Monday, June 6, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 6: PA Has a Fair Funding Formula: Sorry, Delaware and North Carolina

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 6, 2016:
Pennsylvania Has a Fair Funding Formula: Sorry, Delaware and North Carolina

Joint public hearings of the PA Senate and House Education Committees dealing with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are scheduled for 9:00 am on June 7th and June 22nd in Hearing Room #1, North Office Building

“Until court-sanctioned action that lowered payments this year, the state’s special-education funding formula required Chester-Upland to send its charters more than $40,000 for every special education student. How much of that actually went to student services is not known, in part because the charter law does not require CCCS or any other charter to make that information public.  What is known, however, is that CCCS spends a healthy chunk of its budget on fees paid to Gureghian’s management company. Gureghian won’t open his books, but about 10 years ago, the school spent an estimated 40 percent of its revenue on management, as opposed to the state average for charters of about 16 percent.”
Chester Upland: Exhibit A for broken charter law
The district’s situation highlights statewide issues: Special ed, a lack of transparency, and financial challenges linked to charter payments.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Bill Hangley June 3, 2016 — 11:45am
To put some noteworthy flaws of Pennsylvania’s charter law in stark relief, one need look no further than the Chester-Upland School District, a desperately poor enclave in generally well-off Delaware County.  As the state’s most distressed district, it is so unable to meet its students’ needs that it is under the control of a receiver.  Nearly half of the students in Chester Upland attend charter schools, and 46 percent of its budget goes to charter payments. Most charter students there are enrolled in the Chester Community Charter School (CCCS). The K-8 school has 2,900 students, nearly as many as the 3,300 K-12 students in the district. The state’s largest brick-and-mortar charter by far, CCCS was founded and is operated for profit by a company owned by businessman Vahan Gureghian, a major supporter of former Gov. Tom Corbett and other Republican candidates and causes.  CCCS and its management company, Charter School Management Inc., have built a reputation for taking maximum advantage of the financial opportunities built into the charter school law, while strenuously resisting any public scrutiny about where that money goes.

“In a strange quirk of charter law, district payments to charters are calculated based on what the district pays to educate its non-charter special ed students. If low-cost special ed students (such as those needing occasional speech therapy) migrate to charters, the higher-cost students left behind in the district (such as autistic children) drive up the district’s per-pupil costs – and therefore its payments to its charters. That’s one reason the formula has dictated that Chester-Upland should pay charters $40,000 per special ed student, while spending only $16,000 for each of its own.”
Detangling the web of special ed funding
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. June 3, 2016 — 2:30pm
Pennsylvania’s special education funding is guided by a bewildering tangle of formula-driven payment policies. A system that virtually everyone agrees is outdated and inequitable recently has been modestly reformed for district-run schools, but not for charter schools.  As a result, charter schools continue to receive more per-pupil special education dollars than their district-run counterparts – dollars that those charters don’t have to spend on special education.  Here are three of the main issues that the charter school law generates:

Pricey Pads March 27, 2015
Now’s your chance to purchase a brand new estate home in a very exclusive oceanfront stretch of Palm Beach, Florida.  An unfinished 35,000 square foot Mediterranean mansion has come on the market for a staggering $84.5 million.  The palatial residence sits on 2-acres of land with 242′ of direct ocean frontage.  It’s currently under construction but according to the listing it will include a bowling alley, home theatre, pub room, as well as five bedrooms, and seventeen bathrooms.  According to the estate is owned by Vahan Gureghian who purchased the land for $28.9 million with the intentions of building a large estate home. It’s listed with Christian Angle Real Estate.

Pennsylvania redistricting effort gets conservative think tank support
A new coalition has formed to push for changes in the way Pennsylvania draws legislative boundaries — and among those advocating the change is a leading free-market, limited government think tank.  In Pennsylvania, the Republican-controlled Legislature draws congressional boundaries, and Democrats say their gerrymandering is why the GOP controls 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats. The new coalition, Fair Districts Pa wants to amend the state constitution so that a nonpartisan commission would draw the boundaries for Congress and the Legislature. (State House and Senate boundaries are now drawn by a five-member commission, four of whom are legislative caucus leaders.)  The coalition includes many groups typically labelled progressive, such as Common Cause Pennsylvania and the Green Party of Pennsylvania. Also joined in the effort is the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank.  Coalition co-chair Carol Kuniholm of the League of Women Voters thinks that's a plus.  "We are making a very strong case that this is a bipartisan issue, and I think having membership in our coalition from different sides of the spectrum makes that point," Kuniholm said.

New fair funding formula is step toward improving Pa.'s schools: Tom Wolf
PennLive Op-Ed  By Tom Wolf on June 05, 2016 at 10:00 AM
Last week, I signed a fair funding formula into law, making Pennsylvania's system of school funding fairer and more equitable.   Prior to the signing of this bill, Pennsylvania was one of only three states in the nation without a fair funding formula.  The fair funding formula was created and unanimously adopted by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission in June 2015.  Having a formula in place will assure school districts that new funding will be distributed equitably and investments in education will no longer be determined by the influence of one legislator over another.  The fair funding formula establishes a method for allocating new state funds to Pennsylvania schools.

Governor Wolf’s BLOG: Pennsylvania Has a Fair Funding Formula: Sorry, Delaware and North Carolina
Governor Wolf’s Blog June 02, 2016 By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary
A landmark report in 2013 revealed a stark ranking for Pennsylvania: we were one of only three states without a funding formula to fairly, equitably and adequately distribute new funding to school districts.  This week, Governor Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s fair funding formula into law.  And that leaves Delaware and North Carolina alone as states without a fair funding formula.  While this is a victory for students, their parents, teachers and school administrators, it is not a singular or quick fix.  As Governor Wolf has pointed out and education advocates have pushed, in order for the formula to work, the General Assembly must allocate more money for our schools.  Only more funding, not the formula alone can solve another ranking problem for the commonwealth: A ranking of states regarding school-funding equity found Pennsylvania in 47th place.

Press Release: Campaign for Fair Education Funding applauds signing of school funding formula bill
Campaign for Fair Education Funding June 3, 2016
HARRISBURG (JUNE 3, 2016) – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding today applauded Governor Wolf for signing into law a fair funding formula for basic education sent to him by the General Assembly, a demonstration of  bipartisanship and acknowledgment of the need to more equitably distribute school funding.  “The formula is an important first step toward getting all Pennsylvania students what they need in the classroom,” said Campaign spokesman Charlie Lyons. “The next step is to make sure it’s properly funded.”  He noted that Pennsylvania is ranked 46th in the country for its share of education funding – contributing only 36 percent, among the lowest in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  In addition, data from the National Center for Education Statistics show Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor districts of any state in the country, and per-pupil spending in Pennsylvania’s poorest districts is 33 percent less than in the wealthiest districts.  “The Campaign wants to see all new education funding driven out through the new formula, including significant annual education funding increases over the next several years,” Lyons said. “This is the most reasonable way to bring all public schools to a funding level that will give all students, no matter where they live, a fair shot at academic success.”

“What the formula lacks led to the current harsh reality in Pennsylvania: If districts don’t have enough state support, the burden falls to local taxpayers to make up the difference. More than anything else, it is this central fact that leads to Pennsylvania’s school funding status as the most inequitable in the nation. Wealthy districts can easily raise the amounts needed, poor districts cannot, and the resources a student has are heavily dependent on the zip code in which he or she is born. This was our reality before the fair funding formula was passed, and it is our reality now.”
Why Pa.’s New School Funding Formula Is Still Unfair and Unconstitutional
Op-Ed: The formula locks in vast inequities that exist from district to district, instead of eliminating them.
PhillyMag Opinion BY MICHAEL CHURCHILL  |  JUNE 2, 2016 AT 11:58 AM
 (Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Michael Churchill. Churchill is a staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia.)
While politicians and advocates are celebrating the legislature’s passage last week of a student-based, fair formula for distributing new school funds, it is important to understand this reality: Our school funding system is as unconstitutional today as it was last week.  Much about the formula is worthy of praise. Among other things, it will thankfully end the era in which funding went to districts based on close relationships to the leadership of the General Assembly. And in distributing new money to districts, it will use accurate information about the number of students and their needs, giving extra funds for students in poverty or learning English, and giving extra help to districts with lower capacity to raise money locally. This is a decided improvement.  But the formula is only a baby step toward what is needed. It does not address the inadequate amount of funding available to districts struggling to meet state-set proficiency standards. It does not address the vast inequities that exist from district to district. Indeed the formula locks in those inequities because it only addresses how new funding is distributed. It never asks what schools need in order to meet state standards.

“POWER, a nonprofit organization, is one of 50-plus groups that make up the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a statewide coalition of organizations seeking more funding for the state’s school districts. The campaign was organized nearly two years ago in response to then-Gov. Tom Corbett’s cuts in education funding, which left many districts reeling from the lack of resources in everything from teachers to textbooks.”
Broad coalition agrees on one thing
Education advocates continue to work on gaining support for increased funding.
The notebook by Paul Jablow June 2, 2016 — 3:40pm
The office of a state legislator might seem an unlikely place for a prayer meeting.
But late last year, a handful of local churchgoers and an organizer for POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) traveled to Rep. Kate Harper’s office to pray about the state’s school funding crisis.  There the education advocates told Harper, a Montgomery County Republican, that she had a moral obligation to support increased funding for Pennsylvania’s schools. Though Harper is a regular churchgoer, she said, she found the action to be a bit unsettling.  “It was unusual to say the least,” she said. “I said I would never turn down a prayer, but on school funding I want a dialogue on the issues.”  Harper said she told the visitors that while “we share the same values,” they would need to show how more money for the schools – and increased taxes to provide it – would bring better performance.  This action by POWER is just one example of how education advocates are moving to build a wider base of support for education funding, something that groups directly involved with the schools have been unable to do.

Gov. Tom Wolf signs new school funding formula into law
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau June 3, 2016
HARRISBURG — A seemingly relaxed Gov. Tom Wolfon Friday praised the Legislature he had scorned, and then signed into law a school funding formula he had rejected during an epic budget fight.  "I just gave a shout out to you," Wolf told Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, as the lawmaker strode a few minutes late into the governor's reception room ceremony.  It remains to be seen whether the goodwill Wolf and lawmakers exhibited will carry over into heated summer budget talks set to in earnest when the full Legislature returns to session Monday. But for at least one day the formal bill signing ceremony served as a Kumbaya moment between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Wolf signs bill changing education funding formula
WITF Written by Brad Christman, Radio Pennsylvania | Jun 3, 2016 2:05 PM
(Harrisburg) -- For 25 years, education funding has been allocated on a "hold harmless" basis - meaning no school district can receive less state aid than it did in the previous year.  Student population shifts and other evolving factors were not considered.  The bill signed by Governor Tom Wolf changes that funding formula - but only for new state money, or the dollars that make up the line item increases in the coming years.  As such, the governor says he is not finished.  "I will continue to do what I did to get this fair funding formula and that is work and support the good work of legislators on both sides of the aisle in either chamber...people who want to come up with a good way to make sure we're funding our schools adequately and fairly. And that's one of the issues that I'm sure we'll talk about," says Wolf.  The new funding formula only impacts new money the state sends to its 500 school districts. That dampens the immediate impact and has given rise to calls for a more comprehensive approach to reexamine all basic education money.

Guv inks new school funding formula; Chester Upland gets $12M boost
By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 06/03/16, 11:01 PM EDT
Gov. Tom Wolf signed a new basic education funding formula into law Friday that includes a new $12 million annual increase for the Chester Upland School District.  The formula contained in what is now Act 35 was unanimously approved by the Basic Education Funding Commission last year and takes district-based factors like income levels and tax efforts into account, according to a release from Wolf’s office. The formula also looks at “student-based factors,” including the number of students attending charter schools, living in poverty and learning English as a second language.  “What the Basic Education Funding Commission did was important, and while Pennsylvania is no longer one of the only states without a fair funding formula, our commonwealth’s schools remain the most inequitable in the nation,” said Wolf in a release. “The formula only works if we begin to give school districts additional funding to restore the unfairness in our school funding distribution.”

Gov. Wolf signs fair funding formula
 York Dispatch by Alyssa Jackson, 505-5438/@AlyssaJacksonYD7:56 a.m. June 3, 2016
House Bill 1552 only sat on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for about a week before he signed it into law Thursday.  The law will establish a fair funding formula. Until the law, there was no effective formula for distributing funds.  Instead, the state has operated on a "hold-harmless" policy, which was put into place in 1991. The policy gives each district a funding increase of 2 percent each year but did not take into account population changes that area schools have experienced in recent years.  The law also provides emergency funds to two of the commonwealth's distressed school districts: $3 million for Wilkinsburg in Allegheny County and $12 million for Chester Upland in Delaware County.

EDITORIAL: Finally, a winning formula for our schools
York Dispatch 7:39 p.m. EDT June 2, 2016
It may not be the most stimulating topic around.
In fact, many folks in York County may yawn uncontrollably and feel their eyelids drooping at the mere mention of the words “school funding formula.”  So let's try to put this issue in terms that have real meaning to real people.  The Basic Education Funding (BEF) Formula legislation that was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday should offer financial relief for overburdened taxpayers and additional resources to underfunded school districts all across York County.  There, do we have your attention now?

Education Law Center Statement on Passage of HB 1522
Education Law Center May 25, 2016
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center issued the following statement following the passage of HB 1552:
“As HB 1552 heads to Governor Wolf’s desk after being passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly, Pennsylvania is poised to join most other states in the nation in using a funding formula to fairly distribute basic education dollars based on student and district needs.  This bipartisan formula takes into account student factors — such as the number of students living in poverty, the number of students who are English Language Learners, and the number of students enrolled in charter schools, as well as school district factors — including the effort and capacity of school districts to raise funds at the local level.  While this formula is a major step forward for equitable public education funding, it will only be effective if the General Assembly appropriates sufficient dollars to fund our schools. Currently the legislature is woefully underfunding our schools, in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. We call on the General Assembly to appropriate a $400 million increase in basic education funding as well as an increase in special education and early education funding as a down payment to restore critical services to students.”

“Actually, there is one thing both sides agree on. The state is swimming in red ink. Most estimates put the current deficit north of a billion dollars.  Wolf says state residents need to bite the bullet and raise the state personal income and sales taxes to raise the needed revenue.  Republicans would rather march naked along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.”
Delco Times Editorial: Get ready for Act II of Pa.’s budget follies
POSTED: 06/05/16, 5:15 AM EDT | UPDATED: 56 SECS AGO
Stop us if you’ve heard this before.
The ink is barely dry on the state’s current budget – you know, the one that arrived nine months late courtesy of a standoff between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans in the Legislature – as the two sides gird this week for Round Two in this Keystone Komedy.  Legislative leaders this week will start the heavy lifting that comes with crafting a spending plan, especially in light of their continuing disagreement with the governor over spending and revenue.  Wolf was not exactly enamored with the fiscal blueprint he held his nose and allowed to take effect a few months ago. He couldn’t even bring himself to put his signature to it, instead allowing it to become law without his John Hancock.  He remains committed to a big spike in spending to attack what he believes is the state’s most pressing problem, one years in the making. That would be the state of education funding in the state, which he firmly believes has been shortchanged for years, in particular during the reign of his Republican predecessor, Tom Corbett.  Of course, Republicans in the Legislature react to the notion of tax hikes the way Donald Trumpentertains questions from the media. Let’s just say they’re not fans.

It’s back! Deadline looms for new state budget
Post Gazette By Angela Couloumbis and Karen Langley / Harrisburg Bureau June 6, 2016
HARRISBURG — In the Capitol, the word hope is heard often these days.  Hope that this year’s budget talks will be less divisive.  Hope that an impasse like the one that made history during Gov. Tom Wolf’s first year can be avoided.  Even hope that a budget can be signed by the July 1 deadline.  But with less than a month to go, few signs point to an easy or even swift resolution. While the beginning of June traditionally marks the unofficial start of budget negotiations, this is not a traditional year.

Speaker Turzai's reason to play nice
Philly Daily News by John Baer, Political Columnist Updated: JUNE 6, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
SO HERE'S A fun little state budget angle.
GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai, he of (shall we say) unsettled temperament, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a known creature of calm, could be poised for a new sort of cat and mouse game.  Normally, they don't play nice. Now there's an X-factor.  Understand: Turzai is Wolf's ideological opposite.  Turzai's for stricter abortion laws, expanded gun rights, liquor privatization and a fiscal policy that's opposed to Wolf's big school-funding push.  Plus, it was Turzai last December who blew up a budget compromise and caused more months of limbo before Wolf, grudgingly, let a maintenance budget take effect in March.  Well, it's budget time again. A new one's due June 30. Talks are underway.  The X-factor?
Turzai, a 15-year incumbent, has a November opponent for the first time in three cycles after winning his suburban North Hills Pittsburgh seat by huge margins in previously contested runs.  So what? Incumbents win re-election, especially incumbent leaders.  Yes, but the challenge to Turzai is interesting because, initially, there wasn't one.  He was unopposed in the GOP primary and no Democrat was on the ballot.  Then, just a week before the April primary, Penn State-New Kensington history prof John Craig Hammond, who goes by Craig, entered as a Democratic write-in. He needed 300 votes to qualify for November. He got 1,661.

“One bit of positive news since the last budget war was the passage of a school funding formula that Gov. Wolf signed into law Thursday. The act removes Pennsylvania from the list of only three states without such a specific method to allocate funds to school districts. But the new basic education funding formula determines only how the education funding pie will be cut; still at issue is how big the pie will be.  Wolf's budget includes a $200 million increase for K-12 schools, which would match the $200 million eventually added to the current budget for them. But that still wouldn't be enough to restore what public education lost through the Corbett cuts. Philadelphia alone gets $200 million less from the state than it did in 2011.”
Inquirer editorial: Pa. can't close deficit without new revenue
Updated: JUNE 5, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Gov. Wolf's second budget proposal could hardly fare worse than his first.
With only 25 days left before the constitutionally mandated deadline for a new state budget passes, talk in Harrisburg suggests there won't be a repeat of the partisan impasse that blocked a spending plan for the current fiscal year for nine months. But to quote an old saying: Talk is cheap.  Especially when the talking thus far hasn't come from Gov. Wolf and Republican legislative leaders; it's come from surrogates whose reportedly cordial conversations have raised hopes that a budget deal won't be as hard to reach this time. Of course, talk among aides isn't likely to be as politically charged as it will be once their bosses join the discussion.

Schools face tough choices, worry over upcoming state budget debate
HARRISBURG — School leaders across the region face tough choices as they prepare their budgets and nervously await what the next state budget debate will deliver.  School boards in Northeastern Pennsylvania and across the state weigh the unpopular options of education program cuts, job layoffs and property tax hikes to balance 2016-17 budgets.  It’s a trend that started during the recession a half-dozen years ago and seems to be worsening.  As the Republican-controlled state General Assembly returns Monday to start its budget season — the weeks of frenetic activity leading up to the June 30 deadline for passing the next state budget and school aid subsidy — the related issues of school pension costs, teacher furloughs and equitable funding for school districts are in the mix.

Local school districts to see construction funding
Several local school districts soon will get the state money they’re owed for past school construction, but Pennsylvania still needs billions of dollars to upgrade schools statewide, two senators said Friday.  Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-7, Philadelphia, and Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, the top two Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee, talked about the funding needs Friday with The Times-Tribune editorial board. Earlier, they toured West Scranton High School with district Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., and School Board President Bob Sheridan.  “Far too many school buildings are just not up to snuff,” said Mr. Hughes, the Democratic appropriations chairman.  The senators said the deal that ended the six-month standoff over Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2015-16 budget authorized state borrowing to pay school districts what they’re owed for past school construction. At first, Mr. Wolf vetoed the fiscal code bill that included the borrowing, but later allowed it to become law. The bill allows for borrowing up to $2.5 billion to pay off past school construction costs.

Politics as Usual: Legislature to consider school district consolidation
Laura Olson and Steve Esack Contact Reporters Of The Morning Call June 4, 2016
Politics as Usual: Legislature to consider school district consolidation study
Six years ago, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell sent shock waves across the state when he proposed during his 2009-10 budget speech eliminating 400 of the state's 500 school districts as a way to save costs.  The anxiety Rendell created in small districts such as Salisbury Township in Lehigh County and Pen Argyl in Northampton County was short-lived. His consolidation idea died at the podium.  But now a lawmaker wants to revive it.  On Monday, the House Education Committee will vote on a resolution, sponsored by Rep.Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, to direct the Joint State Government Commission and Independent Fiscal Office to conduct a statewide study on reducing the number of school districts in the state.

Wolf and Kenney to chart future of SRC
Three members' terms will expire in January. The governor and the mayor will appoint replacements.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa June 2, 2016 — 2:17pm
The five-member School Reform Commission is due for a makeover come January, and the potential changes have far-reaching consequences for the Philadelphia School District.  The terms of three of the five members will expire then – Feather Houstoun, Chair Marjorie Neff, and Sylvia Simms. Houstoun was named by former Gov. Tom Corbett. Simms and Neff were appointed by former Mayor Michael Nutter. None of them have the expectation to be reappointed.  The other members, Bill Green and Farah Jimenez, were named by Corbett.  In the next few months, Gov. Wolf and Mayor Kenney must find three people with credibility and the willingness to serve – one of whom can withstand a confirmation process in the state Senate.  But it will be hard to convince one person to take the position, much less three. The job is unpaid and requires at least 30 hours of work in a slow month. It also demands decisions about a crucially important $3 billion government enterprise without having any control over how much money it has to spend and only limited control over how to spend it.  That’s before considering the impact of facing down an angry, boisterous, often disrespectful  public at just about every meeting.

Pottsgrove solicitor: Prayer at graduation violates U.S. Constitution
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 06/02/16, 9:50 PM EDT | UPDATED: 19 HRS AGO
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Continuing to program for an invocation and/or benediction at graduation ceremonies would put Pottsgrove schools in direct violation of the “establishment clause” of the U.S. Constitution.  That is the conclusion offered in the legal brief District Solicitor Marc Davis prepared at the request of the school board President Rick Rabinowitz after the elimination of the practice for this year’s ceremony became more broadly known.  The decision, made after last year’s graduation in which a student reportedly invoked the name of Jesus Christ and called everyone in the audience sinners, has been a subject of much heated debate in the past few days.

After granting two Muslim holidays, what's next for the Philly School District?
Area Muslims rejoiced earlier this week when the School District of Philadelphia announced it would formally observe two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.  So too did John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.  “I think it sends a very strong message that the school district is for everyone,” said Chin. “It’s a good conversation starter.”  Based on precedent set in other large school districts, that conversation may soon tilt to holidays such as the Lunar New Year, a widely observed celebration among Chin’s constituents, or Diwali, a Hindu holy day. In an age of increasing religious pluralism, school calendars have emerged as a new battleground.

Green Futures is the School District of Philadelphia’s 5-year sustainability plan.  It was created by District staff and stakeholders with a common goal: to make public schools great.  This plan is an offshoot of Action Plan 3.0 and it aims to make every school a green school that will better serve our students and communities.

Higher-than-normal turnover seen among school superintendents
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 3, 2016 12:00 AM
As students line up in their caps and gowns for commencement marches in the coming days, they are not the only ones leaving their K-12 school experience behind.  This year, there is also a graduating class of sorts of superintendents in Allegheny County — a handful of longtime educators who are retiring and turning over the reins of their districts to new leaders, and a few additional superintendents who are leaving under different circumstances.
Who’s leaving: In suburban Allegheny County, superintendents Nancy Aloi Rose of Bethel Park, Michael Panza of West Jefferson Hills, Jeanine Gregory of South Park and John Hoover of Hampton are retiring.  In the Pittsburgh Public Schools, superintendent Linda Lane is retiring from the post she has held since 2011.  Northgate superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla, who held that position since 2012, became the new Bethel Park superintendent in April.  Gateway superintendent Nina Zetty resigned in April after being on a leave of absence that followed a board vote in February to not to renew her contract, which was set to expire in June 2017.  In Moon Area, superintendent Curt Baker was placed on leave in December with the board moving to terminate his contract in March.  And in Wilkinsburg, where there has been a revolving door of superintendents in the past three years, the board last week accepted the resignation of acting superintendent Joseph Petrella, who had been on sick leave since February.

Judge rejects charter school's appeal to open in Lancaster; 'Glaring' flaws cited in petition signatures
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer June 2, 2016
After spending 2.5 years and nearly half a million in taxpayer money to fight a charter school proposal, School District of Lancaster succeeded last week.  Backers of Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School in November 2013submitted an application to open a school on West Liberty Street the next year.  They planned to enroll 400 students in kindergarten through ninth grade by the end of a five-year charter, but the School District of Lancaster board rejected the proposal.  Last week, a judge ruled that the charter school did not gather enough signatures to appeal the rejection.  In his opinion, Lancaster County Judge Joseph Madenspacher called the flaws in the ABECS petition “glaring.” They included forged, illegible and improperly gathered signatures.  An appeal cannot be sent to the State Charter Appeals Board unless a common pleas court rules it sufficient, a Department of Education spokeswoman told LNP Wednesday.

Chester Charter School for the Arts to rise in the city
Delco Times By Rick Kauffman, on Twitter
POSTED: 06/02/16, 9:50 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
CHESTER >> Some young people of Chester will soon be studying in a state-of-the-art facility that will bring art “back to the community it represents.”  The ground breaking of a $25 million facility Thursday will be the new home of Chester Charter School for the Arts come September 2017.  The 11-acre site on Highland Avenue, between 12th Street and Township Line Road, will be the new home of the ever-expanding arts charter, which since 2012 has lived in an Aston industrial park, but will soon feature a facility up to the standard of its highly touted educational practices.  “This represents the respect and love for a high-quality education, rich in the arts with spaces that would allow that type of growth,” said Akosua Watts, CEO and head of the school.  The school is largely funded through The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, a non-profit agency started by Dr. John Alston, the founder of Chester Charter School for the Arts, a Swarthmore College professor and director of the 140-voice Chester Children’s Chorus.

Chester arts charter to build showcase school
 Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: JUNE 3, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
Akosua Watts, head of school, talks to an attendee at the groundbreaking ceremony for Chester Charter School for the Arts' new school building on Thursday, June 2, 2016.   In the eight years since its founding by the director of a popular children's chorus, the Chester Charter School for the Arts has hit an academic high note as the top-performing school in Delaware County's poorest community.  Soon, it will move from a rental space in an industrial park - where young musicians, dancers, and artists hone their skills against the rumble of potato-chip trucks rolling out of a neighboring warehouse - and into a venue more in tune with the school's success.  Administrators and civic leaders broke ground Thursday for a $25 million campus on the edge of Chester. According to plan, a state-of-the-art, 90,000-square-foot building with dance studios, a band room, and a kiln will rise from the vacant lot on Highland Avenue by the fall of 2017.  Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) has 500 students in grades K-9 and 56 staff. Administrators say the move should enable the school to become a full K-12 by 2018, with 750 eventually enrolled.

Quality early learning programs essential to our region | Opinion
By Express-Times guest columnist  By Timothy S. Fallon on June 02, 2016 at 2:24 PM
As CEO of PBS39, my goal is inform, inspire, entertain and educate the greater Lehigh Valley community.  As a resident of the Lehigh Valley, I am strongly committed to making our region a great place to live, work, and raise a family. By providing respected programming and exceptional educational resources for children and families, we hit two birds with one stone. Through our award-winning and nationally recognized educational programming such as Sesame Street, Peg + Cat, and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, PBS39 makes a positive, constructive impact on childhood development. Given that approximately 90 percent of the human brain is developed by age five, this is critically important.  While public television is an invaluable tool with which to reach our children, it is best paired with personal, invested one-on-one interaction. My wholehearted support for the proposal in this year's state budget to increase funding for early learning programs benefiting at-risk children will help broaden educational impact and directly affect the health of our community.

Guest Column: Why boosting pre-K spending is a good investment
Delco Times Opinion By Francesca Darquea, M.D., Brittany Davis-Schaffer, M.D., and Sam Master, D.O., Times Guest Columnists POSTED: 06/02/16, 10:00 PM EDT 
In our work in pediatric medicine at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center, we see first-hand how challenges in a child’s growth and development — if left unaddressed — can limit opportunities, including the opportunity to learn.  That’s why we want to see Pennsylvania invest more in high-quality pre-K programs in the state budget. The years before a child enters kindergarten are a critical window for healthy cognitive, physical, social and emotional development, and the circumstances and experiences children have during these early years can shape their health and success for a lifetime. Quality pre-K helps put our children on a path to a lifetime of good health and success.  Unfortunately, too many young children face obstacles that hinder healthy development, including the effects of poverty and other adverse conditions beyond their control, which can fuel “toxic stress” – the type of extreme, persistent stress that can actually alter a child’s brain architecture in negative ways. Research shows one of the most effective ways to lessen the impact of toxic stress is through caring relationships and stable, supportive environments. High-quality pre-K programs provide such an environment, enabling young children to learn and develop free from the adverse conditions that can create persistent stress and anxiety.

Mission: Pre-K: More state support for early education is vital
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board June 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Early-childhood education is so important that even retired admirals and generals are fighting for it.  Mission: Readiness, a children’s advocacy group made up of former military leaders, is part of a 2-year-old coalition demanding that the state invest $90 million more next fiscal year in pre-kindergarten and Head Start programs.  Why? A high-tech military requires highly skilled recruits, while the nation’s lagging performance in science and math portends a diminished global competitiveness, according to a study that Mission: Readiness and the business group ReadyNation released Thursday.  Pre-K is funded by the state, while Head Start receives federal and state funds. The programs for 3- and 4-year-olds provide instruction in math, literacy and other subjects, preparing tykes for the rigors of kindergarten and the challenges that life throws at them later on. Targeting kids at an age when their brains are especially fertile, pre-K and Head Start have been associated with improved performance in key academic subjects, higher school graduation and better college enrollment rates, all translating into higher levels of individual achievement and national gain.

Cristo Rey: New model for college-prep success?
Every member of the class was accepted to a four-year college, and 71 will attend one. Nearly half the class will get financial aid that will cover all their college costs.
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: JUNE 5, 2016 — 1:09 AM EDT
Taylor McHenry took a chance on a new private Catholic high school in North Philadelphia for low-income students that would combine work-study and rigorous academics to provide a jump start on college.  She recalled her ninth-grade teachers at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School telling her to be patient as they developed the program, "so we just trusted."  That trust paid off for McHenry and the 79 others in the Class of 2016, who received their diplomas Friday night during ceremonies at La Salle University.  And the entire Cristo Rey community is celebrating the school's extraordinary success:  Every grad was accepted to a four-year college, and 71 will attend one, including Georgetown University, New York University, Villanova University, and Rosemont College.

Gates Foundation chief admits Common Core mistakes
Washingon Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss June 2 
Sound familiar?
After spending several billion dollars attempting to reform public education over nearly 20 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is saying that, oops, the job is harder than its leaders had thought.  Sue Desmond-Hellmann, foundation chief executive officer, wrote this in a newly released annual letter:  We are firm believers that education is a bridge to opportunity in America. My colleague, Allan Golston, spoke passionatelyabout this at a gathering of education experts last year. However, we’re facing the fact that it is a real struggle to make system-wide change.  And she wrote this about the foundation’s investment in creating, implementing and promoting the Common Core State Standards:  Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards. We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators – particularly teachers – but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.

“TFA is a nonprofit organization that has long been a darling of education philanthropists, with major funders such as the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. About 50,000 people are alumni or current corps members. At its recruiting peak in 2013, TFA attracted 57,000 applicants, yielding a corps that year of 5,800 teachers. Last year, 44,000 people applied, yielding a corps of 4,100; this year, the number of applicants dropped to 37,000.
Individual school districts employ and pay TFA teachers and also pay fees to the organization for those job placements.”
Teach for America retools efforts to recruit graduates from top colleges
Washington Post By Emma Brown May 31 
Teach for America has spent most of its 25 years working to expand, growing from a concept outlined in a Princeton student’s honors thesis to an education-reform juggernaut that places thousands of idealistic college graduates in some of the nation’s neediest classrooms.
But that growth has stalled. Applications for TFA’s two-year teaching stints have plummeted 35 percent during the past three years, forcing the organization to reexamine and reinvent how it sells itself to prospective corps members. It has been focusing particularly on how to engage students at the nation’s most-selective colleges, where the decline in interest has been among the steepest.  “It’s going to take us time to recover,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, TFA’s chief executive, noting that the organization’s leaders are trying to “step back and take a really honest look” at why TFA is struggling to attract interest and how to reverse the trend.

Title I Is Supposed to Fund Our Poorest Schools
Somehow $2.6 billion of it still ends up in the hands of wealthier-than-average districts. By Lisa L. Lewis June 3, 2016
On Wednesday, U.S. News & World Report released a comprehensive analysis showing that Title I, the federal program created as part of civil rights–era legislation to meet the needs of low-income students, is still flawed. A significant portion of the $14.5 billion spent via Title I each year is funneled to students in wealthier districts: Nearly 20 percent, or $2.6 billion, goes to wealthier-than-average districts, while many districts with high concentrations of poverty are shortchanged.  The mission of Title I, created in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty,” was to provide federal funding to help meet the educational needs of low-income students. It’s been reauthorized regularly since then, and it’s a key part of the most recent federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in December by President Barack Obama to replace 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act. The funding is meant to provide supplemental resources for low-income, struggling students, such as instructional coaches, reading and math intervention programs, professional development, and additional guidance counselors. But it is notoriously difficult to correctly allocate these funds—how do you know how to fairly disburse money so it benefits just the poor students in more than 13,000 school districts?\

How Much Testing Is Too Much?
Eight in 10 teachers think their students spend too much time taking government-mandated tests.
The Atlantic by Erik Robelen JUN 5, 2016
It’s not hard to find a teacher willing to bend your ear about the volume of standardized testing in schools today, and the pressure for “test prep.” But how widespread are such concerns among educators? And what’s the on-the-ground reality they experience?  New survey data suggest these impressions about over-testing and test prep are more than just anecdotal: They are the norm for the majority of public-school teachers.  Eighty-one percent believe their students spend too much time taking tests mandated by their state or district, according to the study by the Center on Education Policy, based at George Washington University.

Books about standardized testing
Boston Globe By Katharine Whittemore GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  JUNE 03, 2016
Every new year, I ink all nine SAT test dates on our calendar. Why? Because my husband, John, is a high school tutor, with SAT prep a big wedge of his business. Those last weeks before each test (June 4 is the finale for this school year) bring down a mighty squall for him, full of long hours, revved students, and fretful parents.  So I have a stake in testing — but I’m ambivalent about it, too. You’d think roughly half of the education books would be in favor of standardized testing, half against. No way. They’re almost all inimical to the acronym-ical, and not just the SAT. Each state, after all, has its own assessment, from our MCAS, to the TAKS (Texas), to Utah’s yearningly named U-PASS, some of them created years ago and the rest after a nudge from the federal No Child Left Behind Act (2001).  With such an alphabet soup, I needed to get the FYI ASAP. One cover blurb grabbed me: The New York Times declares “the [anti-testing] movement now has a guidebook,” which is the lure for “The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be” (PublicAffairs, 2015). The guidebook’s guide is Anya Kamenetz, NPR reporter and former Fast Company senior writer.

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 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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