Tuesday, March 8, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 8: PA bond ratings in the toilet while Harrisburg continues to do absolutely nothing (and get paid for it)

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 8, 2016:
PA bond ratings in the toilet while Harrisburg continues to do absolutely nothing (and get paid for it)

Campaign for Fair Education Funding
Press Conference Capitol Rotunda 1:30 p.m. today
Join us for state budget hearings about public education funding and other activities Tuesday, March 8 as part of our effort to ensure fair funding for every student, no matter where that student lives
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.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Weekend Roundup March 5: S&P: Budget impasse could lower PA's bond ratings (again)

Going to Town for Public Education
Education Voters PA
Lawmakers throughout PA are beginning to hold town hall meetings in order to bring communities together to talk about current issues and priorities for local, state, and federal government.   Education Voters would like to help ensure that education is a topic lawmakers are hearing about at their meetings. We have resources to help you find a meeting near you and best utilize these direct opportunities to voice concerns about public education.

“Districts used the state emergency funding to pay off debt, pay overdue bills and make payroll. If a state budget is not finalized, more than 60 percent of districts statewide will not be able to make it through the school year without borrowing money, according to a survey released last month by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  Each month, the number of districts in trouble will grow, Mr. Buckheit said. Districts are instituting purchasing and hiring freezes and some are canceling field trips, he said.  “There is little faith in the leadership in Harrisburg to take action to solve this problem anytime soon,” he said. “They are taking it upon themselves to conserve their cash and keep the doors open.”
Without state budget, districts expect to borrow more
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: March 8, 2016
With dwindling funds and no state budget in sight, school districts soon may be forced to borrow again.  Carbondale Area School District, which considered closing its doors in the fall due to lack of state funds, may refinance debt to make payroll. “People are beyond frustrated,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. “This is just the reality we have to deal with.”  For more than eight months, state lawmakers have been unable to agree on a budget. In January, districts began receiving some emergency funds, about half of their allocation from the previous school year.  Districts received their final subsidy payment last week.  In Carbondale Area, school directors may vote tonight to authorize refinancing $6.9 million in bonds, including borrowing money to delay a $576,000 debt payment, a process referred to as a “scoop and toss.” That debt payment is due in April, and as of Monday, the district had about $2.6 million in the bank — enough to make payroll five times.
“We’re just in pure survival mode,” said David Cerra, business manager.

Staff demotions possible cure to Stroudsburg school district budget woes
Budget deficit is a more than $5 million.
Lynn Ondrusek  Pocono Record Writer  Posted Mar. 7, 2016 at 10:51 AM
In order to save $2.5 million in the 2016-17 budget, some Stroudsburg Area School District teachers could face a demotion.  At a recent school board meeting, Superintendent Cosmas Curry presented to the board his plan to demote 20 professional staff members.  Demoting those 20 positions does not include those who retire or resign. There would not be part time staff hired to replace anyone who is demoted, Curry said.  Most of the positions would be in the secondary level in the core content areas Curry said, using enrollment numbers to justify the action. The district is projected to see 450 fewer students 2016-17 compared to 2012.  Class sizes could see an increase of one to three students, and up to three to five students if some teachers decide they can’t afford to work at a demoted level and leave the district.

“Riverside school directors passed a $24.189 million budget in July with a tax increase of 109.42 mills, which is at their Act 1 index cap, 2.4 percent, for this school year.  Riverside’s index is 3.3 percent for the 2016-17 school year. If the referendum fails, the district can raise taxes to that index but not beyond it.  “We have such angst about the state budget, we just though we’d put it out there to investigate another avenue,” said Carol Armstrong, Riverside School Board president.  Without a state budget — the impasse is going into its 251st
day today — the district has no idea what its state subsidy will be this year, let alone next, she said.”
Voters may decide Riverside tax hike
Times Tribune KATHLEEN BOLUS, STAFF WRITER Published: March 8, 2016
Riverside School District taxpayers could decide in the April primary election if school taxes will rise past a state-allowed amount, the first time a district in Lackawanna County is leaving it up to voters.  The Lackawanna County Board of Elections will vote Wednesday on whether the Riverside School District referendum will be placed on the ballot for the April 26 primary.  If the election board approves the referendum, which is likely, voters will be asked if they favor the district imposing an additional “3.9 percent increase in real estate taxes equaling 4.48 mills above the Act 1 Index... to fund a quality K-12 education,” said Marion Medalis, county Bureau of Elections director. A mill is a $1 tax on each $1,000 of assessed value. The median residential assessed value of the two boroughs the district serves is $9,500 for Taylor and $12,000 for Moosic.  Each school year, the state Department of Education sets an inflation index, which caps how much each district can increase taxes. To raise taxes past the designated Act 1 Index, school officials either can apply to the state for one of the limited and specific exceptions or receive approval from voters.

Red Lion School District may file for bankruptcy
WGAL News Published  4:32 PM EST Mar 07, 2016
RED LION, Pa. —A York County school district may have to file for bankruptcy, because there is no state budget.  The Red Lion School District says it may file for bankruptcy. The district says it is missing $9.7 million in state money from its 2015-2016 budget.  They say they would use that money for building maintenance, like roof repairs. Red Lion is also withholding vendor payments to cyber and charter schools.  The district’s business manager says she has even been paying some of the district’s bills late in order to try to avoid bankruptcy.

Our Opinion: Don’t allow deadlock over Pennsylvania budget to cause school chaos
Times Tribune Editorial First Posted: 7:51 pm - March 7th, 2016
Due to the ludicrous state of affairs in Harrisburg, certain Pennsylvania school districts could close this year much sooner than the customary month of June.  Students in particularly cash-poor districts might cue up Alice Cooper’s rock anthem “School’s Out” closer to Easter break, according to recent warnings. Or maybe Earth Day.  Presumably, however, those same pupils won’t be pardoned from getting in their required number of annual educational hours; they will be expected to enroll in neighboring districts to finish the school year. Chaotic? Yes – for students and school administrators.  Acceptable?  No, not at all.
The school-shutdown scenario, which this area’s contingent of state lawmakers discussed last week during a roundtable organized by the Luzerne Intermediate Unit in Kingston, shows just how pathetic partisanship has become.

Jeff Sheridan: Expect runaway school property taxes if Republicans get their way with state budget
Times Leader byJeff Sheridan - Contributing columnist First Posted: 7:41 pm - March 7th, 2016
Jeff Sheridan is Gov. Tom Wolf’s press secretary.
Massive cuts at the state level and a lack of real investment in education are not only hurting school districts across Pennsylvania, but also having a devastating impact on middle-class families and seniors who can no longer afford to pay for the Republican property tax increases that have been passed down to local communities over the past several years.  That is why Gov. Tom Wolf has been fighting since day one to secure historic increases in education funding at all levels, including kindergarten through 12th-grade education.  During his budget address, Gov. Wolf said: “In the last year alone, 83 school districts increased property taxes above the index because Harrisburg didn’t produce a responsible budget … (and) another 175 school districts are contemplating additional tax increases this year – for the same reason. … ”

“So far Masterly Charter School in Philadelphia said it will come. It had planned to hold its own march last month, but had to cancel due to the weather, Kat Shoemaker, assistant principal of operations said. While she and Ciresi may disagree on the concept of charter schools, they both agree that the state needs a budget. Masterly will send 100 students, along with parents and community members, to the capitol.”
Schools to join Spring-Ford in march on Harrisburg March 14th
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 03/07/16, 6:47 PM EST | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
Royersford >> The squeaky wheel gets the grease. That’s the motto Tom DiBello and Joe Ciresi are following as they prepare to march on Harrisburg for a third time to try to bring an end to the nine-month-long state budget impasse.  As president and vice president, respectively, of the Spring-Ford Area School Board, the two men say their efforts are starting to gain momentum as school officials on both sides of the state have expressed interest in to making the trek to the state capitol to protest with them March 14.  “We’ve gone down two times. The goal is to go and be in the Legislature’s ear,” DiBello said. “If it’s not moving needle, that’s unfortunate. I hope they’re listening. I don’t have high expectations, but you can’t give up trying. You have to keep reminding legislators of the concerns out there from parents and the impact the lack of a budget’s having on districts.”  “The overall goal is to make it clear to legislature we can’t do this any more,” Ciresi said. “They need to do their job and pass a budget.”  Ciresi is currently campaigning for the Democratic nomination for state representative in the 146th House District.
The plan so far is to meet in the Capitol rotunda for a press conference from 11 a.m.-noon. Who will stand with Spring-Ford, though, is still being determined.

Pa. charter movement gets poor grades from advocacy group
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 7, 2016 — 5:01pm
A national charter advocacy organization has ranked Pennsylvania near the bottom of 18 states evaluated for the robustness of its charter movement.  The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools evaluated states based on the organization’s measures of growth, innovation and quality. The report also gave low marks to the state law governing charters.  The poor ratings were due in part to a drop in the academic performance of charters compared to traditional public schools. Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, the period studied, the percentage of charters performing in the bottom two categories of the state’s accountability system increased from 60 to 66 percent. Likewise, the proportion of charters performing in the top two categories of the state’s accountability system declined from 18 percent to 14 percent.

“According to Grell, when Act 120 was passed, the Commonwealth was only making around four percent of the ARC, and that contribution rate was scheduled to go up to 29 percent three years later.  This year, the Commonwealth is paying 80 percent of the ARC with newly certified amounts that start in July making the full 100 percent employee contribution.  It will be the first time in 15 years that the Commonwealth has paid the full amount of its actuarially required contribution.”
PSERS director: “We’re very well toward turning the corner on our unfunded liability”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, March 7, 2016
During Monday’s budget hearing in front of the House Appropriations Committee, the heads of both of Pennsylvania’s state-run pension plans confirmed that with the Commonwealth next year scheduled to meet 100 percent of its actuarially required contribution (ARC), the state has started to right the ship on what some estimate is as high as a $63 billion unfunded liability.  “We’re very well toward turning the corner on our unfunded liability and paying it off,” said PSERS executive director Glenn Grell about the “fiscal discipline” maintained by budget makers in ensuring the increasing rate collars under Act 120 of 2010 have been met over the last five years.

Pennsylvania pension systems say they've cut management fees
AP State Wire March 7, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's two large public-sector pension systems say they've reduced their investment management fees by millions of dollars.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday called the cuts by the pension systems for state workers and school employees an important step to save taxpayers' money. Wolf has said the systems' fees are excessive and wants deeper reductions.  The Public School Employees' Retirement System says its fees fell from $558 million in the year that ended in mid-2013 to $455 million in the year that ended July 1.  That's an 18 percent reduction of $103 million over two years.  The State Employees' Retirement System's fees fell about 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, from $177 million to $159 million. That's a drop of $18 million.  SERS says its fees are down by more than $76 million since 2010.

“While not yet adopted anywhere, public-pension buyouts are gaining attention nationwide as cities and states grapple with growing pension deficits.  Illinois lawmakers, for instance, are considering lump-sum payouts to solve their state's pension crisis. Nashville considered a buyout program last year, but ultimately decided against it.  "People are looking for different solutions," said Greg Mennis, director of the public sector retirement systems project at Pew Charitable Trusts.”
A plan to help the city's pension woes: Buyouts
by Claudia Vargas, Staff Writer. Updated: MARCH 7, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
City Controller Alan Butkovitz thinks he has a solution for Philadelphia's staggeringly underfunded pension fund: buyouts.  Butkovitz is proposing that the city offer up-front cash payments to retirees, who, if they took the option, would surrender their lifelong pensions.  The payments would represent only a portion - say, 50 percent - of what a retiree could expect to receive over a lifetime. Still, a fair number of retirees might be enticed by the prospect of a cash windfall they could invest on their own, Butkovitz said.  "This would give people the opportunity to start a business," he said. "Or do something that could potentially change their life and provide financial security long-term. And, of course, they could convert it into an annuity."  Such buyouts could benefit the city by dramatically reducing the pension fund's overall liability. The fund is $5.7 billion short of its $11 billion obligation to city workers' pensions.  "There's a persistent concern in the city about getting control of pension costs and a lot of things have been tried that were nibbling around the edges," Butkovitz said. "So, it seems like the environment is ripe for ideas that would actually result in significant savings."

At town hall, Council members hear frustration of parents, teachers
Kenney said former Gov. Corbett intended to "starve Philadelphia schools to create an entirely charter school system."
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 7, 2016 — 9:51pm
More than 100 people crowded into the library of Sayre High School in West Philadelphia Monday night to tell three City Council members what their schools need and don't have.  The library, shorn of books and devoid of computers, was an apt setting for repeated complaints of too few counselors, a treacherous lack of nurses, oversized classes, non-functioning water fountains, dirty and poorly maintained buildings, and an overall lack of sufficient supplies.  Councilwoman Helen Gym, who called the session, along with fellow members Jannie Blackwell and David Oh, listened for 90 minutes as parents, teachers, and community residents vented their frustrations.  A teacher from Huey Elementary, slated to become a charter school under Global Leadership Academy, said her school is now "in a dangerous situation. Logistically, we don't have enough staff to do what needs to be done."  Parents said that, nevertheless, they didn't want the school to become a charter, fearing that their children would not be able to attend. Said one: "We hope there's a future plan, so students can go to school in the neighborhood they live in, can have pride in the neighborhood they live in." 

Philly school turnaround plan criticized
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer. Updated: MARCH 8, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. is scheduled to roll out a plan Thursday to begin academic turnarounds in the fall at four Philadelphia elementary schools with low test scores.  Critics are blasting the idea, even though they don't know the details.  On Monday, the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools released a letter it sent to Marjorie Neff, chair of the School Reform Commission, urging her to put a stop to Hite's plans.  The alliance, an activist group founded by former teachers, said Hite's idea would "only lead to further destabilization of schools already struggling to survive in conditions caused by both financial and managerial crises."  In a statement, Neff said that while change can be unsettling at first, it also can bring new opportunities. "I believe that the School District has the capacity and know-how to improve our lowest performing schools, but it is crucial that we include school communities in the process."

 “Until Pennsylvania finds the desire — and the will — to take politics out of reapportionment, the state will be saddled with non-competitive House and Senate districts, which discourages little-known challengers all the more from taking on well-known incumbents.”
PPG Editorial: Voters need choices: Too many state lawmakers are unopposed
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board March 5, 2016 12:00 AM
This is a big election year for Pennsylvania. All 203 state House seats and 25 of the 50 state Senate seats will be filled this year, as will the offices of state attorney general, treasurer and auditor general.  While most of the political oxygen is being consumed by the presidential campaign, Pennsylvania voters will soon wish that more time and thought had been focused on fielding more candidates for their own Legislature.  At a time when the state has no completed budget eight months into the fiscal year, when 52 percent blame it on the Legislature (Franklin & Marshall College poll, January 2016) and when two-thirds say Pennsylvania is going in the wrong direction (same poll), people who want to “throw the bums out” won’t have a chance.  That’s because this year, in Allegheny County at least, where 23 House and three Senate districts are on the primary ballot, there was the potential, if both Democrats and Republicans had races for their party nominations, for 52 different contests. Instead, on April 26, there will be four.
It will get only a little better in November, when eight of the county’s 26 House and Senate districts will have a race between a Democrat and a Republican.

“These two failures have produced a structural budget deficit, which means expenditures will run higher than revenues if state laws and policies remain unchanged. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office predicts annual revenue growth at 3.3 percent and annual expenditure growth at 4.5 percent. If corporate tax revenues had kept pace with the increase in revenues from other sources, the general fund would have had about $2 billion more last fiscal year, which would have eliminated the structural deficit.”
Pennsylvania’s broken government
Three policy failures are at the root of the endless state budget impasse
Post Gazette By Berwood Yost March 6, 2016 12:00 AM
Why don’t we have a state budget? The answer to that question is neither short nor simple.
Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is the direct result of three state policy failures: the failure to find reliable funding sources for state operations, the failure to reduce spending growth that existing laws require and the failure to support reforms that make elections more competitive.  Corporate taxes as a share of general-fund revenues have steadily declined because the amount of money they generate, in inflation-adjusted terms, has remained unchanged since 1988. Revenue based on consumption taxes, such as the state sales tax, has grown by 27 percent, and revenue from other sources, such as the personal income tax and table games, has grown by 87 percent over the same period, but these increases have not been sufficient to cover increases in state spending.  This is policy failure No. 1: No sustainable revenue stream has been found to make up for the stagnation in corporate taxes.  State spending continues to grow mostly because it is driven by long-standing laws. Pensions, Medicaid and debt service are the biggest contributors to state spending growth. While the share of spending on education has remained largely stable, human services and corrections spending also have been trending upward.  This is policy failure No. 2: Mandatory spending has not been slowed.

Editorial: Take back the power of your vote
Delco Times Editorial by York Dispatch POSTED: 03/07/16, 9:36 PM EST
Every decade, using updated U.S. Census information, states redraw their legislative and congressional districts. In nearly 45 of the 50 states, including Pennsylvania, state lawmakers get to decide how this process will evolve.  Those in power draw the lines, creating wacky-shaped districts that can give them a lock on winning future elections.  That means that in 2020, control of the state Legislature will be crucial to political parties.  Not surprisingly, reform bills in the House and Senate are introduced by those who belong to a party (in Pennsylvania, it’s the Democrats) that won’t benefit from political gerrymandering.  Some of the districts across Pennsylvania are so oddly shaped, they have been bestowed with names such as “bug on a windshield” and “oops, I spilled the coffee.” (The 7th Congressional District, stretching from Delaware to Lancaster counties, is one of the most notorious.)

“The Keystone State ranked 40th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of eligible schoolchildren receiving a federally subsidized school breakfast, according to a report released last month from the Food Research and Action Center, based in Washington, D.C.”
Participation improves in Allegheny County for its school breakfast programs
By Kate Giammarise and Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 6, 2016 12:00 AM
Just about everybody knows kids are supposed to get a good breakfast, but it’s not always that easy to get them to eat it, even those who most need to do so.  Pennsylvania fares poorly compared with other states in the number of eligible children receiving a free or reduced-cost school breakfast, but participation in such programs is growing in Allegheny County schools, according to two reports examining breakfast offerings and how to best reach eligible children with a nutritious start to the day.  The Keystone State ranked 40th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of eligible schoolchildren receiving a federally subsidized school breakfast, according to a report released last month from the Food Research and Action Center, based in Washington, D.C.  A healthy breakfast is considered a critical part of a child’s ability to learn. Teachers say the morning meals help students to concentrate and lead to better academic performance and improved behavior in the classroom, according to the No Kid Hungry campaign.  Pennsylvania did improve its standing from last year’s report, moving to 40th from 42nd place.

43% of Lancaster County public school children are 'economically disadvantaged'
Lancaster Online TIM BUCKWALTER | Data Journalist March 6, 2016
Pequea Valley is a small, rural school district that encompasses three townships in eastern Lancaster County.  It’s got lots of farms, a few small villages strung along routes 30 and 340, and a massive new Urban Outfitters fulfillment center near Gap.  It’s also got a rapidly growing number of students living near, or below, the poverty line.  In fact, the portion of Pequea Valley’s enrollment defined as “economically disadvantaged” has exactly doubled in 10 years — from one in four students to one in two.  That means that 800 of the district’s 1,600 students now qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.  Erik Orndorff, the district's superintendent, believes the actual number is probably higher than the official figure. So Pequea Valley began offering free lunches this year to all students, to make sure no one goes hungry.
“We want our kids to eat,” Orndorff said in a phone interview.

Bethlehem schools try to get pulse on parent experience
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 07, 2016 at 8:38 PM, updated March 07, 2016 at 9:20 PM
Bethlehem Area School District parents may soon find comment cards in their children's schools.  It's one idea aimed at boosting parent involvement and student success that's surfaced during a year-long district study of educational equity.  Superintendent Joseph Roy challenged his district in September to eliminate race and family income as predictors of school success by giving all children equitable access to learning and growth opportunities.  Fifty percent of district students are minority and qualify for free and reduced lunch.  "Equality is when you give everybody the same thing but equity is when you give people what they need," said Vivian Robledo-Shorrey, district director of student services and minority affairs.

Soft drinks, hard lobbying
Inquirer by Julia Terruso and Tricia L. Nadolny, STAFF WRITERS. Updated: MARCH 6, 2016 — 5:54 AM EST
Five years ago, when City Council last considered a soda tax, City Hall's corridors swelled with lobbyists bent on stopping it cold.  Representatives of the beverage industry, grocery store owners, and interested unions all but camped out in Council offices, ready to hector members that the levy would kill jobs and unfairly burden the poor.  The beverage industry was liberal in its spending, dropping big bucks on advertisements and outreach.  "In one word? Intense," said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. "I've been through some giant public policy issues - school funding, hotels, paid sick leave. All of them pale in comparison to soda tax."  With Mayor Kenney pursuing his own sugary drinks tax, the war is resuming. The hallways could be more crowded this time, as the stakes are even higher.

Parents put faith in charter school lotteries
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Monday, March 7, 2016, 11:09 p.m.
Aubrey Halliburton has been trying to enroll her son in Environmental Charter School in Regent Square for the past four years.  Two weeks ago, 9-year-old Axler was among the 473 children vying for just 31 spots in the school's annual blind lottery. Once again, he was put on the waiting list.  “It says a lot about the demand by parents that they want this type of education for their kids,” said Halliburton, who lives in Polish Hill.  Thousands of parents like Halliburton are choosing to pursue a charter school education for their children even as debates continue among school boards and state legislators about their quality and funding.

Imagining the SRC retirement dinner: Good bye, and thank you
Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney, Council President Clarke, Senate President Scarnati, House Speaker Turzai, Philadelphia City Council members, honored guests, and current members of the School Reform Commission:
We are gathered tonight to say goodbye to the School Reform Commission, the governing body of the School District of Philadelphia, that has been home to some of the city's wisest and most caring education, community, and political leaders. Many of you may remember the challenges at the turn of this century that gave rise to the SRC. There was no confidence in the District's ability to manage its budget, and half of the students who started 9th grade never made it to graduation. The SRC was created 15 years ago as the alternative to turning the entire district over to a for-profit management company from New York.  The SRC's birth came with a promise of $75 million annually from Harrisburg to help the District handle the legacy costs that the rise of charter schools would create. As the District and legislative leaders agreed at the time, students don't leave in classroom-sized groups of 30, and the District needed to be able to afford the coming growth in public education options for Philadelphia students.

Do you live in the state with the highest tax burden?
Penn Live Slideshow by John Micek March 7, 2016

Scott Wagner swings for reform (if not higher office)
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Saturday, March 5, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Take a baseball bat, a dose of Donald Trump and a healthy disdain for Gov. Tom Wolf and you have Scott Wagner, the independently wealthy Republican businessman who's setting a new tone in the Pennsylvania Senate.  He's brash. He's blunt. And he pulls no punches. Wagner has Trump's populist streak. He might one day tap the same type of voter anger in a governor's race that Trump has in the GOP presidential primaries. Republican insiders say there's little doubt Wagner is running for governor in 2018.  The baseball bat is almost legendary. On his way into the Senate in 2014, Wagner threatened to use one to straighten out Senate GOP leadership. Sans a Louisville Slugger, he helped push out a liberal GOP leader. He's openly called out RINOs (Republicans In Name Only.) He grills witnesses at Senate hearings. He doesn't tolerate non-answers.  To his critics, Wagner is a union-hating, right-wing ideologue and bully. At a Press Club luncheon in June, he didn't deny being part bully and he thinks public-sector unions are a huge part of the problem. He is conservative but not an ideologue. Everything is approached from a business standpoint. Wagner flies around the state in a helicopter he pilots.

Indianapolis Superintendent Enlists Charters as Allies to Improve City’s Schools
Education Week By Arianna Prothero February 24, 2016
Indianapolis -  Lewis Ferebee may seem like an unlikely champion of charter schools. The son of educators whose own career has been built by rising through district schools’ leadership ranks in the South, he has a decidedly traditional educational pedigree. His dissertation at East Carolina University argued that public-school-choice provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act didn’t improve student achievement. And on top of all that, he’s the head of a struggling urban school system that many argue has been hurt even more by a fast-growing charter sector.  But Ferebee shrugs off attempts to categorize him.  Soft-spoken with a Zen-like demeanor and eyes framed by tortoiseshell glasses, the 41-year-old superintendent of the Indianapolis school district has shown he plays aggressively by his own rulebook—one that includes robust partnerships with the city’s charter school leaders.

Ravitch: Help Us Raise Money to Help Our Allies
Diane Ravitch’s Blog March 6, 2016
The Network for Public Education Action Fund exists to help friends of public schools compete for election to state and local school boards, as well as other elected offices.  We can't match the spending of our adversaries, but our numbers are far greater than theirs. If we get our friends and neighbors to vote, if we get every parent and teacher to vote, we would win every  seat.   We have the power to reclaim and rebuild our schools, making them palaces of learning rather than dreary places to take tests.

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: 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:

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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