Thursday, December 3, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 3: House Restores Local Education Control in Revising NCLB

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 3, 2015:
House Restores Local Education Control in Revising NCLB

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

House Restores Local Education Control in Revising No Child Left Behind
WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday approved a sweeping bill to revise the contentious No Child Left Behind law, representing the end of an era in which the federal government aggressively policed public school performance, and returning control to states and local districts.  No Child Left Behind, which had strong bipartisan backing when it passed in 2001, was the signature education initiative of George W. Bush, who said the failure of public schools to teach poor students and minorities reflected the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  That law ushered in high-stakes testing to measure student progress in reading and math between the third and eighth grades. Schools were required to make every child in the nation proficient in those subjects by 2014, as measured by standardized tests. Schools that failed to hit targets along the way were subject to federally required sanctions, ranging from tutoring to school closing in the worst cases. Over time, the law became anathema to both the right and the left, and it became clear that the sanctions as well as the goal of proficiency by 2014 were unworkable.  The overhaul passed by the House on Wednesday, 359 to 64, jettisons No Child’s prescribed goals and punishments, and allows states and school districts to set their own goals and to decide how to rate schools and what to do with those that underperform.

"The bill, S.1177, would dispense with No Child Left Behind’s requirement that schools move towards having all students reading on grade level or face consequences, but still oblige states to establish ways to identify failing schools and improve them. It would keep standardized testing requirements, but encourage states to pare the number of tests students must take. Test results would be reported for groups that often lag behind, such as minority or disabled students.  And the bill would prevent the education secretary from pushing national standards like the Common Core — a set of reading and math standards spread in part through Obama administration incentives."
House passes No Child Left Behind rewrite
Politico By MAGGIE SEVERNS 12/02/15 07:27 PM EST Updated 12/02/15 08:13 PM EST
After eight years of failed efforts, the House of Representatives voted 359-64 to replace the widely loathed No Child Left Behind Act, setting up a Senate vote as soon as next week, and a new law likely by year’s end.  The compromise to rewrite the central law governing American education attempts to strike a balance between Democrats’ desire to protect poor and minority students from neglect in failing schools, and Republicans’ goal of returning more control over public education to states and local school districts.

House votes to rewrite ‘No Child Left Behind’
Post Gazette By Jennifer C. Kerr / Associated Press December 2, 2015 11:17 PM
WASHINGTON — After years of failed efforts, the House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to sharply scale back the federal role in American education. But the bill would retain the testing requirement in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law that many parents, teachers and school districts abhor.  The legislation, approved 359-64, would return to the states the decision-making power over how to use students’ test performance in assessing teachers and schools. The measure also would end federal efforts to encourage academic standards such as Common Core.  Still, states would be required to intervene in the nation’s lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, in high school “dropout factories” and in schools with persistent achievement gaps — something Democrats insisted must be part of any education overhaul.  The 1,000-plus page measure was a compromise reached by House and Senate negotiators. The Senate is to vote on it early next week, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

ESEA Reauthorization Coasts Through House; Next Stop: U.S. Senate
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 2, 2015 7:15 PM
Almost 14 years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a huge, bipartisan margin to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, which put the federal government front and center when it came to how K-12 schools measured student performance and fixed struggling schools.  But on Wednesday, the House almost as overwhelmingly approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, 359 to 64. The bill would scale back the federal role in education for the first time since the early 1980s, handing greater control over accountability and school improvement back to states. It also would keep in place the NCLB law's signature transparency requirements—including annual testing—and focus on helping traditonally overlooked groups of students and flailing schools.   ESSA's political prospects appear rosy from here on out. A similar piece of legislation passed with big bipartisan support in the Senate earlier this year, and the bill is expected to sail through that chamber in coming days. And the White House has said it strongly supports the bill. 

U.S. House of Representatives Roll Call Votes December 2, 2015
(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)
S 1177      YEA-AND-NAY      2-Dec-2015      7:18 PM
QUESTION:  On Agreeing to the Conference Report
BILL TITLE: To reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that every child achieves

NSBA Hails House for Passing Bipartisan Agreement to Restore Local Governance in Public Education
NSBA Press Release December 2, 2015
Alexandria, Va. (December 2, 2015) – The National School Boards Association (NSBA) applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a bipartisan, bicameral bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (S.1177). During this reauthorization process, NSBA has worked closely with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to advocate for a modernized education law that affirms the importance of local governance, protects federal investments in Title I grants for disadvantaged students, and prevents the diversion of public tax dollars for private use.  "Today’s passage of S.1177 by the House of Representatives is good news for our nation’s 90,000 local school board members, and an historic step toward reversing years of undue burden under the No Child Left Behind Act and restoring responsibility for school accountability and academic standards back to states and local school districts,” stated Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association.

Why FairTest Supports ESSA
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 2, 2015 //
FairTest has been the staunchest, most persistent critic of standardized testing for decades. Monty Neill explains here why FairTest supports ESSA, with full recognition of its faults.
He writes:  “From an assessment reform perspective, FairTest is convinced that the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) now before the House and Senate, though far from perfect, improves on current testing policy. The bill significantly reduces federal accountability mandates and opens the door for states to overhaul their own assessment systems.  “Failure to pass this bill in 2015 means NCLB and waivers will continue to wreak havoc for at least another several years.  “The primary improvement would be in “accountability.” The unrealistic “Adequate Yearly Progress” annual test score gain requirement would be gone, as would be all the federally mandated punitive sanctions imposed on schools and teachers. States will be free to end much of the damage to educational quality and equity they built into their systems to comply with NCLB and waivers. Waivers to NCLB would end as of Aug. 1, 2016. (Other provisions of the bill would take effect over the coming summer and fall.)

ESEA Reauthorization and Accountability: A Chance to Do It Right
Education Week Opinion By Marc Tucker on December 3, 2015 6:20 AM
Congress has contracted a rare case of bipartisanship in recent weeks and it now appears that the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is imminent. In last week's blog, I argued that states should take advantage of the new flexibility that the compromise legislation promises and give real power to their academic standards and create performance-based high school diplomas that certify that the holder of that diploma is truly college and career ready.  In this week's blog, I'll take a look at how the accountability system would work if we had a standards system of the sort I described last week in place.  First, the examination score profile of every school would be made public and would be broken out for minority, low-income, ELL and disabled students, although the scores of individual students would not be published, nor would the performance of teachers be publicly rated based on the scores of their students. 

WaPo Editorial: Rewriting No Child Left Behind
Washington Post By Editorial Board December 2 at 10:05 PM 
THE BIPARTISAN bill crafted by House and Senate lawmakers to replace No Child Left Behind leaves it to the states to decide what to do about failing schools. The argument for shifting authority from the federal government is that the states are better positioned to take action and have the most at stake. That would be more persuasive if not for the fact that before the strict accountability of No Child Left Behind, states generally did little to nothing to fix schools that badly served poor and minority children.  Let’s hope supporters of the new legislation, which won passage in the House on Wednesday, are right that new safeguards will prevent a repeat of those dismal years when students who could afford it least paid the price for weak education policies.  The Every Student Succeeds Act that emerged from conference between the two chambers is likely to win Senate approval and be signed into law by President Obama. A rewrite of No Child Left Behind — a landmark achievement of Republican President George W. Bush — was long overdue, and there is a lot to admire in the new bill and in how Democrats and Republicans collaborated — notably Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) andPatty Murray (D-Wash.), the leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"It's important to have that state-funding information because school boards are swearing in new board members and electing new officers over the next several days. Then they have to start working on their district's 2016-2017 budget on a schedule set out by Pennsylvania's property tax relief law known as Act 1, officials said.  The boards have to decide by Jan. 7 if they want to adopt a resolution promising to not raise property taxes next school year above their respective district's index rate. "
State budget impasse leaves lots of questions unanswered for 2016-2017 school budgets
Bucks County Courier Times by Joan Hellyer, staff writer Posted: December 2, 2015 6:45 am
The ongoing state budget impasse is throwing school boards across the state for a curve not just for this school year, but for next year too, officials said.  Districts still do not know how much money they will get from the state for the 2015-2016 school year once a budget is adopted. They need those figures to get an idea on how much they can estimate they will get from Harrisburg for 2016-2017.  "There are a lot of balls in the air right now," North Penn Superintendent Curtis Dietrich said Tuesday. "It is a challenge."

Pennsylvania lawmakers to work weekend in budget stalemate
Lehigh Valley Live By Associated Press Follow on Twitter on December 02, 2015 at 9:29 PM, updated December 02, 2015 at 9:30 PM
Both the Pennsylvania House and Senate are planning to hold voting session days through the weekend as lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf's administration battle behind closed doors over a 5-months-late package of budget legislation.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman told rank-and-file senators Wednesday night that voting sessions are scheduled every day Friday through Wednesday.  Some state legislators say they'll skip the annual Pa. Society event at the Waldorf Astoria if there is no budget agreement by then.  The prolonged budget impasse has forced school districts, counties and social and human services organizations to shutter services, lay off employees, put off bills or go into debt to survive.

Pennsylvania budget planners say end in sight
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
HARRISBURG — In the sixth month of a state budget stalemate, lawmakers may make a final push this weekend to agree on the details of historic education funding, expanding the sales tax base, reforming public pensions and making wine and liquor more readily available.  The plan to increase state spending by 6 percent is far from finalized. There's a “framework” of an agreement, but questions remain on the tax increase. Some Republicans question the robustness of liquor and pension proposals.  Several session days are scheduled next week.

Budget framework’s lack of detail leaves more questions than answers
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, December 2, 2015
It is likely to be into the middle of next week before a final budget is finally wrapped up, House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) told The PLS Reporter Wednesday.  “I believe it’s a six day process,” he said of what it takes to get a budget done. “If today was the first day, you would probably have to add at least five more days to the finish line.”  He said Wednesday could be the first day, “but we’re not sure.”  When asked if it would at least take until early or mid-week next week to get a budget done, Rep. Adolph responded, “absolutely.”

Budget impasse forces 15 pre-K programs to close
Penn Live By The Associated Press on December 02, 2015 at 1:35 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — With budget talks dragging on in the Pennsylvania capitol, more early childhood centers certified under Pennsylvania's state-subsidized pre-kindergarten program are closing without state aid.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education said Wednesday that 15 Pre-K Counts programs have closed. It says 538 children were enrolled in the programs.  This year's prolonged budget impasse has entered its sixth month, forcing school districts, counties and social and human services organizations to shutter services, lay off employees, put off bills or go into debt to survive.

Kenney adds four more to team, including director of citywide pre-K effort
Philadelphia Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has appointed four more people to his staff, including a woman he calls "the bomb thrower" to direct his universal pre-K plan.  Anne Gemmell promises she's never thrown any real bombs, but every time she visited Jim Kenney's office when he was a City Councilman at-large he would ask her, "What do you want now?"  "It's just a reference to relentless advocacy," Gemmell said with a laugh  Over the last 10 years, Gemmell has gained a reputation as a community activist. She was involved in the local Occupy movement as political director for the group Fight for Philly. Since 2014, Gemmell has worked as a lead organizer with Pre-K for PA. The campaign, organized by the Public Citizens for Children and Youth, is pushing for preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state.   Now, Gemmell will oversee that effort in Philadelphia -- a campaign promise that comes with a $60 million price tag. In fact, at a press conference announcing her appointment Wednesday, Kenney said it was because of Gemmell that he made that promise. 

Op-Ed: Why We Need 300 Different Plans for Philly’s Schools
Every school is different. It’s time we started treating them that way.
Citified Opinion BY SUSAN GOBRESKI  |  DECEMBER 2, 2015 AT 11:26 AM
 (Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from Susan Gobreski, a member of Mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s transition team. She serves on his education committee.)
Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It is a perfect way to understand schools, too. Successful ones are alike in key ways. Children are learning, there is a supportive community, and parents and teachers are happy.
But each struggling school is not succeeding in its own individual way. They have specific children with individual needs. Even schools that appear to be alike may be quite different.
Consider two schools in the same city, each with an 85 percent of their students in poverty and 20 percent of them English language learners. One might have an especially high number of special-education students with mild needs, and English language learners from four different native languages. Plus, they may have an experienced special education staff, a local grocery store, a strong neighborhood organization, an old building and a recent neighborhood outbreak of shootings. The other might have a low special education rate but higher-needs students, English language learners from just one native language, a high asthma rate, high absenteeism, limited health resources in the community, a couple of strong math teachers and a new principal.
The challenges are very different, as are the interventions, strategies, tools and resources needed to make improvements at each school.

Education Plus Cyber Charter votes to disband, affecting 540 students
by Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer. Updated on DECEMBER 3, 2015 — 1:08 AM EST
One week after Education Plus Academy Cyber School laid off its entire staff, the board voted late Wednesday afternoon to cease operations Friday and surrender its charter.  "We, the board and the management of Education Plus - we just want to tell you that we tried . . . we tried hard," Richard Binswanger, board chairman, told angry parents and staff at the special meeting. The closing affects 540 K-8 students.  Last week, the cyber closed its six learning centers across the state and laid off staff amid questions about the school's ability to continue to operate. Wednesday's special meeting was called to decide the fate of Education Plus.  Officials said the cyber's financial woes stemmed from the lack of a state budget but reached a crisis last week when the school's bank pulled its line of credit and froze its accounts.  Binswanger said that because of the budget impasse, school districts had not paid the money they owed for their students who were enrolled at Education Plus.
"The only district that paid us was Philadelphia," he said.

"Founded in 2010, the Philadelphia School Partnership set a goal of raising $100 million to ensure more city students have access to high-quality schools. The Great Schools Fund aims to add 35,000 seats in successful public, charter, and Catholic schools by 2016-17.  Its funding comes from a variety of sources, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation."
5 new charter schools to get $10.5M in Philadelphia School Partnership grants
by Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer. Updated on DECEMBER 3, 2015 — 1:08 AM EST
The Philadelphia School Partnership announced Wednesday that it was awarding nearly $10.5 million to help charter school operators open five schools in the fall and expand them later.  The School Reform Commission approved the schools earlier this year. The operators that received the grants currently have other high-achieving schools in the city.  "These schools have helped to narrow achievement gaps for thousands of students in Philadelphia," said Jessica Peña, director of the partnership's Great Schools Fund, which made the awards.  "We are pleased to support their expansion and provide educational opportunity for nearly 4,000 additional students and their families," she said in a statement.
The fund made the following grant awards:

PSP makes $10.5 million grant to five new charter schools
The Philadelphia School Partnership will provide $10.5 million in startup grants to five new charter schools approved to open for the 2016-17 year.  PSP will provide $3.3 million to Mastery Charter Schools to open Gillespie, a K-6 campus in North Philadelphia which plans eventually to enroll 588 students – giving admissions preference to students living in the Simon Gratz catchment.  Students at Gillespie would naturally matriculate into Gratz, a grades 7-12 renaissance school run by Mastery.  Mastery says it now intends to postpone Gillespie's opening until 2017-18. The charter is also pursuing operations of Germantown's Wister Elementary through the renaissance process.  KIPP will receive $1.6 million to boost its opening of a new West Philadelphia elementary serving 375 students, offering a channel to an existing West Philly KIPP middle school.

PAC shielded $2.3 million in donations by L.A. charter school backers
Nearly $2.3 million from wealthy charter school advocates fueled the nation’s most expensive school board elections in Los Angeles last spring, but those donors and their contributions were never disclosed to voters until months after the election, a review of records shows.  The contributions -- from philanthropist Eli Broad, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others -- were made to California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, a political action committee in Sacramento, before the May 19 election. That group then forwarded those funds to a local committee, which poured the money into the campaigns of pro-charter-school candidates.

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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