Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 3: Statewide Coverage/Reaction to Wolf 2016-17 Education Funding Plan

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup February 3, 2016:
Statewide Coverage/Reaction to Wolf 2016-17 Education Funding Plan

Network for Public Education gives state 'C' for school funding
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 3, 2016 12:00 AM
On the same day that Gov. Tom Wolf called for an additional $377 million K-12 funding for schools this budget year and another $200 million for next year, a report card issued by a national advocacy group gave Pennsylvania a “C” grade for school finance.  The Network for Public Education, co-founded by education activist Diane Ravitch, released its first 50-state report card that issued grades based on six criteria, with school finance being one of them.  NPE advocates for funding equity in an effort to fight poverty’s effects on students’ education and against high-stakes testing and educational alternatives to traditional public schools.  To determine how effectively states funded schools, it considered three factors: per-pupil expenditures, resources spent on education in relation to a state’s ability to pay and equitable funding across the state.  The equitable funding measure considered whether each state’s funding system “recognizes the additional resources required for students in settings of concentrated student poverty.”

Ravitch-Led Group Rates Most States Low on Its Education Priorities
Education Week State Ed Watch By Daarel Burnette II on February 2, 2016 1:36 PM
Many states rely too heavily on standardized testing, open their doors too easily to charters and other school choice options, and fall short in adequately paying and supporting their professional teaching force, according to a stinging report published Tuesday by the Network for Public Education, a group led by education historian and policy advocate Diane Ravitch.  The report, entitled "Valuing Public Education: A 50-State Report Card," rates the states and the nation on an A to F scale in a half-dozen categories and overall, based on the group's policy positions in areas such as teacher evaluation and compensation, testing, and the financial support of traditional public schools.  "The current policy framework that pushes for more testing and privatization has failed," Ravitch, the co-founder and president of the group, said at a press conference at the National Press Club Tuesday. The meeting was attended by several supporters. "It's insanity. Let's try some common sense for a change."

How do states support their public schools? Badly, a new 50-state report card shows.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 2 at 1:21 PM  
How do the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia support their public schools? Badly, according to a new report card (see in full below) which evaluates their performance on six key criteria and finds all of them wanting. The best overall grade is a C, with most states earning D’s or F’s.  The report card is being issued Tuesday by the Network for Public Education (NPE), a nonprofit group co-founded several years ago by education historian and activist Diane Ravitch to advocate for America’s public school system. The authors evaluated states on criteria they see as promoting a professional teaching force, equitable and sufficient funding and equal opportunities for all students to succeed — all critical to the health of public schools.  Specifically, the reports looks at how states approach high-stakes standardized testing and school finance as well as how much they promote teachers as professionals and resist privatizing public education. How states spend taxpayer money is another criterion, as is whether states promote policies that affect the income, living conditions and governmental support for students to give them all a chance to succeed in school. Some states earned A’s in a category or two but none earned higher than an overall C.  You can see the breakdown below.

"About 19,000 Philadelphia 3- and 4-year-olds now either attend no preschool at all, or are in early childhood programs that don't meet the state's basic standards for quality. About 14,000 children, however, are already in publicly funded, quality pre-K programs."
Pre-K would cost Philly $60M per year
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Tricia L. Nadolny, STAFF WRITERS. Updated: FEBRUARY 3, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Philadelphia should make prekindergarten available to every 3- and 4-year-old, at a cost to the city of $60 million annually, a special city commission urged in a report released Tuesday.  With 42,000 city children in that age group, pre-K is a tall and costly order. The $60 million tab assumes an unspecified amount of support from the philanthropies and businesses.  Mayor Kenney has made universal pre-K one of the priorities of his administration, vowing to include new funding beginning with his first budget, to be introduced in early March.  City voters in May approved creation of the Commission on Universal Pre-Kindergarten, which was composed of 16 early childhood experts, current pre-K providers, government officials, and others.  The commission recommended that the city develop over several years a pre-K structure that would use the Philadelphia School District and nonprofit and private providers throughout the city. The providers could operate out of schools, centers, or homes, but would have to meet standards and be monitored.

"In my 40 years in journalism, politics, and advocacy, I have seen polls painting a negative picture of the government and the political class, but never have I seen one showing voters so disenchanted with their elected leaders across the Commonwealth.   Some of the numbers are, frankly, stunning."
By the numbers, Pa. voters are hungry for reform: Stephen Drachler
PennLive Op-Ed    By Stephen Drachler on February 02, 2016 at 2:00 PM, updated February 02, 2016 at 2:01 PM
Stephen Drachler is a partner in Denny Civic Solutions, a Harrisburg and Pittsburgh based public affairs firm. He is a former Harrisburg Bureau Chief for the Allentown Morning Call, and served as press secretary to the House Republican Caucus from 1995-2002.
Last week's Franklin and Marshall College poll supports the case for reform across Pennsylvania government and politics.  Consider these findings, from the poll, which  which is widely considered to be a bellwether for public opinion in Pennsylvania:
  • Two in three Pennsylvania voters believe the state is on the "wrong track."
  • Two in five voters say the government and the politicians are the biggest problems facing the state.
  • One in seven voters believe the legislature is doing a good or excellent job.
  • Four in five voters believe state government needs to be reformed.

PA Cyber founder Nick Trombetta's federal trial to start in June
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose February 2, 2016
Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta’s trial on multiple federal charges will begin June 6 with jury selection.  U.S. District Court Judge Joy Flowers Conti signed the order Monday scheduling the trial’s start, which would come almost three years afterTrombetta was indicted on 11 charges, including mail fraud, theft concerning a program receiving federal funds, tax conspiracy and filing a false tax return.  Prosecutors allege that Trombetta, an Aliquippa native and East Liverpool, Ohio, resident, siphoned millions of taxpayer dollars in a scheme using a web of entities -- including the Rochester-based National Network of Digital Schools (NNDS), now known as Lincoln Learning Solutions, and Avanti Management Group in Koppel -- associated with Midland-based PA Cyber, which he founded and led for years.  Conti ordered that the trial will immediately start after a jury is picked and that court will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The trial will take place in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

Judge sets trial date for Cyber Charter CEO Trombetta accused of siphoning $1 million
Trib Live BY BRIAN BOWLING  | Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, 10:54 a.m.
The criminal trial of former Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School CEO Nick Trombetta and his accountant will start with jury selection on June 6, a federal judge ruled Monday.  Using his control of PA Cyber and several other companies, Trombetta siphoned off at least $1 million in tax dollars paid to the online school, prosecutors say.  Trombetta of East Liverpool, Ohio, retired in 2012. A federal grand jury indicted him in 2013 on 11 counts of mail fraud, bribery, tax conspiracy and filing false tax returns. The grand jury indicted Neal Prence of Koppel on a charge of helping Trombetta in the tax conspiracy.  During a pretrial motion hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti denied Trombetta's motion to dismiss the tax conspiracy charge. She also denied motions to hold separate trials for Trombetta and Prence.

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder will stand trial in June
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 2, 2016 3:45 PM
Nick Trombetta, the indicted founder of Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, is headed to trial near the end of spring.  U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti said Monday that jury selection will start June 6.  She also denied Mr. Trombetta's latest attempt to have part of the government's case against him dismissed, ruling that a tax conspiracy charge will move forward and that a co-defendant, Neal Prence, will be tried with Trombetta. The defendants had been asking for separate trials.  Mr. Trombetta is accused of siphoning about $1 million from the school, based in Midland, through several corporate entities he controlled.  He was indicted in 2013 on 11 counts of bribery, mail fraud, tax conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

"The budget stalemate has been especially hard on the Reading School District, which relies on the state for most of its funding.  “We want to give these leaders in Harrisburg an authentic overview of what we are working with here so they understand that sustainable and equitable funding is paramount for a district like ours,” said Dr. Khalid Mumin, superintendent of the Reading School District.  At the beginning of the year, the district obtained a $20 million line of credit to deal with a cash shortage, adding a second $30 million line shortly before the governor approved a partial spending plan. But the $58 million the district received is not enough.  Wayne Gehris, the district's chief financial officer, said the district is paying about $800 a day in interest on the $20 million line of credit. And if the district is forced to tap the $30 million credit line, that figure will jump to $2,000 a day."
In Reading, Gov. Tom Wolf calls for increased education funding
Reading Eagle By Karen Shuey  Tuesday February 2, 2016 02:00 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf visited 10th & Green Elementary School in Reading on Tuesday to talk about the top priority on his 2016-17 budget wish list: more money for public schools.
This despite the fact that the state still doesn't have a complete spending plan in place for the 2015-16 fiscal year.  The Democrat called for a $200 million increase to basic education subsidies as part of his 2016-17 budget plan. He is scheduled to unveil the full proposal next Tuesday before the Republican-controlled Legislature in Harrisburg.  “We absolutely need the state to step forward and make a commitment to public education,” Wolf said while surrounded by local officials. “I'm not asking for a lot of other things. I'm really going to focus on public education.”  Wolf said the new investment is in addition to the $377 million increase contained within a stalled bipartisan plan negotiated between the governor and Republican leadership. It would be distributed using a new fair funding formula created and unanimously adopted by the Basic Education Funding Commission this past summer.

"Campaign for Fair Education Funding spokesman Charlie Lyons said Wolf's commitment to increasing funding is an "essential first step," but the organization was underwhelmed by Wolf's proposal.  "We need multiple years of increased investment and a permanent, student-driven funding formula," Lyons said. "The $200 million increase proposed by the governor for next year does not keep us on track toward the long-term goal. We urge the governor and Legislature to increase that amount when enacting a final budget for the next fiscal year."
Wolf proposes $200M more for education next fiscal year
York Dispatch by Jessica Schladebeck, 505-5438/@JessDispatch6:42 p.m. EST February 2, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf, a week ahead of his formal budget proposal for the 2016-17 fiscal year, announced he will continue to seek an increase in state funding for education.  Wolf's announcement, which came at Green Elementary School in the Reading School District on Tuesday, was made even though he and the Republican-controlled Legislature have not reached a final agreement on education spending for the current fiscal year. Billions for schools and universities remain in limbo after Wolf at the end of December used a line-item veto to reject portions of the Republican-passed budget. The governor released emergency funding to make sure schools' doors remained open while negotiations continued.  Wolf, during his proposal set for Feb. 9, will seek out a spending plan that would add $377 million in education funding to this year's unfinished state budget and an additional $200 million — an approximate 3.3 percent increase — for the upcoming fiscal year set to begin at the start of July, according to a news release.

"Senate Republicans will not agree to a big education boost or tax increase without reworking the state pension system to take some of the market risk away from taxpayers by partly reducing guaranteed payouts.  Wolf has said he'd agree to this, but the proposal has not gained traction in the state House of Representatives among any Democrats and many Republicans.  "Until we fix the problem of the pension system and stop that leak in the bucket, we can't continue to go back to taxpayers, go back to homeowners and say, 'Give us more money. Give us more money,' when the No. 1 driver of property tax increases and cuts to classrooms is pensions," said Jennifer Kocher, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. "We have not fixed that problem."
Last year's budget unresolved, Gov. Wolf adds $200 million to education funding request
As the battle in the Pennsylvania Capitol over funding public schools this year continues, Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a $200 million increase for next year's basic education budget.  Wolf, a Democrat, and the Republicans who control the legislature are still sparring over how much money schools should receive this year. Wolf has been seeking a $377 million boost for K-12 basic education spending for the current year's budget.  Republicans pushed back against the tax increases needed to get to that number, so negotiations have stalled since the budget was technically due in June.  Wolf signed a budget in late December that included a Republican-backed education spending boost that fell well short of his goal. Wolf authorized only six months worth of school spending, and he used his veto pen to zero out other budget items in an attempt to force Republican leaders back to the table to strike a grand bargain.  More than a month past that action, the parties have shown little sign of nearing consensus — a prospect that grows more difficult as lawmakers enter the primary election season.

Gov. Wolf seeks millions more for education next fiscal year
By Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 2, 2016 3:20 PM
READING, Pa. — A week ahead of his second budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf today will renew his call for significant increases in state funding for K-12 education.  Mr. Wolf will propose a spending plan that would add $377 million to the main K-12 education line in the current fiscal year's still-incomplete state budget and then an additional $200 million in the fiscal year that will begin July 1, according to his spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.  Along with other disagreements, the Democratic governor's calls for increased school funding and the Republican-led General Assembly's resistance to raising taxes have left Pennsylvania without a complete state budget seven months into the fiscal year.  Mr. Wolf and Republican leaders appeared close late last year to a deal that would have increased education funding and enacted changes sought by Republicans to the state retirement systems for state and public school workers and to the state system of alcohol sales.  The $377 million increase Mr. Wolf is proposing for the main K-12 schools line for the current year is the amount that would have resulted from the December framework, Mr. Sheridan said.

Like spring, budget wishes are coming early this year
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow Tuesday morning, a sign that spring is on its way early.  Just like spring, FY 2016-2017 budget requests were coming in ahead of the governor’s budget address with asks coming in the form of higher basic education spending and revenues for state-funded social programs.  Starting with education funding, Gov. Tom Wolf took to the road to announce he will be seeking $200 million more for basic education in FY 2016-2017 than what he says is in the agreed-to $377 million increase in FY 2015-2016 proposal, encompassed in the yet-to-be-passed Senate Bill 1073.  The basic education funding line in the partially vetoed budget bill was cut to only a six-month appropriation that was said by Republicans to contain a $100 million increase, but criticized by the Wolf administration as netting a $92 million loss.

Wolf: Give schools $200 million more in 2016-17
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Justine McDaniel, STAFF WRITERS. Updated: FEBRUARY 2, 2016 — 5:53 PM EST
Gov. Wolf said Tuesday that he will propose boosting funding for public education by $200 million when he unveils his budget next week for the new fiscal year.  The problem: he and the Republican-controlled legislature have yet to reach agreement on education spending - or even a final budget, for that matter - for this fiscal year.  Speaking at an elementary school in the struggling Reading school district, Wolf, who is to give his budget address to a joint session of the legislature next Tuesday, said education funding remains a top priority for his administration.  "We have a choice in Pennsylvania," the governor said. "We must choose a path that funds our schools, eliminates our deficit, and puts Pennsylvania back on track."  Wolf said the $200 million hike - or 3.3 percent - would be on top of the additional $365 million he and the legislature had agreed to give schools in the fiscal year that began in July 2015.

Gov. Tom Wolf calls for $200 million more for schools next year; This year's funding still unresolved
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer February 2, 2016
Continuing a pro-education message that got him elected, Gov. Tom Wolf wants to give schools a $200 million funding increase next year.  But the amount of funding the increase would be added to remains unclear, as the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature have yet to agree on a final budget for the current school year.  In January, after a protracted budget stalemate, the two sides agreed on a partial state budget of $23.4 billion. The move brought temporary financial relief to school districts and other agencies that depend on state funds to operate.  In Lancaster Countytwo school districts were on the brink of using loans to keep doors open before the January payments arrived. No agreement on the rest of the current year budget has been reached since then.  Wolf announced his plan to add $200 million to basic education funding in 2016-17 during a school visit in Reading on Tuesday. He will give his full budget proposal next Tuesday, Feb. 9, in Harrisburg.

Wolf asking for $577 million more for schools but some say that's not enough
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2016 at 5:28 PM, updated February 02, 2016 at 5:29 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf apparently is a believer in not accepting "no" for an answer especially when it comes to education funding.  He announced on Tuesday that he is standing by his demand for a bigger increase in basic education funding in the still-unfinished 2015-16 budget of $377 million.  On top of that, he will ask the Legislature for $200 million more for 2016-17 and proposes that money be distributed using the school funding formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission last summer.  "We have a choice in Pennsylvania and we must choose a path that funds our schools, eliminates our deficit, and puts Pennsylvania back on track," Wolf said at a stop at a Reading elementary school to announce his school funding proposal. "My proposed budget will build on the goal of a bipartisan budget compromise and it provides a clear path for a promising future for our state."

2016-17 spending plan set to join Pa. budget mess; Wolf to seek $200M more for schools
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Less than a week before Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf proposes a new state spending plan, more partisan gridlock looms, and many Republican lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the higher taxes he seeks.  “I think they stay right on course,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College, who predicts neither side will back down.  The state budget remains unfinished. Wolf vetoed about $8 billion in items before Christmas, including $1 million for the Public Employee Retirement Commission. He told the agency Tuesday to close its doors. Established in 1981, it independently analyzed state and municipal pension legislation and funding levels.  Wolf announced he will propose a $200 million increase to basic education funding as part of his 2016-17 budget plan Feb. 9.  That 3.3 percent increase is in addition to a $377 million increase in a 2015-16 budget compromise agreement that had majority support until Republican House leaders failed to vote before leaving town prior to Christmas, the governor's office said.

Campaign for Fair Education Funding statement on Governor Wolf's basic education funding announcement
HARRISBURG (February 2, 2016) – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding issued the following statement on Gov. Tom Wolf's basic education funding budget announcement today: "We are pleased that Governor Wolf is continuing his commitment to public schools by calling for an increase of $377 million in the current fiscal year to begin fixing our broken school funding system," said Charlie Lyons, spokesman for the Campaign. "Overall state education funding has been inadequate in providing what students need to achieve state educational standards, and that would be an essential first step. "We need multiple years of increased investment and a permanent, student-driven funding formula," said Lyons. "We support the Governor's proposal to distribute education funding in fiscal year 2016-17 using the new funding formula proposed by the Basic Education Funding Commission. But the $200 million increase proposed by the Governor for next year does not keep us on track toward the long-term goal. We urge the Governor and legislature to increase that amount when enacting a final budget for the next fiscal year."
In a memo to the Governor and General Assembly yesterday, the Campaign urged lawmakers to (1) adopt the fair funding formula recommended by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC), (2) bring the state's increased allocation for basic education funding for the current fiscal year to at least $350 million to help schools recover from past funding shortfalls and begin implementing the formula, and (3) build on that investment by including $400 million more in the FY2016-17 budget.

Release: Education Law Center-PA Statement on Wolf announcement of proposed Basic Education Funding increase
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center-PA, issued the following statement regarding Governor Wolf’s announcement of his proposed basic education funding levels for 2016-2017:  “We welcome Governor Wolf’s proposal to finally bring an end to Pennsylvania’s months-long budget stalemate. Additional resources are desperately needed for school districts across our commonwealth that are relying on emergency funding just to maintain the inadequate status quo.  The $377 million in additional basic education funding for this fiscal year and the $200 million in funding for the next fiscal year proposed by the Governor would allow school districts to begin to restore critical programs and supports – including addressing curriculum deficiencies, providing remedial help, updated textbooks, and school counselors. We are pleased that the governor is pressing for the adoption of a bipartisan education funding formula for the upcoming fiscal year – though a formula is only as good as the dollars sent through it.  The Governor’s proposal would be only a down payment on the resources that are required to ensure that every child in Pennsylvania receives the thorough and efficient public education guaranteed by our Constitution. Substantially more resources are needed to close longstanding adequacy gaps which keep our children from meeting state standards.
Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It is the most important investment we can make in our future, and we call on the Governor and legislative leaders to immediately return to the negotiating table to find a long-term, sustainable solution that prepares children to succeed and to compete in the global economy.”

Education Voters of PA’s reaction to Governor Wolf’s proposed Basic Education Funding increase in the 2016-2017 budget
Posted on February 2, 2016 by EDVOPA
Susan Spicka, Advocacy Coordinator for Education Voters of PA, issued the following statement regarding Governor Wolf’s Basic Education Funding increase in the 2016-2017 budget:
“We are heartened to see that Governor Wolf is planning to continue to make progress on fixing the broken and inadequate system for funding education, despite all the dysfunction in the budget process. We are also very glad that he continues to be committed to ensuring that the $377 million increase in the 2015-2016 will be allocated this fiscal year. The $200M proposed increase is a step in the right direction, and we are glad he is committed to annual increases. The difficult truth is that we really need to be at something between $300 and $400M per year to make sufficient progress for today’s students.  If we are going to provide every child in PA with a reasonable chance to get a decent education, the Commonwealth will have to make progress on increasing education funding and closing equity gaps every single year. It is necessary, even if it is hard and seems to bring out the worst in some people. This substantial investment of new state dollars will take a significant step toward moving Pennsylvania’s schools forward and ensuring that all public school students have a fair chance to get a quality education.

PSBA calls for joint commitment to educating Pennsylvania students
PSBA Press Release February 2, 2016
Today, Gov. Tom Wolf called for $200 million in school funding for the 2016-17 budget as well as $377 million for budget year 2015-16 that was part of a budget compromise put forward in December 2015 but never fully implemented.  “PSBA would encourage all sides to stay true to their joint commitment to make sure every child in Pennsylvania has a first-rate education,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “Despite the differences among the various parties, we hope all can agree that adequate funding is needed now as we near eight months without a state budget.”  PSBA will continue working with both the governor and General Assembly on fair school funding and the end to this historic budget impasse. In addition, we continue to push for adoption of the Basic Education Funding formula that will help distribute whatever funding is provided in a fair and equitable way. The association and its members looks forward to hearing more details from the governor during his budget address next week.

Badams urges budget work to continue
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News February 2, 2016 05:59 AM
Erie School District administrators were relieved when state money started flowing.  But today, the 217th day of the record-setting state budget impasse, Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams is feeling something else: Frustration.  Now that school districts and nonprofit organizations have received some money, the sense of urgency that once prompted taxpayers to rally against the stalemate has diminished, Badams said.  "I hope we as residents of the city of Erie and Erie County and the state of Pennsylvania aren't so shortsighted that the limited release of some of our tax dollars prevents us from considering the larger problem of inadequate and inequitable public education funding," Badams said Monday.  Districts like Erie, which received an additional $1.6 million in basic education funding over 2014-15 levels in the budget Gov. Tom Wolf partially vetoed, are relying on additional state funding when the 2015-16 budget is finally passed. If Erie doesn't receive any extra education dollars, it stands to end 2015-16 with a $2.5 million deficit and begin 2017-18 $8 million in the red.

Straight out of drilling country, a severance tax proposal
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 3, 2016 4:37 AM
There's a new proposal for a severance tax on natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania, and it comes from an unlikely proponent: a conservative Republican based in Marcellus Shale territory.  State Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) hopes his plan will neuter a Democratic talking point that the state isn't getting enough money from the natural gas industry because of the particular kind of tax placed on drillers.  Democrats, including Governor Tom Wolf, have argued that Pennsylvania should join the other major gas-producing states and make drillers pay a severance tax tied to the value and amount of gas being extracted. Some moderate Republicans have joined this camp, and even the state's Independent Fiscal Office found that Pennsylvania has one of the lowest effective tax rates on gas drillers anywhere in the country.  In 2012, the state levied an impact fee on the drilling industry. The fee is based on each gas well's age and the average price of natural gas. Republican legislative leaders have argued that it's a suitable and adequate levy.
"However," said Christiana, "the Republicans have lost that public relations battle." A recent poll shows widespread popularity for a severance tax.  Enter Christiana's proposal: It cedes to supporters of the severance tax model, but it does not roll over.

Next superintendent: Pittsburgh needs a results-driven school leader
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board February 3, 2016 12:00 AM
The process to hire a new superintendent for the Pittsburgh Public Schools moved into a new phase Friday with the official posting of the call for applications. The job description, reflecting priorities expressed by the engaged public at seven community forums, could be summed up in few words: You must be perfect.  That’s about right. The next superintendent will arrive at yet another pivot point. It’s not over-dramatic to say that the health of the city depends on its public schools, which must simultaneously attract middle-class families who have other options while serving students from distressed circumstances who deserve rigorous education. The next superintendent will inherit a viable school district with the potential to improve but that sometimes seems to be one good crisis away from decline.

Neshaminy will appeal state charter school board decision on MaST
Bucks County Courier Times by Joan Hellyer, staff writer Posted: February 2, 2016 6:00 am
The Neshaminy school board is not giving up its fight to keep a Philadelphia-based charter school from expanding into the district.  The board will appeal a ruling from the State Charter School Appeal Board that orders Neshaminy to grant MaST Community Charter School a charter to operate a school in the district. The appeal will go to the state’s Commonwealth Court, according to Neshaminy solicitor Thomas Profy III.  The charter appeal board’s order was handed down in Harrisburg on Jan. 6 — three years after Neshaminy’s governing body initially rejected the MaST charter application to privately run a publicly funded kindergarten-12th grade school within district borders.

Bill to delay Keystone Exams awaits Wolf signature
York Dispatch by Jessica Schladebeck, 505-5438/@JessDispatch3:56 p.m. EST February 2, 2016
A bill to delay for two years a requirement that high school seniors pass Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams before graduation has made its way to the governor's desk.  Should Gov. Tom Wolf sign the bill, current high school freshman will become the first required to pass Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams in order to receive their diploma.  The proficiency tests in algebra I, biology and literature were approved as part of Pennsylvania Core standards — similar to the national Common Core — and implemented during the 2012-13 school year. As it currently stands, passing marks on the end-of-course exams are set to become a graduation standard for the class of 2017, or for those who are currently juniors.

Quakertown pilot program to pay for AP exams
Doylestown Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: February 1, 2016 3:00 pm
The Quakertown Community School District plans to institute a pilot program where students who take multiple Advance Placement tests are reimbursed for the cost of the exams.  The $92 price for the first test wouldn't be returned, under guidelines of the program, passed by the school board last week. Each subsequent AP test that school year, however, would be paid for by the district if the student scores a three, four, or five.  Superintendent William Harner said the goal is about providing an incentive for students "to reach for the stars."  "This is about changing the culture to make the leap from good to great," he said. "There are obstacles that sometimes get in the way of that, where some families may not have the financial wherewithal."

"The one thing that all these takeovers have in common is that none has succeeded. Not one. What they do best is to extinguish democracy and give the governor control of a large pot of money to use as he wishes."
Why Does the GOP Want to End Local Control?
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch February 2, 2016 //
Lyndsey Layton has a terrific article in today’s Washington Post about the move by GOP governors to end local control when it suits them. They like to say that they are “saving” people or children. Think Flint. Think Detroit. Think Newark. As the late Derrick Bell said in the title of a book, “And They Are Not Saved.”  The GOP once made local control a  basic principle. Now it’s not. As Layton points out, Governor Kasich took over Youngstown schools in quiet coup. Governor Deal of Georgia wants to create a takeover district like the so-called “Achievement School District” in Tennessee. Governor Snyder in Michigan has taken over several cities and school districts. The GOP in Virginia wants to supersede local control.

U.S. Ed dept. gives states ways to cut standardized testing
Seattle Times By JENNIFER C. KERR The Associated Press Originally published February 2, 2016 at 6:00 am Updated February 2, 2016 at 6:01 am
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is offering states and local school districts a lesson plan of sorts to cut the amount of time that students spend on those fill-in-the-bubble and other standardized tests.  The Education Department released guidance Tuesday to states and local school districts outlining different ways they can use existing federal money to reduce testing in the nation’s public schools. It follows a call by President Barack Obama last October to cap standardized testing and complaints by teachers, parents and others that that too many hours are spent “teaching to the test.”  In a letter to state school officials, the department details how certain federal money can be used to cut tests. States and districts, for example, could use federal education dollars intended for the development of state assessments to instead conduct audits of their tests to see if they have redundant assessments or low-quality ones that could be eliminated.  States also could use federal dollars to develop strategies to improve the quality of current tests or decrease the time students spend taking them, the letter said.

Satirical campaign ad seeks to raise awareness about gerrymandering
Washington Post By Jenna Portnoy January 18  
RICHMOND — Del. Jerry Mandering pledges to redraw Virginia House district boundaries to eliminate competition, deny voting rights and undermine democracy — and he couldn’t be happier about it.  The fictional delegate is the brainchild of the redistricting reform group OneVirginia2021 that commissioned a spoof campaign ad to raise awareness about elected officials who it says unfairly manipulate the political process.  The practice is called gerrymandering. Get it?  “It’s funny because it’s true,” Executive Director Brian Cannon said. “Jerry is an absurd character, but he seeks to highlight the absurd process we have in Virginia for redistricting.”  The satirical look at the reality of elections in Virginia and many other states is part of a national effort to reduce the influence of politics on redistricting — a once-a-decade process following the U.S. census.

PSBA call for volunteers: ESSA Study Group
On March 2 and 3, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association will convene an ESSA Study Group to examine the federal statute and provide recommendations on how best to implement the law in Pennsylvania. The group will include four workgroups to draft a white paper for submission to PDE and the General Assembly. The group will divide their work into the following areas:
  • Schools identified as falling in to the “bottom 5%”
  • Assessment
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Charter school issues and solutions
The ESSA Study Group will be chaired by PSBA President Kathy Swope and each subgroup will be led by a team of co-facilitators.
Each subgroup will consist of:
  • 10 school directors
  • 3 superintendents (1 rural, 1 suburban and 1 urban)
  • 3 school principals (1 HS, 1 MS and 1 elementary)
  • 2 representatives from district staff (business manager, guidance, curriculum, etc.)
  • 2 representatives from other public education groups (EPLC, PASA, charter school, etc.)
  • Support/content experts as identified
Our two-day meeting will take place at the Harrisburg Hilton beginning at 10 a.m. on March 2 and concluding at approximately 2 p.m. on March 3. PSBA will provide all participants with a travel stipend, all meals and overnight accommodations.
Please send an email stating your interest in serving to PSBA Executive Director Nathan G. Mains ( by this Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Selected group participants will be notified next week.

"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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