Wednesday, April 13, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 13: Auditor general: "simply the worst charter school law in the United States."

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 13, 2016:
Auditor general: "simply the worst charter school law in the United States."

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

“DePasquale targeted a few specific actions during Gov. Tom Corbett's tenure for deepening Philadelphia's woes, including eliminating funds that helped cover the added costs of the charter sector.  "The tension between the district that authorized them and the charter school has to end," he said. "And when the charter school reimbursement was pulled away, that exacerbated the tension. So it literally became a fight for funding, and that has to stop."
Pa. charter school law 'worst in US,' state auditor general says
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a scathing report damning the state charter law Tuesday, and he blamed many of the School District of Philadelphia's fiscal woes on state lawmakers who have not revised the nearly 20-year-old measure.  "Our charter school law is simply the worst charter school law in the United States," said DePasquale at a news conference at Philadelphia's district headquarters.  Specifically, DePasquale said, the law fails to give districts the power to ensure that only high-performing charters that serve equitable populations of children are opening. And he lamented that districts waste too much time and too many resources fighting to close underperformers.  He blamed recent failed efforts in Harrisburg to reform the charter law on special interest lobbying.  "What else could it be?" he said, citing the popularity of reforms in preliminary votes.

"If there's one thing that needs to come out of this audit report," he said, "it is that Pennsylvania must reform its charter school law." He called it "simply the worst charter school law in the United States."
Auditor general: City charter schools need more oversight
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 13, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The Philadelphia School District's charter school office is too small to oversee the 83 charter schools in the city, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale said in a report released Tuesday morning.  "By failing to have sufficient staffing and resources to adequately perform and document routine oversight measures, the district is unable to verify the validity of hundreds of millions of dollars it is paying to charter schools in tuition payments," DePasquale wrote in the performance audit.  During a briefing at the district's headquarters Tuesday, DePasquale said most of the problems the district faces in managing charter schools stem from weaknesses in the state's 1997 charter law, which he said provides insufficient oversight requirements and allows poorly performing schools to operate for years.

“To throw another interesting wrinkle into things, the amendment passed the Senate by a 39-10 vote, a number that would be veto proof should it hold.  In response to Tuesday's Senate action, the Wolf administration had the following response.  “Since day one, Gov. Wolf has been fighting for historic investments in education at all levels, including K through 12 basic education, to restore the devastating cuts that forced educator layoffs, increased class sizes, program cuts, and soaring property taxes," said press secretary Jeff Sheridan.
"The governor has also made clear that he supports the basic education funding formula that his administration helped create to end Pennsylvania's inequitable distribution of education dollars, one of the most inequitable in the country, but the new formula can only be fair once we have turned the page on the damage of the past five years. The governor also believes the state must responsibly pay for the bills it has racked up, including reimbursing school districts for promises made by Harrisburg.”
Senate tries again with BEF formula, PlanCon bond in new iteration of Fiscal Code
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, April 12, 2016
While it started out as a barebones solution to the governor’s veto of the Fiscal Code bill sent to his desk back in March, the Senate early Tuesday evening put back into House Bill 1589 provisions providing for the use of the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission formula in the current school year and allowing schools to draw from a $2.5 billion bond to fund school construction projects under PlanCon.  Both of the provisions placed in the legislation by the Senate were noted by Gov. Tom Wolf in his veto message as reasons why he disapproved the legislation.  On the BEF formula, the governor said its implementation without addressing past basic education funding cuts would only serve to perpetuate a basic education funding distribution that he says “is one of the most inequitable in the nation.”  “[T]he bill’s provisions permit the reduction of funds to certain school districts, which would otherwise be available, based solely on how the districts were funded earlier this year,” the governor said of the veto of the Fiscal Code bill in March. “My veto of this bill ensures that the school districts will not be subject to this underserved treatment from a funding perspective.”  He also said the taking out of the PlanCon bond is irresponsible without first fixing the structural deficit.

“The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has a lawsuit pending in Commonwealth Court to accomplish the same goal as this bill. A survey conducted by the school boards association found school districts borrowed money, cut programs, saw their credit rating take a negative hit, and drew down reserves to keep their doors open during the budget impasse.”
Bill eliminating schools from becoming budget hostages wins Senate panel approval
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on April 12, 2016 at 5:08 PM, updated April 12, 2016 at 9:08 PM
Legislation that would ensure school districts would not find themselves cut off from state funding in the future was advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.  The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County, would create the Emergency Basic Education Subsidy Fund. The state Treasurer would be authorized to transfer money into the fund to ensure that scheduled payments of basic education dollars aren't missed.  The legislation would guarantee districts would receive scheduled payments in the same amount as they received the prior year should the state budget not be finalized by Aug. 15.

House GOP leader questions Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf’s school funding decisions
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 04/12/16, 5:44 PM
HARRISBURG >> A top Republican in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives wants the state treasurer to weigh in on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s plans to distribute state aid to public schools.  Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph wrote Treasurer Timothy Reese on Tuesday, saying Wolf vetoed legislation that would have given him authority to distribute $150 million in public school aid.  That’s on top of nearly $6 billion in aid already going to public schools for instruction and operations.  Treasury spokesman Scott Sloat says his agency doesn’t expect to field those funding requests until June, near the end of the state’s fiscal year. He says it’s premature now to say if those requests will be legal.  olf’s office says his funding decisions align with provisions in the main budget bill that he let become law without his signature earlier this month.

Pa. governor reallocates money for schools
Herald Mail Media by Jennifer Fitch Posted on Apr 12, 2016
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s 2015-16 budget saga did not end neatly.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled legislature were in gridlock for more than a year, setting the state up for a historic budget impasse that finally was resolved at the end of March.  However, the infighting hasn’t stopped.  Wolf, who did not sign the final budget, vetoed the fiscal code that authorizes spending. For basic-education funding, he developed different allocations from the budget within the overall pot of money.  Franklin County’s Republican lawmakers have criticized Wolf’s actions, although four out of five of the county’s school districts will receive more basic-education money than planned.

Wolf’s plan offers less funding to area schools
Altoona Mirror By Russ O’Reilly ( , The Altoona Mirror April 12, 2016
Blair County schools would receive $400,000 less under Gov. Tom Wolf's school funding formula this year than they would under the Legislature's revised basic funding formula, House Republicans said.  Statewide, 428 of the 500 school districts would get less money under Wolf's plan than the new basic education funding formula, Capitolwire reports.  Neither plan has been enacted, so districts are still waiting for overdue state money to complete the school year.  "No one ever dreamed this would happen," Bellwood-Antis Superintendent Tom McInroy said.  According to documents released by House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, only a few area districts will get more under Wolf's division of $200 million tied up in the state's historic budget impasse.  But no school would get less than it did last year with Wolf's plan.

Wolf threatens to cut school funding
Republican Herald BY STEPHEN J. PYTAK Published: April 13, 2016
In late March, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 1327, which supports school funding, because he believed some of its measures were too costly.  his week, the governor unveiled a new education funding formula which will cut a cumulative total of $2,758,013 from local schools in Berks and Schuylkill counties, state Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, said Tuesday. “The state budget approved by lawmakers in March included an additional $200 million for public schools. The formula to determine how the money is driven out was contained in House Bill 1327, also known as the budget-related Fiscal Code. The formula was developed after months of public hearings and bipartisan cooperation among lawmakers, school administrators, education advocates, teachers and parents in order to reflect the factors that drive the cost of education,” Jon Hopcraft, a spokesman for Argall, said in a press release Tuesday.  “On April 4, 2016, the governor vetoed the Fiscal Code and created his own formula to drive out public education funding. As a result, 86 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts will receive less money under this plan than they would have received under the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Formula. All but one school district in the 29th Senatorial District will receive less money under the governor’s plan,” Hopcraft said.

Harrisburg's hothouse scared off potential 2016 candidates, report: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 12, 2016 at 8:23 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
What do you get when you mix an endless debate over the state budget, plummeting public confidence and increasingly sharp partisan elbows under the Capitol dome?  Well, in an even-numbered year, you end up with a dearth of candidates who can be convinced to leave hearth and home to run for open seats in the 253-member General Assembly.  As our pal, Kari Andren, of The Tribune-Review reports this Tuesday morning, 18 lawmakers will be hanging up their spurs come year's end. And no one's rushing to fill their spots.

Teachers to strike in Highlands School District
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 12, 2016 10:41 PM
Teachers and representatives of the Highlands School District negotiated into the night Tuesday in an effort to agree on a contract and head off a strike, but the effort was for naught.  The school district announced on its website that schools would be closed today because of what it called a teacher work stoppage. The teachers union — the Highlands Education Association — planned to set up picket lines this morning. The district said the strike could last no more than eight days.  “We are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement that is best for the students, teachers, and community while being fiscally responsible to the financial state of the district,” the district said in a statement earlier Tuesday.

“Executive Director Donna Frisby-Greenwood said in a NewsWorks interview in January that “the Fund is committed to transparency.” But when I called to ask when the next board meeting would be held, Frisby-Greenwood told me “those meetings are private.”  The fund’s website says that the board will be working with Superintendent William Hite to "help set funding priorities … toward the needs of Philadelphia’s public schools to improve educational services and academic achievement.” But it is not the role of a handful of people from one stratum of society to make those decisions. Giving corporations and foundations a larger voice in decisions on education cedes control of the democratic process to those with the highest net worth. The rest of us get three minutes a month at the SRC meeting.”
The problem with the District's philanthropic fund for literacy
The notebook Commentary by Lisa Haver April 12, 2016 — 3:29pm
The state takeover of the School District of Philadelphia more than 15 years ago brought a new set of problems, not the least being the failure of the School Reform Commission — and a succession of highly paid superintendents and CEOs — to fulfill its stated purpose of restoring the District's financial stability.   At the same time, the public’s ability to be heard on these and other issues has been squelched by growing corporate influence, as grants from outside organizations, including the Gates Foundation, the Philadelphia School Partnership, the William Penn Foundation, and others, have come with mandates for school closures, charter expansion, and weakening of some collective bargaining rights such as longstanding seniority protections. The Great Schools Compact Committee, which oversaw distribution of the Gates money, acted as a shadow school board.  The revival of the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia appears to be an extension of that model, in which private money has a growing influence on a public institution. 

Kenney team honing arguments in case of legal challenge over drinks tax
WHYY Newsworks BY BOBBY ALLYN APRIL 13, 2016
Even if Mayor Jim Kenney is able to persuade City Council to approve his 3-cents-an-ounce soda tax proposal, there will likely be another fight awaiting him.  The response to potential lawsuits aimed at blocking the mayor's bold plan for funding universal prekindergarten and supporting improvements to Philadelphia's parks and libraries is being calculated by a team of attorneys drafting a legal defense strategy.  It comes on the heels of city solicitor Sozi Tulante's internal memo to the mayor in March, obtained by WHYY/NewsWorks, stating he has a "high degree of confidence" that the city can survive any legal brawls on the horizon.

“The district’s largest expenditure increase for next year is its mandated contribution to the state Public School Employees Retirement System. That is rising from 25.84 percent to 30 percent, costing the district an additional $1.3 million from its 2015-16 contribution, Assistant Superintendent Alan Vandrew said last month.”
Mechanicsburg Area budget includes rise in taxes, meal prices
Phyllis Zimmerman For The Sentinel April 12, 2016
The Mechanicsburg Area School Board approved a proposed final general fund budget for 2016-17 that would increase district real estate taxes by 2.8 percent if finalized in June, as well as increasing school meal prices by 10 cents.  The proposed budget has expenditures of $64 million for next year but anticipated revenues of only $6.2 million, which includes revenue from the tax increase. District officials proposed to use nearly $1.8 million from the district’s fund balance to erase the deficit. The school board plans a final vote on the budget on June 14.  The proposed tax increase would increase the district’s current millage rate of 12.535 mills to 12.885 mills. A property owner assessed at the district’s median value of $177,475 would pay an additional $62 per year for an annual total of $2,287. 

30 York area school directors recognized for service
York Daily Record1:53 p.m. EDT April 5, 2016
The York County Alliance for Learning honored 30 area school directors with service recognition awards as a recent event.  Recipients were given an award certificate by Kathie Ingoglia, a board chair with the alliance.

Teach for America applications fall again, diving 35 percent in three years
By Emma Brown April 12 at 8:00 AM   The Washington Post)
Applications to Teach for America fell by 16 percent in 2016, marking the third consecutive year in which the organization — which places college graduates in some of the nation’s toughest classrooms — has seen its applicant pool shrink.  Elisa Villanueva Beard, TFA’s chief executive, announced the figures in an online letter to supporters Tuesday morning, describing the steps that the organization is taking to stoke interest and reverse the trend.  “Our sober assessment is that these are the toughest recruitment conditions we’ve faced in more than two decades,” she wrote. “And they call on us all to reconsider and strengthen our efforts to attract the best and most diverse leaders our country has to offer.”

Sen. Alexander to John King: Rethink Your Draft ESSA Spending Rules, Or Else
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on April 12, 2016 12:37 PM
Washington - The federal requirement that federal dollars supplement state and local spending on education is proving to be one of the thorniest issues under the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In a testy Senate education committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. that he believed the U.S. Department of Education's proposal for regulating that spending requirement violates the language and spirit of ESSA.   "Not only is what you're doing against the law, the way you're trying to do it is against another provision in the law," Alexander told King in his opening remarks.  And Alexander said he'd use every power available to him, including the federal appropriations process, to overrule the regulations King's department comes up with. He also said he'd encourage a lawsuit against the Education Department if it does not reconsider its proposed language.   But King denied that his department was overstepping its authority. He said the agency is merely trying to ensure that districts are using an appropriate approach to following federal requirements for accessing federal funds.

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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