Monday, January 18, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 18: Report says PA lags in pre-K education

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3800 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

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 18, 2016:
Report says PA lags in pre-K education

Blogger note: Approved by the PA Senate on 6/15/15 by a vote of 49-0 and by the House on 11/23/15 by a vote of 196-0, Senate Bill 880 says: "the use of the Keystone Exam as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year."  But the bill has to clear yet one more hurdle in the Senate because of a House-approved amendment to the legislation.
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.

Report says Pennsylvania lags in pre-K education
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 18, 2016 12:00 AM
Pennsylvania trails most neighboring states in access to publicly funded, high-quality, pre-K education, with only 1 in 6 children in the state enrolled in such a program, according to a report released last week by a Harrisburg children’s advocacy organization.  About 120,000 3- and 4-year-olds statewide, many of whom are from low-income families, are at risk of school failure because they don’t have opportunities for early childhood education, said Joan L. Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. That figure includes more than 12,500 children in Allegheny County.  “When we make this investment, we help kids, we help the communities, we help schools, we improve kids’ lives,” she said at a news conference Thursday at the Small World Early Learning & Development Center in Downtown.  The report, “The Case for Pre-K in PA,” noted that over five years, Pennsylvania dropped from 11th to 15th in the nation in pre-K access for 3-year-olds and from 24th to 30th for 4-year-olds, according to research from the National Institute for Early Education Research.  In Pennsylvania, such programs are available to 26 percent of 4-year-olds. In West Virginia, New York and Maryland, by contrast, the figures are 94 percent, 54 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Editorial: Pennsylvanians need, deserve full-year budget
Lancaster Online by LNP Editorial Board Jan 17, 2016
State budget discussions in Harrisburg got so bad last week that the office of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the House Republican leadership appeared to be at odds over whether they were at an impasse. They were not seeing eye to eye on this basic question: Does Pennsylvania have or does it still need a budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30?
The disagreement was almost surreal.
It concerned what had happened Dec. 29, when the governor took a blue pen to the $30.3 billion budget sent to his desk six days earlier by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.  Wolf’s action authorized $23.4 billion for counties and state services and half-year funding for public schools but struck billions for public schools, prisons and health care for the poor. The goal was to keep pressure on lawmakers to come back in the new year and approve a budget agreement reached between the governor and legislative leaders.  “It means that we have a budget in place — it does,” House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin told Mary Wilson, who covers the state Capitol for WITF and other Pennsylvania public radio stations, Thursday. “There’s a budget in place right now.”  The governor’s office disagreed.  “That’s one of the more ridiculous things I’ve heard,” Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan replied. “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.”  That last part is where the disagreement really is.

"All 203 House members who wish to retain their seats are up for election this year, as is half the Senate, or 25 members.  The primary election — which in some districts functions as the de facto election — is April 26.  But candidates can begin circulating and filing their nomination petitions within a matter of days — starting Jan. 26. The last day to circulate and file petitions is Feb. 16."
Pennsylvania's approaching primary means legislators less likely to act on budget
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 18, 2016 12:14 AM
HARRISBURG — The 2016 campaign season will open next week when state legislative candidates begin circulating their nominating petitions.  And with it, some believe, will come the close of meaningful legislative activity, including votes on the state budget — at least for a while.  Since any vote on raising sales or income taxes is a tough vote for most elected officials under any circumstances, action to raise revenue becomes less likely with each passing day, many Capitol observers believe. In other words, Gov. Tom Wolf’s long-sought increased additional funding for education is less likely, at least in this fiscal year’s yet-to-be completed budget.  It could also mean this year’s budget stalemate is resolved with some kind of two-year budget plan that rolls this fiscal year and next fiscal year’s budget into one agreement.  “It’s hard to fathom a way in which the two budgets don’t have a confluence now,” said David Patti, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business Council, a statewide business advocacy group.

Changing Harrisburg will take longer than a year, Wolf says
Penn Live By Marc Levy | The Associated Press on January 17, 2016 at 4:30 PM, updated January 17, 2016 at 10:53 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Tom Wolf's first year as Pennsylvania governor was consumed by a knock-down, drag-out budget fight, and perhaps it had to be expected.
Pennsylvania governors historically have had difficult first years and Wolf, the scion of a business family, had run as a liberal, soundly defeating an unpopular Tom Corbett to win the right to share power with the largest and perhaps most conservative Republican legislative majorities in modern Pennsylvania history.  Wolf pledged in his inaugural speech to be a different and unconventional governor who would use his business-world experience of focusing everyone on the same mission.  A year later, he has not secured any of his leading campaign promises or budget goals, key among them making the state's tax system fairer to the middle class, and fixing massive funding disparities between rich and poor school districts. State government set a record-long budget stalemate that has crowded out other major priorities and virtually overshadowed anything else he did accomplish.

Think Tom Wolf thinks of home these days?
Philly Daily News by John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist. Updated: JANUARY 18, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
I WONDER IF he's ready to pack it in, jump in the Jeep, and stick-shift back to Mount Wolf for keeps.  Who would blame him?  Tom Wolf's first year has been more pugnacious than productive; lots of too-familiar politics, precious little progress.  Promises of a better state wilted under partisan heat and political rancor, leaving Harrisburg still stuck in its hamster-wheel of sameness.  By contrast, Wolf's ancestral home 22 miles southeast of the Capitol is a placid place of no mail delivery and no red lights, where living and governing seem stress-free.  This, for example, from last month's Borough Council meeting: Mount Wolf Mayor Mo Starner performed one wedding and met with two residents about their dog; "they were very appreciative of her visit."

State budget stalemate joining epic battles
Times-Tribune ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF Published: January 18, 2016
HARRISBURG — The continuing state budget stalemate invites comparisons to earlier dogfights between governors and lawmakers during the course of Pennsylvania’s history.  Seven months into the fiscal year, Pennsylvania is operating under a partial $23 billion budget with full state funding for schools, public universities, the corrections department and a number of programs still unresolved. The budget stalemate is the longest during the state’s modern political era.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature have fought over a range of interrelated policy issues since he took office nearly a year ago — more education spending, a state severance tax on natural gas production, erasing a revenue deficit, restoring previous cuts to social service programs, selling the state liquor stores and curbing public pension benefits.  On one level, these fights are fueled by ideological differences over the size and cost of state government and tax policy to achieve public goals.  On the other, there’s a deep divide between the executive and legislative branches of state government. Each branch has used the tools at its disposal in an effort to get the upper hand. Bill vetoes and veto threats for Mr. Wolf. Votes to override vetoes, pass stopgap budgets and schedule session days in the House and Senate.

Did you catch our weekend posting?  Guess its time to retire that "You've got a friend in Pennsylvania" slogan…
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
Sunday, January 17, 2016

Western Pa. school districts stock naloxone in nurse's offices
Trib Live By Kari Andren Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
A law enabling emergency responders to carry drug overdose reversal medications has inspired another group of first responders to arm themselves with the life-saving remedy: school nurses.  
School districts around the region have begun debating and adopting policies that put naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, in nurses' offices. Many are training nurses, school administrators and security guards in the administration of the antidote.  “If you have the ability to be proactive and preventative, why not do that?” said Janet Sardon, superintendent of Yough School District.  The district was the first in the state to seek the use of naloxone and prompted Gov. Tom Wolf's administration to write to all 500 districts statewide to inform them they could legally stock the drug and encourage them to do so.  “By allowing the trained medical professionals at our schools to be equipped with this critical tool, we will effectively give overdosing individuals a second chance at life, a chance that was not previously made available to them in all cases,” said Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

"As the country is about to mark a national holiday to honor civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., here is a piece on this testing-equals-civil rights issue. It was written by Steven Singer, a veteran  Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Pennsylvania with a masters degree in education. He is a husband, father,  blogger and education advocate who teaches eighth-grade Language Arts at a suburban school near Pittsburgh. He gave me permission to republish this post, which first appeared on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG. Singer’s classes are made up of roughly 70 percent minority students, and an even higher percentage of his students come from low socioeconomic status households. Standardized test scores are low, he says, but creativity, passion and critical thinking skills are high."
Teacher: Kids are judged by their test scores — not by their character
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 17 at 3:00 PM  
It has become a common refrain among school reformers that annual standardized testing equals civil rights. In the last few years, some civil rights groups have sided with those reformers  who see standardized tests as a singularly legitimate way of assessing student growth, and they have criticized parents who have refused to allow their children to take such exams.  Last year, for example, a dozen civil rights group, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released a statement opposing Common Core testing opt-out efforts by parents and others, saying that the tests are valuable to students of color and those from low-income families who have been ignored in the past by school systems. The statement said in part:   Data obtained through some standardized tests are particularly important to the civil rights community because they are the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes, even while vigilance is always required to ensure tests are not misused.  A number of organizations — including other civil rights groups — came out against the statement, noting that it is the high-stakes tests and the misuse of the results that are harmful, not parents who are opting their children out of taking these exams. They also noted that there is no evidence that high-stakes tests improve the quality of education or help close achievement gaps. Yet the notion persists that the civil rights of minority and low-income students will be violated if standardized tests are not used as one — if not the — key measure of student growth.

How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers
New York Times Opinion By ROBERT M. WACHTER JAN. 16, 2016
TWO of our most vital industries, health care and education, have become increasingly subjected to metrics and measurements. Of course, we need to hold professionals accountable. But the focus on numbers has gone too far. We’re hitting the targets, but missing the point.  Through the 20th century, we adopted a hands-off approach, assuming that the pros knew best. Most experts believed that the ideal “products” — healthy patients and well-educated kids — were too strongly influenced by uncontrollable variables (the sickness of the patient, the intellectual capacity of the student) and were too complex to be judged by the measures we use for other industries.  By the early 2000s, as evidence mounted that both fields were producing mediocre outcomes at unsustainable costs, the pressure for measurement became irresistible. In health care, we saw hundreds of thousands of deaths from medical errors, poor coordination of care and backbreaking costs. In education, it became clear that our schools were lagging behind those in other countries.

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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