Monday, March 21, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 21: Gov. Wolf is right to insist on lasting budget solutions

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 21, 2016:
Gov. Wolf is right to insist on lasting budget solutions

PASBO will be holding a press conference on Wednesday at 9 am at the Capitol to present the deteriorating financial situation of schools.

“Mr. Wolf’s veto of half of the inadequate school-funding bill enacted by the General Assembly is creating short-term problems. But a governor has few tools at his disposal when dealing with a recalcitrant General Assembly unwilling to make the public investments Pennsylvanians need.  Editorialists — and, more important, citizens — should remember all the times they have called for political leaders to be willing to risk their careers, take the heat and exert exactly this kind of leadership. Rather than raise the white flag and call for one more inadequate budget, they should stand with the governor and insist that a bipartisan majority pass a responsible budget, one that raises the revenue to fix the structural deficit and supports Pennsylvania’s schools for the long term.”
Gov. Wolf is right to insist on lasting budget solutions
Post Gazette Opinion By Marc Stier March 21, 2016 12:00 AM
Marc Stier is director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
Pick a random editorial published in a random newspaper in Pennsylvania over the past century, and the odds are pretty good that, among other things, it will call for government officials to focus on the long-term public good instead of short-term political gain.  Today we have a governor in Pennsylvania who is doing just that, and yet some editorialists are criticizing him. They are focused on short-term issues — the failure to enact a full-year budget — rather than the long-term good for Pennsylvania.  The short-term budget issues are real, as the imminent closure of schools in some districts around the state illustrate. But they are symptoms of the deeper problems that Gov. Tom Wolf seeks to address. Again and again he has asked us to look forward and recognize the importance of both solving the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis and funding education.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
Pressure continues to build statewide for resolution to budget impasse

Megan Sweeney: Wolf administration failing commonwealth by holding back school funding
Times Leader Opinion by Megan Sweeney - Contributing columnist First Posted: 11:15 pm - March 20th, 2016
Megan Sweeney is communications director for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.
As I read the recent column from Gov. Tom Wolf’s press secretary regarding state education funding (Jeff Sheridan: Expect runaway school property taxes if Republicans get their way with state budget, March 8), I noticed one important facet of the discussion was missing.  Reality.  Throughout the course of Pennsylvania’s ongoing budget crisis, the Wolf administration has steadfastly refused to discuss the facts of this disaster of their own making.  First, both the state Senate and state House of Representatives put an on-time and balanced budget on Gov. Wolf’s desk before the constitution’s June 30 deadline.  The budget was created after Gov. Wolf proposed a spending plan that included a 20 percent hike in the income tax and a 10 percent hike in the sales tax, while expanding the sales tax to items such as diapers, nursing home care and even caskets. In fact, the National Association of State Budget Officers determined Gov. Wolf’s proposal raised taxes higher than proposals in the other 49 states combined. Does that sound like tax relief?

 “The financial officers of local school districts, having more questions than answers, are spinning their wheels to have final budgets completed, approved by their school board, and submitted to the state by June 30 deadline.”
Elk County school districts eye budgets, project shortfalls
The Courier Express By Katie Weidenboerner March 20, 2016
The nearly year-long partisan gridlock between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled General Assembly of Pennsylvania has left local school districts scrambling to put together budgets for 2016-17 amid cavernous unknowns.  “With the state budget impasse now in its ninth month, school districts are once again sounding alarms about the serious effects of the stalemate on the education of students,” Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a recent media release.  “While our school districts received half-year funding through Dec. 31, 2015, many are once again spending more time figuring out how to pay the bills and less time focusing on student learning.”  Thus far no budget deadline extensions have been offered, meaning school districts’ financial officers, having more questions than answers, are spinning their wheels to have final budgets completed, approved by their school board, and submitted to the state by the June 30 deadline.

“Susan Gobreski, the mayor's director of community schools, says she hopes to create schools tailored to the unique needs of surrounding communities.  "Each school will go through a planning process, where they're actually looking at what their strengths and assets are, what their needs are," she said. "So they can start identifying a set of services that make sense to put into place."  As examples, Gobreski says one school community may prioritize opening a food pantry, while another could stress the positive benefits of having onsite asthma care, and another could push for an in-house behavioral health counselor.”
Kenney administration releases some details of 'community schools' plan for Philly
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney plans to begin implementing a "community school" model in 4 to 6 schools by September.  Each one will add programs specifically tailored to the social, emotional and physical needs of not just students, but the surrounding neighborhoods.  The schools haven't yet been selected, but officials confirm they will be traditional public schools, not charters. The plan is contingent on City Council approving $4 million as the mayor proposed in his budget address earlier this month.  Kenney wants to pay for this, as well as pre-K expansion and upgrades to parks, recreation centers and libraries with a three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages.  In an exclusive interview with NewsWorks, the Kenney administration detailed its still developing plans to create 25 community schools over the next four years.

Low salaries could be barrier to universal pre-K
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer Updated: MARCH 21, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
The 4- and 5-year olds who greet Christopher Rouse each morning don't put much money into his wallet, but teaching them is important enough that the 28-year-old chose to sleep in a homeless shelter for more than a month to make ends meet.  "They make me feel valuable, elated," said Rouse, who this month received rental assistance to move into an apartment. "I'm happy when I wake up every day to go and roll around on the floor and get paint on my face."  As Mayor Kenney presses his quest for universal pre-K in Philadelphia, committed teachers such as Rouse represent both the hope and hurdle for whatever plan might ultimately be achieved.  While Rouse's devotion to his students is admirable, the minimal monetary rewards the job offers stand as an impediment to finding and keeping qualified pre-K teachers.  Rouse makes $10.40 an hour working as an assistant teacher Monday to Friday at Western Learning Center, a high-quality provider in South Philadelphia where his boss calls him a "treasure," and the kids call him "Mr. Chris." Rouse's $20,000-a-year salary represents the average in the field. At night, he attends classes needed for a teaching degree.

“Meanwhile, a “Fair Districts PA” coalition launched an effort last week to change the process by which Pennsylvania redraws state legislative and congressional districts every decade to reflect population shifts. Wolf didn’t mention this issue in his proposals.  The members want to create an independent citizens commission to handle that task in place of the system now which gives lawmakers a big say. The citizens commission would give more attention to creating districts where the two parties are competitive and limit the extent to which a county can be divided among different districts.  This commission would replace the current two-step process: a commission dominated by legislative caucus leaders that redraws state House and Senate districts and legislation passed by the General Assembly to redraw congressional districts.”
Wolf reform takes aim at status quo
HARRISBURG — State government reform took a backseat to scandal in recent years, but Gov. Tom Wolf is attempting to turn that around with a new set of proposals to change the status quo in Harrisburg.   Wolf is addressing issues that have been around for years — banning gifts to public officials, strengthening lobbying oversight and limiting campaign contributions to candidates as well as other reforms that haven’t gotten as much attention.  Outlining his proposals last week, Wolf said he wants to make government more transparent, curb the power of special interests and curb widespread public cynicism about it.
His five-point agenda includes:

Fair Districts PA
Fair Districts PA is a coalition of citizens and organizations who believe that in American democracy, elections should represent the will of all the people, not just the politicians, and should provide citizens with meaningful choices in electing representatives. 
When partisan politicians manipulate voting maps to keep themselves and their parties in power, they shape election outcomes before the first vote is cast. When that happens, voters feel they have no voice, and legislators feel less need to listen to constituents. 
We believe Pennsylvania needs to reform its redistricting rules and make the process of drawing districts impartial, transparent and accountable - promoting competitive elections and partisan fairness so our government truly is of, by and for the people.

“Central Bucks South High School student Richard Song, 16, of Chalfont, is one of 12 people in the world to score a perfect score on the AP Calculus AB test. “
Central Bucks student records perfect score on AP Calc test
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Monday, March 21, 2016 6:00 am
Richard Song hadn't been in trouble before, so when a teacher told him he was wanted in the principal's office, the 16-year-old junior's reaction was fairly typical.  "Uh-oh," he thought to himself. "Did I do something wrong?"  When he approached Scott Davidheiser's office, Song noticed the entire Central Bucks High School South math department faculty in the room.  Daniel Lorenz, Song's AP Calculus teacher, added to his anxiety, when he said the scores had come in for the AP Calculus AB test.  "Richard, there were irregularities with the score," Lorenz began. "And you had a perfect score!"  Song was one of 12 people worldwide to achieve a perfect score on the AP Calculus AB test, taken by nearly 300,000 people.

Nazareth teachers postpone strike, classes in session
Education Week Teacher Published Online: March 18, 2016
NAZARETH, Pa. (AP) — Teachers in an eastern Pennsylvania borough's school district have decided not to strike after all.  The Nazareth Area Education Association announced plans for the Friday walkout after the district rejected its latest offer on Wednesday. The 341 teachers have been working without a contract since the end of August.  The school district had argued the strike may be illegal because the union didn't provide enough notice. Now, both sides say they're still talking while classes continued normally on Friday.  The board is pushing a contract offer proposed by a state mediator, while the teachers object to some of its terms including health care benefits and grievance procedures.  The school board plans to vote on the mediator's proposal Friday night. The union is expected to vote on a contract proposal next week.

“The school has been a disaster since it opened in 2011. Students have performed so poorly on standardized tests that even former supporters have publicly condemned it.  Critics of the school say lawmakers are bowing to pressure from K12 Inc., the Herndon, Virginia-based company that operates TNVA. K12 is one of the largest providers of online school curricula in the country.  Records show that K12 has spent between $285,000 and $575,000 on lobbying since 2010. The company donated more than $75,000 in direct campaign contributions since 2011.”
Tennessee Education leaders question why virtual school remains open
Knoxville News Sentinel By SHEILA BURKE, Associated Press March 19, 2016
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The legislature's failure to shut down an academically troubled virtual school run by a for-profit corporation has left some education leaders wondering whether Tennessee lawmakers really want to fix schools or have sold out children to powerful special interests.  A move that would close the Tennessee Virtual Academy, and ban others like it, failed this week in the legislature. The effort came on the heels of withering criticism of the school by former state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman — a longtime proponent of school choice— who called TNVA Tennessee's worst school. Huffman, in a recent online essay, said his inability to close the school was one of his biggest failures.

GOP worries Kansas can’t hit fairness target for school aid
Washington Times By JOHN HANNA - Associated Press - Sunday, March 20, 2016
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republican lawmakers assert that they may never be able to meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s demands for fairness in education funding and will see a chaotic budget process every year as they reshuffle dollars among local school districts.  The high court said last month that Kansas has not given poor districts their fair share and schools must shut down in July unless lawmakers fix the problem. In response, the Senate could debate a bill Monday looking at redistributing part of the state’s annual aid to its 286 school districts.  Republicans debating the measure in committee said they found it galling that the court rejected key parts of a law enacted last year that junked the state’s previous per-pupil distribution formula in favor of “block grants” meant to largely freeze spending.  Predictable allocations for school districts give the state a stable target as it struggles to balance its budget. The court’s decision, Republicans say, pushes Kansas in the opposite direction - and potentially into new legal challenges every year.

SCOTUS nominee tutored DC kids for 18 years
Merrick Garland has mentored and tutored students in DC for the last 18 years.
Andrea McCarren, WUSA 11:23 AM. EST March 18, 2016
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court holds a special significance for a Northeast Washington Elementary School.  Turns out, the Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has mentored and tutored students at J.O. Wilson for the last 18 years.  Imagine being an elementary school teacher in D.C. and you’re suddenly summoned to the White House. That’s exactly what happened to Charlene Wilburn.  “Well, I got a call on the intercom and they said, Miss WIlburn, the White House is on the phone,” said Charlene Wilburn, a teacher a J.O. Wilson Elementary School.

New Infographic: Lifting All Children Up
Schott Foundation for Public Education MARCH 18, 2016
What will it take to ensure that all children have an opportunity to learn, regardless of their background or which school they attend? The work of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado has long pointed out that the problems of inequity in public education aren’t just contained within our public schools, but also stem from larger structural issues in the community like unemployment, poverty, and disinvestment of public resources.  These structural problems weigh down students and their schools in ways that more affluent communities never have to deal with. So how do you compensate for added weight?
Yesterday at a White House summit on education, NEPC Director Kevin Welner discussed the two possible solutions shown in NEPC’s and Schott’s new infographic.

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)
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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