Sunday, May 22, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 22: House could vote on HB 1552, which would make the new Basic Ed Funding Formula permanent, as early as Monday May 23

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 22, 2016:
House could vote on HB 1552, which would make the new Basic Ed Funding Formula permanent, as early as Monday May 23

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

UPDATE: Last week the state Senate passed HB 1552, which would make the Basic Education Funding Formula permanent, by a vote of 49-1.  The formula would remove politics from state school funding decisions, directing money to school districts based on objective factors, such as student enrollment, the needs of the student population, school district wealth and capacity to raise local revenue. 

The House is expected to consider and possibly vote on HB 1552 as early as Monday, May 23.  Ask your state Representative to vote 'yes' for House Bill 1552, which would make the BEFC's school funding formula permanent.

Lawmakers must get serious about pension reform
Citizens Voice by THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: May 21, 2016
The Democratic Wolf administration and Republican legislative majorities have just begun the battle over the 2016-2017 state government budget. But one thing already is certain — both sides’ failure to reform the pension systems for state and public school employees means that taxpayers will pay a whopping $6.1 billion pension bill, a 257 percent increase over the $1.7 billion pension cost just five years ago.  Such ineffectiveness is breathtaking, all the more so because lawmakers claim to have established effective reforms in 2010. They were tweaks, however, that did not get at the heart of the problem. And now, a new reform bill constitutes yet another partial measure.  Lawmakers created the crisis in 2001 when they increased their own benefit by 50 percent and those for school and state employees by 25 percent, then decided that investment revenue would cover the costs. They followed up with increases for people who already had retired, and deferred state payments into the system.  Now that the bill has come due, lawmakers refuse to undo their own botched governance. Yet again, they have introduced a bill that focuses entirely on new state and school employees, rather than returning themselves and current employees to the generous 2001 benefit levels.

Pa. lawmakers hope to avoid another budget impasse
By Nico Salvatori  814-870-1714 Erie Times-News May 22, 2016 06:28 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- Local legislators are optimistic a state budget impasse can be avoided this year.
State Rep. Flo Fabrizio, of Erie, D-2nd Dist., said negotiations are underway between Gov. Tom Wolf's administration and Democratic and Republican leaders in the General Assembly.  "They are in the preliminary stages," Fabrizio said. "But there seems to be a prevailing attitude that we all want to get this done by the June 30 deadline."  Passage of the 2015-16 budget was nine months late because legislators and the Wolf administration could not agree on how to balance the budget, increase funding for education and eliminate the state's structural deficit, which some estimates have put at nearly $2 billion.  The initiatives Wolf offered, like raising taxes to increase education spending, were met with harsh resistance by Republicans. They favored reforming the state's public pension system and privatizing Pennsylvania's liquor stores as ways to cut long-term costs and generate new revenue.  Those ideas are back on the table this year for the 2016-17 budget, and it is not yet clear where there might be room for compromise.

Teplitz's 'Judgment Day' budget reform package draws support
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 20, 2016 at 11:31 AM, updated May 21, 2016 at 8:08 AM
Sen. Rob Teplitz braced himself for some strong reaction to Wednesday's unveiling of his "Judgment Day" state budget reform idea of imposing stiff consequences on his legislative colleagues and top executive branch officials if a budget doesn't get done by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.  But the Dauphin County Democrat was surprised to find that no one was critical or said his plan was wrongheaded.  Instead, the gist of his proposed package of bills gained the support of fellow Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster of Allegheny County as well as many of those who cast votes in PennLive's informal unscientific poll about it.

“Adding to their angst is a state law that does two very important things: Mandates that all public schools have a budget in place by July 1, and that the books be balanced. That’s right, your local school board member can’t simply plunk down a credit card and buy themselves another month to make the numbers add up.  Unfortunately, while our legislators are quite adept at holding others’ feet to the fire, they don’t exactly abide by the same set of playing rules.  Nowhere is that more true than here in Pennsylvania.”
Editorial: Holding the line in Upper Darby
Delco Times POSTED: 05/20/16, 5:06 AM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
You rarely ever hear about them – until things go wrong.
They toil for the most part in anonymity. Yet they have one of the toughest jobs around.
They are the elected members of your local school board. That’s right, these people actually volunteer to sign up for this gig. They put their name on the line and run for elected office.
For their efforts they are entrusted with millions of dollars of public funding, and one of the most important tasks we have, the education of our young people.  Education isn’t cheap. Just ask any local school board member.  Think it’s tough juggling your household budget. Consider the plight of your local school board member.  At least most families can put all their bills on the table, take a look at their income, and come up with a logical spending plan.  For local school directors, they instead get to play a yearly game of hide-and-seek with the elusive bottom line.

The promise of a "fair funding formula" recommended by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission and enacted legally by the 2015-16 fiscal code has turned out to be a false promise. Because our Legislature is only willing to allocate new funds by this formula, the funding inequity will take decades to correct. Unless there is some special appropriation, this approach will prove to be too little, too late for Erie.
Broken system 'dismantling' Erie schools: Jay Badams
By JAY BADAMS Contributing writer May 22, 2016 06:11 AM
Jay Badams is superintendent of the Erie School District.
ERIE, Pa. -- Five years ago, as the Erie School District began to pick up the pieces after dealing with a $26 million budget shortfall, I made both promises and predictions. I knew we had a great deal of financial work to do internally, and we did it. Erie now spends less state and local money per pupil than any district in the tri-county area, and less than 80 percent of the school districts in Pennsylvania.  I predicted publicly, and on many occasions, that if the state did not change the way it funds public education, that our financial recovery would be short-lived. I predicted that our fixed costs would rise, and that our pension obligations and charter school costs would ensure that we would approach insolvency in three to five years.  So, here we are, with the distraction of the 2015-16 budget impasse behind us, facing the continued reality of a broken and inequitable funding system as we again cut our way to a balanced 2016-17 budget.

Our view: Mobilize community to save Erie's schools
ERIE TIMES-NEWS May 22, 2016 06:31 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- We share Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams' frustration and outrage at Harrisburg's failure to address inequities in public school funding that have produced an educational and financial crisis in the Erie School District. Everyone in the region should.
When it comes to public education, there are a lot of things to argue about in the political and ideological realms. Basic fairness in providing educational opportunities to all of Pennsylvania's children shouldn't be one of them.  Having access to those opportunities shouldn't depend on a child's ZIP code. Today in Erie and a lot of other Pennsylvania communities, it does.  Even after taking decisive action to clean up the mismanagement and bloat left by his predecessor, Badams has been left to cut his way to a balanced budget year after year. That has culminated in the especially ugly choices now before him and the School Board.  In this year's budget cycle, Badams and his team have identified $6 million in cuts. Balancing the 2016-17 budget will require $4.3 million more.

Close Erie high schools? Your voices
Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams has posed the possibility of closing Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy and the Erie School District's other three high schools to help close the district's huge funding shortfall.
ERIE TIMES-NEWS May 20, 2016 04:33 PM
ERIE, Pa. -- After years of massive spending cuts and educational cuts, the Erie School District still isn't close to being able to pay its bills. In addition to considering the elimination of sports, extracurricular activities and school libraries, Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams has posed the possibility of closing Erie's four high schools in the 2017-18 school year and dispersing their students to surrounding school districts. We asked our friends on the Times-News Facebook page about whether that option would be necessary or feasible, and about anything else the city school system could do to dig out of its financial hole. Here's some of what they had to say.

Canon-McMillan, teachers reach early three-year contract deal
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 21, 2016 3:10 PM
Teachers in the Canon-McMillan School District have reached an early agreement on a new three-year contract.  The new deal, approved Thursday by the school board, covers 335 members of the Canon-McMillan Education Association and goes into effect Aug. 16, according to a joint news release from the teachers and district. Teachers will receive raises of 3 percent over the life of the contract with no increase in health care contributions, although new employees will have to show a spouse has no other health insurance.  The news release said the new contract was the result of “a collaborative process” between the union and district with no attorneys involved.

Pennsylvania seniority bill advances the war on teachers
I’ve watched with a mix of amazement and chagrin as the blame for a crumbling school system has been callously laid at teachers’ feet.  To be sure, there are bad teachers within the profession, and they should be culled from the ranks. But in my experience, most teachers choose their vocation because they genuinely care about children. And for those who find their calling in the classroom, a long career can give them the opportunity to literally change their students’ lives.  Still, teachers have found themselves facing unrelenting attacks from conservative politicians and their allies. In Pennsylvania, the latest salvo in the war on teachers is the so-called “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act,” a Republican-backed bill that aims to make teacher seniority a thing of the past. Gov. Wolf has vetoed the bill, and Republicans have responded by threatening to hijack the state budget process, a move that could once again throw our state into economic chaos.
The legislators pushing the “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act” will tell you it’s about improving educational outcomes for children by putting the best teachers in classrooms. I’m not buying it. I think it’s a cynical ploy to gain political advantage by crippling the teachers unions that typically support Democrats.

Teacher layoff issue now linked to budget
Citizens Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT Published: May 22, 2016
HARRISBURG — The shape of state budget fights to come can be seen in the political battle over the teacher furlough bill that was vetoed last week by Gov. Tom Wolf.  This measure would change the rules for determining how school districts carry out teacher layoffs. It would allow school officials to base layoffs on a statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, rather than starting layoffs with the teachers who have the least seniority.  As soon as the bill was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature two weeks ago, the Democratic governor said he would veto it.  That sparked a campaign by GOP lawmakers calling on Wolf to reconsider his position. They said the bill will ensure the best teachers remain in the classroom if circumstances require layoffs.  This campaign involved a string of press conferences, public statements and heavy use of social media with a wave of tweets by lawmakers touting the bill and chiding the governor for opposing it.  The campaign reached a crescendo last Tuesday when House and Senate GOP leaders appeared together to lay down a gauntlet.  They suggested that if Wolf vetoed the teacher furlough bill, he would quickly encounter the issue again when negotiations start next month to fashion a state budget for fiscal 2016-17.

SEN. SCOTT WAGNER: Wolf kills another education reform
The Mercury Opinion by Senator Scott Wagner POSTED: 05/20/16, 6:32 PM EDT 
Gov. Tom Wolf continues to resist any reforms that would change the Pennsylvania education system.  This past Wednesday, Governor Wolf vetoed legislation designed to keep the best teachers in Pennsylvania’s classrooms and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs.  In Pennsylvania, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority.  The last teacher hired is the first person fired, regardless of job performance.  Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs.  With the governor’s action, our Commonwealth will continue this backward approach.  House Bill 805, known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would have ensured that school districts use teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions.  Performance ratings would have been based on the comprehensive statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, under which observed educators are assigned a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing.

Cameron County School Board faces daunting budget figures
Bradford Era By AMANDA JONES Era Correspondent  Posted: Friday, May 20, 2016 10:00 am
EMPORIUM — Members of the Cameron County School District Board continue efforts to balance expected revenues with expenditures prior to passage of a budget for the 2016-17 school year.  At the last meeting, held a little more than a week ago, the projected deficit stood around $500,000 for the $12.6 million budget. Through recent administrative efforts and directives given to Business Manager Carl Mitchell during this meeting, the projected deficit is expected to be closer to $300,000.  Approximately $100,000 in savings has been gained through refinancing of the district’s bonds, while an additional $90,000 will be saved by not filling several vacancies — a high school social studies position and two elementary aides.  Superintendent Christine Holjencin advised the board that an additional sum could be saved by not hiring an assistant principal. The savings estimate to leave the social studies and assistant principal positions open was around $170,000 annually, with an estimated $20,000 in savings realized by not hiring aides for the above-listed open positions.

W-B Area plans to eliminate programs, lay off teachers
Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER Published: May 20, 2016
The Wilkes-Barre Area School District is planning to eliminate art, industrial-arts and consumer-science courses and could lay off about 30 professional employees for the next school year, according to sources familiar with the plan.  The school board is expected to vote on the proposal to eliminate programs and teaching jobs at Monday’s board meeting.  Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak confirmed he personally met with teachers who may be affected on Friday, but declined to disclose specifics until Monday’s meeting.  Sources spoke about the layoff plan on condition of anonymity because the district has not yet made it public. Jeff Ney, president of the teachers’ union, did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Brian O'Neill: Two families, two school options
By Brian O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 22, 2016 12:00 AM
When you raise children in a county where the school districts are divided more than 40 ways and the municipalities are split another 130, a move of a mile and a half can change everything.  There are 1.2 million stories in the compartmentalized county. This is one of them.  Christopher Rolinson lost a school board election in the Cornell district last November. That’s one of Allegheny County’s smallest, with every student from Coraopolis and Neville Island in one K-12 building. Fifty students will graduate next month.  Mr. Rolinson campaigned last year on the idea the district was too small and should merge with a neighboring one. He attracted support but not enough, and now the Rolinsons are merging with a neighboring district themselves.

Burrell School District's property tax could rise nearly 3 percent
Trib Live BY LIZ HAYES | Friday, May 20, 2016, 2:54 p.m.
Burrell School District's proposed 2016-17 budget includes a nearly 3 percent property tax increase.  Also included is the continuation of a school resource officer program despite several school board members questioning the district's $107,000 share of the salary, benefits and expenses for Lower Burrell police Detective John Marhefka.  Board member James Kunkle in April asked the board to review whether the district could continue to fund the program in light of an estimated $280,000 deficit in next year's budget.  Business Manager Jennifer Callahan said the elimination of a proposed new teaching position and the teachers union agreeing to pay for a greater share of their health insurance premiums whittled away at the deficit in what is now a tentative $29.6 million spending plan.

Daniel Boone support staff, teachers to rally against outsourcing of jobs
The Mercury By Digital First Media POSTED: 05/20/16, 6:14 PM EDT
AMITY >> The Daniel Boone Federation of Support Staff, Local 4954 of the American Federation of Teachers will hold a rally and news conference Monday to show their opposition to school district plans to outsource 35 custodial, grounds and maintenance jobs.  The rally will be held at 6:15 p.m. at the Boone Administration Building at 2144 Weavertown Road.  “Our message to the board is simple: Do your homework,” said Local 4954 President Frank Abbattiscianni.  The Daniel Boone Area School Board is considering contracting GCA Services Group for maintenance work.  “GCA Services Group has a less-than-stellar record of providing the kind of high-quality services that students and taxpayers are used to and deserve,” Abbattiscianni said.

Pottstown School Board president fires back in teacher salary dispute
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/21/16, 6:14 PM EDT | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Pottstown School Board President Kim Stilwell fired back Thursday night after months of teachers complaining publicly about their pay as contract talks continue.  “As much as I like to see the teachers and the parents at the meetings to strengthen their cause for pay raises, is it really time well spent?” Stilwell asked to a growing chorus of groans and exclamations from the green-shirted teachers in the audience.  Stilwell had just offered up a handful of examples of teacher pay increases in contract steps over the last seven years, ranging from 3.3 percent for less-experienced teachers to as much as 60.6 percent for those in the upper steps.  “You are all aware of our issues with our broken funding system and the issues in this town which we are trying to correct,” said Stilwell.

Lancaster kids can get free books on bikes this summer
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer May 20, 2016
Children in Lancaster city can get free books delivered on bicycle this summer through a new literacy program.  The Mix at Arbor Place, an after-school program, is partnering with The Common Wheel, a nonprofit bike shop, to create the Pages on Pedals program. Volunteer bicyclists will distribute new books to 200 children each week in June.  "Many low-income students experience a summer learning slide, and this is just one way to prevent that," said Jeremy Raff, assistant executive director for The Mix at Arbor Place.  Raff heard about a similar program in Philadelphia, called Words on Wheels, and thought it could work in Lancaster.  "It was a perfect fit and an exciting way to promote summer literacy," Raff said.  Chris Caldwell, founder of The Common Wheel, said combining bikes and books is "a no-brainer."  "We're all about using the bicycle as a tool and connecting people," he said.  The Mix at Arbor Place also will offer free summer literacy programs at its youth center in southeast Lancaster to complement the program.

How do school districts handle transgender issues?
York Daily Record by  Angie Masonamason@ydr.com11:28 p.m. EDT May 20, 2016
Some officials said a federal letter outlining how schools should offer equal access to transgender students won't affect them much.
When a student steps forward to say that he or she is transgender, it's not something anyone takes lightly, according to some local school officials.  In some districts, there are meetings with parents and students to hash out logistics like bathroom and name usage. There can be complications. Parents might not be on the same page with their child. Legal documents might not flag a substitute to a transgender student's preferred name.  Some York County school officials said they've been dealing with situations like that for years. So a letter from the federal government, outlining how transgender students should be treated, isn't so much something new for them to adhere to, but additional direction for navigating a sensitive, complex topic.

Congress to Vote on Measure that Could Cut School Lunch Access for 200K Kids Locally
If a provision circulating in a draft of the school meal reauthorization bill becomes law, some 3 million kids -- including nearly 200,000 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, could lose access to school meals.
Nbc Philadelphia By Morgan Zalot (Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
The U.S. Congress could change the requirement for free school lunches meaning that about 200,000 students in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware could lose their free meal.  Congress is set to vote on Wednesday on a measure that could cause 3 million children nationwide -- including about 200,000 in the tri-state area -- to lose access to free school meals if it passes.  The bill, which would reauthorize the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition acts, includes a proposal that would increase the threshold at which school lunch is offered universally at a school.  Currently, through a measure called "community eligibility," a school's entire student body is eligible for free lunches if at least 40 percent of students qualify. The proposed bill would increase that threshold to 60 percent, putting millions of children across the United States at risk of losing meal access.

 “The study says that while charter-school boards have the responsibility to follow the laws mandated of public schools, the incentive of these outside organizations is to increase revenue or cut expenses.”
"Supporters of charter schools are using their popularity in black, urban communities to push for states to remove their charter cap restrictions and to allow multiple authorizers," one of the study's authors, Preston C. Green III, told The Washington Post, where we first read about the study. "At the same time, private investors are lobbying states to change their rules to encourage charter school growth. The result is what we describe as a policy 'bubble,' where the combination of multiple authorizers and a lack of oversight can end up creating an abundance of poor-performing schools in particular communities."
An alarming new study says charter schools are America's new subprime mortgages
Business Insider by Abby Jackson Jan. 6, 2016, 10:40 PM
The charter-school industry — consisting of schools that are funded partly by tax dollars but run independently — may be heading toward a bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis, according to a study published by four education researchers.  The study, "Are charter schools the new subprime loans?" warns of several factors that appear to be edging the charter industry toward a bubble premeditated by the same factors that encouraged banks to start offering risky mortgage loans.  With charters, school authorizers play the role of the banks, as they have the power to decide whether to issue a new charter school. There are a multiple types of authorizers, including state education agencies and independent charter school boards. Most authorizers are local education agencies.

Common Core testing group wages aggressive campaign against critics on social media
By Valerie Strauss May 20 
The Common Core testing group called PARCC Inc. has been waging an aggressive campaign to take down several dozen social media references to the PARCC test being administered to students this spring — items that include questions from the exam and some that don’t.  Dozens of education bloggers have been writing about the PARCC exam since May 7, when an anonymous teacher posted a piece on the blog of Celia Oyler, an education professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, that harshly critiqued the fourth grade PARCC exam and offered three questions from the test many students are taking this spring. Other education writers and activists began to weigh in, critiquing those questions as being either inappropriate for the grade level or nonsensical, and publishing some test items.  PARCC Inc. officials say these postings and tweets violate their copyright and can lead to problems with test validity.

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:

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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