet projects with so much cash that public policy is affected — without real public input."
Bill Gates keeps pushing Common Core, with big money (and a bid to get Charles Koch to like it)
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 27 at 6:23 PM  
You can say this about Bill Gates: When he likes something, he sticks to it (at least for a while, until he decides he doesn’t like it anymore).  Through his exceedingly wealthy foundation, Gates has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create and promote the Common Core State Standards over the years. When the initiative ran into opposition from critics across the political spectrum, Gates remained steadfast. Not only did he continue to pour money into Core implementation and promotion, but, according to anew article in Fortune, he dined with conservative billionaire Charles Koch in February 2014 to try to persuade him to stop funding tea party groups that were fighting the Core. Koch didn’t budge, but Gates has kept up his support, and in 2015, he donated more than $42 million to several dozen organizations to support the Core.

Blogger note: I'm not an educator but it is my understanding that you have a much better chance of passing standardized tests if you can read and that many of our students, especially in high poverty schools, are not reading on grade level.  What if the Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Zuckerberg's, etc. spent some fraction of their pet project dollars on early literacy and reading programs to get books into kids' hands and to facilitate them reading on grade level?
First Book mixes market forces and philanthropy to help poor children
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton December 27 at 6:36 PM  
In a small, two-bedroom apartment in Corona, Calif., Trinity Santos, 5, reads her hardcover copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” again and again. She never tires of the Dr. Seuss classic, sometimes reading it to her 3-year-old brother, Joshua, said their mother, Diane.  Life is a struggle for the Santos family. Diane worked as a waitress before her children were born, and the family of four lives on the $35,000 that her husband earns as a phlebotomist. They don’t have much.  But the children own the four dozen books in a small, homemade bookcase, courtesy of First Book, a nonprofit organization that combines market forces and philanthropy to get new books into the hands of poor children to encourage early reading.  “I didn’t have books at home when I was growing up in the Philippines,” said Diane Santos, 33, who connected with First Book through a local parent-education program she attended shortly after Trinity was born. “I learned the most important thing is reading with them, talking to them, introducing new words.”  First Book, founded in the District in 1992, has grown into a sophisticated national enterprise that gave away more than 15 million new books to low-income children and teens in 2015. 

Merry Christmas (not) from the Pa. General Assembly: A PennLive editorial cartoon
Penn Live by Editorial Cartoons on December 27, 2015 at 9:00 AM

A functional state government, busy polling places in November: These are among our wishes for 2016
Lancaster Online The LNP Editorial Board December 27, 2015
THE ISSUE: When this editorial was filed Thursday — a day early because of the Christmas holiday — the state budget was  177 days overdue. A bipartisan budget deal collapsed when state House Speaker Mike Turzai refused to put it up for a vote. The state Senate’s plan to restructure public pensions also died in the state House. On Wednesday, the Senate sent Gov. Tom Wolf a smaller spending bill — passed earlier by the House — that included only $150 million of the $350 million the governor was seeking for public school funding, and no tax increase. Wolf castigated the Republicans for abandoning the “historic compromise budget” in a statement that gave no indication whether he’d sign the spending bill.  This our greatest wish for the new year: We want to see a state budgeting process that is focused on the needs of Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren, senior citizens and other citizens in need, and not one that is derailed by petty political bickering and partisan dogma.  If our lawmakers want to continue to make  a living as full-time legislators — and we’re seriously beginning to doubt the wisdom of that arrangement — they are going to need to start working for the people of Pennsylvania.  They and the governor need to work for all of us, not for the loudest voices in their political parties, and not for the special interests — unions and gas drillers, for instance — that funded their campaigns.

Mon-Yough area school leaders keep tabs on lawmakers amid Pa. budget impasse
Trib Live By Patrick Cloonan Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, 4:21 a.m.
Area school administrators say they've kept in touch with local state lawmakers throughout a budget impasse of historic proportions in Harrisburg.  Gov. Tom Wolf is mulling over a $30.3 billion budget sent to him Thursday that resembles a budget he vetoed early in the crisis. The stalemate has lasted nearly six months.  A 10-day clock started Thursday when House Speaker Mike Turzai signed off on the proposal the Senate passed a day earlier. Within one week, Wolf must sign or veto the budget, or allow it to become law without his signature.  The Senate adjourned Wednesday, and the House wrapped up work Thursday for the Christmas weekend.  
According to broadcast reports, some lawmakers haven't touched base with public schools back home during the record-setting deadlock.  That hasn't been the case in the Mon-Yough area.

Monroe County school budgets are shot in dark without word on state aid
Without word on state aid, districts must guess
Lynn Ondrusek  Pocono Record Writer  Posted Dec. 26, 2015 at 9:06 PM
For many school district business managers and superintendents, this time of year brings thoughts of next year's budget.  Though it’s tough every year to come up with the numbers, without a state budget and very little news about what could come in 2016, school officials are finding it extra hard come up with preliminary budgets.  Many in the state were waiting for a budget to be passed on Wednesday, but there was disappointment when the state House of Representatives adjourned for the holidays sans budget.  With no state budget and an earlier deadline for a preliminary budget because of the presidential election primary, districts have to have a preliminary budget a month early, said Joe Colozza, business manager at Pocono Mountain School District.  “We will prepare the budget," he said. "We have to be very conservative with the estimates.”

York City school district making strides toward recovery
York Dispatch by Jessica Schladebeck, 505-5438/@JessDispatch3:27 p.m. December 27, 2015
At this time last year, the York City School District was actively fighting to remain a public institution.  Now, as it reviews its progress in a state-mandated recovery plan, student achievement and communication rank high on its list of priorities.
The background: The district at the time had been in recovery status for two years — its fiscal problems had been exacerbated by state budget cuts — and the state Department of Education's leadership under then-Gov. Tom Corbett, had just won a court battle that stripped the school board of it's power and passed it over to local businessman David Meckley, who was serving as the district's state-appointed chief financial recovery officer.  Meckley's plan for the district called for a full conversion to charter schools, but an appeals court overturned the state takeover, and Meckley resigned as chief recovery officer, saying he would be unable to move the district forward because newly elected Gov. Tom Wolf opposed the charter option. Meckley was replaced by Carol Saylor, who was tasked with updating the district's recovery plan.  "When the leadership changed, when the state changed their focus with the district and started looking more at the curriculum as well as our financial state, that's when things started to take hold for us," said school board president Margie Orr.

Blogger note: some of the low-income families receiving diverted tax dollars under these tax credit programs have family incomes in excess of $80K…  In 2013-2014 $100 million was appropriated for EITC/OSTC programs and therefore not available in budget discussions for funding of state mandated public education.

"Gov. Tom Wolf has directed letters to go out to companies notifying them that their application for tax credits for donations to education organizations have been conditionally approved pending the finalization of the 2015-16 state budget. But some fear the timing and uncertainty surrounding the tax credit awards may result in millions of dollars in lost donations."
Education tax credit approvals released. But is it too late?
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 27, 2015 at 2:32 PM, updated December 27, 2015 at 4:13 PM
After nearly six months of waiting, organizations that depend on popular state tax credit programs that give businesses incentive to donate to education programs have received the news they have wanted to hear.  Gov. Tom Wolf late last week directed letters to be sent out to companies notifying them that their applications to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs have been conditionally approved even though the 2015-16 state budget has not yet been finalized.

Rose Tree Media School District makes an exception to the rule
Delco Times by  LESLIE KROWCHENKO POSTED: 12/27/15, 9:50 PM EST
MIDDLETOWN >> An action usually taken in January was moved up a month, as the Rose Tree Media School Board voted unanimously to commit to a tax increase no higher than the district’s Act 1 index of 2.4 percent and not seek exceptions in conjunction with the 2016-2017 budget.  Set by the state, the index determines the maximum increase which can be levied by each school district, unless a higher rate is approved by voters in a referendum or application for exceptions, such as special education or retirement expenditures or grandfathered electoral debt, is made to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The board made a request for the special education exception in conjunction with the 2008-2009 budget, when taxes were raised 4.8 percent.  The 30-day acceleration in the budget calendar is due to next year’s presidential election, as the primary will occur in April rather than May. Therefore, the board is slated to adopt the proposed final budget in April and the final version in May.  “If this carries, it means we will be setting the maximum tax rate for 2016-2017,” said Bill O’Donnell, president and finance committee chair, prior to the vote. “The rate will be at or below 2.4 percent.”

"Last school year, on average, when a teacher in the Philadelphia School District called out, the spot was filled 64 percent of the time.  …Recently, after weeks and months of slow upticks, the rate peaked at 37 percent."
Outsourcing substitute duties burdens Philly teachers and students
The Philadelphia School District took a big risk last summer.  In an attempt to boost the number of substitute teachers willing to come to its schools, it decided to outsource the service to a private firm, Source4Teachers.  Through the first four months of classes, that decision has proved to be extremely unwise – causing an uproar at many schools across the city and calling into question the viability of academic offerings.  In off-the-record conversations, many principals and teachers complained of a disastrous impact on classrooms. A system already fragile from years of resource deficiencies has been further stressed, leaving many students without continuity or stability.

2015 York County education news in review
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com2:28 p.m. EST December 26, 2015
It's time to review what happened in the world of education -- or at least York County's little corner of it -- in 2015.  Maybe the theme for this year is: The more things change, the more they stay the same. In more than one instance, headlines dominating the York County education scene in 2015 were on the list in prior years, too. And I'm willing to bet we'll see them in 2016.

The biggest Philadelphia education stories of 2015
A historic state budget impasse, Source4Teachers, a new mayor, a Notebook founder elected to City Council, and more.
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa December 25, 2015
As usual, the Notebook is on hiatus for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so we have prepared a review of the year in education. The top stories here, in no particular order, are a combination of the most important and the most read on our site.
State budget impasse – For six months, the Republican legislature and the Democratic governor have been unable to agree on a budget for the Commonwealth, forcing school districts across the state to borrow funds and stalling Philadelphia’s hopes for an infusion of funds that would ease some of the hardship in District schools. Breakthroughs were touted and then collapsed – several times. It has now become the longest such standoff in state history. What is going on? Clearly, vast differences in the philosophy of government between the self-described “rookie” Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, and the Republican-dominated General Assembly are at the root of it. Basic disagreements persist on pension reform, liquor privatization, and on whether  and how to raise money to pay for a historic infusion in education aid. Still, four of the five parties – all but the House Republicans – agreed on a “framework” for raising and distributing $350 million in new dollars that would bring $100 million more to Philadelphia. But in that deal, the money would come with conditions that worry even SRC member Bill Green over what it would mean for charter growth and the District’s ability to assure charter quality and accountability. Moreover, while the funds would be greeted with relief, they would not make up for what has been cut from the District since 2011. Stay tuned on this one.

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.

Save the Dates for These 2016 Annual EPLC Regional State Budget Education Policy Forums
Sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Thursday, February 11 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Harrisburg
Wednesday, February 17 - 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. - Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania)
Thursday, February 25 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Pittsburgh
Invitation and more details in January

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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