Monday, February 15, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 15: "simply a case of lawmakers ensuring that someone else’s name is on the tax increase"

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup February 15, 2016:
"simply a case of lawmakers ensuring that someone else’s name is on the tax increase"



RSVP Today for One of EPLC’s Education Policy Forum Series on Governor Wolf’s 2016-17 State Budget Proposal
Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - Philadelphia
Thursday, February 25, 2016 - Pittsburgh



Daily Signe Cartoon 02/14/16: Pennsylvania's Middle Ground

Pennsylvania’s budget mess is going from bad to worse
Watchdog.org By Eric Boehm  /   February 11, 2016  /   1 Comment
Things are bad and getting worse in Pennsylvania.  Gov. Tom Wolf delivered his second budget address on Tuesday, and it was met with immediate opposition from many members of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.  At first glance, it appears another long budget battle — the 2015-16 budget wasn’t finalized until Dec. 30 — is coming.  While everyone is fixated on the short-term political and budgetary fights in the state, Pennsylvania’s long-term fiscal problems are only getting worse.  As I wrote in a piece that appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “last year’s lengthy budget battle did nothing to address a much bigger problem than partisanship: a long-term structural imbalance in the state budget that is getting worse with each passing year.”  Here’s a closer look at the numbers outlined in that article, which were provided by theIndependent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan number-crunching agency that is Pennsylvania’s version of the Congressional Budget Office.  Based on current policy, Pennsylvania will be facing a $2.4 billion budget shortfall by the 2016-17 budget year.

"Republican majorities in both houses recoil at the governor’s proposal to increase revenue by $2.7 billion by raising the personal income tax by 10.7 percent from 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent, applying the state sales tax to cable service, movie tickets, digital downloads and some other items, increasing the cigarette tax by $1, taxing other tobacco products and establishing a tax on natural gas extraction.  But their anti-tax posture is just a pose. Failing to increase the state’s contributions to basic education guarantees ever more local property tax increases among most of the state’s 500 school districts over the next two years. It’s simply a case of the lawmakers ensuring that someone else’s name is on the tax increase."
Later always better for politicians
Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: February 14, 2016
Given that this is a legislative election year, there is little reason to believe that political posturing will yield to math regarding Gov. Tom Wolf’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal.  Mr. Wolf’s budget address Tuesday was unique in Pennsylvania history. He offered a new budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1, even though the state government is operating without a fully approved budget for the current fiscal year.  That address usually is a time for a governor to lay out a vision for the future, but the current impasse denied the governor that opportunity. Instead, he bluntly laid out his pragmatic proposal as a means to rational governance and the government’s credibility. The math remains on his side, even if politics don’t.  That math is plain. If the Legislature insists on maintaining the status quo rather than adopting a realistic budget, the state government will face a deficit of between $300 million and $500 million by the end of this fiscal year, and another $2 billion in the next fiscal year.

Wolf's pointing fingers doesn't help
Inquirer Editorial Updated: FEBRUARY 14, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
The failure of Gov. Wolf and the legislature to agree on a budget that should have been passed seven months ago is costing the state a fortune, including mushrooming interest payments on money it keeps borrowing to help make ends meet. That's hardly responsible leadership.  The state's inability to pass a budget comes after multiple credit rating downgrades, which have pushed interest rates higher. Lacking their expected state allocations, destitute school districts may lay off 23,000 teachers, counselors, and other workers. Look for local property taxes to soar to compensate for the tardy state funds.  That's not all. Without a budget, seniors are in jeopardy of losing prescription-drug assistance provided by the state, and 21,000 children who rely on state aid to attend day care may have to stay home. That would put parents without day-care options in jeopardy of losing their jobs.  With so much at stake, it's hard to fathom why Wolf chose to wag his finger at Republicans in his budget address Tuesday. (Yes, it's time for a new budget.) It's not that his assigning blame for the stalemate was off base, but his tone was counterproductive at a time when he needs help from GOP legislators willing to distance themselves from ideologues who don't know the meaning of compromise.

Pennsylvania budget struggle 'mirror image' of Illinois
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, 10:40 p.m.
HARRISBURGIllinois and Pennsylvania, two states without final 2015 budgets, should trade governors, a business lobbyist suggests.  “We're a laughingstock in Pennsylvania,” said Kevin Shivers, director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Pennsylvania, which represents small businesses. “Illinois is the same.”  When Shivers talks with colleagues in other states, they first ask about Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who faces criminal charges — then the incomplete budget, Shivers said.  Shivers was being facetious about swapping Gov. Tom Wolf for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, but he was also calling attention to a serious problem.  “We're mirror images of each other,” said Joe McLaughlin, director of the Institute for Public Affairs at Temple University. “You have in Illinois a conservative Republican governor and a liberal Democratic Legislature. In Pennsylvania, you have one of the most conservative legislatures in recent history and a liberal Democratic governor.”  Wolf is not going to Illinois, but “we'd certainly like to have a Democratic legislature,” said Wolf's spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.
He suggested sending House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, to Illinois.

Erie schools chief to make pitch for fair funding
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News  February 14, 2016 01:01 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams is on his way back to Harrisburg, this time armed with photos of crumbling school buildings and a financial forecast that he says could prompt the state to take control of the district in the near future.  "If we can't make them listen or pay attention with this information, there's truly nothing else to be done until everything falls apart," Badams said.  Badams will meet with Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and state Sen. Sean Wiley in Wiley's Harrisburg office on Feb. 22. Wiley arranged the meeting.  Badams said Friday that he intends to push for fair funding for the district. He will also talk about a new analysis of the district's finances that shows the district with a $8.9 million deficit and a negative fund balance of $11.7 million in 2016-17.  Projections in the worst-case analysis by district Chief Financial Officer Brian Polito show the deficit growing to $9.4 million and the negative fund balance reaching $39.5 million by 2019-20.  The projections prompted Badams and Polito to say that the district within a couple of years could be headed for the equivalent of bankruptcy: designation by the state as a Financial Recovery district. Once a district is identified as financially distressed, the state appoints a financial recovery officer to create and execute a recovery plan.

Entire State of Pennsylvania Held Hostage by Handful of Ideologues Refusing Budget Compromise
Gadfly on the Wall Blog February 13, 2016
Pennsylvania’s hostage crisis goes into Day 258 Saturday.
Republican lawmakers continue to block the passage of a state budget that was required by law at the end of June 2015.  In fact, Gov. Tom Wolf – a Democrat – released his spending plan this week for the fiscal year 2016-17 – yet the previous year’s budget still has not been approved!  Even after numerous difficult concessions made by Democrats, Republicans still decline approval of any spending plan but their own.  I call this a “hostage crisis” because their actions are not supported by the majority of Pennsylvanians.  The overwhelming majority of residents want a budget. The overwhelming majority of voters cast ballots for Democrats in the last election, but the GOP remains in control of the legislature purely because of gerrymandering. That’s why the majority of residents booted out the former Republican Governor and overwhelmingly approved Democrat Wolf to replace him.

House Education Committee Majority Chairman: "So I’m a real believer, it’s where you spend those dollars. Whether it’s in a charter school, a Christian school, a Catholic school, whatever it is that we’re dealing with. Those schools are the ones we need to emulate.”
More Money Budgeted For PA Schools? Leading Lawmaker Weighs In
CBS Philly By Mike DeNardo February 13, 2016 4:00 AM By Mike DeNardo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Governor Wolf, in his current unfinished budget and in the one proposed for next year, proposes spending millions more on education.  One lawmaker says “more” doesn’t equal “better.”  Before touring Mastery Charter’s Mann Elementary School in Wynnefield, House Education Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, a Republican from York County, said in some cases charter schools provide a better return on taxpayers’ investment than traditional public schools.  He questioned spending more on so-called failing schools.  “It’s not changing. No matter how much money we put in. So I’m a real believer, it’s where you spend those dollars. Whether it’s in a charter school, a Christian school, a Catholic school, whatever it is that we’re dealing with. Those schools are the ones we need to emulate.”

PA Constitution Article IV Public Officers Section 3.  Oath of office.
Senators, Representatives and all judicial, State and county officers shall, before entering on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation before a person authorized to administer oaths.
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity."

PA Constitution Article III B Education Section 15.   Public school money not available to sectarian schools.
No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.

Pennsylvania charter schools accuse Wolf of an ‘unrelenting attack’
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 15, 2016 12:00 AM
Charter school advocacy groups have come out swinging in the wake of funding overhauls in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2016-17 proposed education budget that they say will drain $488 million from charter school coffers across the state.  “The governor is continuing his unrelenting attack on charter schools and the children in those schools,” said Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.  Among the proposed overhauls announced last week is the requirement that charter schools return to school districts all money in their reserve funds at the end of each school year. Another would reduce cyber charter tuition amounts to levels that reflect the school’s “structural realities” of not maintaining the same physical facilities as brick-and-mortar charter schools.  In addition, the Democratic governor proposes imposing the same three-tiered special education funding formula on charter schools as has been implemented in school districts. He also would eliminate the so-called pension double-dip, which has school districts and the state providing reimbursement for charter school costs.  The funding cut proposals come a month after Mr. Wolf used charter school’s portion of the state Ready to Learn Block Grant money — intended for programs aimed to improve achievement — to reimburse school districts for a part of their charter school tuition costs.  That move, along with other decisions regarding charter school funding, prompted Mr. Fayfich’s group and 20 charter schools to file legal action Feb. 5 in Commonwealth Court against the state Department of Education.

Ivory-tower 'academics' get Mastery schools exactly wrong
WHYY Newsworks COMMENTARY  BY SHARIF EL-MEKKI FEBRUARY 15, 2016 ESSAYWORKS
On Feb. 10, NewsWorks published a letter from “area academics” ("SRC plan to privatize 3 Philly schools a gross overreach, inconsistent"). It is disappointing that these “area academics” selectively used data to make misleading claims about Mastery schools while falsely positioning themselves as advocates for communities that they don’t live in — supposed champions of children they don’t see, interact with, or fight for. As a Mastery principal, community activist, and a practicing child advocate for over 23 years, I would like to set the record straight.  All six Mastery Renaissance elementary schools (previously the very lowest-performing schools in the city) scored higher on the 2015 PSSAs in reading and math by an average of 15 and 6 points, respectively.  It appears that the "area academics" used only the District’s 2015 SPR ratings to draw their conclusions. However, a closer look at this year's SPR undermines their conclusions. In 2015, the PSSA was completely redesigned to align with the new, more rigorous "PA Core." As a result, scores across the state plummeted. Because the test is so different from the previous PSSA, the PA Department of Education decided that the 2015 test “established a new baseline,” and that it was not appropriate to make comparisons to the previous test. Consequently, the state is not rating elementary schools this year.

Eight local Beaver County school districts apply for Act 1 Exceptions
Beaver County times By Katherine Schaeffer kschaeffer@timesonline.com Feb 11, 2016
Eight of the 19 school districts in The Times’ coverage area have requested permission to raise taxes above state’s allowed limit.  But filing for exceptions doesn’t mean a district will raise taxes beyond the index -- or at all, local district officials say.  “All this does is allow us to keep that in play as an option should we need to take it,” Beaver Area Superintendent John Hansen said.  In addition to Beaver, Ambridge Area, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Freedom Area, South Side Area, Ellwood City Area, Moon Area and Western Beaver school districts have filed for exceptions to balance their budgets for the 2016-17 school year.

Upper Darby keeping options open for full-day kindergarten
By Linda Reilly, Delco Times Correspondent POSTED: 02/14/16, 8:12 PM EST
UPPER DARBY >> Full-day kindergarten may be reality in Upper Darby School District sooner than initially projected.  Although no specific school term was announced, Superintendent Richard Dunlap reported full-day kindergarten to be offered at student’s home schools could be earlier than the proposed 2019-2020 school year at a recent board meeting.  According to Dunlap, the Educational Specifications Committee was formed two years ago to look at schools, the capacity of schools and where space in buildings is available.  “The ESC and subcommittees met to review school enrollment and boundaries, school capacities and each school’s individual education classroom designs,” Dunlap said. “Their work focused on “The Planning Triangle” where demographics, programs and facilities are all of equal importance.”  A short-term solution being considered for additional classrooms is to move administrative offices currently in Aronimink Elementary and Upper Darby High to an alternate location out of school buildings.
“Such a move would allow for a significant number of additional classrooms in both buildings, and in the case of Aronimink, may allow for some changes in boundary lines to alleviate overcrowding in neighboring elementary schools,” Dunlap said.

Will more money for schools really help kids? New study may have long-term answer
While research is mixed on whether increases in school spending lead to better results for students, a study suggests that influxes of dollars from court decisions lead to higher graduation rates and earnings, especially for low-income students.
By John Higgins  Seattle Times education reporter Originally published February 13, 2016 at 10:00 am Updated February 13, 2016 at 12:43 pm
In its 2012 McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court was clear Washington’s lawmakers must devote more tax dollars to our public schools to meet their constitutional responsibility.  How much more? The justices didn’t say.  But the case presumes that more money will lead to a better education — and thus better college and life prospects — for every student in the state.  Does the research on school spending warrant that optimism?  Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to some of the most persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, a New York-based nonprofit that works to spread the practice of solutions-oriented journalism. Education Lab is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer.While many wealthy parents don’t question whether money matters when they shell out big bucks for private schools, researchers have debated the role of money in public education for a half-century.

How New York Made Pre-K a Success
New York Times by David L. Kirp FEB. 13, 2016
BORSCHT isn’t found on most prekindergarten menus, but it’s what the cooks were dishing up for the 35 children at Ira’s Daycare in Briarwood, Queens, on a recent school day. Many families in this neighborhood are Russian émigrés for whom borscht is a staple, but children from half a dozen countries, including a contingent from Bangladesh, are also enrolled here.  These youngsters are among the 68,547 4-year-olds enrolled in one of the nation’s most ambitious experiments in education: New York City’s accelerated attempt to introduce preschool for all.  In 2013, Bill de Blasio campaigned for mayor on a promise of universal pre-K. Two years later, New York City enrolls more children in full-day pre-K than any state except Georgia, and its preschool enrollment exceeds the total number of students in San Francisco or Boston.   “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been part of,” Richard Buery, the deputy mayor who oversaw the prekindergarten expansion, told me. “Every aspect has been a challenge.” Two thousand teachers had to be recruited, 3,000 classrooms opened and 300 community providers vetted as prekindergarten partners.   Simply getting more children in the door doesn’t guarantee successful outcomes. Still, New York’s experience in trying to institute the program so quickly provides some valuable lessons for other pre-K efforts across the country.

Where Do Presidential Candidates Send Their Own Children to School?
Education Week By Alyson Klein on February 11, 2016 7:26 AM
The presidential candidates may not be talking much about K-12 education these days—but they've all had experience with it. After all, every single one of the candidates, at one time or another attended some kind of school. And so have their own children.  So what was that experience like? Did the candidates go to public schools, religious schools, or private schools? Where did they decide to send their own kids? And how much does it any of it matter, when it comes to both politics and actual policymaking?  One big takeaway: In general, the leading candidates attended public school themselves, with a couple of notable exceptions. And in general, the candidates tended to send their own kids toprivate or religious schools.

Supreme Court's Scalia Brought Conservative Outlook to Education Cases
Education Week School Law By Mark Walsh on February 14, 2016 10:30 AM
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was found dead Saturday at age 79, brought his conservative and originalist outlook to scores of education cases during his nearly three decades on the high court.  On the major education cases of his era, Scalia consistently voted against the consideration of race in higher education and K-12 schools, backed a low wall of separation between church and state, and generally favored school administrators over students and their rights.  Scalia was found dead on Saturday morning at a ranch resort in west Texas. A cause of death was not immediately reported. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a statement that said Scalia "was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served."

The biggest regret from a 41-year career in education reporting (and a lot more)
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 15 at 4:00 AM  
John Merrow is an award-winning broadcast journalist who spent 41 years covering public education in the United States for PBS. He retired last year and retired from his Learning Matters production company (which was taken over by Education Week.) In the following piece, Merrow talks about his biggest regret of his career and some things he learned along the way. The interview was conducted by James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable. He helped write the seminal 1983 report “A Nation at Risk” and is the author or co-author of four books and dozens of articles on education.

'Beyond Measure' to be shown Feb. 24 at Bucks County Community College
Bucks County Courier Times Joan Hellyer, staff writer Sunday, February 14, 2016 11:45 pm
The general public is invited to a free screening of "Beyond Measure," a documentary about education reform, on Feb. 24 at Bucks County Community College, organizers said.  The movie, from Vicki Abeles, director of the award-winning film "Race to Nowhere," begins at 7 p.m. in the Zlock Performing Arts Center on the BCCC campus at 275 Swamp Road in Newtown Township.  In "Beyond Measure," Abeles examines public schools across the country that are working to "create a more equitable, empowering, student-centered education culture from the ground up," event organizers said.  The college’s Department of Social and Behavioral Science, Future Teachers Organization, and Amy McIntyre, founder of the Council Rock Parents Facebook page, are sponsoring the free event.  Register online at tinyurl.com/BCCCBeyondMeasure. For more information call 215-504-8545 or send an email to Kate.DAuria@bucks.edu.

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
Mark B. Miller, President-Elect, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
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

Save the Dates for These 2016 Annual EPLC Regional State Budget Education Policy Forums
Sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center
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

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.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will host its Annual Budget Summit on Thursday, March 3, 2016 9:00 - 3:30 at the Hilton Harrisburg.
PA Budget and Policy Center website
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, and local communities. The Summit will focus on the leading issues facing the commonwealth in 2016, with workshops, lunch, and a legislative panel discussion.  Space is limited, so fill out the form below to reserve your spot at the Budget Summit.
Thursday, March 3, 2016 Hilton Hotel, Harrisburg Pennsylvania
The event is free, but PBPC welcomes donations of any size to help off-set costs.

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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