Wednesday, March 9, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 9: Advocates urge lawmakers to fix Pa.’s school funding crisis

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 9, 2016:
Advocates urge lawmakers to fix Pa.’s school funding crisis


Supporters of education funding rally in Harrisburg
CBS 21 BY LARA GREENBERG TUESDAY, MARCH 8TH 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The ongoing budget battle continues as those supporting education funding rallied at the Capitol Tuesday, hoping to push lawmakers to make education and passing the budget a top priority.  For five years, Susan Spicka has been carrying a sign that says "All the Places You Won't Go Because of the PA Budget."  "Our children need lawmakers to take actions because we need them to fund our schools now," Spicka, a mom from Shippensburg, said.  She's been fighting the cuts being made at her 11-year-old and 13-year-old children's schools in Shippensburg.  "This year, we're talking about things like music and sports and libraries closing," Spicka said.  She was one of dozens rallying at the Capitol for lawmakers to invest $600 million in education over the next two years for her kids and millions of others.

“Advocates at the rally say that schools have already borrowed more than $1 billion since the budget impasse, just to stay in operation. They say the interest from those loans will cost districts over $40 million.”
‘There’s no money and it is hurting our students,’ Pennsylvania lobbyists call for new school funding system
Fox43 POSTED 5:03 PM, MARCH 8, 2016, BY TTALACKA, UPDATED AT 06:02PM, MARCH 8, 2016
Harrisburg, Pa. - State educators, parents and local leaders are calling for a new funding system for schools in Pennsylvania. They all gathered in the state capitol today, calling for a change to what they say is unfair funding to schools. Overcrowded classrooms, cuts in programs and a general lack of funding were just some of the concerns voiced by speakers today. They added that the budget impasse has only made the problem worse, and are calling on state legislators to pass a budget immediately.  "There's no money and it is hurting our students," said Kia Hinton of Action United. "It is hurting our communities and it's not fair. We're doing our job and we need the legislators here to do theirs."

“The Campaign's more than 50 education advocacy organizations agree that in order to provide a strong foundation for the sustainable, predictable and long-term investment that is needed in public schools, lawmakers must adopt the fair funding formula recommended by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC), and make a significant new investment of $600 million over this budget year and the next.”
Educators, advocates urge lawmakers to fix Pennsylvania's school funding crisis
Groups convene in Capitol as Appropriations hearings are held on PA Department of Education
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Press Release March 8, 2016
HARRISBURG (March 8, 2015) – During a press conference today to increase support for fair funding for all of Pennsylvania's public school students, educators and advocates supporting the Campaign for Fair Education Funding urged lawmakers to fix Pennsylvania's school funding crisis. Parents, superintendents and faith-based leaders shared stories about the toll the last six years of underfunding education has taken on students and communities, including: Dr. Amy Burch, Superintendent, Brentwood Borough School District; Dr. Bart Rocco, Superintendent, Elizabeth Forward School District; Dr. Nancy Hines, Superintendent, Penn Hills School District; Susan Spicka, parent, Shippensburg Area School District; and the Rev. Eric McIntosh, St. James Episcopal Church, Penn Hills. They said extracurricular programs have been lost, classroom sizes have ballooned, school libraries have shuttered, and the number of teachers and support staff have been greatly reduced, resulting in lost opportunities for students that they will never get back.

VIDEO: Advocates urge lawmakers to fix Pa.’s school funding crisis
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Tuesday, March 8, 2016 Video Runtime 5:14
During a Tuesday afternoon press conference to increase support for fair funding for all of Pennsylvania's public school students, educators and advocates supporting the Campaign for Fair Education Funding urged lawmakers to fix Pennsylvania's school funding crisis. 

Education Secretary Pedro Rivera put through his paces at legislative budget hearings
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 08, 2016 at 6:41 PM, updated March 08, 2016 at 10:10 PM
State Education Secretary Pedro Rivera may have left the state Capitol on Tuesday feeling as drained as a student after a grueling day at school.   He sat before the House and Senate appropriations hearing for a duration that when combined could have counted as a full school day – and it came complete with scoldings and a quiz.  The conversations touched on a myriad of topics where unanimous support for preschool was voiced along with mixed feelings about the efficacy of charter schools and questions about where the money was coming from to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars in increases Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing for 2016-17.  The following are some highlights from the Senate budget hearing:

"What we're seeing is a catastrophic failure of government," said David Baugh, Centennial's superintendent”
Schools feeling pain over state's budget 'failure'
Bucks County Courier Times By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 5:30 am
The Centennial School District began cutting spending in November when the state budget was only five months late.  In January, it placed a "freeze" on purchases, paying only utilities and salaries. New Hope-Solebury and the Souderton Area School District have also enacted a budget freeze.  Bristol Borough schools are in an even more precarious position. The district needs to borrow money to pay its bills, according to Christopher McHugh, the district's business manager, because the summer's property tax infusion is too far off.  "What we're seeing is a catastrophic failure of government," said David Baugh, Centennial's superintendent.  While school districts are trying to prepare spending plans for 2016-17, the state has yet to finalize its budget for 2015-16, leaving districts hanging for nine months.

Blogger note:  My vote was for:
“Pennsylvania; We Don’t Need No Stinking Budget”
A new Pennsylvania tourism slogan? It's about that time
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 08, 2016 at 5:33 PM, updated March 08, 2016 at 10:11 PM
We're going to bet Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers never really thought about how to make Pennsylvania stick in the common man's mind as a travel destination.  But at the rate Pennsylvania's going in the 21st Century, those guys from Independence Hall may soon start demanding royalties.  The state Tourism Office unveiled its new marketing slogan for state tourism promotion Tuesday, and it is - drum roll please: "Pennsylvania. Pursue YourHappiness."
The accompanying logo is designed, officials said, to present a fresh look for Pennsylvania, with the hint of a smile.

GOP legislators say Dem guv’s to blame for budget impasse
By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 03/08/16, 10:42 PM EST
UPPER DARBY >> State Sen. Thomas McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield, and state Rep. Jamie Santora, R-163 of Upper Darby, decried the inavailability of basic education funding in the midst of a months’ long budget standoff. McGarrigle called for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, to be investigated by the state Auditor General’s office.  “We have great concerns about this current situation,” Santora said. “The money is sitting in Harrisburg. It’s sitting there ready to be distributed ... We’re at a point now where we are starting to hear from schools ... that come July for Upper Darby, they are in a crisis mode, but this is crisis that can be averted very quickly.”  Upper Darby Superintendent Richard S. Dunlap Jr. called the situation is serious.  “We may be forced to shut down our school district, borrow $25 to $30 million to stay afloat, ruin our credit rating and greatly slow down our efforts in raising student achievement in light of the budget impasse,” he said. “This threat is very real and is being faced by every school district in the commonwealth.”  Santora said Haverford Township School District faced a $1.8 million shortfall and William Penn School District was in need of $11.5 million to continue operations.  Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan gave a recap of the situation from the governor’s perspective.

Blogger comment: While we’re at it, isn’t it long past time for the Auditor General to review the General Assembly’s lack of a budget?
Auditor general's report prompts Sen. Pat Stefano legislation on school board transparency
Beaver County Times Online By J.D. Prose jprose@calkins.com March 8, 2016
In the wake of a scathing state auditor general’s report on the Connellsville Area School District, a Fayette County state senator is proposing legislation that would require school boards to post online any employment offers to superintendents and principals at least two weeks before voting on them.  “This legislation will give taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees and provide their feedback, concerns or support to their elected officials,” state Sen. Pat Stefano said in a statement Tuesday. “In a time of tight budgets, and taxpayer concern over rising property taxes, it’s imperative that the hiring process be as open as possible.”  Stefano, R-32, Bullskin Township, was responding to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s report last week that lambasted Connellsville Area for its financial mismanagement and the hiring of multiple superintendents over the last few year, including Superintendent Phil Martell, who was business manager for just five months before he was named the acting superintendent in November and then named superintendent on Jan. 27.

Here's why not all education $$ are created equal: Ashley DeMauro
PennLive Op-Ed  By Ashley DeMauro on March 08, 2016 at 11:00 AM
As the House and Senate Appropriation committees meet this Tuesday to take up the state Education Department's 2016-17 budget request, it's time to look at the widespread belief that Pennsylvania's 500 school districts are woefully underfunded.  Some are. But some are not.  According to a report released last year by the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania ranks 10th in the nation in per-pupil spending, beating out 40 states with an average $13,864 per elementary-secondary student.  There are states on that list spending more than Pennsylvania yet have lower graduation rates, and there are states that spend less but do better than Pennsylvania.   If more money leads to better schools, then why don't graduation rates match up to spending? And why aren't Pennsylvania schools at the top nationwide?  Maybe it comes down to how we go about spending the dollars, not to how much we are spending.

Even MORE evidence that money actually matters to student achievement!
Center for Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis by Dr. Ed Fuller FEBRUARY 22, 2016
Despite repeated claims that “money does not matter”, solid research evidence continues to mount that money, in fact, does matter to student outcomes.  Yet, many state legislatures have failed to return funding amounts to pre-recession levels and most certainly have not invested in education systems to meet the higher expectations for student outcomes adopted by most states in the past few years.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is one of these states. In fact, report after report continues to find that Pennsylvania has one of the least equitable school finance “systems” in the country (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/pa-schools-are-the-nations-most-inequitable-the-new-governor-wants-to-fix-that/2015/04/22/3d2f4e3e-e441-11e4-81ea-0649268f729e_story.html) and does not have a particularly adequate system either. Indeed, the governor and legislature still cannot agree on last year’s budget that called for increases in the fiscal investments in the state’s K-12 education system.

Fair Districts PA Coalition Established to Reform Redistricting
By Fair Districts PA website March 7, 2016
HARRISBURG --- Today, organizations from across the state announced the formation of a new coalition called Fair Districts PA.  The coalition's purpose is to advocate for reform of Pennsylvania’s redistricting system to make the process of drawing electoral districts impartial, transparent and accountable.  Congressional and state legislative electoral maps are redrawn every 10 years following the national census.  In Pennsylvania, the process of drawing those maps is controlled almost entirely by state legislators, a conflict of interest that puts politicians in charge and takes away the rights of voters.  Some states - most notably Arizona and California - have reformed the process by establishing impartial citizen commissions and clear standards for how districts should be drawn. The results have shown increased voter engagement and more competitive elections.  Fair District PA’s priorities include:
·         Assigning the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners (nor members of their immediate families) may be members of the government or political party officials
·         Ensuring the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation
·         Addressing other causes of districting unfairness

Mayor's pre-K plan gets a $15 million boost
The grant from the William Penn Foundation will help create 1,500 new, high-quality pre-K slots by 2021.
WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry  March 8, 2016
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's plan to provide free preschool to all city 3- and 4-year-olds lacking access to quality options is getting a major philanthropic boost.  At an event Tuesday afternoon, The William Penn Foundation announced a $15 million five-year capital grant that will allow high-quality pre-kindergarten providers to expand physical capacity – paving the way for creation of at least 1,500 new seats in the city by 2021.  That will give tens of thousands of children better opportunities over time and benefit the region economically, said board chairwoman Janet Haas.  "Clearly the city needs all its citizens to be functioning at their very best potential, and early childhood education is an important ingredient in that," she said in a telephone interview.  A recent study of the Philadelphia area found that providers have little fiscal incentive to provide top-tier early childhood education.  This grant aims to combat that phenomenon by rewarding operators with a high-quality track record. Funds will be available only to pre-K operators with a 3 or 4 rating on the state's Keystone Stars metric.

Kenney's pre-K plan gets $15 million boost
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer. Updated: MARCH 8, 2016 — 5:35 AM EST
The William Penn Foundation will commit a one-time, $15 million grant to improve and expand quality pre-K facilities in Philadelphia.  The announcement marks the first major philanthropic investment in pre-K since Mayor Kenney announced his goal to make such care accessible to all city 3- and 4-year-olds.  "This means an organization like William Penn is confident that this is the right initiative and we're the right people to do it," Kenney said.  The grant is projected to create space for 1,500 preschoolers in quality centers by 2021. Kenney's goal is 10,000 new quality seats in Philadelphia over the next five years.  "The research is really clear that investing in early childhood education is one of the most productive investments you can make," said Laura Sparks, executive director at the foundation.  The grant money will go into the Fund for Quality, a local initiative that provides financial and planning assistance to high-quality early childhood centers citywide.  William Penn gave $4.6 million to the fund when it was created in 2014.

Panel suggests range of new fees for New Hope-Solebury students
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Monday, March 7, 2016 10:00 pm
Every student in the New Hope-Solebury School District could be charged an annual fee, and high school students could be charged for parking under revenue-generating proposals suggested by a new board.
In addition, the number of clubs and activities could shrink if their costs are deemed prohibitive.
These were among suggestions considered Monday night by the Budget Gap Closure Subcommittee, which voted Monday night to draft a policy for the Finance Committee, which could ultimately forward a plan to the school board for consideration.  The subcommittee was developed to help the district overcome a $4.1 million budget deficit for 2016-17. A spending freeze and retirement incentive plan have helped reduce the red ink to $1.8 million. But it includes a 4.8 percent tax increase, twice the Act 1 index.  If a 4.8 percent tax increase is part of the final budget in June, it would mean an average tax increase of $244.51, which would increase the tax bill for a district resident with a home assessed at the district average of $56,829 to $5,338.51.


A New Era for the Battle Over Teacher Evaluations
The Obama administration encouraged more robust ways of assessing which educators were doing a good job. Will its legacy last?
The Atlantic by THOMAS TOCH  MAR 8, 2016
The Obama administration has worked hard to strengthen public-school teaching—a $400 billion-plus workforce, and perhaps the single strongest lever in schools for raising student achievement. But just after Thanksgiving, the president signed a major new education law that largely abandoned the cornerstone of his teacher agenda: pressing states and school districts to take more seriously the task of identifying who in the profession was doing a good job, and who wasn't.  Two powerful forces at opposite ends of the political spectrum had attacked the president’s strategy—teacher unions wanting to end the new scrutiny of their members and Tea Party members targeting the Obama plan as part of a larger anti-Washington campaign. As a result, the new Every Student Succeeds Act terminates the Obama administration’s incentives for states and school districts to introduce tougher teacher-evaluation systems. And the law effectively bans the U.S. Secretary of Education from promoting teacher-performance measurements in the future.

Frustrated GOP lawmakers weigh move to impeach top Kansas judges
Lawrence Journal World By John Hanna, Associated Press March 7, 2016, 2:00 p.m. Updated March 7, 2016, 2:37 p.m.
TOPEKA — Republican lawmakers in Kansas, weary of conflicts with a judiciary that has been pushing for more school spending, are beginning to act on a measure to expand the legal grounds for impeaching judges.  The move is part of an intensified effort in red states to reshape courts still dominated by moderate judges from earlier administrations.  A committee in the GOP-controlled Senate plans to vote Tuesday on a bill that would make "attempting to usurp the power" of the Legislature or the executive branch grounds for impeachment.  Impeachment has "been a little-used tool" to challenge judges who strike down new legislation, said Republican Sen. Dennis Pyle, a sponsor of the measure. "Maybe it needs to be oiled up a little bit or sharpened a little bit."  The proposal has considerable support in a Legislature in which Republicans outnumber Democrats more than 3 to 1. Nearly half the Senate's members have signed on as sponsors. It's unclear whether its novelty could complicate passage.  The serious consideration of the measure, though, signals the exceedingly bitter political climate in the state.

More than 1,000 Boston students march to protest cuts
Boston Globe By Jeremy C. Fox GLOBE STAFF  MARCH 07, 2016
More than 1,000 Boston public school students walked out of classes Monday morning and marched though downtown to protest proposed budget cuts, holding signs with such messages as, “What about our future?”  The students first gathered on Boston Common before crossing Beacon Street to the State House and then marching past City Hall to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where they used bullhorns to decry anticipated program cuts and the expected loss of teaching positions.

Donald Trump's Education Plan: Several Experts Fearful, Curious ... and Baffled
Education Week Politics K-12 By Andrew Ujifusa on March 7, 2016 7:38 AM
Donald Trump's thoughts about education policy are mostly a black box. We know he doesn't like the Common Core State Standards. And he thinks American students produce lousy test scores. But the real estate developer hasn't weighed in with a comprehensive plan for public schools, or talked in much detail about education, since becoming a contender for the Republican presidential nomination.  So when education policy mavens and advocates contemplate a Donald Trump administration and its impact on K-12, what do they see? In many cases, they're confused or uncertain about what a Trump-led U.S. Department of Education would do, or not do, if it even survives. But in some cases they have clear concerns, or other thoughts about how he might significantly alter what's been happening with federal education policy.   (The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment about his education policy platform.)  Below, you can read some of their answers to questions that touch on the federal government's broader role in public schools. 

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 2 - 8, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 8, 2016 - 1:35pm 
With the K-12 standardized exam season starting up across the nation, the grassroots assessment reform movement is ratcheting up outreach to both local education stakeholders and policy-makers at the state and federal levels.  The result is an increase in public school students opting out of tests as well as more cutbacks in testing volume and consequences.

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.

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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