Thursday, May 12, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 12: 97.7 percent of the state's teachers were rated satisfactory. Since the new system was implemented, that percentage has risen.”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 12, 2016:
97.7 percent of the state's teachers were rated satisfactory. Since the new system was implemented, that percentage has risen.”

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

Matt Splain, Superintendent, Otto-Eldred School District, Rally for Fair Education Funding -- May 2, 2016
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding Published on May 10, 2016 Video runtime 21 seconds

Jody Sperry, School Board President, Conneaut School District, Rally for Fair Education Funding -- May 2, 2016
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding Published on May 10, 2016 Video runtime 21 seconds

Joan Benso, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), Rally for Fair Education Funding -- May 2, 2016
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding Published on May 10, 2016 Video runtime 51 seconds

Rafi Cave, parent and School Board Vice President, William Penn School District, Rally for Fair Education Funding -- May 2, 2016
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding Published on May 10, 2016 Video runtime: 34 seconds

“Taxpayers and all school districts in Pennsylvania could be forced to pay more money to cover back pension debt accrued by a Monroe county charter school, whose founder was indicted for misusing public funds and is serving prison time for tax evasion.”
Pa Supreme Court hears charter school pension case
Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau May 11, 2016
HARRISBURG — School districts across Pennsylvania might have to cover pension debt owed by defunct charter schools.  The state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case involving a shuttered Monroe County charter school that failed to make $210,000 in teachers' pension payments and whose founder and leader pleaded guilty to tax evasion.  The outcome of the case will determine if the state-guaranteed pensions will be covered by the Pocono Mountain School District or the state Department of Education.  In some ways, the case parallels a situation unfolding in the Lehigh Valley. Trustees of the Medical Academy Charter School in Catasauqua have voted to close it next month because of low enrollment. The school is carrying $2.5 million in debt, including $103,472 in accrued pension liabilities, according to financial statements.  The Circle of Seasons Charter School in Weisenberg Township owed $121,000 in retirement costs as of mid-2015, one reason the Northwestern Lehigh School District has started a process that might shut it down.

Pennsylvania charter school to close in June
Inquirer by The Associated Press Updated: MAY 11, 2016 — 11:27 AM EDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A medical charter school in eastern Pennsylvania is set to close next month.  The (Allentown) Morning Call ( ) reports that letters were recently sent out to parents and employees of the Medical Academy Charter School in Catasauqua (kat-ah-SAW'-kwah) alerting them of the school's closure.  The academy's last day is June 16. School officials say that students' school records will be forwarded to whatever school they choose to enroll in.  The latest financial report says the school had a negative fund balance of $1.8 million and $4,858 cash on hand by the end of April. An outstanding line of credit totaled $161,000.  The school's enrollment reached 234 this year.  Officials say the school will work toward paying off its debts before the charter closes.

Blogger commentary:  The Penn Live “filmstrip” piece below details how Gov. Ridge, after failing to pass a voucher bill three times, traded increased pensions for teachers (and legislators) for the EITC tax credit program which diverts tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools.
Every tax dollar diverted to private and religious schools under the EITC and OSTC tax credit programs is a dollar that does not go into the state’s general fund and is therefore not available to fund constitutionally mandated public education.
There is no accountability whatsoever to Pennsylvania taxpayers for either academic performance or fiscal transparency.  No PSSA's; no teacher performance measures; no public budgets; no public check registers; no public board meetings.
Moreover, the scholarship organizations that administer the funds (like Mr. Banks' REACH Foundation) get to keep 20% of the money.  For the $150 million now allocated to EITC and OSTC that 20% would amount to $30 million.  For comparison sake, organizations in the Florida tax credit program reportedly keep just 3%.
In 2012 Stephanie Saul at the New York Times did a deep dive into tax credit programs, including Pennsylvania's:

Pennsylvania Constitution Article III
"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 (Sec.14)”
"No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school (Sec. 15)."

“The creation of the (EITC) program was not welcomed by the education establishment but they grudgingly accepted it in return for him signing a law that increased pension benefits for schools and state employees, which contributed to the huge unfunded liability that exists today in the two state pension systems.”
"Tax credits for kids' education: How'd that work out?"
Penn Live by Jan Murphy May 11, 2016
Former Gov. Tom Ridge made a hard push to get a taxpayer-funded school voucher program three times during his six year administration.  In the end, he settled on a different approach to bringing school choice to Pennsylvania.  He signed a law in 20901 that created the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which incentivized businesses to donate to private school scholarship programs or to fund innovative programs in public education in exchange for state tax credits. 

"There are valid concerns about using that measure as the means to determine who should be furloughed," said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.  Thirty percent of a teacher's rating is now based on student performance on state standardized tests — half of which relies on how well all students in a school perform on english, math and science tests.  In this system, effective teachers in poor performing schools can look bad, while lesser teachers in better performing schools can seem great. And that part of the metric doesn't provide much meaningful insight into the quality of educators who teach other subjects.  In addition to these criticisms, Buckheit believes the metric actually makes it too easy for teachers to avoid poor ratings. Before the new evaluation metric was added, 97.7 percent of the state's teachers were rated satisfactory. Since the new system was implemented, that percentage has risen.”
Gov. Wolf pledges to veto bill that diminishes teacher seniority
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 12, 2016
The Pennsylvania school code says teacher layoff decisions can only be made according to who has the least seniority.  The Republican-held general assembly passed a bill this week to change that, but it's facing a veto pledge from Governor Tom Wolf.  The bill does two main things. It changes the conditions under which layoffs can happen and it changes which teachers should be laid off.  It allows districts to make layoff decisions based on budget shortfalls. Right now they can only lay off teachers when enrollment drops, when whole academic programs are cut, or when schools consolidate.  Opponents of the status quo say this forces districts to make decisions more in the interest of teachers than students.  The bill also says that teachers rated as "failing" by the state's new teacher evaluation framework should be the first let go if layoffs are needed.
Seniority would still be the law of the land among teachers with the top two ratings, "distinguished" and "proficient."  "This is common sense," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre. "Right now it's strictly seniority. And so whether you're the best teacher or not, seniority dictates who stays and who goes. It's last in, first out."

 “Opponents argued that the bill calls for basing furlough decisions on a teacher evaluation system that was only put in place last year and remains unproven.  
In a statement, administration spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said the York County Democrat believes decisions about layoffs are a local matter that are best decided by each of the state's 500 school districts.”
Gov. Wolf should reconsider his veto threat on teacher layoff legislation: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board  on May 11, 2016 at 4:57 PM, updated May 11, 2016 at 5:31 PM
(*This post has been updated)
When he rode into office in November 2014, Gov. Tom Wolf did so with sweeping promises to improve Pennsylvania's dramatically underfunded public schools.  And his dogged pursuit of that goal, in the face of staunch legislative opposition, was one of the more admirable moments of Pennsylvania's nine-month-long budget impasse.  But, as has been so often remarked: Money is only part of the equation.  Dedicated and talented teachers, qualified administrators and engaged parents matter just as much - perhaps even more.  So that's why Wolf's opposition to a bill that would base teacher layoffs on their performance instead of their seniority is so vexing.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp., also would add economic reasons as a permitted cause to suspend teachers. Currently, districts can only layoff teachers because of declining enrollment, program curtailment and school or school district consolidations, as PennLive's Jan Murphy reported.

“In figures released by the state Department of Education, 98.2 percent of all teachers were rated as satisfactory in 2013-14 — the highest percentage in five years — despite a new system that some thought would increase the number of unsatisfactory ratings.  In the four prior years, 97.7 percent of teachers were rated satisfactory in all but 2009-10, when 96.8 percent were.”
How qualified are Pennsylvania's teachers? The numbers say extremely
The new evaluation system covers all K-12 public schools except charter schools.
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 15, 2015 12:00 AM
In the first year of many school districts using a new statewide teacher evaluation system, a greater portion of teachers was rated satisfactory than under the old system.  In figures released by the state Department of Education, 98.2 percent of all teachers were rated as satisfactory in 2013-14 — the highest percentage in five years — despite a new system that some thought would increase the number of unsatisfactory ratings.  In the four prior years, 97.7 percent of teachers were rated satisfactory in all but 2009-10, when 96.8 percent were. These figures count teachers in school districts, career and technical centers, intermediate units and charter schools.  Among other things, critics of the old system questioned whether too many of the state’s teachers were being rated satisfactory in a system that relied only on observation and had only two categories: satisfactory and unsatisfactory.

Gov. Wolf to veto teacher layoff legislation
Beaver County Times Online By Katherine Schaeffer May 11, 2016
HARRISBURG -- Legislation that would allow school districts to base teacher layoffs on job performance rather than seniority landed on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk Monday, but the governor says that’s as far as it will go.  This new measure would allow districts to lay off more experienced -- and more expensive -- teachers first, amending the Public School Code of 1949 to include budget shortages as one of the reasons districts can lay off classroom teachers and requiring administrators to terminate teachers with “failing" or “needs improvement” ratings first.  Currently, the state requires that districts lay off teachers based on seniority, with the most recent hires let go first. Schools have the option to remove a teacher after two consecutive poor ratings.  Wolf intends to veto House Bill 805, or the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, because it relies in part on the state's new teacher evaluation system, fully implemented in the 2014-2015 school year. The “relatively new and untested evaluation system" ranks teachers on several factors, including state standardized test scores -- a focus Wolf is trying to shift the state away from, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

News Release: Education and business leaders support efforts to allow furlough decisions based on merit, not seniority
PSBA Press Release May 11, 2016
On Monday, the Senate passed House Bill 805 (The Protect Excellent Teachers Act) by a vote of 26-22. It now awaits a signature from the Governor to become law.  Below is a compilation of reactions from business and education leaders who have been supporting this legislation for nearly 2 years.  We are encouraged by the General Assembly’s action on this common-sense reform that would permit school boards to make furlough decisions based on merit and not based solely on a teacher’s years of service.  We will be encouraging our supporters to contact the Governor and ask him to act on behalf of students and excellent educators by signing this important piece of legislation. A news conference will be held on Thursday, May 12, at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol Media Center.
Please feel free to reach out to any of us if you would like to discuss further.

Wolf should sign bill to protect excellent teachers (column)
York Daily Record Opinion by Rep. Seth Grove, Guest Columnist1:42 p.m. EDT May 11, 2016
State Rep. Seth Grove is a Republican from Dover Township.
Earlier this week, the Senate passed House Bill 805, which provided Gov. Tom Wolf the opportunity to improve education across the commonwealth by signing the bill into law.  As passed by both the House and Senate, this legislation works to ensure our children always have the best teacher in the classroom.  It has been an education policy priority of mine for six years.  Throughout his short political career, the governor has rhetorically pushed for “Schools that Teach” and policies to improve education in Pennsylvania.  In order to provide school districts the ability to improve education, state government must pass policies that increase local control.  This means providing schools with greater control of their budgets through mandate relief, greater flexibility to innovate in the classroom and greater control of personnel decisions.  In effect, Harrisburg’s role in education is to ensure school districts have the ability to make choices which improve education and protect taxpayers.

Judge calls evaluation of N.Y. teacher ‘arbitrary’ and ‘capricious’ in case against new U.S. secretary of education
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 10 
John King and President Obama in Oct. 2, 2015. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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 
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.

We need the best teachers, but performance evaluations can be biased
Post Gazette Letter by BOB ZITELLI Kennedy May 12, 2016 12:00 AM
The writer is a retired member of Boilermakers Local 154 and a retired social studies teacher at Montour High School.
Regarding the May 10 article “Bill Would Allow Schools to Lay Off Poorly Performing Teachers,” I would agree with state Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, that schools must be staffed with the most effective teachers. I disagree with a system for teacher evaluations that is untested and could possibly be biased.   I have several questions for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and Sen. Aument.
 1) Who were the committee members that developed the “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act”?
2) Where’s legislation for school district voters evaluating their school directors?
3) Where’s legislation for teachers and support personnel evaluating their building administrators and superintendents?
4) How about legislation for Pennsylvania voters evaluating their district representatives?
5) Would you consider legislation for a two-term limit in Harrisburg?
6) How about legislation reducing the size of the nation’s largest state legislature?

State Supreme Court weighs whether SRC had power to cancel teachers' contract
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 12, 2016 — 1:09 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Did the Philadelphia School Reform Commission have the power to cancel its teachers' contract and impose changes to their health-care plan during a financial crisis in 2014?  SRC attorney David H. Pittinsky told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday that the commission has at its disposal "an arsenal of rights that were given by the General Assembly" to reduce expenses, to ensure that students in the city's public schools have the resources for an "adequate" education.  He spent much of his 35 minutes before the court reviewing public school laws enacted over several decades.  But during the arguments in the high court's ornate chambers in the Capitol, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers countered that state law did not give the SRC the expansive powers it claimed to cancel a negotiated contract and unilaterally impose terms.  Union attorney Ralph Teti described the SRC's argument as legal "gymnastics," and urged the justices to affirm lower courts' rulings.

How much are Harrisburg teachers paid, and how does that compare to your district?
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 11, 2016 at 2:32 PM, updated May 11, 2016 at 4:20 PM
The average salary of a Harrisburg School District teacher is close to half of what's paid in some Pennsylvania districts, according to statewide data.  Pennsylvania State Education Association UniServ Representative Carolyn Funkhouser said the salary range for Harrisburg School District teachers runs from $41,769 to $76,395. Funkhouser said district teachers receive salaries on either end of that spectrum and in between.  PennLive's comparison of average salaries statewide showed that Harrisburg teachers' average salary ranked 459th out of 762 districts and charter schools, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education data from the 2014-15 school year.  While some of the highest average teacher salaries came in at $95,000 or more, Harrisburg's average teacher salary was $52,833 in the 2014-15 school year, the most recent statewide data available.

Taxpayers in Saucon Valley face first tax hike in 8 years
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 11, 2016 at 3:45 PM, updated May 11, 2016 at 6:25 PM
Saucon Valley School Districttaxpayers are facing their first possible tax increase in eight years despite a hefty savings account.  The school board voted 6-3 Tuesday night to pass a $45.7 million spending plan that hikes taxes by 1.24 percent, the highest increase allowed under the district's state Act 1 index.  Directors Ed Inghrim, Susan Baxter and Mark Sivak voted against the tentative budget plan, which can be changed.  The board is holding a 7 p.m. budget meeting Tuesday, May 17.  The district must find a way to close a $2 million budget gap prior to the final budget adoption in June.

Shaler will not furlough teachers for the 2016-2017 school year
Post Gazette By Rita Michel May 11, 2016 10:18 PM
A standing ovation greeted Superintendent Sean Aiken’s announcement Wednesday night that Shaler Area School District “will not be furloughing any teachers for the 2016-2017 school year.”  More than 100 teachers and their families as well as many students and their parents and community residents gathered in the Shaler Area Middle School auditorium for the school board’s committee of the whole meeting to show support for 30 teachers in danger of being laid off.  A loud “thank you” echoed from the audience as Mr. Aiken said: “We will continue to face financial challenges but will continue to work together.”  April Kwiatkowski, Shaler Area school board president, then convened a special voting meeting for the adoption of the 2016-2017 budget. The $77,913,349 spending plan passed, 8-1, with Steve Romac, school board vice president, voting no.

Ridgway school board passes proposed budget
Bradford Era By CHUCK ABRAHAM Era Correspondent Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:00 am
RIDGWAY — The Ridgway Area School Board on Tuesday moved to put a proposed 2016-17 budget on display to the public for 30 days.  However, the school board passed an unbalanced budget for next year, with an estimated income of $12,832,331 against expenditures of $13,075,819. The tax rate increased a mill from 35.6 mills in 2015-16 to 36.6 mills next year for a 2.81 percent increase in the millage rate.  Business Manager Donna Sidelinger said the school district has approximately $4.6 million in budgetary reserves currently, and $1.5 million in the capital reserve fund. However, Sidelinger pointed out the district also has $1.5 million in pension expenses. She added the district will spend $272,000 on health insurance next year, and $297,000 in pension benefits as well.  Sidelinger said the district hit a financial low point in December, with only $900,000 in the general fund until the state's 2015-16 budget finally passed in March. School board president Lisa Connelly added the school district currently has a four month reserve, and in the case of another state budget impasse, the district would need to start borrowing money after that reserve fund runs dry.

Proposed Baldwin-Whitehall budget requires staff cuts
Trib Live BY STEPHANIE HACKE  | Thursday, May 12, 2016, 2:39 a.m.
Baldwin-Whitehall School Board members said they will continue to look for alternate ways — other than proposed staff cuts ­— to balance the district's 2016-17 budget.  School board members Wednesday during a more than three-and-a-half hour, highly contentious meeting, approved the district's $62.4 million proposed 2016-17 spending plan that includes the recommendation to cut 13 professional jobs and reduce 22 full-time operational positions to half time.  “For those of you who think we aren't listening, we are listening,” board member Dan Knezevich said. “Unfortunately, we have to make some difficult decisions.”  The proposed cuts were based on program changes and fluctuating enrollment, administrators said. The proposed budget also includes a 0.83-mill tax increase and 8-percent reduction in non-personnel expenses.
The cuts would eliminate a projected $2.1 million deficit.

Negotiations stall; Brentwood teachers to consider strike
Trib Live BY STEPHANIE HACKE  | Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 1:21 p.m.
Members of the Brentwood Education Association will meet next week to determine if they should move ahead with a strike after negotiation talks have halted.  A negotiation session between the association and Brentwood Borough School District lasted five minutes Monday, said BEA communications committee chairman Darren White, a music/chorus teacher at Brentwood Middle/High School.  “It's bad. They want us to do more with less,” White said, noting that the district never replaced four teachers furloughed in 2015-16 and has not replaced others that retired.  Little progress has been made after 16 months of negotiations between the Brentwood Education Association and the district, White said.

State ponders new study as costs soar
Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: May 12, 2016
Even before state legislators mangled the public school pension system in 2001 by vastly escalating benefits while deferring payments, runaway employee health care costs posed a huge challenge.  While presiding over the unfolding pension disaster, lawmakers also have ignored the health care cost problem, even though the state government could play a constructive role.  State Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, a Lacka-wanna County Democrat, is co-sponsor of bill that would take a halting step toward producing some cost savings for school districts. But, unfortunately, it does not go far enough.  The bill would create a statewide board to study consolidating 500 school district health care plans into a statewide plan or a group of regional plans.  But the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, a joint committee of House and Senate members, already has concluded that a consolidated statewide health care plan for school district employees would save at least $200 million a year by 2020. In 2015, taxpayers paid more than $2.6 billion for school employee coverage.

Clarke floats alternative Philly soda-tax plan
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 12, 2016 — 1:09 AM EDT
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke is floating an alternative to Mayor Kenney's sugary-drinks tax plan, several City Hall sources said Wednesday.  The proposal, among a handful being considered, slashes Kenney's 3-cents-per-ounce soda tax and instead considers what a 1-cent, three-quarters of a cent, or half-cent levy per ounce could pay for.  Clarke's plan dials back expenses and calls for revenue ranging from $29 million in the first year to $50 million at the end of 2021.  That is far short of the $95 million per year Kenney wants. Clarke's plan would still cover the creation of community schools and a plan to rebuild parks and recreation centers at about the level Kenney wants, according to a document outlining the options.  Money for pre-K, however, would decrease dramatically. Instead of $60 million a year to pay for 6,500 new seats over five years as Kenney wants, the Clarke proposal would raise $19 million a year toward 2,000 new seats.

"Many, but not all, of the financial issues are beyond the district's ability to resolve on its own," he said. "What's needed is an all hands-on-deck commitment from local, state and federal leaders to work with the district to develop solutions to address its financial challenges."  The performance audit also said that the district would never be able to resolve a structural deficit unless the Legislature changes the way schools are funded. The auditor general said the school system is facing rising costs for things it cannot control, such as charter schools and pensions. And unlike every other district in the state, DePasquale noted the SRC has no power to raise taxes to increase revenues.”
State Auditor General faults Philly schools, SRC for lax management
Inquirer by Martha Woodall and Mensah M. Dean, STAFF WRITER 215-854-2789 @marwooda MAY 11, 2016 1:21 PM EDT
The Philadelphia School District has failed to conduct background checks of all of its police officers and bus drivers, uses unreliable student data and is the victim of a broken state funding structure, according to a performance audit released Wednesday by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  Besides those key findings, DePasquale said the way the school district handled some 43,000 text books after dozens of school closing in 2013 was "inexcusable" and said the state has the worst charter school law in the country to the detriment of the school district.  "Financially, the whole system for funding the Philadelphia School District is broken," DePasquale said at a news conference attended by Superintendent William Hite at school district headquarters.

Auditor calls the District's funding model unsustainable
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa May 11, 2016 — 1:18pm
The Pennsylvania auditor general says the model for funding the Philadelphia School District is fundamentally flawed and could ultimately endanger its purpose and mission – adequately educating students – if it isn’t doing so already.    In an 86-page report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the District’s total reliance on outside funding sources – from the federal government, the state, and the city – and its lack of control over escalating fixed costs have resulted in a “persistent structural deficit” and a “deteriorating financial position.”  “Anytime borrowing has to occur to meet operational needs, serious concerns are raised about the long-term viability of a district,” the report said. “The District’s current operations business model should be re-examined because the existing level of funding is insufficient to meet the District’s operational needs and ultimately may impact the District’s ability to achieve its essential mission of educating students.”  He recommends finding a better business model through heightened discussions and collaboration with the District’s funders. Such a model will need legislative support and “enable the development of a financial business model that aligns educational and business expenses with total available revenue.”   “Without a coordinated plan at the federal, state and local legislative levels, the District will continue to be in a structural deficit,” the report states.

Auditor General DePasquale Finds Problems with Philadelphia School District’s Background Checks for School Police Officers, Bus Drivers 
District continues to battle serious, persistent financial challenges that require collaborative solutions
PA Auditor General Press Release May 11, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (May 11, 2016) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said a recent audit shows the School District of Philadelphia failed to ensure complete criminal background checks and child-abuse clearances are conducted for school police officers and bus drivers.  The audit also shows that the district continues to face persistent financial challenges. The district will plunge further into red ink just to keep classrooms open unless there is a strong collaborative effort by public officials at all levels of government for a commitment to change the current funding structure for the sake of the district’s nearly 200,000 students.  “Financially, the whole system for funding the School District of Philadelphia is broken,” DePasquale said. “Many, but not all, of the financial issues are beyond the district’s ability to resolve on its own. What’s needed is an all-hands-on-deck commitment from local, state and federal leaders to work with the district to develop solutions to address its financial challenges and be a good steward of public funds.   “Meanwhile, the district needs to improve its work on bus driver and school police officer background checks, school police training, employee contracts and data collection.”   The 84-page audit report has six findings and 24 recommendations. Four of the findings are repeats from the district’s prior audit released in March 2011. 
“These findings are not insurmountable,” he said. 

Pennsylvania: Most Inequitable Funding in the Nation
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch May 11, 2016 //
After nine months of feuding over the state budget, the Pennsylvania legislature–dominated by Republicans–and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf finally reached a deal. Wolf wanted a $400 million increase for education, mostly targeted to help the beleaguered cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The final deal included only half that amount. Pennsylvania will remain the state with the most inequitable funding for the foreseeable future.  Pennsylvania has a long way to go to make up for the heavy cuts that former Governor Tom Corbett imposed on the schools.  To keep up with the news from Pennsylvania, read the Keystone State Education Coalition’s daily briefings.

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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