Monday, March 28, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 28: State Budget Hurdles Remain; Students First PAC Spending Again

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 28, 2016:
State Budget Hurdles Remain; Students First PAC Spending Again

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
Save the date: May 2nd at the Capitol

The good news is that we have a budget; Bad news, we still have a budget problem: Tony May
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tony May on March 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM
So what do we mean when we say 'Kicking the can down the road?'
According to one definition, you  "you delay a decision in hopes that the problem or issue will go away or somebody else will make the decision later."   According to another, "it refers to the practice of kicking a can ahead of oneself while walking along a road. So, metaphorically, the phrase means to defer conclusive action with a short-term solution."   In the latest chapter of Pennsylvania's ongoing impasse over the state budget, the legislature was doing the kicking – sending a more-or-less balanced budget to the governor's desk earlier this month.   It was a "pooch kick," buying the Commonwealth about three months of relative peace before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.  At first, Gov. Tom Wolf promised a quick veto.  But with word from school districts that they had exhausted fiscal gimmicks to keep their doors open without a steady stream of cash from the state, Wolf relented and said he would allow the budget bill to become law without his signature.

This wasn't a budget Gov. Wolf wanted - but it was one Pa. needed: Charlie Gerow
PennLive Op-Ed  By Charlie Gerow on March 27, 2016 at 8:15 AM
The Rolling Stones famously sang a half-century ago that "You can't always get what you want."  But, as Messrs Jagger and Richards also sagely observed, "If you try sometimes you find you get what you need."   It's advice that Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration might find worthy of heeding.  The York County Democrat has never been very subtle about what he WANTS.  For nearly two years, he's made clear that he wants to dramatically increase state spending and, in order to do so, drastically raise the tax burden of every working Pennsylvanian.  There was one major roadblock to his plan: There were never enough votes in the Pennsylvania legislature to pass anything even close to what Wolf wanted.

Did you catch our weekend postings? Includes several editorials/reactions from throughout the state….
PA Ed Policy Weekend Roundup March 27: #PABudget Post Mortem

“Wolf warned the budget for 2015-16 is $300 million out of debt and would lead to future downgrades from credit rating agencies. Financial institutions were quick to support his assertions.  PNC Bank said that rating downgrades by at least one notch are possible in the near term.  “We do not expect the budget to come close to solving Pennsylvania’s fiscal pressures, including its structural budget gap which is sizeable and growing,” PNC said.  Two credit agencies — Moody’s and S&P — said the budget doesn’t address the built-in revenue deficit or public pension debt.  GOP lawmakers strongly defended their plan as being balanced and able to boost public school aid by $200 million at no cost to state taxpayers.”
State budget hurdles remain
Citizens Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF Published: March 28, 2016
HARRISBURG — The spotlight at the statehouse now shifts to the fiscal 2016-17 budget with Gov. Tom Wolf facing tougher political hurdles to get the new tax revenue he wants to erase a large $2 billion revenue deficit and boost state aid to public schools and other programs.  The $6.6 billion supplemental budget bill written by Republican lawmakers became law without the governor’s signature, ending a nine-month budget impasse that put some public schools and county agricultural extension offices on the brink of closing. The supplemental bill puts the total budget for fiscal 2015-16 at $30 billion. The impasse ended with still unresolved budget-related proposals to overhaul the state liquor stores, cut public pension costs and provide school property tax relief.  This is this second year in a row that the state budget has been determined largely by the Legislature without the governor’s agreement. Former Gov. Tom Corbett was sidelined out of the final negotiations over the fiscal 2014-15 budget and responded with some line-item vetoes of spending. Typically, Harrisburg budget fights revolve over a relatively small portion of money since mandates drive much of the spending.

DN editorial: Wolf's loss not Pennsylvania's gain
Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: MARCH 28, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
GOVERNMENT ISN'T sport, but that doesn't stop us for treating it like one. The headlines last week that followed Gov. Wolf's decision on this year's state budget were the kind you usually find over a story about a hockey game, with phrases like "Wolf caves" and "Gov. loses to Republicans" and "Gov. folds."  What Wolf did after a 270-day standoff with the Republicans who control the legislature was to allow a House-passed version of this year's state budget to become law without his signature. He did it because - or so it appeared - some rank-and-file Democratic legislators would bolt and support an override if he vetoed the bill.  He also did it because failure to get a budget was causing pain among school districts and local governments across the state, who rely on regular infusions of state aid. (Seventy-two cents of every tax dollar sent to Harrisburg is returned to local governments or individuals.) It was only going to get worse as the weeks rolled on.  Republicans crowed that they were victorious in stopping the governor from increasing taxes; that good old-fashioned fiscal conservatism won the day.  Well, the reviews are starting to come in and the Republican victory is beginning to look less-than glorious. For starters, the Wall Street rating agencies gave it thumbs down. Standard & Poors' analysis began "The outlook is negative . . . " Moody's said it did nothing to solve the state's "structural balance over the longer term . . . "

Matthew Brouillette: In budget battle, Gov. Wolf takes unilateral approach
Morning Call Opinion by Matthew Brouillette March 28, 2016
Matthew J. Brouillette is president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation.
It took 267 days, two full vetoes, one partial veto and one veto threat, but Pennsylvania finally has a state budget. In letting the Legislature's budget become law, Gov. Tom Wolf conceded defeat, saying, "We need to move on." We can all agree on that.  The good news is Pennsylvanians' wallets were spared, thanks to legislators standing against Wolf's tax hike plans. The bad news is during the longest budget impasse in 60 years the governor developed and implemented a Lone-Wolf Doctrine that could continue into the 2016-17 budget season.  In his 2015 budget address, while proposing the biggest tax increase in America, Wolf said: "If you don't agree with my ideas, here is my request: please come with your own ideas. It's not good enough to just say no and continue with the same old same old."  Nice sounding words, but when lawmakers followed this advice and brought their own ideas, Wolf became the first governor in decades to fully veto a budget. He even rejected 274 line items that equaled or surpassed what he had requested.

Even with full budget, uncertainty continues for school districts
Lancaster Online Opinion by Damaris Rau | Special to LNP Mar 27, 2016
Dr. Damaris Rau is the superintendent of the School District of Lancaster.
After months of operating public schools without a budget, schools across the Commonwealth are now breathing a sigh of relief that much-needed funds will begin flowing to financially strapped districts.  As part of the newly approved budget bill, there is an additional $150 million for public schools that is tied to a new fiscal code bill. However, just how those funds will be distributed to schools has not been decided.  What does this mean for the School District of Lancaster?  This means that basic education funding dollars will flow to our district in the coming days, relieving us from the financial chaos we have been experiencing. What is unknown is how the $150 million new dollars for public education will be distributed to our district in the absence of an approved fiscal code bill.

Editorial: State budget impasse is far from over
Beaver County Times Editorial By The Times Editorial Board Mar 27, 2016
Pennsylvania finally has a budget, nearly nine months past the July 1 deadline. That’s the good news out of Harrisburg last week. The bad news is that we’re likely headed down the same path of delay, stalemate and contentiousness with the budget for next year.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced last Wednesday that he would allow a Republican-sponsored $6.6 billion supplemental 2015-16 budget to become law, ending the 267-day impasse. That was welcome news for school districts and social service agencies across the state that were quickly running out of money and looking at the possibility of layoffs or closings.  Unfortunately, the budget now in place does not address the state’s structural budget deficit, estimated at nearly $2 billion, or one of the driving forces behind that deficit – a looming pension crisis.  The credit rating agency Moody’s on Thursday noted that the budget represents an improvement “over political gridlock,” but it “… casts no light on the government’s ability to reach compromise on its long-term fiscal challenges.”  Even more ominous was Moody’s prediction that a new budget stalemate surely awaits Pennsylvanians when the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

As impasse ends, Democrats are a frustrated minority
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 25, 2016 3:10 PM
Democratic state lawmakers who were reliable backers of Governor Tom Wolf's agenda during the budget impasse say they may not stick so closely to his side in the next year.  Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said his caucus will do some soul-searching ahead of the next round of budget negotiations, after coming away with so little from the budget impasse.  "We might go down a different path," Costa told reporters Wednesday. "I don't know where we'll end up."  To be sure, Wolf's alliance with legislative Democrats wasn't perfect. House Democrats rebuffed a pension overhaul plan in December, even though it was endorsed by the governor and a central piece of a budget deal. A test vote for a tax plan backed by Wolf couldn't win the entire House Democratic caucus last October.

Rotunda Ramblings - March 24, 2016
The PLS Reporter March 24, 2016
Our podcast was up a day early due to Easter weekend, but it was a jammed-packed episode Last week, we learned of the governor's decision regarding the budget supplemental bill on his desk and we have his words on the matter plus reaction from Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) as well as what school business officials said would happen if the FY '15-'16 budget didn't become law.
Check us out on Podbean HERE.

Blogger note: According to Pennsylvania’s Campaign Finance website, school choice patrons Arthur Dantchik, Jeffrey Yass and Joel Greenberg of the Susquehanna International Group have contributed $171,999.99 to their Students First PAC during 2016.
Charter School Lobby Donates $50,000 to Teachers-Union-Backed PA Attorney General Candidate
Gadfly on the Wall Blog by Steven M. Singer March 27, 2016 
What’s the best way to avoid a charter school scandal?  In Pennsylvania, apparently you bribe the Attorney General.  That may be why Students First PAC donated $50,000 to Josh Shapiro, a Democrat running for the position.  This political action committee is not to be confused with the infamous national group founded by Michelle Rhee. Students First PAC is a state organization that typically contributes to charter school friendly candidates.  And $50K is quite a chunk of change in a State Attorney General race – the office in charge of prosecuting charter schools for breaking the law.  Charter school scandals have been an almost weekly occurrence throughout the Commonwealth. Chester Community Charter School, the state’s largest brick-and-mortar organization, is under investigation for pocketing $1.2 million “in improper lease-reimbursement payments.” As Philadelphia public schools are being closed due to a miserly state budget, “nonprofit,” charter operator Aspira Inc. was caught using public money to boost its real estate holdings instead of using those funds to educate children. Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter, an institution that operates exclusively over the internet, “was charged with fraud, for funneling $8 million of the school’s funds into his personal companies and holdings.”

If you are not familiar with the Students First PAC here’s some background…
Keystone State Education Coalition March 2012 Posting

Unpacking the details of the five-year plan for Philly schools
The School District of Philadelphia last week adopted a plan that calls for $440 million worth of new investments over five years.  The long-term blueprint is contingent, though, on Gov. Tom Wolf getting his way in the next state budget cycle.  Uncertainty remains about the amount of money the district will receive from Pennsylvania this year.  The district anticipates a $52 million boost, but Wolf may try to unilaterally increase that figure by using a distribution formula of his own design. Republican lawmakers say he actually lacks the authority to release any new money because he vetoed the fiscal code bill.  For next year, the district expects the state to give it another $80 million boost — which reflects Wolf's stated goal.  Given that Wolf's priorities for last year's budget haven't come to fruition, Superintendent William Hite agreed that's a risky proposition, but balked at the alternative.

Bill Hite Has the Hardest Job in the Country
He seemed like just the man to turn around Philly’s floundering, cash-starved public schools. But four years later, his pragmatic, levelheaded approach has yielded … not much at all, actually. What needs to change — our expectations, or Hite?
Philadelphia Magazine BY SIMON VAN ZUYLEN-WOOD  |  MARCH 27, 2016
On the third Thursday of every month, William Hite is subjected to four hours of ritual torture.
The sessions take place in an auditorium at the headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia, on North Broad Street. Starting around 5:30 p.m., several hundred education obsessives march in and locate seats. Sometimes they bring musical instruments. Hite sits at the front of the room next to the five members of the School Reform Commission, Philadelphia’s peculiar version of a school board. Well-built, impeccably dressed, perfectly composed, Philly’s school superintendent awaits the onslaught.  In theory, the point of these meetings is for the SRC to vote on things. In practice, they are dominated by ferociously opinionated people using their three minutes of allotted time to yell at Bill Hite. Most commenters fall into one of three categories. There are the (mostly) white, female activists who decry Hite and his SRC abettors as blood-sucking corporate fetishists. There are the (mostly) white, male charter-school operators and reform advocates who dismiss these people as teachers-union toadies. Then there are the (mostly) black parents and students, who tend to have a greater personal stake in the decisions before the board. Three reporters live-tweet everything. Hite stares at his interlocutors and nods in silence. The pattern repeats itself every month.

Riding the ‘turnaround’ merry-go-round in the continuing assault on Philadelphia public schools: Part I
Defend Public Education Blog  By Ken Derstine March 26, 2016
The assault on public schools in Philadelphia has entered a new phase. The roots of the current crisis go back to the 2001 state takeover of the School District, the dissolution of the local school board and the creation of the appointed five-member School Reform Commission.  Over the next decade various attempts were made to privatize Philadelphia's public schools. When these plans did not achieve their goal, long-range five-year plans by Superintendents working with the Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy and the Boston Consulting Group were implemented. These plans included starving the public schools of resources while building up charters schools and using funding from various public and private sources for public relations campaigns designed to make charters appealing to parents. This led to the closing of twenty-four public schools in 2013 due to 'under enrollment'.  The current phase of corporate education reform, for a time, shifted the focus from school closings to ‘turnarounds’ of schools in low-income communities. (Note: Though the term 'turnaround' will be used throughout this article since that is how the SRC terms them, these changes are really the turnover of public schools to private interests.) This method of privatization was begun in Philadelphia under Paul Vallas (2002-2006), accelerated under Broad Superintendent Arlene Ackerman (2008-2011), and it has continued under current Broad Superintendent William Hite (2012 - Present).

Teachers decry Penn Hills changes, furloughs
Trib Live BY MICHAEL DIVITTORIO | Sunday, March 27, 2016, 11:33 p.m.
Penn Hills School District officials are set to vote Tuesday on a plan to furlough at least 40 teachers as part of a programming change to save money.  The plan — posted on the district's website — would eliminate about 25 courses at Penn Hills High School for the 2016-17 school year and furlough the teachers of those classes.  Penn Hills Education Association President Bob Hoffmann said 15 grievances have been filed in response to the projected furloughs, and “we're hoping to gather a large teacher presence at the board meeting Tuesday.”  The association represents about 318 teachers in the district, which enrolls about 4,000 students.

“In Finland teachers are the most trusted and admired professionals next to doctors, in part because they are required to have a master's degree in education with specialisation in research and classroom practice.  "Our mission as adults is to protect our children from politicians," one Finnish childhood education professor told me. "We also have an ethical and moral responsibility to tell businesspeople to stay out of our building." In fact, any Finnish citizen is free to visit any school whenever they like, but her message was clear: Educators are the ultimate authorities on education, not bureaucrats, and not technology vendors.”
This is why Finland has the best schools
The Age by William Doyle March 26, 2016
William Doyle is a 2015-2016 Fulbright scholar and a lecturer on media and education at the University of Eastern Finland.
The Harvard education professor Howard Gardner once advised Americans, "Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States."  Following his recommendation, I enrolled my seven-year-old son in a primary school in Joensuu. Finland, which is about as far east as you can go in the European Union before you hit the guard towers of the Russian border.  OK, I wasn't just blindly following Gardner - I had a position as a lecturer at the University of Eastern Finland for a semester. But the point is that, for five months, my wife, my son and I experienced a stunningly stress-free, and stunningly good, school system. Finland has a history of producing the highest global test scores in the Western world, as well as a trophy case full of other recent No. 1 global rankings, including most literate nation.

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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