Saturday, January 23, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 23: Is the Philadelphia School District better or worse off after 15 years of state management?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 23, 2016:
Is the Philadelphia School District better or worse off after 15 years of state management?

BLOG: Q&A with Governor Wolf on the Unfinished Republican Budget
January 22, 2016 he Office of Governor Tom Wolf Video Runtime: 2:18
Watch our Q&A with Governor Wolf on the unfinished Republican budget for more on why it’s so important for legislators to get back to work and finish the job:

Speaker Turzai, and Winter Energy Prices on Pennsylvania Newsmakers
Video ally aired on January 24th, 2016
This week’s Pennsylvania Newsmakers features an interview with the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, Rep. Mike Turzai, (R-28), for a discussion of the state budget, liquor privatization, and pensions. Then, joining host Terry Madonna is Terry Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, for a discussion of energy prices and households without heating.

"Long story short, incumbent Republicans prefer not to run for reelection on the immediate heels of a tax increase and incumbent Democrats would probably prefer not to have to go to their base for fundraising after changes to core issues like public pensions."
GAVELED OUT: An odd situation for an even-numbered year
The PLS Reporter Author Jason Gottesman/Friday, January 22, 2016/Categories: Features
There’s generally one simple rule for governing in Pennsylvania: do the heavy lifting in odd numbered years.  Even numbered years in Pennsylvania’s state government are usually ones in which some of the more controversial—also known as attention getting—topics get pushed aside and budget fights do not linger too far past June 30.  The answer as to why is fairly obvious: in even numbered years half the state Senate and the entire House of Representatives is running for reelection. Every four years there is a gubernatorial election.  Not surprisingly, the time as well as the emotional and mental distance from tough slogs in policy and/or budgeting during odd-numbered years allows some cover for those entering tough election fights in even-numbered years.

Pa. government must live within its means
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY KERRY BENNINGHOFF JANUARY 22, 2016 8:37 PM
Kerry Benninghoff represents the 171st District in the state House of Representatives.
To tax you more or to hold the line on spending? That has been the question before the Pennsylvania General Assembly since Gov. Tom Wolf gave his first budget address last March and called for a nearly $5 billion in new spending this year alone, which would be more than $12 billion in higher taxes over the next two years.  To put his ask into context, former Gov. Ed Rendell, who was never shy about growing government, increased spending by $7.74 billion, but it took him eight years to do it.  Wolf’s plan would have increased the state personal income tax by 21 percent and increased the sales and use tax by 10 percent. Wolf also wanted to collect taxes on many products and services used by everyday working Pennsylvanians, like nonprescription drugs, diapers, day care and nursing home care.

Education chief stresses need for diversity in visit
Philly Trib by Wilford Shamlin III Tribune Staff Writer  Posted: Friday, January 22, 2016 12:00 am
More than 200 people gathered in an auditorium at the city’s High School of the Future on Thursday for a town hall meeting with the new Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr.  King called for more leadership and partnership with educators to do more to achieve equity in America’s public schools and elevate the teaching profession. He urged more must be done to help Black and Latino students in addition to students from low-income households who fall into the bottom of most measures of student achievement. He said a generation ago, U.S. schools were performing higher.  “We need a more diverse and racially and linguistically diverse population of teachers,” King told the crowd.  He said the majority of students in public schools are students of color, with one of 10 students speaking languages other than English.  In contrast, Black and Latino teachers account for 15 percent of the U.S. teaching workforce, and 2 percent are Black males. King has parents who are Black and Latino.

"Philadelphia has HALF the per student funding that Lower Merion, one of the state’s top districts, has to spend. Until that gaping hole is addressed, we’ll continue to shuffle deck chairs as if when properly aligned on deck they’ll somehow provide lift."
Three new charters, same old problem
Public Citizens for Children and Youth January 22, 2016
With continued pressure on the District from from Harrisburg to convert more public schools into charters (and the PSD dependent on support from Harrisburg for its under resourced schools), we’ll continue to see charters presented as a solution for the City’s lowest performing schools. But it’s hard to imagine any school, public or charter, succeeding as long as one simple fact remains: Per student funding is far below what is desperately needed and has been for quite some time.  You might see PSD as managing a fleet of boats, scrambling to keep each vessel on course as they navigate treacherous waters. But it’s more apt to recognize the District as the Titanic listing after slamming into a behemoth iceberg, called underfunding.

"Council President Darrell L. Clarke was livid.  "Decisions regarding our neighborhood public schools should be made in broad daylight with those directly impacted at the table, not by fiat with no advance notice after 10 o'clock at night. No public authority in America, including the City Council of Philadelphia, is permitted to conduct itself with so little transparency and so much insulation from citizens," said Clarke, who renewed his cry for the SRC to be disbanded."
Sylvia Simms, the SRC member who changed the fate of a school
Inquirer by Kristin A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 23, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
Sylvia Simms rarely speaks publicly at School Reform Commission meetings.
But nearly five hours into a contentious session on Thursday night, the former Philadelphia School District bus aide dropped a bombshell, offering a walk-on resolution that altered the fate of a struggling Germantown public school.  "I have pent-up emotions about the way the district has allowed many of our schools in low-income neighborhoods to fail our students and their families," Simms said. "Families are literally crying for alternatives, and they have shown us by their choices that they are not pleased by the way we are educating their children."  The last-minute resolution overruled the wishes of Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., beginning a process likely to culminate in Wister Elementary being taken over by Mastery Charter Schools.  Hite had first called for Wister, Huey, and Cooke Elementary Schools to be taken over by charter companies, but the superintendent reversed course this month after Wister demonstrated some growth in school-performance data.

"Is the School District better off today, or worse off, after 15 years of State management?"
JANUARY 23, 2016 Lucid Witness Blog by DAUN KAUFFMAN
Daun Kauffman has taught . . . (actually, mostly learned) in Philadelphia public schools for 15 years
Governor Tom Wolf is battling for fair funding for Public Education. It’s an epic battle in Pennsylvania and part of the war on Public Education across America.  It involves us all.
In spite of the facts that legislators have failed to propose an acceptable budget, and that the budget is 7 months overdue, Governor Wolf is standing strong against politicians’ attempts to further slash public education.  It’s not just about the money.  It’s also about how the budget is allocated to districts.  It’s also about politicians trying to link requirements for their increasing micromanagement of individual schools.  State-level politicians have a clear, 15-year track record since they took over the School District of Philadelphia.  Their record is one of stunningly consistent academic demise and fiscal disaster.

District counsel issues opinion that Simms had no conflict on Wister-Mastery vote
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa January 22 — 10:59pm
School District General Counsel Michael Davis has found that Sylvia Simms had no conflict of interest when she introduced a last-minute resolution to pair Wister Elementary School in Germantown with Mastery Charter late in Thursday night’s School Reform Commission meeting.  Simms’ sister, Quibila Divine, works for Citizen Consulting Group, a public relations and public engagement firm that has a contract with Mastery.  “Upon reviewing the facts I have determined that no conflict of interest exists on the part of Commissioner Simms due to her sister, Quibila Devine’s [sic] relationship with Citizen Consulting Group,” Davis wrote in an opinion released by District spokesman Fernando Gallard after the Notebook asked for it. Davis came to that conclusion because Simms had nothing to do with Divine’s hiring, according to his opinion.  Gallard said that Davis reviewed the situation Friday – after the meeting – because he had not been aware of the issue previously. Public officials are supposed to ask for an opinion before taking an action that could fall under ethics rules. It is not customary to get an opinion on past conduct.  Simm’s move stunned the hundreds of people at the tense meeting, because it defied Superintendent Hite’s recommendation.

Phoenixville board OKs 2.4% tax hike, blames state budget impasse
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 01/22/16, 8:50 AM EST | UPDATED: 22 MINS AGO
Phoenixville >> Property owners may need to pony up a few more bucks in real estate taxes, thanks to Harrisburg’s failure to pass a budget. Yet officials say there is still plenty of work that needs to be done before anything is set in stone, and plenty of time to do it.  The school board unanimously approved the 2016-17 preliminary budget, calling for a 2.4 percent tax increase Thursday. That’s the limit, under the Act 1 index, the district can raise taxes without holding a voter referendum. A final budget will be passed in June.  With a preliminary budget of $89.29 million and millage rate of 29.58 mils, the owner of a home assessed at the median average $133,540 would pay an additional $92 a year, for a total of $3,950 in real estate taxes, according to District Finance Director Chris Gehris. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. A final budget is expected to be adopted May 26.  The administration said it was forced to make certain assumptions regarding the preliminary budget, given the lack of a state budget. 

How much will Easton Area school taxes rise this year?
By Rudy Miller | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 23, 2016 at 6:33 AM, updated January 23, 2016 at 6:34 AM
If the Easton Area School Board wants to raise taxes next year, it shouldn't raise them more than 3.1 percent.  That's the recommendation from the district's chief operating officer, Michael Simonetta.  At the most recent school board meeting, Simonetta said the state-set index for the school district for 2016-17 is 3.1 percent. If the district wants to raise taxes above the index, it needs to either go to a voter referendum or seek exceptions from the state.

Here's How the Education World Thinks the Feds Should Regulate Under ESSA
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 22, 2016 7:26 AM
How should the U.S. Department of Education regulate under the Every Student Succeeds Act? People got a chance to share their thoughts with the department face-to-face during two hearings this month. But the public also got a chance to submit public comments on the Internet. The comment period for those submissions just closed Thursday. And as of about 6 p.m. that day, there were more than 200 comments filed.  So what were some of the highlights? You probably won't be surprised to learn that accountability took up a lot of the oxygen in the comments. And testing issues like how to handle opt-outs were also expounded upon. Plus, school turnaround issues and funding got some attention.   We've tried to organize the highlighted comments into several categories where there was a lot of input. Confession: We haven't been through all 200-plus comments. But don't worry, this isn't the last time we'll take a look at what folks want to see in ESSA regs.

"The company’s announcement said those factors reduced its operating profit by about $328 million. It did not mention problems in the U.S. standardized testing market  — in which Forbes says Pearson has a stake of possibly as much as 60 percent — with a move toward fewer tests and the rejection by a number of states of a major Pearson-created Common Core test known as the PARCC."
Pearson, world’s largest education company, laying off 10 percent of workforce
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 22 at 3:30 PM  
Pearson, the largest education company in the world and a big target of school reform critics because of its major presence in the U.S. standardized testing market, has not made as much money as it was hoping and just announced that it is embarking on a restructuring that includes a layoff of 10 percent of its workforce.  Pearson said the restructuring — the second since John Fallon became executive director in 2013 — is required by “cyclical and policy related challenges in some of our largest markets” that “have been more pronounced and extended than we expected when we outlined our plans three years ago.” They include falling college enrollment in the United States, fewer students in England and Wales taking vocational courses and lower-than-expected textbook purchases in South Africa.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 1-23-16

PSBA New School Director Training 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

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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