Monday, February 22, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 22: Badams: Erie school funding a moral issue

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 22, 2016:
Badams: Erie school funding a moral issue

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

The Keystone State Education Coalition will be compiling a list of current and former school board members and educators who have decided to run for state office for the first time in the primary election April 26th.  Please let us know of any such candidates.  Thanks!

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 20: Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools

Wolf begins defense of spending plan in budget hearings
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY February 22, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf's administration will begin defending his $33.3 billion budget proposal to the Republican-controlled Legislature, as the Democrat confronts Pennsylvania government's worst budget gridlock in decades.  The first House and Senate Appropriations Committee meetings on Wolf's latest proposal were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Monday.  Wolf calls the state's finances a ticking time bomb and wants a nearly $3 billion, election-year tax increase to wipe out a long-term deficit and narrow a huge funding disparity between wealthy and poor school districts.  Top Republican lawmakers say they're committed to dealing with the deficit without raising taxes. The sides are still fighting over billions of dollars eight months into the current budget year after House GOP leaders helped block a tax increase. That's left school districts to borrow to stay open.

Budget work starts (again) in Harrisburg
HARRISBURG — The start of budget hearings today will signal a new and likely contentious phase of a political fight that started a year ago.  For the next three weeks, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees will grill members of the Wolf administration and other state agency heads about their spending priorities for the next year and handling of their offices.  The hearings give committee members an opportunity to ask about specific programs, and in some cases, pet projects back in their districts.  This year’s hearings will likely have a retroactive twist.  Republican lawmakers plan to ask questions about spending decisions made by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf while Pennsylvania was without a budget from July through late December.  The purpose of the hearings is to get testimony on Mr. Wolf’s new proposal for a $33.3 billion budget for fiscal 2016-17. 

Badams: Erie school funding a moral issue
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News February 21, 2016 01:01 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- How the state allocates education funding to school districts isn't just a budget issue.  Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams believes it's also a moral issue.
The Erie School District ranks among the lowest in annual median household income -- 485th out of 500 districts, in the bottom 3 percent -- and among the highest in the percentage of poor students (80.1 percent), English language learners (9.2 percent) and special-education students (16.9 percent) it serves.  But when it comes to how much money the district receives to teach its students, the district ranks among the lowest in state and local revenue per pupil: just $11,143 in state and local revenue per pupil, according to the latest figures available. That puts the district in the bottom 4 percent of all districts in the state, 484th out of 500.  "If we can document that (Erie School District students) have so much more need than the average student, ... why do they get the least funding?" Badams said. "I have to start to wonder, is it because they're poor? Is it because we have over 50 percent minority students? Is that why they're getting less? Is it because they don't have advocates in Harrisburg that they can be treated this way?

Editorial: The Wolf at the door in Pa. budget war
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 02/20/16, 8:08 PM EST
Tom Wolf, the “new style” of governor, continues to run into some decidedly old problems.
Gridlock. It’s something of a Harrisburg tradition. And the election of the Democrat Wolf to replace one-term Republican incumbent Tom Corbett has not changed that.  Wolf has been at loggerheads with Republican leaders in the House and Senate for a record seven months, unable to agree on spending and taxes for a new state budget.  Last week, only because he was required to do so by the state constitution, Wolf delivered his second budget address, this despite the painfully obvious fact that he and the Legislature have not yet delivered his first spending plan.  Wolf doubled-down on his first year fiscal blueprint, again calling for some fairly steep increases in spending for education. Of course to do that, he needs more revenue. In other words, he would raise taxes.  But he also did something else, something that raised more than a few eyebrows. Instead of offering an olive branch to his fellow Republicans, the big, bad Wolf decided to pour a little gas on the fire.  Wolf’s budget speech carried a tough tone, one that could be interpreted as ratcheting up the partisan rhetoric.  Wolf made his case for the state’s increasingly dire financial straits, laid out his plan to attack the problems, and then curtly suggested that if Republicans are not willing to do their job, they should consider seeking employment elsewhere.

“School districts spent approximately $1.4 billion last year on charter schools and this year could be even higher.”
Supreme Court Hamstrings Districts–February 19, 2016
Cost of charters in Philly suburbs over $203 million FY 2014-2015
Move over Budget Impasse: Supreme Court hamstrings school districts
Ruling makes fiscally responsible budget impossible especially in Southeast PA
PCCY February 19, 2016
The aftershocks of this week’s stunning decision on the Philadelphia SRC could very well be felt in school districts across the Commonwealth. Brace yourselves.  The state Supreme Court ruled that the Philadelphia SRC did not have the legal authority to suspend parts of the state charter law and school code. Imposing limits to charter school enrollment have been found to be unconstitutional.  Outside of Philadelphia, districts have been working with charter operators that run charters to establish agreed upon limits to how many students they can enroll, and thus, how much they can bill (or be reimbursed by) the districts per student.  Without enrollment caps, districts are at the mercy of charter operators who can fill charter schools with as many students they can handle, creating a financially disastrous predicament where unchecked charter spending will mean siphoning even more money from already cash-strapped public schools.

In the last year No Child Left Behind was still the law in Pennsylvania, 2012, the school was given Corrective Action II- Fifth Year status, meaning it was not making its Academic Yearly Progress for a fifth year.  Fast forward a few years and the school was ranked on the College Board’s AP District Honor Roll for academic achievement on Advanced Placement exams, sitting side-by-side with two of the most affluent districts in the county: Marple Newtown and Radnor. Only 425 districts across the U.S. and Canada made the list.  Less than five years ago Penn Wood was another struggling school district. Now, it’s making academic strides and having students learning at a rate higher than state standards.
Penn Wood principal leads school to new academic heights
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter
POSTED: 02/21/16, 10:37 PM EST | UPDATED: 54 SECS AGO
Penn Wood High School stands alone as a secondary education institution in Delaware County.  For one, there are two campuses: The Cypress Street Campus in Yeadon for ninth and 10th graders, and the Green Avenue Campus in Lansdowne for juniors and seniors.  Penn Wood also has the highest population of African-American students of any non-charter public high school in the county, at 93 percent, and is the second-poorest high school in the county after Chester, with 72 percent of its students deemed economically challenged in the 2014-15 school year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

BAER: What can Tom Wolf do?
by John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist. Updated: FEBRUARY 22, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
SITTING IN the gallery above the state House floor listening to Gov. Wolf's budget address two weeks back, I wrote myself a note in the margins of his speech.  I wrote, in capital letters, "WHAT NOW?"  Two weeks later, I can't find an answer.
Nobody seems to have a starter for the now-eight-months-stalled state budget, and the new budget message sure didn't help.  Wolf's speech angered and annoyed many members of the Republican legislature (who already were angered and annoyed) because it re-served stuff, including taxes, that they couldn't stomach last year.  And Wolf's jab that they should find other jobs was viewed as KO-ing possibilities that peace could be at hand.  So this week, lawmakers start hearings on a new budget without a current budget in an environment best described as venomous.  Pennsylvanians, normally numb to state doings, might be starting to pay attention. The latest Franklin and Marshall College poll says 67 percent of registered voters see the state "on the wrong track."  That's the highest number since the poll started asking the question 20 years ago.  Seems like a good time for some sort of reset.

Pottstown Schools seek public input on budget, super search
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 02/20/16, 12:35 PM EST
POTTSTOWN >> The school board wants to hear from you.  There will be two opportunities next week for the public to share its thoughts on opinions on two extremely important subjects — the budget and the new superintendent.  At Monday night’s board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. and will be held in the high school cafeteria, 750 N. Washington St., the board has invited the public to offer ideas on ways to contain costs.  It is the first of several Monday meeting nights the board has scheduled to hear input from residents on this subject.  The other nights are Monday, March 21; Monday, April 25 and Monday, May 23.  School board member Ron Williams bemoaned the public’s lack of participation in public discussions such as this during Thursday’s board meeting.  “It’s as frustrating as talking about people going to the polls,” Williams said of public participation. “The only time we get people at meetings is when a rumor goes out that we are cutting programs, and even then it’s only the parents of kids affected who show up.”

Opt Out 101: For Parents and Students of the Philadelphia School District
Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states where the right of parents to opt their children out of state-mandated testing is written into law. That right is described in 022 PA Code 4.4. This law says that you may only opt out on religious grounds. However, you do NOT need to offer any proof of religion or discuss anything about your religion or how it relates to testing, nor can school officials ask. 

Phila. interfaith group expands POWER
Inquirer by Jeremy Roebuck, Staff Writer. Updated: FEBRUARY 22, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
Fresh off recent successes rallying urban Jewish, Muslim, and Christian congregations to enter the political fray, one of Philadelphia's largest interfaith coalitions has now set its sights on the region.  On Sunday, Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER) welcomed members from 16 congregations in Montgomery and Delaware Counties to publicly launch POWER Metro - a new chapter of the social advocacy group out to prove that problems of poverty, crime, homelessness, and poorly funded public education are not just the concerns of city dwellers.  "People think the suburbs don't suffer from the same problems," said Dwayne D. Royster, POWER's executive director and pastor at Living Water United Church of Christ in Oxford Circle. "A lot of politicians want to segment these issues as 'urban problems.' But they are issues that affect the boroughs and townships, too."

Energy Lessons: Educated guesses in energy futures fuel more stable school budgets
Joseph Cress The Sentinel February 22, 2016
Andrew Glantz, director of buildings and grounds for South Middleton School District, shows off one of the computer terminals at the maintenance building that allows them to monitor the amount of electricity that is being used.  School districts routinely use educated guesses on the market trends of future commodities to stabilize energy costs within their annual budgets.  Most districts participate in some form of consortium where multiple agencies join together to pool their collective energy needs to leverage discount prices on large volumes.  Typically cooperative purchasing groups include such nonprofits as school districts, hospitals, nursing homes and churches, said Mike Willis, director of business and support services for Cumberland Valley School District.  Group members then project future needs over a period of time before seeking out bids on such commodities as natural gas, electricity, fuel oil and gasoline, Willis said.

"The three economists found that those who received vouchers and moved to private schools had worse test scores in maths, reading, science and social studies than those who missed out. Hunting for an explanation, they wondered whether the weakest private schools had mopped up voucher pupils to fill their seats. But this hypothesis did not stand up."
School choice - A lottery to lose
An enlightened scheme to benefit poor children seems to do the opposite
The Economist Feb 6th 2016 by Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag A. Pathak and Christopher R. Walters
IN THEORY it works perfectly. Rather than oblige parents to send their children to the nearest state-run or –funded school, give them a voucher to be spent at a private school of their choice. “The adoption of such arrangements”, argued Milton Friedman in 1955, “would make for more effective competition among various types of schools and for a more efficient utilisation of their resources.” As part of its recovery from Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed many schools in New Orleans, Louisiana undertook one of America’s largest school-choice schemes. According to a new paper by Atila Abdulkadiroglu of Duke University, Parag Pathak of MIT and Christopher Walters of Berkeley, it has not gone well.*  Increasing school choice is a favourite policy of Republican governors and state legislatures. Since the party’s bumper election year in 2010 the number of voucher schemes has increased from 25 to 59, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The thinking behind this is sound: the well-off already exercise school choice by moving into neighbourhoods with better schools. Why not allow poorer families to do the same? Yet the evidence from the voucher programmes that have been evaluated has been underwhelming: parents like them, but they often do little for their children’s test scores.

John King is trying to repair the Obama administration’s frayed relationship with teachers
Washington Post By Emma Brown February 20 at 8:00 AM  
In one of his first major speeches as acting U.S. secretary of education, John King apologized to teachers for the role that the federal government has played in creating a climate in which teachers feel “attacked and unfairly blamed.”  To many teachers, King’s remarks at a Philadelphia high school late last month was an astonishing and welcome acknowledgment that the Obama administration, in pushing states to link teacher evaluations to student test scores, had helped create systems that seemed as if they were designed to punish teachers instead of help them get better.  For King, it was the beginning of what he describes as an important chance -- thanks to the new federal education law that President Obama signed in December — to reset the tone of conversation about teachers, teacher evaluation and the future of public schools in America.
“I think there’s just such an urgency around making sure that teachers feel valued in our society. It’s one of the things I worry a lot about,” King said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I want young people to see a future for themselves as teachers.”

The State That Pulled The Plug On Computer Testing by BLAKE FARMER February 20, 20167:00 AM ET
Tens of thousands of Tennessee students steadied their clammy, test-day hands over a keyboard several days ago. And, for many, nothing happened.  It was the state's first time giving standardized exams on computers, but the rollout couldn't have gone much worse.  In lots of places, the testing platform slowed to a crawl or appeared to shut down entirely. Within hours, Tennessee scrapped online testing for the year.  The move comes after schools spent millions of dollars to buy additional PCs and to improve their wi-fi networks.  The failure wasn't entirely surprising. Tennessee had already managed several bumpy trial runs. There was the time the state asked students to try to break the system, and boy did they. State officials later said the resulting server overload led to a complete re-engineering.  Even in recent weeks, system testing uncovered new problems. But still, the state pushed ahead, leading to its test day debacle.
"All Tennessee students deserve a positive testing experience every time they log in, not one that is slow to load or fails periodically due to too many users or poor judgment on the part of the vendor," Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said at a hearing before state legislators on Wednesday.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 2-21-16

“Western Region Forum Series” – Thursday, February 25, 2016
Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center – 100 Lytton Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Continental Breakfast – 8:00 a.m. Program – 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
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:
Karina Chavez
, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education
Dr. Jeffrey Fuller
, Superintendent, Freedom Area School District
Cheryl Kleiman, Staff Attorney, Education Law Center
Nathan Mains, Executive Director, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
RSVP for the Pittsburgh forum by clicking here.
While there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.

'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 For more information call 215-504-8545 or send an email to

Blogger note: this conference is SOLD OUT
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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