Monday, April 11, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11: Winners and losers? If PA were providing adequate funding to school districts we would not be pitting districts and kids against each other.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11, 2016:
Winners and losers? If PA were providing adequate funding to school districts we would not be pitting districts and kids against each other.

Blogger Commentary:
Per-pupil spending in Pennsylvania’s poorest districts is 33% less than in its wealthiest districts.  If Pennsylvania were providing adequate funding to school districts now, we would not be pitting districts and kids against each other.  While the Basic Education Funding Commission did great work, without significant sustained new investment in schools children in kindergarten now will have graduated before the new funding formula addresses the vast inequities in funding between our school districts.  All of our students in all of our districts deserve adequate state funding.  In 2011 Philadelphia schools took 38% of the cuts while educating just 12% of the state’s students.

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

Pa. budget left out important funding that will impact public schools: John W. Friend
PennLive Op-Ed  By John W. Friend on April 08, 2016 at 1:00 PM
John W. Friend is the superintendent of the Carlisle Area School District and president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.
The Pennsylvania State budget for 2015-16 is history, or at least, it should be.  On Easter Sunday, Gov.Wolf allowed a supplemental, $6.6 billion budget to become law without his signature.  But he vetoed a key piece of budget-related legislation known as the "fiscal code," which effectively provided the instructions to spend the money the budget appropriated.  People may say: "What's the big deal? The Legislature and Wolf can figure it out."  The big deal is that public schools will still struggle to balance budgets and to maintain educational programs.  The 2015-16 budget included some new money for schools, but important pieces of the budget puzzle for many local school districts were not included.

Wolf plan for $200 million in Pa. education funds creates winners and losers, GOP charges
The fight in Harrisburg over how $200 million in new Pennsylvania education aid should be divided continues.  Although Gov. Tom Wolf allowed the state budget to become law in late March, he vetoed the fiscal code that, in part, served as a roadmap for how new education funding would be distributed.  As passed by lawmakers, the fiscal code directed all new education money through a student-weighted funding formula, as recommended by a bipartisan commission.   Wolf argues that districts disproportionately hurt by cuts that occurred under former Gov. Tom Corbett should be made whole before adopting the new formula.  "Right now, only 4 percent of districts across the state have seen their funding restored to 2010-11 levels, and we're over $370 million short of fully restoring the cuts," said Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan.
Spreadsheets and details of Wolf's plan can be viewed here.

Wolf, GOP battling over how to spread school funding
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 04/09/16, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: 13 HRS AGO
And you thought the fight over the state budget was over.
Gov. Tom Wolf opened a new front in the 10-month-long battle last week when he released his plans for distributing the $50 million in education funding remaining in the 2015-16 fiscal budget proposed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that became law without his signature on March 28.  However, Wolf vetoed the “fiscal code” that accompanied the budget which, his administration argues, allows him to distribute education funding under a formula of his administration’s devising.  Republicans in the Legislature are not so sure and are reportedly contemplating a lawsuit against Wolf.  Wolf has been using his formula, which he calls “a restoration formula,” since January to distribute the additional $150 million in education funding included the partial budget he signed in December.  By contrast, the “fiscal code” would have required the funding to be distributed according to the fair funding formula recommended by a bipartisan panel in the final days of Gov. Tom Corbett’s term and supported by Wolf.  However, Wolf’s position is that before that formula can be used as a way to distribute education dollars, districts should be restored to the funding levels enjoyed before the Corbett spending plan in 2010-11 brought about by the expiration of federal stimulus dollars.  “The new fair funding formula, which I support, cannot truly be fair unless the cuts are fully restored. Currently, only 4 percent of districts have seen their funding restored to 2010-11 levels,” Wolf said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“And, as has been his pattern since taking office, Gov. Wolf took the money he cut from York, Lancaster, Reading and Scranton schools, and sent it to his political allies in Philadelphia at the expense of children across the state.  That’s right, the School District of Philadelphia will receive more than $1 billion in basic education funding – 18 percent of the available new money. The leftover crumbs will be divided among Pennsylvania’s other 499 school districts.”
Wolf sends York school funding to Philly (letter)
York Daily Record Opinion by York County GOP House delegation 1:55 p.m. EDT April 8, 2016
Members of the York County House Republican delegation are very concerned over the method by which education funding is being distributed throughout Pennsylvania.  While allowing the general appropriations portion of the state budget to become law two weeks ago, Gov. Tom Wolf chose to veto the Fiscal Code bill – the legislation that directs how the money should be distributed.  Two years ago, the Basic Education Funding Commission was created to address inadequacies in Pennsylvania’s basic education funding formula. Last June, this bipartisan group of 15 state officials recommended a new formula that would have given our school districts funding increases of nearly $14 million.  But, Wolf vetoed this fair and bipartisan formula – which he had earlier praised as a “big step forward for the people of Pennsylvania” – and went on to cut more than $16 million from York County school districts.

Super: Budget is bad for Erie schools
By ERICA ERWIN erica.erwin@timesnews.com10 Apr 2016 — Erie Times-News
Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams had hoped personal appeals and visits to Harrisburg would bring more state dollars to the district.  Instead, district administrators say, the Erie School District and districts like it are among those that would fare the worst under Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to distribute $200 million in new basic education funding and block grants, according to an analysis of the plan.  "I was shocked and disappointed to learn that the governor's distribution of funds for 2015-16 did not provide any relief for our district, and will actually leave us in a worse financial position than our most drastic projections for 2016-17," Badams said.  "After all of our efforts, and those made on our behalf by our local delegation, I truly believed that the commonwealth's lawmakers would do what is right and take steps to rectify the situation."  The analysis by the district shows the district fares fourth worst in the state, in terms of the difference in state funding it will receive under Wolf's plan versus if state funding were distributed via a bipartisan "fair funding formula" created by the Basic Education Funding Commission.

Where is the money? Area school officials say state causing rising financial difficulties
The Bradford Area School District is among the districts in the region still facing a financial crisis, thanks to the state funding fiasco. Though there is a state budget, the amount of additional money hasn’t increased by much, if at all, school officials say.
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter |0 comments Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016 10:00 am
The state budget is in place, and education funding is now being doled out to local school districts. And still, area school officials say financial difficulties remain.  On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the distribution formula used to allocate basic education funding totalling $50 million for the remainder of 2015-16. Broken down, districts are expected to receive $25 million for the restoration of the charter school reimbursement program; $20 million to continue to restore 2011-12 cuts; and $5 million through the new basic education fair funding formula.  “Any small, rural district is in desperate need of appropriate funding,” Otto-Eldred School District Superintendent Matthew Splain toldThe Era on Wednesday. “We will gladly take the new funds and fill the gaps that continue to exist. Unfortunately, if our Legislature and governor debate the distribution of the new money, that is less time and focus they will be spending on the 2016-17 budget.”  In his view, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, said Wolf’s funding distribution announcement is a “blatant attempt” at ignoring the General Assembly.

Threat of property tax hikes as school funding problem continues in PA
WITF Written by Radio Pennsylvania | Apr 10, 2016 10:12 AM
Governor  Tom Wolf says he's come up with a school funding formula, but GOP leaders are questioning the validity of the plan since the Governor's veto of the fiscal code that included its own funding blueprint.  Meanwhile school officials are still waiting.  Stacey Thompson, Treasurer for Clarion County's Keystone district, says some are already making difficult decisions.  "The Department of Education indicated that as of February 8th, 2016, 175 districts have submitted plans to raise taxes above the index of this year," she said.  The Director of the PA School Boards Association says they're considering suing the state to get the needed funds.  Districts borrowed over a billion dollars during the nine month budget impasse in order to keep their doors open. 

Budget in hand, Pa. lawmakers turn to hot buttons
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: APRIL 10, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Early last week, the Republican-led House of Representatives suddenly pivoted and devoted all its efforts to a long-dormant issue: imposing stricter limits on abortion in Pennsylvania.  By Thursday, the Democratic governor had taken a step in the other direction, bypassing legislators to impose executive orders that expand antidiscrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens.  With issues like school funding and pension reform still mired in gridlock, leaders in Harrisburg were suddenly switching gears and channeling energy into social issues - measures that given the ideological divide here have little chance of getting even a public hearing, let alone becoming law.  It is, say legislators and other longtime Capitol observers, a way to divert attention from the stubborn impasse on complex fiscal issues just as primary voters prepare to head to the polls this month.

The eloquent in the room for the GOP
Philly Daily News Updated: APRIL 9, 2016 — 6:42 AM EDT
HERE'S A JOB that takes a special someone, especially in weeks like this, when the Harrisburg gamesmanship is particularly ungainly. Steve Miskin is the longtime spokesman for the state House Republican leadership, charged with explaining/defending GOP policy to people outside the bubble.  Chances are you've heard him on KYW.  Miskin is one of those rare government press secretaries who represents partisan positions in a calm, even-handed manner, no matter the heat or urgency of the topic.  He's also a frequent, if biased, user of social media and is not above trying to curry favor with the media by occasionally trolling the Capitol newsroom with a basket of chocolate mini-bars.  Importantly, almost unbelievably, he's proved facile enough to work for very different and, in some cases, very difficult GOP bosses while remaining respected - and employed.  Miskin, 52, is from Great Neck, N.Y., and a Temple grad. He lives outside Harrisburg with his wife and three adopted young children: two boys from Russia and a girl from China.  He recently sat down with columnist John Baer.

The Notebook's annual dropout issue explores what leads to academic success
The notebook by Wendy Harris April 8, 2016 — 11:12am
After years of steady increases, the School District’s graduation rate has hit a plateau. Though officials have no explanation for why there has been a leveling off, new leadership in the District and Mayor Kenney’s administration continue to create strategies to help more students earn a diploma.  In the Notebook’s April-May edition on the dropout crisis in Philadelphia, we take a look at what leads to academic success for students. In the edition, now available, our data spread is filled with charts that illustrate the overall graduation rate, but also college enrollment rates for students in every District and charter high school. The data spread also provides four-year graduation rates for male and female students, and student attendance numbers by grade.

Opting out co-opts our fight for equity and accountability
The notebook Opinion by Sharif El-Mekki April 8, 2016
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia.
The other day I rode by a mansion in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania—one of the wealthiest districts in the state, if not the country -- and I noticed a sign encouraging people to “opt out” of our state’s annual standardized test.  It struck me that this movement started in a very different community than the one in which I live and serve.  There is clamoring for families to opt out of testing -- even some teachers encouraging students and their families to opt out of the test that measures the proficiency levels of our state’s 3rd- through 8th-graders. However, I’ve noticed that most of those championing this strategy have not been neglected and oppressed by their states and districts for generations.

Pittsburgh Public Schools to unveil transgender policy
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 10, 2016 12:00 AM
The Pittsburgh Public Schools’ board policy committee is set to unveil a draft proposal this month that would formally establish a plan to protect the rights of transgender students district-wide.  The final stages of the plan come as the topic has taken center stage both locally and nationally. North Carolina lawmakers and that state’s governor are facing backlash for enacting a bill that prevents transgender people from using school and public agency restrooms aligned with their gender identity. That debate continued last week at a school board meeting in the Pine-Richland School District.  Shortly after watching a webinar on the subject, District 6 city school Director Moira Kaleida brought the idea of creating a districtwide plan to the policy committee chair, Thomas Sumpter, who she said was receptive to the idea.  “I’ve firmly stood behind the LGBTQ community for a long time, and I think that we deserve equity across the board,” she said. “Our policies are old, and we need to have ones that deal with current issues. This is one that’s certainly relevant now.”

Wister fiasco is why SRC has to go
Philly Daily News Opinion by Encarna Rodriguez and Amy Brown Updated: APRIL 11, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Encarna Rodriguez works at Saint Joseph's University. Amy Brown works at the University of Pennsylvania. The original letter was signed by 20 professionals from higher education and represents the views of the individuals, not their institutions.
THE SCHOOL REFORM Commission has to go. It has to go because, no matter how much we respect the commissioners who serve this body, the fate of the schools should be decided by elected officials accountable to the people and the communities they serve. It has to go, because it has clearly failed to deliver the financial stability that justified its creation 15 years ago (an impossible task to begin with but one the SRC has accepted as its charge, nevertheless).  
It has to go because, as John Wister Elementary School shows, it is ripping apart some of the very communities on whose behalf the commissioners are supposed to make their decisions.  Granted, the overt conflict between Wister parents who want the school to become Mastery and those who want it to remain in the district might not have been intentional. No commissioner could have possibly wished to see or to hear the bitter words uttered at the March 17 SRC meeting. Still, the SRC has been, at best, indefensibly passive in the unfolding and handling of a conflict of its own making and, at worst, morally responsible for one of the most disheartening scenes in education in our city: working-class, African American parents fighting among themselves for a better future for their kids.

“AP's analysis found elevated lead levels in 30 Pennsylvania schools, including six in Chester County and four in Bucks County but none in Lehigh or Northampton counties.”
Water with unsafe lead amounts found in hundreds of schools
AP analyzed water in schools across the country, finding hundreds with high lead levels
Morning Call by John Seewer AP April 9, 2016
TOLEDO, Ohio — Responding to the crisis in Flint, Mich., school officials across the country are testing classroom sinks and cafeteria faucets for lead, trying to uncover any concealed problems and to reassure anxious parents.  Just a fraction of schools and day care centers nationwide are required to check for lead because most receive their water from municipal systems that test at other locations. State and federal lawmakers have called for wider testing.  Among schools and day care centers operating their own water systems, Environmental Protection Agency data analyzed by The Associated Press showed that 278 violated federal lead levels at some point during the past three years. Roughly a third of those had lead levels that were at least double the federal limit.  In almost all cases, the problems can be traced to aging buildings with lead pipes, older drinking fountains and water fixtures that have parts made with lead.

Tests spark new concerns about lead at Montco school
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 8, 2016 — 10:59 PM EDT
New water tests at a Lower Merion school showed a cafeteria faucet suspected of having elevated lead levels now registers at an acceptable rate - but also found possible contaminants in a drinking fountain and a water line.  The result of the drinking fountain test at Penn Wynne Elementary were at the Environmental Protection Agency's "action level," while the basement water line was near the action level, according to school officials.  In a letter to parents Thursday informing them of the test results, principal Shawn Bernatowicz said action-level readings are not necessarily a public-health concern, according to the EPA, but could require more testing and monitoring at the 600-student school.  He said the EPA noted that the presence of transient contaminants at the test site, such as dirt, could affect the results. Aqua America regularly screens the general water supply and has reported no safety concerns, the principal said.

After two positive results, Lower Merion schools continue a battery of tests for lead in water
First, a concerning level of lead showed up in a test of water coming out of a single faucet in Penn Wynne Elementary School's cafeteria.  The Lower Merion School District, one of the wealthiest and best ranked in the country, started testing its water fountains and faucets voluntarily a few weeks ago. After the first positive result, it committed to retesting all sites at all ten schools again.   A second barrage of screening by an independent environmental testing firm returned a completely different result, according to spokesperson Doug Young.  "That faucet that initially showed levels of concern was in fact well below what you would expect in the general water supply," he said. "But, at one of the fountains of the school we did find an action level."  That action level means Lower Merion will do even more testing.  "The game plan is we will do two more tests on each of the water delivery points in the school, and we're going to be doing this at all of our schools as well," said Young.

Shortage of bus drivers has school districts, contractors scrambling
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 11, 2016 12:00 AM
The shortage of school bus drivers locally and across the country hits home with Bob Rhodes. That’s because it regularly causes him to join his 200 other drivers on the road for R.J. Rhodes Transit Inc. of Ambridge.  “Everybody here drives,” said Mr. Rhodes, whose company serves a half-dozen school districts in Beaver County, plus a number of private and charter schools. He used to drive only occasionally, but this year, after 40 years in the business founded in 1932 by his grandfather, he is driving every day.  “We do have some substitutes, but everybody here has to have a license so we can cover all of the routes,” he added, referring to office staff.  Pittsburgh Public Schools, which uses a variety of contractors to move 24,000 students on 732 vehicles every day, faces the same difficulties, said Ted Vassar, director of pupil transportation. It would be helpful if the companies had an additional 30 to 40 drivers, he said, but they just aren’t available.

The 20 Best School Districts in the U.S. Written by: Caroline Nolan 04/08/16 - 9:18 AM EDT
Summer is approaching, and students across the country are looking forward to their time off from classes, homework, and other academic responsibilities.  However, the end of the school year does not bring a vacation to school districts, which will be preparing for the upcoming academic year while students are away. As a result of their hard work, many of these school districts are recognized annually for their excellent academics and positive school cultures.  Ranking and review site has identified the best school districts in the United States using data sourced from various government and public data sets, the website's own proprietary data, and over four million opinion-based survey responses across a variety of topics from 287,606 current students, recent alumni, and parents.  These surveys were used to grade each school district on factors including academics, health and safety, student culture and diversity, survey responses, teachers, resources and facilities, extra-curricular and activities, sports and fitness.  Did the school district in your area make the list? Click through to find out.

Shake up education system
Centre Daily Times Letter APRIL 10, 2016 8:09 PM by DALE G. FORBES, SPRING CREEK
Recently, local news outlets have reported on school districts having difficulty balancing their budgets, or having a shortage of substitute teachers.  It’s time we move our education system into the 21st century, think outside the box, as some would say, and move education to cyberschooling, all done at home on a computer. The state could buy each student a new computer each year, if need be, and furnish schooling or lessons via cyber. All students in the state would be taught with the same lesson plan; those who have a higher IQ or understanding could advance faster without waiting for those who can’t or are less inclined.  The monetary advantages of this system would be, but not limited to, no brick and mortar buildings, no salaries, no health insurance, no pensions, no busing, no “ Go Buckets,” no sports expenses. Also, there would be no concern about class ranking, no concerns about threats made to the district and no teacher union influence on government/elections.  What private industry could produce product for only 180 days a year, have any inferior product and still be in business? Today you would be hard pressed to find a successful farmer who would be willing to trade in his tractor and go back to the original horse power, because it’s called progress, a better and more efficient way to do things.  Isn’t it time we have a drastic change in our education system?

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.

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.

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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