Friday, March 4, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 4: What is happening with the PA school funding lawsuit?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 4, 2016:
What is happening with the PA school funding lawsuit?

Campaign for Fair Education Funding
Pennsylvania has the largest funding gap between wealthy and poor schools of any other state in the country.
State funding in recent years has not kept pace with necessary school costs.
Schools are excessively dependent on local wealth for funding. In fact, the state's contribution to education funding is only 36%, among the lowest in the U.S.

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

Blogger note: At last night’s board meeting the Haverford Township school board passed a resolution in support of the school funding lawsuit now pending before the PA Supreme Court.
EdVotersPA Opinion: Enough is Enough. The Courts Must Intervene.
What is happening with the school funding lawsuit?
Education Voters PA Posted on March 2, 2016 by EDVOPA
On November 10, 2014, six school districts, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP – PA State Conference, and families whose children attend under-funded and under-resourced schools filed a case in the Commonwealth Court asking the court to:
  • Declare that the current system of funding our schools does not comply with the state constitution;
  • Order the defendants to cease using a funding system that does not provide adequate funding where students can meet state standards and which discriminates against low wealth districts; and
  • Order the defendants to create and maintain a constitutional school funding system that will enable all students to meet state academic standards and does not discriminate against low-wealth school district.
In April 2015, the Commonwealth Court decided to dismiss the case on the grounds that it presents a political question that cannot be addressed through the court system. In September 2015, the petitioners filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to send the case to a full trial. They contend that the Commonwealth Court erred in dismissing the lawsuit against legislative leaders and state education officials.  The appeal is now fully briefed by all parties, and the high court is expected to hear argument in the case in 2016.  The Supreme Court will hear oral argument from both sides sometime later this year. After hearing the argument, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to allow the school funding lawsuit to proceed to a full trial.

State Budget Hearings on Education Funding, Tuesday March 8
League of Women Voters by LWVCC on February 26, 2016
Make your voice heard on March 8 – call your legislators to ask for fair funding for every student in PA.
Senate Appropriations Committee, 10 AM, Capitol Complex, North Office Building, Hearing Room 1
Streaming links/details posted closer to date at:
House Appropriations Committee, 1:30 PM, Main Capitol Building, Room 1  
Streaming links/details posted closer to date at:
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding will hold a press conference in Harrisburg on March 8 at 1:30 PM.  More information at 

Pennsylvania governor Wolf's spending amid budget impasse baffles lawmakers
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 11:05 p.m.
HARRISBURG — The state budget dispute is puzzling enough, but what baffles Rep. Matt Gabler, R-DuBois, the most is Gov. Tom Wolf spending money that he cut from the budget.
“He uses the line-item veto, and then spends the money he vetoed,” Gabler said.  Welcome to the latest round of zaniness in the Harrisburg budget follies, starring Wolf, a liberal Democrat, sparring with a conservative Republican-run legislature.  After a six-month impasse and a broken-down framework agreement that failed to become law, the House and Senate sent Wolf a $30.3 billion budget in December. The governor cut $6 billion from the budget through his line-item veto.  Meanwhile, he's trying to get lawmakers to approve a 2016-17 budget to address a $2 billion deficit. He's seeking an income tax increase to pay for closing the deficit and for higher education spending.

PERC temporarily restored through bipartisan agreement
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, March 3, 2016
The Public Employee Retirement Commission—a recent source of contention between Republicans and the Wolf administration after the latter disbanded the commission and scattered its functions throughout state government—is temporarily restored to full function Thursday in a bipartisan agreement.  The bipartisan agreement reached between the Wolf administration, Office of Attorney General, and petitioners Representatives Seth Grove (R-York) and Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland) only restores PERC and its functions until an en banc panel of the Commonwealth Court rules on whether the Wolf administration exceeded its authority in eliminating the commission.  That hearing is scheduled for May in Philadelphia.  Representatives Bloom and Grove were quick to react to the news of the agreement Thursday.

State auditor general launching in-depth financial review of Manheim Township schools
Lancaster Online SUSAN BALDRIGE and KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writers March 3, 2016
The state auditor general is launching an in-depth financial review of the Manheim Township School District, whose embattled board has been under fire for violating Pennsylvania’s open-meetings law and operating in secret.  In an interview with LNP on Wednesday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the media organization's ongoing reporting about the school board’s behavior and curriculum cuts in recent years raise questions about how the district is being run.  "When you see possible Sunshine Law violations, it compels us as auditors to dig deeper and find out if there is a culture of openness or a culture of concealment," DePasquale said. "And any time art and music go away, regardless of the district, I get concerned."  The Manheim Township school board approved sizable cuts to elementary art, music and gym classes in 2012, citing financial constraints and a need to focus on academic subjects such as math and reading. Elementary library instruction was eliminated completely.  Parents with students in the district have been protesting those cuts ever since.

Philly SRC asks top court to reconsider school code case
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer. March 3, 2016
In a bid to undo last month's devastating state Supreme Court ruling that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission has no power to suspend parts of the state school code, the SRC has asked the court to reconsider its decision.  The SRC said in documents filed with the court Monday that the decision "invalidated an essential tool provided by the legislature to address the School District of Philadelphia's ongoing financial and educational crisis at a time when the district is struggling to carry out its constitutional obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education" to city public school students.  By a 4-2 vote in mid-February, the court declared that a provision in state law that the SRC had used to cancel parts of the school code was unconstitutional. The commission had relied often on this special power in the last few years to close schools, bypass seniority in teacher assignments, and limit charter school growth.  The ruling came in response to a suit filed by West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School that contended that the part of the state takeover law the SRC used in 2013 to force charters to agree to enrollment caps was unconstitutional.

Firm providing substitutes in Philly schools improves dismal performance
The private company the School District of Philadelphia hired to handle substitute teaching services has continued to make improvements, but still severely misses expectations.  Last week, NewsWorks published a story based on Right-to-Know data that detailed the distressing rates at which Source4Teachers has staffed substitutes in most of the district’s 200-plus schools.  In response, District officials rushed to provide updated data showing that the Cherry Hill-based firm has made some significant strides.  The original story focused on data from Sept. 8 through Dec. 23 – the beginning of the school year through winter break.  In that time, Source4Teachers filled vacancies only 10 percent of the time or less at 62 district schools.  When substitutes don’t show, teachers at the affected school scramble to fill-in by sacrificing their preparation periods.  The updated data – which extends to Feb. 19 – shows that Source4Teachers provided substitutes for the majority of the district’s schools less than half the time they were needed.

Philly SRC pushes for stronger school advisory councils
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 3, 2016 — 3:26pm
The auditorium at District headquarters was full, with people dragging in additional chairs and tables, as more than 200 people gathered at a School Reform Commission meeting Wednesday night to discuss the expansion and empowerment of School Advisory Councils.  School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms, who has led the effort to expand and empower SACs, welcomed the group, describing how giving parents more power can lead to better schools. Her message was seconded by SRC Chair Marjorie Neff, a former District principal.  Simms, a lifelong resident of North Philadelphia, explained that her school involvement began when she was a bus attendant for students with disabilities.  "I saw how important it was for families to educate themselves about the system, so that they could advocate for themselves and have a voice in their children’s education," she said.   The meeting was called because the SRC wants the District "to have a policy that puts a school advisory group in every single District school," she said. "We’re asking you to help us understand what that should look like."  Neff, who said she was speaking for the entire SRC, said collaborative decision-making is essential for schools. “No one person has all the answers.”     The participants included parents and advocates, as well as school principals, District officials, and SRC members.

Mayor pitches soda tax to help pay for pre-K and community schools
The notebook by Fabiola Cineas March 3, 2016 — 3:01pm
Mayor Kenney, in his first budget address, proposed $400 million in new money over five years to pay for a handful of priority initiatives, including universal pre-K and community schools.  The funding, he says, would come from a 3-cents-per-ounce tax on soda, a measure that has twice before been struck down by City Council.  Universal pre-kindergarten is a top goal for the mayor. With almost half of Philadelphia’s children entering kindergarten unprepared, the mayor said, his proposed $256 million investment would help create 25,000 high-quality pre-K seats over the next five years.  Investing in pre-K would have both long-term and more immediate effects on the economy, he said. Raising the number of pre-K slots would create jobs both inside and outside of early childhood education. Having every child in pre-K would also stabilize the workforce, because parents can be more successful at work when they have reliable child care, he said.
In addition to pre-K, the mayor proposed that $39 million from the soda tax revenue go toward his plan to create 25 community schools in his first term. These schools would act as neighborhood centers, integrating social services and health care into the school, while boosting parental and community engagement.

Kenney delivers $4 billion spending plan with call for soda tax
There were no major surprises in Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's first budget address Thursday.  "It feels really good to be home … I've spent half of my life in this chamber," said the new mayor of the City Council chambers where he served for 23 years.  Then he delved into the details of his more than $4 billion spending plan.  He told his former colleagues a tax on sugary drinks is the only way to raise the funding for citywide  pre-K, fixing recreation centers and libraries as well as bolstering the sagging city pension fund.  "There is simply nowhere else to find this revenue," he said. "We all know we can't raise property taxes again, we've already raised them four times in the last five years."  Despite the call for a new tax, City Council members said they will seriously consider the spending plan.

Ex-teacher acquitted of most charges in cheating case
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer. Updated: MARCH 4, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
A sense of relief washed over Ary Sloane's face Thursday after a Philadelphia jury found the former teacher, ensnared in a test-cheating scandal, not guilty of three of four charges she faced.  "Today was a great day for justice. I really appreciate what the jury did, and I really appreciate how the criminal justice system worked for this innocent woman, whose only crime was to be working at a place where bad people were administrators," her attorney, Michael Coard, said after leaving the courtroom.  Sloane, 58, who was a program-support teacher at Cayuga Elementary in Hunting Park before her arrest in May 2014, had been charged with tampering with public records or information; forgery; tampering with records or identification; and criminal conspiracy.  On the third day of deliberations, the Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men found Sloane not guilty of all charges except criminal conspiracy.

US News and World Report Rankings of PA High Schools

ESSA and the States: Florida, Kentucky Have Their Own Ideas on Accountability
Education Week Politics K-12 By Andrew Ujifusa on March 3, 2016 11:34 AM
Ever since the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law last December, policy wonks and others have wondered exactly how states would react to the new version of the Elementary and Secondary Act, which in several respects is a significant departure from the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act. While for the most part it's too early to broadly characterize those reactions, bills in at least two states show that getting states entirely on board with ESSA might be a challenge.  First, let's go to Florida. As our colleague Catherine Gewertz reported March 2, Sunshine State lawmakers are considering a bill, Senate Bill 1360, that would allow districts the option of administering the ACT Aspire exam instead of the state standardized exam, the Florida Standards Assessment, in grades 3-8, beginning in the 2016-17 school year. Districts could then choose to administer the ACT Aspire in grades 3-8, for example, and students would take that exam, unless parents notified the district that they preferred their student to take the Florida Standards Assessment instead. 

Snow geese flock to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area
Penn Live By Dan Gleiter | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 03, 2016 at 7:00 PM, updated March 03, 2016 at 7:51 PM
Snow geese numbers are building at the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Middle Creek Wildlife Management area on the Lancaster-Lebanon county line near Kleinfeltersville.
Snow geese, tundra swans and Canada geese are part of the annual waterfowl migration at Middle Creek.  In recent years, more than 100,000 snow geese, 10,000 tundra swans, 10,000 Canada geese and a variety of ducks have stopped at Middle Creek while pushing north to their breeding grounds.

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:

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

PA Legislature Joint public hearing-on Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) March 14
PA House and Senate Education Committees
03/14/2016 10:30 AM Hearing Room #1 North Office Bldg

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

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

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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