Friday, April 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 29: Reading schools among nation's most underfunded, report finds

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 29, 2016:
Reading schools among nation's most underfunded, report finds

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!  We're rallying for a permanent fair funding formula + increases to basic education in 2016-17 budget
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.

“At the state level, Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that allows for limitless contributions to political candidates. The only prohibition is on direct corporate contributions to candidates.  Apart from that, it's a free-for-all.”…
Proposals that would reform Pennsylvania's campaign finance laws come and go with each legislative session.  Most never escape from committee for a vote on the floor of the state House and Senate.  The current legislative session is shaping up to be little different. According to Kauffman, about a half-dozen such reform plans are now before the two chambers.  All are marooned in committee.
Among them is a comprehensive plan sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, that would establish actual contribution limits and move to constrain the activities of so-called "independent expenditure" groups who are now operating in the state.”
A prescription to crash the millionaires' party in Pa. politics: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Email the author on March 30, 2016 at 4:15 PM, updated March 30, 2016 at 9:36 PM
In 2007, Philadelphia-area philanthropist Ronald Krancer  donated $600,000 to support his son, Michael Krancer's, Republican bid for a seat on the state Supreme Court.  In 2014, Louis Appell Jr., of York, a former head of Pfaltzgraff Co., contributed $725,000 to now-Gov. Tom Wolf and now-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack's successful effort to capture the state's top spot.  In 2010, charter school magnate Vaughan Guereghian dumped $325,714 into Republican Tom Corbett's ultimately successful campaign for the Governor's Office.  And in 2006, Christine Toretti, an Indiana County resident, head of S.W. Jack Drilling Co., and a longtime Republican activist, contributed $114,089 to former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann's Republican campaign for governor. 
What do they all have in common?  They are among the 13 men and women who have donated $1 million or more to political campaigns across Pennsylvania over the last 16 years.

“Pennsylvania overall did not fare well in the Rutgers report card. The state was deemed to have a "regressive" school funding system, meaning schools with more need actually get funded at lower levels.  According to the report, districts with at least 30 percent of their students living in poverty get funded at only 93 percent of what schools with no students living in poverty are funded. Pennsylvania is one of 14 states identified as having regressive funding.”
Reading schools among nation's most underfunded, report finds
Reading Eagle By David Mekeel  Friday April 29, 2016 12:01 AM
The Reading School District has been named one of the most fiscally disadvantaged districts in the nation in a new report.  The Education Law Center at Rutgers University recently released its latest version of its "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card." It is the fifth edition of the report.  In a companion report, "America's Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts," authors Bruce Baker, David Sciarra, Danielle Farrie and Theresa Luhm say Reading and Allentown "face the nation's most extreme disadvantage," thanks to high poverty and relatively low state and local per-pupil revenue.  "Many districts - especially urban, inner suburban and rural, serving very high-need student populations - continue to struggle from a lack of sufficient funding, which makes it impossible to provide all students with the opportunity for a high quality education," the companion report says.  Dr. Khalid Mumin, Reading superintendent, said the reports are further evidence that Pennsylvania needs to work to bring equity to its funding for education.

Pa. Education Secretary Rivera addresses educators, talks standardized testing
State education secretary addresses educators at annual conference in State College
Speech focuses on standardized tests, vocational education and working with legislators
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY APRIL 28, 2016 6:33 PM
When it comes to rural school districts, some administrators think they get the short end of the stick with education funding and support.  But on Thursday, state Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera  said the state has their backs.  He spoke to a group of educators and school board members at the annual Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools conference at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center.  The three-day event aims to spread awareness about the organization and its mission to promote equal opportunity for quality education.   “One of the things we’re talking about is advocacy for education and hitting the needs of rural community education,” Rivera said. “We fully understand the plight of our rural school districts and what they need.”  Rivera emphasized the plan to limit standardized tests, use positive incentives toward schools and increase vocational education for secondary school students.

As the budget deadline beckons, remember investing in education is a good thing: Stephen Herzernberg
PennLive Op-Ed  By Stephen Herzenberg on April 28, 2016 at 1:00 PM, updated April 28, 2016 at 4:15 PM
Stephen Herzenberg is the Executive Director of Keystone Research Center, a left-leaning and policy think tank in Harrisburg.
The best way for Pennsylvania to grow its economy and expand opportunity for individuals is to invest in a well-educated workforce. Most Pennsylvanians get this and support investing in education.  They understand that spending more money on education is a good thing, as long as the money is well used.  Some Harrisburg voices, however, including the Commonwealth Foundation, say that Pennsylvania already invests more than enough in our schools and students.  They suggest a high state ranking for investing in education, even in our global, knowledge-based economy, is a bad thing.  Perhaps they would also have argued against investment in rail and waterways that shipped Pittsburgh's steel and Philadelphia's auto parts to Detroit a century ago. 

Is your school district underfunded? Citizens for Fair School Funding wants to fix that
At a Capitol news conference on Thursday, Rep. David Parker, R-Monroe, calls for new basic education dollars in 2016-17 to go toward addressing funding inequities created by the state's former school funding formula that resulted in 180 school districts being underfunded by a cumulative $937 million over the past 25 years.
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |   Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on April 28, 2016 at 5:35 PM, updated April 28, 2016 at 5:38 PM
A group representing the interests of 180 school districts are calling dibs on any new money earmarked in the 2016-17 state budget for basic education.  The Citizens for Fair School Funding say it's a matter of fairness.  Rep. David Parkers urges giving priority to addressing the underfunding of 180 school districtsAs the talks get underway on the 2016-17 state budget, Parker is calling for any new basic education funding included in it to go to those districts that were the most disadvantaged by the former school funding formula first while holding funding ...  Citing the findings of the Basic Education Funding Commission, those 180 districts (see which ones they are below) have been shortchanged a combined $937 million by the way the state has been distributing education funds since 1991-92. At the same time, the commission indicated the other 320 districts in the state have been overfunded by that amount.  The group is not saying that the 320 districts should lose money. Rather they argue those districts' state funding should be kept at this year's level while any new money should be directed the 180 until the inequity issue is resolved.   "If we do not address this now, most of the 180 districts are doomed to be underfunded for another 25 years and these students, communities, cities and taxpayers will continue to suffer," said Rep. David Parker, R-Monroe, at a Capitol news conference on Thursday.

Making the Most of New Funding Formula
Commonwealth Foundation APRIL 27, 2016 | by JAMES PAUL
recent report from ABC 27 asks: “Will lawmakers stick with new education funding formula next year?” At issue is whether Pennsylvania’s student-based formula will be retained in future state budgets. The ABC story raises an important concern—but it slightly misses the mark.  Here’s the question we should be asking: Will lawmakers stick with the new formula and ensure the formula is applied to all funding above 2014-15 levels?  The 2015-16 budget includes $150 million in new Basic Education spending. This funding will be dispersed to school districts based on a formula that accounts for enrollment—which is undeniably a positive step forward.    But the formula only applies to 3 percent of Basic Education funding, the largest line item in the education budget. The other 97 percent is restricted by Pennsylvania’s “hold harmless” provision, which guarantees each district receive no fewer education dollars than it received the previous year—regardless of changes in enrollment  It is crucial that lawmakers do not apply hold harmless to the $150 million appropriated in 2015-16. Should the legislature increase Basic Education funding in 2016-17, the new formula should apply to all funding above 2014-15 levels, not merely the increase appropriated in 2016-17.   Thanks to hold harmless, districts with declining enrollment received more than three times the state funding per student than growing districts since 1996. Until the student-based formula is applied to a larger portion of the Basic Education line item, hundreds of school districts will continue to be treated unfairly.

Blogger note: Last evening the SRC voted to give Wister, Cooke and Huey Elementary schools to charter school companies.  No press coverage was available yet this morning…
SRC to vote on charter conversions, renewals, and non-renewals
Councilwoman Helen Gym is calling for a moratorium on charter conversions. The SRC will consider four Renaissance non-renewal recommendations.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 28, 2016 — 12:40pm
At what promises to be a long and contentious meeting Thursday night, the School Reform Commission plans to vote on whether to hand over three more low-performing schools to charter operators – Wister in Germantown, Jay Cooke in Logan, and Samuel B. Huey in West Philadelphia.  It will also vote on whether to renew nine other charters, including six that are Renaissance turnaround conversions of District schools. Of those six, the charter office recommended not renewing four. (The office recommended renewal for a seventh former District school, Mastery Shoemaker, which was converted in 2006 before the Renaissance initiative.)   Nearly 70 people have registered to speak at the meeting, which starts at 4 p.m.  Councilwoman Helen Gym is urging the SRC to put a moratorium on conversions, citing an analysis by her staff indicating that some Renaissance charters serve a smaller proportion, and in some cases a smaller number, of neighborhood students than the schools did when run by the District. Gym has also raised questions about the fitness of Great Oaks to operate Cooke. 

Pittsburgh teachers to get small pay raises in contract extension
Pact expected to be ratified in May
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 29, 2016 12:16 AM
Teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical-technical workers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools would get raises next year under a tentative contract extension to be ratified in May.  The district and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers jointly released some details Thursday of the proposal, which would extend the expired collective bargaining agreement through June 30, 2017.   In the statement, the district and union said neither party would comment on the plan until it is finalized by a vote. But Hill District-based education group and city schools watchdog A+ Schools offered its tentative support the same day.

“Superintendent Jim Scanlon said in a release. “Unfortunately, the increase in mandates makes it nearly impossible to avoid a tax increase without making cuts to our program.”  The mandates will cost the district an $8.5 million increase with the biggest chunk — $4.5 million — going to PSERS, or the pension expenses.
Another $3.2 million is for special education and the final $800,000 will go to charter school tuitions.”
West Chester Area School Board reduces tax increase in proposed budget
By Candice Monhollan, cmonhollan@ on Twitter
POSTED: 04/28/16, 4:45 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
WEST GOSHEN >> Now that the dust has settled in Harrisburg and the state has a budget, the West Chester Area School Board was able to unanimously pass a proposed final budget without having to play a guessing game with the numbers.  The proposed final budget for the 2016-17 school year will be $237.3 million — a 5-percent increase from 2015-16 — and has an $11.6 million increase in expenses, 73 percent of which are state and federally mandated.  The preliminary budget, passed in January, featured a 4.1 tax increase.  With a state budget now in place, the school board was able to bring that increase down to 3 percent, or a $108 average increase per household, as of the proposed final budget.  “We have done our very best to control the expenses that are within our control,”

Delco’s top teachers and students win plaudits
Delco Times By Bette Alburger, Special to the Times POSTED: 04/28/16, 10:54 PM
UPPER DARBY >> It was like the academy awards for academia last night when the 2016 Partners in Education Celebration took place at the Drexelbrook in Drexel Hill.
Excelling in academics and excellence in teaching were acknowledged in A-plus style during Delaware County’s premier education recognition event, presented by Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.  Patterned after accolades heaped on high school athletes, the 12th annual event honored faculty advisors and all 200 high school students who participated in Delco Hi-Q this year. Included was the elite 21-member All-Delco Hi-Q Team comprised of one student from each team chosen by the team’s advisor.  Cash awards went to the three top-scoring teams of the academic quiz competition’s 68th season. First place Garnet Valley, second place Penncrest and third place Sun Valley each received an engraved plaque and $3,000, $2,500 and $2,000, respectively, for their school. The Garnet Valley champs, who also won this year’s national Hi-Q championship, also earned the right to display the Donna Zerby Trophy for a year.  For the highest percentage increase in its score, Ridley’s team received the Most Improved award, along with $1,000 for its school.
Eighteen of Delaware County’s many exceptional educators were honored with the esteemed Excellence in Teaching Award for 2016. Chosen from more than 200 nominations, they included one from each of the county’s 15 public school districts, one from the I.U., and an elementary and a high school non-public educator.  The award was established by the credit union in partnership with the I.U. to recognize exemplary teachers for their dedication and positive impact on students. Each received $500, a commemorative keepsake and $1,000 to benefit his or her school.

North Penn band is a first for New Orleans Jazz Fest
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 27, 2016 — 9:44 PM EDT
When the Big Easy calls, a true jazzman cannot refuse - even if he's in the throes of diaper changes and midnight feedings of his 2-week-old, first-born daughter.  With North Penn High School's award-winning Navy Jazz Band slated to perform at the venerated New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this week, on a main stage - a first-ever honor for a school ensemble from outside the Crescent City - band director David DiValentino knew he had to put paternity leave on hold.  His wife, he said, commanded him to "Go! . . . This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing."  There was no need to point that out to the 23 band members, who will share the festival program with the likes of Paul Simon, Pearl Jam, and the jazz-fusion jam band Snarky Puppy, a favorite of the budding musicians from central Montgomery County.

“ESSA set up a negotiated rulemaking (or “neg reg”) committee to address several issues: assessments for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities, the option for districts to use the SAT or ACT or other tests instead of state high school exams, testing throughout the school year instead of using end-of-year exams, and testing in languages other than English.”
New U.S. rules for standardized testing have been drafted. Here’s what they mean for kids.
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss April 28 at 1:50 PM 
Last December, Congress passed a new federal education law called the Every Student Succeeds Act, replacing No Child Left Behind. With it will come new rules for states to follow regarding standardized testing for “accountability” purposes. Negotiators have agreed on draft rules, which will soon be released so the public can comment before the rules are actually approved and enforced.  How will students and teachers be affected if the draft rules are not changed and are finalized? Here’s a post explaining all of that by Monty Neill, executive director of theNational Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally sound.

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:

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), a statewide children's advocacy organization located in Harrisburg, PA has an immediate full-time opening for an Early Learning and K-12 Education Policy Manager.  PPC's vision is to be one of the top ten states in which to be a child and raise a child. Today, Pennsylvania ranks 17th in the nation for child well-being. Our early learning and K-12 education policy work is focused on ensuring all children enter school ready to learn and that all children have access to high-quality public education. Current initiatives include increasing the number of children served in publicly funded pre-k and implementing a fair basic education formula along with sustained, significant investments in education funding.

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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