Tuesday, March 1, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 1: Threat of school closings may be only way to end state budget battle

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 1, 2016:
Threat of school closings may be only way to end state budget battle



Ask your lawmakers to invest in students.
Campaign for Fair Education Funding
Unless a significant new investment is made and distributed through a fair funding formula, public schools will be forced to cut or reduce more programs and make local tax increases that hurt our students, schools, communities, and economy.



Wolf budget aims at charter funding reform
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com12:53 p.m. EST February 29, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal for next year looks to address long-running issues with charter school funding.
Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal for next year aims to address long-running issues with charter school funding -- including large reserves -- but his proposals have drawn concern from those schools and their advocates.  Wolf's budget includes several proposals, which organizations representing those schools were quick to denounce as anti-charter. According to budget documents, the governor proposes:
  • adjusting charter school reimbursements for special needs students, creating a three-level system he says would better reflect the actual cost of educating the students
  • creating a new funding formula for cyber charters, which educate students online. The existing tuition amount is a district's per-pupil costs, minus deductions for things like transportation. Wolf's proposal would add more deductions for cyber charters, such as a portion of facilities costs.
  • linking reimbursement to audited costs, having charters return money to districts if audited costs are less than revenue

Area officials: Threat of school closings may be only way to end state budget battle
Officials say budget impasse needs impetus
Times Leader by Mark Guydish - mguydish@timesleader.com First Posted: 11:43 pm - February 29th, 2016 Updated: 12:46 am - March 1st, 2016.
KINGSTON — During an emotionally-charged exchange that often evoked unguarded passion from area legislators and school district officials, state Rep. Tarah Toohil summed the fear that kept rising to the top: Schools running out of money and closing.  “When the kids are supposed to be graduating and the school is not even functioning for them to graduate, that’s when the pressure will come,” the Butler Township Republican said during a Monday evening roundtable in Kingston regarding the eight-month budget impasse. “That’s when you’ll have the budget you need. But it really is a travesty that it’s going to take the ultimate pressure.”  The Luzerne Intermediate Unit, which provides various services to area schools, hosted the roundtable that drew superintendents, business managers and school board members from area districts, along with Toohil and state Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, Mike Carrol, D-Avoca, Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, and Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston.

Officials worried budget crisis may shut down schools
Citizen’s Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER Published: March 1, 2016
KINGSTON — Two dozen local school officials on Monday met with five state legislators, and some said they are worried they may have to shut down schools in April if the state budget impasse is not resolved this month.  “All of the districts are out of bullets. There is nothing left,” said Tom Melone of Albert B. Melone Co., which provides business management services to the Wyoming Area, Crestwood, Greater Nanticoke Area, Lake-Lehman and Pittston Area school districts.  The fiscal year began last July without a state budget. Gov. Tom Wolf unlocked emergency funding to school districts last month with partial vetoes of a $30.3 billion budget from the Republican Legislature, and the state released about six months worth of 2015-16 funding to school districts.  State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, said he wished Wolf vetoed the entire budget in December.  “He should have called their bluff,” Mullery said. “We would have been back there in January with a full budget.”  State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, called Wolf “a good man” but said he made “a mistake by vetoing the entire budget” approved by the Legislature last June.

Pa. education secretary wishes schools could focus on teaching, not surviving
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 29, 2016 at 7:45 AM, updated February 29, 2016 at 7:47 AM
Steelton-Highspire School District's survival skills, like other cash-strapped districts around the state, are being put to the test this school year.  The 1,300-student district ran out of money in the fall when state aid was held up by the long-running 2015-16 state budget impasse. It borrowed $6.2 million in October to keep its schools open.  On Thursday, it, along with the state's other 499 school districts, received the last of its share of the basic education funding appropriated in the state budget Gov. Tom Wolf enacted on Dec. 29. Steel-High used that money to pay off that loan.  Borrowing again would be costlier now due to a recent credit rating downgrade to Baa1, which means it is considered a moderate credit risk. Acting Superintendent Travis Waters said there are no plans to borrow more money.  Although instructions went out this week from the state Department of Education about how to close a school district, Waters wants to avoid that at all costs.

Philly schools surplus eroded by ongoing state budget impasse
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY FEBRUARY 29, 2016
Despite a persistent lack of resources, the School District of Philadelphia ended its last fiscal year in June with an $88 million  surplus.  Because of the ongoing state budget impasse, school officials said, those funds will not mean more services for children in classrooms this year.  At a City Council education committee hearing Monday, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker questioned Superintendent William Hite about the surplus, as outlined in a report released last week.  "After all the budget cuts that the school district has had to deal with over the past five years now in particular, how do we end up with a surplus?" Parker said.  Hite explained that local tax revenues outperformed expectations and that the district decided against immediately committing the money to classrooms for this school year because of what looked to become a logjam in the state Capitol.

ANNUAL: State budget process relies on compromise that some say no longer exists in Harrisburg
Naomi Creason The Sentinel February 28, 2016
Putting together a state budget can take a little less than a year with planning and interview stages, then debates among legislators and the governor.  Or, at least, generally that’s how long it takes.  State Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, has represented the 31st district for what will be 12 years this year, and she knows that passing a budget can be a long and laborious process.  What happened to the budget this past year, however, is another matter entirely.  “I think it’s embarrassing,” she said.  The 2015-16 state budget missed its June 30, 2015, deadline by a wide margin.  Though the matter is still not yet shut, state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Carlisle, said Gov. Tom Wolf did sign a state budget — even if he blue-lined a few line items — and the state government is currently operating under this budget.

School boards considering options for budget impasse response
Ellwood City Ledger By Eric Poole epoole@ellwoodcityledger.com Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2016 11:15 pm
With Pennsylvania's budget impasse continuing, the impacts are being felt most profoundly by the poorest school districts.  That was one of the takeaways Ellwood City Area School District Superintendent Joe Mancini gained from a meeting last week with officials from most of the school districts in Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV. The intermediate unit includes 27 districts from Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties.  Gov. Tom Wolf introduced the budget for his second year in office without having fully passed one for his first year in office.  During the meeting, Nathan Mains, executive director of Pennsylvania School Boards Association, explained the situation and discussed options. They ranged from doing nothing or writing angry letters to closing school for a day for a march on the state Capitol in Harrisburg by educators, board members and students from throughout the state.  More than 50 people turned out for the meeting, including Mancini, Ellwood City Area School Board President Renee Pitrelli and school board members Jennifer Tomon and Danielle Woodhead.

“Philadelphia School Partnership, a private nonprofit that is not required to disclose information about its contracts, will neither confirm nor deny hiring Citizen or Divine, instead calling such questions an “insult” to Simms and Wister parents supporting Mastery.  “
Simms, Divine, and the Wister vote: A question of interest
The commissioner has not disclosed who is funding her sister's position with a pro-charter consulting group. Experts weigh in on the ethical issues involved.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. February 29, 2016 — 2:48pm
When Quibila Divine testified Feb. 18 before the School Reform Commission, she delivered a passionate defense of herself and her sister, Commissioner Sylvia Simms. The two have been the subjects of scrutiny ever since Simms’ surprise move at the Jan. 21 SRC meeting, in defiance of Superintendent William Hite, to revive Mastery Charter’s bid for Wister Elementary.  In her testimony, Divine proudly challenged her critics. “In our community, we are the solution, and not the problem,” she concluded.  But Divine did not answer a question that ethics watchdogs and legal observers say could have significant implications for her sister’s’ future SRC votes: whether Divine has a professional or financial involvement that could pose a conflict of interest for Simms.  The law is unequivocal, experts say. “If there is a conflict, you need to abstain,” said Rob Caruso, executive director of the State Ethics Commission.

Here’s a list of parties funding PSP….
Philadelphia School Partnership Investors
More than 50 individuals, corporations and foundations have invested more than $65 million in our work to ensure every child in Philadelphia can attend a great school.

Are Publicly Funded Charter Schools Accountable to Parents and Taxpayers? Apparently Not.
Huffington Post by Donald Cohen Executive Director, In the Public Interest 02/28/2016 02:19 pm ET | Updated 23 hours ago
Several weeks ago, the New York Times published a surreptitiously recorded video of a charter school teacher berating a first grade student and ripping up her work in front of the class for being unable to explain how she solved a math problem. The publicly-funded school, the Success Academy founded by Eva Moskowitz, circled the wagons and launched a public relations blitz.  According to the Times, the girl's parent tried to raise questions at a meeting organized by the school to get parent support for the teacher in the press. She was concerned that the parents were being asked to help without even being shown the video. "She's like 'You've had enough to say' and [Ms. Moskowitz] tried to talk over me," the mother told the Times. Frustrated, she gave up and walked out of the meeting.  The student's parent went to the NY Department of Education to file a complaint. She was told that Success was independent from the school district and that she needed to contact the school's board of trustees. But the board, chaired by hedge fund CEO Dan Loeb, that gets to spend taxpayer dollars aren't elected by nor accountable to New York voters. They have no obligation to neither listen to her nor take action. They are a group of hedge fund and private equity investors, lawyers, public relationships professionals, philanthropists and one full-time educator.
Here's a few of the Wall Street investors on the school's board of trustees who the girl's mother was told to petition:

Don't do the Dew? Philly Mayor wants a soda tax, report: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 29, 2016 at 8:08 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Savor every Big Gulp, enjoy every Dr. Pepper and do the Dew as much as you can. Because if you live in Philadelphia, new Mayor Jim Kenney is looking to slap a tax on your favorite fizzy drink.  As our friends at the Inquirer report this morning, the Democrat, who ran on a pledge to create universal prekindergarten and other costly initiatives, is finding himself short of the coin to pay for his campaign promises.  Sources tell the Inquirer that the soda tax, famously tried to no avail by ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, is one of the few arrows in Kenney's quiver as he rolls out his first budget proposal.

Sources: Kenney to Propose a Soda Tax
He opposed Mayor Nutter’s soda tax as a councilman.
PhillyMag Citified BY HOLLY OTTERBEIN  |  FEBRUARY 26, 2016 AT 5:30 PM
City Hall sources tell Citified that Mayor Jim Kenney is going to propose a soda tax next week at his first budget address. We don’t know the exact rate yet — or how such a tax would be structured — but we’ll tell you once we do.   A tax on soda could set off a major legislative battle. Former Mayor Michael Nutter tried — and failed — to pass a soda tax in both 2010 and 2011.  The beverage industry and the Teamsters joined together to lobby aggressively against Nutter's plan. For every school official advocating for the sugary beverage tax in City Hall, "there were two people paid by the beverage industry who were pulling City Council members out into the hallway and into their offices and working on them," School District Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch said in 2011. The fact that soda mogul Harold Honickman was a major campaign contributor didn't help Nutter, either.  Fascinatingly, Kenney was one of the Council members who fought against the soda tax during the Nutter era. In 2012, he told NewsWorks, "I was not for the soda tax the first time. I will not be for it the second time."  Honickman remains a player in local politics. And in 2012, the American Beverage Association spent nearly $240,000 lobbying against the possibility of the soda tax — even though Nutter, after having lost that battle twice, insisted that he wasn't planning on proposing legislation.

Erie Teachers approve strike, if needed
01 Mar 2016 — Erie Times-News By ERICA ERWIN erica.erwin@timesnews.com
Erie teachers have given their negotiation team the power to strike if necessary.
The Erie Education Association at its general membership meeting Monday took a strike authorization vote and "granted their negotiation team the authority to call a work stoppage when and if the negotiations team should deem such an action necessary," according to a statement from the teachers' union.  The strike authorization does not mean a strike is imminent or that teachers have any specific intention to strike, the union said.  The 879-member union has been in negotiation with the Erie School Board since January 2014 and without a new contract since June 30, 2014.  "Though there are significant disagreements with the School Board on the contents of a successor agreement, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania's refusal to fairly fund public education exacerbates the already strained negotiations," the union said.  The union said it refuses "to accept the state's reliance on inequitable and unfair funding for our students and our colleagues."  "Our students deserve fair funding and our colleagues dedicated to them deserve a fair contract."

Tech school secures $4.5 million line of credit
Sue Hess, For the York Daily Record5:42 p.m. EST February 26, 2016
York County School of Technology doesn't expect to use the line, though, business manager says.
If the Pennsylvania state budget stalemate causes cash-flow concerns for York County School of Technology, the school is ready with a $4.5 million line of credit.  “I do not anticipate needing to use the line of credit,” said Jon Boyer, tech business manager, “since a majority of our funding comes from the sending districts.“  He added, however, that if the budget impasse affects the ability of districts to make timely payments, it could result in the need to draw on the line of credit.
The credit line was approved by the tech’s joint operating committee at a Feb. 25 meeting. The school secured the note with Adams County National Bank for an amount not to exceed $4.5 million.

U.S. legislators give Obama’s education pick an astounding pass
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 29 at 1:36 PM  
News emanating from the U.S. Senate these days centers on Republican determination not to give even a passing glance to any nomination that President Obama sends to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court created by the recent death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. What got less attention was the astounding pass the Senate education committee just gave to Obama’s nominee as the new education secretary, John King.  During confirmation hearings late last week before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Acting Education Secretary John King was not asked one single direct question about the tumultuous 3 ½ years he spent as the commissioner of education in New York state. Not by Republicans, and not by Democrats.  Nobody, apparently, was interested enough in asking him to explain the turmoil in New York education during his tenure. What turmoil? As blogger Peter Greene succinctly wrote, “Under King, Common Core implementation was a disaster, teacher evaluation was a disaster, testing was a disaster,massive data gathering was a disaster, and having public meetings to manage public reaction to the other disasters was a disaster.”

Very few teachers receive poor job ratings, and new evaluations haven’t changed that
Washington Post By Emma Brown February 29 at 1:04 PM  
It has been seven years since the organization known as TNTP released a seminal study that showed that fewer than 1 percent of teachers were rated “unsatisfactory” on annual evaluations. The report accelerated a nationwide movement to overhaul teacher evaluations to more accurately reflect the range of teacher performance in U.S. classrooms.  So are the new evaluations — many of which incorporate test scores or other measures of student learning — any better at identifying poor teaching?  Not really, according to a new working paper by Matthew Kraft of Brown University and Allison Gilmour of Vanderbilt.  And that’s a problem for those who believe that evaluations should be used as a way to help teachers improve, and those who believe evaluations should be used as a way to get rid of poor performers, Kraft said.

Closely Watched Fight Over California Teacher Tenure Moves to Appeals Court
New York Times By IAN LOVETT and MOTOKO RICH FEB. 25, 2016
LOS ANGELES — A fierce battle over the future of teacher tenure in California moved to an appeals court here on Thursday. Lawyers for student plaintiffs argued that the state’s ironclad job protections for teachers deprived students of a quality education, while teachers unions and the state said the system helped recruit and retain teachers.  Two years ago, in a landmark ruling, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down five state statutes dealing with the awarding of tenure, as well as rules governing teacher dismissals and the requirement that seniority be used to determine layoffs. In a strongly worded ruling, the judge, Rolf Treu, said the statutes violated the students’ rights to an equal education under the California Constitution by allowing poor-performing teachers to stay in classrooms indefinitely.

Donald Trump says he would cut Department of Education
The Edvocate  February 26, 2016
Presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to make waves. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Trump what he would do to cut spending if he was elected President and he said that the Department of Education was first on the chopping block.  “But I may cut Department of Education. I believe Common Core is a very bad thing. I believe that we should be — you know, educating our children from Iowa, from New Hampshire, from South Carolina, from California, from New York. I think that it should be local education.”  Trump didn’t go into detail of what he meant by local education or how to educate the children from South Carolina and New York, but he’s fairly certain that he would rid the country of the Department of Education.


Yes! I would like to be part of the March 1, 12:30 pm conference call to learn more about the school funding lawsuit.
Education Voters PA
Attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia will provide an update on the status of the lawsuit, Education Voters will share resources that can be used to increase awareness of the lawsuit, and callers will have time for Q & A with the attorneys.

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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