Friday, May 13, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 13: Ed Voters PA: Lawmakers should focus on adequately funding our schools, not making it easier to cut teachers from our children’s classrooms

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 13, 2016:
Ed Voters PA: Lawmakers should focus on adequately funding our schools, not making it easier to cut teachers from our children’s classrooms

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

'Come hell or high water there will be a budget on Wolf's desk' by June 30: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 12, 2016 at 1:09 PM, updated May 12, 2016 at 1:56 PM
With just about six weeks to go before Pennsylvania closes the books on the 2015-16 state budget, Republican legislative leaders and the Democratic Wolf administration agree on exactly two things:  First, some kind of completed state budget will land on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk before (or shortly after) the current fiscal year blinks out of existence at midnight on June 30.   Second, no one - not Republicans, not Democrats, not no one, wants a repeat of the embarrassing, nine-month-long stalemate that was finally resolved when the last piece of Wolf's freshman spending plan lapsed into law without his signature in April.  Beyond that - everything else is open to negotiation.  And for now, before anyone's lost their tempers during negotiations, stormed out of the room or otherwise thrown their toys out of the pram, there's a sense of quiet optimism.

You can't tax Pa. back to prosperity, Gov. Wolf: Gene Barr
PennLive Op-Ed  By Gene Barr on May 12, 2016 at 2:00 PM, updated May 12, 2016 at 7:15 PM
Gene Barr is the President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
Over the past year-and-a-half, Pennsylvania's fiscal landscape has been marred by protracted budget battles, repeated credit downgrades and the threat of multi-billion dollar tax increases.   Unfortunately, in his 2016-17 budget address Gov. Tom Wolf continued his calls for many of the same tax and spend policies that played a central role in the nine-month 2015-16 budget impasse.   In addition to policies that will increase labor costs for Pennsylvania employers, the governor's budget plan includes $2.7 billion in new and increased taxes on Pennsylvania's working families and businesses.   What it doesn't include are any significant reforms to address the Commonwealth's growing cost drivers.   

HB805: Lawmakers call on Wolf to reconsider his plan to veto bill ending seniority-based teacher furloughs
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 12, 2016 at 1:59 PM, updated May 12, 2016 at 7:14 PM
A bill that would let performance evaluations rather than seniority alone determine who is the first to go if a school district is faced with having to furlough teachers is on track to become the next candidate to fall victim to Gov. Tom Wolf's veto pen.  But supporters of House Bill 805 aren't going down without a fight.  At a Capitol news conference on Thursday that drew representatives from the business, school reform, and school board communities, the two lawmakers who championed the legislation called on Wolf to reconsider his position.  They said the bill would give local school boards the flexibility to remove ineffective teachers in the event that layoffs are necessary, keeping the higher performing ones in the classroom to inspire kids.

HB 805: Lawmakers should focus on adequately funding our schools, not making it easier to cut teachers from our children’s classrooms
Education Voters PA Posted on May 12, 2016 by EDVOPA
Susan Spicka, Director of Education Voters of PA made the following statement about HB 805:
Supporters of HB 805 call this bill the “Protect Excellent Teachers Act,” but, in fact, this bill does not protect our teachers. Instead, this bill creates a mechanism that will make it easier for districts to cut even more teachers from our children’s classrooms while allowing lawmakers who have refused to adequately fund education for years to make the baseless claim that they somehow support our children’s schools.  Under current law, teachers may only be furloughed if schools consolidate, if student enrollment declines, or if a program is curtailed. HB 805 would change PA law and allow school districts to furlough more teachers by using “economic reasons” as an additional reason for cutting positions. But what are these “economic reasons”? The bill does not define the term, leaving the definition to 500 school boards throughout the state with no consistent statewide policy.  Proponents of HB 805 often imply that teachers with seniority cannot be furloughed and that HB 805 is an “accountability” measure that will address this issue and allow school districts to furlough teachers with seniority. Under current law, however, regardless of seniority, school district administrators already have the authority to remove failing teachers from schools by documenting teachers’ shortcomings and demonstrating cause for dismissal. HB 805 does not create a new mechanism to furlough teachers with seniority, it simply creates an additional reason to furlough teachers. 

HB805: Midstate lawmakers beg Gov. Wolf not to veto teacher furlough bill
Abc27 By Dennis Owens Published: May 12, 2016, 6:08 pm  Updated: May 12, 2016, 6:19 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It bordered on pleading. Two Midstate lawmakers making another pitch to Gov. Tom Wolf.  “Governor, please sign this bill,” Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) said at a Thursday morning Capitol news conference. “Let our kids keep their best teachers.”  Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) joined the chorus.  “As leaders we cannot – and the governor should not – endorse a system that promotes failing teachers over distinguished educators,” he said.

Giving laptops to students helps performance, but school districts need to track effects better
WHYY Newsworks BY DAVE HELLER MAY 12, 2016 Audio runtime 4:54
Do test scores improve when schools provide laptops to every student? A new analysis of data from researchers at Michigan State University sought to shed light on the issue.  Education Week’s Ben Herold joined NewsWorks Tonight to make sense of what they turned up.   The findings were generally positive but not a ringing endorsement for a one-to-one laptop ratio. But Herold says this is still a step forward, especially for schools that have already made the investment.  "Schools have been spending billions of dollars over the past decade or so to give devices, specifically laptops, to all of their students, and making that investment with really very little understanding of how it's going to impact student learning," Herold said.

No-bid school busing contracts cost Pa. districts at least $53.7 million
Penn Live By Wallace McKelvey | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 12, 2016 at 11:59 AM, updated May 12, 2016 at 12:02 PM
Schools paid at least $53.7 million over the state's transportation reimbursement formula through no-bid busing contracts, according to an auditor general's report.  That finding, based on audits of about 450 of the state's 500 public school districts, prompted Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to call for the Legislature to mandate competitive bidding for such services.  "The districts that are competitively bidding for this service, even though it's not required, don't have the same issues as the ones that do," DePasquale said Thursday. "That's why I believe the school code has to be amended to make this a requirement."  In all, state auditors found that 18 of the 19 school districts that substantially overshot the state reimbursement rate hadn't sought other bidders for their transportation contract.

Auditor: Pa. schools may be losing millions on busing
Inquirer by Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: MAY 13, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania school districts may be spending millions too much on busing, the state auditor general said Tuesday.  Examinations by his office found 19 school districts in 11 counties paid a total of $54.8 million more for transportation during select periods between 2004 and 2014 than what the state determined was the maximum amount it would consider for the calculation of reimbursements, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.  Only one of those districts had competitively bid transportation services during the audit periods, according to DePasquale. He said school districts should be required to seek bids on such contracts.  "I want to put more education dollars into our classrooms, not in our school buses," he said at a news conference.

Bald Eagle Area school board approves proposed final budget
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO May 12, 2016
The Bald Eagle Area school board unanimously approved a 2016-17 proposed final budget at a meeting Thursday night.  According to documents provided by the district, it calls for $31,566,152 — up from $29,806,747 in the current year.  That could mean a 3.3 percent tax increase for residents.  For the average taxpayer in the Bald Eagle Area School District, that’s $26.08 more a year, district business manager Craig Livergood said.  The average home in the Bald Eagle Area is assessed at $30,124, Livergood said.  Livergood said he expects about similar funds to come from state and federal subsidies as the current year, but he said he’s not holding his breath.  “It all comes down to if and when it happens,” Livergood said. “Hopefully we’re not in a similar situation as last year.”  A state budget didn’t go into effect until about nine months after it was due.

Cameron County School Board adopts preliminary budget
Bradford Era By AMANDA JONES Era Correspondent Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2016 10:00 am
EMPORIUM — Members of the Cameron County School Board adopted a preliminary general fund budget for the 2016-17 school year during Thursday night’s meeting.  The preliminary budget lists expenditures in the amount of $12,601,089. Board secretary Carl Mitchell said there is currently a projected $500,000 shortfall, but employees are looking into ways to cut additional expenditures.  This year’s revenue estimates are again being taken from Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposals, but they are more conservative than last year, Mitchell said.  In addition, $400,000 was estimated for cyber school expenses, showing a great increase from last year that is slightly misleading. Wolf’s proposal for last year’s budget saw the state picking up more of the cyber school tab than it actually did, making this year’s estimate look like a large jump over last year.  The budget will be available for public review beginning today by contacting the administrative offices at the high school.

This week in education: York Academy charter renewal and more
York Daily record by Angie Masonamason@ydr.com10:48 a.m. EDT May 12, 2016
A local charter school could soon be approved for five more years, and state leaders disagree on how teacher layoffs should work. Here's a look at the week in education news.
A local charter school could soon be approved for five more years, and state leaders disagree on how teacher layoffs should work. Here's a look at the week in education news.
Regional charter school extension coming up
Three area school boards are set to consider the renewal of York Academy Regional Charter School's charter agreement this month.  The school has its charter approved by three districts: York City, Central York and York Suburban. The school, which follows the International Baccalaureate model, is in the city, but serves students from the three sponsoring districts as well as others.  Administrators in the three districts have recommended approval of a renewal agreement. The charter school's board has already approved it.

Some Kiski Area property owners' taxes to rise
Trib Live BY GEORGE GUIDO | Thursday, May 12, 2016, 11:25 p.m.
Kiski Area School District real estate taxes will be going up about 5 percent next school year in Parks Township, Armstrong County.  The remainder of the school district, which is in Westmoreland County, will see no change in the real estate tax rate.  The school board Monday is expected to give preliminary approval to a $58.3 million budget for the upcoming school year. That's an increase from the current year's spending program of $56.45 million.  Because counties across the state are assessed differently, multi-county school districts use a tax equalization process.  In Parks' case, the millage will rise from 41.12 mills to 43.13 mills — nearly 5 percent — meaning the average property in that township will see a $45.75 real estate tax hike.  Next school year's budget includes $34.8 million for instruction, $17 million for support services, $1.4 million for non-instructional services and $5 million in debt service and other expenses.

New Kensington-Arnold budget includes deficit of $628K; no tax increase
Trib Live BY LIZ HAYES | Thursday, May 12, 2016, 11:25 p.m.
New Kensington-Arnold School District's proposed 2016-17 budget does not include a property tax increase, but it does include a $628,000 deficit.  Business Manager Jeff McVey on Thursday presented the latest version of the $37.4 million spending plan.  McVey said the state inflationary tax cap, plus an allowance for retirement expenses, would allow the board to raise property taxes a maximum of 4.4 percent, or 3.67 mills.  The maximum allowed tax hike would bring in about $420,000 in additional revenue, which McVey did not include in the budget. He said it would be up to the board to set the tax rate.  No board members spoke in favor of a tax increase Thursday; board President Bob Pallone in April said they were not planning to raise taxes.  The current tax rate of 83.27 mills has been in place since the 2014-15 school year.  District officials gave no indication of how they would balance the budget.  With a total gap of about $2.9 million between expenses and revenue, the plan calls for draining the $2.3 million reserve fund and still not covering the deficit.

At this rate, it will take 150 years to enroll 75 percent of U.S. kids in quality preschool
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss May 12 at 3:20 PM 
Universal quality pre-kindergarten has been gaining support around the country for years now, with solid research showing that it has real and lasting benefits for children — despite what critics argue. But, according to a new report, there is a real problem  — while states are making real progress, others are moving at a snail’s pace.  The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University just released its“The State of Preschool 2015,” which details national and state-level data on preschool access and other issues. (You can read it in full here or below.) In this post, W. Steven Barnett, a Board of Governors professor and director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, writes about the report’s findings. You can also see key findings at the bottom of the post.

U.S. Department of Education Has $65 Million for Charter Expansion
Education Week Charters and Choice By Arianna Prothero on May 11, 2016 10:13 AM
The annual federal grant competition for charter management organizations has opened.
The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it will be awarding $65 million to 20 nonprofit charter management organizations that serve primarily low-income students to expand or open new schools.  Previous awardees include well-known networks from across the country such as Los Angeles-based Green Dot, Houston-based Yes Prep, Chicago-based Noble Network, New York City-based Success Academy, and KIPP, to name a few.  The CMO grant competition is part of the federal Charter Schools Program which has awarded over $3 billion to charter schools since its inception, according to the Education Department. Because state laws often do not provide startup money for charter schools, federal funding has been crucial to the growth of the charter sector.  The Charter Schools Program received a significant boost in the federal budget passed in December. It got an increase of $80 million, putting the program at its highest funding level ever: $333 million for fiscal year 2016.

Education officials say they’re trying to protect poor children. A senator says they’re trying to break the law.
Washington Post By Emma Brown May 12 at 3:59 PM 
An Obama administration proposal to ensure adequate resources for poor children in the nation’s schools has triggered a backlash on Capitol Hill and among the nation’s K-12 superintendents, who say that the U.S. Education Department is trying to unilaterally — and illegally — rewrite the nation’s main federal education law.  The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service on Wednesday lent credence to that criticism, writing that the department’s proposal seems to conflict with language in the law and “appears to go beyond what would be required under a plain language reading of the statute.”  At issue is how thousands of school districts prove that they are using $15 billion in federal Title I dollars to provide extra help for poor children in tens of thousands of schools nationwide. Federal law says that school districts must spend the money in a way that provides extra help to poor children — that it not be used to provide basic educational services — and requires that Title I schools have comparable services to those in wealthier schools in the same district. School districts are not allowed to underfund schools in poor neighborhoods and then use the federal dollars to fill in the hole.

U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.  A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.  It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.  The move is certain to draw fresh criticism, particularly from Republicans, that the federal government is wading into local matters and imposing its own values on communities across the country that may not agree. It represents the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

U.S. to issue decree on transgender access to school restrooms -NY Times
Inquirer by Reuters Updated: MAY 12, 2016 — 9:17 PM EDT
WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) - The Obama administration will issue a sweeping decree on Friday telling every U.S. public school district to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.  The letter, signed by officials from the Education and Justice departments, does not have the force of law but contains an implicit threat that schools which do not abide by the Obama administration's interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.  "There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.  "This guidance gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies," she said.  The move comes as the Obama administration and North Carolina battle in federal court over a state law passed in March that limits public bathroom access for transgender people.

All New Orleans Schools Set to Return to Local Oversight
Education Week By Arianna Prothero Published Online: May 12, 2016
More than a decade after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, and the state of Louisiana took control of most of New Orleans’ public K-12 system, the city’s schools will return to local oversight in the next two years.  Lawmakers approved legislation to relinquish authority over most of the city’s schools from the state, which has been supervising them since 2005. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed the measure Thursday afternoon.
However, the reunified system of schools that the locally elected Orleans Parish school board will preside over is radically different from the one it ran pre-Katrina—or any other district in the country. Nearly every school in the city now is a charter.

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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