Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 2: Groundhog Day - PA Legislature sees it's shadow; predicts at least another 13 weeks of no budget

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 2, 2016:
Groundhog Day - PA Legislature sees it's shadow; predicts at least another 13 weeks of no budget

The Villanova Department of Education and Counseling & Parents Across America, Suburban Philadelphia invite you to a screening of the documentary, Defies Measurement, Tonight at 7:00 pm
Learn how the high-stakes testing culture has compromised our public schools and interfered with the real work that needs to be done in classrooms.  See why your instincts are right!
Tuesday, February 2, 2016 Villanova University, The Connelly Cinema 7pm Promptly – 9:30pm
Panel discussion/Q & A following 

The PA primary is now 13 weeks away…
The deadline to register for the April 26, 2016 election is March 27
The Philadelphia Citizen February 1, 2016
Voting is the most fundamental part of our democracy. But the only way you can vote in Pennsylvania is if you register to vote 30 days prior to the election. Here are some easy ways to get yourself registered, or to update an out-of-date registration, and to get informed about the upcoming election.
  • Register online. Yes, this is new, having just been implemented in 2015!
  • Print out a registration form and mail it in.  And oldie but a goodie.
  • Pick up a form at any government office.  You can even get one at your local liquor store, which might be the most fun way to register to vote possible.
  • Are you going to be out of the city on election day?  Apply for an absentee ballot.
  • Find your local polling place so you know where to go on the big day.
  • View a sample of your local ballot so you can be prepared and know what you’ll be voting on.

"The Network for Public Education believes that public education is a pillar of our democratic society.  We believe that public schools can serve all students well, inspire their intrinsic motivation, and prepare them to make responsible choices for themselves and for our society.  Public education creates citizens.  It's doors are open to all, regardless of their race, religion, gender, ethnicity or disability status.  It teaches young people to live with others who may be different from themselves."
Network for Public Education State Report Card 2016
The Network for Public Education created this report card to inform the public about each state’s commitment to public education.   See what your state is doing to provide opportunity for its public school students. Click the criteria in the table below, to view state results for each. You can also click on any state to see all of its grades.

"In its memo, the Campaign wrote, "Overall state education funding has been insufficient to support what is needed to educate all students to state standards. The result has been clearly and repeatedly illustrated in recent research, school district surveys, and news coverage: more and more school districts, without the revenues sufficient to cover mandated and necessary costs, will continue staff layoffs, cutbacks in academic programs, and other measures to close their fiscal gaps.   "There is no more vital investment we can make to propel our economy forward than building a well-educated and properly prepared workforce. Even more fundamentally, there is no more important obligation than to give all of Pennsylvania's children a high-quality education and a strong foundation for full and productive lives."
Press Release: Fifty+ Organizations of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding ask Governor, General Assembly to make students a top priority in budget negotiations
Campaign for Fair Education Funding website February 1, 2016
HARRISBURG – In anticipation of the governor's second budget address next week, the Campaign for Fair Education Funding today formally requested that Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly resolve their differences and make a significant, long-term and equitable investment in public schools beginning with this fiscal year, and build on that investment in the 2016-17 budget.   The Campaign, a diverse coalition of more than 50 organizations, signed and delivered a memo to state lawmakers stating that each day that passes without action, opportunities for children to benefit from investments in public education are lost, and the state's well-documented economic, racial and ethnic student achievement gaps will only widen and continue to hurt the state's economy. 

Legislative leaders agree on potential revenue sources?
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, February 1, 2016
Monday afternoon House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) appeared on WESA 90.5 FM’s Essential Pittsburgh program to discuss the status of Pennsylvania’s budget and seemed to agree on some areas where revenue could come from to fill budget holes and deal with the state’s structural deficit.  Speaking to possible revenue options first, Sen. Costa noted dealing with items like the Commonwealth’s structural deficit and joint priorities of increased education funding will require the raising of recurring revenues in some way.  “There are a variety of different things that can be considered,” he said. “There have been things talked about along the lines of potentially looking at other forms of taxation that don’t exist, for example looking to the Marcellus Shale community. Maybe right now is not the optimal time to get the volume we need, but it’s certainly something we need to take a look at.”

"Mr. DePasquale warned some school districts and other agencies may face a “nightmare” if the stalemate continues as banks are losing confidence in the legislature’s ability to agree on a spending plan. That may make financial institutions less likely to offer loans or, if they do, they will come with a much higher interest rate."
State budget impasse cost school districts up to $50 million to date
Times Tribune BY TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER Published: February 2, 2016
School districts statewide took out nearly $1 billion in loans to cover shortfalls caused by the state budget impasse, costing them a collective $40 million to $50 million in interest so far, according to state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  School districts and other county agencies dependent upon state funding got a temporary reprieve in late December, when Gov. Tom Wolf released part of the cash they were due for the first half of the fiscal year. As the stalemate enters its eighth month, some may have to seek new loans to cover the next half of the year, Mr. DePasquale said in a meeting with The Times Tribune’s editorial board Monday.  “They paid them for the first half of the fiscal year. Now moving forward ... they are back to not getting their money on a monthly basis,” he said.

January State Revenues $2.5 Billion, $6.2 Million More Than Anticipated
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates February 1, 2016
Pennsylvania collected $2.5 billion in General Fund revenue in January, which was $6.2 million, or 0.3 percent, more than anticipated, Secretary of Revenue Eileen McNulty reported Monday. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $15.9 billion, which is $9.2 million, or 0.1 percent, above estimate.  The state collected $2.4 billion in January 2015.  Sales tax receipts totaled $890.2 million for January, $12.4 million above estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $5.8 billion, which is $12.4 million, or 0.2 percent, more than anticipated.

"Board Member Susan Stern noted that the audit revealed that the district faces an unfunded pension liability of $121.3 million. That number is now required to be reported under new federal accounting rules, Diekow said."
Radnor Township School Board to seek Act 1 exceptions to close $6.7M budget gap; Board eyes $98.3 million preliminary budget
Main Line Media News By Linda Stein lstein@21st-centurymedia.com @lsteinreporter on Twitter Published: Sunday, January 31, 2016
Radnor >> The Radnor Township School Board Tuesday again unanimously approved a $98.3 million preliminary budget for 2016-17 and to ask the state to allow it to go beyond the Act 1 exceptions. This move could permit the board to raise taxes by 5.9 percent, although the Act 1 limit this year is 2.4 percent.  The district is facing a $6.7 million deficit but Board Member Patricia Booker, finance committee chair, said members will “roll up their sleeves” and continue to work to narrow that deficit and hope not to use the exceptions –if approved by the state—to raise taxes by that amount. However, a tax increase of 2.4 percent is likely.

Manheim Township school admits violating state Sunshine Act with closed-door meetings
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer February 1, 2016
The Manheim Township school board acknowledged Monday it violated a Pennsylvania law requiring transparency in government agencies, but called it a "clear oversight" and "not intentional."  In a written statement, board president Bill Murry also vowed that “from this point going forward, we will make sure to provide the public more information” about the board's closed-door meetings.  The Lancaster County District Attorney's office, which initiated a review of the board's use of executive sessions based on LNP's reporting, said it would not prosecute the board because it found "no indication of an intent" to violate the Sunshine Act.  But in a letter to the board, the district attorney's office put Manheim Township on notice that it would launch an investigation and potentially charge the school board if it found evidence of such a violation in future.

How Well Does Philadelphia Support Its Public Schools? – Research at a Glance
Temple University Center on Regional Politics (CORP) January 27, 2016
policy brief published by the Center on Regional Politics in January 2016 approaches the question of how Philadelphia compares to other large cities in the US in terms of its level of tax effort, overall, as well as for particular functions, including K-12 public education. Critics of Philadelphia’s support for schools have suggested that it is low compared to other Pennsylvania districts, including urban districts like Pittsburgh. Some recent research has been interpreted to support that notion, showing that Philadelphia ranks low on local support for schools when measured by the percentage of spending per pupil raised from local taxpayers in FY 2010 (1) and by the percentage of operational revenue per student raised from local taxpayers in the 2012-13 school year.(2) The brief summarized here aims to provide another way of looking at tax burden, standardizing not by the number of pupils, but rather, by the city’s population and its total personal income. Further, the brief analyzes the share of local spending that goes to public education, as compared to other functions.

An explosive debate about Philly Renaissance schools
The bitter, divisive battle over turning struggling District schools into charters.
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa February 1, 2016 — 2:22pm
Wister Elementary School sits on Bringhurst Street, a side street off historic Germantown Avenue. Of 1950s vintage, it has a playground and large parking lot that serves as a shortcut for local pedestrians. Across the street are rowhouses. A few blocks away are the still-stately homes that speak to Germantown’s storied past.  The school, named for horticulturist John Wister, has nearly 400 students, virtually all African American and low-income. And Wister became a flashpoint in January for the School District’s most controversial policy – turning over low-performing District schools to charter operators under the Renaissance Schools initiative.  In October, Superintendent William Hite proposed Wister as one of three elementary schools to become charters – along with Cooke in Logan and Huey in West Philadelphia – and then changed his mind in January when new data showed that its students were making progress. At that point, Hite took charter conversion for Wister off the table – but not before parents on both sides had become fired up.

SRC's decision an assault on democracy
Philly Daily News Opinion by LISA HAVER . Updated: FEBRUARY 1, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
WHEN Superintendent William Hite announced that he had changed his mind about placing John Wister Elementary School into the "Renaissance" program and turning it over to Mastery Charter Schools, the school community rejoiced. He cited new data that showed the school had made significant growth. But at last week's meeting, School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms introduced an eleventh-hour resolution, approved by the SRC, to override Hite's decision. The resolution had not been posted before the meeting, and Chairwoman Marjorie Neff denied requests from members of the public to comment before the vote. It was a stunning abuse of power, even for the SRC.  Simms read a statement in which she expressed the "emotions" she felt after meeting with parents and Mastery representatives just days before the meeting. Wister parents fighting to keep the school public, who did not see Simms at any of the community meetings held over the past three months, were shocked. Some questioned why Simms was moved to action in this case when in 2013 she voted to permanently close 24 schools, even after hearing the pleas of their students, parents and teachers.

"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."
Living in Saylorsburg, Muslim cleric from Turkey faces terror accusations at home
Lehigh Valley Live By Associated Press Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2016 at 6:30 AM, updated February 02, 2016 at 6:33 AM
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 in Saylorsburg, Monroe County, some 5,000 miles away.

"But the move to replace locally elected school officials with outsiders has yielded questionable results. Takeovers in Newark, Detroit and Memphis have not improved test scores — in fact, some schools have gone backward.  “These ideas kind of travel like wildfire,” said Kent McQuire, president and chief executive of the Southern Education Foundation, which recently analyzed state takeovers in three states. “But you can’t really find evidence that there’s been positive, sustainable changes in learning in those places.”
GOP-led states increasingly taking control from local school boards
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton February 1 at 10:11 PM  
Republican lawmakers in Illinois last month pitched a bold plan for the state to seize control of the Chicago public schools, becoming one of a growing number of states that are moving to sideline local officials — even dissolve locally elected school boards — and take over struggling urban schools.  Governors in Michigan, Arkansas, Nevada, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere — mostly Republican leaders who otherwise champion local control in their fights with the federal government — say they are intervening in cases of chronic academic or financial failure. They say they have a moral obligation to act when it is clear that local efforts haven’t led to improvement.

AP at scale: Public school students in Advanced Placement, 1990–2013
Key Points - American Enterprise Institute
  • The AP program has expanded rapidly since 1990 to become the primary program for providing US public high school students with advanced coursework, with nearly two in five graduates earning AP credit in 2013.
  • Critics of AP’s rapid expansion have warned that the program will be watered down, but the national data do not suggest a decline in AP course takers’ achievement during a period of 35 percent growth over nine years.
  • AP participation gaps by race are persistent over time; they are not driven by gaps in AP access but rather by gaps in preparation for advanced coursework.

"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
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

"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
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:
  • 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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