Friday, May 20, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 20: Find out how much PA needs to spend to educate its students & download a spreadsheet for specifics on your SD

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 20, 2016:
Find out how much PA needs to spend to educate its students & download a spreadsheet for specifics on your SD

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

“Just a few years ago, schools paid about 5.5 percent of employee salary to the pension fund. This year, they must pay 21 percent. Next year, they'll pay 26 percent. The rate will peak at 32 percent in 2019.”
State pension crisis: How did we get here?
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 19, Pick your favorite issue or cause in Pennsylvania: public education, services for the poor, tax breaks for businesses.  Chances are, there's going to be less money for any of these moving forward because the state's public employee pension bill is growing exponentially, with a current unfunded liability of $53 billion.  To keep up with rising costs, school districts across the state have been making tough choices — either cutting programs or hiking property taxes.  School budget wonks are reeling from the massive pension payment spikes that have been hitting lately.  In Philadelphia, for instance, the district has been cut to the bone, and because leaders lack taxing authority, there's only thing to do each year: beg and plead for more from the city and the state.  "When you have these fixed mandated costs, it handcuffs you in your ability to meet the needs of students because so much of your money is going towards a certain fixed cost item," said Matt Stanski, chief financial officer of the Philadelphia School District.

“Mr. Wolf said he believes the evaluation process is too reliant on the results of standardized testing. That’s a legitimate concern. Innumerable factors, rather than teachers’ competence alone, determine student performance as reflected in standardized tests. Socioeconomic disparities between different districts and schools, family involvement, available school resources and many other issues matter.  The current evaluation process was adopted in 2012 but not for the purpose of governing layoffs. It was meant to help administrators identify individual teachers’ weaknesses and, therefore, to improve overall instruction.”
Up to Wolf on evaluations
Citizens Voice BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: May 20, 2016
In vetoing a bill this week that would have stripped seniority protections from public school teachers, Gov. Tom Wolf raised a valid concern.  The bill, which passed the Republican-controlled Legislature along predictable party lines, would have allowed districts to lay off teachers for general economic reasons rather than for specific declines in enrollment, as the law requires now. And, it would have ended the practice of using seniority as the sole basis for teacher layoffs. Instead, it would have mandated the use of teacher evaluations as the basis for layoffs. Republicans called it rewarding competence; Democrats called it union-busting.

Find out how much PA needs to spend to educate its students & download a spreadsheet for specifics on your school district
Public Interest Law Center Website

Fifth graders school Philly City Council on importance of adequate education funding
On Wednesday, May 18, Joanna Bottaro's fifth grade class from McCall Elementary School spoke to Philadelphia City Council about school funding at the invitation of Councilwoman Helen Gym. The students chose the topic after examining several important issues in their community, deeming funding the most important. The research and resulting speech were part of an ongoing project supported through Need in Deed, a youth-oriented civic engagement nonprofit.
The speech in its entirety is below.

Surprises, twists in SRC meeting dominated by charter votes
Wister turned over to Mastery. Great Oaks pulls out of Cooke. No votes on the nonrenewal proposals for Audenried, Vare, Olney and Stetson. And, oh yes, District hires Kelly to provide substitute services
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Kevin McCorry May 19, 2016 — 9:25pm
The School Reform Commission voted on Thursday to turn over John Wister school in Germantown to Mastery Charter, but did not take votes to begin the process of pulling the plug on four other Renaissance charters  that are operated by two major community organizations in the city, ASPIRA and Universal Companies.  It was prepared to turn over another school, Cooke elementary in Logan, to the New York-based Great Oaks Foundation. But at the last minute, Great Oaks pulled out -- citing the loss of anticipated startup funding which it said would hinder its ability to "adequately do the job that was expected of us."  The letter from Great Oaks CEO Michael Duffey did not specify the source of the grant. But DawnLynne Kacer, head of the charter office, later confirmed that it was $1 million from the Philadelphia School Partnership.  Almost lost in the manuvering was its vote on a two-year, $42 million contract to hire Kelly Services to provide substitute services to the District, replacing Source4Teachers, which failed to improve the District's own rate of filling classrooms left empty due to teacher absences.

Charter schools sue state, public schools over change in reconciliation process
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call May 19, 2016
The Pennsylvania Department of Education says it will no longer take the reins on the end-of-the-year reconciliation process — a move that would leave charter schools and public school districts on their own to resolve tuition billing discrepancies.  A handful of charter schools are challenging the state's new stance on the process, saying that it could clog courts with annual lawsuits as charter schools fight for payments from districts that simply refuse to pay.  Bob Fayfich, executive director for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said that by stepping away from the reconciliation process, the state is shirking its responsibility to guarantee a fair education to the Commonwealth's students.  "It's a problem that could strangle funding for every charter school in the state," Fayfich said. "If the PDE drops out of the reconciliation process and a school district says we're just not going to pay, then the only recourse the charter school has is to negotiate with the school district or sue the district and that theoretically could happen every year."  But some public school districts might have a different perspective.

Pa. lawmakers rail against 'unconstitutional' transgender bathroom rule in letter to Obama
Ninety-seven Republican state representatives in Pennsylvania — including several from the Philadelphia region — have signed off on a letter to President Barack Obama, calling the new federal directive to make public schools transgender-inclusive "unconstitutional" and an "extreme outrage."  Led by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, lawmakers argue in their letter that the new federal guideline "sacrifices ... fundamental privacy rights," endangers young children and usurps the lawmaking powers of Congress.  "Plainly, this directive will allow men to go into legally sex-separated bathrooms with young girls," it states. "The parents of these young girls are rightly concerned about your policy and its implications for their daughters' safety."  Transgender rights advocates call that argument a "red herring," not borne out by an actual uptick in predatory behavior in places that have had transgender-inclusive bathroom policies.

Interboro School Board eyes job cuts, tax hike to ease $3M budget crunch
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter
POSTED: 05/19/16, 9:48 PM EDT | UPDATED: 4 HRS AGO
The Interboro School District is looking at job cuts and a stiff tax hike as they try to keep heads above a rising tide of red ink.  Over 20 positions are proposed to be furloughed or cut back to make up for a multi-million dollar deficit in the 2016-17 budget.  The districtwide personnel cutbacks are part of the proposed $65 million final budget passed by the school board at their Wednesday evening meeting and will save the district about $2.3 million. The budget was approved by a 6-3 vote with school board members Ed Harris, Michael Burns and Deborah DiBattista voting no.  The proposed final spending plan also includes a 3.2 percent tax increase and $809,000 of fund balance usage.  Still, a gap pushing $1 million still lingers in the budget.
Rising pension contributions and healthcare costs are the driving forces behind the budget gap.

Green Woods Charter looks to improve diversity, special-needs curriculum with new CEO
WHYY Newsworks BY JOHN CORRIGAN MAY 18, 2016
On March 24, Jean Wallace announced her resignation as CEO of Green Woods Charter School.  In an email, Wallace said that "in twelve years, Green Woods has gone from a simple vision to a comprehensive, successful and respected school program known for excellence." She lauded the school's "academic success and fiscal responsibility," "effective implementation of an EIC curriculum," and the "many parents who have shared with me your personal stories."  Wallace did not explain why she was leaving the school, but according to several members of the Green Woods Charter School PTA, it had everything to do with those personal stories.  "She refused to work with us. She refused to work with the teachers. She refused to acknowledge the blips," said Bonnie Emelius, treasurer of the PTA.

SRC gives struggling charter schools a reprieve
Inquirer by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 20, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Two charter school operators that were expected to lose two schools each, due to various academic and governance shortcomings, instead received temporary lifelines at Thursday night's School Reform Commission meeting.  Aspira Inc., the North Philadelphia nonprofit dedicated to educating Latino children, was given one week to persuade the SRC to allow it to continue managing two of its struggling schools.  Leading Aspira's effort is former City Solicitor Ken Trujillo, who was hired recently and pledged during the meeting that he would answer all outstanding questions about Olney Charter High School and John B. Stetson Charter School.  Two members of the five-member SRC abstained and one voted against resolutions to not renew the operating agreements for the two schools run by Universal Companies, the South Philadelphia community development nonprofit founded by the record producer Kenny Gamble.

'Why can't we get some of our money back?': Harrisburg teachers question financial plan
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 19, 2016 at 11:23 PM, updated May 20, 2016 at 1:14 AM
Camp Curtin reading specialist Judy Conyers wanted to know: Why does Harrisburg School District hire administrators as consultants at $60 an hour after they retire?  With the district's eye's set on financial stability, Karina Goldsmith, a teacher at Ben Franklin School, asked why was the district's proposed recovery plan budgeted for a CFO with a total compensation of $199,544 and five years of raises?  And a frustrated Rowland Academy teacher Donald J. Reisch, who took to the public comment microphone for the second time in two days, told school officials and recovery team members sitting before the audience: "I don't trust you."  Citing $30M difference, union president asks if teachers can get money backJody Barksdale, president of the Harrisburg Education Association, speaks during an informational meeting May 19, 2016 on Harrisburg School District's proposed amended recovery plan.  For the third time this week, teachers, school nurses and others returned en masse to the school board room in the district's Lincoln Administration Building in Harrisburg. The informational meeting on the school district's proposed amended recovery plan drew dozens of heated questions related to finance, staffing and building conditions from Harrisburg Education Association union members who haven't seen a raise in five years.

Plum school officials turned 'blind eye to obvious signs' of misconduct
Trib Live BY MEGAN GUZA  | Thursday, May 19, 2016, 8:54 a.m.
Plum school district administrators turned “a blind eye to obvious signs of teacher misconduct” that allowed a “suspected serial child predator” to remain a Plum High School teacher for years before his arrest, according to a damning 100-page grand jury report released Thursday.  The Allegheny County grand jury's investigation into the actions of district administrators and school police followed the arrests of two high school teachers on sex assault allegations and uncovered evidence of sex abuse by a third teacher. What was uncovered wasn't enough for the jury to recommend charging “derelict” school officials.

Penn Hills School District $167 million in debt; criminal probes urged
Inquirer by The Associated Press Updated: MAY 19, 2016 — 1:57 PM EDT
PENN HILLS, Pa. (AP) - A state audit shows a school district's long-term debt has increased from $11 million to $167 million in five years, and criminal investigations are being urged, the state auditor general announced.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the Penn Hills School District audit, released Wednesday, is the worst he's ever seen.  "It will take a Herculean effort to turn the district around," he said.  The western Pennsylvania district floated $135 million in bonds for capital improvements in 2010 with no plan to pay back the money, fueling its gargantuan long-term debt, but it's clear other expenditures and procedures haven't been closely tracked, DePasquale said.  Among other things, the audit found that a school bus contractor might have stolen nearly $385,000 from the district, and $22,000 in athletic ticket proceeds was never deposited.

Penn Hills school audit shows much work to be done
By Molly Born and Karen Kane / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 20, 2016 12:00 AM
Two members of the Penn Hills school board said the state auditor general’s scathing report on the district’s finances this week did not come as a surprise, but said it provides a stark assessment of just how much work the district must do to get itself out of its financial predicament.  State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Wednesday released the results of an audit that showed the district had built up a deficit by last year of $18.8 million, a figure he described as “shocking,” and said his review of the district’s finances was among the worst of his tenure.  Pauline Calabrese, a board member since January 2013, said the auditor’s announcement had been previewed for the board a few weeks ago.  She said the problems facing the district now are rooted in financial oversight issues from years ago, due partly to a decision to construct two school buildings with no definitive plan to cover the costs of construction.

Council uncertain on taxes, not pre-K
Inquirer by Tricia L. Nadolny and Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITERS MAY 20, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
As friction over Mayor Kenney's sugary drinks tax emerged in City Council on Thursday, momentum still seemed to be moving in one direction - toward funding an expansion of prekindergarten.  An alternative revenue stream was proposed. Members opposed to Kenney's tax said that option, a beverage container tax, was one they could stomach.  And Council President Darrell L. Clarke vowed that the body would reach consensus - while introducing his own competing plan for how pre-K should be implemented.  "We'll get there, bottom line," Clarke said. "We'll make a decision, and we'll make it soon. The clock is ticking."  Kenney's administration, which has asked Council to pass a three-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages, quickly said the options emerging in Council did not reap enough revenue or provide enough pre-K seats.   "We can keep talking," Kenney said. "But in the end, it's got to be the sugar-sweetened beverage at that number, or we can't pay what we need to pay for."

“Throughout the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese
$1,717,328: total contributions in the 2014-15 fiscal year
$1,637,234: total awarded scholarships in the 2015-16 academic year
1,694 total scholarships awarded
$966 average scholarship amount”
Catholic schools get funds from local businesses
EITC program gives tax breaks to businesses that help fund local schools
Local Catholic schools use Second Century Scholarship Fund to help financially assist families
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO May 18, 2016
A fund through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is helping families with a tuition break at local Catholic schools.  And money going into the Second Century Scholarship Fund is coming from local businesses.  Through the commonwealth’s educational improvement tax credit program, businesses can contribute funds to local schools for a chance at a tax break.
The initiative was established in the spring of 2001 through the state’s Department of Community & Economic Development.  Credits can be applied against tax liability of a business for the year when the contribution was made.  According to the EITC website, that includes personal income, capital stock and foreign franchise, corporate net income, bank shares, title insurance and trust company shares, insurance premium, mutual thrift and malt beverage tax.

“As it is currently, the community eligibiity provision allows schools to offer free meals to all students if at least 40 percent of the children it enrolls are directly certified in the federally subsidized meals program…..Among other changes, the bill approved by the House committee Wednesday would raise that threshold from 40 percent to 60 percent.”
School-Nutrition Bill Scaling Back Federal Role Passed by House Ed. Committee
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on May 19, 2016 11:35 AM
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce advanced a bill Wednesday that would raise the threshold for a school's participation in the community eligibility provision, a relatively new option that has allowed high poverty schools to provide free lunches and breakfasts to all of their students without requiring income verification from their families.
The bill would also provide "block grants" for up to three states, which would be released from following federal nutrition standards in exchange for accepting a fixed pot of money to cover their needs, and it would ease up on controversial school nutrition standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama.  Republicans on the committee said the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 is necessary to beat back what they see as an oversized federal role in school meals, but a broad range of groups, including child hunger groups and the School Nutrition Association, voiced opposition to the measure, calling it "reckless."

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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