Sunday, January 17, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 17: Day 201: “We had him down on the floor with our foot on his throat and we let him up. Next time, we won’t let him up.” - Sen. Wagner on Gov. Wolf

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 17, 2016:
Day 201: “We had him down on the floor with our foot on his throat and we let him up. Next time, we won’t let him up.” - Sen. Wagner on Gov. Wolf

Fully and fairly fund our schools
Pennsylvania’s leaders have signed off on school funding reform. It’s long past time they got it done
Post Gazette Opinion By Nancy A. Hubley and Patrick Dowd January 17, 2016 12:00 AM
Nancy A. Hubley is Pittsburgh director of the Education Law Center. Patrick Dowd is executive director of Allies for Children.
This month Pennsylvania began 2016 without a full budget, leaving the short- and long-term needs of every school — and every student — up in the air.  In the short term, the partial spending plan recently signed by Gov. Tom Wolf will provide desperately needed emergency cash for schools and human services, but only enough to push off closures and further cuts for a few more months.  In the long term, the budget gridlock means that one of the fundamental issues facing Pennsylvania — the need to repair our broken public school funding system — remains unresolved.  Not having sufficient resources is unfortunately nothing new for Pennsylvania students. Years of inadequate and inequitable funding have forced many school districts to eliminate programs, lay off teachers and reduce academic support for students. These cuts particularly harm at-risk learners who lag behind their peers and will continue to do so unless they are provided with resources and supports that address their needs.

"I don't remember screaming or pounding my fist," he said in an interview Thursday. "That's just not an outlet for me."
Little to show for his lofty pledges
Gov. Wolf's biggest achievements during his first year in office required no give-and-take with the state's Republicans.
Inquirer by Chris Palmer and Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: JANUARY 17, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
HARRISBURG - To unwind after a stressful day, Gov. Wolf says, he enjoys reading books or spending time with his wife at home in York. In the morning, he uses a treadmill to preemptively let off steam.  Some politicians thrive on the energy and adrenaline from a messy, combative profession. But Wolf, the cerebral 67-year-old Democrat inaugurated a year ago this week, seems to cope with the weight of his office by seeking a constant state of serenity.  "I don't remember screaming or pounding my fist," he said in an interview Thursday. "That's just not an outlet for me."  Not that he lacks reasons to be frustrated.  After toppling an incumbent with a 10-point victory, Wolf pledged to be "an unconventional governor." He promised to increase school funding, run government efficiently, and bring real-world pragmatism to Harrisburg.  But 12 months into the job, he has a short list of accomplishments. Most glaringly absent: an annual budget, despite months of contentious negotiations with the Republican-controlled legislature.

State Rep. Reed looks back on bruising 1st year as House majority leader
TribLive By Kari Andren Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, 10:30 p.m.
There's little hesitation when House Majority Leader Dave Reed says leading the Republican caucus has been challenging and frustrating.  A year ago, his colleagues chose Reed, 37, of White in Indiana County to lead one of the chamber's largest, most diverse Republican majorities in history. Observers predicted he would be practical, methodical — a leader adept at brokering deals with the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  But Pennsylvania has had one of the longest-running budget impasses in state history, for which many place responsibility on House Republicans.  For Reed, the bruising budget battle has been more than negotiating with a more moderate state Senate and a Democratic governor. He has also navigated a sometimes tenuous relationship with the more conservative House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall.  “Reed is what we could call a pragmatic conservative — emphasis on pragmatic,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.
“Other folks in the caucus are ideological conservatives.”

Comments on budget impasse from State Republican Party meeting in Hershey Saturday--
Crisci Associates Sunday PA Capitol Digest NewsClips JANUARY 17, 2016
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny): “This Governor wants to create havoc and run a permanent campaign.”
Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York): “We had him down on the floor with our foot on his throat and we let him up. Next time, we won’t let him up.” [Referring to Gov. Wolf.]
Wagner’s comment brings back a 2014 quote from him when he was sworn into office.  He was asked whether the GOP needed to mend relationships after his special election, to which he responded: "The bottom line is we beat them. ... Once you stab your opponent in the neck and they bleed to death, you don't keep stabbing them."

"Harrisburg is becoming a very difficult place to get anything done and I don't think it is going to get better."
With decision time upon them, 16 state lawmakers so far have announced plans to vacate their House or Senate seat when the current legislative session ends on November 30th.
Penn Live by Jan Murphy January 15, 2016

"After over six months of budget wrangling within the Republican Party, several veteran moderate lawmakers have decided to hang up their hats.  State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, and state representative Vereb are three local examples of moderate Republicans bowing out in 2016."
Retiring Pa. lawmaker from Montco was target of GOP's conservative wing
Veteran Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, said this week he will not seek re-election for family reasons, but it appears some conservative Republicans were ready to usher him out the door.  Conservative groups said they were mounting a primary challenge against Vereb because he was willing to consider a state budget that could lead to a tax increase.  In the past few election cycles, conservative interest groups in Pennsylvania have backed primary challengers against Republicans they regard as soft on key issues, including tax hikes and school choice. In two cases, those primary challengers have unseated Republican incumbents and won in the general election.

Educators, parents mobilize for Keystone Exam delay: Friday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on January 15, 2016 at 8:24 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
One of the benefits of being the benevolent overlord of one's very own Opinion Page is that one occasionally finds oneself on the receiving end of a good, old-fashioned letter-writing campaign on behalf of some worthy issue.  Such was the case this Friday morning, when, upon our arrival at PennLive World Headquarters, we found our inbox fairly flooded with missives from parents and educators calling for the approval of legislation that would delay the end-of-year Keystone Exams for Pennsylvania high school students.  If you're not in the know, or don't have a kid in high school, students have to pass the exams in order to graduate. They are, to put it bluntly, wildly unpopular, since kids are already tested to within an inch of their lives already.  Legislation sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, that would impose a two-year delay on their implementation won Senate and House approval last fall.  But the bill has to clear yet one more hurdle in the Senate because of a House-approved amendment to the legislation. It's been sucked into the budgetary vacuum and parents and educators want it kicked loose.

Budget Bottom Line: House Fails To Solve Any Part Of Budget Mess, Again
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates January 15, 2016
If you were waiting for some glimmer of agreement on at least one budget issue this week in the House, you were very disappointed.  On the other hand, if you were waiting for the House to designate the week of December 26 through January 1 as “Kwanzaa Week” in Pennsylvania, the two week delay was worth it.  The House Monday failed to get the required two-thirds vote to pass bills funding the state related universities-- Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Lincoln and Penn Veterinary College-- in Senate Bills 912 through 916 by votes of 116 to 75 along party lines.  This is deja vu all over again. On June 28 the House also failed in its first attempt to get a two-thirds vote for its own versions of funding for state related universities-- House Bills 1385 through 1389-- by similar margins.  House Republicans Tuesday passed a Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R- Pike)--  back to the Senate for a concurrence vote with a controversial provision changing the current basic education funding distribution formula which has not yet been agreed to by Senate Republicans.

Despite ‘band-aid’ funding, no end in sight for Pa. budget negotiations
Nate Larkin | The Daily Collegian Jan 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.

State House calls for tweaking school funding formula
Indiana Gazette on January 13, 2016 10:39 AM
HARRISBURG (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.  Democrats accused the majority party of wasting time on minor issues while state government scrapes by on a partial budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 while there has been no movement toward reviving negotiations.  “Here we are again, going through a legislative activity that will have no end in sight,” said Rep. Joe Markosek, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “Shouldn’t we be negotiating a real budget?”

LOWMAN S. HENRY: A new shade of blue in Pa. politics
Pottstown Mercury Opinion by Lowman S. Henry POSTED: 01/17/16, 2:00 AM EST |
Lowman S. Henry is chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research in Harrisburg, and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His email address is
Residents of Penn’s Woods are about to experience history in the making — the start of a new state budget year with the previous year’s budget still unresolved.  Gov. Tom Wolf guaranteed the anomaly by line-item vetoing almost a third of the budget passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature just before Christmas.  The official start of the budget process comes in early February when the governor delivers his budget address to a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. For a variety of reasons the remaining unresolved budget issues from the current fiscal year are likely to remain that way well past the governor’s budget speech currently scheduled for Feb. 9.

"Wentzel said the district’s budgetary projections indicate a potential increase of more than 18 percent for retirement alone. She noted the risk is compounded by the unknown status of state funding.  “Without an equitable Basic Education and Special Education Funding Formula, we continue to have less direction for budgeting the contribution of state funds. It has only been made more difficult that funding for the current budget has yet to be clearly defined,” Wentzel said."
Ridley to keep lid on school taxes this year
Delco Times By Barbara Ormsby, Times Correspondent POSTED: 01/15/16, 10:56 PM EST 
RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >> The Ridley School Board at its January meeting approved the Act 1 budget resolution for 2016-2017, providing that the school district will not increase local property taxes in excess of the Act 1 Index set by the state Department of Education. The index has been set at 3.1 percent.  “By passing this resolution, our school district will not be eligible to apply for Act 1 exceptions that would allow us to exceed the Index,” district Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel said in her report to the board, noting there is a risk in opting not to request exceptions for special education and retirement.

This Report May Make You Look at the SRC Differently
Pew: There is no consensus among researchers about what type of school governance is best.
PhillyMag Citified BY SANDY SMITH  |  JANUARY 14, 2016 AT 5:10 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf wants to shut down the School Reform Commission and return Philadelphia’s public schools to local control. Former Mayor Michael Nutter is also on board with the idea. And last year, city voters approved a non-binding referendum calling on the state to ditch the SRC.  Does the evidence show that is the best arrangement, though? The Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative compared Philadelphia’s setup with that of 15 other big-city school districts. The report laid out a few important findings that both advocates and critics of a proposed local board should keep in mind:

Pew: No magic from local or state school control
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 15, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Local control of large urban school systems is no magic bullet to improve academic performance, research released Thursday indicates.  Then again, neither is state control of such districts.  The conclusions from the Pew Charitable Trusts come amid a growing local push for an end to the School Reform Commission, which has controlled the beleaguered Philadelphia School District since 2001.  Opponents of the SRC - created during the state's takeover of the district, amid financial crisis and academic distress - say it has outlived its usefulness and ought to be replaced by some sort of locally appointed or locally elected board. Prior to the SRC, Philadelphia had a school board with members appointed by the mayor.  But "there really is no consensus about whether any particular form of governance leads to better student performance or fiscal management in an urban setting," said Larry Eichel, director of Pew's Philadelphia research efforts.  Though some academic progress has been made in the 15 years under the SRC, the Philadelphia district remains on shaky ground financially and has miles to go academically.
Pew examined the governance structures of big-city districts nationwide.

First up on Kenney's listening tour of Phila. schools: Penrose Elementary by JULIA TERRUSO, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 16, 2016 — 12:16 AM EST
AS MAYOR KENNEY'S official black SUV rolled up, high-pitched cheers erupted from the steps to Southwest Philadelphia's Penrose School and the rat-tat-tat of the drum line started inside the building.  "He's here! He's here!"  Kenney shook hands with the second-grade welcoming party, standing in a line with "Welcome, Mayor Kenney" signs and shy smiles.  "Thank you for having me," he said. "Should we go inside?"  The mayor has said he will visit one school a week as a nod to his focus on education and two big promises: making pre-K education available to every child in Philadelphia, and putting in place "community schools" - campuses that offer residents access to health, counseling and social services, and community development programs.

"Thanks to secret election cash, our representative democracy, based on the principle of "one person, one vote," is looking more and more like an oligarchy in which the superrich can surreptitiously tilt the election scales in their favor."
Inky Editorial: American oligarchy
Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: JANUARY 15, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
Since the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision in 2010, several hundred million dollars in fingerprints-free contributions have helped elect candidates favored by the superrich and special interests. Safely hidden from the public, these transactions have bought influence without risking blowback from voters.  The secret money flows through a clandestine pipeline known as "social welfare" groups. A bizarre provision in U.S. law allows these grossly misnamed groups to accept secret donations and use the money to sway elections.  These groups may spend up to half their money on electioneering under a strange definition of "social welfare" that includes bombarding the airwaves with negative political ads. Worse, they have found that they can flout limits on election spending and never get caught.

"According to the Department, "The dataset provides new and more detailed information on the over $1.5 billion that CSP [the Charter School Program] has provided, since 2006, to fund the start-up, replication, and expansion" of charters.
It includes information on which grant program funded each of the charter schools listed and how much. That is more information than the public has ever been given about the true reach of the CSP program into their communities, fueled by federal tax dollars."
US Education Department Releases List of Federally Funded Charter Schools,
though Incomplete
Center for Media and Democracy PRWATCH By Lisa Graves on January 14, 2016 - 8:59am
The U.S. Department of Education has released a list of the charter schools that have received federal funding since 2006.  The move comes in the wake of requests by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), dating back to 2014, for public disclosure of who had received federal taxpayer money. CMD had submitted requests for this and related information to the Department and several states.  In October 2015, CMD released its report "Charter School Black Hole: CMD Special Investigation Reveals Huge Info Gap on Charter School Spending," discussing the more than $3.7 billion dollars the federal government had spent on charters and the gaps in what the public could see about which charters received taxpayer money.  Two months later, the Department of Education issued a news release on the subject, titled "A Commitment to Transparency: Learning More about the Charter School Program." The data was released to the public on the eve of Christmas Eve.

'Enough is enough’ — thousands of Florida teachers protest
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss January 15 at 11:58 AM  
Enough is enough.” That was the chant during a protest by up to 3,000 teachers in Florida who traveled to Tallahassee, the state capital, to send their message to legislators that high-stakes testing, for-profit charter schools and other market-based reforms are hurting public education.  The Thursday rally — called by the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union — was held in a spot where lawmakers could hear the proceedings, which included speeches by educators who said it was past time for change.  Education battles have been escalating in Florida, with educators, parents and others opposing the state’s standardized test-based school accountability system. Not only did the state’s association of district school superintendents issue a statement in September saying members have “‘lost confidence” in the system, but the Sun-Sentinel in south Florida warned in an editorial that the accountability system could collapse under the weight of its own problems.

Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association Summer Internship
The deadline to apply for the 2016 summer internship is March 15.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association offers a summer internship program at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.  The 12-week program for two interns consists of two-week rotations at publications such as The Allentown Morning Call, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-GazettePittsburgh Tribune-ReviewPennlive/Patriot-News, and  Interns will assist reporters covering the state budget and report on committee hearings and other political and policy stories in a fast-paced news environment. Interns are expected to pitch their own ideas as well as take assignments on a variety of subjects. We are seeking candidates who can produce their own stories, whether writing quickly for the web on a breaking news event or turning around longer enterprise pieces.  Applicants should be college juniors or seniors or graduate students.  Start dates are flexible, but interns are expected to complete the full 12-week program.

Remaining Locations:
  • 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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