Wednesday, March 16, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 16: New budget push comes amid threats of school closings

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 16, 2016:
New budget push comes amid threats of school closings


400 attend town hall meeting on budget impasse…
Budget impasse puts Union City schools at 'tipping point'
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News March 16, 2016 12:31 AM
UNION CITY -- Dana Ward didn't think much about Union City's dwindling tax base when she was graduating from high school here.  Now, as a mom of five children in the Union City Area School District, the issue is top of mind. The district relies on the state for 77 percent of its revenue and has been hit hard by the state budget impasse.  Ward places the blame on state officials' inability to compromise.  "It's a mess," said Ward, 34, one of roughly 400 people who filled the high school cafeteria here on Tuesday for a town hall meeting on the issue.  The stalemate already has prompted the district to lay off 18 noninstructional employees and could mean more layoffs and elimination of activities and sports in the future, Union City Area schools Superintendent Sandra Myers told those gathered for the meeting.  The district so far has received less than half its state funding, Myers said, and is currently operating on its fund balance.  "We have reached a tipping point, folks," she said.

“A large crowd turned out for an informational meeting on the state budget impasse and how it will effect the Wyoming Valley West School District on Tuesday evening at the middle school.”
Wyoming Valley West officials urge residents to speak in ‘unified voice’ to legislators about budget
Valley West administration, state officials address lack of a budget
Times Leader By Steve Mocarsky - smocarsky@timesleader.com First Posted: 11:00 pm - March 15th, 2016
KINGSTON — A meeting held Tuesday with the intent of informing residents of the financial state of the Wyoming Valley West School District given the state budget impasse and rallying them into action did just that, but it also left attendees frustrated with unanswered questions.  Irv DeRemer, district director of elementary education, welcomed the large crowd that filled most of the Middle School auditorium, explaining that the meeting was called “to give an overview of the financial consequences facing most school districts in Pennsylvania due to the 2015 state budget not being passed.”  A bipartisan budget deal collapsed just before Christmas after House GOP leaders pulled support. That $30.8 billion spending plan would have required a $1 billion-plus tax increase. Republicans subsequently sent a $30.3 billion plan to Gov. Tom Wolf, and he vetoed billions of dollars in subsidies for schools, prisons and hospitals.  School officials across the state have said many districts are in danger of running out of money and closing their doors at some point this year because they have received only a portion of state funding.

Wyoming Area to hold informational meeting on state budget Wednesday
By Marcella Kester - For Times Leader First Posted: 8:47 pm - March 15th, 2016
With recent fears that school districts across the state will be forced to close in mid-May due to the state’s budget stalemate, school board members at Wyoming Area announced during a board work session meeting Tuesday that an informational meeting for district residents will be held Wednesday.  The public meeting will be held 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Secondary Center. State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, will be at the meeting, and state Rep Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston, may also be in attendance, pending his schedule.  The session will include what could — and likely would — happen to districts if a budget fails to pass by May, along with new progress that’s been made and contact information for all state lawmakers.  “The consequences are quite severe, if we do not get our funding in order,” said board President Elizabeth Gober-Mangan.

150 people attend Pittston Area school board meeting…
If state budget doesn’t pass, Pittston Area will run out of funds at the end of April, officials say
By Nick Wagner - nwagner@timesleader.com First Posted: 10:13 pm - March 15th, 2016
YATESVILLE — Because of the state’s budget impasse, the Pittston Area School District will not be able to continue day-to-day operations, financially, to finish the school year.  District Business Manager Albert Melone said the school will be out of money at the end of April in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the monthly school board meeting Tuesday.  “We’ve been hollering wolf for a long time to get bailed out,” he said in front of approximately 150 people at the meeting held in the high school library. “None of us thought it would go this far.”  Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth ordered the district to have an Act 80 half day on March 11 to discuss the situation with all teachers within the district. Both Melone and Booth reiterated the situation is not because a misappropriation of funds, but because they are simply running out of money that should have been provided by the state.

Smethport school district could face financial struggles ahead
Bradford Era By FRAN De LANCEY Era Correspondent delancey401@yahoo.com Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:00 am
SMETHPORT — Without a state budget in place, the Smethport Area School District will be unable to meet payroll for the first pay period in July without a tax and revenue anticipation note from a lending institution.  During the school board's meeting on Monday, Superintendent Dr. Charles Leasure noted this is 257 days without a full state budget, although the district did receive a partial payment in December. Leasure said that after checking the Legislature's calendar, "lawmakers are in session three days this week and the topic of ‘schools’ is not on the agenda."  At Leasure's request, Business Manager Sue Jordan presented a status report of the district's budget. "It's not pretty," Jordan said as she prefaced her remarks.  The district's cash flow could be as low as $150,000 by June 30, not enough by itself to meet payroll for the first pay period in July.  The district, Jordan said, did receive $3 million on Jan. 5 to meet some of the district's financial obligations.

Penn-Trafford School District OK'd for line of credit
Trib Live BY TOM MCGEE | Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Although they hope it won't be needed, Penn-Trafford School District officials are able to open a line of credit because of the state budget impasse.  The school board voted unanimously Monday night to allow district administrators to seek a line of credit while the state budget remains in limbo. A limit was not specified, but business manager Brett Lago said last week that up to $10 million is possible.  Lago said the district received about $7 million less than it would normally because of the lack of a final state budget. He said he does not expect any change soon.  “With elections coming up for all the House members and half the Senate members, it's unlikely there will be any action anytime soon,” Lago said.  The district received $16 million in state funds last year. Officials have been forced to start planning its 2016-17 budget without a clear picture of what funding it will receive, Lago said.  Shaun Rinier, head of the Penn-Trafford Education Association, said school districts throughout the state should consider taking drastic action — such as closing — to try to force the hands of state officials.  “If you would do that, you'd probably have a budget tomorrow,” he said.

Bristol Township schools might need loan if state budget impasse continues
Bucks County Courier Times by Joan Hellyer, staff writer Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:15 pm
The Bristol Township school board may have to borrow money to cover its operating expenses if the state budget impasse is not over by late April or early May, a school director said Monday night.  The school district has received about only half of what the state is supposed to send it to help pay for operating costs during the 2015-16 school year, board member Helen Cini said.  Her comments kicked off a lengthy conversation among board members about the impasse and how the district should respond to it.

Pennsylvania School Districts Make Stark Choices During Budget Impasse
Education Week District Dossier By Denisa R. Superville on March 15, 2016 10:32 AM
The Pennsylvania budget crisis continues to force school districts to make desperate decisions to stay open.  Districts are spending down their reserves, taking out loans, cutting programs, and skimping on paying bills, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which is compiling a list of school district's stories of financial hardship on its website.  One district is not even sure it will be able to make a multimillion-dollar bond payment and payroll on April 1, the association said.   With the 2015-16 fiscal year ending in June, Pennsylvania still does not have a state budget. And schools districts are saying they are running out of options.  The budget dispute between the Republican-led legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has affected a wide swath of the state, from farming to higher education.

New budget push comes amid threats of school closings
Citizens Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU Published: March 16, 2016
HARRISBURG — Amid the threat of school closings, a new effort by Republican lawmakers to complete the unfinished state budget drew criticism Tuesday from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic lawmakers.  The bill’s math doesn’t add up, Wolf said.  “We are looking at a train wreck in 2016-17, a huge deficit if we don’t do something about that,” he said.  However, the governor declined to say whether he again will wield his veto pen until he sees the final legislation.  The $30 billion GOP budget bill for fiscal 2015-16 cleared a first hurdle with passage by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a party-line vote. Votes in both chambers are planned for today.  The measure would provide a $200 million boost in state aid to public schools in fiscal 2015-16 — half the amount the governor seeks — and keep state taxes at existing rates. It would restore funding for Pennsylvania State University agricultural extension offices in each county and 14 critical access hospitals in rural areas, including in Barnes-Kasson County Hospital in Susquehanna County.  However, it would cut spending by $300 million from an earlier GOP-passed budget bill, thus averting the need for a tax or revenue hike, said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana.

Here we go again. General Assembly set to vote on another 2015-16 budget plan
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com mail the author | Follow on Twitter on March 15, 2016 at 7:20 PM, updated March 15, 2016 at 10:21 PM
Nine months into the fiscal year and still no assurances Pennsylvania will emerge with a 2015-16 budget but that doesn't stop state lawmakers from trying again.  The General Assembly is poised to vote on Wednesday on a $30 billion state budget plan that House and Senate GOP lawmakers crafted without input from their Democratic colleagues or Gov. Tom Wolf.  That spending level is about 3 percent, or $875 million more, than the state spent in 2014-15 but $238 million less than the last budget plan that the General Assembly passed in December that Wolf partially vetoed.  The Senate Appropriations approved the plan on a 16-10 party-line vote on Tuesday, which if signed by Wolf, could allow the General Assembly to put to bed a budget plan that was supposed to have been done by June 30 of last year.

Budget plan puts Pa. GOP, Wolf on collision course
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 16, 2016
State lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf could be headed for another clash over the Pennsylvania budget, now more than eight months late.  Top Republican lawmakers say they'll pass a plan this week to restore funds vetoed by the governor late last year. The more than $6 billion proposal would bring the total state budget to about $30 billion, and the supplemental funding aims to make a variety of line items whole again — including the schools, rural hospitals, and agricultural programs on the brink of closing because they haven't received all their state money.  Wolf said he hasn't seen all the details of the plan, and he's not promising a signature or a veto. But he stressed that the proposal must fit his oft-stated criteria.  "I want a budget that is balanced, where the math actually works, and that invests in the things that Pennsylvania needs to invest in," Wolf told reporters Tuesday. "We are looking at a train wreck in 2016-17, a huge deficit, if we don't do something about this."

At a glance: Highlights of the latest Pa. state budget proposal
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 15, 2016 at 6:29 PM
Republicans who control the Pennsylvania General Assembly say they plan to take votes Wednesday on a new, $30 billion spending plan that they hope will end their nine-month budget stalemate with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  Some of the key components of the latest proposal for fiscal 2015-16 include:  Public schools: Boosts the state's main aid line to public schools by another $50 million, representing a total increase of $150 million from last year.  The new total of $5.93 billion for regular classroom aid (including k-12 block grants), however, is still about $175 million less than Wolf is seeking.

GOP Plan to Restore Wolf's Cuts to Run This Week
PA HouseGOP Video Published on Mar 15, 2016 Runtime: 11:11
PA Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and PA House Majority Leader Dave Reed discuss a plan to restore cuts that Gov. Tom Wolf made to the #PABudget.

“The education dollars above last year’s appropriation amount will be pushed out through the formula developed by the Basic Education Funding Commission.”
Legislative push to end current year’s budget process still faces Wolf question mark
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, March 15, 2016
The Republican-led Pennsylvania General Assembly began to push a supplemental appropriation for the FY 2015-2016 budget Tuesday that they hope will land on the governor’s desk on Wednesday, and if enacted, would provide the fiscal year with a $30.025 billion, no-tax-increase budget.  However, that budget will need to be approved or vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, who said Tuesday he has not made up his mind about how to deal with the plan he still feels does not address Pennsylvania’s structural budget deficit.  Republican leaders Tuesday afternoon said the budget plan they are now advancing would provide $200 million more for basic education and restores much of the funding line-item vetoed by the governor in December, but leaves issues like pension reform and liquor privatization aside.

Gov. Wolf blasts new GOP bill in Pennsylvania’s budget fight
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 03/15/16, 1:57 PM EDT
HARRISBURG >> Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday blasted the latest budget plan to be advanced by Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s eight-month partisan battle that has left billions of dollars in limbo and schools and universities warning of closures.  Wolf said in an interview on KQV-AM radio that the plan being unveiled by Republicans on Tuesday afternoon is out of balance and leaves a deficit of about $1.6 billion next year. Without a tax increase to fix it, schools could see a $1 billion cut to state aid, Wolf said.  His office also said the Republican plan does not adequately fund schools, although neither Wolf nor his office said whether he would veto the bill.  House and Senate Republicans insisted that the plan does not require a tax increase to balance, and delivers half the public school aid increase, $200 million, that Wolf had sought. Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Franklin, called the plan fair and responsible, but he also acknowledged that lawmakers will have to deal with next year’s deficit in the coming months.  Republicans said they will send the main appropriations bill in the $30 billion package to floor votes in the House and Senate on Wednesday, and then onto Wolf’s desk. It would increase spending by about 3 percent overall, and increase spending on public school instruction and operations by about 3.5 percent.

“He said starting July 1, that means a $1 billion cut to education across the state and what will amount to increases in local property taxes, which he said is more burdensome than the “modest” increase in state taxes his budget plan calls for.
“Either way you get a tax increase, their plan does have a tax increase,” he stated. “We cannot afford another property tax hike at the local level and the only way you can keep from doing that is a modest increase in taxes at the state level.”
Gov. Wolf plans “to make a stand” against new GOP budget proposal
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Amid the news that the Republican-led legislature plans to send a $30 billion-plus budget to his desk this week, Gov. Tom Wolf used a scheduled appearance on Pittsburgh’s KQV radio Tuesday morning to say he plans “to make a stand.”  “We’ve got to make a stand at some point and, rather than wait until it’s too late, I think we’ve got to do it now,” he said of his views on the latest GOP budget plan.  He added from what he knows of the plan, the math does not work.  “The consequences of it not working and the smoke and mirrors and the games people have played in the past are coming up real fast and we’re looking at a real deficit,” he said. “It leaves a deficit for this year—and by their own calculations—a $1.6 billion deficit next year.”

STATEMENT: PA Budget and Policy Center on HB1802, The GOP Supplemental Appropriation Bill
PBPC March 15, 2016
HARRISBURG -- Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, made the following statement on HB1802, the Republican supplemental appropriation bill:
“When one party in a divided government puts forward a budget proposal without consulting, let alone negotiating with, the other party, one can be sure that the aim is political gamesmanship not serious public policy. And that is what we see from the Republicans in the General Assembly today. Their supplemental appropriation bill adds some funding for K-12 education, but still falls far short of what the children of Pennsylvania need. And that new funding comes at the cost of reduced aid to college students.  Most importantly, the Republican budget proposal adds to, rather than subtracting from, our deeper budgetary problems. It is not balanced. And the deficit it creates for this year will add to the daunting structural deficit we face next year.  "At a time when Standard and Poor’s has warned us that the state faces another credit downgrade, and when we are looking at massive cuts in education and human service next year, we have no need for more political games. We call on every Representative and Senator to vote against this plan. And we urge legislative leaders to begin work on a compromise bi-partisan budget plan modeled on the one that passed the Senate by a vote of 43-7 last year.” 

Our Legislature is bankrupting Pennsylvania: Art Haywood
PennLive Op-Ed   By Art Haywood on March 15, 2016 at 2:00 PM
State Sen. Art Haywood, a Democratrepresents the 4th Senate District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
Are you willing to keep $20 dollars extra each month in exchange for accepting a bankrupt Pennsylvania?   Are you ready to accept rising juvenile delinquency, broken schools, abandoned properties, increasing crime and unsafe nursing homes for elderly loved ones?  A family earning $75,000 annually would pay about $20 dollars a month to pave the path to recovery outlined in Gov. Tom Wolf's budget, according to the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee.  By keeping the cash in our pockets, we become bankrupt in our commitment to each other.
Years of one-time fixes and credit downgrades have resulted in underfunded schools and high property taxes.  Delayed water and infrastructure projects have left us with 18 cities that have higher levels of lead than Flint.   After years of credit downgrades and mismanagement, more than $1 billion dollars in cuts are projected for this year.  The house of cards in Pennsylvania is ready to tumble.  How did we get into this mess?

Wolf, legislators, and school advocates must stand together for Pa. education
WHYY Newsworks Commentary by Mark Stier MARCH 16, 2016 ESSAYWORKS
Marc Stier is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
We are heading into a critical time in the seemingly endless Pennsylvania budget crisis. This is the moment when Pennsylvanians must stand strong for a budget that is not only done but done right. And that means a budget that finally, after years of deep cuts and shallow restorations, begins to fund education at levels that meet the needs of our children.  Many of us want to attain that aim. But to know how to get there, we have to understand the forces, inside and outside the Capitol Building, that oppose us. They would rather see devastating cuts to education rather than increase taxes.  Some of those who take this view believe, falsely, that much education spending is useless and wasteful. They don’t grasp, as most Pennsylvanians do, that the money we spend on education is vital not only to the success of individual children, but also to the success of the Commonwealth as a whole.  They forget that the children of today are the workers and citizens of tomorrow.

Reforming the budget process could prevent future gridlock
Lancaster Online Opinion by Sen. Ryan P. Aument | Special to LNP March 16, 2016
Sen. Ryan P. Aument, a Republican from East Hempfield Township, represents the 36th Senatorial District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
This spring, for the first time in modern Pennsylvania history, the General Assembly will work on the 2016-17 state budget without the benefit of completing a current fiscal-year budget.  While the 2015-16 state budget was signed into law, Gov. Tom Wolf’s line-item vetoes of approximately $6 billion in spending — including 65 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s funding, $3 billion in education funding and $1 billion in state prison funding — leaves work to be done on the spending plan.  The people of Pennsylvania are rightfully concerned about the prospect of another budget stalemate. As our governor continues to advocate for his priorities, including additional taxes and increased spending, General Assembly members will likely continue to advocate for the positions their constituents support.  What has become increasingly clear is that our commonwealth needs to seriously consider ways to improve our budget process. We need to prevent what occurred in 2015. That includes unnecessary disruptions of state funding to our human services providers, which help the most vulnerable in our communities; to our schools, which have the important task of educating our children; and to other critical programs and services.  Simply put: We need to find a way to allow important debates over taxes and spending to occur without harming the people we swore an oath to protect and defend.

Report: York City pre-K students score higher on later exams
York Dispatch by Jessica Schladebeck, 505-5438/@JessDispatch3:06 p.m. EDT March 15, 2016
York City students who went through the district's pre-K program, on average, have scored higher on standardized exams than those who did not receive the early childhood education.  Julie Fabie, the pre-K supervisor for York City schools, last week presented the district's school board with a comparison of students who went through the district pre-K program and scored proficient or higher on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment versus those who achieved the same scores but were not enrolled in pre-K.  Since the 2007-08 school year, the district has offered early child care through the state-funded Pre-K Counts program. That year, the school district opened six classrooms, with the goal of one day having as many pre-K classrooms as it did kindergarten classrooms. The district last year hosted 190 students in its early childhood education program, and Fabie told the board it's looking to add a 13th pre-K classroom in the near future, which would bring the district halfway to the goal.

This is what a high-quality preschool looks like
The Success by 6 program has helped to improve more than 350 pre-K centers.
The notebook by Fabiola Cineas March 15, 2016 — 4:27pm
As the preschoolers made their way from the carpet to the five stations across the classroom, a buzz pulsed through the room at Chinatown Learning Center. It was a fusion of laughter and murmurs in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. The children were ready for the day’s lesson -- the life cycle of chickens.  Under the tutelage of two classroom teachers, Yian Chu and Tiffany Villafane, the classroom of 3- to 5-year-olds got to work, all engaged in activities tailored to their age and learning level. Some students drew pictures of chickens in their various life stages. Others wrote sentences about chicks or practiced letter and number recognition.  This is what high-quality preschool looks like, and the center has earned the highest rating under the state’s Keystone STARS rating system – STAR 4.  It wasn’t always this way. About 10 years ago, the center was rated as a STAR 2 – it needed to improve in areas such as teacher credentials and parent engagement.  But then it went through Success by 6, a quality-improvement program led by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey, which gave the center a network of support and the impetus to identify and achieve strategic goals.

Philly District posts Renaissance charter applications
Read the submissions from the three operators matched with Wister, Huey and Cooke Elementaries.
March 15, 2016 the Notebook
The School District has posted the applications from three charter organizations seeking to turn around Wister, Huey, and Cooke Elementaries, under its Renaissance initiative.  Great Oaks is applying to run Cooke. Mastery was given the go-ahead to apply for Wister. Global Leadership Academy seeks to turn around Huey.  The School Reform Commission invited the three to submit applications at its Jan. 21 meeting. But the Wister vote caused an outcry.   Superintendent William Hite had withdrawn his recommendation to convert the school to a charter, citing some academic improvement. At a subsequent SRC meeting, CommissionerSylvia Simms offered a walk-on resolution that got the votes of colleagues Feather Houstoun and Bill Green, saying that she had heard from parents who wanted a change. 

Philly Turnarounds fair play
Philly Daily news Editorial Updated: MARCH 16, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
School Superintendent William Hite had one of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if you don't moments last week. Criticized for turning over low-performing public schools to charter providers, Hite took a new tack.  He designated four elementary schools, which are among the lowest performers in the district, as "Turnaround" schools. Those schools will get additional resources, such as smaller class sizes in the lower grades, and the direct attention of the district's turnaround staff to oversee improvement.  The plan calls for up to 50 percent of the teaching staff to be replaced. Under union contracts, the teachers and other staff who leave the schools will be entitled to jobs elsewhere in the district.  About $7.3 million additional money will go to the four schools.  Hite said he kept the schools as district-run in part because of the criticism he has gotten for turning to nonprofit charters to take over these low performers.  Hite deserves praise for the plans. It invests scarce resources in the schools that need it most. So who could complain about a school getting more resources and personnel, as long as the time, effort and money invested makes a difference?
http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20160316_Turnarounds_fair_play.html#xxlTQ2t38hDphcQM.99

Allentown teachers get higher pay, assault protections in new pact
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 15, 2016 at 4:18 PM, updated March 15, 2016 at 5:00 PM
After six months of working under an expired agreement, Allentown School District teachers have a new contract that boosts starting salary and protects teachers who have been assaulted by students.  The school board Thursday approved the four-year contract with the Allentown Education Association that runs until July 2019. Allentown's almost 1,000 teachers have been working under an expired deal since Aug. 31, 2015.  n its final year the contract boosts teacher starting salary from $45,114 to $46,558. That still puts it well behind many schools in the Lehigh Valley, which hover around $50,000.  The top salary for a teacher with a master's degree and 45 credits will rise from $89,183 to $90,627 in the last year.

Parents and students urge Nazareth to settle with teachers' union
By John Best | For lehighvalleylive.com on March 15, 2016 at 12:10 PM, updated March 15, 2016 at 12:14 PM
School board members need to show teachers more respect, increase transparency and quickly settle terms with the teachers' union.  Those were generally the sentiments of seven speakers at the Nazareth Area School Board meeting Monday night.  The teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 31. Last week, district officials chose not to accept the teachers' latest contract proposal and opted instead to continue to negotiate through a mediator.  While there were slight variations among the speakers, the overall theme was the same: Nazareth Area teachers do a wonderful job and district officials need to step up their efforts to reach an agreement with the Nazareth Area Education Association and avoid any possible strike.


Op-Ed  Making it easier to fire teachers won't fix American education
Los Angeles Times by Sarah Carr March 15, 2016
Sarah Carr directs the Teacher Project at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
In the next three months, an appeals court will rule in the landmark Vergara vs. California case, which could upend many union job protections for public schoolteachers in the state. If the appellate justices agree with L.A. County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, teachers will no longer get tenure after only two years in the classroom, and they will no longer be laid off on the basis of “last in, first out,” the so-called LIFO rule that forces out new teachers regardless of how well they are doing their jobs. In 2014 Treu ruled that these and other employment practices endanger students' constitutional right to an education.  Vergara will set California law, but it is also a national test case for what has become a central strategy for improving teacher quality in America: Sending ineffective educators packing.

What the Candidates Get Wrong About Charter Schools
The Atlantic by Emily Richmond March 15, 2016
Fact-checking Bernie Sanders—and the other presidential contenders—on their understanding of the public education institutions  At the Democratic Town Hall on Sunday night in Columbus, Ohio, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked whether he supported charter schools. The Democratic presidential candidate’s answer—imprecise at best—set off a flurry of responses in the Twittersphere, if not the audience at the CNN broadcast.  “I believe in public education, and I believe in public charter schools,” Sanders said to applause. “I do not believe in private—privately controlled charter schools.”

States Rush to Retool Accountability Following ESSA Passage
ESSA Adds New Fuel to Push for Retooled Systems
Education Week By Daarel Burnette II Published Online: March 15, 2016
After years of pent-up frustration among state officials over what they've considered to be a heavy and prescriptive federal role in education policy, some states are bolting to overhaul their accountability systems in ways that could have lasting impact on schools' priorities.  Sparked by new flexibility promised under the Every Student Succeeds Act, they're rushing ahead of the U.S. Department of Education, which is still in the initial phases of interpreting the new law and figuring out how it will regulate under it, a process that could take months. The law doesn't go into full effect until the 2017-18 school year.  Because of timing, political pressures, and unhappiness with existing school report cards, some states don't want to wait—setting up the prospect of conflicts down the road if retooled state systems don't meet what will be required in the way of ESSA-compliant accountability.

Six Reasons Why the Revolt Against Standardized Testing Is Good for Students and Parents of Color
Hundreds of thousands of families across the country are opting out in what has become a national movement.
Alternet By Jesse Hagopian / I Am an Educator March 14, 2016
Corporate education reformers who seek to reduce teaching and learning to a single score are beginning to realize they are losing the public relations battle. Hundreds of thousands of families across the country are opting out in what has become largest revolt against high-stakes testing in U.S. history.  Because most of their arguments are increasingly discredited because of this uprising, they are desperately attempting to cling to one last defense of the need to subject our students to a multibillion-dollar testing industry.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 9 - 15, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 15, 2016 - 1:50pm 
In state after state, policymakers are responding to constituent concerns by re-evaluating testing mandates.  The changes they initially consider are often cosmetic, such as substituting one mediocre exam for another.  But escalating grassroots pressure -- particularly opting out -- is beginning to force legislators to focus on the real problems of standardized testing overuse and misuse. Already, several have repealed or postponed requirements to evaluate teachers based on student tests scores. By working together, parents, students, teachers, administrators, academics and community activists can increase the odds that more genuine assessment reforms are enacted this year.


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: www.pasa-net.org/2016edcongress.

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
TUE, APR 12 AT 8:30 AM, PHILADELPHIA, PA
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)
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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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