Friday, April 1, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 1: PA Gridlock? Check out these two maps…

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 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 April 1, 2016:
PA Gridlock?   Check out these two maps…

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. 

Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Rally for Public Education
Save the date: May 2nd at the Capitol

“But some believe that partisan practice (gerrymandering) is now helping take the country over the edge, that extremism and gridlock are byproducts of politically motivated redistricting.”

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map 2013

Iowa Congressional Districts Map 2013

Iowa keeping partisanship off the map
Boston Globe By Tracy Jan GLOBE STAFF  DECEMBER 08, 2013
DES MOINES — In a locked windowless chamber across the street from the Iowa State House, three bureaucrats sequester themselves for 45 days every decade after census data is released. Their top-secret task: the “redistricting” of the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries.  But here, unlike in most other states, every care is taken to ensure the process is not political.  The mapmakers are not allowed to consider previous election results, voter registration, or even the addresses of incumbent members of Congress. No politician — not the governor, the House speaker, or Senate majority leader — is allowed to weigh in, or get a sneak preview.
Instead of drawing lines that favor a single political party, the Iowa mapmakers abide by nonpartisan metrics that all sides agree are fair — a seemingly revolutionary concept in the high-stakes decennial rite of redistricting.  Most other states blatantly allow politics to be infused into the process, leaving the impression — and sometimes the reality — that the election system is being rigged. And it has long, maybe always, been this way. The infamous gerrymander, after all, was coined in 1812 after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a law that allowed a salamander-shaped district that benefited his party.  But some believe that partisan practice is now helping take the country over the edge, that extremism and gridlock are byproducts of politically motivated redistricting.

The Keystone State Education Coalition is an endorsing member of Fair Districts PA; so is the Commonwealth Foundation….
Fair Districts PA
Working to Ensure Fair Districts & Fair Elections for Every PA Voter
Every 10 years, after each national census, the Pennsylvania Legislature redraws the boundaries of our Congressional, state House and state Senate districts. The original goal of redistricting was to ensure voting districts remain equal in population, so that every vote counts. 
When politicians draw the lines to protect incumbents, to favor one political party, or to dilute the votes of particular citizen groups, everyone loses. Legislators find themselves listening more to party leadership than to voters, while voters feel disenfranchised and lose interest in elections.
Because of political manipulation of electoral boundaries, many of Pennsylvania's electoral districts are no longer competitive. In fact, a growing number of PA candidates now run unopposed.

PPG Editorial: New budget battle: Wolf and Republican leaders just never quit
Post Gazette April 1, 2016 12:00 AM By the Editorial Board
Pennsylvania’s budget debacle is the gift that keeps on giving — trouble, that is.
Although Gov. Tom Wolf acquiesced and signed a $30 billion version last week, nine months after the deadline, he vetoed the fiscal code. That’s a separate piece of legislation that routinely accompanies a budget and spells out the details and formulas that must be used in sending the taxpayers’ money to school districts, human service agencies and other operations.  But not in this budget round, when nothing has been normal and everything has become a skirmish in the open warfare between the Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic administration. Both sides are complicit.  The governor is correct that legislators put some features in the fiscal code that went beyond what should have been included. It contains provisions that put the brakes on natural gas regulations that have long been in the works, gives the Legislature too much authority over a Clean Power Plan prepared by the state Department of Environmental Protection and plays some tricks with funding for early childhood education and school construction.  The two sides will have to work out their differences at some point. In the meantime, though, the governor is ready to overstep his own authority in order to distribute basic education funding.

County schools still awaiting state funds
  • Educators happy state budget passed, but unsure when money will be distributed to school districts
  • Districts used reserve funds to make up for lack of state funding
  • Leaders urge educators, residents to keep in touch with local legislators about education needs
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO MARCH 30, 2016
If there’s one thing local school district administrators said they learned from the state budget impasse this school year, it’s that a strong fund balance is important.  That’s what helped districts such as Bellefonte, Penns Valley and State College remain secure financially when state funding didn’t come through in the time they expected it to.  Bald Eagle and Philipsburg-Osceola areas applied for lines of credit, but didn’t execute them after Gov. Tom Wolf agreed in January to release partial funding to schools that put more than $6.8 million in BEA’s budget, and $7.364 million into P-O’s budget.  But while some school district administrators are glad the state budget went into effect Monday after a nearly nine- month impasse, they’re still skeptical about when the remainder of money will come through.

Test scores aren't always an accurate predictor of future success: Don Bell
PennLive Op-Ed  By Don Bell on March 31, 2016 at 1:00 PM
Don Bell, an occasional PennLive Opinion contributor, is the superintendent of schools in the Northern Lebanon School District.
Schools across the Commonwealth recently began the process of enrolling the next class of students with a graduation year of 2029.  While that graduation date may seem to be in the distant future, it is the duty of all school districts to begin to prepare these children for their future graduation today.  At the same time districts will soon embark on the annual ritual of PSSA and Keystone standardized testing. So, what information should school districts utilize to make sure the 2029 graduates will be ready for their future?

Pa. Republicans are still using Tom Corbett's strategy to defund public schools: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor    DAVID L. FAUST, Selinsgrove on March 31, 2016 at 3:00 PM
Former Gov. Tom Corbett is gone, but the Republicans that still control the state legislature are using the same strategy; namely defund the local public schools, especially the poorer rural schools, to make them cut programs and staff, or else borrow money and raise property taxes sky high in the 2016-17 school year to pay back loans and balance their budgets.  Unfortunately, the area state senators and local state representatives, by their lack of action and leadership, approve of their party's leadership strategy to starve our public schools financially and make them fail.

PA Budget and Policy Center Posted by Marc Stier on March 31, 2016 9:10 am
So what difference does a budget actually make? Why should we care that we wound up with the Republican budget for this year (HB 1801), rather than the bi-partisan budget agreed to in December 2015 (SB 1073), let alone the budget Governor Wolf proposed in March 2015?  The difference for the education of our kids is found in this first figure above. The $846 million cut from classrooms in 2011-2012 has never fully been restored. And because more funding was cut and less funding restored in the districts that have a higher poverty than a lower poverty rate, state spending per student in those districts remains substantially behind what it was in 2010-11. We call the difference between what was spent per student in 2010-11 and what is spent today the “funding gap.”

Report: A younger and more diverse Philly still grapples with poverty, struggling schools
Inquirer by Aubrey Whelan, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 1, 2016 — 1:07 AM EDT
Philadelphia in 2016 is younger, more diverse, and in the midst of a historic, decadelong population upswing - a city undergoing dramatic change after decades of decline.
But some of the city's most enduring problems - poverty, low educational attainment, and unemployment - remain frustratingly unsolved, according to the Pew Charitable Trust's State of the City report, released Thursday.  The report described Philadelphia as a city transformed - but one that must use its encouraging growth as a stepping-stone.  "Philadelphia has been transformed by demographic trends that have produced growing populations across much of urban America," the report said. "The question is whether those trends are forming a foundation for real progress on the city's most persistent challenges."

Concentrated poverty grows in Pennsylvania
"Someone who's poor in a poor neighborhood is much more likely to face violent crime, failing schools, poorer health outcomes, and weaker connections to jobs."
Concentrated poverty is growing across the country, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.  Since the recession, more people live in neighborhoods where at least 20 percent of residents fall below the poverty line.   The percentage of poor people living in such neighborhoods has also grown. In the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton area, about 15 percent more poor people live in these neighborhoods since the recession. Around Harrisburg-Carlisle, it's nearly seven percent. In the Philadelphia region, it's about three percent.   Living in a poor neighborhood makes things harder for someone whose income falls below the poverty line, says Brookings fellow Elizabeth Kneebone.

Commentary: District's 'turnaround' plan is bad for students Opinion by Lisa Haver Updated: APRIL 1, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Lisa Haver is a retired teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
IF YOU READ the paper or listen to the news, you probably have some opinions about the issues facing the Philadelphia School District.  You know that Harrisburg's repeated slashing of education spending and its failure to come up with a fair and permanent funding formula continue to take a toll.  Adding to that problem are questionable district priorities, which have resulted in:
  • More than 160 teacher vacancies, leaving at least 5,300 students without a full-time teacher this year.
  • The substitute fill rate plummeting from 65 percent to below 40 percent after the School Reform Commission's vote to outsource jobs.
  • Lack of support staff, including counselors and classroom aides, resulting in an increase in serious incidents in many schools.
  • Fewer than eight certified school librarians in the entire district.
Also, the physical condition of the buildings themselves, along with the dearth of full-time nurses, has resulted in higher student absenteeism.  The school district, though, has a different take on the situation: The problem is that teachers and principals are in the wrong buildings, and that moving them is the solution.  Last month, Superintendent William Hite announced yet another "turnaround plan" for four more neighborhood schools, the main feature of that plan being the forced transfer of principals and teachers.

Two Philly charters singled out for excessive special-ed suspension rates in 2011-12
The Civil Rights Project at UCLA has flagged two Philadelphia charter schools for suspending special-education students disproportionately and at especially high rates.  Based on 2011-12 federally reported data, the Civil Rights Project found that Philadelphia Electrical and Technical Charter High School and Esperanza Academy Charter High School were among 10 charters nationally with such a disparity.  Philadelphia Electrical and Technical suspended students with disabilities about 25 percent more of the time than it did those without.  In fact, special-ed students were the only ones that the charter suspended that year.  Esperanza Academy Charter High School also was flagged for suspending special-needs students 19 percentage points more than it did the rest of its student population.

Thackston school expects to repay Wagner soon
York Daily Record by  Angie Masonamason@ydr.com7:45 p.m. EDT March 31, 2016
Helen Thackston Charter School expects to repay its loan from state Sen. Scott Wagner now that the York school has received funds from the state.  Danyiell Newman, the charter school's board president, said that the school recently received about $1.9 million in overdue tuition payments.  Most of the school's students come from York City School District, but instead of receiving payments from the district, the charter school has instead asked that they come from the state. The state then deducts the tuition from York City's subsidy.  Newman said the school borrowed a total of nearly $1.2 million from Wagner to keep operations moving while the state budget impasse stretched on. Almost $500,000 has already been repaid.

Pa. property tax elimination not feasible (letter)
York Daily Record Letter by 9:44 a.m. EDT March 31, 2016
By Julius C. Green, CPA, JD, President, Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs
Accountants: Eliminating “all” Pa. school property taxes is not even remotely possible.
Once again, there are rumblings in Harrisburg about pushing legislation some lawmakers and their allies say will eliminate “all” school property taxes. Nobody should believe that this is even remotely possible. Right now, there is no feasible and economically prudent proposal on the table that makes up for the nearly $12 billion that comes from local property taxes.
The Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs, of which I am the current president, adamantly opposes the short-sighted proposal for several reasons.

Universal plans to hire 75 new teachers
The charter operator will likely compete for candidates with the School District, which has boosted recruiting efforts.
The notebook by Andre Dienner March 31, 2016 — 2:52pm
The Philadelphia School District is not alone in putting up a major push in teacher recruitment. Universal Education Companies, a charter operator of eight schools in Philadelphia, is seeking to hire 75 new teachers for the 2016-17 school year, part of an effort to reduce class sizes and free up time for more professional development opportunities for staff.  Penny Nixon, superintendent at Universal, said the goal is a 1 to 25 teacher-to-student ratio, plus setting the stage for “a rethinking of teaching and learning practices.” She said that Universal is stressing “student-centered” instruction that requires a shift from practices that have historically dominated public school instruction. 

“Karen Lewis, president of the 27,000-member Chicago Teachers Union, said she hopes the disruption puts pressure on Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), whose standoff with the Democratic legislature has left the state without a budget for nine months, squeezing public schools and universities and low-income students who depend on state-funded scholarships.”
Chicago teachers to strike Friday, shutting down nation’s third-largest school system
Washington Post By Kari Lydersen and Emma Brown April 1 at 7:19 AM  
CHICAGO — Thousands of Chicago teachers are expected to walk off the job Friday, a one-day strike that union leaders describe as an effort to pressure state lawmakers to address the dire financial outlook of the city’s public schools and colleges.  The move by the Chicago Teachers Union comes amid stalled contract negotiations and means that the city’s nearly 400,000 students will miss class, throwing their families’ daily routines into disarray. The strike also is likely to snarl traffic for Chicago commuters thanks to a downtown rally that is expected to draw thousands of teachers and their allies, including fast-food workers, university students and professors and community groups. 

White teachers and black teachers have different expectations for black students
Washington Post By Emma Brown March 31 at 7:00 AM  
Many in the education world talk about the power of expectations, expressing the belief that if adults in a school expect students to succeed, then students will rise to that expectation, and if adults expect failure — well, that, too, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Now a new study suggests that race plays a big role in influencing how teachers see their students’ potential for academic success, raising questions about whether teachers’ biases could be holding back black students and contributing to the nation’s yawning achievement gap.  When a white (or other non-black) teacher and a black teacher evaluate the same black student, the study found, the white teacher is 30 percent less likely to believe that the student will graduate from a four-year college — and 40 percent less likely to believe the student will graduate from high school.
The discrepancy was even greater for black male students.

Mayor de Blasio Meets With Parents Opposed to State Testing
New York Times By KATE TAYLOR MARCH 31, 2016
It has been a sore point for the leaders of New York City’s opt-out movement that Mayor Bill de Blasio, who promised to be an advocate for public-school parents, has not fully embraced their protest against state tests.  They got the chance on Wednesday to express their concerns to the mayor directly, when a half-dozen parents and a principal who has criticized the tests met with Mr. de Blasio at City Hall.  The meeting took place a few hours after opt-out advocates held a news conference on the steps of City Hall, where they accused the city of failing to inform low-income parents of their right to refuse to have their children sit for the tests.  Ursulina Ramirez, the chief of staff to the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said in a statement that the mayor believed the tests were important but that he met with the parents because he wanted to hear their perspective.

Electing PSBA Officers – Applications Due by April 30th
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee during the month of April, an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than two and no more than four letters of recommendation, some or all of which preferably should be from school districts in different PSBA regions as well as from community groups and other sources that can provide a description of the candidate’s involvement with and effectiveness in leadership positions. PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.

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)
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

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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