Wednesday, May 11, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 11: Wolf will veto seniority layoffs bill

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 11, 2016:
Wolf will veto seniority layoffs bill

Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor schools in the country
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Website
Make the new funding formula permanent; pass a budget for 2016-17 that increases funding for public schools by at least $400 million

“Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, one supporter of the Dush bill, contends that posting the motto in schools would be a good influence on children living in a society that glorifies “all the negative things ... vulgarity, pornography, every type of lawlessness.” Frankly, that sounds a lot like the culture our state leaders have created in Harrisburg. Much vulgarity was spewed during the months-long partisan budget standoff. An email porn scandal has forced the ouster of two state Supreme Court justices since October. As for lawlessness, more than a dozen state legislators have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to various crimes over the past 15 years. 
How about this? Instead of passing Mr. Dush’s bill, the Legislature should clean up its act and set a positive example for young people. It also should resolve to pass an annual budget that is on time and properly funds schools and social-service agencies. Lawmakers supporting the Dush legislation  may have good intentions, but the bill does nothing whatsoever for schoolchildren.”
Motto distraction: ‘In God We Trust’ has no place in public schools
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board May 10, 2016 12:00 AM
State lawmakers are sorely missing the mark with a bill that would give public schools the option of displaying the motto “In God We Trust.”  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, passed the Republican-controlled House last week and now goes to the GOP-controlled Senate. The bill should be defeated, partly because it would further blur the line between church and state.   But that isn’t the only problem with it. If signed into law, the legislation potentially would spark debates about posting the motto in 500 school districts across the state. Just what the education system needs: a community-by-community fight over an abstraction unrelated to learning.

A religious motto in our schools would intrude on a precious freedom
Post Gazette Letter by NATE HOUSTON  Emsworth May 11, 2016 12:00 AM
In response to the May 9 article “ ‘In God We Trust’ Motto for Pa. Schools Gets a Push From House”: We need to keep church and state separate. Having this phrase on publicly funded schools is unconstitutional.   Our Founding Fathers made this perfectly clear when they stated “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” in the First Amendment.   This not only guarantees the right of nonbelievers not to have religion shoved down our throats but also prohibits any government body from restricting the right of believers to their faith.   If I could speak to Rep. Rick Saccone, I would tell him that true freedom is freedom for all, not just those who share your beliefs. He represents all people in his district, not just the religious ones. This is one part of the Constitution we should definitely not butcher.

Rep. Rick Saccone can promote religion on his own time and dime
Post Gazette Letter by ANN WALLACE STRADER Scott May 11, 2016 12:00 AM
Our legislators would serve better we the people by focusing their time and attention, and our tax dollars, on the real issues facing the citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These issues include child care, education, the unemployed or underemployed and women’s and children’s health. Also, they should pass a budget in a responsible and timely manner. 
Posting a religious motto in our public schools will only lead to constitutional battles in the courts that will divert time and tax dollars that can be better spent on serious legislation. If state Rep. Rick Saccone wants to promote religion he is free to do so on his own time and his own dime.

MEMO: Why Governor Wolf Will Veto House Bill 805
To: Interested Parties
From: Sarah Galbally, Secretary of Policy and Planning
Subject: Why Governor Wolf Will Veto House Bill 805
Date: May 10, 2016
For months, Governor Wolf and the Department of Education have sought input on how to improve accountability in education, and the governor continues to believe that our common goal should be working together to invest in education, strengthen accountability, and place more educators in overcrowded classrooms to provide our children with the attention they deserve and the tools they need.

Bill Allowing Schools to Keep the Best Teachers in the Classroom Heads to Governor
House Majority Leader Dave Reed Press Release 5/9/2016
HARRISBURG – Legislation to keep Pennsylvania’s best teachers in the classroom and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs passed the Senate today and is now on its way to the governor, Majority Leader, Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) said.   Under current law, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired, regardless of his or her impact on students.   “Forcing school officials to lay off teachers based solely on date of hire and not performance like any other organization, hurts the students and teachers,” Reed said. “Each school district should have the ability to hire and keep the best teachers and not be hampered by outdated laws or rules.” 

Bill passes to alter Pennsylvania schools' seniority layoffs
Education Week by AP Published Online: May 10, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislation to change a system of seniority-based layoffs for public school teachers is headed to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who says he'll veto it.  The Senate on Monday voted 28 to 22 in favor of a bill that would require school districts making layoffs to first eliminate the jobs of educators deemed to be failing or in need of improvement, rather than those most recently hired.  Districts would have to use the state's 4-year-old teacher performance rating system to guide decisions about layoffs and reinstatements.  A Wolf spokesman says the issue should be settled by districts during negotiations with labor unions.  The bill's supporters say Pennsylvania is among a small number of states that use seniority as the sole factor in determining which teachers should lose their jobs during tough economic times.

Gov. Wolf to veto bill that would end seniority policy in teacher furloughs
Trib Live BY ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  | Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 1:00 p.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that he intends to veto a bill that would eliminate the “last in, first out” policy during teacher furloughs.  The bill, which was passed in the Senate on Monday afternoon, would allow teachers to be retained based on their effectiveness rather than seniority, supporters said.  Wolf wrote in a memo that the bill would place too much emphasis on high-stakes testing to determine teacher effectiveness. Furthermore, the school code provides districts with guidelines for removing teachers who underperform, he wrote.

Should teachers be laid off by seniority? Pa. pols disagree
Delco Times By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 05/10/16, 10:10 PM
As the Pennsylvania Senate passed a measure to allow school districts to lay off teachers based on performance, not seniority — and Gov. Tom Wolf threatened to veto it — elected and union officials voiced their positions on the issue.  HB 805 would eliminate the priority seniority has when districts are faced with reducing their teaching staff. Instead, teachers would be aligned based on an evaluation system using the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests outcomes as a parameter for whether they stayed or not. It passed the Senate Monday by a vote of 26-22. It now moves to the governor’s office.  In his memorandum on the bill, state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-199 of Carlisle, stated that basing lay off policies on seniority is a disservice to students and teachers.  “It actually ignores differences in teacher quality and disrupts more classrooms and schools than performance-based layoffs. Moreover, seniority-based layoffs disproportionately impact low-income and minority students,” he said.
Wolf, who said he will veto it, disagrees.

“In early February, the Agora board had laid off scores of teachers, citing financial problems it blamed on the lack of a state budget.  The board initially refused to say how many staffers were let go, but in a Feb. 29 letter to parents and staff said that 136 jobs had been eliminated for a savings of $4.5 million.  Agora enrolls 8,500 students across the state who receive online instruction in their homes.
Teachers at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Midland, Pa., are also unionized.”
Agora Cyber teachers vote to unionize
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER Updated: MAY 10, 2016 — 6:06 PM EDT
Teachers at Agora Cyber Charter School - the second largest cyber in the state - have voted overwhelmingly to become unionized, a new local affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association announced late Tuesday afternoon.  The National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia, which tallied the mail ballots, said that teachers at the cyber based in King of Prussia had voted 312-46 in favor of being represented by the Agora Cyber Education Association.  Union organizers said that the vote came after a 10-month campaign that focused on changes to working conditions without notice and lack of teacher involvement in decisions about curriculum, classroom objectives or learning conditions for students.  "The teachers have demonstrated through this election that it's time for change at Agora," said Jill Phillips, chair of the middle school social studies department and member of the organizing committee.

Medical Academy Charter School closing doors in June
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call May 10, 2016
CATASAUQUA — With enrollment numbers far below a sustainable level, the Medical Academy Charter School in Catasauqua will shutter by the end of next month.  Roughly two weeks ago, letters were sent to parents of students and school employees alerting them of the school's imminent closure, according to the school's chief executive officer and principal, Jose Rosado.  Dr. Craig Haytmanek, co-founder and chairman of the school's board of trustees, will speak with students during a 9 a.m. Wednesday assembly at the school.  During a board of trustees meeting Tuesday night, the board voted to reduce the number of trustees to three so they would need only two members for a quorum. It then voted on a resolution that would put into motion the process to relinquish the charter, last renewed by the Catasauqua Area School Board in 2015.

Seven Generations Charter formally asks to close middle school
Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus could close its middle school pending approval from the East Penn School Board.
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call
EMMAUS — Seven Generations Charter School officials Monday asked the East Penn School Board to allow it to suspend its middle school next year, with the hope of reopening it as early as 2017-2018.  Paul Hunter, principal of Seven Generations in Emmaus, told East Penn officials that the charter's elementary school is working extremely well but the middle school is beset by lower standardized test scores and high teacher turnover.  Middle school students enrolling after attending other elementary schools have not necessarily bought in to Seven Generations' project-based, environmental curriculum, he said. Students who start in the charter's elementary school do well in the middle school, he said.  The Seven Generations staff and board of trustees need time to research how best to offer the curriculum and learning model to grades 6, 7 and 8, Hunter said.  "We need to take our program and suspend it and recreate it with that middle school student in mind," he said. "It's not going to be a situation where we hastily throw something together and open our doors and say come on in."

EPLC “Focus On Education” - May 2016
Vimeo from EPLCPLUS1 day ago
This show initially aired on May 8, 2016 on PCN TV and featured two guests:
Guest 1: Dr. Richard D. Nilsen, Executive Director, PA Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Guest 2: Pedro A. Rivera, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
All EPLC “Focus on Education” TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.
Visit the and the web sites for various resources related to education and school funding issues.

Parker talks fair school funding
Rep. Parker talks fair school funding at East Stroudsburg
Lynn Ondrusek Pocono Record Writer  Posted May. 10, 2016 at 1:27 PM
State Rep. David Parker is trying to spread the word on a different way to get funding to the state’s underfunded school districts.  On Tuesday morning Parker visited East Stroudsburg Area School District to explain the Basic Education Funding formula, which was released in June by the Basic Education Funding Commission.  The report identified 180 districts that are underfunded by a total of $937 million, annually. The Campaign for Fair Funding wants an increase in funding to be distributed to all 500 school districts in the state through the new basic education funding formula.  Parker, and Support Equity First, would like to see 75 percent of new money allocated to schools to be distributed to the underfunded districts, based on their proportional under funding.  He said redistributing the funding formula would get to equity for all school districts quicker, rather than waiting 25 years under the new basic education funding formula.

I don't want your school to fail. I want both yours and mine to succeed.
Newsworks Commentary by Theresa Foster MAY 10, 2016 ESSAYWORKS
As a mother of three, I could not hear Jameria's story ("The cold realities of education in a poor Pennsylvania school district," published April 24, by Kevin McCorry) without feeling sad for children in her position, and frustration with a system that allows such deplorable conditions to exist. And yet, her closing comment suggesting it is because “rich people” don’t want other children to have adequate education or school funding does not sit well with me. I would probably be one of the “rich people” she talks about, and I wish she could know how I really think and feel.  Jameria is right in thinking I want the best education for my children, but that does not mean I want it to be better than her own, or anyone else’s. Because I want my children to succeed does not mean I therefore want others to fail. It is not a ball game with a winning side and a losing side. I want districts and states to figure out how to improve the weaker, poorer schools without taking away from the schools that are now well funded, high scoring, and successfully preparing students for work and advanced education. We all want our schools to perform that way, and to ask successful schools to give up their strengths so that others may have them instead does not advance our youth.

Fate of Philly sugary drinks tax still uncertain
WHYY Newsworks BY TOM MACDONALD MAY 10, 2016
Philadelphia's proposed tax on soda and sugary beverages is still no closer to passage.
Council President Darrell Clarke said last week that a three cents-per ounce tax was an issue.  This week Clarke was noncommittal, saying he wasn't sure there are votes to pass any tax, even if smaller than three cents.  "I have not polled members so I'm not clear where we are.  I think all the information has to be put out on the table both in terms of the programmatic side and the terms of the impact on the particular tax and those are still issues that are being discussed," he said.  Clarke says he's still concerned how the tax would hit poorer neighborhoods.  "We have maps that reflect where those locales are when the sugary drinks are being sold it's clearly in the lower income neighborhoods," he said.

 “Among the higher expenditures is a $585,000 increase in district payments to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System. The administration also anticipates a $300,000 increase in payments to charter schools and a $200,000 increase for special education funding, according to Superintendent Robert J. Spengler, who based the estimates on recent trends.”
Catasauqua Area School Board votes rare tax hike
Daryl Nerl Special to The Morning Call May 11, 2016
Catasauqua Area schools looking at a rare property tax hike
CATASAUQUA — The Catasauqua Area School Board moved toward approving the district's first real estate tax increase in four years Tuesday night.  The board adopted a proposed final 2016-17 budget, which calls for $29.5 million in spending and a 3.1 percent real estate tax hike for property owners in Catasauqua and Hanover Township, Lehigh County. Typical homeowners with an assessed property value of $128,900 will see their school taxes increase by $64 a year.  Homeowners in North Catasauqua, in Northampton County, will actually see their tax bills drop by about half a percentage point under this budget proposal, thanks to a change in the aggregate assessed values of properties in the two counties as determined by the Pennsylvania Tax Equalization Division.  The 3.1 percent increase corresponds precisely to the district's index under Pennsylvania Act 1. The district did not seek exceptions for a heftier increase.

Dallas School Board votes to include 4.05 percent tax hike in proposed 2016-17 budget
By Camille Fioti for Times Leader - May 9, 2016
DALLAS TWP. — The Dallas School Board voted 8-1 Monday to approve a proposed final budget with a 4.05 tax hike for the 2016-2017 school year.  Board member Sherri Newell voted against the $38,302,415 budget.  The proposed millage rate of 13.1381 would equate to an additional $55.64 per year on an average district home valued at $157,000, said business manager Grant Palfey.  With the potential loss of $390,000 in PlanCon money from the state for reimbursement of construction of the new high school, Palfey said the tax increase would be necessary to avoid educational cuts.  “Something has to be done to make up for that shortfall,” he said, adding that he’s been re-examining all of the contracts in the district and that $759,000 in cuts have been made so far.

York City schools budget: No tax increase
York Daily Record by  Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com4:15 p.m. EDT May 10, 2016
The York City School District is planning for a few new initiatives, but no tax increase, as it budgets for the next school year.  "The important part to me is trying to make sure we have the resources to get done what we need to do in the recovery plan. That's really what it's all about," said Richard Snodgrass, district business manager. The plan for 2016-17 moves the district in that direction, he said.  The proposed budget anticipates flat state funding, after the lengthy stalemate over state budget negotiations this year. The budget maintains items the district revived this year, such as teachers for foreign language, art, music and physical education at the K-8 level.

Final LERTA tax break decision rests with Pottstown School Board
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/10/16, 2:48 PM EDT | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> An incentive that delays the full tax assessment on an improved property for seven years and provides additional incentives for those who hire borough residents has been approved in concept by borough council.  With a unanimous vote and no comment, borough council endorsed the draft put together by an ad-hoc committee of school board and borough council members formed in February and revised by the borough and school district solicitors.  The draft now goes to the Pottstown School Board for approval and then each board must formally adopt the final version, Borough Manager Mark Flanders explained Monday.

Common Core: A Failed ‘Grand Experiment’
Huffington Post by David A. Pickler  04/19/2016 04:01 pm ET
David A. Pickler, J.D., is president of the American Public Education Foundation, a past president of the National School Boards Association, and Vice-Chair of the Tennessee Academic Standards Recommendation Committee for Mathematics and English Language Arts formed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and other state officials.
~This post is the first in a planned 3-part series on Common Core~
Top Republican presidential contenders cite Common Core in their stump speeches, seeking political capital and earning audible cheers by referring to Common Core as a “disaster” that must end, or calling for the “repeal [of] every word of Common Core.” The Democratic contenders are far quieter on the issue, focusing instead on college and university access.  The call to action is clear. As a failed grand experiment in school reform — and a costly one, with a nationwide price tag some estimate at $80 billion for teacher training, materials development and purchase, and implementation (from an initial nationwide estimate of $17 billion) — states must actively reconsider their commitment to Common Core.  With ‘war stories’ from embattled educators now commonplace, what is painfully clear is that Common Core, which sets standards for K-12 in English language arts (ELA)/literacy and mathematics, has gone horribly, terribly wrong. Each day these demonstrably failed standards remain in place, we betray the trust of U.S. public schoolchildren, parents, teachers, principals, and administrators tethered to flawed, federalized education reform.

Judge calls evaluation of N.Y. teacher ‘arbitrary’ and ‘capricious’ in case against new U.S. secretary of education
By Valerie Strauss May 10 at 5:03 PM 
A judge has ruled that a New York teacher received an evaluation that was “arbitrary” and “capricious” as part of an assessment system that was developed when John King, the new U.S. education secretary, was the New York State education commissioner.  New York Supreme Court Judge Roger McDonough said in his decision that he could not rule beyond the individual case of fourth-grade teacher Sheri G. Lederman because regulations around the evaluation system have been changed, but he said she had proved that the controversial method that King developed and administered in New York had provided her with an unfair evaluation. It is thought to be the first time a judge has made such a decision in a teacher evaluation case.

A master teacher went to court to challenge her low evaluation. What her win means for her profession.
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss May 10 at 8:55 PM 
The previous post reports the news that a judge in New York has ruled in favor of a master teacher who went to court to challenge the validity of her evaluation. You can read it here. The following post explains what the ruling means and why it matters to more than Sheri Lederman, the teacher who filed the suit in an effort to challenge not only her own evaluation but assessment systems that use”value-added modeling,” or VAM, which purports to be able to use student standardized test scores to determine the “value” of a teacher while factoring out every other influence on a student (including, for example, hunger, sickness, and stress).  This post was written by Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group. Burris was an award-winning principal at a New York high school, and she is the author of numerous articles, books and blog posts about the botched school reform efforts in her state, including about the teacher evaluation system at the center of this case.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 4 - 10, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 10, 2016 - 2:27pm 
Add Georgia to the list of states that have had to eliminate consequences attached to test scores because of the failure of computer-administered exams. Earlier this year, Alaska and Tennessee cancelled their tests as did Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota in 2015 -- more than two-thirds of all states have reported computer test SNAFUs:  Meanwhile, the grassroots assessment reform movement continues to push state and local policy-makers to rollback policies that mandate the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.

Joint public hearing on Every Student Succeeds Act Wednesday May 18th
PA House and PA Senate Education Committees
Harrisburg Wednesday May 18th 9:00 AM Hearing Room #1 North Office Building

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:

When: September 9, 2016, 10:00 am PST/1:00pm EST
Where: Schools across America
Sponsor: American Public Education Foundation (APEF)
The National Anthem “Sing-A-Long” is a movement to teach K-12 students the words, meaning,
music and history of the Star-Spangled Banner. This annual event is held each year on the
second week of September to honor 9/11 families, victims and heroes and celebrate the historic
birthday of the National Anthem on September 14. Those who join the “Sing-A-Long” are singing in unison at the exact same time at multiple sites across the U.S. The APEF has also created a robust, companion curriculum recognized by numerous State Departments of Education, available online at (see the “Educate” tab) for free download.
The Foundation hopes to have the support of the Alabama Department of Education as we
commemorate the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 this year. Teachers are encouraged to sign up
before the end of the school year at Also online is a "how-to" guide on
holding an event at your school and sample press release. If you do not wish to hold a full
ceremony at the school, your students can simply stand up and sing at 10 am PST/1:00pm EST.
The Star-Spangled Banner Movement is a simple, elegant way to honor 9/11 while also teaching students how the world came together in the days, weeks and months after the September 2001 terrorist strikes. The APEF also offers a host of other free educational material on its website, including polls, contests and grant information.

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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