Monday, February 1, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 1: …highest negative rating in Harrisburg in 21 years Terry Madonna has been doing the survey

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3850 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 February 1, 2016:
…highest negative rating in Harrisburg in 21 years Terry Madonna has been doing the survey



PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM
"Southeastern Region Forum Series" Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Networking and Coffee - 9:30 a.m.  Program - 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Penn Center for Educational Leadership (5th Floor)
University of Pennsylvania - 3440 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19104-3325
SUBJECT: Governor Wolf's Proposed Education Budget for 2016-2017
RSVP for Southeastern Forum on-line at



EPLC PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM
"Capital Region Forum Series" Thursday, February 11, 2016
Continental Breakfast - 8:00 a.m. Program - 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Harrisburg Hilton Hotel - Two North Second Street Harrisburg, PA 17101
SUBJECT: Governor Wolf's Proposed Education Budget for 2016-2017
RSVP for Harrisburg Forum on-line at 



NPE Will Release a National Report Card on How Much States Support Public Schools
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch January 31, 2016 //
Good news! The Network for Public Education will soon issue our first national report card.  What is your state doing to keep public education vibrant and strong? Do students have a good chance to succeed in schools that are funded adequately with appropriate class sizes? Does your state support teacher professionalism? Has your state repelled the forces of privatization? These are some of the questions the report will address.  Our first national report card, Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card, evaluates states on their support for public schools.  It will be released February 2 at the National Press Club in D.C.

"Republicans say voters elected them to reject higher taxes and reduce state spending, Treadway said, and Wolf just as fervently believes he was elected statewide to boost education spending and raise taxes on natural gas extraction to pay for it."
Governor Wolf's budget options limited
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, 11:10 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Legislative staffers and the governor's office considered scheduling Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to deliver his 2016-17 state budget on Tuesday, Groundhog Day, until the realization hit.  It was too reminiscent of the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” in which actor Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman in an unending day in which he relives events leading to coverage of the Punxsutawney ceremony of winter-forecasting “Phil,” the groundhog.  Wolf's 2015 budget proposal was still unfinished, and House Republicans in December rejected a so-called compromise that included higher taxes and more spending. After all, the reception among House Republicans for Wolf's second state budget promises to be much like his first, if he again proposes higher spending and taxes, as he has indicated, analysts say. Over and over and over, they say.  Stephen Miskin, House Republican spokesman, even called Murray to see if he would come to Pennsylvania to recognize Groundhog Day, before Wolf chose Feb. 9 as the day for his budget address.  Murray did not call back.

As Pa. budget stalemate persists, a "dark money" battle ensues
By Kate Giammarise/ Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau February 1, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — One of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s top staffers is headed to work for a group that has ties to an organization that for months has been running attack ads against Republican legislators.  The Democratic Governors Association has hired Joe Shafer, Mr. Wolf’s former deputy chief of staff, as director of independent expenditures, according to an announcement from the group.  The DGA has ties to America Works USA, which has advertised heavily in support of the governor’s budget proposals and against Republican state legislators. America Works USA is a 501(c)(4) group, also known as a “dark money” organization, because it does not have to disclose its donors.  A number of outside groups, on the right and left, have spent heavily on television and radio ads, as well as campaign-style mailings, targeting individual legislators during the state’s lengthy budget stalemate.  Mr. Wolf and the Republican-dominated Legislature have not been able to agree on a final budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

In budget battles, compromise has become taboo
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Chris Palmer, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: FEBRUARY 1, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
HARRISBURG - The email landed at 10:36 a.m. one Saturday this month, as Republicans were gathering in Hershey for their annual winter meeting.  Its one-sentence subject line was ominous: "This is what we are dealing with."  It was a message from an aide to Gov. Wolf, drawing attention to a remark at the party conclave by Sen. Scott Wagner, a Republican from York and self-described champion of smaller government and fiscal conservatism.  Wagner had boasted to colleagues that during the budget fight, the GOP had the Democratic governor "down on the floor, with our foot on his throat."  Beyond his blustery rhetoric, Wagner is something of an archetype for a growing breed of Republicans in Harrisburg: hard-line conservative, guided unapologetically by ideology, and unwilling to bend on issues where more moderate colleagues might seek middle ground.

"This week’s Franklin & Marshall Poll is the latest indication that the public has had enough. Two out of three voters said the state “is on the wrong track.” A stunning 67 percent of those surveyed said they have lost faith in their state government.  It’s the highest negative rating rung up in Harrisburg in the 21 years that veteran political pollster G. Terry Madonna has been doing the survey."
Editorial: Pa. dysfunction hits new heights
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 01/31/16, 5:17 AM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Here’s a stunner.  Pennsylvanians are fed up with their state government, and the politicians responsible for this embarrassing mess.  You’re shocked, we know.
That’s what happens when you allow a budget standoff to drag on for six months, actually flirting with the notion of having Gov. Tom Wolf roll out his second budget plan without an agreement on the first one.  That’s what happens when both sides – in this instance the Democrat Wolf and Republican leaders in the House and Senate – dig in their heels, rejecting any number of compromises or deals that would end the impasse. Republican leaders actually had to wipe egg off their face when they were forced to renege on several seeming breakthroughs when it became apparent they did not have the votes among the rank-and-file to pass them.

WHAT PENNSYLVANIA VOTERS THINK
Disgusted as never before
Nearly 70 percent of voters have had it with Harrisburg, a record-high level
BY STEVE ESACK MORNING CALL HARRISBURG BUREAU January 29, 2016
HARRISBURG — Voters’ disdain for state government and the politicians who inhabit it has hit an all-time high, a new poll has found.  Two out of three voters think the state is “on the wrong track,” according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Thursday. That means a whopping 67 percent of those surveyed said they have lost faith in state government.  “We are in historic territory,” said G. Terry Madonna, pollster and political science professor at F&M in Lancaster. “This is about the dysfunction in Harrisburg.”  It’s the highest dissatisfaction rate in the 21 years the poll has been conducted, according to an analysis by the Times-Tribune newspaper of Scranton.  As a result, the approval ratings for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature are sinking deeper. Wolf is at 33 percent. The Legislature is at 15 percent, and more respondents blame the Legislature than Wolf for the lack of a full budget.  “It’s easy to blame the faceless Legislature,” said Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House majority leader. “But Pennsylvania only has one leader, and that is Wolf.”  The poll results won’t change Wolf’s priorities, said Jeff Sheridan, his spokesman. The results show that voters understand why the budget impasse has dragged on, he said.  After months of gridlock, Sheridan said, the governor and Republican leaders in the Senate and House reached a budget deal that had Wolf making big concessions on liquor and pension reform while dropping his plan for a natural gas severance tax. But House GOP leaders killed the deal before Christmas.  “The Republican leaders in the House went on vacation, and I think the people of Pennsylvania can see that,” Sheridan said.

Editorial: Total failure in Harrisburg
Citizen's Voice by THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: February 1, 2016
Lawmakers in a representative democracy, such as that in Pennsylvania, should not be held hostage to opinion polling. They are not parrots, regurgitating what they have been told. Rather, they are elected to exercise their judgment based on what they learn in the legislative process, rather than to simply adhere to popular opinion.  As the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke put it in 1774, when he rejected his Bristol constituents’ broad opposition to free trade: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”  Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t have to listen to opinion polling for a different reason. They have rigged their elections by gerrymandering, eliminating any risk that constituents will react to their judgment by voting them out of office in a general election.  The result is the political paralysis on display in the ongoing budget travesty, especially on the Republican side of the aisle in both houses. Rather than exercising their own judgment for the good of the commonwealth — the honorable practice advocated by Burke — too many lawmakers agree to bad policy for fear of facing a primary election challenge from their far right.

"About 14,000 Philadelphia children are already enrolled in publicly funded, quality pre-K programs. That leaves roughly 19,000 eligible youngsters who are in programs that don't meet the state's quality standards, or who aren't enrolled at all.  These are the children Kenney is focused on."
Kenney's push for pre-K for all: How to pay for it?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITERS.: JANUARY 31, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
The mayor who ran on an education platform says he wants to bring pre-kindergarten to "as many children as we can reach" - an ambitious objective that advocates say could be a game-changer for the city and its beleaguered school system.  Quality pre-K is more than day care, experts explain - it's an early-learning program focused on a 3- or 4-year-old's emotional, social, and cognitive development. If done right, the science says, it's well worth the investment.  But can it be done?  The price tag will be hefty - Kenney's estimate figures $60 million from the city in each of the next three years. There's hope of crucial buy-in from the state, business, and philanthropic communities to cover many millions more.  "The idea is great," said Mary Graham, who is the longtime director of Children's Village, an early-childhood center in Center City, and is an ardent supporter of pre-K for all. "But how do you pay for it?"

"It's worth every penny. Graham is rooting for Mayor Kenney's ambitious plan of making pre-kindergarten available to every child in Philadelphia.  "It's about long-term public education," Graham said. "Our parents are scraping by. Our children will be engineers."
A quality pre-K program dedicated to its mission
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITERS. Updated: JANUARY 31, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Call it a unicorn of pre-K.  Children's Village, on Eighth Street at the edge of Chinatown, is better equipped than many Philadelphia public schools, with a full-time psychologist, a fully stocked library and librarian, a roof-deck playground, and a kitchen that serves up everything from tilapia to Indian chickpea stew.   When the center opened in 1976, the goal was to serve the children whose parents worked in the garment industry that surrounded it then.  The neighborhood has changed, but the mission has not - providing the highest-quality care for children who need it. Today, many of the 450 pupils are poor, and many are learning English.  While the school still relies heavily on grants - it has two development directors responsible for attracting dollars and running events - it has won both national accreditation and the state's highest quality rating.  There is little staff turnover; many workers earned degrees largely paid for by a now-defunct state program that covered 80 percent of their tuition. They stay despite the temptation of a shorter year and better pay if they worked for a school district.

Philly councilwoman wants food program for school students on snow days
WHYY Newsworks BY TOM MACDONALD February 1, 2016
For some kids in Philadelphia, a snow day can mean going hungry.
City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell says children depend on the public schools for vital nourishment and being away from class four days in a row caused major problems.  "So kids that get breakfast, kids that get lunch, kids that get snacks at school if schools are closed they won't get food," Blackwell said. "So we want to create some program, in other cities they open schools even if they are formally closed."  Blackwell said that where there's a will, there's a way — even if the streets are clogged with snow and the schools are closed because administrators don't think everyone can get to class safely.

The Notebook has a new editor and publisher
She will succeed co-founder Paul Socolar beginning in March.
by the Notebook January 29, 2016 — 8:29am
After a national search, Philadelphia native Maria Archangelo has been hired as publisher and executive director of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, the Notebook’s board of directors announced today. Archangelo succeeds Paul Socolar, who co-founded the Notebook nearly 22 years ago.  The Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news service that focuses on issues of public education that are of vital importance to the city of Philadelphia. Established first as a quarterly newspaper, the Notebook is now updated daily online and a print edition is published six times per year, providing news and commentary. It serves as an information source for educators, parents and students, and a voice for those working for quality and equity in Philadelphia's public education system.

Lawmaker seeks oversight for financially ailing Penn Hills School District
Trib Live BY KELSEY SHEA AND KIMBERLY PALMIERO | Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, 2:03 p.m.
A state legislator asked the Department of Education to place Penn Hills School District under state oversight days after the district adopted a preliminary budget with a tax increase of more than 50 percent.  Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, wrote this week to Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Gov. Tom Wolf and Penn Hills school officials, asking Rivera to intervene on behalf of taxpayers. The letter suggests Rivera consider putting the district under state control as part of the Financial Recovery Status program of Act 141 of 2012.  The state can place districts on its financial watch list or declare districts to be in financial recovery status. Schools placed on financial recovery status are offered technical assistance. Of the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, four were on the watch list as of August and four in recovery status.  The Penn Hills board on Monday adopted a $94 million preliminary budget with a proposed property tax increase from 24.8061 mills to 37.7655 mills, or 52 percent. School leaders have said the preliminary budget is a starting point that does not include program cuts.

Easton Area teachers contract negotiations to start
By Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 31, 2016 at 8:31 AM, updated January 31, 2016 at 12:51 PM
Easton Area School District teacher contract negotiations will get a belated start in a month.
The teachers will sit down with a committee of school board members and administrators on Feb. 24, according to teachers union President Julia Miles. The current contract expires Aug. 31.  Both sides planned to meet three months ago. They hoped to get a head start on a new deal to avoid teacher furloughs and asking teachers to reopen their contract to stave off staff cuts.  The Easton Area School District teachers' contract expires in 2016.  Board President Frank Pintabone said the negotiations were put off due to the lack of a state budget. The state Legislature and governor haven't come up with a budget compromise since the end of fiscal year 2014-15 last June.  Without a state budget, the school district doesn't know how much to expect in state subsidies, Pintabone said.

Manheim Township School District will pay Superintendent John Nodecker $160,000 after resignation
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | SUSAN BALDRIGE Staff Writers January 31, 2016
The Manheim Township School District will pay resigned Superintendent John Nodecker $160,000, plus one year of medical and retirement benefits, under the terms of a separation agreement obtained by LNP.  Nodecker, whose final day on the job is today, is departing with little explanation only 18 months into a four-year contract. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.  The school board accepted his resignation at a public meeting last week, but refused to provide the financial details to the public at the time. LNP obtained a copy of the separation agreement, a public record under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law, through a Right-to-Know request this week.  The agreement cites health and medical challenges as the reason for Nodecker's departure, but his resignation followed a six-month-long investigation of an undisclosed "personnel issue" in the district, which cost taxpayers at least $71,000.  The special counsel hired to conduct the investigation said Thursday that it was among most costly one he has ever performed for a school district. No wrongdoing was found.

Students, school officials talk state's decision to re-examine Keystones
Republican Herald BY STEPHEN J. PYTAK Published: January 29, 2016
Since it was introduced in 2013, the Keystone Exam — one of the state’s responses to the federal No Child Left Behind initiative — cast a bit of a shadow over Morgan Murphy’s future.
The Pottsville Area junior was told the strenuous exercise in algebra, biology and literature would be a graduation requirement starting with the Class of 2017, of which she is part.  “It worried me. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else. You always have to worry about passing them. And if you don’t, you have to take remediation classes. And I’m just not a good test-taker in general,” Murphy, 16, said Wednesday.  Last week, state legislators approved a bill that will let Murphy and her class off the hook. The governor is expected to sign Senate Bill 880, which will delay the use of these exams as graduation requirements until the 2018-19 school year. Once the ink is dry, the state Department of Education will review the Keystone Exam and everything that goes into it.
Murphy and a few of her classmates thought that was a good idea.

Sen. Hughes outraged at crumbling city schools
Inquirer by Jack Tomczuk, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 30, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
State lawmakers want to hold hearings on the physical condition of Pennsylvania's schools, State Sen. Vincent J. Hughes announced Friday at Locke Elementary, which lost heat last week, sending students home for the day.  The legislator also asked the state Education Department to audit the Philadelphia School District.  Hughes' announcement was, in part, a response to a boiler explosion this month at Edmonds Elementary School in East Mount Airy, which left a maintenance employee critically injured.  "That was a very serious situation, and it could have been a whole lot worse," said Hughes, the Democratic Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said he'd like for hearings to be held next week.  Hughes said the budget impasse in Harrisburg is hampering efforts to maintain conditions in public schools across the state. The School District estimated several years ago that it would cost $4 billion to repair all of the structural problems at the city's more than 200 public schools.

Can Technology Help Community Schools Go To Scale?
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Benjamin Herold on January 30, 2016 8:53 AM
Like (almost) everyone else in K-12 education, proponents of community schools want easier access to more and better data.  It's not hard to understand why, given that the reform model is predicated on turning schools into neighborhood hubs in which multiple partners deliver a wide range of services and supports to students, families and community members.  "We want to be able to paint a more complete picture of students," said Reuben Jacobsen, the deputy director of the Coalition for Community Schools, a national alliance of organizations in the fields of education, youth and community development, health, family support, and more.  "Wouldn't it be great if an afterschool coordinator knew something about students' attendance, and teachers knew which of their students were getting tutoring or mental health services?" Jacobsen said.  But the technology tools that would allow such information sharing to happen smoothly, securely, and at scale are still in their infancy. The coalition counts more than 100 community-schools sites in roughly three-dozen states. Jacobsen said the more established among those have started to develop web tools, data-sharing infrastructures, and dashboards that allow for mapping community assets, targeting specific services to the students and families who need them most, reporting on program impact, and even doing some predictive analytics (around identifying potential dropouts, for example.)

The Coalition for Community Schools Website
The Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, is an alliance of national, state and local organizations in education K-16, youth development, community planning and development, family support, health and human services, government and philanthropy as well as national, state and local community school networks. Community schools are both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. There are a number of national models and local community school initiatives that share a common set of principles: fostering strong partnerships, sharing accountability for results, setting high expectations, building on the community’s strengths, and embracing diversity and innovative solutions. For more information on community schools, contact us.   Work of the Coalition for Community Schools is made possible through the generous supported of The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the United Way of The National Capital Area.

The testing opt-out movement is growing, despite government efforts to kill it
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 31 at 10:07 AM  
The U.S. Education Department is warning states that they could be sanctioned if their public schools can’t force at least 95 percent of their students to take mandated standardized tests for “accountability” purposes. The warnings became necessary because of a growing testing “opt out” movement around the country that stemmed from the Obama administration’s push to use standardized test scores to evaluate students and teachers in unprecedented ways, using methods that assessment experts say are not valid for that purpose.  The movement was strongest in New York, where some 20 percent of students last spring refused to take the state’s “accountability” test, but it was just one of more than a dozen states that received letters from the Education Department warning them of trouble over the 95 percent threshold. All states received a letter in December from the department reminding them of the 95 percent rule and warning that funds could be withheld from states that don’t comply. The letter offered suggestions for how the states could sanction local school districts for failure to succeed, including withholding funds and/or lowering a local education agency or school’s rating in the state’s accountability system.
Education officials say that parents can’t pick and choose the exams that their children take and that these tests are important for “accountability” purposes. Education activists say parents have the right to allow their children to refuse to take a test that they believe is poorly designed and whose scores are being misused. And they say that threats from the government or schools won’t stop them.  Here’s a post on the current state of the movement by Carol Burris,  a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education Fund. A frequent contributor to The Answer Sheet, she was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.

“We’re not anti-charter school at the Lawyers’ Committee,” said Matthew Cregor, education project director of the lawyers’ committee for civil rights and economic justice. “But we have to wonder what would happen to students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities who are not being served by schools if the cap was lifted. We need to hear from students who attend traditional public schools in this case.”
Citing harm that charter schools cause, NAACP and Mass. Lawyers’ Committee will intervene in charter cap lawsuit
They say the schools disadvantage students of color, English language learners and those with disabilities.
By Allison Pohle @AllisonPohle Boston.com Staff | 01.28.16 | 3:21 PM
The New England Area Conference of the NAACP and the Massachusetts Lawyers’ Committee, as well as seven Boston Public School students, announced Thursday that they have moved to intervene with a pending lawsuit that looks to lift the state cap on the number of charter schools.  A motion to intervene is filed by a party other than the plaintiffs or defendants who has a vested interest in the subject matter of the case. In this scenario, the groups are getting involved because they say charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, but serve far fewer students with disabilities and who are English language learners, as well as impose harsher discipline on students of color.

Obama’s Budget Urges a Deeper Commitment to Computer Education
New York Times By MICHAEL D. SHEAR JAN. 30, 2016
WASHINGTON — President Obama will call for spending $4 billion to help states pay for computer science education in the schools when he presents his 2017 budget to Congress, administration officials say.  If approved by the Republican-led Congress, the money will pay for teacher training and instructional materials to increase the amount of instruction in computer science, especially for girls and minorities, the officials said.  Mr. Obama announced the initiative, called Computer Science for All, in his weekly radio address Saturday morning. He urged lawmakers to support the program’s funding in the budget, saying such education would help the nation’s young people succeed in a changing job market.

Video: This Is How You Talk About The Gulen-Linked Charters
TB Furman Blog Friday, January 29, 2016 Video Runtime 3:12
This is how you talk about the Gulen-linked charters at a school board meeting.
(The man speaking is Steve Zeltzer, who appears to be a well-known labor activist in California, addressing the elected board of the Fremont Unified School District in Fremont, California. They voted to reject a proposal by an aggressive Gulen-linked chain, Magnolia "Public" Schools.)  I'm trying to think of a place where he got it wrong, but I can't. He's basically right. We are now at a point where the conflict between Erdogan and Gulen is playing out in the board meetings of American public school districts. It seems pretty likely to me that when Gulenists move on a community in the future, the Turkish government is going to send in lawyers.  While I don't care for the Turkish government, and I don't wish it success in its clampdown on Turkish society general and the Gulen Movement in particular,  I'm okay with the exposure here in the States. I frankly think we'd be lucky if this conflict plays out in boardrooms rather than on the street; Erdogan and Gulen are powerful men with many enemies.  I think you can legitimately critique some of the details of Mr. Zeltzer's short speech; for example, I don't think Gulen is personally running the various charter school networks. It doesn't work that way. But he's definitely surrounded by the men who are, and he's absolutely the center of gravity for the universe in which these men operate, and their basic objective is to increase the power, wealth, and influence of the Movement.

"Gulen's followers run a loosely affiliated global network of charitable foundations, professional associations, businesses and other projects, including about 150 taxpayer-funded charter schools throughout the U.S. But details about Gulen's personal life and his ties to those ventures have long been murky, giving rise to suspicions about his motives."
In Poconos, mysterious Turkish cleric shrouded in mystery
AP State Wire By MICHAEL RUBINKAM and JULIE CARR SMYTH January 31, 2016
SAYLORSBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) - The influential Muslim cleric lives quietly on a gated 26-acre compound in the Pocono Mountains, where he prays, works, meets admirers and watches from afar as terrorism accusations that have landed him on Turkey's most-wanted list unfold in court.  Rarely seen in public, Fethullah Gulen has long been one of Turkey's most important scholars, with multitudes of followers in his native country and around the world. More recently, Turkey's increasingly autocratic president, Recip Erdogan, has accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the officially secular government from his Pennsylvania idyll some 5,000 miles away.
Gulen's supporters call the charge baseless and, so far, the U.S. has shown little inclination to send him back to Turkey to face a trial that began without him Jan. 6 and is expected to last several months.

‘What passes for acceptable school choice rhetoric is frightening’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 30  
This past week was School Choice Week with no less than 16,140 events held across all 50 states, according to the School Choice Week websites.  They took place in 13,224 schools, with 1,012 chambers of commerce and 808 homeschooling groups staging events too. Twenty seven governors and more than 200 mayors/county leaders issuing proclamations to recognize School Choice Week, and, to top it off, there were rallies and special events at 20 state house buildings.  What is the purpose of the week? According to the website, to shine “a positive spotlight on effective education options for every child.”  (Of course School Choice Week wouldn’t want to shine a spotlight on the many problems with school choice, including poorly operated charter schools and voucher programs that allow kids to go to sub-par schools.)  School choice proponents say that charter schools (including ones run by for-profit companies) offer parents important options for their children’s education and that traditional public schools have failed in many places. School choice opponents say that school choice is aimed at privatizing the public education system and that many of the choices being offered are not well-regulated, sometimes discriminatory and siphon funding away from local school districts.


PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM
"Southeastern Region Forum Series"Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Networking and Coffee - 9:30 a.m. Program - 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Penn Center for Educational Leadership (5th Floor)
University of Pennsylvania - 3440 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19104-3325
SUBJECT: Governor Wolf's Proposed Education Budget for 2016-2017
SPEAKERS:
An Overview of the Proposed 2016-2017 State Budget and Education Issues Will Be Provided By:
Representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By:
Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director, Education Law Center
Dr. George Steinhoff, Superintendent, Penn Delco School District
One or more representatives of other statewide and regional organizations are still to be confirmed.
RSVP for Southeastern Forum on-line at

EPLC PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM
"Capital Region Forum Series" Thursday, February 11, 2016
Continental Breakfast - 8:00 a.m. Program - 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Harrisburg Hilton Hotel - Two North Second Street Harrisburg, PA 17101
SUBJECT: Governor Wolf's Proposed Education Budget for 2016-2017
SPEAKERS:
An Overview of the Proposed 2016-2017 State Budget and Education Issues Will Be Provided By:
Representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By:
Dr. Brian Barnhart, Executive Director, Lancaster-Lebanon IU #13
Thomas Gluck, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units
Representatives of other statewide and regional organizations are still to be confirmed.
While there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
RSVP for Harrisburg Forum on-line at 

PSBA New School Director Training Remaining Locations:
  • 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

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.

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

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

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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