Wednesday, March 23, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 23: School districts will pay 29% of their payroll in pension costs in 2016-17

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 23, 2016:
School districts will pay 29 percent of their payroll in pension costs in 2016-17

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

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. 

Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Rally for Public Education May 2nd at the Capitol
Save the date

The #voterregistration deadline for the #PaPrimary is 3/28
Online PA Voter Registration here:

Wolf quiet on veto plans in Pennsylvania budget fight
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY March 22, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf remained quiet Tuesday about how he will handle a Republican-penned spending bill as Democratic lawmakers urged him to release money to keep schools and agricultural extension offices across Pennsylvania from closing.  
Wolf also continued to make his case publicly that the $6.6 billion spending package he has threatened to veto is out of balance and that the Republican-controlled Legislature must fix next year's projected $2 billion deficit with a tax increase.  "I continue to do what I have been doing all along, which is stand up for a responsible budget," Wolf said during a Tuesday morning interview on KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh. "This isn't it. We have a real problem staring us in the face. ... All the suffering that we're on the verge of right now is going to be multiplied if we don't get the math right here. This is not posturing, this is about Pennsylvania's future and we all need to do the right thing in Harrisburg, and that's what I'm trying to do."

For Wolf, another make-or-break budget decision
Gov. Wolf wants the tax revenue to help close a gaping deficit and end the annual wrangling with the legislature over how to keep funds flowing for critical state programs.
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Kathy Boccella, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: MARCH 22, 2016 — 7:10 PM EDT
HARRISBURG - After nine months of budget bellyaching in the Capitol, Gov. Wolf faces a political dilemma.  He can fulfill last week's promise to veto the latest spending plan from the Republican-controlled legislature, setting the stage for more gridlock in the Capitol. Or he can capitulate to mounting calls - including from within his own party - to approve big chunks of a budget he has openly denounced.  Some had expected the governor to act by Tuesday, as the legislature prepared to break for the Easter holiday.  Instead, Wolf remained silent.  His decision - which faces a deadline this week - could prove a make-or-break moment for his administration not just for the year but for the rest of his term.

Democrats ask Wolf to shelve his veto pen for a day
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 22, 2016
With schools and agricultural programs threatening to close due to Pennsylvania's budget impasse, top legislative Democrats have urged Gov. Tom Wolf to hold off on a full veto, at least for a day, after the governor had promised to reject the Republican budget handiwork sent to his desk last week.  Wolf insisted Monday that he was reviewing the $6 billion supplemental funding measure "to make sure it is as out of balance as I've been saying it is," but he acknowledged that Democrats had asked him to delay any veto action.  "They said, could you hold that for a day. I said sure," said Wolf, as he walked away from reporters after a press conference in Harrisburg.  Top Democrats said they sought the brief time-out to try to restart budget negotiations again after a chilly few months of little back-and-forth on Pennsylvania's spending plan.
"What I'm hoping is that in this process right now that we rebuild some confidence among everybody," said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Charter school and pension costs are other major expenses, he said. School districts will pay 29 percent of their payroll in pension costs in 2016-17.
School Board gets finance lesson
22 Mar 2016 — Erie Times-News By ERICA ERWIN
Millcreek School Board members took a short course in school finance Monday night.
Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, gave School Board members a brief overview of the current funding system and how the Millcreek Township School District compares with similar districts.  Himes was blunt in his characterization of the current system as unfair to students and taxpayers and limiting to Pennsylvania's economic future.  "It is broken, it is inconsistent, it has wide disparities between districts," he said.  In a presentation that lasted just under an hour, Himes talked about the sources of school districts' revenue -- in Millcreek, about 70 percent of revenue comes from local property tax revenue -- and where those dollars are spent. Personnel is the main driver of budgets: Statewide, districts spend between 60 to 65 percent of their budgets on personnel, he said.  "School districts are very labor intensive," he said.

Some local Dems hold true to Wolf’s budget
By Patti Mengers, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 03/22/16, 10:55 PM EDT
With just a few days left before Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf must decide whether to finally endorse or again veto the latest 2015-2016 budget proposed by the Republican-dominated state Legislature, some local Democrats have pledged to stand in solidarity with him.
“I have been supportive of the governor’s efforts to provide more funding for basic education and address the structural deficit in our budget. To date I have been voting with the governor in order to give him the opportunity to achieve these policy objectives,” state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 of Haverford, said on Tuesday.  Vitali was not among Democratic legislators who on Monday met privately with Wolf and urged him to approve enough aid to keep schools and agricultural extension offices across Pennsylvania from closing, and to back off his threat to veto Republican spending legislation he opposes. The governor has vetoed three previously proposed budgets because he said they do not adequately fund education, are not balanced and will contribute to the state’s growing deficit.  “Nothing has changed. The governor still intends to veto the budget because it is nearly $300 million out of balance,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf’s press secretary, on Tuesday morning.

Millcreek schools face new challenge: William Hall
Erie Times News Letter By WILLIAM HALL Contributing writer March 23, 2016 12:14 AM
William Hall is superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District.
It was almost three years ago to the day that I stood in front of a packed house at Grandview Elementary School to share devastating news. The Millcreek Township School District faced an $8.8 million deficit. Our options to balance the 2014-15 budget were drastic and painful, and even more sobering was the knowledge that our fund balance would be depleted at the end of the school year.  In fact, it was apparent that we would be in the hole more than $400,000 to start the following year. It was a difficult time to assume the post as superintendent, but I was determined to get the district back on track financially, while maintaining our strong educational programs.
In the months that followed, the district raised taxes, closed two elementary schools, refinanced debt, absorbed teaching positions, and eliminated our television station. We also eliminated more than 50 secretarial, educational assistant and coaching positions. Most unfortunately, the district cut programs and additional staff that directly impacted our students: reading specialists, instructional support advisers, librarians, drivers education, and high school Mandarin.

Belle Vernon School Board approves loan to keep district operating
Mon Valley Observer Reporter By Morgan Cushey March 22, 2016
Belle Vernon School Board on Monday authorized a $3.1 million tax anticipation note from First National Bank to keep the district afloat through the remainder of the school year while the state’s budget impasse continues.  Superintendent John D. Wilkinson said the drawdown note, which is similar to a line of credit, will be used to get the district through the 2015-16 year.  Lou Rood, board vice president, said the loan can be used as needed but the district will have to pay interest on the money used. Wilkinson said the money the district has to pay in interest, which was not budgeted for, could be better spent on students.  He said the district will likely begin using funds from the note near the beginning of April.  Wilkinson said this money will help the district operate until June, but at a barebones level.  Rood said the state budget impasse is to blame. “It all falls on the state legislators and the governor,” he said.

“To make it look balanced, the Republicans tried the same old tricks. For instance, this budget increases state aid to education by $50 million, by removing $40 million from the budget of the PHEAA, the state's college scholarship program.
DN editorial: Adopt GOP budget to begin fixing state's finances
Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: MARCH 23, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
WHAT WOULD happen if your wages rose 2 percent a year, while your expenses increased by 4 to 5 percent?  No need to get out your calculator. Common sense tells you that eventually you would sink into debt. There might be temporary steps you could make - say, emptying your savings account - but once that money is spent, it is gone. The reality is that sooner or later, without increasing your income or cutting spending, you will be in serious financial difficulty.  In Pennsylvania, sooner is about to meet later.  The state has been spending more than it raises in taxes for a half-dozen years. And the projection by the state's Independent Fiscal Office is that the spread is going to get worse.  The IFO, an independent monitor of state finances, estimates the state will end the current fiscal year with a $300 million deficit. And a $1.6 billion deficit next year, increasing each year until it reaches $2.6 billion in 2020.  The reality is inescapable - unless you are a Republican lawmaker, in breathtaking denial of the facts.

When Philly might get more pre-K and community schools
BillyPenn By Anna Orso  at 9:45 am March 22, 2016
Philadelphia parents could see small changes in how the education system operates by this fall; almost certainly by next January. That is, of course, if Mayor Jim Kenney has his way.  The first-year mayor has laid out an ambitious education plan with two main tenets: Expanding pre-K opportunities in Philadelphia and creating 25 community schools that serve as neighborhood hubs (more on what this means later). There’s a big “if” between those changes and fall, though.  In order to help fund a five-year, $39.5 million plan for community schools and build to $60 million per year for pre-K, Kenney has proposed a 3 percent-per-ounce sugary drinks tax that would be the highest in the nation. Critics say the tax would disproportionately impact the city’s low-income residents.  Assuming the administration beats expected legal challenges to the new tax, by the time the leaves start turning, pre-K seats will be established and the first round of community schools will be chosen.  “The politics of disruption have not worked, so some of the things that have been tried to reform schools have not worked,” said Susan Gobreski, Kenney’s community schools director. “This is the right focus, and I do think that we are in a moment.”

Pew awards $8.6 million to help poor youth and families
The grants, given to 45 local organizations, will affect 22,000 children per year, says Pew.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 22, 2016 — 4:21pm
The Pew Charitable Trusts Tuesday announced $8.6 million in grants to 45 organizations in the city and region that work with high-poverty children and youth.
The awards are focused on five areas: Creating more high-quality early-education and child-care opportunities; prevention and early intervention relating to cognitive and other problems for at-risk young people; promoting wider access for families to behavioral health services; expanding good afterschool programs geared toward school engagement, academic success and college readiness, and improving vulnerable families' access to public benefits and services that improve household stability.  Citing the 37 percent poverty rate for children in Philadelphia -- the highest of any big city in the nation -- the senior director of the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services, Fraziereta Klasen, said that these areas have been identified in research as "helping poor and disadvantaged children improve their life trajectories."

Pew grants $8.6 million to help poor children in Philly
by Harold Brubaker, Inquirer Staff Writer  @inqbrubaker MARCH 22, 2016 — 2:34 PM EDT
Pew Charitable Trusts said Tuesday it will give $8.59 million over the next three years to 45 Philadelphia-area groups that help the region's low-income children, youth, and their families.  The Center City foundation it expected the grants annually to assist more than 22,000 local young people. The poverty rate for children in the city is 37 percent, Pew said.  The grants from the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services is geared to these areas: early education and child care; prevention and early intervention services to reduce behavioral and academic problems; mental health services; quality after-school programs; and helping parents secure and retain public benefits and services to strengthen household stability.

A call for more counselors to help students who feel pushed out of school
Youth United for Change says the lack of counselors is hurting LGBTQ and homeless students.
The notebook by Ami Irvin March 22, 2016 — 12:49pm
In 2009, Youth United for Change launched its Pushed Out chapter to target students who felt they were being forced out of school by factors such as harsh discipline, an unengaging curriculum, and unsupportive teachers and staff. Now, the chapter has a new campaign that zeroes in on how LGBTQ and homeless youth are being affected by the shortage of high school counselors in the District.   Through its new campaign, Youth United for Change is calling on the District to increase the number of high school counselors, saying that the lack of them could be playing a role in LGBTQ and homeless students' inability to achieve.  Superintendent William Hite recently pledged to place a full-time counselor and nurse in every Philadelphia school by next fall, a plan that is contingent on the approval of Gov. Wolf's proposed 2016-17 budget. 

All-day kindergarten coming to Saucon Valley schools
By Sara K. Satullo | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 22, 2016 at 8:25 PM, updated March 22, 2016 at 9:16 PM
The Saucon Valley School District is joining the full-day kindergarten trend spreading across the Lehigh Valley.  The school board voted 7-2 Tuesday night to only offer full-day K for the 2016-17 school year.  Directors Ed Inghrim and Linda Leewright voted against the program change.  Saucon's current half-day program has 126 students enrolled and 39 students are in an extended day program for at-risk students. Teachers report there are more students in need than available seats.  A growing number of Lehigh Valley school districts are adding universal full-day kindergarten programs as part of a push to have children reading on grade level by third grade, a key marker of student success.

Education researchers blast Common Core standards, urge ban on high-stakes tests
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss March 16  
More than 100 education researchers in California have joined in a call for an end to high-stakes testing, saying that there is no “compelling” evidence to support the idea that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education for children or close the achievement gap, and that Common Core assessments lack “validity, reliability and fairness.”  The California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education,  a statewide collaborative of university-based education researchers, recently released a research brief (see in full below below) describing concerns with the Common Core standards and the assessments being given to millions of students in California and other states around the country this spring.  The researchers, from public and private universities in California —  including Stanford University, UCLA, and the University of California Berkeley — say that the Common Core standards themselves do not accomplish what supporters said they would and that linking them to high-stakes tests actually harms students.

New York is in for a sea change in education policy. Here’s what and why.
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss March 22 at 1:20 PM  
Something big has happened in New York, something potentially huge. A new education chancellor was named, and, on April 1, a new direction for public schools could start to be forged. In this post, Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education, introduces you to the new chancellor and analyzes the legacy of the one who is soon departing. Burris was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. She has been chronicling botched school reform efforts in her state for years on this blog, and this is her newest piece.

“In all, enrollments are down by more than a third from 2009-10, while completers are down by a quarter. The period with the heaviest declines seems to have been between 2011-12 and 2012-13.”
Teacher-Preparation Enrollments Continue to Fall, But Less Steeply
Education Week Teacher Beat By Stephen Sawchuk on March 22, 2016 1:09 PM
Newly released data show that the numbers both of enrollments in—and completers of—teacher-preparation programs continued to decline through 2014, but not as sharply as a few years before that.   It's just one of the many important data points you can find in the U.S. Department of Education'smost recent set of teacher-preparation data, released March 18. (The data are collected under Title II of the Higher Education Act and include state-by-state report cards. Do spend some time exploring the site.)  Below is a graphic illustrating the total number of enrollments in teaching programs between 2009 and 2014, as well as the number of "program completers"—those who have successfully completed all elements of their programs and, ostensibly, could be recommended for a teaching certificate. (Not all will actually go on to get one—elsewhere in the Title II collection, you can see how many actual credentials each state handed out.)

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.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

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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