Thursday, December 31, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 31: Treasury: 16,400 delayed payments to school districts; how much money will individual districts get?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 31, 2015:
Treasury: 16,400 delayed payments to school districts; how much money will individual districts get?

Community schools promising, but take effort Opinion By Kate Shaw & Della Jenkins Updated: DECEMBER 30, 2015 3:01 AM EST
Kate Shaw ( is the executive director and Della Jenkins ( is a policy analyst at Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based education research organization (
Community schools are receiving increased attention in Philadelphia, at the state level, and across the country as policymakers and practitioners strive to address the effects of poverty on academic performance and provide more comprehensive supports for traditionally underserved populations.  Earlier this month, the long-awaited reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), maintained the three largest federal funding streams available to support extended day services or implementation of a community school model. And for the first time, ESSA explicitly encouraged low-income districts to use Title I funds for integrated student supports and enhanced community partnerships.  
In Philadelphia, Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has called for the creation of 25 community schools over the next four years and has tapped South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis Hackney to oversee the effort as his chief education officer. Hackney cultivated many aspects of the community school model at South Philadelphia, including partnering with nonprofits and community groups to expand services for students and their families.

Blogger note: Pennsylvania's pending school code bill contains "Opportunity Schools" state takeover provisions modeled after the Tennessee Achievement District
Tennessee's State-Run Achievement District Runs Into Political Trouble
Education Week State Ed Watch By Daarel Burnette II on December 29, 2015 5:30 PM
Tennessee's state-run Achievement School District, which takes over low-performing schools and either runs them directly or hands them over to charter organizations, has run into partisan political trouble.  Several Democratic state lawmakers said Monday they will propose bills this upcoming legislative session to either shut down the turnaround district, which mostly is based in Memphis, or severely limit its authority to take over schools. Citing a recent Vanderbilt University study, the politicians said district-led turnaround efforts in ChattanoogaMemphis, and Nashville have academically outpaced the state's and that until the state-run district can begin to show academic progress, it shouldn't be allowed to take over more schools.  "The ASD should go back to its original goal and refocus on intense intervention at a small number of schools," state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, chairwoman of the Black Caucus of State Legislators said during a press conference Monday.

Statement of Education Voters: Comment on proposed School Code language
Posted on December 14, 2015 by EDVOPA

"The first thing they need to do is get off social media and get into a room and talk," said Barbara Foxman, vice president of the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators.  Pennsylvania's leaders are great at yelling into their own echo chambers and having staring contests, but none of that will resolve the outstanding issues in the ongoing budget crisis, mediators agreed."
Wolf vs. Republicans: Who are the real adults in the room?
Penn Live By Candy Woodall | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 31, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated December 31, 2015 at 7:06 AM
If the Democrats and Republicans have anything in common right now, it's that they all think they are the adults in the room.  And they have the Twitter posts to prove it.  Here are two recent tweets from the governor's spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, and the House GOP spokesman, Steve Miskin.:

"To get money to schools as quickly as possible once funding was released, Mr. Sheridan said, the administration several months ago “pre-loaded” payments for districts based on last year’s allocations but that a “reconciliation payment” will follow.  Normally, the main budget bill is accompanied by legislation with instructions on how to spend money that lawmakers have authorized. But a bill that would spell out the distribution of school funding for the current year has not reached the governor’s desk."
Amount of school funding uncertain
State to deliver $3.3B next week
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 31, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — The day after Gov. Tom Wolf signed a portion of the year’s education funding into law, a critical question remained: How much money will individual school districts get?  On Wednesday, the governor’s office said that question hasn’t been answered.  “With regard to school funding, we are working to get that money out the door as fast as possible,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, spokesman for Mr. Wolf. “How the money is being distributed has not been finalized.”  The Pennsylvania Treasury announced it had received requests from the governor’s budget office for about 16,400 delayed payments to school districts, counties and human service organizations, and that it expects the nearly $3.3 billion to be delivered by the middle of next week.

Pa. Treasury to school districts, others: The check will soon be in the mail
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 30, 2015 at 9:35 AM
Following Gov. Tom Wolf's signing of a $23.4 billion emergency funding plan on Tuesday, Treasury began the work of processing approximately 16,400 payment requests from the governor's budget office. With Treasury employees working through the upcoming holiday weekend, department officials expect to clear the entire impasse-related payment backlog within two weeks. 

'It's a relief': Pennsylvania's budget impasse victims soundoff on line-item veto decision
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 30, 2015 at 2:12 PM, updated December 30, 2015 at 2:17 PM
A mix of relief, frustration and cautiousness is being felt by Pennsylvania's school districts, human service providers and nonprofit organizations now that there's a partial state budget in place.  On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf line-item vetoed a Republican-crafted budget in order to provide emergency funding to school districts and organizations. The line-item veto allows the Democratic governor free up billions for struggling organizations while still continue negotiations with Republicans.  The six-month budget impasse has taken a toll on entities that serve adults, children, families, seniors and those in need throughout Pennsylvania.

Court OKs Corbett line-item veto
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 30, 2015 11:14 PM
A five-judge panel of the state Commonwealth Court ruled Wednesday that former Gov. Tom Corbett had the authority to line-item veto elements of the 2014 fiscal code providing funding to the state Senate.  Members of Senate leadership filed a petition against the governor in November 2014, challenging his ability to cut funding for items such as Senate salaries, wages and personnel expenses, including lodging, meals and incidentals while away on business, as well as $2.5 million from the department of general services for rental, relocation and municipal charges to the House.  In the petition, the senators claimed that the vetoes were improper and that because the House session had been adjourned the day before the veto and because Mr. Corbett did not give public notice of his actions, that they were invalid. Further, they argued that the governor was not constitutionally permitted to disapprove select portions of the fiscal code because it is not a general appropriation bill, and that he must either have approved or disapproved it in its entirety.  But Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, in ruling on the governor’s preliminary objections and Senate motion for summary judgment, disagreed.

York Dispatch OPED We owe it to our kids
York Dispatch OPED by Frances Wolf, first lady of Pennsylvania EST December 30, 2015
Last week my husband received a budget from the state Legislature that falls woefully short of the commitment we have to properly fund our public schools. It fails the people of Pennsylvania, but most importantly, it fails the children of Pennsylvania.  I visited schools across the commonwealth earlier this year. I met with teachers and administrators, and talked with students in the classroom - and saw the same thing in every single school I visited: motivated students and dedicated teachers who simply don't have the resources they need to succeed.  As I have said, Tom and I take education very seriously. As parents of children who were raised in Pennsylvania public schools, this is an issue that hits home for us. We have seen firsthand what it takes to deliver a quality public education to our children.  That is why my husband used his executive authority to veto parts of the budget that was sent to his desk. He took this action to ensure a more responsible budget, while also taking the steps needed to send our schools the emergency funding owed to them through December 31.

"There has been one constant throughout the six-month stalemate: Republican legislators' insistence on retaining Pennsylvania's status as the only major shale-gas production state that doesn't impose a severance tax. Legislators claim they are holding the line on taxes, but their real concern is protecting the gas industry, which has been pumping cash into their campaign funds."
Inky Editorial: Toying with state budget
by Inquirer Editorial Board. Updated: DECEMBER 30, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
At least Gov. Wolf is acting like an adult. The same cannot be said of Republican legislators who passed the "garbage" budget that includes expenditures that Wolf says he will selectively veto. The governor plans to leave intact funding for schools and charities, which have suffered the most during the six-month budget impasse.  Wolf's words dripped with anger Tuesday as he discussed the budget stalemate, but he remained dignified in rejecting the "pretend" budget dumped on his desk by the Republican-led legislature last week.  Wolf plans to cut administrative spending by the legislature, but that tactic, employed by previous governors to force compromise, doesn't always work. Former Gov. Tom Corbett sliced the $5 million budgeted for lawmakers to park their taxpayer-financed cars in Harrisburg. That stung but didn't move indolent legislators.

Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: DECEMBER 30, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
TO BEGIN WITH, the budget the Republican Legislature passed last week and left on the governor's desk was as phony as a three-dollar bill.  The $30.3 billion budget pretended to be balanced, but it was not. It exceeded available revenue by $300 million.  It pretended to fund all vital state services, but it did not. The Legislature sort of forgot to include $550 million in state support for Temple, Pitt and Penn State.  The budget pretended to increase state funding for education, but it did not. It added more money to the basic education subsidy, while taking away a $304 million item to help school district's pay construction and repair bills. The net result is that the state's districts would get a cut in state aid.  It's no wonder Gov. Wolf, in vetoing a big chunk of the budget bill, called it "garbage."

Wolf's budget math adds up to one thing - higher taxes: Dennis Roddy
PennLive Op-Ed  By Dennis Roddy on December 30, 2015 at 11:44 AM
Dennis Roddy, a frequent PennLive Opinion contributor, is a Republican consultant from Pittsburgh. His firm's clients include state House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.
Employing such calming terms as "garbage" and "exercise in stupidity,"  Angry Babylonian Revenge God Tom Wolf laid a line item veto onto the second state budget sent to his desk in the space of six months.  In a press conference that verged on phantasmagoria, the governor demanded that the Legislature return and send him a "real" budget. Allow me to decode this: By a real budget, he means one that requires tax increases.  Let's do a little rustic math:

Five tweets that explain Gov. Tom Wolf's #PABudget line-item veto: Wednesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 30, 2015 at 8:30 AM, updated December 30, 2015 at 8:32 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
If you're just tuning in, or, alternately, were trapped under something heavy and unable to reach your Internet-Delivery Machine, Gov. Tom Wolf has run his line-item veto pen across a Republican-authored budget.  To sum up, it is a move that simultaneously releases emergency funding for school districts and nonprofits, but also prolongs Pennsylvania's already hyperextended budget drama.  Thus, much like rooting for any team from Philadelphia, the news is a mixture of muted joy and profound agony.

"Federal prosecutors allege that Trombetta created a series of connected entities to siphon taxpayer funds out of PA Cyber and to avoid federal income tax liabilities on at least $8 million."
Wheels of justice move slowly in Trombetta trial
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose December 31, 2015
They say the wheels of justice turn slowly, and the ongoing federal criminal case against Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta is a good example.  Trombetta, also PA Cyber’s former chief executive officer, was indicted in 2013. A trial date has yet to be set. However, a pretrial hearing is scheduled for January, and two significant rulings in his case were made in 2015, although they were based on hearings held in 2014.  Trombetta, an Aliquippa native and East Liverpool, Ohio, resident, faces 11 charges, including mail fraud, theft concerning a program receiving federal funds, tax conspiracy and filing a false tax return.  Federal prosecutors allege that Trombetta created a series of connected entities to siphon taxpayer funds out of PA Cyber and to avoid federal income tax liabilities on at least $8 million. Two of those entities were the Rochester-based National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS), now known as Lincoln Learning Solutions, and Avanti Management Group in Koppel.

Ghosts in the House: Lawmakers who are absent shouldn’t get to vote
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board December 31, 2015 12:00 AM
arrisburg lawmakers, who drew the ire of citizens with their obstructionism over a state budget, topped their fractious actions by allowing one of the oldest forms of political trickery — ghost voting.  When the state Republican-led House convened on Dec. 22, a stopgap budget was ready for action. There wasn’t enough support for it, though, so a vote was called instead to scrap that plan and go with a Senate-adopted, $30.78 billion version.  That was the deal worked out by Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican and Democratic leaders from both chambers. In order for that measure to advance toward a final vote, it needed to pass by a simple majority of members in attendance. And it looked as if it had, by the slimmest of margins, 100-99.  Except that three of those Yes votes came from members who were not on the House floor at the time — Republican John Maher of Upper St. Clair and Democrats Peter J. Daley of California, Pa., and Leslie Acosta of Philadelphia.

"Following is a letter Tillerson wrote in 2013 to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), showing exactly how the business leader went about pushing for the Core. He reminds Corbett of the “significant operations” ExxonMobil has in Pennsylvania. The letter was also sent to the leaders of the state legislature, as well as to all members of the legislature’s committees."
A letter that shows how big business pushed Common Core in PA
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 30 at 2:39 PM  
In recent days, education activists have become incensed with Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chief executive, for remarks he made about public schools that were part of a story about the Common Core State Standards in Fortune magazine.  The article, titled “Business Gets Schooled” and written by Peter Elkind, describes how involved some leaders of big business entities were in promoting the Core standards in recent standards. It has long been known that Microsoft founder Bill Gates funded the creation and promotion of the Core through his foundation, but the extent of involvement by some other business leaders was not as well known.

Top Philly donor moves on from Anthony Rand Paul
Philly Daily News Attytood Blog by Will Bunch Updated: DECEMBER 30, 2015 — 8:54 AM EST
You'd think that Bala Cynwyd-based equity options trader Jeff Yass might want to sit out the rest of 2015 when it comes to campaign contributions. After all, it was just this spring that the Montgomery County billionaire -- along with two of his partners in the Susquehanna International Group, Arthur Dantchik and Joel Greenberg -- invested $7 million or so in a political action committee to make state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams the next mayor of Philadelphia. Instead, Williams and his libertarian-approved brand of charter-school boosterism were soundly rejected by voters in a landslide Democratic primary win for the now-mayor-elect, Jim Kenney.  But Yass, a limited-government zealot who sits on the board of the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, jumped right back on the horse of big-money politics -- only to ride an even bigger longshot, the Kentucky GOP senator Rand Paul, who trails badly in the latest primary polls. Today, a bombshell New York Timesexpose on billionaires and their tax breaks suggests that Yass may be particularly enthusiastic these days about a certain kind of limited government -- getting the IRS off the back of a Susquehanna subsidiary.  Here's the relevant excerpt:

NYT Editorial: The Counterfeit High School Diploma
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD DEC. 31, 2015
Teachers unions and other critics of federally required standardized tests have behaved in recent years as though killing the testing mandate would magically remedy everything that ails education in the United States. In reality, getting rid of the testing requirement in the early grades would make it impossible for the country to know what if anything children were learning from year to year.  Congress understood this fundamental point, and kept the testing requirement, when it reauthorized the No Child Left Behind Act — now called the Every Student Succeeds Act — last month. But lawmakers ducked the most important problem: the fact that most states still have weak curriculums and graduation requirements that make high school diplomas useless and that leave graduates unprepared for college, the job market or even meeting entry requirements for the Army.

Can Schools Be Fixed?
Experts on K-12 education offer their reasons for optimism and pessimism going forward.
It’s been a tumultuous year for America’s schools—one marked by an expanding minority-student population, an increasingly discontent teaching force, a backlash against standardized testing, and shifting understanding of education reform. It’s seen greater attention on areas traditionally dismissed as nonessential: things like early-childhood education, after-school programs, and project-based learning. It’s also seen evolving attitudes toward discipline, with tactics such as restorative justice starting to replace zero-tolerance approaches, including in high-poverty urban districts. Debates over how to address disparities in achievement have been highly politicized. The ed-tech market has continued to grow.  Education is often touted as a means for boosting social mobility and making communities more equal, but inequality in school funding and resources has made that difficult to achieve, especially amid increasing poverty rates. Segregation in districts, both tacit and explicit, is holding scores of children back, and performance on math and reading assessments has remained relatively stagnant. President Obama has just signed into law an act that will replace the widely despised No Child Left Behind, but whether it’ll succeed in its goals—boosting the attainment of disadvantaged students, reducing the amount of testing taking place in schools, promoting classroom innovation, and so on—is far from guaranteed.  We reached out to some of the leading scholars of, experts on, and advocates for K-12 education, and asked them what, as the year comes to an end, is giving them cause for hope and despair. Below are their answers, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 12-30-15

Best of the Beat: Reporters’ Favorite Stories of 2015
Education Writers Association DECEMBER 30, 2015 EMILY RICHMOND
As the Washington Post rightly pointed out, working during the holiday weeks can feel like being stranded in a dead zone. I did manage to conduct a (highly unscientific!) survey of EWA’s journalist members and ask them to name a few of their favorite stories by their peers in the past year. I’m as reluctant as anyone to post obligatory Top 10 lists (I like things that go to 11). So this time I’m going to limit myself to a relatively small handful:

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

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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