Thursday, January 14, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 14: PA sees exodus of veteran, moderate state lawmakers

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 14, 2016:
PA sees exodus of veteran, moderate state lawmakers

PA sees exodus of veteran, moderate state lawmakers
Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 13, 2016 7:11 PM
One legacy of Pennsylvania's 2015 budget gridlock may prove to be the wave of retirement announcements from longtime state lawmakers.  More than a dozen House and Senate members are calling it quits, most of them with more than a decade of service under their belts.  Their reasons vary.  "Let me put it this way: the impasse didn't convince me to stay," said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery), elected in 2006.  "The art of compromise needs to be revisited in the Capitol," Vereb said, "and I think the art of the deal - someone should read up on it."

“The framework — it died a very slow death over two months, as first property tax reform was gone, then liquor privatization was gone, and then pension reform was gone,” Reed said. “There’s no framework left. The only thing left before Christmas was higher taxes for higher spending.”  Reed says it’s time for the governor and Democrats to sit down with them and start the talks over on the remaining funding items — like education."
Republican Leader Says Budget Framework Is Dead, Let’s Get Talking Again
CBS Pittsburgh January 13, 2016 7:03 PM By Jon Delano
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On a very cold January day, KDKA political editor Jon Delano went to Indiana, Pa., hometown of House Majority Leader Dave Reed, to see if there was any thaw in the budget stalemate between House Republicans and Governor Tom Wolf. 
Delano: “When are we going to see final action on resolving the remaining part of this budget?”
Reed: “Hopefully very soon, and, look, the remaining part is not insignificant.”
It sure isn’t — one-half of the public school budget, funding for major universities like Pitt and Penn State, one-half of the corrections or jail budget, and some public medical assistance dollars all need to be approved, along with other items vetoed by Wolf.  “Some of those items, we may need to accept those cuts,” said Reed.  And while the governor may prefer one large supplemental to deal with the remaining budget items, Reed and Republicans are willing to go piecemeal.  “It’d be ideal to do it all together, but let’s not hold up money from one area of the budget while we continue to negotiate on other areas.”  But the Republican leader doesn’t seem in a hurry.  “If it’s just going to be rubber stamping higher taxes for higher spending, we’re going to be waiting a little while.”

Capitol confusion: Is there a budget or isn’t there?
abc27 News By Dennis Owens Published: January 13, 2016, 6:24 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show is in full swing.
Things are considerably slower a few blocks away at the Capitol.  Right behind, “who cleans up all those animal droppings?” one of the most frequently asked questions is, “How is the show a go when the state budget’s a no-show?”  “They bring in revenue through parking and other mechanisms,” Governor Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan said. “So, the Farm Show was able to continue this year and will continue.”  Back at the Capitol, House Republicans reject the premise of the question.  “We finished the budget,” insisted Representative Brian Ellis (R-Butler), the House Republican caucus administrator. Ellis maintains that the budget passed both chambers and is now law except for the items blue-lined by Wolf. So, mission accomplished?  “In our minds, we’ve passed a budget that funds government, funds all the services. Money’s being pushed back out to the schools and social services. The ball’s in the governor’s court,” Ellis said.  Wolf’s spokesman promptly bounced it back.

Reports of end to Pa. budget impasse may be greatly exaggerated
The latest spat in Harrisburg's budget back-and-forth is not about taxes or spending -- it's about words.  More specifically, since Gov. Tom Wolf has approved a partial spending plan for Pennsylvania, is the six-month budget impasse over?  "It means that we have a budget in place — it does," said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin. "There's a budget in place right now."  "That's one of the more ridiculous things I've heard," said Jeff Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman. "The Republican Legislature still has not passed the revenue to pay for anything. The general appropriations bill that they sent us was half a billion dollars out of balance."  In late December, Wolf struck parts of the budget lawmakers sent to his desk. The partial veto made deep cuts to funding for education, state prisons, health care, and other items.

Despite ‘band-aid’ funding, no end in sight for Pa. budget negotiations
Nate Larkin | The Daily Collegian (Penn State) January 14, 2016
With many school districts on the brink of closure and financial aid for college students hanging in the balance, lawmakers in Harrisburg nearly reached a comprehensive budget deal at the end of 2015, only to ultimately be sent “back to the drawing board” to start off the new year.  Pennsylvania’s current and longest budget impasse ever — which has been defined by disputes between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the legislative Republican leadership over boosting education funding and increasing revenues — nearly came to end in December, when the Republican-controlled State Senate passed a $30.8 billion “framework budget” bill that was supported by Wolf.  Any hopes for a budget agreement to come in 2015 were squelched upon the bill’s arrival in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, though, where Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) refused to let the bill go up for a vote, prompting the Senate to pass a House-crafted budget bill not supported by Wolf.

Pa. Dems block funding for state-related universities
The Mercury By Kathleen E. Carey, on Twitter
POSTED: 01/13/16, 10:52 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
The fingers were waving Tuesday, the day after many Republican state legislators backed — and their Democratic counterparts opposed — a vote allocating $578 million to five state-related universities.  Republicans said the Democrats were holding students at the institutions of higher learning hostage. At least one seasoned Democratic representative said his GOP colleagues are merely playing political football.  On Monday, state representatives voted on five non-preferred appropriation bills, which is the regular funding process for Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School.  The particular vote required a two-thirds majority in the House for passage.

"A Pennsylvania-based campaign was established in 2014 to make sure every 3- and 4-year-old in the commonwealth has access to high-quality pre-K by 2018.
Pre-K for PA, according to the initiative’s website, has about 11,000 members involved in the fight to enhance preschool education."
Local educators respond to State of the Union address
Experts said there are benefits for students who go to preschool
Local schools hope to get funding to implement district-operated pre-K programs
It was a touching State of the Union address Tuesday night for at least one instructor at Penn State’s College of Education who said it made her proud to be an early childhood educator.  Linda Duerr said she was emotional when she saw President Barack Obama get a standing ovation when he mentioned prekindergarten should be available to all families in the country with young children.  “That’s a first,” she said. “It was the first time I have ever seen Congress stand up no matter what party, during the very brief mention to pre-K being more accessible for children. It was mindblowing for me, and gratifying.”  Obama has a vision to provide pre-K for all.
At least that’s what he said in his last State of the Union address Tuesday night when he spoke about presecondary education.

State budget uncertainty impacts Centennial School District
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer | Posted January 13, 2016
School funding was the hot topic at the Centennial School Board meeting Tuesday night, and the consensus was that districts know little more now than they did in June when they passed this year's budget.  More importantly, there's not much hope there will be good news out of Harrisburg anytime soon.  "The odds of winning the lottery are 292 million to one," said school director Mark Miller. "I think those are better than seeing this year's budget before the governor gives us a glimpse of next year's budget (in February). Mark my words."  Despite not knowing how many dollars will be coming from Harrisburg, districts are still required to develop their preliminary budgets for 2016-17. Centennial is seeking exceptions for retirement and special education costs that would increase taxes above the 2.4 percent Act 1 index to 4.56 percent.
Currently, a resident with a home assessed at the district average of $26,400 pays a total school tax bill of $3,346.46. The district millage is 126.76. A mill translates to $1 in tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.  A tax increase of 4.56 percent would add $153.23 to the average tax bill. "I hope that does not come to pass," said Christopher Berdnik, Centennial's business manager.  The district's preliminary spending plan increases expenditures $4.5 million to $110.8 million, a 4.67 percent jump. Nearly $3.7 million of that is retirement and health care costs, according to Berdnik.

What’s at stake in the Supreme Court case on public employee unions
the notebook January 13, 2016 Commentary by Ron Whitehorne
The case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, could have far-reaching consequences not only for teachers’ unions, but for all public sector employees. Because unions are the most organized and well-financed supporters of increased investment in public education, as well as strong opponents of privatization, the court’s ruling on the case could affect what happens to Philadelphia schools.

A fight over Wister Elementary's fate
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 14, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
No one disputes that John Wister Elementary, where few students learn to read or do math on grade level, must improve.  The thorny question is: How best to elevate performance at the Germantown K-5, part of the Philadelphia School District?  Earlier this school year, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. recommended that Wister, along with two other district schools, be given to charter companies in September.  But this week, Hite reversed course, saying that on the basis of progress evidenced in new district data, Wister was eligible for an in-house turnaround instead of the more radical overhaul. (The other schools, Huey and Cooke, will likely still become charters after a School Reform Commission vote next week.)

Nazareth teachers, district return to bargaining table
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 13, 2016
A Nazareth teachers strike remains possible, according to union president
NAZARETH — After witnessing the crumbling of an agreement for a possible Nazareth teachers contract last month, the union and Nazareth Area School District have returned to the bargaining table.  Teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 31 and were prepared to strike in October when the school board rejected a fact finder's report that attempted to strike a balance between the desires of the union and the district. But the two sides emerged with an "agreement in principle" after a marathon nine-hour negotiating session Oct. 15.  Though promising, that breakthrough lasted only until mid-December, when Nazareth Superintendent Dennis Riker announced via video that the agreement had fallen apart and an agreement remained elusive. He said the district brought its final offer to teachers on Dec. 2, but had heard nothing in response by Dec. 14.

A worthwhile opportunity for public high schools — deadline approaching
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 13 at 11:00 AM  
A project called Schools of Opportunity was launched by two veteran educators last year as a pilot effort to honor high schools that work hard to offer all students a chance to succeed. Unlike other rating and ranking efforts that use student standardized test scores and data points, the Schools of Opportunity project recognizes public high schools that seek to close opportunity gaps through practices “that build on students’ strengths” — not by obsessing on the scores. Seventeen schools were selected, and this blog spotlighted each winner.  Now, the project has gone national for the 2015-16 school year. Applications are welcome from public high schools in each state; you can find out how tosubmit one at the website, here, and in the post below.  The people behind the project are Carol Burris and Kevin Welner. Burris is  a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education Fund. A frequent contributor to The Answer Sheet, she was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York state, and in 2013, the organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. Welner is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education who specializes in educational policy and law. He is director of the National Education Policy Center at UC Boulder, which produces high-quality peer-reviewed research to inform education policy.
In this post, Burris and Welner explain the project and how to enter.

Teach Your Teachers Well
New York Times Opinion By SHAEL POLAKOW-SURANSKY JAN. 13, 2016
Shael Polakow-Suransky, who served as senior deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education from 2011-14, is the president of Bank Street College of Education.
LAST month, at the urging of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s Board of Regents suspended the use of state tests to evaluate teachers. This is a wise first step, but it won’t improve our schools unless we go further and build a professionalized system of support that views teachers as learners and challenges them to improve their classroom practices.  The national push over the last decade to strengthen how we evaluate teachers was rooted in studies that suggested that consecutive years with an ineffective teacher did lasting damage to a child’s life chances. In response, many teachers’ evaluations have been tied to how their students perform on state tests.  In 2010, New York began to develop a new teacher evaluation system, new tests and curriculums aligned with the Common Core standards. Most teachers agree that the standards are a step forward, because they ask students to think critically, write persuasively and solve real-world problems creatively. But New York’s tests are still dominated by multiple-choice questions that don’t measure this deeper learning. In many parts of the state, teachers did not have time to adapt their curriculums before new tests were used to evaluate them

Education Department Begins to Assess ESSA-Era Role
New checks on authority balanced in other areas
Education Week By Alyson Klein Published Online: January 12, 2016
The lights are still on at the U.S. Department of Education—but they may start flickering in a few corridors.  The new Every Student Succeeds Act does more than just give states and districts a big say over accountability—it contains a laundry list of prohibitions aimed at preventing the U.S. secretary of education from issuing marching orders on standards, teacher evaluation, school turnarounds, and more.  And, while the latest revision of the nation's main K-12 law doesn't scrap the Education Department, as some Republican presidential contenders would like, it encourages the agency to slim down its workforce.

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

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!

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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