Monday, May 2, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 2: School advocates to state: Add cash to new funding formula

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 2, 2016:
School advocates to state: Add cash to new funding formula

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!  We're rallying for a permanent fair funding formula + increases to basic education in 2016-17 budget
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

School advocates to state: Add cash to new funding formula
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer Updated: APRIL 28, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Buoyed by the end of the state budget stalemate and the creation of a new school funding formula this month, Philadelphia education advocates on Wednesday called on the state legislature to pump $400 million in new money into 2016-17 school budgets.  If the request becomes reality, the city School District would receive 18.9 percent, or about $75 million, of that new funding, said the advocates, who held a news conference in front of the district's North Broad Street headquarters.  The school funding formula, used to determine how much money each district receives from the state, is laudable for allocating funding based on the number of students in each district weighted for factors such as the number of students who are poor, who are learning English, and who have newly enrolled in charter schools, advocates say.  But the formula is only as good as its funding, the advocates stressed, saying schools across the state are underfunded annually by more than $3 billion.

House returns to session on Monday to get ball rolling on budget and more
The House of Representatives returns to session on Monday to a full slate of bills awaiting action. Among them are budget bills that will be positioned for quick action when a final budget is ready.
By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 01, 2016 at 8:00 AM, updated May 01, 2016 at 11:36 AM
The House returns to session on Monday to kick off the start of the 2016-17 budget-making process by positioning legislation that will serve as placeholders until a final budget is ready to be voted.  While that is nothing more than a procedural move, it is nonetheless important because it reduces the time involved in the final budget approval process.  House Republican spokesman said conversations have begun between House and Senate Republicans and Democrats and Gov. Tom Wolf's administration about next year's spending plan.  Wolf's budget proposal released in February calls for $33.2 billion in spending and a $2.7 billion tax-increase package.  But Republican lawmakers recognize some new revenue will likely be necessary but have expressed little appetite for increasing the state's personal income or sales tax rates. Those are the big-money generators that would be necessary to fund a $3.2 billion increase in spending above the $30 billion set in this year's budget that Wolf allowed the budget to become law without his signature.  "We are trying to come to an agreement obviously earlier than this year," said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin. "Nobody wants to see a repeat of last year."  "We are trying to come to an agreement obviously earlier than this year." House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin
House Democrats are on board with that. Their spokesman Bill Patton said his caucus looks "forward to working productively with Republicans and the governor's office to move a budget in a timely manner that answers the need for school funding and closing the budget deficit."

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 1: NYT: Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares

Primary results reveal noteworthy winners, losers
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Sunday, May 1, 2016, 11:18 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Winners and losers emerged from Pennsylvania's primary election — some obvious and others hidden beneath the numbers.  The candidate political analysts most often mentioned as a surprise “winner” actually finished third in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, 46, trailed Katie McGinty, 52, of Philadelphia, the winner, and runner-up Joe Sestak, 64, a former Delaware County congressman. Fetterman, a newcomer to statewide politics, earned 20 percent of the vote. McGinty received 44 percent to Sestak's 34 percent, according to unofficial returns.  Fetterman “came out of nowhere. He had no money,” said Steven Peterson, a political science professor at Penn State's Harrisburg campus. “In the debates, he held his own.”

“Pennsylvania is among the most gerrymandered of states. Redrawing congressional and legislative districts to protect incumbents and extend majority power is taking its toll. Voter apathy is perpetuated. Challengers are discouraged by daunting registration numbers and the inability to attract campaign money.
The net result is bad government. Incumbent protectionism neuters debate, problem-solving, compromise, reform and progress.  There is hope, however, that Pennsylvania could join a handful of states opting for independent commissions to oversee the remapping of districts every 10 years.”
Pa. redistricting reform coming into focus | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff on May 01, 2016 at 6:00 AM, updated May 01, 2016 at 6:08 AM
With all the interest in nominating candidates for president, Pennsylvania voters may have failed to notice what was missing on Tuesday's primary ballot, on the line for state legislative races.
In the Lehigh Valley, only two state House races offered intraparty contests. One of those, the 183rd District, drew interest because of the pending retirement of state Rep. Julie Harhart. In the 131st District, state Rep. Justin Simmons fended off a Republican challenger, but he'll have nothing to sweat in the fall. Only two districts in the Valley will have contested general election races —the 132nd, held by Democratic state Rep. Michael Schlossberg, and Harhart's district.
The voters deserve better.  In fact, the need for public interest in elections has never been greater. Pennsylvania's inability to pass an on-time budget this fiscal year was only partly about taxes and spending decisions. The long stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican majorities in the Legislature was made possible by lawmakers ensconced in "safe" districts through gerrymandering. They knew they wouldn't be called on the carpet by enough constituents to matter, or by credible election opponents.  With all 203 House seats up for grabs this year, 106 incumbents are shoo-ins for re-election, having no general election opponent. In the primary election, only 31 House members faced competition.

Pa. school employees' retirement board voids special election ballots
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano  @PhillyJoeD Updated: MAY 2, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
The Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement System has voided ballots in a special election for a seat on its controlling board, citing "minor irregularities."  Since PSERS is one of the biggest expenses that Pennsylvanians pay - it consumed $2.6 billion from state and local taxpayers last year, and expects to need $4 billion next year - it's comforting that the board's 15 members, who hire the hundreds of private investors paid to manage PSERS' $52 billion in assets, answer to the people.  Or at least to politicians. The General Assembly names four members, the governor three. The state treasurer and the boss of the School Boards Association get seats. School workers elect four. Retirees, one. Plus there's a rep voted in by members of the state's 500 elected school boards, who face those angry voters complaining their property taxes rise so administrators, teachers, and support staff can retire at nearly their old salaries.

Profiles in excellence: Lindback honors top district teachers
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 2, 2016 — 1:07 AM EDT
Tara Ann Carter had planned to become a college professor, but thanks to a confluence of unexpected events, she is happily teaching English and African American history to ninth graders at the Hill-Freedman World Academy in West Oak Lane.  Winnie Kwan, a Chinese immigrant and South Philadelphia High School grad studied engineering, but has found her niche teaching students at an alternative school in West Philadelphia.  And after a career in the business world, John McGlaughlin decided to use his skills to teach math at Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical High School in North Philadelphia.  All three have a lot in common: They took unconventional paths to the classroom. They are passionate instructors, and they are among 58 high school teachers in the Philadelphia School District who will be honored Tuesday at the Prince Music Theater for being among the city's best educators.  They won a 2016 Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished High School Educators and will receive $3,500 from the program for exemplary teachers.

Blogger note: Vahan and Danille Gureghian’s Charter School Management Company runs the state’s largest brick and mortar charter school.  They have also been major political donors, primarily to GOP candidates, including being the largest individual donors to Governor Corbett’s campaign.

“Among the few details about the fund was that it had two major donors — $100,000 from a Pittsburgh owner of a nursing-home chain and $25,000 from the Gureghians.  Politically connected businessman Vahan Gureghian and his wife, Danielle, both lawyers in Montgomery County, Pa., recently received more time to finish the French-style estate on 2 lots with 242 feet along the ocean.  They had originally planned to live in the mansion, but in March 2015 they decided to sell it. The estate now leads the local multiple listing service as the most expensive property for sale in Palm Beach, priced at $74.5 million.”
Couple building mansion part of FBI drama in Philadelphia
Palm Beach Daily News By PBDN Posted: 4:29 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 2016
A Philadelphia-area couple, who is building a 36,000-square-foot mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd., donated $25,000 in 2013 to a Pennsylvania political action committee that has drawn the interest of the FBI, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.  The PAC, called the Enterprise Fund, was started by John Estey, former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the Inquirer story said. Estey has spent the past two decades moving in and out of both Republican and Democratic circles in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., according to the Inquirer.  For some of that time, he also was cooperating with the FBI, the newspaper said.  Friday, Estey agreed to plead guilty to a single count of wire fraud, the newspaper reported. The agreement also “noted prosecutors could ask his sentencing judge for leniency based on any cooperation.”

School Money is a nationwide collaboration between NPR's Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students. Join the conversation on Twitter by using #SchoolMoney.”
Is There A Better Way To Pay For America's Schools?
NPR May 1, 20167:00 AM ET Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday by
 The Kansas Supreme Court gave state lawmakers an ultimatum: Make school funding more equitable by June 30, or it will consider shutting down the state's public schools.
Since then, things have gotten ugly.  Lawmakers followed up with a plan — to make it easier to impeach Supreme Court judges who attempt to "usurp the power" of the Legislature or governor.  Then came a plan to address the court's concerns over school funding: Send a little more money to roughly two-dozen of the state's poorest districts without taking money away from other districts or raising taxes.  The plaintiff districts have already responded to the plan, calling it a "shell game."  It's unclear if the Kansas Supreme Court will be satisfied.
What is clear is that the politics of school funding can be bitter.
Over the past two weeks, the NPR Ed Team has taken a hard look at how we pay for public schools in the U.S. In Part 1 of our School Money series, we mapped the consequences of a funding system that favors affluent districts.  In Part 2, we unpacked the difference a dollar can — and cannot — make in the classroom, finding compelling evidence that money, spent wisely and consistently, can improve the lives and outcomes of disadvantaged students.  This week, we grapple with the politics of school money, asking:  Is there a better way to pay for our schools?  The answer requires that we do two things: explore the challenges to change, and spotlight a few ideas that could lead to a more balanced system.  What follows is a wrap-up of our reporting. For nearly every name and place, you'll find a hyperlink to more.

Wall Street Journal: Stop Picking on Charter School Philanthropists!
Who knew that the 1% were so sensitive to criticism?
This evening the Wall Street Journal published an article called “The Union War on Charter School Philanthropists.” In the eyes of the WSJ, charter schools are a blessing, and we should all be grateful to the wealthy philanthropists who help them multiply. And of course, the WSJ can’t imagine that anyone would oppose a private takeover of public schools except teachers’ unions.  The WSJ can’t admit that charters get high test scores by excluding students with disabilities, English language learners, and low-scoring students. Their secret sauce: attrition, exclusion, test-prep, robotic discipline. What the WSJ loves about charters is that more than 90% are non-union.
Here is is what the article says:

A case study of how the ultra-wealthy spend millions to get what they want in school reform
Washington Post By Valerie Strauss May 2 at 4:00 AM 
If you haven’t been following the charter school wars in Washington, here’s a quick recap:
In 1996, 2000 and 2004, voters rejected allowing charter schools in the state. In 2012, a referendum allowing them was narrowly passed with major financial support from philanthropists such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates;  Alice Walton of Walmart Stores (who, unlike Gates, doesn’t live in Washington state); entrepreneur Nicolas J. Hanauer of Seattle, with $1 million; and Jackie and Mike Bezos, about $750,000 (parents of Jeff Bezos, founder of and owner of The Washington Post).
The law was challenged by a coalition of organizations which argued that the law “improperly” diverted public school funds to organizations that are private and “not subject to local voter control.” Those groups include the Washington Education Association, the League of Women Voters of Washington, El Centro de la Raza and the Washington Association of School Administrators.  Last year, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the 2012 referendum was unconstitutional. It violated the state’s constitution, which explicitly says that public school funds can be used only to support “common schools.” The justices voted, 6 to 3, that charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately run — are not “common schools” because their governing boards are not elected but are appointed by the founders of the individual schools. But in March 2016, the state legislature passed a bill that would fund charter schools with state lottery revenue — and Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, allowed it become law without his signature.
Following is a detailed case study about how this all transpired, along with a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of philanthropist involvement in school reform. It was written by Joanne Barkan, a writer based in New York City and Truro, Massachusetts. For the past six years, her work has focused on the relationship between “big philanthropy” and democracy, and the intervention of private foundations in public education policy. This article was first published in the Nonprofit Quarterly’s spring 2016 edition, “Strategic Nonprofit Management: Frameworks and Scaffolding.” I was given permission to republish.

Rally in Harrisburg with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on May 2nd 12:30 Main Rotunda!
Public schools in Pennsylvania are a far cry from the “thorough and efficient” system of education promised guaranteed under our state constitution. That’s why we want YOU to join Education Law Center and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in Harrisburg on May 2nd! Buses of supporters are leaving from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - please register below so we can help you arrive on time for the 12:30 press conference in the Main Rotunda! Questions? Email for more details.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

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

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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