Wednesday, January 13, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 13: Issue: Should districts disproportionately hit by cuts under Corbett Admin. be adequately compensated before using the Basic Education Funding Formula?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 13, 2016:
Issue: Should districts disproportionately hit by cuts under Corbett Admin. be adequately compensated before using the Basic Education Funding Formula?

"At issue is a hybrid formula Wolf is using to ensure that districts disproportionately hurt by cuts under the previous GOP administration, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and many smaller cities, are adequately compensated."
House votes to tweak education funding distribution
AP State Wire Published: Yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted Tuesday to stop Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's use of a formula that targets extra subsidy money for school districts hardest-hit by past spending cuts, charging that he lacks that authority.  Representatives voted 111-81 along mostly party lines Tuesday to amend the fiscal code bill, an important component of the various bills that make up a state budget. The bill now goes back to the Senate for further action.  After budget talks collapsed in December, Republicans approved a scaled-down $30.3 billion budget. Wolf released much of the money, including overdue payments for school districts and social services, but has stressed the need for new taxes to increase school subsidies and rein in a structural deficit.

"On Monday, the majority Republicans inserted a distribution formula for any school subsidies that exceed 2014-15 levels that follows the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel that studied equity in school funding over two years.
That formula has been hailed as a groundbreaking guideline that recognizes both population shifts as well as the special challenges faced by rural districts or schools serving impoverished communities.  Only thing is, most Democrats don't want it in place just yet.  Their position - and it's one that has been adopted by Gov. Tom Wolf since he signed the partial budget on Dec. 29 - is that all school districts first should be made whole for the state aid cuts they received during former Gov. Tom Corbett's administration."
Pennsylvania House passes fiscal code bill that puts GOP stamp on school funding, key environmental issues
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 12, 2016 at 5:15 PM
The Pennsylvania House moved to the state Senate Tuesday a fiscal code bill that could, in some ways, serve as a double for the Republican legislative majority's policy platform.  The bill, which passed on a 111-81 vote, is sometimes referred to as an operators'  manual for the state's $23.4 billion, partial budget, adding key rules and guidelines on how the money is to be spent.  Typically, in Pennsylvania, that has meant barring public funds from being spent on abortions, for example.  But in this era of divided government and a record-breaking budget impasse, this fiscal code means so much more. Here's a look at some of the more controversial issues that it touches.

Republicans still in search of solutions to complete budget
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Despite the House moving along the budget-related Fiscal Code bill Tuesday, a meeting between House and Senate Republican leadership left the majority in both parties still searching for solutions on how to complete the budget.  Gov. Tom Wolf’s line-item veto of House Bill 1460 left only half a year’s funding for things like basic education, state corrections, and Medical Assistance capitation. Meanwhile funding for the state-related universities failed in the House Monday, falling short of the two-thirds majority required for passage.  The Fiscal Code bill that moved through the House Tuesday still does not have final sign-off from Senate Republicans on changes made by the House.  That bill, among other things, includes what has become a controversial formula to push out basic education dollars.  Tuesday, Republican leaders in both chambers were still trying to find a way forward to finish what House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) called a budget process that is about 87 percent finished.

Partisan bickering continues in Harrisburg over unfinished state budget
By Kate Giammarise/ Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 13, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Unhappy with how Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s Department of Education is distributing money to school districts under a partial state budget, House Republicans voted Tuesday to pass a fiscal code bill to direct the state to send out any new education funds under a formula recommended by a bipartisan committee last year.  The mostly party-line vote on the fiscal code bill passed the House 111-81, though a handful of Republicans voted against the measure and several Democrats voted for it.  Most House Democrats said that the funds were being given out by the Wolf administration in a way to make up for past education cuts — and that completing a full-year budget should be the Legislature’s priority.

Like budgets that pass in the night
Pennsylvania lawmakers are bracing for a dizzying prospect -- planning the next fiscal year's spending before the current year's budget has been finalized.  Dates are set for Gov. Tom Wolf's February budget address and the legislative hearings that follow.  "I will say it will be a little bit different if we don't have a budget concluded," said Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed.  "You know, I don't even know how you do a budget address if you don't have a budget," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. "I mean, I'm not sure how you begin to build '16-'17 if you don't know what '15-'16 is."  Democrats have faulted Republicans for not having a sense of urgency to reach a compromise on a final budget in the wake of the governor's line-item veto in late December.

"The Campaign for Fair Education Funding (a nonpartisan coalition representing educators and their associations, labor, business leaders, faith-based organizations, child advocates, charter schools and traditional public schools/districts) wanted three things in this budget: “Pass a full-year budget now, increase basic education funding by $350 million and begin implementing the formula crafted by the Basic Education Funding Commission.”
Education funding: billions lost, a billion a year misdirected
Doylestown Intelligencer Opinion By Mark B. Miller Wednesday, January 13, 2016 12:15 am
Mark B. Miller is a member of the Centennial school board and vice president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. He is co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition and a director on the board of the Network for Public Education.
On the eve of the holidays, those wise men finally rode into Harrisburg, looking to give 600-plus school districts, intermediate units and other agencies some much needed relief. Another budget was passed. Gov. Wolf waited six days, then used the line-item veto to keep juggling “garbage.”  A large part of the frustration is the fight over much-needed funding for state education versus nearly $2 billion of education dollars that have been lost, late or misdirected in each of the past four years. This money could be put to better use, like increasing student achievement through instruction.  It started in 2011 with the cutting of $500 million from education in that year’s budget. It was suggested, “Ask your professional staff to take a one-year pay freeze.” Problem is, that money was never replaced, and teachers have to be paid. Today, we have 17,000 fewer Pennsylvania teachers and fewer new teachers entering the profession.  In 2012, another $500 million was pulled, justified by “lower your reserve funds to balance your budget.” Cash reserves are at an all-time low. Many school districts lack the rainy day fund they are supposed to have available for unexpected problems like a six-month-long budget impasse.

Wolf Administration Launches Education Accountability & Achievement Tour
Education Secretary Leads Roundtable Discussion On School Success, Challenges
JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Jan. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera met with education stakeholders at a roundtable at the Greater Johnstown Area Senior High School today to gather input that will be used to inform the development of new strategies for school accountability and achievement.  The gathering was first in a series of grassroots events focused on school accountability the Wolf Administration will hold in 2016.  "Education is our number one priority, and as we work in Harrisburg to secure historic investments in our schools, it is also important to get a first-hand look at what makes a good school and what challenges our schools face," Governor Wolf said. "The goal is to use these discussions to shape our education policy priorities moving forward."  "Today's meeting is an important first step in launching a comprehensive discussion around how we support schools and help Pennsylvania students succeed," Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. "Every stakeholder brought a unique and valuable perspective that will inform education policy going forward in Pennsylvania."

Sturla unveils sliding scale tax plan on Marcellus Shale to fund pension obligations
Press Release Rep. Mike Sturla January 12, 2016 | 2:10 PM
HARRISBURG, Jan. 12 - State Rep. Mike Sturla is seeking support for his legislation that would implement a graduated severance tax on Marcellus Shale to fund pension obligations at state and local levels.  'The proposal is a fair approach that would capture much-needed funding for the commonwealth for one of our most valuable resources while providing a break to the industry when prices are down,' Sturla explained.

Philadelphia schools get new finance chief
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 13, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
The Philadelphia School District has a new chief financial officer.  Uri Monson, now the top finance official for Montgomery County, will move into the long-vacant Philadelphia job next month.  He will be paid $190,000 to manage the district's $3.2 billion budget.  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the district, which lost former CFO Matt Stanski at the end of the last school year, needs "a strong, thoughtful, and steady approach to its finances, given the instability of revenues."  Long on shaky financial ground, the school system is not guaranteed to have enough money to get through the end of the school year because of the budget stalemate in Harrisburg.

Easton Area wins $384K grant to help boost scores
By Rudy Miller | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 12, 2016 at 9:53 AM, updated January 12, 2016 at 1:04 PM
The Easton Area School District received a $384,000 grant to help bolster academic performance, according to a news release.  The grant will cover afterschool programs for 200 middle school students and an eight-week summer program for 70 students, according to Tracy Piazza, the district's director of teaching and learning for grades K-4.  The grants administered through the state's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program help students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools meet state and local standards.  "It was a very tough and competitive application process," said Easton Area School District Superintendent John Reinhart.  The state received 112 grant applications but awarded 50 grants totaling $16.1 million for 2015-18.

Saucon-Imhotep gap shows need for PIAA to act | Opinion
Express-Times guest columnist  By ERIC EVANS on January 12, 2016 at 3:43 PM
What a season the good folks of Hellertown experienced as their Saucon Valley High School football team went undefeated through the regular season. With a great blend of offense, defense, team character and chemistry, they won their first two postseason games, ran their record to 14-0, and entered the state semi-final. Then Imhotep Charter came to town.
Imhotep Charter, as with other private and charter high schools, does not have boundaries, which gives it the ability to bring in students from anywhere.  No boundaries or restrictions when building a roster. The result for Imhotep was an offensive line that averaged 6'5" 307 pounds. The result was a team that was loaded with Division 1 recruits. The result was that Imhotep scored 60 points on Saucon Valley in the first half, eventually steam-rolling the previously unbeaten Panthers, 72-27.

Congressman Glenn Thompson welcomes Bald Eagle Area teacher to State of the Union, highlights agriculture
Centre Daily Times BY CATE HANSBERRY January 13, 2015
Before President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, said he was hoping to hear two things from the president’s speech.  First, he hoped to hear Obama discuss safety and security — the “first principle of American leadership,” Thompson said. Second, he wanted to hear about the “pathway to opportunity” Obama envisions for America.  Thompson, however, already has his own ideas about how to illuminate that pathway — and brought a guest who exemplifies his vision.  Thompson invited Bald Eagle Area agriculture teacher and FFA leader Todd Biddle to Washington, D.C., highlighting a man he says shows a new generation how to be successful in Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry — agriculture.  Biddle teaches students at Bald Eagle Area High School the technical and leadership skills needed to gain success in agriculture and in life. This is essential in Pennsylvania, where 1 in 7 jobs are related to agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Vereb also served as co-chairman of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which developed a fair and reasonable formula to distribute state education dollars among Pennsylvania school districts."
Mike Vereb won’t seek another term in State House
Pottstown Mercury By Carl Rotenberg, on Twitter POSTED: 01/12/16, 10:08 AM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
WEST NORRITON >> State Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Dist. 150, announced Tuesday he will end his 10 years of service in the state legislature and not seek another two-year term.  Vereb will finish his fifth, two-year term on Nov. 30 and move on to another job that has not been finalized yet, Vereb said.  “I can’t tell you whether it will be governmental or non-governmental,” he said. “I’m looking at three job offers.”

'He put everyone at ease': Annville-Cleona superintendent Steven Houser remembered following death
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 12, 2016 at 7:33 PM, updated January 12, 2016 at 9:17 PM
Annville-Cleona Superintendent Steven E. Houser has died.
Houser, a longtime educator known for his friendly personality, died Sunday at the age of 57 in the Lancaster General Hospitalaccording to an obituary.  Annville-Cleona School Board President Mark Frattarole said Houser would be greatly missed by students, faculty, staff, administrators and the community.  "He was very highly regarded, and he was very well loved," Frattarole said. "He was a big part of our community."  "We are keeping his family in our prayers," he said.  Houser — a man with an outgoing personality who often had a smile on his face — had a "passion for education" and "always put the children first," Frattarole said.

"But in 23 other states, poorer districts are shafted, and in three states funding is essentially equal, which isn't good enough. In Pennsylvania, the worst offender, the poorest districts get a whopping 33.5 percent less per pupil."
Bernie Sanders has a bold, simple idea for improving public education
VOX Updated by Dylan Matthews on January 12, 2016, 2:40 p.m. ET @dylanmatt TWEET SHARE (8,012) + 
At Monday night's Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum in Iowa, Bernie Sanders came out in favor of a massive change in the way the US funds schools:  "One of the things that I have always believed is that, in terms of education, we have to break our dependency on the property tax, because what happens is the wealthiest suburbs can in fact have great schools but poor, inner-city schools cannot. So I think we need equality in terms of how we fund education, and to make sure the federal government plays an active role to make sure that those schools we need it the most get the funds that they deserve."  Bernie's right: The property tax system of funding schools is inherently regressive, granting fewer resources to poorer towns with lower property values and more to rich towns with high property values. Federalizing funding of public schools — or at least moving further in that direction — would be a huge boon for both economic and racial equality. It would make our tax system much more progressive and protect schools from cuts during recessions. And done right, it can improve school quality while maintaining a degree of local autonomy.

Obama in SOTU: I Will Keep Fighting for Preschool and College Access
Education Week By Alyson Klein on January 12, 2016 9:54 PM
President Barack Obama used his very last State of the Union address to press for action on unfinished pieces of his agenda—including universal prekindergarten and offering two years of free commmunity college to most students—from Congress and his successor in the White House.  And Obama made it clear he wants to continue to fight to expand access to high-quality math, science, and technology courses, and the training and recruitment of good teachers. He also took a victory lap on a couple of his big K-12 initiatives—including record high graduation rates and the passage of a long-stalled rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The recently approved Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the ESEA, made inroads on some of Obama's most cherished priorities, including on early-childhood programs and mathematics and science education. But it fell short of lofty proposals he's outilned in previous addresses to Congress. 

The President Wants Every Student To Learn Computer Science. How Would That Work?
President Obama used his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to reflect on his legacy. But he also put forth some specific proposals for his remaining year in office. And the very first one was "helping students learn to write computer code."  Elaborating on the educational achievements of the past several years, Obama pointed to the overhaul of No Child Left Behind, the increase in pre-K programs, and rising high school graduation rates.
Then he said:  "In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by ... offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on Day 1."  He's not the only proponent of this idea. The biggest public school systems in the country, New York City and Los Angeles Unified, have both announced that they're moving toward exposing all students to computer science. Coding is also newly part of national curricula in the U.K. and Australia.  The United States, of course, has no national curriculum. The Computer Science Teachers Association estimates that only about one-tenth of the high schools in the U.S. — to say nothing of middle and elementary schools — offer a computer science course today.

K-12 Still Struggling for Traction as Campaign Issue
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa Published Online: January 12, 2016
School policy—already an underdog topic in the 2016 presidential campaign—could be further marginalized as an issue by recent developments in Washington, not the least of which is the newly minted Every Student Succeeds Act, which is expected to scale back the direct federal role in K-12 education.  None of the 15 current candidates in either major party can claim personal credit for helping the No Child Left Behind Act's successor over the finish line late last year.  And the new law resolves, at least for the next several years, some big questions about federal power over such issues as testing and teacher evaluations.

Judge Puts Launch of Nevada's Sweeping School Choice Program on Hold
Education Week Charters and Choice By Arianna Prothero on January 12, 2016 8:50 AM
Implementation of Nevada's sweeping new school choice program has been put on hold until a final decision is made on whether the program is constitutional.  The state's treasurer's office was supposed to start doling out money to more than 4,000 families enrolled in the program starting in February, according to the Associated Press.  Opponents of the law asked for an injunction in November, which a state district judge from Carson City granted on Monday.  Nevada's education savings account program was created by the legislature last June and allows all public school parents to use state education funding allocated for their child to attend private schools (including those affiliated with a religion) or to home school. The state places the funds, a little over $5,000 a year, in special savings accounts, which parents can use for approved education expenses—such as tuition, tutors, and transportation.

Save the Date | PBPC Budget Summit March 3rd
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
The 2015-2016 budget remains in a state of limbo. But it's time to start thinking about the 2016-17 budget. The Governor will propose his budget for next year in early February.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will hold our annual Budget Summit on March 3rd. Save the date and join us for an in-depth look at the Governor's 2016-17 budget proposal, including what it means for education, health and human services, the environment and local communities.  And, of course, if the 2015-2016 budget is not complete by then, we will also be talking about the various alternatives still under consideration.
As in year's past, this year's summit will be at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Register today!

Remaining Locations:
  • 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
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

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.

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:

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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