Saturday, March 5, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 5: S&P: Budget impasse could lower PA's ratings (again)

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3850 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 5, 2016:
S&P: Budget impasse could lower PA's ratings (again)

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.

"It's astonishing," activist Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital told Owens. "I think it's arrogant. I think it's above the pale that you would reimburse yourself, in addition to your salary, for not getting the job done."
No budget? No problem - lawmakers still billed $$ millions in travel expenses, report: Friday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 04, 2016 at 8:10 AM, updated March 04, 2016 at 8:11 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Even as members of Pennsylvania's 253-member General Assembly whined and kvetched last year about the pain of the 2015 budget impasse and castigated Gov. Tom Wolf for runaway spending, they were still billing taxpayers for millions of dollars in food and lodging expenses.  
As our pal Dennis Owens of ABC-27 reports, the 203-member state House billed taxpayers $2.15 million in per-diem payments last year.  The 50-member Senate collected a comparably modest $247,829, the station reported, citing documents obtained through a Right-to-Know Law request.  To refresh your memory, lawmakers who live more than 50 miles from Harrisburg can bill the taxpayers for food and lodging expenses while they're about legislative business.  The expenses are unvouchered, meaning they don't have to cough up the receipts the average cubicle drone would have to produce for accounting to justify their travel spending.  The payments came even as nonprofits sweated keeping their doors open and school districts borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to continue operation. At least one activist is crying foul.

State budget crisis forces some midstate schools to halt most hiring, cut expenses
WITF Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Mar 4, 2016 10:51 AM
 (Lancaster) -- The state budget crisis isn't actually fully resolved.
Some school districts across the midstate are still waiting on tens of millions in state dollars.  At the School District of Lancaster, they're expecting more than $40 million.  But Matt Przywara, its finance chief, says until then, "we have instituted a budget freeze with our school district in order to conserve some money this year, because we don't know what we're going to get."  Governor Tom Wolf signed a budget, but line item vetoed billions in education funding to try to bring Republicans back to negotiate the final pieces.  That hasn't happened.  Przywara says in Lancaster, the impact is very real.  "Nonessential employees are not being hired. Even essential vacancies like for classroom teachers, we're just not filling some of those positions right now."  Przywara fears this year's crisis may never be resolved, meaning impacts will stretch into next year.

Pa. budget impasse's impact on school funding bemoaned
Herald Mail Media By Roxann Miller Posted: Friday, March 4, 2016 6:45 pm | Updated: 8:44 pm, Fri Mar 4, 2016.
GREENCASTLE, Pa. — With the Pennsylvania budget eight months overdue and no solution in sight, the impasse was the main topic of discussion Thursday during a town hall meeting with state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr.  “The budget is confusing, and it doesn’t look like we’re making a lot of progress right now,” Eichelberger told about 40 people gathered at the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library in Greencastle.  Billions of dollars for schools, prisons and hospitals hang in the balance over a financial push and pull between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature.  The meeting was so important to Greencastle-Antrim School Board members that the start time of their regular meeting Thursday was delayed an hour and a half until 7:30 p.m. so members could attend.

Midstate lawmakers rally against Gov. Tom Wolf's budget plan with proposed $2.7 billion in new taxes
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 04, 2016 at 6:10 PM, updated March 04, 2016 at 6:17 PM
HAMPDEN TWP. - If Gov. Tom Wolf hopes to rebuild the bipartisan coalition that almost delivered a compromise state budget proposal to Pennsylvania in December, lawmakers from the midstate sent this signal Friday:  Better start looking for Republican votes in other parts of the state.  Because to a person, eight House members from Cumberland, Dauphin, York, Adams, Lancaster and Lebanon counties said Friday, they are not interested in raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent.  Or most other pieces of the governor's $2.7 billion tax increase package.

"The CreditWatch action reflects our view that a failure to pass a budget package for fiscal 2016 that addresses long-term structural balance could exacerbate the state's projected structural budget gap for fiscal 2017," S&P analyst Carol Spain said in a statement.”
UPDATE 1-Budget impasse could lower Pennsylvania's ratings -S&P
 (Adds S&P warning of downgrade, background on budget impasse, quote from S&P analyst)
Reuters March 3, 2016
Standard and Poor's Ratings Services warned on Thursday it could downgrade Pennsylvania's AA-minus general obligation and other ratings by the end of March if the state's structural budget imbalance is not addressed.  The credit rating agency placed the ratings on a watch list as a budget impasse continues between Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Republicans who control the legislature, leaving the state without a complete spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Because of budget stalemate, S&P threatens to downgrade Pa.'s credit rating
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano  @PhillyJoeD Updated: MARCH 4, 2016 — 5:00 PM EST
Pennsylvania is racing New Jersey to the bottom as Standard & Poor's considers another reduction in the Keystone State's credit rating.
S&P has threatened to cut Pennsylvania's AA- rating for general obligation debt by one or more notches. In a report to clients this week, the agency cited the state's "failure to pass a budget package for fiscal 2016 that addresses long-term structural balance - financial-analyst code for the state's seeming inability to agree on boosting its cash reserves or lining up pension-fund income with the relatively generous checks paid to hundreds of thousands of retirees.  Only Illinois, New Jersey and Kentucky have lower S&P credit ratings, while California's and Michigan's ratings are the same as Pennsylvania's current rate, according to S&P.  Low-rated borrowers typically have to pay bond buyers and other lenders extra, because they are considered a little more likely to default on their debts.
Indeed, Pennsylvania taxpayers had to pay investors an extra 0.52 percent interest to sell bonds as of last month, more than any state except New Jersey and Illinois, according to a report by PNC Financial Services Group. Those bond premiums closely track state ratings posted by S&P's rival, Moody's Investors Services.

Share Your PA Budget Impact Story
PSBA website March 2, 2016
The Impact of the Budget Impasse: Share your story

School superintendents leaving the field in 'unprecedented numbers'
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Friday, March 4, 2016, 11:10 p.m.
Nancy Hines' schedule is often packed with board meetings, staff meetings and disciplinary hearings.  As superintendent of the Penn Hills School District, she's tasked with helping it rebound from two years of budget deficits. But proposals to raise property taxes, cut courses and eliminate teacher positions haven't won over Penn Hills residents or the teachers union.
After one year as head of the district, she describes her job as “being close to the firing line.”
“You're trying to hold everybody together, but on the same side of that, we have to be willing to be the bad guy,” said Hines, who makes $140,000 a year.  School superintendents are leaving the field in “unprecedented numbers,” cracking under the fiscal and political pressure and buckling under additional responsibilities placed on them as school districts cut administrative staff, according to a 2014 study from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. On average, superintendents in Pennsylvania spend about three years in the post, the study said.

“(Broad) His foundation has pumped $144 million into charter schools across the country, is embroiled in a battle to expand the number of charters in his home city, and has issued a handbook on how to close troubled public schools.  Unique among the education philanthropists, his foundation has also contributed more than $60 million over 15 years to a nonprofit that trains superintendents and administrators, convinced that they are key to transforming urban school systems.”
 “Broad-trained superintendents currently run districts in two dozen communities, including Boston, Broward County, Fla., and Philadelphia. They have lasted an average of four and three-quarter years, delivering incremental academic progress at best. Like others in the field, they have run up against the complexities of trying to improve schools bedeviled by poverty, racial disparities, unequal funding and contentious local politics.”
Oakland District at Heart of Drive to Transform Urban Schools
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH MARCH 4, 2016
OAKLAND, Calif. — The 70 teachers who showed up to a school board meeting here recently in matching green and black T-shirts paraded in a circle, chanting, “Charter schools are not public schools!” and accusing the superintendent of doing the bidding of “a corporate oligarchy.”  The superintendent, Antwan Wilson, who is an imposing 6-foot-4, favors crisp suits and Kangol caps and peers intensely through wire-rimmed glasses, has become accustomed to confrontation since he arrived in this activist community from Denver two years ago. One board meeting last fall reached such a fever pitch that police officers moved in to control the crowd.  Mr. Wilson is facing a rebellion by teachers and some parents against his plan to allow families to use a single form to apply to any of the city’s 86 district-run schools or 44 charter campuses, all of which are competing for a shrinking number of students.  How he fares may say a great deal not only about Oakland, but also about this moment in the drive to transform urban school districts. Many of them have become rivalrous amalgams of traditional public schools and charters, which are publicly funded but privately operated and have been promoted by education philanthropists.

4 elementaries added to Philly district schools slated for intervention
The School District of Philadelphia is planning massive interventions in 16 of its schools next year.  In addition to the 12 schools already organized in its "Turnaround Network," the district has selected four more schools for intervention where drastic staffing changes could be on the horizon: Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, E.W. Rhodes Elementary, S. Weir Mitchell Elementary, and Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary.  The district isn't planning to formally announce the details of its plans until Thursday, but officials confirmed the names of the targeted schools — though they warned that plans could change in the next week.  Spokesman Fernando Gallard said the turnaround attempts would come with additional financial investments, but would not provide specifics.   The schools in the Turnaround Network are those that were tapped as "Promise Academies" under former superintendent Arlene Ackerman. In that intervention model, schools were initially given added resources, and staff received extra pay to work longer hours and some Saturdays.  The district recognized that those turnaround attempts faltered after the first year as budget woes undermined the effort for a plethora of reasons.

Philly Daily News Opinion Updated: MARCH 4, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
YOU CAN'T accuse Mayor Kenney of thinking small. In his first budget address to City Council, the mayor said that what the city needed were "serious, radical, ambitious policies." And he delivered lots of them.  The two likely to get mentioned the most are Kenney's call for the city to spend $60 million a year in providing slots for quality pre-K, at about $8,500 per child.  It would, for the first time, put the city in the business of providing subsidies for early childhood education, supplementing the $237 million in annual subsidies now given to poor parents by the state and federal government.  The second, and surely the most controversial, is a plan to generate funds by imposing a 3-cents-an-ounce tax on sugary drinks, not only soda but also non-carbonated drinks, such as iced tea and sports drinks. A 3-cent tax on a 20-ounce drink equals 60 cents.
Kenney has already incurred the wrath of the "soda lobby," the bottlers of major brands, plus the unionized drivers who deliver them. Those groups ganged up on Mayor Nutter's earlier plan for a 2-cent-an-ounce tax and defeated it in City Council. Councilman Kenney voted against that tax.

Socolar: I say goodbye, you say hello
The notebook by Paul Socolar March 4, 2016
Today is a day my colleagues and I started preparing for more than a year ago.
I’m leaving the staff of the Notebook after 16 years as editor and publisher to explore new job opportunities. I feel sad about saying goodbye to the wonderful community that surrounds the Notebook and the complex and fascinating issues in the Philadelphia schools. But I am ready for a change, and so is the Notebook – we’ll both be trying on some new ideas and approaches.  And I’m excited to be handing over the reins to a talented new leader, Maria Archangelo, who has returned to Philadelphia to join our team as the Notebook’s publisher and executive director.
Maria is a Philadelphia native and Temple grad who got her start in journalism at the Inquirer. Her newspaper career has taken her to Baltimore and more recently to Vermont, where she made her mark as an editor and publisher. Maria shares the Notebook’s passionate concern about the future of our city and a deep commitment to the Notebook’s core values of social justice, educational equity, democracy, and community empowerment.

Ed. Department Names ESSA Negotiators, Key Areas of Discussion
Education Week Politics K-12 By Alyson Klein on March 4, 2016 3:00 PM
By Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa
UPDATED Get ready, get set: Negotiate rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act!
Later this month, a group of negotiators (names below) will gather at the U.S. Department of Education to hash out regulations for certain parts of the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Act. ESSA requires the department to go through the "negotiated rulemaking" process on three sections of the law—standards, assessments, and supplement-not-supplant, which deals with how states and districts spend their own funds in relation to federal money. The department is starting with assessment and supplement-not-supplant.
How does negotiated rulemaking work? The folks listed below essentially get together in a room and try to hammer out an agreement with the department. If the process fails, which it often does, the feds go back to the drawing board and negotiate through the regular process, which involves releasing a draft rule, getting comments on it, and then putting out a final rule.
Who is on the committee?
See below for the list of those who are on the committee and their organizational affiliations:

U.S. Department of Education announces ESSA Rulemaking Committee-Important next step in ESSA implementation
NSBA website  on March 4, 2016    Charlotte Blane
The U.S. Department of Education (Department of Education) today announced negotiators for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. The committee will draft and negotiate regulations which will be published in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for public comment.  The National School Boards Association (NSBA) will continue to work to shape ESSA’s implementation, and will be present at the meetings, closely monitoring the developments going forward to bring the collective perspective of 90,000 school board members to the negotiating process, ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity for a first class education.
The committee’s public meetings are scheduled for March 21-23 and April 6-8—with an optional third session from April 18-19.    More information on the rulemaking process is available in the Department of Education' s newly released documents.

“Resistance against corporate education reform”: Noam Chomsky, scholars warn Senate not to approve John King as secretary
Leading teachers and public education activists warn Obama's choice for education secretary would be a disaster by BEN NORTON March 4, 2016
Leading progressive voices are warning that President Obama’s choice for education secretary could be a disaster.  An open letter to the U.S. Senate, published in the Washington Post on Thursday, asks lawmakers to reject the confirmation of John King as the new secretary of education.  King, the acting secretary of education, has a long history of supporting corporate-friendly education reforms, and has pushed for unpopular policies like more standardized testing and Common Core, which critics say are ineffective.  The letter is signed by world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky, along with journalist Naomi Klein, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and a host of other prominent scholars and activists, including some of the most established pro-public education voices.  A variety of teachers’ and public education organizations signed the letter as well, including New York for Public Education, Save Our Schools and Time Out From Testing.  The signatories warn King’s policies “have been ineffective and destructive to schools, educators, and most importantly students.”

Testing Students’ True Grit
New York Times Room for Debate UPDATED MARCH 4, 2016 4:39 AM
INTRODUCTION - Jade Cooney reviews good behaviors with her fifth-grade students at Visitacion Valley Elementary School in San Francisco.Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times  More and more schools are pushing to measure students’ social-emotional skills, like empathy and perseverance. The trend — which has raised concerns even among proponents of teaching resilience, or grit — is taking on greater urgency with federal education laws requiring at least one nonacademic assessment to judge school performance.
Should public schools be testing children for these social-emotional skills?

Everyone Loves the Idea of Preschool, So Why Don't All Our Kids Get to Go to One?
What the studies say about early childhood education.
Mother Jones By Kristina Rizga | Fri Mar. 4, 2016 1:28 PM EST
It's hard to think of another education reform idea that has garnered as muchsupport among advocates of various ideological stripes as early childhood education. California and New York liberals support it, and so do conservatives in Oklahoma and Florida. A 2015 national poll showed that 76 percent of voters support the idea of spending federal money to expand public preschool, and the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act includes more funding for early childhood. Helping the idea along is decades of research (which continues to pour in) that suggests effective preschools can benefit all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. "We have better evidence that preschool works and has long-term effects than we do for any other social policy," David L. Kirp, one of our country's leading experts on early childhood education and a professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, told Mother Jones.  But can we identify what a good preschool looks like and make that accessible to the kids most in need? That topic has been debated fiercely by parents, preschool advocates, and policymakers all over the country. This week, early childhood education experts and city chiefs of preschools came together in Sacramento, California, to talk about the latest research. As presenter Abbie Lieberman, an early-education policy analyst at New America, put it: "When we step into a preschool, how can we tell what is actually learning through play and what is true chaos?"

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.

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:

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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