Wednesday, January 20, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 20: High Stakes Testing Runaway Train Ready to Run Off the Tracks in PA without a Single Vote in Opposition

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 20, 2016:
High Stakes Testing Runaway Train Ready to Run Off the Tracks in PA without a Single Vote in Opposition

Blogger note:  In sharp contrast to partisan battles over the PA budget, legislation to delay using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years appears poised to clear the final hurdles to become law.  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." 


"Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated that if the Senate sends him a bill calling for a two-year delay in the start of using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement, as is expected on Wednesday, he will sign it."
Wolf on board with delaying Keystone Exams graduation testing requirement
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 19, 2016 at 5:50 PM, updated January 19, 2016 at 5:52 PM
Legislation to delay the launch of using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years appears poised to clear the final hurdles to become law.  The Senate is expected to take action on the bill on Wednesday that if approved as expected, would go to Gov. Tom Wolf for enactment. Wolf has said he would sign it.  This would push the start of using the exams to determine graduation eligibility back to at least 2018-19.   "I think the Keystone Exams have led to some concerns among the education community that it's a part of a high-stakes test environment. And that's a problem," Wolf said at an unrelated event in Harrisburg on Tuesday.

State graduation requirement could be delayed
Intelligencer by Joan Hellyer, staff writer Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 5:00 am
The state Senate could act as early as Tuesday to temporarily delay requiring high school students to pass three standardized tests, known as Keystone Exams, in order to graduate, officials said.  As it stands now, high school juniors who are members of the Class of 2017 have to take and pass the end-of-course exams in Algebra 1, literature and biology to be eligible for their diplomas. Students who do not demonstrate that they are learning at grade level on the exams could be eligible to take project-based assessments (PBA) to qualify for graduation, officials said.  However, there have been problems with implementing the alternative options, which are online assessments that can take 30 hours to complete, the officials said.  State Senate Bill 880 would delay implementation of the graduation requirement to 2019. Sen. Robert "Tommy" Tomlinson, R-6 of Bensalem, and Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, of Upper Moreland, are among the lawmakers who are sponsoring the legislation.

Keystone Exams Could Be Put To Vote Today In Pennsylvania Senate
CBS Philly January 19, 2016 4:53 AM By Kim Glovas
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Senate could vote today to delay the controversial Keystone Exams, and force the Department of Education to come up with a new high school graduation requirement.  The State House and Senate both voted unanimously last summer to delay implementation of the Keystone Exams, the tests required for students to graduate high school in Pennsylvania. The tests have been under fire for years because of the expense and the additional staffing required to get students prepared. Jim Scanlon, superintendent of the West Chester Area School District, explains why the delay has been delayed.  “It’s been held up because of the budget,” Scanlon says. “School districts have to keep going, we’ve got to keep teaching students and get them prepared to graduate. And none of us want any of our kids not to graduate because of a bad law, but until it’s officially delayed, we have to keep moving forward as if it’s still a graduation requirement.”  Scanlon says the Keystones are currently part of the School Code bill which is part of the state budget, which is stagnating in Harrisburg. He says the Senate wants to pull it out of there and vote on it separately.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: January 13 - 19, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on January 19, 2016 - 1:06pm 
As the first of this issue's headlines makes clear, momentum is rapidly building across the U.S. for major assessment reform campaigns.  The stories that follow -- from 15 states in a holiday-shortened week of news clips -- show the breadth and depth of grassroots activity.

"As 2016 begins, lawmakers must tap into the same spirit of bipartisanship and compromise that guided the (Basic Education Funding) Commission, and adopt its formula into law. In addition, because schools have suffered from insufficient funding over the last several years, the final budget must include a significant new investment of funding so public schools can begin to reverse or avert layoffs and education program cuts. The governor and legislators should pass a budget that contains at least $350 million to help restore funding and begin implementing the BEFC's fair funding formula."
Broken public school funding system needs repaired
Bradford Era By MATTHEW SPLAIN Superintendent Otto-Eldred School District Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 10:00 am
Thanks to a seven-month budget stalemate, Pennsylvania state government begins 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 money for schools and human services, but only enough to stave off the consideration of school closures and program cuts for a few months at the most.  Because of inadequate funding in recent years, many school districts have eliminated programs; laid-off teachers; or reduced academic support for students. The long budget deadlock only made things worse: scores of districts were forced to borrow emergency funds and drain reserve funds just to keep the doors open. It will be up to each local community to pay borrowing costs for these loans as well as consider property tax increases to fill the gap created by inadequate funding.
In the long term, the budget gridlock means that one of the fundamental issues facing Pennsylvania — the need to fix our broken public school funding system — remains unresolved. 

Gov. Wolf talks education funding, school choice
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf took a scheduled appearance on 1410AM KQV radio Tuesday morning to address issues concerning education funding and school choice options.  Speaking first to education funding, Gov. Wolf said the so-called framework budget encapsulated in Senate Bill 1073 provided for an investment in education “I thought we had all agreed on.   Before it ran into legislative roadblocks in the House, the bill was said include $350 million in increased education funding.  The governor also said he is trying to work on a new funding distribution formula that was agreed to by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission.  “There was a bipartisan commission, a fair funding commission, chaired by a Republican Senator and Republican House member that I supported,” he said. “Part of what I’m trying to do is make sure we have adequate funding for education at the state level, because the alternative of course is the local level, and that just drives property taxes higher.”  The rate of funding and the formula being used to drive out those dollars has been a bone of contention between Gov. Wolf and some Republicans who claim that the line-item vetoed budget spends education dollars at a rate higher than ever before since that budget would’ve increased funding by $100 million.  The Wolf administration has contended that due to PlanCon funding changes, the budget actually provides a $92 million cut to education.

VIDEO: Corman gives budget update
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Tuesday, January 19, 2016 Video Runtime: 3:40
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) gives a budget update after today's Rules Committee meeting.

Senate starts working on piecemeal appropriations as complete budget deal remains elusive
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, January 19, 2016
The Senate began working toward sending piecemeal budget appropriations to the governor’s desk Tuesday as a final budget deal that will satisfy all parties continues to remain elusive.  The work began with the Senate Appropriations Committee passing a supplemental appropriations bill to fund the Department of Corrections for the remainder of the year at a level that was said to be agreed upon by all parties.  According to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), without the supplemental appropriation, the department is set to run out of money within a matter of weeks.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf urged to rethink refusal to negotiate new budget deal
Pottstown Mercury By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 01/19/16, 12:12 PM EST
HARRISBURG >> A senior Pennsylvania Senate Republican is suggesting that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will need to be willing to negotiate changes to a bipartisan budget agreement struck last fall.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Tuesday that “taking our marbles and going home” won’t resolve a 7-month-old budget fight.  Tuesday’s Senate voting session was the first of 2016, and Wolf is three weeks from delivering his budget proposal to lawmakers for the fiscal year that begins next July 1.  For the current fiscal year, Wolf authorized about $23 billion from a House Republican bill he opposed. However, Wolf vetoed billions for public schools to keep pressure on the Republican-controlled House to pass the bipartisan deal.  That deal included a $1 billion-plus tax increase to deliver a record boost in school aid and to fix a long-term deficit.

Adolph Letter to the Editor: GOP sent sensible Pa. budget to Gov. Wolf
Delco Times Letter by POSTED: 01/19/16, 8:31 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Rep. William F. Adolph, Jr., R-165 of Springfield, House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman
To the Times:
Early in December I stood on the House floor and stated that the budget contained in House Bill 1460 was the “art of the possible.” The budget that the House and Senate sent the governor before Christmas is a full 12-month budget. It is a budget that meets the needs of Pennsylvania without overburdening the working families of Pennsylvania with large tax increases. The governor, sadly, does not see it this way.  We have worked diligently to end this impasse. We passed a balanced budget in June, which Gov. Tom Wolf made the unprecedented move of vetoing in its entirety. We passed a stop-gap budget in September that, once again, the governor vetoed so he could keep students, nonprofits, and human service agencies as hostages for more taxes. And now we have passed House Bill 1460, which is a full 12-month budget that adds $405 million more for PreK-12 education. The reason that there is funding going to our schools, nonprofits, and county human service agencies is because the Legislature did its job.

"In one holistic proposal, Wolf sought to close a deficit, solve equity in school funding, recast the tax landscape in a way designed to reduce reliance on local property taxes and deal with Pennsylvania's public pension hangover.  One problem. The budget called for the largest tax increases most members of the new legislature had ever been asked to consider. It was clear there was going to be a battle."
Gov. Wolf at one year: Political gridlock erases memories of a fast start
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 19, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated January 19, 2016 at 12:43 PM
Rocky starts are something of a tradition for Pennsylvania governors, and Gov. Tom Wolf has certainly done his part.  After opening with a series of assertive moves on several campaign promises, Wolf's agenda was pretty much blocked for the second half of the year by a lengthy battle over taxes and spending with legislative Republicans.  That record budget standoff over school funding levels - and the taxes needed to support them - has now spilled into Year Two of the Wolf administration, and poses at least the threat of defining the York businessman's term.  Voters gave Wolf a ready-made excuse: He was elected last November alongside historically large Republican majorities in the state House and Senate.  But the results, for a non-traditional politician who prided himself on his abilities to get things done, have to be frustrating.
Here's some of the major themes of Wolf 1.0.

Budget battle dominated Tom Wolf’s first year in office
Long impasse overshadows start of his term; GOP cites lack of cooperation
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 20, 2016 12:14 AM
HARRISBURG -- Exactly a year ago, his hand on a mid-19th century family Bible, on another cold January day, Gov. Tom Wolf took the oath of office, pledging jobs that pay, schools that teach and a government that works.  Now, Mr. Wolf is mired in a months-long standoff with the Legislature, more than halfway through a fiscal year that started July 1 and still without a completed spending plan.  “This [year] was all about the budget. The fight over the budget made progress on other things very difficult,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat like Mr. Wolf. Mr. Rendell spent much of his first year in 2003 in a battle over education spending with the Legislature that ended with a tax hik

"Sen. Aument’s appointment comes from the resignation of Sen. Dominic Pileggi, who was recently elected to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas."
Aument Appointed to Senate Education Committee
Senator Aument's website January 19, 2016
HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) received notification from the President Pro Tempore of the Senate today that he has been appointed to the Committee on Education.  “I am thrilled to have an opportunity to participate in one of the most important debates facing Pennsylvania today,” said Sen. Aument. “Education is one of the cornerstones to creating a society where every Pennsylvanian has an opportunity to succeed in life.”

"Stopping in his hometown, Rivera gave a thumbs up to the Kenney education agenda, which places priority on both prekindergarten and community schools, a concept that would cluster social services inside city schools as a way to both serve neighborhoods and bolster academics."
Spend more on early childhood, Kenney says, and less on prisons
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER. Updated: JANUARY 19, 2016 — 4:21 PM EST
First, Mayor Kenney handled the important business: reading a picture book called My Friendsto a group of spellbound four year olds.  Next, he talked about what he calls one of the biggest priorities of his administration: opening prekindergarten seats to "as many children as we can reach."  Kenney and Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania's top education official, traveled Tuesday to a Northeast Philadelphia early childhood education center to tout the recent release of state funds that will pay for 1,500 new prekindergarten seats.  That dovetails with Kenney's yet-to-be-finalized early-childhood plan, whose initial price tag is $60 million and would, he said, be funded through a combination of city, state, and private money. Details of that should come by March, the mayor said.  The impetus is clear, said Kenney: invest in early childhood now, and spend less on remedial education and even prisons later.  "If we get children a good start - a really, really good start - when they get to kindergarten and first grade, our teachers have the ability to make them blossom," he said.

Kenney engages pre-K stakeholders during school tour in Northeast Philly
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JANUARY 19, 2016
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has pledged to provide free, quality preschool to all city 3- and 4-year-olds by the end of his first term.  On Tuesday, the mayor gathered with students and stakeholders at Kinder Academy — a highly rated preschool in the Northeast — to read stories and learn how to best implement his $60 million vision.  Kenney and his staff met with about a dozen people who operate some of the city's top-rated preschools — picking their brains about how to expand quality options in areas of need without duplicating service.  It was the first such formal meeting between the Kenney administration and quality pre-K providers.  "We're not here to supplant you, or to tell you what to do, or to change your operations," Kenney told them. "You know, better than I would ever know, how to do what you do."  Kenney aims to help quality providers expand, boost the performance of those who want to do better, and draw students from low-quality providers that, the administration says, don't have the best interests of children at heart.

With time ticking, parents fight for their school
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER. Updated: JANUARY 19, 2016  6:54 PM EST
Days before the School Reform Commission makes a decision on whether to turn two Philadelphia public schools over to charter providers, parents gathered in the bitter cold Tuesday to say: Don't let our voices go unheard.  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has recommended the district hand over Cooke Elementary in Logan, and Huey Elementary in West Philadelphia, to outside organizations to run as charters. Wister Elementary had been slated to be handed to a charter, but Hite reversed course on that decision, citing academic progress at the Germantown school.  The SRC is scheduled to seal the schools' fates with a vote Thursday.  Huey and Cooke parents took heart at the Wister decision, they said at a news conference held outside Cooke. While Hite has clearly made up his mind about what to do with the struggling schools, they said, perhaps they have a shot at swaying the commission and keeping their schools part of the Philadelphia School District.

Blogger note: When is the last time, if ever, that you saw a public meeting notice or any press coverage of a charter school board meeting?
Manheim Township School Board's pattern of meeting behind closed doors raises Sunshine Law concerns
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer January 19, 2016
The Manheim Township School Board met behind closed doors twice in December.  It didn't disclose any details of the meetings afterward.  And nearly a month later, the board president wouldn't even confirm when, exactly, one of the meetings took place.  "We had an executive session on personnel back in December," Bill Murry said at a public work session Thursday.  And that was it.  The most recent executive session continued the board’s six-month-long pattern of convening behind closed doors and providing little information to the public.

How Jeb Bush wants to shake up education from pre-K through college
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton January 19 at 5:20 PM  
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has laid out the most detailed education plan of any presidential contender in either party, offering a battery of free-market ideas affecting preschool through college and beyond.  “I firmly believe that ensuring every individual has access to a quality education is the great civil rights challenge of our time,” Bush wrote in a post on Medium on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday.  Bush’s 10-page plan echoes many longstanding Republican ideas: cutting the federal influence in local schools, consolidating individual federal programs into block grants to states, allowing federal tax dollars to be used for tuition at private schools, and expanding charter schools as an alternative to traditional public schools.  First as governor and then through an education foundation he created after he left office, Bush has sought to influence education policy around the country. Despite polls that show voters care about education, the issue has garnered only passing attention from most of the Republican field to date.

Money Matters for K-12 Education
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities by Nick Albares Policy Analyst nalbares@cbpp.org JANUARY 15, 2016 AT 1:30 PM
A careful study reaches a conclusion that comports with common sense:  better funding for schools leads to better long-term outcomes for students.  With state legislative sessions beginning around the country this month, that’s a timely and important message, especially in the many states that haven’t restored funding cuts they enacted due to the Great Recession.   The study, by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, examined data on more than 15,000 children born between 1955 and 1985.  During these children’s school years, some states raised funding for high-poverty schools due to court orders and other states didn’t, creating a fruitful environment for studying the impact of increased funding.   After controlling for such factors as enrollment growth and economic conditions, the researchers found that poor children whose schools were estimated to receive a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school had 10 percent higher earnings — and 17 percent higher family income — in adulthood (see chart).  They also were likelier to complete high school and less likely as adults to be poor.


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 www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute 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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