Monday, January 25, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 25: "While levels of achievement have to be measured, evidence seems to be mounting that more and more standardized tests are not the way to do it."

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 25, 2016:
"While levels of achievement have to be measured, evidence seems to be mounting that more and more standardized tests are not the way to do it."

"The issue of what role the courts should play in ensuring the mandates of our constitution are complied with if the legislature clearly fails that duty is now posed for decision in William Penn School District v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, No. 587 M.D.2014, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to hear this spring."
School Funding: Do Pennsylvania Courts Have a Role?
Michael Churchill, The Legal Intelligencer January 25, 2016
Editor's note: The author is involved in the William Penn School District case.
Since Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), few have questioned the importance of access to a quality system of public education to students and to the public at large. The basic issue of fairness in how public funds are distributed so that all are equitably supported is apparent, and we didn't need a recently completed study by the Rand Corp.—which found the commonwealth's disparities in education funding costs it billions of dollars in gross domestic product per year—to know that a state's economy will improve when the caliber of its high-school graduates improve. For these reasons, both the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania bar associations adopted resolutions in recent years calling on the legislature to comply with its duty under the education clause of the state constitution to provide for the maintenance of a thorough and efficient system of public education and under the constitution's equal ­protection provisions.

"While the severance tax is out of the historically late 2015-16 budget "because Republicans would not support it," Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said, it will be re-introduced in the 2016-17 budget.  "We are 100 percent committed to proposing the severance tax," John Hanger, the governor's policy director, said on Friday."
Does Gov. Tom Wolf still want a severance tax on drilling?
Penn Live By Candy Woodall | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 25, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated January 25, 2016 at 7:10 AM
Governors in six severance tax states are working through millions and billions worth of budget losses as they try to make up for a lack of revenue produced by the struggling oil and gas industry.  Drillers in Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming and Pennsylvania are all facing the worst oil bust since the 1980s amid the lowest oil and natural gas prices in more than a decade.  But there's a difference: Pennsylvania is the only one of those states that doesn't have a severance tax on drilling.  The governor's office says that's a bad thing, and industry advocates say it's a good thing.  First, let's look at what's happening in other states:

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 23: Is the Philadelphia School District better or worse off after 15 years of state management?

"In a normal year, the speech is a time when a governor lays out his vision for next year’s budget, as well as any major initiatives he wants to pursue. But Mr. Wolf will be in the odd position of having to discuss his goals for next year with the current year’s — particularly his quest for more revenue and education spending — still uncertain."
Pennsylvania Legislature trapped in budgetary twilight zone
Strange happenings in Harrisburg
By Kate Giammarise/ Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 25, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — The lack of a completed state budget more than halfway through the fiscal year is giving rise to a number of strange and unprecedented situations in Harrisburg.
After a compromise budget deal fell apart in December, the Legislature sent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf a $30.26 billion Republican-crafted budget, just days before Christmas. Mr. Wolf signed into law $23.39 billion worth of state spending, but vetoed large portions of the bill — including half a year’s worth of education and corrections spending — in order to keep Republican legislative leaders negotiating and because he said the budget was not balanced. But a final budget doesn’t seem to be on the horizon anytime soon. Many Capitol observers don’t expect any major action until after the April primary election.  In the meantime, Harrisburg is in a puzzling sort of limbo.  Mr. Wolf is set to give his annual budget address to legislators Feb. 9 for the fiscal year that begins July 1, even though no completed spending plan is in place for the current year.

"Wagner heads the Senate campaign committee and is looking to pick up enough seats this year to create a veto-proof chamber. It would only take two. He's also helping with House races, hoping to build on its 120-83 GOP advantage."
John Baer: Horrible Harrisburg's York County connection
by John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist. Updated: JANUARY 25, 2016 — 12:16 AM EST
TO BETTER understand why Pennsylvania has no budget, why the Capitol's a partisan pit where progress is prisoner, look no farther than nearby rural York County and two of its rich-guy sons.  Wealthy Democratic Gov. Wolf and wealthy Republican Sen. Scott Wagner represent opposite ends of a fight for the state's current and future fiscal and political status.  Scott Wagner heads the Senate campaign committee and is looking to pick up enough seats this year to create a veto-proof chamber.  They've also come to represent the slippage of civil public debate.  Wagner, a pugnacious conservative who tells me, "I'm not the most polished guy," recently raised eyebrows speaking of Wolf at a GOP gathering.  "We had him down on the floor with our foot on his throat and we let him up," Wagner said. "Next time we won't let him up."  This was a reference to negotiations for a state budget due last July.  It came not long after Wolf at a news conference called a GOP budget offering "an exercise in stupidity" and "garbage."  This was possibly a reference to the fact that Wagner owns a waste-management firm and is self-described as a "garbage man who never graduated college."  The pair are at odds and make for an odd couple: different with similarities.

“What we have now is more frustration, more confusion, and more animosity than we've had at any time since the 1970s,” Madonna said. ‘There's more uncertainty about the future, among political leaders, than I've seen in decades.”
Woes across government branches tarnish Pa.'s image, experts say
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, 10:30 p.m. |Updated 8 hours ago
HARRISBURG — Political analysts say Pennsylvania's national reputation is tarnished by an unfinished state budget, an attorney general facing criminal charges, a convicted state treasurer and scandals on its Supreme Court, most recently involving offensive emails.  “This is worse than Illinois,” which has no state budget, said Robert Strauss, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. “We're talking about all three branches of government. People who travel to other states are constantly asked, ‘What the hell is going on in Pennsylvania?' Woody Allen would have a great time starring in a movie: Pennsylvania, the latest banana republic.”  Kyle Kopko, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College, sums it up: “State government is a mess.”

"I know what you are thinking: deadlines didn’t work then and they won’t work now. That’s why my legislation will also require the legislature to remain in continuous session, meeting every day without leave, without pay, without reimbursements, and without per diems, if a complete budget is not passed and signed by July 1. The same goes for the governor, his senior staff and cabinet members. That doesn’t mean salary, reimbursements and per diems will be temporarily suspended and paid out after a budget plan is passed, as is currently the case. It means they’ll be forfeited. It means when the legislature and the governor don’t do their job and don’t meet their constitutional obligations, they get nothing.  In addition, any meetings between legislative leaders and the governor after June 30 must be open to the public. The practice of playing out the budget in “he-said, she-said” leaks to the press is certainly unproductive. It has only served to further partisan gridlock and finger-pointing. If you are going to negotiate with the peoples’ money and the peoples’ business, do it in front of the people."
SEN. DINNIMAN: Hold Harrisburg accountable for state budget
Pottstown Mercury Opinion by Senator Andy Dinniman POSTED: 01/25/16, 2:00 AM EST |
The state budget impasse, now in its seventh month, is symptomatic of what’s wrong with Harrisburg. In turn, it offers an opportunity to finally address real and long-standing problems in the legislative and budget process.  Pennsylvania’s budget runs past the July 1 deadline 37 percent of the time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That is unacceptable and it cannot be allowed to continue. There is no question that entering a fiscal year without a finalized budget has potentially disastrous and widespread impacts. Meanwhile, other states have enacted measures to help avoid budget stalemates and to spur lawmakers to action when partisan gridlock begins to set in.  As a result of this year’s budget impasse and additional research into approaches that have been successful in other states, I am introducing and supporting a series of bills that will move up the Pennsylvania’s budget calendar, impose severe consequence on the legislature when budgets run late, make more budget negotiations public, and move the Commonwealth’s budget process to a more long-term planning approach.

Editorial: Harrisburg bloodsport taking its toll
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 01/24/16, 5:26 AM EST
Dominic Pileggi was a powerful man. So was Bill Adolph.
Both were longtime fixtures amid the Delaware County delegation in Harrisburg, Pileggi serving the people of the 9th District in the Senate; Adolph the 165th District in the House.
Both longtime GOP leaders have decided to put Harrisburg in the rear-view mirror.
Pileggi was the Senate Majority leader. But he ran afoul of his own party, some of whom believed he was not conservative enough for their taste, and a few going so far as to say he was sabotaging former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s agenda. He was voted out by his own party as majority leader. Pileggi opted to run – and win – a seat on the Delaware County bench.  Adolph served in the House for decades. He rose to the position of Majority Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which basically puts him at ground zero in the process by which the state budget is put together.

For Wolf's next budget, nothing short of a full reboot will do: Tony May
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tony May  on January 24, 2016 at 8:30 AM
Everyone who's ever used a computer running on the Windows operating system has seen it at one time or another: the BSOD – or Blue Screen of  Death.   It's Bill Gates' way of telling you that you've messed  things up so royally, you really should start over from the very beginning.  So you do what you were told never to do.   You "crash" the system by pulling the plug.  And you reboot.  You've been forewarned that crashing the system will cause you to lose work product – and may cause a glitch somewhere in the software.   But you do it anyway because just about every program  you have open is frozen.  You can't go forward.  You can't go back.  Welcome to a desktop version of the situation confronted by state government in Pennsylvania today. 

EDITORIAL: Veteran lawmakers bailing out of Pa. Legislature
Pottstown Mercury by Associated Press/Philly Daily News POSTED: 01/23/16, 2:00 AM EST |
Things have gotten so bad in the state Legislature in Harrisburg that a number of inmates are fleeing the asylum.  So far, 16 incumbents— 11 Republicans and five Democrats —have announced they will not seek re-election. Some are doing it for career reasons. State Rep. Dwight Evans, for instance, is quitting to run against U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.  But a number said they are departing the scene because they essentially have lost faith in the chambers where they have served. As state Rep. Peter Daley put it: “I’m benching myself for a while.”  Daley, a Democrat from western Pennsylvania, has served in the state House for 34 years. In his view, “Harrisburg is becoming a very difficult place to get anything done and I don’t think it is going to get better.” In reality, the political system of compromise that allowed for two-party rule in the capital has been seriously damaged, thanks mostly to a cadre of tea party conservatives who would rather see government falter or fail than see taxes raised.  We fear it will get worse, because a number of Republicans who are retiring were moderates who found themselves increasingly at odds with fellow party members. Many are likely to be replaced by hard-right conservatives.

PPG Editorial: Justified delay: Pennsylvania’s Keystone exams need more work
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board January 25, 2016 12:00 AM
Delaying the graduation requirements connected with Pennsylvania’s standardized Keystone exams for high school students was necessary. One look at who supported the legislation that put a two-year hold on enforcement proves it.  Senate Bill 880 was backed by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania State Education Association and by Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature who represent rural, suburban and urban areas alike. It passed both chambers unanimously, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will sign it.  High school students have been taking the exams in algebra, biology and literature for a few years now, but the provision that required them to pass the tests in order to graduate has not yet gone into effect. That was to happen in 2017, but too many concerns about the tests, the alternatives provided for students who struggle with them and a state of flux over standardized testing more broadly made that deadline unrealistic.

"While levels of achievement have to be measured, evidence seems to be mounting that more and more standardized tests are not the way to do it."
BCCT Editorial: Graduation exams don't make the grade
Bucks County Courier Times Editorial Posted: Monday, January 25, 2016 12:15 am
A requirement that Pennsylvania high school students pass a battery of tests to graduate apparently has been put off for two years, and no one in the education community seems very upset about it.  Last week, the state Senate voted unanimously to postpone the requirement. The House previously approved the delay, and Gov. Wolf said he’ll sign the measure. The reaction from area school superintendents in general was a huge sigh of relief.  Before the Legislature acted, high school juniors, members of the Class of 2017, were to have taken Keystone Exams in Algebra I, literature and biology and demonstrated grade-level proficiency to graduate. Students who failed to meet the standards would be eligible to take project-based, online assessments (PBAs) to satisfy the requirements.  There were problems implementing the PBAs, however, which call for each student “to have a tutor who instructs the student on test material he or she is not understanding.” Council Rock superintendent Robert Fraser, one of many superintendents who see flaws in the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement, said, “The PBA process itself is the very definition of ‘teaching to the test.’ ” That is and has been a major complaint about the ever-increasing number of standardized tests being dumped on teachers and their students.
The big question: Is real teaching being sacrificed as teachers spend more and more precious classroom time trying to make sure their students do well on specific test material? Another question: Are students now only learning to be good test-takers as opposed to learning how to think?

GUEST OPINION: School choice matters for Pennsylvania’s families
Daily Local Opinion by Andrew R. Campanella POSTED: 01/24/16, 11:45 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Andrew R. Campanella is president of National School Choice Week.
When it comes to K-12 education, America’s parents want more choices.  In fact, almost two thirds of parents — 64 percent — say they wish they had more options for their children’s education.  In a society where Americans choose practically everything, from the brands of coffee they drink in the morning to the types of cars they drive, it is understandable that parents are demanding more of a say in where they send their children to school.  Parents understand that with greater options come better results for their children. Every child is unique, with distinctive interests and learning styles. Moms and Dads know that a school that might work for one student might not be a good fit for another.  In many states, lawmakers have taken action to provide a more diverse variety of school choices for families. From Jan. 24-30, millions of Americans will raise awareness about the importance of school choice at an unprecedented 16,140 events — including 742 events in Pennsylvania. These events are planned to coincide with National School Choice Week, the largest celebration of opportunity in education in U.S. history.

“11,000 smart, committed teachers can change the world”: A group of working Philadelphia teachers is looking to upset the status quo of the teachers union
Up for a vote: "Social justice unionism," in which every teachers union member participates in educational change by EMMA EISENBERG SUNDAY, JAN 24, 2016 08:00 AM EST
“I am sick of austerity,” Yaasiyn Muhammad, a teacher of African-American history at Central High School told a crowd of around 150 teachers gathered on a November Saturday in the Old First Reformed church. “I am sick and tired of cuts that disproportionately affect black and brown children. Status quo unionism has put the PFT to sleep.”   “Stand up if you’ve been affected by forced transfers, layoffs and school closures!” said Amy Roat, an English language learner teacher at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences. About half the room stood.
Roat and Muhammad are running for president and vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) in the union’s upcoming leadership election, which will take place by mail-in ballot Feb. 4-23. PFT elections happen every four years, though they are usually non-events and many teachers report being unaware there are elections at all; the current leadership team, the collective bargaining or “CB team,” which is headed up by Jerry Jordan, has been steering the ship since the 1980s. Roat is part of a slate of nine candidates, all of whom come out of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE), the first group to seriously challenge the leadership of the PFT in three decades.

Attend the United Opt Out Conference in Philadelphia February 26-28
United Opt Out: The Movement to End Corporate Reform will hold its annual conference on Philadelphia from February 26-28.

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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