Thursday, February 25, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 25: Education Voters PA Survey: We Want to Hear From You!

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 25, 2016:
Education Voters PA Survey: We Want to Hear From You!

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM

Gov. Tom Wolf diagnosed with treatable form of prostate cancer
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on February 24, 2016 at 10:19 AM, updated February 24, 2016 at 5:58 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf held a news conference Wednesday morning along with his wife, Frances, to discuss his recent diagnosis of early stages of prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer facts: causes, survival rate, and preventionGov. Tom Wolf announced he has prostate cancer on Feb. 24, 2016. He issued this statement:
"My doctors made the diagnosis after a regular checkup revealed abnormalities. In consultation with my doctors, I have a planned treatment schedule that will begin in the coming weeks. Those treatments will last the next several months, but they will present no impairment to my ability to perform my duties as governor.  "Prior to beginning treatment, I will take a brief time to spend with my family. I am very thankful that my doctors caught this cancer quickly and have worked with me to plan a treatment schedule that will address my medical issues and allow me to serve the people of Pennsylvania. I encourage everyone in Pennsylvania to make sure they schedule regular checkups with their doctors and be aware of screening guidelines so early detection and treatment can be possible."

Education Voters PA Survey: We Want to Hear From You!
Education Votters PA Posted on February 23, 2016 by EDVOPA
Over the past months, we have asked you to make your voices heard regarding the Pennsylvania budget and the importance of adequate, fair state funding for public schools.  Now, we would like you to tell us how we can best support your interest in public education issues and your vision for public schools:  Which issues matter the most to you? What kinds of schools do you believe Pennsylvania’s children need and deserve? How can we better support your efforts?  At Education Voters, we want to make sure we are providing you with the tools you need understand and act on issues that matter to you, and we want to share your vision for our children’s schools with a wider audience. Your advice will enable us to make sure that we are being effective and help us promote public education and great public schools for all children throughout the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania's skyrocketing public pension tab gets a tote board in the Capitol
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 24, 2016 at 2:30 PM, updated February 24, 2016 at 2:36 PM
A retired state employee from Lower Paxton Twp. who has been keeping a public vigil at the Capitol on the state's public pension funding crisis in recent years quite literally electrified his call for action Wednesday.  Barry Shutt unveiled a public pension debt clock that, second-by-second, is now available for passers-by in the East Wing Rotunda to take in and - whether they totally understand it or not - see the relentless nature of this problem.  "I just wish that people across the state will see that ticking and say: 'You know, these people have got to do something,'" Shutt said of his ticking tote board.  The clock captures the combined unfunded liability of the state's two major pension funds, which is currently pegged at more than $63 billion and, by Shutt's calculation, is growing at a hypothetical $143 per second.

VIDEO: Actuary gives 8 observations about the state of Pennsylvania’s pension systems
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, February 24, 2016 Video runtime 4:44
Actuary, business consultant and Senior Fellow at the Commonwealth Foundation Richard Dreyfuss gives his eight observations about the state of Pennsylvania's pension systems during a press conference unveiling Pennsylvania's pension debt clock.

City of Philadelphia Submits Brief in Support of School Funding Lawsuit
Thorough and Efficient Blog FEBRUARY 24, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI
The City of Philadelphia filed a “friend of the court” brief on February 16, 2016, in support of our ongoing lawsuit against state officials over the Commonwealth’s broken system of school funding.  Through this amicus brief, the City joins six school districts, parents and associations from across the state in asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to send the case back to Commonwealth Court for a full trial on whether or not the state legislature has violated its constitutional responsibility to maintain and support “a thorough and efficient system of public education.” The brief details how the state’s current funding scheme creates gross disparities between school districts in low and high wealth areas and fails to support poorer school districts like Philadelphia, which have less capacity to raise local revenue. 
As the budget impasse continues into its eighth month with no end in sight, this suit is more important than ever to ensure Pennsylvania’s students have long-term access to the high-quality public education they need to become engaged citizens. We are grateful to the City and Solicitor Sozi P. Tulante for sharing with the Court the stories of the harm faced by Philadelphia students, and for giving voice to the concerns of hundreds of thousands of students from urban, rural, suburban, large districts throughout Pennsylvania.

F&M Madonna Poll: State government dismays residents
Trib Live BY TOM FONTAINE  | Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, 4:03 a.m.
Nearly half of Pennsylvania's voters identify the government and politicians as the state's biggest problems, trumping concerns about education, taxes and personal finances by a wide margin, a poll releasedThursday shows.  “How many different ways can you can you spell dissatisfaction?” said pollster G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics and Public Affairs, which released the poll.  The F&M poll shows 47 percent of Pennsylvania voters think the government and politicians are the state's most important problem, up from 38 percent a month ago and 17 percent in June — before the state budget impasse began. Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators are eight months overdue in passing a budget for the fiscal year.  Voters' disgust with government outpaces concerns about education (12 percent), taxes (10 percent), unemployment and personal finances (9 percent) and the economy (4 percent), the poll shows.

Impasse doesn't inconvenience lawmakers
Trib Live LETTER TO THE EDITOR | by Greg Parks Bethel Park Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
It is obvious that what passes for leadership in Harrisburg believes that the commonwealth can run without a budget. In fact, the enlightened establishment considers the budget so insignificant that further discussion could wait until after the April primary. God knows that getting re-elected is more important that getting the people's work done.  Perhaps the budget would become a priority if the cartel in Harrisburg didn't get paid until the budget is passed. Of course, it would also be great if they would freeze their pay and benefits for a year or two until the economy improves. Funny, no matter how bad things get, they manage to come out OK.  If we don't perform or show up to work, we get fired. Leadership requires more than lip service. It requires action and sometimes sacrifice — two things sadly lacking in Harrisburg.

How did York County schools plan for funds?
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com4:07 p.m. EST February 24, 2016
Hybrid learning, smaller class sizes, and personalized help for struggling students are among the ways York County school districts indicated they could have spent extra funding Gov. Tom Wolf had originally proposed for the current school year.  Last spring, when Gov. Tom Wolf made his first budget proposal, he included an accountability provision his office said would ensure the $400 million funding increase he was then seeking for schools would be spent in classrooms.  Districts were asked to submit funding impact plans that showed what they'd spend the increase on, choosing from 14 "evidence-based strategies" listed by in a letter from education Secretary Pedro Rivera.  But, the 2015-16 budget is still unfinished, and it remains to be seen how much additional funding schools will actually get. And work has already started on the 2016-17 budget.
Asked if districts would be asked to submit funding impact plans again, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said in an email that it's important to ensure additional funds are directed to the classroom. The administration will continue working with districts to come up with the best way to direct funding there, he wrote.  Here's a look at how York County districts indicated they would have aimed additional 15-16 funding, according to the funding impact plans they provided to the state.

Saucon Valley superintendent: Full-day kindergarten likely
Charles Malinchak Special to The Morning Call February 24, 2016
Will there be full-day kindergarten at Saucon Valley?
The superintendent of the Saucon Valley School District is cautiously optimistic full-day kindergarten will be in place this fall and is gathering input pro and con regarding the program from parents registering their children.  Superintendent Monica McHale-Small said the input will come from a few questions included with the online student registration form asking parents their opinion of whether or not they support full-day kindergarten.  Speaking after Tuesday night's school board meeting, she said informal opinions already coming from parents suggest they strongly favor the concept and it's one that comes with little expense.  "We have the space, we have the teachers. All we need is another bus," she said.  District kindergarten enrollment varies, but she said this year the population is about 140.  "Even if it went to 170, we could still handle it with the resources we have," she said.  Teachers and the administration already favor the program and at this point most school directors have not expressed disagreement.  "It just needs to come up for a vote [by the board] and that should be at the end of March. We're keeping our fingers crossed," she said.

Waynesboro schools may borrow amid state funding delays
Herald Mail media by Jennifer Fitch Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 6:15 pm 
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The Waynesboro Area School District might borrow money this spring to pay bills during continued delays in the state budget.  Pennsylvania’s lawmakers failed to pass a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Although a partial spending plan started sending payments to schools in early January, some funding remains tied up in the impasse.  The state is holding onto what usually are pass-through dollars from federal programs for students from low-income families, according to Eric Holtzman, business administrator for the school district.  Holtzman told the school board Tuesday night that he plans to talk with the board members next month about obtaining a line of credit to continue to pay bills.  “It’s a little complicated from the paperwork side of things,” he said of doing the borrowing.  For now, the school district has been drawing down its reserves from its self-funded medical-claims program. Officials said the district already is over budget for 2015-16 on some line items.  This week, Moody’s cited Waynesboro’s reliance on reserves in recent years when downgrading its credit rating from A1 to A2.
The school district has about 4,400 students and spends $53 million per year.

Supreme mess: Ruling will erode Philly school district
Philly Daily News Opinion Updated: FEBRUARY 24, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
Last week's state Supreme Court ruling on the powers of the School Reform Commission is a timed-release poison pill that could harm public education in Philadelphia for a long time.
The 4-2 ruling, which declared portions of the state's takeover law unconstitutional, will have a significant impact on the district's already wobbly budget and on Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s attempts to reform the district' schools.  The ruling came on a suit brought by a Philadelphia charter school that contested the district's right to cap its enrollment. Because of its budget crisis, the SRC set enrollment limits on a number of the city's 83 existing charters. In some cases, the district made it clear that unless the schools accepted the caps, their charters would not be renewed.  Faced with being forced to close down, most accepted the caps. West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School did not and sued the district over the issue.
The justices agreed with the West Philadelphia school, saying the district had no right under state law to impose caps on charter enrollment. It also overturned portions of the state's takeover law, saying it was overly broad in granting powers to the SRC.
Many charters will now be free to increase enrollment.

On Radio Times: Discussing the SRC's potentially diminishing role
the notebook February 24, 2016 — 2:01pm audio runtime 48:58
The first hour of Radio Times today was devoted to the potential fallout from last week's decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that stripped the School Reform Commission of its power to suspend the state's School Code. WHYY education reporter Kevin McCorry provides a rundown of the ruling and its broader implications. In the ensuing discussion, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, SRC member Bill Green, and Amy Ruck Kagan from Philadelphia Charters for Excellence weighed in with their perspectives on what the role of the SRC is now and what this means for Philadelphia schools going forward.   Commissioner Green emphasized that the SRC can explore using other powers it has under state law instead of the authority to suspend the School Code. "We have many other powers that we didn't use in order to achieve the same ends," he said, "and now we have to look at the law differently and apply those powers, instead of the power to suspend the School Code, which was the easiest and most direct."

Lacking a librarian, a school tries to promote reading
the notebook by Fabiola Cineas February 24, 2016 — 1:37pm
Just nine school librarians work full-time in the School District of Philadelphia's 218 schools. This can be disastrous for literacy development in poor neighborhoods, where families often don’t have books at home.  Studies are clear that students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, perform better academically when they attend schools with functioning libraries.  A report from the Library Research Service found that states that gained school librarians showed greater increases in 4th-grade reading scores than states that lost librarians.  And the more library access that students in grades K-3 have, the more likely that they will graduate from high school.  Still, over the last decade, budget constraints have forced many schools to lay off or not replace librarians and to bolt the doors of their libraries, leaving students with even fewer opportunities to read books.  Henry C. Lea Elementary in West Philadelphia is one school working to make up for its lack of a librarian. The school’s last librarian left about four years ago, when school funding was cut.

Two former Philly educators plead in cheating scandal
The pleas by former Cayuga Elementary principal Evelyn Cortez (left) and former Cayuga teacher Jennifer Hughes marked the first convictions in the test-cheating scandal that resulted in eight city educators being arrested.
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer. Updated: FEBRUARY 25, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Two former Philadelphia School District educators pleaded guilty this week to criminal charges stemming from accusations that they perpetuated a "culture of cheating" on standardized tests, the state Attorney General's Office said Wednesday.  The pleas by former Cayuga Elementary principal Evelyn Cortez on Tuesday and former Cayuga teacher Jennifer Hughes on Wednesday marked the first convictions in the test-cheating scandal that resulted in the arrest of eight city educators.  "We're pleased with the outcome, given the pleas required the defendants to take responsibility for their actions," said Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.  Cortez, 60, of Dresher, pleaded guilty to perjury, tampering with public records, and criminal conspiracy before Common Pleas Court Judge Timika Lane.  She is scheduled to be sentenced April 29, Johnson said.  Hughes, 61, of Jeffersonville, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy. Lane immediately sentenced her to three years of probation, Johnson said

"Created in 2010 as part of Tennessee’s Race to the Top plan, the ASD has authority under state law to wrest the worst schools from local district control and implement intensive turnaround strategies. It now oversees 29 schools, mostly in Memphis and formerly run by the local school district, and has assigned the majority to charter networks to operate."
Report: For Memphians, Achievement School District’s sullied image rooted in city’s racial history
Intense focus on student test scores comes at a cost, researchers say
Chalkbest Tennessee By Grace Tatter @gracetatter PUBLISHED: February 22, 2016 - 4:05 p.m. CST
The Achievement School District has learned that justifying controversial school turnaround tactics with ambitious promises about student test scores in Memphis has done little to endear the state-run district to a community with a highly charged racial history, a new report says.  And the resulting negative perception has added yet another barrier to the ASD’s goal of turning around the state’s lowest performing schools, most of which are in Memphis, say researchers charged with providing an impartial assessment of the district’s work.
In a report released Monday, researchers said the ASD’s intense focus on improving student outcomes has come at the expense of effectively engaging the Memphis community and has failed to recognize the city’s unique racial history, including segregation, desegregation, white flight and the recent secession of six municipalities from Shelby County Schools.

A ‘broader bolder’ approach to even the education playing field
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 23  
For a number of years, a national campaign called the Broader Bolder Approach to Education has been working to better the conditions that limit many children’s readiness to learn. A project of the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, Broader Bolder has long recognized that the impact of social and economic disadvantage on many schools and students is profound and can’t be alleviated with academic “accountability” systems. Now, with a new K-12 federal education law taking effect, the campaign is relaunching with new leaders and an expanded mission. Here is a post about what 21st Century school reform should look like to really even the education playing field, as reflected in the Broader Bolder Approach’s new mission. It was written by Elaine Weiss, the program’s national coordinator.

A Documentary Film About Charter Schools, Corruption, and the Gülen Movement in America
KILLING ED is a new documentary feature film that exposes a shocking truth: that one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the “Gülen Movement” – a rapidly expanding, global Islamic group whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

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

PA Legislature Joint public hearing-on Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
PA House and Senate Education Committees
03/14/2016 10:30 AM Hearing Room #1 North Office Bldg

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

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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