Wednesday, May 18, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 18: GOP vows to carry teacher layoff bill into Pa. budget battle

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 18, 2016:
GOP vows to carry teacher layoff bill into Pa. budget battle

Make the new funding formula permanent; pass a budget for 2016-17 that increases funding for public schools by at least $400 million
Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy & poor schools in the country.
Contributing only 36%, PA is ranked 46th in the US for its share of education funding.
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Website

Blogger note: if you are a regular reader of the Roundup you have seen that the average school district’s increase in PSERS contributions this year (and last year) is over $1 million.  I am not aware of any pending legislation that addresses these short-term costs.
House panel votes on party lines for Republican pension bill
AP State Wire By MARK SCOLFORO Published: Yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Republican plan to help address Pennsylvania's massive pension debt moved out of a legislative committee on Tuesday, putting a divisive and expensive problem on the table as budget talks are about to pick up steam.  The House State Government Committee voted on party lines to approve a proposal to divert newly hired public school and state government employees into a retirement system that combines a traditional pension benefit with a 401(k)-style account.  Supporters say the bill would save the state about $10 billion over 30 years and help insulate taxpayers from the ups and downs of the stock market. Pennsylvania has a pension debt of more than $50 billion, and its increasingly expensive state pension payments - caused in large part by decisions to increase benefits and delay costs - are eating into the budget.

GOP leaders to Wolf: Vetoing teacher furlough reform bill ensures it will be part of budget talks
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 17, 2016 at 2:58 PM, updated May 17, 2016 at 6:09 PM
While not drawing a line in the sand over it in upcoming state budget talks, House and Senate GOP leaders made it clear that a teacher furlough reform is going to be part of those negotiations if Gov. Tom Wolf vetoes a bill that accomplishes that as he has threatened.  "The governor is going to want more dollars for education. Guess what we're going to want?" Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday. "This is too important to walk away from."  He and other Republican legislative leaders, along with its sponsor Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp., referred to House Bill 805 as "common sense" education reform. It would require districts to furlough teachers with a "failing" or "needs improvement" grade on the state's teacher evaluation system first instead of by seniority as is currently the case.

GOP vows to carry teacher layoff bill into Pa. budget battle
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, Staff Writer  @AngelasInk Updated: MAY 18, 2016 1:08 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - If Gov. Wolf wants more money for public education in the budget, he should think twice before vetoing a Republican-backed bill that would let schools set aside seniority when laying off teachers, a top GOP senator warned Tuesday.  "I can tell you this . . . the governor is going to want more dollars for education, and guess what we are going to want? We are going to want this piece of legislation to go along with any new dollars in education," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre).  His comments came in a news conference called by Republican leaders in response to Wolf's promised veto of the so-called Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.  Beyond their broadsides on the fate of the layoff measure, it offered an early glimpse of how contentious budget negotiations could get as they hit high gear in the coming weeks, with many of last year's issues still in play.

“At a time when many of our schools are still a long way away from seeing their full funding restored to 2011-12 levels, our focus should not be on how to conduct mass layoffs,” Sheridan said. “Make no mistake, House Bill 805 is not about removing underperforming teachers; it is about how school districts should handle mass layoffs. This is not the type of policy we should be discussing. We should all be focused on ensuring schools are appropriately funded, and students are learning the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.”
Pennsylvania bill to end seniority-based teacher furloughs is going down
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 3:48 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf might veto a bill that would end seniority-based teacher furloughs, but that won't remove the issue from state budget negotiations, top Republicans in the Legislature said Tuesday.  “We're not going to walk away from this,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County.  Republicans said that if Wolf, a Democrat, proposes an increase in education funding, it should come packaged with a measure that would tie teacher furloughs to their performance ratings based on a new statewide evaluation system, not their years of service.  Pennsylvania is one of six states that use seniority as the sole factor to determine layoffs, said House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall.  “I want to reiterate that Gov. Wolf will veto this legislation,” Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's press secretary, said before GOP officials held a news conference Tuesday in anticipation of Wolf's veto.

“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.”
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.

MEMO: Why Governor Wolf Will Veto House Bill 805
Governor Wolf’s Website May 10, 2016
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.
Governor Wolf is Working to Improve Accountability, Move Away From High-stakes Testing
Governor Wolf agrees that we need to have accountability in education, which is why Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera has been traveling the commonwealth engaging with stakeholders including educators, parents, lawmakers, administrators, higher education faculty, and industry and workforce leaders to determine how best to measure success in the classroom and how to increase accountability.

“Under House Bill 805, teacher performance ratings based on the statewide educator evaluation system would guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. The system assigns observed educators a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing based on a combination of classroom observation, elective measures chosen at the local level and multiple measures of student academic performance. “
Senate, House Leaders Call on Wolf to Protect Excellent Teachers
PA House Republican Caucus 5/17/2016
HARRISBURG – Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-28), Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-62) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), along with school board representatives and education advocates, today called on Gov. Tom Wolf to side with Pennsylvania schools and sign House Bill 805.   The Protecting Excellent Teachers Act would end the practice of seniority-based layoffs in Pennsylvania and instead require teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. Seniority would remain a component, not the sole factor, of the furlough process.   “While budget negotiations are often centered on how much we should spend in our classrooms, we must also ensure our taxpayers are getting a quality return on their investment. With House Bill 805, the governor has an opportunity to work with us, instead of against us, in a bipartisan effort to improve the quality and effectiveness of our schools and allow every student access to the best educators,” Turzai said.

“As usual, lawmakers (or more accurately their surrogates at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who actually wrote the bill) spent more time on branding the legislation than appealing to logic, sense or reason. The bill called HB 805 was given the euphemistic title “The Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.”  “Yes, this is exactly how you protect excellent teachers – by making it easier to fire them.”
Facing a Budget Crisis, the Pennsylvania Legislature Makes It Easier to Fire Teachers
Diane Ravtich’s Blog By dianeravitch May 17, 2016 //
Steven Singer hangs a dunce cap on Pennsylvania’s legislature. Facing a budget crisis, they voted to eliminate seniority and cynically called their bill “The Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.”  He writes:  “If you live in Pennsylvania, as I do, you must be shaking your head at the shenanigans of our state legislature.  “Faced with a school funding crisis of their own making, lawmakers voted this week to make it easier to fire school teachers.  “Monday the state Senate passed their version of an anti-seniority bill that was given the thumbs up by the House last summer.  “Thankfully, Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto it.

“Or maybe the teachers are not the problem after all. Maybe the research which continues to point at broader issues of poverty and racism as root causes for educational failure is actually on target.”
Even New and Improved Teacher Evaluation Systems Don’t Find Many Rotten Apples
NPQ By MARTIN LEVINE | June 17, 2015 June 15, 2015; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On the top ten list of reasons America’s schools are failing their students and the nation, most experts and political leaders select “bad teachers” as their number one choice. In 2008, President Obama told the nation, “The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the color of [students’] skin or where they come from. It’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is.” Eric Hanushek, a scholar at the Hoover Institute, found that “replacing the bottom 5-8 percent of teachers with average teachers could move the U.S near the top of international math and science rankings.”  Convinced that bad teachers are the core problem, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said it is critical to develop better ways to evaluate poor teachers because “virtually everyone…agrees that New York’s teacher evaluation system is not accurate and is skewed in its construction to provide favorable results for teachers. In New York last year, about 99 percent of the teachers were rated effective while only 38 percent of high school graduates are ready for college or careers. How can that be?” Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania concurred. “When over 99 percent of the teachers in the public school systems of Pennsylvania are listed as satisfactory, I know that something’s wrong. You know that something’s wrong.”

Study calls for at least $3.2 billion in added Pa. school funding
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 17, 2016
The advocacy group Public Interest Law Center says the commonwealth's own data point to the need for at least $3.2 billion in added state funding.  When the state's bipartisan basic education funding commission published its report last year, it came up with a new formula for distributing new state education dollars. The formula acknowledges that districts face added burdens, for instance, when educating students in poverty, or those still learning English.  But the panel very specifically avoided a crucial question: how much money would it take for all students to score proficient on state tests?  So the Public Interest Law Center did its own analysis.  "Nobody has been actually talking about what districts really need," said staff attorney Michael Churchill.  The Law Center's report finds that if the tenets of the new formula are applied to the average instructional costs of schools statewide, a "conservative" estimate shows the need for $16.5 billion dollars in added support — $3.2 billion of which it says should come from the state.  To put that in context, the state spent $5.72 billion in 2014-15 on regular education.  To reach this $3.2 billion figure, The Law Center and other advocates are pushing for a $400 million increase in each of the next eight years.

Pennsylvania to require anti-hazing policies in schools
Morning Call May 17, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislation that would require high schools and middle schools to write and enforce anti-hazing policies is through the Pennsylvania Legislature and on its way to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's desk.  The bill passed the House on Tuesday, 180-15, a week after it passed the Senate unanimously. Wolf's office said he'll sign it.  It would apply to any public or private school that includes any grade 7 through 12.  Each school would be required to post a copy of the anti-hazing policy online and provide a copy to all athletic coaches involved in organizations there.  Penalties could include fines, withholding of diplomas or transcripts, probation, suspension, dismissal or expulsion. An organization that authorizes hazing could lose access to school property or the ability to operate under the school's sanction.

LOCAL NEWS: Lower Merion School Board Unanimously Passes Trans-Affirmative Policy
PhillyMag BY ERNEST OWENS  |  MAY 17, 2016 AT 5:35 PM
Lower Merion schools now have a transgender-inclusive student policy.
On Monday, the Lower Merion school board unanimously passed a transgender-inclusive policy that respects students’ names, pronouns, and personal identification in records and academic documents. The new policy also aims to ensure trans students are included in sex-segregated events and public spaces. “This policy is the icing on the cake,” Bruno Reiver, a trans student at Lower Merion, told the press. “As a graduating senior, I cannot express how grateful I am to have attended such a progressive, open-minded institution.” The Pennsylvania Youth Congress and local student groups helped to get the policy passed. Lower Merion is now one of five districts in Pennsylvania — Great Valley, Springfield, Upper Dublin, and Cheltenham are the others — to officially enforce a trans-affirmative policy. The Pittsburgh Public School Board plans to vote on a transgender student policy in June, while the School District of Philadelphia is currently reviewing a policy expected to reach the School Reform Commission this summer.

Erie could close all high schools
By ERICA ERWIN erica.erwin@timesnews.com18 May 2016 — Erie Times-News
The largest school district in the region might soon be getting out of the high school education business.  Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams is asking the Erie School Board to consider closing all four of the district's high schools and to transport students to nearby districts as early as 2017-18.  The School Board is weighing a menu of potential cuts as it grapples with a $4.3 million budget gap for 2016-17, including eliminating sports, extracurricular activities, art and music programs, district libraries, and the district's police department.  The board will discuss those and other potential cuts at a nonvoting meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the district administration building, 148 W. 21st St.  Any of the proposed cuts would widen an existing divide between Erie and neighboring school districts in terms of what Erie is able to provide to its 12,000 students, Badams said.  Badams said he posed the option of closing Strong Vincent High School, East High School, Central Career and Technical School, and Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy because "I can't imagine sending our children to high schools where they don't have sports and extracurricular activities, where we don't have money for books."

“Rising personnel costs were among the main drivers of the new budget, Goodin said, comprising 67 percent of the total. That includes an additional $2.5 million for professional contract obligations and staff additions and the district’s mandated employee retirement contribution increase of $1.3 million.  The district will also spend an additional $200,000 for charter schools, totaling about $2.5 million, and an additional $400,000 for special education outside services, Goodin said.”
Spring-Ford board eyes $150M budget, 2% tax hike
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 05/17/16, 6:42 PM EDT | UPDATED: 7 HRS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> Blaming the effects of Harrisburg’s nine-month-long budget impasse and a number of related financial challenges in the future, Spring-Ford Area School District officials are calling for a property tax increase.  The school board reviewed the 2016-17 proposed final budget in the amount of approximately $150 million, which calls for a tax increase of 1.9 percent.  By increasing the current 26.061 millage rate by 0.494 mills, the owner of a home assessed at $100,00 would pay an additional $49.40 a year in property taxes, if the budget was adopted. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value.  A proposed final budget must be approved 30 days before a final budget can be adopted according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Act 1 timeline. It also must be available for public inspection at least 20 days before adoption. The board is expected to vote on the proposed budget at next Monday’s meeting. The final budget is scheduled for adoption June 27, 2016.

Parkland School District balances budget; tax increase at 3.7 percent
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporte rOf The Morning Call May 17, 2016
SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP — Parkland School District has managed to balance its 2016-17 budget, but leaders say they'll continue to try to whittle down the tax rate before the final budget in June.  John Vignone, Parkland's director of business administration, presented the latest budget numbers during Tuesday's school board workshop. A handful of spending adjustments emerged from a May 5 budget seminar with the school board and district administration.  Though the district managed to close a $1.1 million budget gap, taxpayers will still likely have to fork over 3.76 percent more in property taxes.  Superintendent Richard Sniscak said the district will do whatever it can to "try to mitigate any impact to taxpayers." The tax rate increase exceeds the 2.4 percent cap after the district received Act 1 Index and special exceptions from the state.

Saucon Valley School District cuts nearly $500,000 from budget
Charles Malinchak Special to The Morning Call May 17, 2016
How much did Saucon Valley School District cut from its budget?
Saucon Valley School District cut nearly $500,000 from its 2016-17 budget by reducing weed control in district fields and eliminating custodial and English teaching positions.  During a nearly two-hour budget discussion by school board, talk focused on how to reduce spending with the hope of imposing modest tax hikes the next five years.  The district is proposing a $45.5 million budget for the upcoming school year with a shortfall of $3 million that even a 1.24 mill increase in taxes can't eliminate.  The dollar figure on the cuts discussed Tuesday originated last month when School Director Bryan Eichfeld asked the administration to take a look at cutting about $500,000.

Wyoming Area School Board OKs $33.5M budget
Citizens’ Voice by ERIC MARK Published: May 17, 2016
EXETER — Wyoming Area School District’s 2016-17 budget is a good news/bad news scenario for district taxpayers.  It all depends on where you live.  Property owners in the Luzerne County portion of the district — which includes West Pittston, Exeter, Wyoming, West Wyoming and Exeter Township — will see a tax increase of 5 percent, according to the proposed final budget the district school board approved Tuesday night.  The news is better for property owners in the Wyoming County part of the district, in the Falls community in Wyoming County’s Exeter Township. They will see a tax decrease of 1.87 percent.  The disparity is caused by re-balancing of millage rates required by districts that spread across parts of two counties, said district business manager Thomas Melone. A significant majority of Wyoming Area’s students live in the Luzerne County part of the district, he said.  The board voted 8-1 to approve the $33.5 million budget, following a presentation by Melone.  Board member Carl Yurina cast the lone “no” vote. Yurina said the district’s financial situation is dire.
The district is “18 to 24 months away from being bankrupt,” he said.

Bethlehem district wants answers on charter's missed payment
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 17, 2016 at 4:11 PM, updated May 17, 2016 at 7:06 PM
The Bethlehem school district wants to know why its state aid has been docked after a city charter failed to make a state-mandated pension payment.  Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy said Monday night that the missing pension contribution was deducted from his district's state subsidy, despite being current in its tuition payments to Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School.  "Under the law, it defaults to the school district when a charter fails to meet their obligation," Roy said.  The charter school missed a roughly $115,000 payment to the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System after a reminder email was sent to an address that was no longer in use, said Carlos Lopez, school founder and treasurer.

As Circle of Seasons fights to keep charter, parents rally in support
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call May 17, 2016
WEISENBERG TOWNSHIP — Every day when he came home from kindergarten, Marie Simpson said, her son was obsessing over what made him different from his classmates.
The 6-year-old told his mother about how he'd been scolded for failing to listen, sit still and obey instructions quickly enough.  "Perception is reality for these kids," said Simpson, of Bethlehem. "His perception was that I'm not as good as these kids. The pressure for him was a challenge. In his little mind, he was just getting in trouble a lot. It was a lot of pressure and anxiety for him."  But when the Simpsons found Circle of Seasons Charter School in Weisenberg Township, she said, her son's dread of school and deteriorating self-esteem began to reverse.

“There are several noteworthy changes within the new contract. With this new contract, all district employees will be in a high deductible health care plan starting with the 2016-17 school year. This mirrors most industry standards, and is a first for Chester County school districts, the release states.”
Phoenixville Area School Board OKs 3-year teacher contract
Daily Local By Eric Devlin, on Twitter POSTED: 05/17/16, 8:53 PM EDT | UPDATED: 5 HRS AGO
PHOENIXVILLE >> For the first time in six years, teachers in the Phoenixville Area School District will head into summer vacation knowing they are under contract once school starts up again next fall.  The Phoenixville Area School District and Phoenixville Area Education Association reached an early-bird, collective bargaining agreement at Thursday night’s school board meeting following the school board’s unanimous approval. The 3-year contract between the district and the teachers union is effective from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2019.  With this agreement, all represented groups in the district are under contract for the next three years. This unique position allows the school district to set plans for the future while providing financial stability and continuing to grow the district, a news release states. 

Coatesville Area School District contracts with new substitute teacher services
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News POSTED: 05/17/16, 4:40 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
COATESVILLE >> The Coatesville Area School District recently approved a new contract for the 2016-2017 school year with a private education partner, INSIGHT of Cherry Hill, N.J., for substitute teacher services.  District officials said this contract is an effort to improve the substitute teacher workforce serving its nearly 7,000 students.  “This change in provider is necessary because the number of substitute teachers arranged for our school district has not been keeping pace with the number we need,” Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Cathy Taschner said in a statement.  The school district decided to end its relationship with other providers, Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) and Source4Teachers, because it said the current fill rate of substitute teachers was below 70 percent.  The district said its daily rate with Source4Teachers is nearly $130 with $100 of that paid to the teacher and the rate it will pay with Insight is $132.50 with $100 of that paid to the teacher. District officials said that Source4Teachers assumed the CCIU sub service when that operation ceased for the 2015-16 school year. The rate with the CCIU was not immediately available.

“If the district fails to achieve the minimum benchmarks or show "significant progress" toward the goals in the plan by the end of the 2017-18 school year, or doesn't implement the education reforms in the plan, the district's chief recovery officer and the state secretary of education could take steps to appoint a receiver for the 2018-19 school year, according to the proposed plan. Students in the district also could be transferred to "schools under external management effective for the 2019-20 school year."
Already 'beaten down and told to suck it up,' Harrisburg teachers scrutinize recovery plan's academic goals
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 18, 2016 at 12:04 AM, updated May 18, 2016 at 12:59 AM
After teaching at Rowland Academy in Harrisburg for 11 years, Donald J. Reisch has been pushed, hit and even nearly fell down stairs while holding back students from throwing punches.  But if a fight breaks out in a classroom, security could take 10 or 15 minutes to respond, and when a student used profanity and gave him the middle finger during class, Reisch said his attempt to refer the student for disciplinary action with a vice principal fell flat.  Harrisburg teacher: How can academics be raised when discipline standard an issue?Donald J. Reisch, teacher at Rowland Academy in Harrisburg School District, speaks during an informational meeting May 17, 2016 on the district's proposed amended recovery plan.  Reisch — like other teachers who spoke during an informational meeting on academic goals in Harrisburg School District's proposed amended recovery plan — was frustrated.

Council: Why Did $1.3 Million for School Nurses Go Unspent?
Lawmakers quizzed district officials on staff vacancies at a hearing Tuesday.
PhillyMag BY JARED BREY  |  MAY 17, 2016 AT 4:53 PM
The Philadelphia School District has a modest fund balance this year, meaning for the first time in recent memory it spent less money than it budgeted.  But that’s the result of “bad savings,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said during City Council’s hearings on the District’s budget Tuesday. It’s not that the district just managed its money well; instead, it failed to spend budgeted money on basic services, Gym said. That includes a gap of $1.3 million budgeted but not spent on school nurses, $4 million on maintenance and repair, and $2 million on special education bus attendants. In all, the district saved $65 million through staff vacancies and deferred maintenance, Gym pointed out.  The district could take immediate action to start refilling those vacancies by staffing up its Office of Talent, Gym said. In response, Superintendent William Hite said the district is hoping to hire a “talent officer” to manage recruiting within the next week. But he said the district expects challenges in hiring teachers in science, math, languages, and special education. He asked Council members to consider hosting job fairs and recommending potential applicants to the district.

Philly schools want to start talks to find new revenues by 2019
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 18, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
For the first time in years, Philadelphia School District officials did not go hat in hand when they presented a proposed $2.8 billion budget for city schools to City Council on Tuesday.
But they told Council members that the district wanted to begin talks with city and state officials now about how to address a funding crunch that is expected in 2019 because projected costs are rising at nearly twice the rate as revenues.  "Working together, we have an opportunity to develop a road map to head off these challenges," said Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. "We are committed to getting ahead of the problem, and want to work with the city and state now, while we have time provided by modest fund balances to find recurring sources of revenue."  Throughout the daylong hearing, School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie Neff, Hite, and his top administrators fielded questions from Council on topics ranging from class size, truancy, and technical and career education for high school students to the lasting impact that closed school buildings have on their surrounding communities.

“Last year, just 33 percent of the District’s third graders scored proficient or advanced on the English Language Arts PSSA, a number that forecasts bleak outcomes for children and the city. A child’s ability to read on grade level by the time he or she leaves 3rd grade is a major benchmark for future success. Three-quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school, according to one study.”
Are education grads ready to teach early literacy?
Temple University, the District’s biggest source of teachers, works to give students the tools they need.
The notebook by Fabiola Cineas May 17, 2016 — 12:08pm
When Da’Veeda Clark walked around the classroom at Fox Chase Elementary School, she saw the faces of antsy 3rd graders who were eager for an afternoon lesson.  This was one of Clark’s last days as a student teacher. The rest of her semester would be marked by finals and commencement. She graduated May 6 from Temple University and has been moving forward in the process of becoming a teacher in the Philadelphia School District, which will allow her to teach from pre-kindergarten to grade 4.  “I feel prepared,” said Clark, who was one of more than 600 students to graduate this spring from Temple, which is the District’s biggest feeder school for teachers.  But what does it mean to be prepared to teach in early education?  The answer has a lot to do with literacy.  “We know that a vast majority of teachers enter the field underprepared to teach,” said Nancy Scharff, an early literacy expert with the city’s READ! By 4th coalition. “We need teachers to be trained in evidence-based reading instruction before they enter the classroom.”  Yet a growing bulk of research shows that few teacher-preparation programs expose students to the science behind how kids learn to read. Some schools of education are making changes to address these findings, but on a scale and at a pace that still leaves graduates at a loss.

“The bottom line: today, schools are more segregated than ever by both race and income.   From 2001 to 2014, the report found, the number of schools where at least 75 percent -- and in some cases 100 percent -- of their students are low income and Black or Hispanic grew from 9 percent to 16 percent. “
On Brown anniversary, GAO report finds segregation deepening
At the same time, City Council grills District officials on why schools lack basic services
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa May 17, 2016 — 5:15pm
Today is the 62nd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional.  The decision voided Jim Crow laws in Southern states that deliberately segregated schools. It did not address -- nor did it slow -- segregation arising from housing patterns or federal policies including lending practices that redlined neighborhoods of color and made it nearly impossible for Blacks to move to the suburbs.  The Government Accountability Office Office on Tuesday released a study with the muted title, " Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination."

Report finds segregation in education on the rise
Inquirer by JENNIFER C. KERR, The Associated Press Updated: MAY 17, 2016 — 2:22 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) - Six decades after the Supreme Court outlawed separating students by race, stubborn disparities persist in how the country educates its poor and minority children.  A report Tuesday by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found deepening segregation of black and Hispanic students at high-poverty K-12 public schools. These schools offered fewer math, science and college prep classes, while having higher rates of students who are held back in ninth grade, suspended or expelled.  "Segregation in public K-12 schools isn't getting better. It's getting worse, and getting worse quickly," Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia said. The analysis, he said, confirmed that America's schools are largely segregated by race and class, leaving more than 20 million students "attending racially and socioeconomically isolated public schools."  "This report is a national call to action," said Scott, the House education committee's top Democrat and among the lawmakers who requested the study. Its release coincided with the 62nd anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which declared segregated schools unconstitutional.

Why There’s an Uproar Over Trying to Increase Funding for Poor Schools
New York Times Kevin Carey MAY 17, 2016
On April 4, a terse letter signed by the heads of the major education lobbying organizations in Washington — teachers unions, school boards, superintendents, principals and governors — landed on the desk of John King Jr., the secretary of education.  It had been less than three weeks since the Senate had confirmed Mr. King, a former high school teacher and education commissioner in New York. Yet as the letter showed, he had already managed to irk the entire school establishment, as well as the Republican majority in Congress. His offense? Trying to make good on a long-unkept promise to the nation’s low-income schoolchildren that they should receive as much education funding as everyone else.

Who Will Fix The Texas School Funding System?
NPR by LAURA ISENSEE May 17, 20161:00 PM ET
The Texas Supreme Court just doesn't want to get involved in how the state pays for its public schools. That was the signal the nine justices sent Friday when they unanimously ruled the state school funding system, which historically has been one of the country's most controversial, constitutional.  But that wasn't before they called the system undeniably imperfect and said the 5 million Texas schoolchildren deserve better. But, "Accordingly, we decline to usurp legislative authority by issuing reform diktats from on high, supplanting lawmakers' policy wisdom with our own," Justice Don Willett wrote in the 100-page opinion.  So the 600 school districts — that's two-thirds of the districts in Texas — that sued the state may be on their own to figure out how to move forward. They're struggling after more than $5 billion in cuts and a system that relies heavily on property taxes. Some of those cuts have been restored, while other parts of the funding system haven't been updated in three decades.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 5/18/2016

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 11 - 17, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 17, 2016 - 12:45pm 
With spring testing winding down in many schools after another trouble-filled season, parents, educators and community activists are pressuring policy makers to focus on overhauling state assessment systems using the increased flexibility possible under the new, federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform. The 2016 Allwein Award nominations will be accepted starting today and all applications are due by July 16, 2016. The nomination form can be downloaded from the website.

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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