Saturday, October 31, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 31: School Funding Lawsuit: Why Tuesday’s PA Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3785 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 31, 2015:
School Funding Lawsuit: Why Tuesday’s PA Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial

The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution



Job Announcement – Publisher, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Application deadline is now November 7th
Founded in 1994, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news organization serving thousands of readers who strive for quality and equality in Philadelphia’s public education system. A pioneering resource and voice for the parents, students, teachers, and other members of the community, the Notebook is Philadelphia’s go-to source for news, information, and conversation about its public schools. With six annual print editions and a website updated daily with news and commentary, the Notebook is among the few resources of its kind in the U.S.



"A year ago, an education funding lawsuit was filed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on behalf of an array of plaintiffs. The suit asked for a court-order forcing the General Assembly to ensure access to high quality education.  But in April, a unanimous Commonwealth Court panel dismissed the suit, saying, in essence, this isn't the court's problem to fix. The plaintiffs appealed, and now the suit is before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Justices elected next week could well determine the fate of that lawsuit."
6 Reasons Why Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial
The stakes? School funding. Gun control. Redistricting. And so much more.
PhillyMag Citified BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  OCTOBER 30, 2015 AT 1:23 PM
Pennsylvania voters get a blessed opportunity to start cleaning up the state’s train wreck of a Supreme Court on Tuesday, when they’ll fill three of seven seats on the high court. This is a huge election, one that could have far-reaching consequences for everything from school funding, to gun control to the political balance of power in Harrisburg.  Theoretically, judges are not partisan actors. But in the real world, a judge’s party affiliation often telegraphs how they’ll rule on a wide array of politically-charged issues. That’s even more true in a state, like Pennsylvania, that elects its judges.  Right now, the court is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, with two empty seats. One of the sitting Republicans leaves the bench in January. It's not an exaggeration to say the political balance of the court could be decided for a decade or more, depending on who turns out Tuesday. Justices are elected to 10-year terms, and re-election is easy. The judges chosen for the high court Tuesday will likely be with us for a very long time.

Education Voters Action Fund of PA Supreme Court Endorsements
Education Voters Action Fund of PA October 30, 2015
On Tuesday, November 3rd it is incredibly important that you vote –and your vote will matter. On November 3rd, PA voters will choose 3 new Supreme Court Justices. These justices will be seated when the school funding lawsuit goes before the Supreme Court in 2016 and, as you know, this lawsuit could play a pivotal role in providing sufficient and equitable funding to Pennsylvania students. In addition, the judges elected will all likely play an important role in redistricting and any questions of voter access (i.e. voter ID cases and the like).
Education Voters Action Fund is endorsing Christine DonohueKevin M. Dougherty and,David N. Wecht. All three candidates are qualified and recommended by the PA Bar Association.

"Members of the coalition include the school districts of Lancaster, William Penn, Panther Valley, Greater Johnstown Area and Shenandoah Valley, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the state conference of the NAACP."
Battle over fairness of state education funding heads to Supreme Court
Penn Live By Matt Miller | mmiller@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 20, 2015 at 2:55 PM, updated May 20, 2015 at 2:56 PM
A coalition of parents, school districts and public interest groups filed an appeal Wednesday with Pennsylvania's Supreme Court challenging the Commonwealth Court's dismissal of its lawsuit over state education funding.  Commonwealth Court dismissed the suit against the state Education Department last month after concluding that funding for public education is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts.  The coalition is seeking a revamp of Pennsylvania's education funding system, claiming the Legislature is violating the state constitution by financing public schools through an inequitable formula. The current system creates an imbalance of financing between poor and wealthy districts and jeopardizes the civil rights of disadvantaged students, the alliance contends.

School funding lawsuit headed to the Pa. Supreme Court
BY SOLOMON LEACH, Daily News Staff Writer leachs@phillynews.com, 215-854-5903
POSTED: May 22, 2015
A LAWSUIT ACCUSING the state of failing to adequately and equitably fund education is headed to the state Supreme Court.  The plaintiffs, which include six school districts and two statewide organizations, filed an appeal yesterday challenging a Commonwealth Court decision last month to dismiss the suit, claiming that school funding is a function of the Legislature, and therefore not a matter for the courts.  "Our Supreme Court bears the responsibility for ensuring that our most precious constitutional rights are protected. We hope that the high court will agree that this responsibility includes public education, the most important issue facing our commonwealth," Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, one of the groups representing the districts, said in a statement.

The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution
Parents, School Districts Ask PA Supreme Court to Hear School Funding Lawsuit, 9/18/15
Thorough and Efficient website SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 BGRIMALDI
Maura McInerney, Education Law Center-PA, 215-346-6906, 610-331-8125, mmcinerney@elc-pa.org;  Jennifer Clarke, Public Interest Law Center, 215-870-3797, jclarke@pilcop.org
Harrisburg, Pa. – In a brief filed Friday, public school parents, school districts, and two statewide associations continued their legal challenge of Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system, telling the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the availability of a high-quality public education in Pennsylvania will continue to be a “function of community wealth rather than a constitutional guarantee” unless the Court agrees to hear the legal challenge.  The petitioners are asking the court to send the case to a full trial and allow them to present evidence that the state legislature has failed to adequately and equitably fund the state’s public schools, thereby violating the legislature’s constitutional requirement to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education” and to prohibit discrimination in state programs and services.

Fighting for Fair School Funding
William Penn SD et. al. v. Pa. Dept. of Education et. al. (Pa., 2015)
Education Law Center PA website
On Sept. 20, 2015, public school parents, school districts, and two statewide associations continued their legal challenge of Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system, telling the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the availability of a high-quality public education in Pennsylvania will continue to be a “function of community wealth rather than a constitutional guarantee” unless the Court agrees to hear the legal challenge.
Read more at ELC and PILC’s website about the case, available here.

"The General Assembly has decided what content children need to learn to obtain a quality education, and they know how much it costs for children to acquire that knowledge. But, state officials have failed to ensure that students in all districts have adequate resources to meet these proficiency standards, such as the Keystone graduation exams."
School Funding Lawsuit
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia website
On November 10, 2014, we filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children in Pennsylvania the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and thrive in today’s world. We are conducting this litigation in partnership with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and pro bono counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

"Some see Wilkinsburg’s plight as evidence of a broken school funding system that shortchanges children from poor families, while others see it as an argument for investing in charter schools instead of trying to turn around dysfunctional school systems.  But there is widespread agreement on one thing: The story unfolding here shows the distance that remains between the ideal of public education as a great equalizer and the reality that many of the nation’s children are still consigned to schools that limit their futures."
In a disadvantaged district, a parable of contemporary American schooling
Washington Post By Emma Brown October 30 at 8:00 AM  
WILKINSBURG, Pa. — The high school in this tiny, impoverished Pittsburgh suburb has long been among the worst in Pennsylvania. Now the school board has decided to close it, along with the town’s only middle school.  Board members say that giving up on the schools is the best thing they can do to give their students a shot at a better education and a better life. But two neighboring school districts declined to take the students on before a third, Pittsburgh Public Schools, found room at one of the city’s lowest-performing high schools, located in one of its poorest neighborhoods.  So in a deal approved this week, Wilkinsburg students are headed for a school that is much like the one they are leaving behind.  Both have a history of chaotic classrooms and academic failure. Students at both schools are overwhelmingly African American, and many suffer from the twin traumas of living in poverty and in violent neighborhoods. Both schools have seen enrollment dwindle as families with wherewithal have fled.

"Nowhere is that gap wider than in Pennsylvania, according to federal data. School districts with the highest poverty rates here receive one-third fewer state and local tax dollars, per pupil, than the most affluent districts. This spring, the new governor has outlined an ambitious plan to address the inequities, but it faces opposition at the statehouse. At the same time, a lawsuit over inadequate school funding is making its way through the courts, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for change."
Pa. schools are the nation’s most inequitable. The new governor wants to fix that.
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 22, 2015
PHILADELPHIA — At Martin Luther King High, a hulking half-full school here, there aren’t enough textbooks to go around. If teachers want to make a photocopy, they have to buy paper themselves. Though an overwhelming majority of students are living in poverty, no social worker is available to help. Private donations allow for some dance and music classes, but they serve just 60 of the school’s 1,200 students.  At Lower Merion High, 10 miles away in a suburb of stately stone homes, copy paper and textbooks are available but are rarely necessary: Each student has a school-provided laptop. A pool allows for lifeguarding classes, and an arts wing hosts courses in photography, ceramics, studio art and jewelry making. The campus has a social worker.  While there always have been inequalities among the nation’s public schools, the gap in spending between public schools in the poorest and most-affluent communities has grown during the past decade.

The brief political life of Supreme Court candidates
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 29, 2015 4:25 PM
Every time Pennsylvania voters are asked to make their picks in a race for the Supreme Court, they have to indulge in a polite fiction -- one that party leaders and candidates both seem to dislike.  The candidates for justice have a party next to their names, but they must disavow party politics if they make it to the bench. Voters just have to pretend there's no contradiction.  At a recent forum, three candidates for Supreme Court described how they navigate that process.  "Justice serves all, and it's not along party lines," said Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, a Republican.  "I don't ever approach a case a Democrat," said Superior Court, Judge David Wecht, a Democrat. "I don't believe there is a Democratic approach to a case."  "The minute that you're sworn in as a judge, your partisan politics are gone," said another Democrat, Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue.

PA League of Women Voters 2015 General Election Voters Guide for Statewide Judicial Candidates
September 24, 2015
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF PENNSYLVANIA – CITIZEN EDUCATION FUND
NONPARTISAN VOTERS GUIDE

In the Balance : PA Supreme Court 2015
PublicSource 2015 ongoing coverage
PublicSource will be covering this historic Pennsylvania Supreme Court race for three open seats on the seven-member court. We’ll be tracking campaign contributions and television ads, explaining who is trying to tip the balance of the court and how the candidates are spending their money.  If you normally don’t follow politics or don’t have a law degree, that’s OK. We want you to be armed with more knowledge to cast an informed vote on Election Day.

PA Supreme Court 2015: Newspaper endorsement roundup
By Eric Holmberg | PublicSource | Oct. 29, 2015
Voters can be influenced by a variety of endorsements from business, labor and environmental groups.  Other groups, such as the League of Women Voters, ask the candidates questions and release nonpartisan voters’ guides. PublicSource’s nonpartisan voters’ guide will be released on Monday, Nov. 2.  And then there are newspaper editorial boards, which often meet with candidates and make influential endorsements.
Three of the seven seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be up for grabs on Nov. 3, and the remaining members are evenly split 2-2 along party lines.
The three Democrats are Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty and Superior Court Judge David Wecht.
The three Republicans are Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, Adams County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael George and Superior Court Judge Judith Olson.
The lone independent candidate is Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto.

Mystery donor group fuels attack ads in PA Supreme Court race
By Eric Holmberg | PublicSource | Oct. 28, 2015 eholmberg@publicsource.org 412.315.0266
Many familiar organizations gave to Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform so it could run attack ads against the three Republican candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  In the past month, the group raised more than $2.2 million from affinity groups representing Philadelphia trial lawyers, teachers’ unions, labor unions and others.  Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform is an independent expenditure group, meaning they can buy political ads but they cannot coordinate with the candidates or advocate for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.  But there’s an unfamiliar group called PA Alliance that contributed $500,000 to fund the attack ads through Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform since Sept. 11, making it the second largest contributor behind the Philadelphia trial lawyers.  It gave more than the big labor unions — Service Employees International Union ($488,000) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($400,000) — and more than the state and national teachers’ unions.  With three of the seven seats on the state’s highest court up for grabs and the remaining members split 2-2 along party lines, control of the court will be decided next week.  “It's dreadful the amount of money going into our elections,” said Terry Madonna, pollster at Franklin & Marshall College. “Money's a corrupting influence and it's got to be regulated some way, somehow.”


SCHOOL CHOICE: THE ROLE OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE COURTS IN IMPROVING EDUCATION
Constitution Center, Philadelphia Monday, November 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Free for Members • $7 teachers & students • $10 public
Become a Member today for free admission to this program and more!
Click here to join and learn more or call 215-409-6767.
Does the Constitution guarantee an “equal education” to every child? What do the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions say about school choice, teacher tenure, standardized testing, and more? The Constitution Center hosts two conversations exploring these questions.
In the first discussion, education policy experts—Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ina Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia—examine the state of Philadelphia public education, what an "equal education" in Philadelphia would look like, and their specific proposals for getting there. They also explain what, if anything, the Pennsylvania state constitution says about these questions, and how state government interacts with local government in setting education policy.
In the second discussion, James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon and Joshua Lipshutz of Gibson Dunn—two attorneys involved in Vergara v. California, a landmark dispute over the legality of teacher retention policies—present the best arguments on both sides and discuss what's next in the case. They also explain what the U.S. Constitution and major Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of EducationSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 say about education and our national debates.

WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

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 www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 30: Constituent service: Senator Wagner makes $400K loan to Thackston Charter School

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3750 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 30, 2015:
Constituent service: Senator Wagner makes $400K loan to Thackston Charter School



Job Announcement – Publisher, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Application deadline is now November 7th
Founded in 1994, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news organization serving thousands of readers who strive for quality and equality in Philadelphia’s public education system. A pioneering resource and voice for the parents, students, teachers, and other members of the community, the Notebook is Philadelphia’s go-to source for news, information, and conversation about its public schools. With six annual print editions and a website updated daily with news and commentary, the Notebook is among the few resources of its kind in the U.S.



Gov. Wolf on budget impasse: “It’s not time for partisanship”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, October 29, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf spoke on a scheduled appearance during Pittsburgh’s KQV 1410 AM morning show Thursday saying, while he is awaiting a GOP proposal to break the budget stalemate, it’s time to put partisanship aside.  Likening the current budget struggle to that of a past bipartisan solution—transportation funding legislation passed in 2013—he called on both sides of the impasse to come together to solve issues both sides agree need to be addressed. Among those, he pointed to the need to increase education funding, fix the structural deficit, and make Pennsylvania’s tax system fairer by reforming property taxes.  “It’s not time for partisanship,” he told morning show how PJ Maloney. “We really need to recognize the things we have in common—which is a good Pennsylvania—and come to some agreement on what we need to do to move Pennsylvania forward.”  He added in order to accomplish common goals, there will have to be “some adjustments in revenue,” though he was not specific about what he would be willing to accept in a new proposal following the defeat of his revenue plan in a recent House vote.

"The stark reality is that most parents can’t choose a better zip code, so some kids will interact with digital smart boards, while others inhale chalk dust; and some kids will go to the school psychologist because their parents took away their Xbox, while others will seek security, clean clothes, and meals from a counselor whose caseload is larger than the graduating class in a neighboring district.  Passing the budget to restore educational funding is only the first step. Repairing the tragically flawed model used to distribute the money needs to be the end goal, whether or not it’s politically expedient to do so."
Erie at Large: The drama of funding education in Pennsylvania
ErirReader.com BY JIM WERTZ Published in: Vol. 5, No. 22 WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28TH, 2015 AT 10:30 AM
The budget fight in the state legislature and its impact on local government and education has become shrouded in drama. So School Play, the documentary theater production staged Oct. 13 at Iroquois High School, felt troublingly real.  School Play is social commentary on par with the great Works Progress Administration plays of Clifford Odets and the lyrical construction of a Stephen Sondheim musical. But this production is minimalist. No music. No sets. Simple staging. Six wooden school chairs and five actors, each wearing blue shirts and grey pants, shifting seats and changing characters based on their lines and the tenor of the scene. The result is 60 minutes of resonant first-person storytelling from voices familiar and unique, elite and popular.

"Since July 1, neither Connellsville nor any of the other districts across the state have received any funding from the state government. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature can't agree on a budget, halting funding to schools, social programs and other organizations.
"This game of chess where the children of this school district are being used as pawns with adults over pension costs, over liquor stores, has to stop," said Connellsville Area School District business manager Phil Martell."
State budget impasse causing school districts to plan for shutdowns, loans
Fayette County districts to run out of money between December and February without budget
WTAE by Ashlie Hardway Published  2:36 PM EDT Oct 29, 2015
CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. —Connellsville Area School District leaders are planning how the district will operate in the weeks to come without any money coming in from the commonwealth.  The House of Representatives approved a two-year, bipartisan budget deal Wednesday that removes the threat of default next week and lessens the chances of another government shutdown in December.  Democrats aren't going along with a Republican bid to override Gov. Tom Wolf's veto of a short-term spending plan designed to break Pennsylvania's long budget stalemate.  Pennsylvania's House of Representatives and Senate are now borrowing money amid a four-month budget stalemate that has depleted lawmakers' reserves and shut off billions of dollars in aid to schools and social services.  The Pennsylvania Senate's top Democrat says a final budget agreement probably won't include an increase in the sales or personal income tax that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has sought to boost education funding and wipe out a deficit.  The district's budget is 70 percent funded by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the rest of the budget is made up of federal money, local taxes and other sources.

State Senate goes to recess as schools and seniors suffer
WHYY Newsworks THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT  A BLOG BY SOLOMON JONES OCTOBER 29, 2015 
As the state budget crisis stretches into its fourth month, state funded entities across the Commonwealth are feeling the effects of the political stalemate.  The Erie School District tried to borrow money from the state in order to survive the budget impasse. However, the district's request for a $47 million no-interest loan from the state treasury was denied, and Erie's schools will soon be forced to borrow from elsewhere, just like the Philadelphia School DistrictPhiladelphia and Erie are not alone. School districts across Pennsylvania have borrowed $431 million to keep the doors open during Pennsylvania's budget crisis, and the total could exceed $1 billion by December, state auditor general Eugene DePasquale said Wednesday.  Meanwhile, members of the Republican-controlled state Senate voted along party lines to adjourn for two weeks—with pay—even as school districts and state-funded non-profits teeter on the brink of fiscal ruin. Every Republican voted in favor of the break, while every Democrat voted against it. The irony of state legislators being paid to vacation is bitter for many, but especially for those who will lose their jobs because the legislators and the governor failed to pass a budget.

Auditor general: Pa. schools borrowing more than $400 million due to budget impasse
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comOctober 28, 2015 
The state released a document Wednesday that said Pennsylvania school districts and other educational entities are borrowing at least $431 million because of the state budget impasse.
This includes Bald Eagle Area School District, with a $5 million loan, according to the report.
BEA is among 10 school districts in the commonwealth that reportedly started borrowing money this month.  Auditor general spokeswoman Susan Woods said Superintendent Jeff Miles confirmed to the state on Oct. 21 that the district took out the loan through First National Bank with a 1.5 percent interest rate.  Despite state records, BEA business manager Craig Livergood, in an emailed statement, denied that the district got a loan.  “I am unsure where they got that information,” he said. “As stated before, the district has not obtained a loan.”

State corrects information on Bald Eagle Area SD loan
BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.comOctober 29, 2015 Updated 7 hours ago
After contradicting information between the state and the Bald Eagle Area School District on Wednesday, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale emailed a statement to the CDT Thursday afternoon correcting information the state previously released.  He said that after “further discussion” Thursday morning with BEA, “we have learned that the district is considering, but has not yet officially taken out, a $5 million line of credit with First National Bank.”

"The district receives about a quarter of its $59.4 million budget from state funds. About five years ago the district’s state funding was cut by nearly $21 million and about half of it had been restored."
McKeesport Area School District may have to borrow further funds, cut programming
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter October 28, 2015 11:03 PM
At a meeting of the McKeesport Area School Board of Directors on Wednesday, Superintendent Rula Skezas said the district is running out of funds due to the state budget impasse.  “We are running out of funds much earlier than other districts,” Ms. Skezas said. She added that she testified at a public hearing in Harrisburg earlier in the day expressing her concerns for the lack of a state budget.  McKeesport Area has already taken out a $5 million line of credit to help pay for day-to-day expenses. Ms. Skezas said that line of credit will last the district until the beginning of December. If a budget is not passed by then, further funds may have to be borrowed, she said.  Ms. Skezas also added that the district may be forced to discontinue its after-school programming, preschool and athletics if the budget remains in limbo.

Pennsylvania budget stalemate creates uncertainty for charter schools
WFMZ by Jamie Stover , Reporter, JStover@wfmz.com Posted: 5:13 PM EDT Oct 28, 2015 Updated: 6:22 PM EDT Oct 28, 2015
Almost four months past the state budget deadline, Pennsylvania lawmakers on opposing party sides just can't seem to strike a deal, and with each passing day, school districts and charter schools around the state say their worries are becoming a scary reality. As Republicans and Democrats continue their stalemate over tax increases and severance fees, among other budget conditions, school districts are not being paid. The issue has forced some districts to take out a loan, and others to tap into reserve funds. On Wednesday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced that districts across the state have already borrowed $431 million because of the impasse. Those loans could cost nearly $14 million in interest fees, DePasquale said. QUICK CLICKS Bethlehem superintendent speaks at impasse hearing East Penn bracing for February financial crisis Bangor Area School District says tax hike inevitable ASD approves $50M loan option School boards group sues to stop charter payments DePasquale: Seek legal clarity before funding charters It's having a trickle-down effect on charter schools.
Read more from WFMZ.com at: http://www.wfmz.com/news/pennsylvania-budget-stalemate-creates-uncertainty-for-charter-schools/36102506

Thackston Charter afloat due to Wagner loan
York Daily Record by Angie Mason and Flint L. McColgan, fmccolgan@ydr.com11:28 p.m. EDT October 29, 2015
Helen Thackston Charter School employees missed two paychecks in October, but thanks to a loan from state Sen. Scott Wagner, the school will stay afloat.  On Thursday, the Spring Garden Township Republican made a nearly $400,000 loan to the school to meet that missed payroll and to cover utility costs and health insurance payments, he said Thursday evening. The school has about 530 students.  "Thackston was faced with tomorrow not making payroll," he said. "The bottom line is that tomorrow, the teachers, 70 people, weren't going to get paid for the month and they'd be owed two paychecks and that's not right."  Wagner said he accessed one of his lines of credit at a prime rate and he will serve as a "pass through" to the school, which will not have to pay any additional interest on the loan.

The national assessment is given to thousands of randomly selected fourth- and eighth-grade students, takes only about an hour to complete, and, unlike other standardized tests, involves no preparation. Scores are reported anonymously.
NAEP: U.S. test scores down, but Pa., N.J. above average
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, October 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2015, 5:25 PM
For the first time since testing began 25 years ago, the latest results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests show a drop in math scores. And the tests also contained more bad news for the nation's schoolchildren.  Although some results in Pennsylvania and New Jersey fell in 2015 compared with 2013, they were above national averages in what is known as "the nation's report card."

F&M Poll: Wolf Losing His Shine, Voters Blame Legislature for Budget
PoliticsPA Written by Jason Addy, Contributing Writer October 29, 2015
Nine months into his first year as PA Governor, Tom Wolf is taking some hits to his approval rating.  36% of PA voters think Wolf is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor, down three points from August, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall poll. Democrats still support the man they elected last year to replace Tom Corbett, with 57% commending Wolf’s work.  The poll notes Wolf is enjoying similar levels of support as Corbett and Ed Rendell in the first year of their administrations.

Franklin & Marshall College Poll October 29th, 2015

READ! by 4th director explains goals of campaign
the notebookBy Fabiola Cineas on Oct 29, 2015 01:19 PM
The Notebook sat down with Jenny Bogoni of the Free Library, READ! by 4th’s executive director. In the interview, she outlines the mission of the campaign, its strategies, and challenges.
What is the READ! by 4th campaign’s main goal?
Ensuring all children can read on grade level by the time they enter 4th grade.
Why does Philadelphia need this campaign now?
For decades, we have had a high percentage of kids not reading on grade level. There is research nationally and locally that shows that kids who aren’t reading on grade level by the time they reach 4th grade are set on a path where they’re unlikely to be successful.
They are four times more likely to not graduate high school on time. Research also shows that if you don’t graduate on time you are more likely to not attend college and earn less than a family-sustaining wage in your lifetime.  As the pedagogy shifts from learning to read to reading to learn, students are essentially no longer being taught how to read. They have to use their reading skills to learn other things. And if they’re not reading on grade level, they’re then not learning those other things effectively. All of these things just pile on each other.
Reading by 4th grade is the gateway benchmark to a life of success. And if we are not fulfilling this benchmark for kids, we’re not giving them this fundamental skill that they need for everything else and our city’s got no hope. This is the foundation of everything else. Philadelphia is trying to become a world-class city. This is why we need this campaign now.

Pennsylvania: How to Create a School Financial Crisis
The Progressive by Peter Greene Posted: October 27, 2015
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in the grip of a major public education financial crisis. How did we get here? Well, Rome wasn’t burnt in a day. There are several stations on the way to schoolmageddon.
Start With Built-in Disparities: Everyone knows that Pennsylvania is home to urban behemoths Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but we also have huge rural areas. Take Forest School District, a district that covers roughly 500 square miles, serves about 530 students, and a resident population of just under 5,000 (with a median income of $33K). Pennsylvania deals with all manner of poverty and population. Any solution our urban-heavy representatives come up with will be an ill fit for somewhere else in the state.  That much variation also means any funding system based on real estate taxes will have baked-in inequities. Pennsylvania also run has the fourth-highest senior citizen population in the country—people who frequently oppose having their fixed income eaten away by increased taxes on their homes.

Underperforming Phila. sub firm boosts teacher pay
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Friday, October 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2015, 4:34 PM
The firm that has struggled to fill Philadelphia's substitute-teaching vacancies said Thursday that it will pay more in an effort to attract more workers.  Source4Teachers will now pay certified teachers who previously worked for the school system $160 per day, up from $110. Long-term certified subs will make $200 per day, up from $140.  For those new to the system, the rates jump to $140, $160, or $180 per day, depending on subject area taught, from $110, $125, and $140.  The Cherry Hill-based firm was awarded a two-year, $34 million contract to manage substitute services beginning in September.  It promised to have filled 75 percent of vacancies by the first day of school and 90 percent by January; it filled 24 percent of sub jobs Thursday, leaving 505 classes without teachers.

President Obama calls for less standardized testing in public schools
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer October 28, 2015
President Barack Obama has something in common with a growing group of Lancaster County parents and teachers: he thinks there's too much standardized testing in public schools.  “Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama said in a video released on Facebook on Saturday.  In recent years, Lancaster County parents and teachers have joined a national chorus of voices saying that schools are too focused on math and English tests, cutting out time for other subjects and creative activities. They've also raised concerns about children's anxieties over the tests, which also are used to evaluate teachers.

"While testing is an important topic, narrowly focusing on assessments diverts our attention from the challenges at the heart of education reform: How to close the achievement gap between students from low-income and minority households and their more privileged, mostly white, counterparts. And how to move the needle on student achievement so that American children of all backgrounds and income levels are on par with students in China, France, and pretty much everywhere else in the developed world. We will not make these sorts of gains by relying on testing as an education reform strategy. Instead, teachers need to be fully supported in implementing the rigorous content that college- and career-readiness standards demand."
Getting real about what teachers need to succeed
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 29 at 4:00 AM  
Teachers have been the focus of school reform for years now, with evaluation systems (linked to student test scores) being front and center of policymakers’ efforts to improve schools. Had those policymakers asked, most teachers would have told them what they really need to succeed in the classroom. Here’s a look at the subject by Andy Porter, former dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, who now directs the Center on Standards, Assessment, Instruction, and Learning at the Penn Graduate School of Education.
By Andy Porter
With the Obama Administration’s recent call to limit the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests, there’s been a lot of talk about assessments in the national media. And that chatter is likely to intensify with the release of the 2015 NAEP results—the so-called “Nation’s Report Card”—this week.

How one impoverished public school district is making strides
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 29 at 5:00 AM  
Bertis Downs is a parent and an education activist who lives in Athens, Georgia. He was legal counselor and manager of the now disbanded band R.E.M., and he spends a great deal of time advocating for public education in Clarke County, where he lives, as well as around the country. In this post, Downs writes about the innovative leadership in Clarke schools by Phil Lanoue, who has run the district for six years and who was named 2015 National Superintendent of the Year.  Though Clarke County is the most impoverished district in the state, Lanoue has been credited with making more gains to close the achievement between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students than any other Georgia district.  Last year, Downs wrote an open letter to President Obama, inviting him to visit the Clarke school district to see how his education policies are  “actually hurting– not helping– schools like ours.”

School Board Recall Vote in Colorado Tests Conservative Policies
New York Times By JACK HEALY OCT. 28, 2015
LITTLETON, Colo. — In this suburban election, lawn signs are being stolen and minivans vandalized. One candidate says she received an email telling her to get cancer and die. Money from the billionaire Koch brothers is funding one side’s commercials and fliers, and upset parents, teachers and labor unions are pouring in cash for the other.  The question facing voters is whether to oust a polarizing school board that has championed charter schools, performance-based teacher pay and other education measures supported by conservatives.  But the vote here in Jefferson County, just west of Denver, has become a money-soaked proxy war between union supporters and conservative groups like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, testing whether parents in an election-year battleground believe a rightward turn in their schools has gone too far.

"Success Academy, the high-performing charter school network in New York City, has long been dogged by accusations that its remarkable accomplishments are due, in part, to a practice of weeding out weak or difficult students. The network has always denied it. But documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with 10 current and former Success employees at five schools suggest that some administrators in the network have singled out children they would like to see leave."
At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have ‘Got to Go’
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR OCT. 29, 2015
From the time Folake Ogundiran’s daughter started kindergarten at a Success Academy charter school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the girl struggled to adjust to its strict rules.  She racked up demerits for not following directions or not keeping her hands folded in her lap. Sometimes, after being chastised, she threw tantrums. She was repeatedly suspended for screaming, throwing pencils, running away from school staff members or refusing to go to another classroom for a timeout.  One day last December, the school’s principal, Candido Brown, called Ms. Ogundiran and said her daughter, then 6, was having a bad day. Mr. Brown warned that if she continued to do things that were defiant and unsafe — including, he said, pushing or kicking, moving chairs or tables, or refusing to go to another classroom — he would have to call 911, Ms. Ogundiran recalled. Already feeling that her daughter was treated unfairly, she went to the school and withdrew her on the spot.

120 American Charter Schools and One Secretive Turkish Cleric
The FBI is investigating a group of educators who are followers of a mysterious Islamic movement. But the problems seem less related to faith than to the oversight of charter schools.
The Atlantic by SCOTT BEAUCHAMP  AUG 12, 2014
It reads like something out of a John Le Carre novel: The charismatic Sunni imam Fethullah G├╝len, leader of a politically powerful Turkish religious movementlikened by The Guardian to an “Islamic Opus Dei,” occasionally webcasts sermons from self-imposed exile in the Poconos while his organization quickly grows to head the largest chain of charter schools in America. It might sound quite foreboding—and it should, but not for the reasons you might think.

Vicki Phillips served as PA Secretary of Education during the Rendell administration……
"Education Week calculated that at the end of 2013, Gates' teacher-quality initiatives totaled nearly $700 million; by now, the foundation estimates it's spent more than $900 million on teacher-related grantmaking.   Just as importantly—and controversially—the foundation also poured millions into helping to underwrite the creation of the leaner, more focused Common Core State Standards, and to support teachers in states that adopted them"
Vicki Phillips, Outgoing K-12 Director at Gates, Reflects on Her Tenure, Priorities
Education Week Teacher Beat By Stephen Sawchuk on October 28, 2015 2:37 PM
The head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's K-12 grantmaking team, Vicki Phillips, announced this week that she will step down at the end of 2015.   "The baton was passed to me eight years ago. I have been honored to run my leg, and I am ready to hand the baton forward to the next leader," she said in a letter to colleagues.  The metaphor is apt: Gates just this month announced that it plans to stay the course on its massive investments into efforts to improve teacher quality.  Phillips' appointment as the director of the foundation's College-Ready Education unit, in 2007, marked Gates' pivot away from a focus on small high schools and the beginning of its focus on instruction. (Education Week has received several grants from the Gates Foundation over the past decade, most recently for coverage of implementation of college- and career-ready standards.)  In her letter, Phillips recalled being charged with finding a "strategic lever" for improving education. She and her team ultimately concluded that, despite lots of evidence that teachers played a critical role in boosting student achievement, little research was available about how to identify the best teachers and help them spread their knowledge. 


WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

SCHOOL CHOICE: THE ROLE OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE COURTS IN IMPROVING EDUCATION
Constitution Center, Philadelphia Monday, November 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Free for Members • $7 teachers & students • $10 public
Become a Member today for free admission to this program and more!
Click here to join and learn more or call 215-409-6767.
Does the Constitution guarantee an “equal education” to every child? What do the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions say about school choice, teacher tenure, standardized testing, and more? The Constitution Center hosts two conversations exploring these questions.
In the first discussion, education policy experts—Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ina Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia—examine the state of Philadelphia public education, what an "equal education" in Philadelphia would look like, and their specific proposals for getting there. They also explain what, if anything, the Pennsylvania state constitution says about these questions, and how state government interacts with local government in setting education policy.
In the second discussion, James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon and Joshua Lipshutz of Gibson Dunn—two attorneys involved in Vergara v. California, a landmark dispute over the legality of teacher retention policies—present the best arguments on both sides and discuss what's next in the case. They also explain what the U.S. Constitution and major Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of EducationSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 say about education and our national debates.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting www.pascd.org <http://www.pascd.org/>

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 www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

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