Wednesday, March 2, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 2: Pa. needs a fair school funding formula, now

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 2, 2016:
Pa. needs a fair school funding formula, now

PA Ed Policy Roundup will not publish tomorrow, Thursday March 3rd.  We’ll be back and catch up on Friday March 4th.

Pa. needs a fair school funding formula, now | Opinion
By Express-Times guest columnist   Michael Faccinetto on March 01, 2016 at 3:14 PM
Michael Faccinetto is president of the Bethlehem Area School Board.
Thanks to a nearly nine-month budget stalemate, Pennsylvania state government began 2016 without a full budget, leaving the short- and long-term needs of every school — and every student — up in the air.  In the short term, the partial spending plan signed by Gov. Tom Wolf provided desperately needed money for schools and human services, but only enough to stave off closures and further cuts for a few months.  Because of inadequate funding in recent years, many districts have eliminated programs, laid off teachers, or reduced academic support for students. The budget deadlock only made things worse. Scores of districts have borrowed emergency funds to keep the doors open and many have depleted their reserves, which will only prolong the amount of time it will take for them to recover.  In the long term, the budget gridlock means that one of the fundamental issues facing Pennsylvania — fixing our broken public school funding system — remains unresolved.

Cash-flow crises causes Quakertown to take 'extraordinary measures'
The Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 5:45 pm
The Quakertown school board will suspend any payments due the state and to develop a plan to save $5 million by June 30.  Staff furloughs and a spending freeze will be considered.  The "extraordinary measures" were explained in a letter from the board of school directors to the Quakertown community and district employees on the district's website Tuesday.  Titled "District cash flow in jeopardy," the message said the district is in a financial crises because the state has not provided nearly $14.2 million in funding.  Quakertown expected to receive nearly $24 million in state subsidies this year. However, Gov. Tom Wolf's budget veto on Dec. 29 released only half of the district's basic education funding, about $9.7 million, leaving Quakertown $14.2 million short.

“There needs to be accountability,” Burch said.  “School districts are required to meet deadlines or else we face penalties. Yet the Legislature was supposed to pass their budget in June. That never happened.”
Brentwood School District to borrow money, citing state budget impasse
Trib Live BY STEPHANIE HACKE  | Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 8:21 p.m.
Brentwood Borough School District will be out of money by the end of May — barring “a miracle” or passage of the state budget, Superintendent Amy Burch said.  Eight months have passed with no state budget for 2015-16, and Brentwood, like many school districts across the commonwealth, is feeling the financial squeeze, Burch said.  The district has banned outside spending, cut purchases of desks and is closely monitoring all other purchases.  Yet, just paying the bills will drain the $3.5 million fund balance that the district had June 30. The district anticipated only using $983,000 from its reserve during the 2015-16 school year.

“The School Board also expressed its support for school districts involved in a lawsuit against the state over fair education funding for districts.”
Closing programs could help Millcreek budget gap
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News March 2, 2016 04:27 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- One answer to the Millcreek Township School District's math problem could be the elimination of its Montessori and alternative education programs.  Aaron O'Toole, the district's director of finance and administration, presented that option and a menu of others to the Millcreek School Board on Tuesday night as the district continues to work to bridge a $2.64 million gap in the 2016-17 budget.  Eliminating the Montessori and the alternative education programs, along with increasing property taxes to a state-set maximum, would leave the district with a $188,000 surplus, O'Toole said.  The district operates four Montessori classrooms, two each at Belle Valley and Grandview elementary schools. Sixty-four students are enrolled in the program, which costs the district $419,000 a year to operate, O'Toole said.  Only 35 students are enrolled in the alternative education program at the Millcreek Learning Center. That program costs $809,000 a year to run.  "We have a general idea that we want to preserve the programs that reach the most kids," Hall said, referring to the low enrollment in both programs.

Schools start to feel budget impasse pinch in Franklin County
After over half a year of deliberations, many Pennsylvanians are wondering how close the state is to resolving the budget crisis and how a lack of money is going to begin to have an impact on them.
The Record Herald By Zach Glenn Feb. 27, 2016 at 9:00 AM
After over half a year of deliberations, many Pennsylvanians are wondering how close the state is to resolving the budget crisis and how a lack of money is going to begin to have an impact on them.  March 1 will mark eight months since the fiscal year began and eight months without a complete budget.  The legislature last came close to reaching an agreement with Gov. Tom Wolf in December when a no-tax increase budget that was sent to the Senate by the House earlier that month was passed in an attempt to avoid a shutdown, according to state Sen. Richard Alloway, a Republican who represents Franklin County.  Wolf vetoed around $7 billion in spending which specifically targeted schools, health services, agriculture, corrections and the legislature.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera Announces Partnership For School Bullying Prevention Helpline
HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 29, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera today announced a partnership with the Highmark Foundation and the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to operate the Department of Education's Bullying Prevention Consultation helpline.  The helpline serves as a resource to Pennsylvania students, families, and schools to help them develop strategies to address bullying and resolve bullying situations.  "Students learn and focus most effectively when they feel safe and cared for," Rivera said during a visit to Harrisburg School District's Marshall Math Science Academy. "Schools across the country are looking at ways to prevent bullying and its harmful impacts, and this partnership is one of the initiatives Pennsylvania has put in place to support our students, schools, and families and help our children achieve."

How many local York County students attend cyber charters?
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com3:53 p.m. EST March 1, 2016
More than a thousand students in York County are choosing cyber charter schools for education - and school districts are increasingly providing online options as well.  The online schools are frequently criticized - districts say the tuition paid far outpaces what it costs the cyber charters to educate students, and none of the cyber charters scored above a 70, generally considered passing, on the most recent School Performance Profile. But they remain a popular option for some students.  Here's a look at cyber charters' impact in York County.

New parent resource center opens in North Philly elementary school
Ahead of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's push to create 25 "community schools," the Philadelphia School District is also working to make its schools hubs for community engagement. On Tuesday, the district unveiled a new parent resource center inside Thomas Pierce Elementary in North Philadelphia.  Funded by a nearly $225,000 three year grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a once unused room in the school will become a workspace and technology center for parents in the community.  Superintendent William Hite said the district aims to give all of its schools such a space.  "We're trying to update the resources in those rooms so that parents have access to things like how to enroll children in high schools, information about how they can help teach their children to read, do math, how they can become involved, how they can complete job applications themselves," he said.

Bipartisan proposal would allow citizens to decide lawmaker compensation
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, March 1, 2016
A bipartisan proposal introduced in the House, and soon to be introduced in the Senate, would create a commission of citizens that would decide at what level lawmakers should be compensated, sponsors toldThe PLS Reporter Tuesday.  The proposal, based on a similar endeavor currently in place in California, is considered by those pushing for it to be a good government reform measure that stems from the infamous 2005 pay raise.  Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester) embodied the proposal in House Bill 269 earlier this session and Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) recently started circulating a co-sponsorship memo for similar, but not identical, legislation in the Senate.  Rep. Lawrence said Tuesday that it is important in terms of good government to put the ability to set legislator pay in the hands of taxpayers and take it out of the hands of legislators.

Blogger comment: Perhaps PA legislators could benefit from some training too, especially around their responsibility to pass a budget by June 30th.  And let’s not forget about charter school boards – see next article……
PA House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda - School Board Training
Posted: February 29, 2016 12:19 PM
From:    Representative Stan Saylor
To:        All House members
Subject:            School Board Training
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation regarding school board member training. 
Please join me by cosponsoring legislation that will require each newly elected, appointed, or current school board member to undergo a training program regarding the skills and knowledge pertaining to running a school district. The training program will be developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in consultation with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.   
Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, each newly elected or appointed school board member must complete a training program that will consist of eight hours of instruction to include the following:
  • Instruction and academic programs;
  • Personnel;
  • Fiscal management;
  • Operations;
  • Governance
 Each school board member who is reelected or reappointed must complete within one year, an advanced training program that will consist of four hours of instruction, including information on changes to Federal and State public school law and regulations, fiscal management and other information deemed appropriate by the Department of Education.  Any school board member who is in office on the effective date of this legislation, must complete the training program required for newly elected or newly appointed school board members by June 30th, 2018.   The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that our local school board members have the necessary knowledge to carry out the vital responsibilities associated with running our local school districts.

“Charter school board members will have to get training in “sound fiscal management” if legislation approved overwhelmingly by the Georgia House of Representatives Monday also passes through the state Senate.”
Georgia legislation cracks down on charter school finances
6:37 p.m. Feb. 29 by Ty Tagami / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Charter school board members will have to get training in “sound fiscal management” if legislation approved overwhelmingly by the Georgia House of Representatives Monday also passes through the state Senate.  House Bill 895 by Rep. Rahn Mayo, D-Decatur, requires charter board members to get several hours of training a year. It also builds a firewall between school principals and school money, declaring that the leader shall not serve simultaneously as the finance chief. It passed 162-8.  Financial mismanagement and alleged theft from an Atlanta charter school drew attention to charter school finances last year. In July, the Latin Academy Charter School’s board of directors reported that more than $600,000 was taken from the school. The school’s founder and another staff member had access to the accounts, school officials said at the time. The incident put the school at risk.  At a committee hearing last week, Mayo said he wanted to hold charter schools to a “high standard.” The Georgia Charter Schools Association chief, Tony Roberts, declared full support for the bill. The association worries about bad actors ruining the reputation of charter schools in general, and Roberts said he embraced HB 895 “so the only person who has their hands on the money isn’t the school leader.”  The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it can be approved, amended, rejected or left to die.

Pa. state revenues jump in February; show 1.8% growth for the fiscal year to date
Penn Live By Charles Thompson |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 01, 2016 at 7:09 PM
The February returns are in.  State government revenue collections exceeded budget office estimates for the month, and are now running $60.7 million over projected results for the first eight months of fiscal 2015-16.  General fund revenues are also running 1.8 percent ahead of last year's collections, for growth of $314 million through February.  That pace will be watched intently by the Wolf Administration and state lawmakers in the months to come as they prepare for the next round of debates on whether and how much to raise taxes.

We've notified Pa. officials about our budget stalemate
Post Gazette Letter by BETH FRIEL March 2, 2016 12:00 AM
I decided not to pay my state taxes this year. Here is a letter explaining why.
Feb. 29, 2016 — To the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue:
As small-business owners, my husband and I owe taxes to the state of Pennsylvania. Although these taxes are due by April 15, we do not anticipate being able to pay them by that date. Unfortunately, we have not been able to come to agreement on our budget and, therefore, funds cannot be released for payment to nonessential services. Since the state has stopped providing services, the state is in the nonessential category.   While we are committed to working through this budget stalemate, we do not foresee being able to meet on this issue in the next six months due to other pressing business. I’m sure you can empathize with us.

Nazareth teachers' pact proposal trims raises, maintains health plan
By Rudy Miller | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 01, 2016 at 3:50 PM, updated March 01, 2016 at 8:06 PM
The Nazareth Area School District teachers' compromise plan trims proposed raises but hangs on to traditional health care as opposed to a PPO plan.  Teachers union President Adele Mitch released details of the proposal Tuesday afternoon after administrators and the board had a chance to review it.  The teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 31. She said 97 percent of the teachers ratified the four-year proposal at a meeting Monday night.  "They want to get back to the business of educating students without this distraction," Mitch said.  The teachers have proposed only step and column movement raises in the first year of the deal, 2015-16. Those raises are handed out as teachers gain experience and advanced degrees.

“A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance. So other states are watching these districts as a potential model. But the race to test for so-called social-emotional skills has raised alarms even among the biggest proponents of teaching them, who warn that the definitions are unclear and the tests faulty.”
Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills
New York Times By KATE ZERNIKE FEB. 29, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO — The fifth graders in Jade Cooney’s classroom compete against a kitchen timer during lessons to see how long they can sustain good behavior — raising hands, disagreeing respectfully and looking one another in the eye — without losing time to insults or side conversations.  As reward for minutes without misconduct, they win prizes like 20 seconds to kick their feet up on their desks or to play rock-paper-scissors. And starting this year, their school and schools in eight other California districtswill test students on how well they have learned the kind of skills like self-control and conscientiousness that the games aim to cultivate — ones that might be described as everything you should have learned in kindergarten but are still reading self-help books to master in middle age.

The Concentration of Poverty in American Schools
An exclusive analysis uncovers that students of color in the largest 100 cities in the United States are much more likely to attend schools where most of their peers are poor or low-income.
In almost all major American cities, most African American and Hispanic students attend public schools where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income, a new analysis of federal data shows.  This systemic economic and racial isolation looms as a huge obstacle for efforts to make a quality education available to all American students. Researchers have found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.  Underscoring the breadth of the challenge, the economic segregation of minority students persists across virtually all types of cities, from fast-growing Sunbelt places like Austin, Denver, Dallas, and Charlotte to struggling Rust Belt communities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, to the nation’s largest metropolitan centers, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. But cities, educators, and researchers are also exploring new ways to abate the negative impact of concentrated poverty on black and brown students.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: February 24 - March 1, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 1, 2016 - 1:10pm 
The 2016 testing season is underway both in several state K-12 public school systems and for university admissions.  Not surprisingly, this year's wave of standardized exams is generating even more intense push back from students, parents, educators and community activists fed up with test misuse and overuse. That grassroots pressure is forcing policy makers to respond, often by reducing the most egregious examples of testing overkill.

Astronaut Scott Kelly to return from nearly a year in space: 'We did it!'
Morning Call by Associated Press March 1, 2016
Astronaut Scott Kelly closed the door Tuesday to an unprecedented year in space for NASA, flying back to the planet and loved ones he left behind last March.  Kelly and his roommate for the past 340 days, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, check out of the International Space Station on Tuesday night, U.S. time.  By the time their capsule lands in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the pair will have traveled 144 million miles through space, circled the world 5,440 times and experienced 10,880 orbital sunrises and sunsets.  Kelly photographed the first five sunrises of his waking day Tuesday, posting the pictures on Twitter, before quipping, "I gotta go!" His final tweet from orbit came several hours later: "The journey isn't over. Follow me as I rediscover #Earth!

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:

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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