Sunday, March 13, 2016

PA Ed Policy Weekend Roundup March 13: Pennsylvania’s shame: Public schools shouldn’t have to sue to stay open

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 13, 2016:
Pennsylvania’s shame: Public schools shouldn’t have to sue to stay open

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

Schools to join Spring-Ford in march on Harrisburg Monday, March 14
Capitol Rotunda 11 am

“Although many state departments were fully funded, school districts have had to borrow a collective $1 billion and have been given little more than lip service in response to their concerns over how to pay their employees, keep the utilities on in their buildings and somehow provide state-mandated educational services to their children. Even the prospect of school districts closing their doors has not caused any movement in this political battle.”
PPG Editorial: Pennsylvania’s shame: Public schools shouldn’t have to sue to stay open
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board March 13, 2016 12:00 AM
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which represents the elected members of public districts, went back to Commonwealth Court in frustration on Wednesday. No wonder.
The state’s school boards have been unable to plan, and in many cases unable to pay their bills on time, because of the standoff between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. In January, the PSBA filed a lawsuit seeking the release of federal and state funds that districts are owed plus compensation for the cost of borrowing that many have undertaken in order to stay open.  They did get six months’ worth of funding, which covered them through December, but now they’re seeking special relief for the future: They want the state to send them the sums they were due on Feb. 25 and to keep making payments on a regular basis so they get at least as much as they received in the 2014-15 school year.

Worsening budget mess awaiting lawmakers
Citizens Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT Published: March 13, 2016
HARRISBURG — Lawmakers return to session Monday to face the fiscal problems they left behind a month ago before the budget hearings started. Those problems have only grown more serious during their absence from Harrisburg.  Standard & Poor’s Rating Services recently warned that Pennsylvania’s AA- credit rating could be downgraded by month’s end if the budget impasse that’s left the state with a built-in revenue deficit and a partial $23 billion budget shaped by Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto isn’t resolved.  Then the Pennsylvania School Boards Association filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court seeking immediate release of a missing Feb. 23 state subsidy payment for school districts. Wolf provided only a half year of subsidy payments to schools in the partial budget that he signed. PSBA has an underlying lawsuit seeking compensation for schools for $1 billion in total borrowing since last July.

Welcome to Pennsylvania. Budget optional. | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff  on March 13, 2016 at 6:00 AM
No one in Harrisburg has found a way to resolve the state's eight-month budget standoff, but at least the state has a new tourism catchphrase: "Pennsylvania. Pursue your happiness." And a boost in the minimum wage for state workers, compliments of Gov. Tom Wolf.  Given the sense of gridlock and the public's weariness over recurring crises, this breakdown over finances is looking like the new normal. Or, as the tourism sloganeers might have phrased it, "Who needs a budget to be happy?"  Well, the bills are coming due. Loans have to be repaid. And if you thought last year's slippage from one budget year to the next  was just a temporary political disagreement, this year's budget deadline promises layoffs, early closure of school in some districts, and probably denial of services.  A government shutdown seems inevitable if lawmakers and Wolf can't resolve the current-year budget dispute and find agreement for 2016-17.
It's time for both sides to split their differences and find a way out — to get through this budget year and find a stabilization route to the next few years.

Upper Darby School District addresses budget impasse, possibility of closure this summer
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 03/12/16, 10:23 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
With no budget from the state, the Upper Darby School District is beginning to weigh options on what to do come July 1 if a full budget is not adopted by lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf.
District Superintendent Rick Dunlap Jr. said the district may be forced to shut down in the summer without all of the proper funds from the state. It could borrow $25-$30 million dollars to stay open, but that would ruin the district’s credit rating and slow down its efforts to raise student achievement.  He said this wasn’t to be used as a scare tactic to the community, but a reality.  “This threat is very real and is being faced by every school district in the commonwealth,” he said.  If the district borrows in upward of $30 million to stay open, it will be secured by the 2016-17 FY tax collections. Financing would meet the district’s contractual payroll requirements and commitments, meet medical insurance costs and defer default on governmental bond obligations.

Budget Impasse Stories – Is your district on this list?
PSBA website March 11, 2016
As the budget impasse lingers on, more districts are coming forward with their stories of impact on them and their students. From a distance, the impact is hard to see, but get on the ground and in the schools and you start to understand that the lack of state funding is real and impacts real people. PSBA is gathering these stories and will be sharing them weekly with the media. Depending on their individual financial situations, schools are reaching into reserves, taking out loans, adjusting budgets, cutting programs and potentially deciding what bills can be postponed. All of this is being done while still providing the highest quality of education for Pennsylvania’s most important asset – its students. We are asking legislators and the governor to find a compromise and pass a state budget.

Here's how we can bridge the #PaBudget divide: Madeleine Dean
PennLive Op-Ed  By Madeleine Dean  on March 11, 2016 at 1:00 PM, updated March 12, 2016 at 8:29 AM
State Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat, represents the Montgomery County-based 153rd House District.
It took only one or two of the presidential debates to see that the political divide in the United States is becoming a chasm.   Here in Pennsylvania, we are seeing a similar political divide. The current budget stalemate—the longest in the Commonwealth's history—is evidence of this disunity, and the rhetoric around the next budget is becoming increasingly antagonistic. 
This ideological digging-in of heels from leadership on both sides has brought us to this impasse and, I fear, jeopardizes this Commonwealth's prosperity.   Last December, we were moments away from a budget that was agreed-to by the majority of rank-and-file legislators; both sides had made concessions; it was not perfect. But it was responsible and it was a compromise.  At the last moment, House Republican Leadership decided no, cancelled the vote, and sent an older, lesser, unbalanced budget bill to Governor.  It was Newton who taught us: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."   A serious, nasty, and debilitating budget deadlock that boils over into a second calendar year should be the catalyst for fundamental reforms of the state budget process.  The inaction and failure to pass adequate funding for last year requires an equally aggressive and ambitious budget proposal for the coming year.

“As stated in the resolution, PENNCREST School District “declares it supports the plaintiffs in the William Penn School District lawsuit, as they seek to enforce Pennsylvania’s constitutional guarantee of ‘a thorough and efficient system of public education,’ that it requests the governor and General Assembly withdraw their opposition to independent judicial review of their compliance with the Constitution, and urges the General Assembly to provide school districts, in a timely manner, with adequate revenues in accordance with a fair and predictable formula calculated to enable students across the commonwealth to have the resources necessary to become productive citizens and meet the academic standards set by the commonwealth.”
PENNCREST leaders approve resolution showing support for changes to way state's schools are funded
By Lorri Drumm Meadville Tribune March 11, 2016
TOWNVILLE — PENNCREST School Board members approved a two-page resolution showing support for changes to the way schools in Pennsylvania are funded.  The resolution was approved by a 6-3 vote at Thursday’s meeting. The board action shows support for school districts serving as plaintiffs in a school funding lawsuit.  Voting yes to the resolution were President Jason Bakus, Vice President Chris Kondzielski, and board members Gerry Deane, Mark Gerow, Kyle Wensel and Laura Wright. Voting no were board members Luigi DeFrancesco, Bill Mantzell and Fred McDermott.

“To keep PSERS solvent and involved in hundreds of investments, Pennsylvania taxpayers pay a surcharge of 30 cents a year on every dollar that is paid school employees. The cost is split between state taxpayers and local school district property-tax payers. Rapid increases in the subsidy for retired school employees has squeezed school budgets across the commonwealth.”
Pennsylvania school pension system lost money in 2015
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano  @PhillyJoeD Updated: MARCH 12, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
The $52-billion-asset Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System lost money last year, trailing the performance of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state worker pension investment returns for 2015, according to a report the system released Friday.  PSERS reported losing 1.8 percent for the 12 months ended Dec. 31. SERS, the Pennsylvania state workers' fund, last month reported a gain of 0.5 percent for 2015.NJDI, the New Jersey Division of Investment, reported a gain of 0.6 percent.  All three trailed far behind the 7 percent to 8 percent annual fund targets as stock and commodity values plunged.  PSERS's extra losses reflected its unusually large bets on commodity fund managers. The system posted a 33 percent loss for funds invested in "Master Limited Partnerships" (typically oil and gas investments), an 18 percent loss for commodities investments, and an 8 percent loss in "risk parity" investments, which can look a lot like hedge fund strategies.

Letter: With Pa. budget stalemate, volunteers fill a void
Inquirer Letter by Catherine Conahan Updated: MARCH 13, 2016 — 1:08 AM EST
During this time of budget battles over public school funding, a civic group has circumvented politics and reopened libraries in West Philadelphia public schools by staffing them with volunteers when funds were not available to hire librarians.  I have been volunteering with the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC) for six months and have seen the difference that books can make in the lives of children in underserved communities. "Reading Buddies," who work with children who are struggling to read, and library volunteers develop literacy and critical-thinking skills, encourage responsibility in caring for books, and reinforce the enjoyment of reading.  Since our state legislators can't put politics aside to invest in the lives of children, we need to set an example by donating to or volunteering with organizations that do. Visit or contact board member Heather Farber at to see how you can help.
|Catherine Conahan, Havertown,

Manheim Township school board member wants to pull public meeting notices from LNP
The Manheim Township school board, which vowed earlier this year to be more transparent in dealing with the public, is planning to stop publishing advance notice of its board meetings and agendas in LNP.  The move follows the newspaper’s extensive reporting on the embattled board’s use of closed-door meetings leading up to the abrupt resignation of the district’s superintendent, and its acknowledgment that it violated the state Sunshine Act.  School board member Mark Anderson, who is proposing to pull the district’s legally required public notices out of LNP, said Thursday night he wants to switch to a newspaper that “better represents the community.”
He did not say where the district would publish the notifications. Under state law and the Pennsylvania school code, the board is required to advertise its meetings in newspapers of general circulation.  The law requires advertisements be placed in newspapers that are “sold at fixed prices” to subscribers and readers. Anderson did not return phone calls Friday. Acting Superintendent Martin Hudacs said he believed Anderson’s intention was to identify and publish the notices in “the paper with the highest circulation rate in our area.”  LNP has the largest paid circulation and broadest distribution of any paid newspaper based in Lancaster County. It is also the only local newspaper covering Lancaster County that publishes seven days a week.

York City reviews charter schools
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com12:54 p.m. EST March 12, 2016
Three charter schools in York City are considered in good standing, and one is being monitored, a district official told the school board last week.  Lulu Thomas, the district’s director of pupil services, told the board that Lincoln Charter School, Crispus Attucks Charter School, and York Academy Regional Charter School are all in good standing.  York Academy Regional Charter School’s renewal request is being reviewed, she said. An annual review was done in October, the school’s renewal application was reviewed and the district solicitor has been looking at proposed renewal paperwork, Thomas said.

Statewide decrease in PSSA scores spurs extra training for teachers
  • Teachers’ training to help students better understand Text Dependent Analysis
  • Curriculum that aligns with tests already instilled at some schools
  • Educators think more training for new parts of test is step forward in helping students succeed
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO March 12, 2016
Area teachers are on the forefront of finding enhanced ways to teach — and help students succeed — on the PSSAs in April.A portion of the test will make up for about a fifth of the score for the first time this year.  Teachers are undergoing training on ways to help students get a better understanding of the section called Text Dependent Analysis — a literacy aspect that encourages students to answer questions with more evidence and interpretation of a passage.  The extra training comes on the heels of a commonwealthwide decrease in test scores reported last year.
And local administrators said it’s only a matter of time for a turnaround in state standardized test scores that could come with a more transparent state Department of Education, and a realistic approach to raising the bar.   This year’s Pennsylvania System of School Assessments might be the turning point.

Blogger note: we will be running articles highlighting past/present school directors and educators who are running for legislative offices.  Gordon Marburger is a member of the Mars Area School District board.
Mars Area School Board member Marburger taking 2nd shot at incumbent state Rep. Metcalfe
Trib Live BY MELISSA DANIELS  | Saturday, March 12, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
BUTLER — Joan Chew still lives in the house she grew up in on Center Avenue, on a corner lot with a six-foot white lattice fence around the yard, just a few blocks from the county offices where she worked for 16 years as county treasurer and two as county commissioner.  At 86, Chew remains rooted in Republican politics, the dominant brand in Butler County. She thinks this could be the year someone unseats incumbent Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Cranberry firebrand whose far-right politics have earned him the loyalty of Pennsylvania's most conservative partisans and the enmity of almost everyone else.  Metcalfe faces a primary rematch from Gordon Marburger, a fourth-generation farmer and school bus driver whose 2014 write-in campaign came within 566 votes of booting Metcalfe from Harrisburg.  “I think with Gordon on the ballot, Daryl's got a problem,” Chew said. “It's a whole different ballgame.”  Marburger, whose tenure as a school board member and community college trustee have earned him a reputation as a public servant, was removed from the ballot after failing to file an ethics form, but his write-in campaign squeezed Metcalfe into the tightest margin of victory in his career.

Donald Trump thinks Ben Carson is an education expert. Oy vey.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss March 11  
Trump: Carson is ‘right-on’ on education
You thought Ben Carson was an expert in neurosurgery, because he is, well, a world-renowned neurosurgeon. But, it turns out, he is also an education expert, or so says Donald Trump, who just welcomed Carson’s endorsement for the Republican presidential nomination and declared that Carson was going to help him with education issues because he knows so much about them.
At a news conference on Friday, Trump said that he spent some time talking with Carson and was pleasantly surprised to learn how much he knows about education.  “I was most impressed with his views on education. It’s a strength. It’s a tremendous strength,” he said. So Carson is “going to be involved with us,” particularly on health and education.  [Ben Carson’s endorsement: He says there are ‘two different’ Trumps, one of them more ‘cerebral’  In fact, Carson has some, well, interesting ideas about education and about history.

Pi Day · Celebrate Mathematics on March 14th
Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.  Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

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.

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

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

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

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) - Add to Calendar
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103 - View Map

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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