Tuesday, March 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 29: Up in the Air: Basic Ed Funding Distribution & PlanCon $. And Forget About that $50 Million Spent on Interest

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 29, 2016:
Up in the Air: Basic Ed Funding Distribution & PlanCon $.  And Forget About that $50 Million Spent on Interest

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

“Wolf said the legislation has a school funding distribution formula he considers one of the most unfair in the country and that bond borrowing was being expanded without addressing the state's structural deficit.  Jeff Sheridan, the governor's spokesman, said last week the administration will pass out school subsidies "in the most appropriate manner possible, just as we did in December when the governor signed a partial general appropriations bill that was without an accompanying fiscal code because the legislature did not pass one."
School funding, borrowing trigger Wolf veto of spending bill
by MARK SCOLFORO, The Associated Press Updated: MARCH 28, 2016 — 2:41 PM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed legislation that passed along with the Pennsylvania budget, citing concerns about how it divides money for schools, borrows $2.5 billion, affects greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and regulates oil and gas drilling.
The 101-page fiscal code bundles together a variety of items to implement the state budget. Wolf's one-page letter to state representatives sent the bill back to the House.  House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the veto was being reviewed and leaders were talking with their Senate colleagues to determine if they will take any action. He said no decision has been made about whether to seek to override Wolf's veto.  "There's nothing new in the fiscal code and there are things the administration has agreed to previously," Miskin said. "Also, some of their assumptions are just wrong, but we're reviewing and will make decisions later."

Governor’s Fiscal Code veto draws mixed reaction
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, March 28, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf made his promised veto of House Bill 1327 a reality Friday, sending the disapproved Fiscal Code bill back to the House of Representatives.  The Fiscal Code bill serves as the spending and policy roadmap for the budget and is traditionally a piece of legislation needed to close the circle on any given fiscal year’s budget.  The reasons for the veto laid out by the governor in his veto message accompanying the legislation’s return to the House are varied.  In terms of education funding, the governor laid out two reasons for his veto.  The first being that the legislation would only serve to perpetuate a basic education funding distribution that he says “is one of the most inequitable in the nation.”  “[T]he bill’s provisions permit the reduction of funds to certain school districts, which would otherwise be available, based solely on how the districts were funded earlier this year,” the governor said. “My veto of this bill ensures that the school districts will not be subject to this underserved treatment from a funding perspective.”  Second, he said the $2.5 billion bond issuance in the legislation “is not a responsible course of action” since it takes out the bond without addressing the structural deficit.  According to a release from the administration last week, the bond concerns funding PlanCon school construction reimbursement projects and "would be prohibitively costly to issue due to inflated debt costs resulting from the lack of any concrete steps in the current budget to address the structural deficit."

Pat Cuneo: Late state budget merits plenty of blame
By Pat Cuneo  814-870-1699  Erie Times-News  March 29, 2016 05:38 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- So, we finally have a state budget, and it's as flawed as any passed in modern state history, thanks to our dysfunctional, paralyzed politics.   I bring this up not to add to your state of depression about politics, but to make a few observations:  - Gov. Tom Wolf's political loss with the budget is obvious on some levels. He didn't get his way or fulfill his election mandate to substantially increase education funding, reform property taxes, and shift the income tax burden toward the upper middle class and wealthy.  - Not only did he not get what he wanted, our schools, nonprofits and some of the people they serve were made to suffer because the budget was passed almost nine months late. Most agencies and many school districts had to cut services and float loans to continue operating. At the very least, all had to eat up their emergency funds for no good reason.

2015-16: The Year of the Budget Battle
PoliticsPA Written by Jason Addy, Contributing Writer March 28, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf and GOP leaders said there would be a budget by Thanksgiving, before moving the goalposts to Christmas. Turns out, they meant to say Easter.  It was a 37-week war over the future of the Keystone State, but now it is finally over (at least until negotiations soon begin anew on next year’s budget.)  Last April, Gov. Tom Wolf made it very clear he knew the fight would be onto enact his spending priorities, telling the Inquirer at the time, “I’m planning on spending the summer here. And the fall, and the winter.”  Wolf’s prediction was spot-on, with PA’s 9-month budget impasse set to end on Sunday, just a week after the start of spring.

SRC pits 'my babies' against the needs of all Philadelphia students
Daun Kauffman lives in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia, serving children and families in urban schools for more than 15 years. Earlier, Kauffman earned an M.Ed. from Temple University, and an MBA from Harvard University Graduate School of Business. Daun blogs at LucidWitness.com.
New editions of Keystone Cops just keep coming from the “School Reform Commission.” Same storyline, same ending, but the characters take turns embarrassing us. Public education suffers. Charter schools expand. Local control is gone. State level integrity is rated 45th in the nation. Misfeasance is rampant.  Sylvia Simms is the new lead character, with self-focused loose lips. In a recent episode, after dark, when many school kids were in bed sleeping, and in a direct slapstick move on the quiet leading man, William Hite, Simms railroaded a motion to eliminate another public school for Mastery Charter. Her own recently released email illuminates possible motive, containing divisive racial overtones. In it, she asks for "people to have [her] back" while she works "especially for [her] babies," the people she represents and who look like her. (Read the full text here, page 87.)

Penn Hills schools may cut 43 teachers, 20 courses
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 29, 2016 1:10 AM
The Penn Hills school board will vote tonight on a proposal that, if passed, would furlough 43 teachers and eliminate more than 20 courses next school year.  The plan has been met with resistance by the Penn Hills Education Association, which has already filed 15 grievances against the district, citing an agreement between the parties that the teachers’ union says does not permit furloughs.  Although its approval was not required, the Pennsylvania Department of Education reviewed and signed off on the 2016-17 program changes on March 21, nearly a month after the district sent the department its proposal, a department spokeswoman said.  The district’s precarious financial position is likely what’s driving the changes: Leaders had to borrow $20 million last year and expect a nearly $9 million deficit by the end of this school year.  How much the proposed cuts would save, however, is unclear. Superintendent Nancy Hines did not respond to an interview request Monday, and district spokeswoman Teresita Kolenchak said in an email that the district is “not commenting or answering any questions in regard to the furlough plan.”

Allentown, Bethlehem school districts check lead level in water at schools
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call March 28, 2016
The Allentown and Bethlehem Area school districts on Monday ordered independent tests of water at three schools after receiving a claim of high lead levels.  Allentown spokeswoman Kim Golden-Benner said the district had the water tested at Union Terrace Elementary and Allen High schools by certified professionals. She said the district ordered the tests after WFMZ-TV alerted the district that water samples tested by a Lehigh University professor had shown high lead levels.  "Until we receive the results of this accurate analysis, both schools will refrain for using the water for consumption," Golden-Benner said in a statement. "The safety and well-being of our students and staff are our top priority."

3 Bethlehem, Allentown schools suspend water access after lead report
By Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 28, 2016 at 6:01 PM, updated March 28, 2016 at 7:11 PM
The Bethlehem Area and Allentown school districts said Monday they are cutting off access to drinking water from the plumbing at three schools and testing water quality in response to a news report about lead levels.  WFMZ-TV 69 on Monday published a report with testing performed by a Lehigh University professor of environmental engineering, on drinking water at Bethlehem's Northeast Middle School and Allentown's Allen High School and Union Terrace Elementary School.  Profressor Arup SenGupta's testing showed lead in the schools' drinking water at three times the federal standard for what is acceptable, according to the report.  The Bethlehem Area School District in a statement said Northeast does not have lead pipes and water fixtures, such as fountains, meet required guidelines.

New Jersey Dems want all schools to test water for lead
WHYY Newsworks by Phil Gregory MARCH 28, 2016
A bill proposed by Democrats in the New Jersey's Senate would require all schools in the state to test drinking water for lead contamination.  Lead is coming from the pipes that carry water into the schools, said Senate President Steve Sweeney.  "You have schools in Newark that were built back when Lincoln was president. There was lead when they put the pipes together," he said Monday. "We know we have a problem, but the costs of not poisoning our children, you can't worry about that, and we have the ability to fund it."  Sen. Teresa Ruiz said the legislation would allocate $3 million from the state to reimburse school districts for the testing. Another $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund would cover installation of  a water filter or treatment device to remove lead from school water fountains and sinks.

Schools Nationwide Still Grapple With Lead in Water
JERSEY CITY — Anxious parents may wonder how a major school system like Newark’s could overlook lead in the drinking water of 30 schools and 17,000 students. The answer: It was easy. They had to look only a few miles away, at the century-old classrooms of the schools here, across the Hackensack River.  The Jersey City Public Schools district discovered lead contamination in eight schools’ drinking fountains in 2006, and in more schools in 2008, 2010 and 2012. But not until 2013 did officials finally chart a comprehensive attack on lead, which by then had struck all but six schools.  This winter’s crisis in Flint, Mich., has cast new attention on lead in water supplies. But problems with lead in school water supplies have dragged on for years — aggravated by ancient buildings and plumbing, prolonged by official neglect and tight budgets, and enabled by a gaping loophole in federal rules that largely exempts schools from responsibility for the purity of their water.  Children are at greatest risk from lead exposure, and school is where they spend much of their early lives. But cash-starved school administrators may see a choice between spending money on teachers or on plumbing as no choice at all.

“The author of the analysis also puts forth a provocative argument: Because of this historical pattern, private schools that take public money (via vouchers and voucher-like programs) should not be able to select the students they admit. Instead, those schools should have to admit anyone who applies, just like public schools do, said Steve Suitts, who wrote the study as a senior fellow at the Southern Education Foundation.  “The public-school system is built on the bedrock notion that we want each child to have a chance for a good education,” said Suitts, now an adjunct professor at Emory University. “And if private schools do not wish to advance that national purpose, then they ought not receive public funding.”
The overwhelming whiteness of U.S. private schools, in six maps and charts
Washington Post by Emma Brown March 29 at 7:00 AM  
Students in the nation’s private schools are disproportionately — and in some states overwhelmingly — white.  While that’s not entirely surprising, a new analysis from the Southern Education Foundation quantifies the continued segregation of white students in private schools, particularly in the South, where private-school enrollment jumped in the 1950s and 1960s as white families sought to avoid attending integrated public schools.  Here’s a snapshot of the study’s findings:

What ‘white folks who teach in the hood’ get wrong about education
PBS Newshour BY KENYA DOWNS  March 28, 2016 at 2:29 PM EDT
“There’s a teacher right now in urban America who’s going to teach for exactly two years and he’s going to leave believing that these young people can’t be saved,” says Dr. Chris Emdin, associate professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “So he’s going to find another career as a lawyer, get a job in the Department of Education or start a charter school network, all based on a notion about these urban youth that is flawed. And we’re going to end up in the same cycle of dysfunction that we have right now. Something’s got to give.”  Emdin, who is also the university’s associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, has had enough of what he calls a pervasive narrative in urban education: a savior complex that gives mostly white teachers in minority and urban communities a false sense of saving kids.  “The narrative itself, it exotic-izes youth and positions them as automatically broken,” he says. “It falsely positions the teacher, oftentimes a white teacher, as hero.”  He criticizes the “white hero teacher” concept as an archaic approach that sets up teachers to fail and further marginalizes poor and minority children in urban centers.

Boston’s charter schools show striking gains
Test scores surpass traditional public schools, counterparts nationwide
Boston Globe By Peter Schworm GLOBE STAFF  MARCH 18, 2015
Boston charter school students outperformed their counterparts at traditional public schools and at charter schools in other urban areas by a striking margin over a recent six-year span, a Stanford University study found.  The strides at Boston charter schools — in both math and reading — equaled what students would have learned if they had been in school hundreds of additional days each year, researchers said in the report, released Wednesday.  The disparity held true for black, Hispanic, and low-income students in both math and reading, and was particularly strong for black and Hispanic students who live in poverty.  “Boston charter schools have done exceptionally well improving the academic growth of their students,” said James Woodworth, a research analyst with Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Racial aspects tinge Mass. charter debate
Boston Globe By David Scharfenberg GLOBE STAFF  MARCH 28, 2016
When the campaign to create more charter schools kicked off with a State House rally last fall, black and Latino charter school parents gave emotional testimony about the importance of the schools to their families.  Political operatives at the rally agreed, saying that bringing high-quality education to urban areas is the civil rights issue of our time.  But when charter school opponents formally launched a campaign of their own on the State House steps two weeks ago, the first speaker was the president of the New England Area Council of the NAACP. Juan Cofield warned that charter schools are sapping resources from the traditional schools that serve most minority students, and creating a two-track system.  “As Brown vs. the Board of Education taught us,” he said, invoking the landmark school desegregation case, “a dual school system is inherently unequal.”  The high-stakes fight over lifting the state’s cap on charter schools has become highly racialized, making one of the most contentious political contests in Massachusetts’ recent history even more tense.

Is Common Core's Effect on Achievement Fading?
Education Week By Liana Heitin Published Online: March 24, 2016
The common core’s impact on student achievement may have peaked early and already tapered off, according to a new analysis of national test scores by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.  “Most people when they think about common core, they think we won’t see an impact for 10 years,” said Tom Loveless, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the report. “This is telling me the opposite.”  Most states adopted the common standards in 2010, although they may not have fully implemented them in classrooms for some time after. According to this year’s Brown Center Report on American Education, 4th and 8th grade students in states that adopted the Common Core State Standards outperformed their peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2009 and 2013. But between 2013 and 2015, students in non-adoption states made larger gains than those in common-core states.  This means that “common core may have already had its biggest impact,” said Loveless.

Is the Common Core past its peak and heading toward oblivion?
Washington Post By Jay Mathews Columnist March 27 at 5:12 PM 
Intelligent discussion of schools has disappeared from the presidential campaign, replaced by low comedy, such as Sen. Ted Cruz’s promise to repeal every word of the Common Core State Standards. Cruz would have to persuade many state officials who loathe him to do this, as the standards are largely immune to presidential decree. But his vow passed so quickly that few remember what he said.  For deep insights on the Common Core, the leading education reform of the day, I depend instead on Tom Loveless, a non-resident senior fellow of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. Loveless is neither a supporter nor an opponent of the Common Core. He is simply a realist, an endangered political species.  Jay Mathews is an education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, his employer for 40 years.View Archive
When I hear from teachers and parents who like the Common Core’s enhancement of educational content and emphasis on writing and thinking, I say, “Why not give it a try?” But I also remember Loveless’s studies showing that new standards in general have rarely produced significant gains in student achievement in the countries and U.S. states that have tried them.
In Loveless’s latest annual Brown Center report, new data indicate that the Common Core may already have passed its peak and begun the slow decline into oblivion, to which most U.S. school reforms succumb.

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill April 4th
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) 2016 Education Congress April 6-7, 2016
professional development program for school administrators
Focus: "The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas"  Featured Presenter: Dr. David Burkus
April 6-7, 2016 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill
The program will focus on how school leaders can develop and utilize creativity in education management, operations, curriculum and leadership goals. The second day will allow participants to select from multiple discussion/work sessions focusing on concepts presented by Dr. Burkus and facilitated by school leaders who have demonstrated success in creative thinking and leadership in schools across the commonwealth.
Deadline for hotel accommodations: March 15
See the PASA website for more information at: www.pasa-net.org/2016edcongress.

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
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 clapper@paprincipals.org 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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