Tuesday, May 31, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 31: Dozens of PA districts face tougher time borrowing after budget impasse; PDE investigating Agora

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 31, 2016:
Dozens of PA districts face tougher time borrowing after budget impasse; PDE investigating Agora

FYI - PA Ed Policy Roundup may be late/intermittent this week

“Now, although the budget finally wrapped up in late March, the rating agency's confidence in state government has not grown.  "At this point, we've told the market and our clients that we don't expect to reinstate the program," said Sugden.  That means the 57 districts and community colleges that had been taking advantage of the program are in a tighter position, and will either be locked out of the market entirely or forced to pay higher interest rates.”
Dozens of Pa. school districts face tougher time borrowing after budget impasse
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 30, 2016
Dozens of Pennsylvania's most distressed school districts are finding it harder to borrow money in the wake of the state's historically protracted budget impasse.  In December, as lawmakers entered a sixth month without a state budget, S&P global withdrew its rating of Pennsylvania's "intercept" program, through which the state guarantees loans for school districts that don't have high credit ratings.  Through the program, if a district says it cannot meet its loan obligations, the state promises to pay the lender out of the pot of cash the district is set to receive from the Department of Education.  The promise that the state will "intercept" this payment, makes banks more willing to lend.  But if there's no state budget, there's no pot of cash from which to draw.
"We had recognized a trend of late budgets at the state level which render the program ineffective for large portions of the year," said John Sugden, a senior director at S&P global. "We saw a lack of commitment to the program and to program oversight."

Monday Morning Coffee: Lobbyists spent nearly $2m on each legislator last year, report
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 30, 2016 at 7:42 AM, updated May 30, 2016 at 7:44 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
If you'd ever wondered exactly how much cash gets thrown around Harrisburg on a regular basis, here are few, sobering numbers:  All told, the more than 900 lobbyists who roam the halls the Capitol spent $500 million, or nearly $2 million per-legislator, in 2015 to "push, shape or block" the flow of legislation.  That's nearly twice as much as taxpayers spend on the 253-member General Assembly, among the nation's largest and best-paid legislative body.  Those numbers come to us via our pals Mike Wereschagin and Brad Bumsted of The Tribune-Review, who took a deep dive Sunday on the legion of contract lobbyists who also sometimes run lawmakers' political campaigns even as they work for (and occasionally against) issues that will come before the General Assembly.

The Scott Wagner 'phenomenon'
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Saturday, May 28, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Is a news conference held in a public building by a public official a public event? Or is it held for the media, whose responsibility is to report any news to the public?  The question surfaced as a result of an event unique in recent history — a state senator showing up at news conferences and dominating the question-and-answer session after the speaker's presentation.  It happened again last week when Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York County, came to a news conference held by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a York Democrat, on a preliminary audit of the Department of Health and Human Services' ChildLine. DePasquale found there were 42,000 calls that went unanswered or were dropped.  Keep in mind that Wagner, a self-made millionaire with numerous companies, including waste disposal, is a very likely candidate for governor in 2018.
Also keep in mind that DePasquale might run in the Democrats' primary for governor in 2018 if incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf doesn't run.

“It certainly makes the distribution less political,” House Democratic Caucus spokesman Bill Patton told the Post-Gazette. “But the overall question of how much of the state’s money is invested in education remains just as political as ever.”
PA-BGT: Closing the Education Funding Gap
PoliticsPA Written by Jason Addy, Contributing Writer
One piece of the budget puzzle looks set to fall into place as Gov. Tom Wolf readies to sign a bill to implement a statewide education funding formula.  In an almost unanimous vote on Wednesday, the PA House of Representatives approved a formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commissionalmost a year ago to close the funding chasm between the state’s wealthiest and poorest school districts, thewidest gap in the nation.  All of the state’s 500 school districts will receive the same allocations they received in 2013-14, plus an amount to be determined by the new formula, which makes adjustments for poverty and enrollment rates, as well as the district’s income and school property tax levels, Karen Langley of the Post-Gazette reports.  The formula was used to allocate state education funding this year, and the bill will ensure it is used again in the future, taking politics (somewhat) out of the process.

School funding creates divide in attorney general's race
Inquirer by MARC LEVY, The Associated Press Updated: MAY 28, 2016 — 11:26 AM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The battle in Pennsylvania over school funding could take on a new dimension.  Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee running for attorney general, said that, if elected, he would side with school districts and parents challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's system of funding public schools.  It could elevate the fight over disparities in how Pennsylvania educates children, and it draws a bright line between how he and the Republican nominee, John Rafferty, might handle the office. Should Shapiro win the November election, he could give the lawsuit's plaintiffs - six school districts, parents of six schoolchildren, the NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools - a new ally.

“A new formula that reflects conditions on the ground is a good development. But it will be meaningless unless the Legislature brings the same consensus to actual funding increases.  The budget that finally was passed for this year included a $200 million increase for public schools. As Mr. Feinberg noted, if the state contribution increases by that amount each year it would take 16 years, meaning that a child now entering kindergarten would be out of college before his public school achieves an adequate state funding level.  Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a $400 million public education increase this year. Lawmakers should approve not only that, but a multiyear plan to ensure that the state meets its obligations to public education.”
Editorial: School formula not funding
Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: May 29, 2016
Despite a bruising nine-month impasse over the current state budget that centered largely on education funding, the Legislature has adopted a funding formula for education.
The formula is about distribution rather than funding levels. But a study by the Public Interest Law Center, based on the formula, calls for gradually increasing the state funding share by at least $3.2 billion and as much as $4.3 billion.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the spending differential between wealthy and poor Pennsylvania districts is the largest of any state — an average of $12,529 per student in affluent districts; $9,387 in poor districts, or $78,550 per class of 25 students.  The disparity flows directly from the inadequate level of state funding, which results in an over-reliance on local property taxation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Pennsylvania ranked 46th among the states in state government funding for public education, at 36.1 percent.

State Education Department now investigating Agora Cyber Charter
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789 @marwooda Updated: MAY 28, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The Agora Cyber Charter School missed Friday's deadline to turn over data on attendance, academic performance, and finances to the state Department of Education, as the department had demanded.  And what had been a departmental review of the cyber school has become an investigation into the operations of the online school, which has 8,500 students statewide.  "There has been concern regarding the accuracy of Agora's records and the timeliness of its reporting," Nicole Reigelman, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote in an email Friday. She said a team from the department had visited the school this week, but she declined to elaborate, saying the department does not comment on active investigations.  A series of letters obtained by the Inquirer show the department's growing impatience with Agora. Officials have been pressing the school for information about its operations since it laid off scores of employees in February without informing the state.

85% high school graduation rate in PA; not good enough
WITF Written by Radio Pennsylvania | May 28, 2016 8:49 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- High school graduation rates have been on the rise, but one national drop-out prevention organization is pushing to improve it further.  They want the graduation rate framed as an economic issue.  Pennsylvania's high school graduation rate is 85 percent, higher than the national average but lower than the 90 percent that groups like Communities in Schools would like to see.  Executive Vice President Gary Chapman says it's estimated the annual increase in earnings if Pennsylvania's graduation rate reached 90% is $100 million.  "That would be another 26 million dollars in state, local and federal tax revenue.  Potentially 700 new jobs in the state could be filled by these graduates and we would see annual spending in the state increase by 74-million," he said.

Phoenixville board OKs $87.3M budget, 1 percent tax hike
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 05/27/16, 2:18 PM EDT 
PHOENIXVILLE >> Financial uncertainty in Harrisburg has forced school officials in Phoenixville to cover their bases this coming school year. Having just come off the nine-month-long state budget impasse, district officials say they have no idea how much revenue the state will send during the 2016-17 school year, forcing them to make conservative predictions and increase taxes.  In an 8-1 decision, the Phoenixville Area School Board approved the 2016-17 final budget of $87.3 million, which calls for a 0.93 percent tax increase. Board member Mike Ellis dissented.

“Concerns focused on direct cuts being made to art, music and physical education programming. Other position that will be lost include technology coaches, a high school social studies teacher, a middle-school computer teacher, three custodians, one mechanic, and two security guards.”
Montour School District approves furloughing 16 teachers, other staff
Post Gazette By Sonja Reis May 27, 2016 10:13 AM
The Montour school board approved the furlough of 16 positions at a packed meeting Thursday night, although officials said only one program will be cut while several other course additions will be made as part of the 2016-17 budget.  Staff cuts came for classes where student enrollment is low and multiple sessions of the same course are not needed, board members said. The move is expected to save the district between $1.6 million and $1.7 million. The high school’s American Sign Language course, introduced this school year, is being eliminated.  More than 150 teachers, students and parents crowded into the high school auditorium, where dozens spoke out in favor of keeping teachers and other district staff. Those who addressed the board were worried class quality would suffer and students would have a harder time enrolling in certain courses.

Kansas Supreme Court Rejects School Funding Plan, Citing ‘Intolerable’ Inequities
New York Times By JULIE BOSMAN MAY 27, 2016
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state Legislature had failed to equitably fund public schools, once again giving the state until June 30 to fix its financing system or face a court-ordered shutdown of schools.  The ruling was the latest volley in a long battle over public education in Kansas. A lawsuit from a coalition of school districts led the Kansas Supreme Court to order the Legislature in 2014 to increase funding to poorer districts.  The court and the Legislature have been at odds ever since. In February, the court said that a solution proposed by lawmakers, to use block grants to allocate funds, had failed to address inequities in schools. In response, the Legislature passed a bill that it said gave poorer districts a fair share of funding. Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed the measure in April.  In a 47-page ruling, the court rejected that bill, saying the Legislature’s formula “creates intolerable, and simply unfair, wealth-based disparities among the districts.”

“As the research shows, your education has far-reaching implications for your health. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to live a longer, healthier life. Now, more than ever, having a high school diploma can predict your likelihood of having diabetes, heart conditions or other diseases. And across racial and ethnic groups, life expectancy improves with increasing years of education.”
It's Time to Reframe How We Think About Education and Health
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation May 17, 2016, 10:03 AM, Posted by Kristin Schubert
Kids spend more time at school than anywhere outside their homes, making schools where we have the greatest chance of improving kids' health trajectory through physical, social and emotional development.
My sister, Katy, and I grew up in a family of teachers. My mother, my father and my aunt all dedicated themselves to educating, inspiring, encouraging and supporting each student who came through their classrooms. While I chose to go into public health, Katy followed in their footsteps and is a fifth-grade teacher. Many of her students experience challenges at home that no child should have to face. So in order for her students to be engaged in learning, not only does she need to know her lesson plans, she also needs to know whether a student has eaten breakfast that day or is suffering from trauma that’s gone untreated. When a student acts out, she needs to understand what underlying issues are causing them to behave that way. She’s seen first-hand how difficult it is for her students to learn when many of their needs go unaddressed. And every day, I can see how the work we’re each doing in our respective fields intersects.

As Charters Grow, Public Schools See Sharp Enrollment Drop
Standing before the Los Angeles Unified School Board, Susan Zoller delivered a startling assessment: More than 100,000 students in the nation's second-largest district were now enrolled in charters, draining more than $500 million from the budget in a single academic year.  "The financial future of Los Angeles is difficult," said Zoller, a consultant hired by the district's union. Board member Richard Vladovic leaned anxiously toward his mic.  "We are bleeding," he said.  If current trends continue, the district could be significantly diminished in another 10 years — at least a third smaller than at the start of the century.  In financially struggling urban districts from LA to Philadelphia — and most notoriously, Detroit — the increasing popularity of charter schools, combined with family flight to the suburbs and declining birth rates, have caused enrollment to plummet. The changes have unfolded slowly for years and recently accelerated in some places.

EPLC's 2016 Report:  High School Career and Technical Education: Serving Pennsylvania's Workforce and Student Needs
Allegheny Intermediate Unit - 475 East Waterfront Dr., Homestead, PA 15120
Coffee and Networking - 9:30 a.m.  Program - 10:00 a.m. to Noon   
 RSVP by clicking here. There is no fee, but a RSVP is required. Please feel free to share this invitation with your staff and network. Similar forums will be held later in the Philadelphia area and Harrisburg. 
An Overview of the EPLC Report on High School CTE will be presented by:
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By
Dr. Lee Burket, Director, Bureau of Career & Technical Education, PA Department of Education
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, PA Association of Career & Technical Administrators
Dr. William Kerr, Superintendent, Norwin School District
Laura Fisher, Senior Vice President - Workforce & Special Projects, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
James Denova, Vice President, Benedum Foundation

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 clapper@paprincipals.org 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:

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