Friday, April 22, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 22: PA Budget Season to Start (Did it ever end?)

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 22, 2016:
PA Budget Season to Start (Did it ever end?)

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

“Wolf wants an income or sales tax to help close the estimated $1.5 billion-$2 billion deficit and put more money to schools and other programs. No broad-based tax hikes have ever been passed in an election year, however.”
Budget season to start
The 2016-17 budget vote to be held May 2 in the House.
Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau April 21, 2016
The Legislature will begin voting on the 2016-17 fiscal year budget in two weeks, according to a letter sent Wednesday by Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.  Adolph’s letter to the 203-member House says lawmakers have until 2 p.m. Monday to file amendments to the 2016-17 budget the chamber. The budget vote, the letter states, is scheduled for May 2.  The letter comes as the 2015-16 state budget remains unfinished as of Thursday. It remains a work-in-progress because Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has not yet decided whether to veto a super-majority approved fiscal code, the budget document that sets formulas and rules for how tax money is spent.  Still, the letter shows, the Republican-controlled Legislature is moving ahead with plans to pass a 2016-17 budget that may or may not face the same veto fate as this year’s.

Commission releases universal pre-K report
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 22, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The city's Commission on Universal Pre-K issued its final report to the mayor and City Council this week, with recommendations for how to expand pre-K to 3- and 4-year-olds in Philadelphia.  Many of the recommendations will likely be adopted in Mayor Kenney's final pre-K plan, given that he appointed several of the commission's members, including his own director of pre-K.  The report notes that the majority of the group recommends a sugary-drink tax to bring in the $60 million a year that Kenney says he needs for the program.  The city has overwhelmingly united around the need for expanded pre-K, but a battle is being waged over the proposed 3-cents-per-ounce tax to fund it.

A big day for education in state Capitol (column)
The House sent legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk that will require use of a more equitable school funding formula.
York Daily Record Opinion by Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, Guest Columnist 11:06 a.m. April 21, 2016
State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill is a Republican from York Township.
Article III, Subsection B, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states, “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” When it comes to educating our students, Wednesday, April 13, was a very big day.  The highlight of the day came late in the afternoon when the House sent legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk that will require use of a more equitable school funding formula rather than the governor’s own plan that funneled an inordinate amount of money to the School District of Philadelphia. Because House Bill 1589 was endorsed by every House member from York County and passed each chamber of the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority, it cannot be vetoed by the governor.  When Gov. Wolf tried to distribute school funding using his own wishes, he turned his back on the majority of students in both rural and suburban areas, including all of York County. The result would have been a loss of money for more than 430 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

The Basic Education Funding Commission’s Recommended Funding Formula
Campaign for Fair Education Funding
Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the country. That means that the amount of money available to educate a child varies widely; all depending on where each child happens to live. The lack of a formula also means that state funding is so unpredictable from year to year that school districts cannot effectively budget or plan for the future.  That is why the bipartisan state Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC), made up of representatives from the Governor’s Office, Department of Education, and both parties in the state House and Senate, was convened a year and a half ago: to examine school funding in Pennsylvania, determine any inequities, and offer recommendations on how to correct any disparities across school districts.

Secretary Rivera Visits Mercer County on "Schools that Teach" Tour, Discusses the Future of Education in Pennsylvania
Apr 21, 2016, 16:26 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Education
SHARON, Pa., April 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera today traveled to Mercer County to meet with teachers, administrators, and officials at Sharon High School and discuss ways increased education funding and equity can help schools across the commonwealth achieve their goals.  "For the past several years, many schools have found themselves in the unique situation of having to do more with less, and many of those schools have overcome the challenges they faced despite those funding difficulties," Rivera said. "It is my aim to put those challenges in the past and ensure that schools in Pennsylvania do not have to make those tough decisions again. Moving forward, we must continue to make a fair and appropriate investment in our schools, so that they can focus on educating students rather than worry about dwindling resources."  During the visit, Rivera heard from participants about Sharon High School's priorities, achievements and challenges. Also present was state Representative Mark Longietti (D-Mercer), who represents the school district and agrees with the need for robust and comprehensive education funding.  "Governor Wolf and Secretary Rivera are committed to restoring critical funding for our school children, which was cut under the Corbett Administration," Longietti said. "Sharon schools lost more than $1,000 per student, one of the largest cuts in the state. Restoring that funding not only means smaller class sizes, which improves learning, but it also reduces the burden on local property tax payers."

Letter: Restore Pa. funds to poorest schools
Inquirer Letter by Ted Kirsch, president, AFT Pennsylvania, Philadelphia April 22, 2016
Last week, the Pennsylvania Senate and House passed House Bill 1589, which would use a new formula to distribute a small increase in basic education funding for this school year. The action came without a restoration of funds to the school districts that bore the brunt of cuts under Gov. Tom Corbett. This ensures that the state will continue to have the largest funding gap between affluent and poor districts in the country.  The districts hit hardest by the 2011-12 cuts are also reeling from the nine-month state budget delay, which forced them to borrow $1 billion. They face repaying up to $50 million in interest and fees. And even with H.B. 1589's funding increase, Pennsylvania schools are $380 million short of their 2010 funding levels.

Commentary: Charter schools can be a solution in public education
Philly Daily News Opinion by Tim Eller Updated: APRIL 21, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Tim Eller is executive director of Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
THE AUDITOR general's recent report about Philadelphia's charter schools fails to include any empirical data, and is nothing more than political grandstanding based on opinion rather than facts.  The Keystone Alliance believes that Pennsylvania's nearly 20-year-old charter-school law is in need of revisions; however, the auditor general's claim that it is "simply the worst charter-school law in the United States" is ridiculous.  A majority of Pennsylvania's public, brick-and-mortar charter schools serve their intended purpose by providing a safe, high-quality education to students at a cost that's lower than traditional public schools.  Unfortunately, charter-school opponents are either misinformed or intentionally misrepresenting the facts.

Philly School District could end budget year with a surplus
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 22, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia is not as strapped as in recent years - due in part to unfilled teaching positions - and expects to end the current fiscal year with a fund balance of $134.5 million, officials said during a budget hearing Thursday night.  The district had anticipated spending $2.71 billion. The fund balance will be rolled over into the proposed $2.8 billion budget for 2016-17.  Although seemingly large, that $134.5 million represents less than one month's operating costs, the district's chief financial officer, Uri Monson, said during the hearing at district headquarters.  In addition to 139 teacher vacancies, the surplus is the result of a modest balance from last year, fuel cost savings, and other efficiencies, Monson said.  "There are good savings and bad savings. The savings from the vacancies are bad savings," he said in an interview. "Nobody in this building wants the vacancies."

'Community schools' model coming to Camden
Inquirer by Allison Steele, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 22, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Camden officials are hoping to turn several city schools into "community schools" that would provide students with health and social services beyond those provided during class hours.
Plans are in the early stages, but Brendan Lowe, a spokesman for the state-run district, said officials hope to select three to six traditional public schools before the next school year.
Lowe said that the New Jersey Education Association, the state teachers' union, supports the idea, and that members have met with district officials to discuss the plans.  The community school model, which can mean making anything from medical clinics and food banks to day care and after-school tutoring available to students, has been lauded in cities like New York and Cincinnati, where officials have said they have improved student performance and graduation rates.  Last winter, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced funding for a community schools program, and in Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney's first major postelection policy announcement was his pledge to establish 25 such schools in the city.

A British inspections system finds what works, and doesn't, without the stress of tests
Philadelphia Citizen BY ROXANNE PATEL SHEPELAVY APR. 20, 2016
 [Ed. Note: This story was originally published on March 4, 2015. The Citizen is reposting it now, while public school students are again in the midst of taking state standardized tests. Since last year, the federal law governing schools has changed. Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, oversight of schools goes mainly to state and local authorities, who will decide how much emphasis to place on test scores when judging schools. Some may opt for a broader approach—closer, though probably not to the same extent, as in England.]
In late January, when report cards came out at a local South Philly charter school, it was obvious to the parents of one third-grader that their daughter was a success: She got straight As; first honors; high reading and writing marks; comments from her teacher about her obvious affection for school and learning. So it was with some dismay that her parents listened a few days later, as their 9-year-old described the newest part of every school day: PSSA test prep.  “My teachers said it’s the most important test of the year,” she announced. “I’m nervous. What if I don’t do well?”  At Meredith Elementary—considered the city’s best public K-8—another academically-gifted third grader started spending her after school hours cramming test-taking strategies, nervously working out the best way to answer the PSSA’s often unclear questions. She knew from previous years that the school is counting on her: Students in grades not taking the tests are instructed to tip-toe by classrooms so they don’t bother their schoolmates.  As third-graders, this will be the first time in their academic careers that these girls take the Pennsylvania State School Assessment exams. It won’t be the last: If nothing changes, before they graduate, they will take 17 standardized tests, including the new Keystone Exam requirement for a high school diploma, starting with the class of 2017. That doesn’t count the dozens of practice tests and in-school “benchmark” assessments they’ll take to prepare them for the big test.

Baldwin-Whitehall budget proposal calls for staffing cuts
Post Gazette By Margaret Smykla April 22, 2016 12:00 AM
A $62.3 million budget proposal before the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board includes $2.1 million in proposed staff reductions, although no academic programs would be eliminated.  The spending plan for the 2016-17 school year — as outlined in more detail to board members at their meeting Tuesday night — also calls for a tax increase of nearly 1 mill.   Superintendent Randal Lutz called the plan a “bare bones budget” that would require cuts from professional and operations staff — about a dozen positions from the professional side through furloughs and attrition, and nine positions mainly from the custodial staff.  The professional staffing cuts would mean the furlough of at least six teachers based on reduced enrollment and include seven retirements.  Other savings would be realized through reductions in elementary school nurses and in district social workers by realigning schedules, and leaving vacant an assistant principal position at the high school.

Mt. Lebanon School District may raise taxes
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter April 22, 2016 12:00 AM
The property tax rate in the Mt. Lebanon School District could increase by 0.56 mill next school year.  The school board Monday voted 6-3 to approve a $95.2 million initial budget with a tax rate of 24.11 mills, a 0.56-mill increase over the current rate.  The increase would mean an additional $56 in taxes per year for every $100,000 of assessed property value.  “I stress this is a preliminary budget,” board President Lawrence Lebowitz said prior to the vote. “This is by no means a final budget.”  The district would use $750,000 of its fund balance to balance the 2016-17 budget.   Mr. Lebowitz said the district could potentially receive $344,000 in state funds by June, which could reduce the tax rate by about 0.10 mills.  Also, the district could receive reimbursements of more than $1 million in school construction costs if the state releases funding as part of the Planning and Construction Workbook, or PlanCon, program. 

“Also Thursday night, state Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, spoke to the board about the need for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, to allow House Bill 1589 to become law. That legislation would allow a new formula developed by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission that would increase funding for Stephens' districts, Hatboro-Horsham, Upper Dublin, Wissahickon and North Penn.  The new formula takes into account a district's relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support and other factors.”
North Penn extends teachers contract for 2016-17
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Thursday, April 21, 2016 10:45 pm
The North Penn school board and its teachers agreed on a one-year contract extension Thursday night that will increase salaries 0.5 percent for all teachers, and another 1.9 percent for those achieving a step increase.  While the board spoke positively of a "spirit of cooperation" between the district and the North Penn Education Association, the vote was not unanimous.  Directors Theresa Prykowski and John Schilling were against the plan in the 6-2 vote. Board President Vincent Sherpinsky did not attend the meeting.  "I know a lot of senior citizens are struggling," said Schilling, who added that he's not anti-teacher. "It's just hard for me consciously to give them a 2.4 percent increase."

NPE Report: Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation
Network for Public Education April 2016
Last Sunday the Network for Public Education released a groundbreaking report entitled Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation. Our report, written by educators, brings forth the voices of those on the front lines, teachers and administrators, to reveal the impact that changes to teacher evaluations are having on our schools, teachers and students. You can find the full report here.

9 Out Of 10 Parents Think Their Kids Are On Grade Level. They're Probably Wrong
In public radio's mythical Lake Wobegon, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."  The first two conditions are merely unlikely. The third one is a mathematical absurdity. However, a new survey suggests that almost all parents believe it to be true.  In a recent survey of public school parents, 90 percent stated that their children were performing on or above grade level in both math and reading. Parents held fast to this sunny belief no matter their own income, education level, race or ethnicity.  The nationally administered test known as the Nation's Report Card, or NAEP, suggests a very different reality. About half of white students are on grade level in math and reading by fourth grade; the percentages are lower for African-Americans and Hispanics.

ESSA Cheat Sheet: What's in the New Testing Regulations?
Education Week By Alyson Klein on April 21, 2016 9:43 AM
School districts, state chiefs, advocates, and the U.S. Department of Education now have a better idea of how testing will work under the brand-new Every Student Succeeds Act. And it took eight days of eye-glazing-and-occasionally-contentious debate, known inside the Beltway as "negotiated rulemaking." A committee of educators, advocates, and experts charged with hashing out rules for ESSA wasn't able to reach agreement on something called supplement-not-supplant (a wonky spending provision), but they did come to accord on a number of important testing issues, including for English-language learners, and students in special education. 
Here are the highlights of what they agreed to, in plain English:

Education INC, film screening and panel discussion - Drexel University April 27th, 6:30 pm
Public schools in America are under attack.  Reformers seek to turn our public education system over to private investors.  Communities are catching on and fighting back.  Education INC tells the story of what happens when a local public school district is turned over to corporate ED reformers and how a community fights back to keep control.  Following the documentary film, Drexel University School of Education Professor, Dr. Erin McNamara Horvat will moderate a talk on issues raised in the film.  The talk will feature State Rep James R. Roebuck, Education Committee, Democratic Chairmen, Philadelphia Councilwoman, Helen Gym, councilwoman-at-large and Mark B. Miller, School Board Director, Centennial School District.  The event is free and open to the public.
When: Wednesday, April 27th | 6:30 pm Film, discussion immediately after
Where: Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University
Film Screening Annex: 3401 Filbert St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

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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