Monday, March 14, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 14: Threat of mass school closings might compel Harrisburg to finally pass state budget

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 14, 2016:
Threat of mass school closings might compel Harrisburg to finally pass state budget

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

Schools to join Spring-Ford in march on Harrisburg Monday, March 14
Capitol Rotunda 11 am

“When the kids are supposed to be graduating and the school is not even functioning for them to graduate,” state Rep. Tarah Toohil predicted, “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.”  Toohil, of Butler Township, is a Republican, and had been convinced that a Thanksgiving compromise was a sure bet. She and other area legislators have thrown up their hands when it comes to predicting a conclusion.  Both parties have blamed the other, but a revealing moment came at the roundtable when state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, put the fault of a failed Christmas compromise at the feet of the Republican leadership. Toohil and fellow Republican Aaron Kaufer, of Kingston, did not disagree.”
Our Opinion: Threat of mass school closings might compel Harrisburg to finally pass state budget
Times Leader Opinion First Posted: 10:30 pm - March 13th, 2016
Would it be a good idea – and it’s tragic this is becoming a viable option – for local school districts to publicly set definite dates each will close if Harrisburg doesn’t resolve the budget impasse?  
The protracted battle, now unbelievably in its ninth month, between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature is beyond fiasco. Failure to enact a 2015-16 budget, due June 30 last summer, spreads misery to every corner of the Keystone State.  Municipalities, counties and social service agencies all get some money from Harrisburg. But there is a strong argument to be made – and it was made during a Feb. 29 roundtable discussion hosted by the Luzerne Intermediate Unit – that school districts bear the brunt, and thus are uniquely positioned to force an end to the recalcitrance under the rotunda.

Did you catch our weekend Roundup?
PA Ed Policy Weekend Roundup March 13: Pennsylvania’s shame: Public schools shouldn’t have to sue to stay open

“Public schools have already borrowed $1 billion to keep their doors open. But some districts need to borrow more. Meanwhile, exasperated rating agencies may again lower the state's credit rating, which will make it more expensive for every town, school district, and government agency to issue bonds.”
Inquirer Editorial: Better leaders would end state's budget impasse
Inquirer Editorial Updated: MARCH 13, 2016 — 8:54 AM EDT
The spectacular failure of Gov. Wolf and the legislature to deliver a budget has put every home, business, and school in Pennsylvania at risk.  Without a better resolution to Pennsylvania's nine-month budget crisis, there are only bad choices to make: Raise property taxes. Cut programs for the most vulnerable citizens - the elderly, disabled, and young. Lay off school workers, and perhaps shutter schools, before June.  It's been weeks since legislative leaders and Wolf met face to face. Staffers and some legislators are meeting, they say, but there can be no agreement without the principal players at the table.  Instead of negotiating, the state's top elected officials mostly have been pointing fingers at each other. Republicans say Wolf should cut the budget before trying to hike taxes and boost school funding. Wolf says voters elected him because they are tired of seeing schools and public services wither. Their inability to find middle ground is expensive.

 “The district spends less per student than 80 percent of all other districts in the state, but it ranks near the top when it comes to percentage of poor students, English language learners, and charter enrollment. It ranks near the bottom -- 485th out of 500 districts -- in median household income: $33,007, according to the most recent figures.”
Badams to meet with Wolf on fair funding for schools
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News  March 14, 2016 12:28 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams will meet with Gov. Tom Wolf today, but this time the discussion won't be about the state budget stalemate.  Badams' focus has shifted to the topic of fair funding for education and what he says is the chronic underfunding of the Erie School District.  Badams, district Chief Financial Officer Brian Polito and state legislators from the Erie area -- state Sen. Sean Wiley and state Reps. Pat Harkins, Flo Fabrizio and Ryan Bizzarro -- will meet with Wolf at 2:30 p.m.  "Having an audience with the governor allows for a face-to-face exchange of the criticality of this issue," Wiley said. "Addressing the inequity in public school funding is another component of a completed 2015-2016 commonwealth budget, and it is essential to keep those conversations going."  Badams said he plans to discuss a recent analysis by Polito that shows the district could face a deficit as high as $8.9 million in 2016-17 and that the district is underfunded compared with others in the region and state.

"This is not unique at all to Quakertown," board President Paul Stepanoff said. "It is happening across the state."  Indeed, Pennsylvania districts have borrowed more than $1 billion to stay afloat and the governor had the state Department of Education put together a manual on steps to take to close a school district.  Locally, Centennial, New Hope-Solebury and Souderton Area have joined Quakertown Community School District to freeze spending.”
Shorted by state, Quakertown eyes 4 potential budgets
By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Monday, March 14, 2016 5:30 am
The Quakertown school board has directed its superintendent to develop four budgets with a varying amount of state funding for the panel to consider.  Two of the budgets may contain furloughs and program cuts, while a lowered bond rating may be in the district's future.
The set of problems comes as the state continues to hold onto more than $3 billion in basic education subsidies that isn't being released to schools following Gov. Tom Wolf's line item veto.

“The district has received $9,709,878 in payments from the state to date, with another $6,379,827 not received yet. "If everything remains equal with our 2016-17 preliminary budget, we will use $6,508,324 million of the fund balance, with $823,412 remaining," Harner said. "This is significantly better than what we told you at the last board meeting, but far short of putting QCSD in a healthy position for the next fiscal year." The board directed the administration at the Feb. 25 meeting to freeze Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) contribution payments of $5 million, excluding the amount the district withholds from employees, and charter school payments of $796,000, as well as curtail all spending, including filling vacant positions, in an effort to conserve cash.”
Quakertown SD to develop alternative budget scenarios to conserve cash
Mark Reccek , Reporter, Published: 12:29 PM EST Mar 11, 2016 QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - Quakertown Community School District is doing what it can to ensure its cash flow remains as stable as possible through the remainder of this fiscal year, and into 2016-17. District Superintendent Dr. William Harner presented a $5 million cash conservation plan at the board's Thursday evening meeting in front of an audience consisting of district teachers, staff and residents. According to Harner, the district's fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2015-16 is estimated at $7,331,736. QUICK CLICKS Tuesday's state semifinal times and locations State semifinal times and locations released Low prices at the pump are about to go back up 69 News "Week in Review" Local students pick the perfect prom dress in Easton Harner said QCSD was recently informed by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and comptrollers office it will receive an additional $8,175,897 in state revenue.
Read more from at:

Does Pa. budget impasse warrant outside mediator?
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 14, 2016
State budget hearings for the governor's most recent spending proposal have drawn to a close, but not without an unusual bit of advice from a House lawmaker.  Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Philadelphia, said it's time for legislative leaders and the governor's office to bring in some outside help to end the budget impasse: a third-party mediator.  "I am calling for mediation," said DeLissio, testifying to the final, sparsely attended budget hearing by the House Appropriations Committee Thursday. "I am concerned that things have been said that cannot be unsaid."  Without mediation, DeLisso said she expects the next round of budget talks to be a "rinse and repeat of the past eight months," when Republicans and Democrats hardened their stances on taxes and spending, and tentative compromise after tentative compromise collapsed.

Schools innovate around behavior as suspensions fall into disfavor
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Sunday, March 13, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Saying the “F-word” during class used to mean an automatic out-of-school suspension for students in Woodland Hills.  Not anymore.
“It's 2016,” said Superintendent Alan Johnson. “That shouldn't get you suspended.”
Cursing will get the student removed from the classroom, he said, but school staff take more time to consider the circumstances before making a decision about whether it's worth kicking that student out of school.  Education advocates have been taking a hard look at suspension numbers after national data showed that schools were suspending students at alarming rates. After being named among 10 school districts in the nation with the highest number of suspensions for elementary school students, Woodland Hills has joined others across the country that are attempting to reduce their out-of-school suspension numbers. Districts are increasing mental health services, expanding alternative education programs, updating their student conduct policies and exploring the effects of “restorative practices,” which focus on building relationships with students in an effort to come up with a resolution other than being removed from school.

Blogger note: If you have links for local press coverage of current/former school directors and educators running for legislative office please forward them to me so I may include them in the Roundup.  Thanks!
Teacher launches write-in campaign for PA House
York Daily Record by  Flint L. McColganfmccolgan@ydr.com9:43 p.m. EDT March 13, 2016
Shawn Little's stated priority is to restore funding for education and to pass a state budget.
An Eastern York Middle School teacher launched a write-in campaign for the 93rd Pennsylvania Legislative District on Saturday. His stated priority is to pass a state budget.  Shawn Little, 29, was born and raised in York County and graduated from West York Area School District, he said. He now makes his home in York Township with his wife, fellow teacher Michelle Little, and their seven-month-old daughter. He has taught eighth grade language arts at the Eastern York for six years and previously served as a substitute teacher at York City School District.

Senate to vote on Obama's pick for education secretary Monday
Washington Examiner By SUSAN FERRECHIO (@SUSANFERRECHIO) • 3/11/16 9:01 PM
The Senate will vote Monday on President Obama's nominee for secretary of the Department of Education.  Republicans are moving swiftly to confirm John King, the current acting Education Department secretary. King was approved Wednesday by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee by a vote of 16-6.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled the confirmation vote after meeting with King in his Senate office last week.  McConnell has not indicated whether he will vote for King's confirmation, said his spokesman Don Stewart.  If confirmed, King would replace Arne Duncan, who resigned in January.  King will likely win confirmation. Only 51 votes are needed for Obama's lower court and executive branch nominations thanks to a 2013 change in the rules that lowered the threshold from 60 votes.

These Christian teachers want to bring Jesus into public schools
Washington Post By Emma Brown March 12  
Finn Laursen believes millions of American children are no longer learning right from wrong, in part because public schools have been stripped of religion. To repair that frayed moral fabric, Laursen and his colleagues want to bring the light of Jesus Christ into public school classrooms across the country — and they are training teachers to do just that.  The Christian Educators Association International, an organization that sees the nation’s public schools as “the largest single mission field in America,” aims to show Christian teachers how to live their faith — and evangelize in public schools — without running afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition on the government establishing or promoting any particular religion.  “We’re not talking about proselytizing. That would be illegal,” said Laursen, the group’s executive director. “But we’re saying you can do a lot of things. . . . It’s a mission field that you fish in differently.”  Not everyone agrees that it’s acceptable for teachers to “fish” in public schools, where government officials are not allowed to promote or endorse any particular faith.

Pi Day · Celebrate Mathematics on March 14th
Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.  Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

Ravitch: Help Us Raise Money to Help Our Allies
Diane Ravitch’s Blog March 6, 2016
The Network for Public Education Action Fund exists to help friends of public schools compete for election to state and local school boards, as well as other elected offices.  We can't match the spending of our adversaries, but our numbers are far greater than theirs. If we get our friends and neighbors to vote, if we get every parent and teacher to vote, we would win every  seat.
 We have the power to reclaim and rebuild our schools, making them palaces of learning rather than dreary places to take tests.

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill April 4th
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.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) 2016 Education Congress April 6-7, 2016
professional development program for school administrators
Focus: "The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas"  Featured Presenter: Dr. David Burkus
April 6-7, 2016 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill
The program will focus on how school leaders can develop and utilize creativity in education management, operations, curriculum and leadership goals. The second day will allow participants to select from multiple discussion/work sessions focusing on concepts presented by Dr. Burkus and facilitated by school leaders who have demonstrated success in creative thinking and leadership in schools across the commonwealth.
Deadline for hotel accommodations: March 15
See the PASA website for more information at:

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:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) - Add to Calendar
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103 - View Map

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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