Thursday, June 9, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 9: Everything you wanted to know about PA’s new education formula, but were too afraid to ask

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PA Ed Policy Roundup June 9, 2016:
Everything you wanted to know about PA’s new education formula, but were too afraid to ask

Everything you wanted to know about Pennsylvania’s new education formula
Keystone Crossroads/WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JUNE 9, 2016
But were too afraid to ask
Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law a new formula for distributing state education money.  As a general rule, public school money that comes from the state is meant to help level the playing field for districts who have a harder time generating local revenue.  A state formula is the tool used to decide how the pie of money should be sliced. In effect, it's the state's way of acknowledging which districts need the most help.  The tenets of this newly enacted formula were agreed to by a bipartisan commissionin June 2015 and passed by both houses of the General Assembly with overwhelming majorities recently.  Most advocates call this a major step forward — as the state had been one of only three in the nation lacking a student-weighted formula.  By counting actual enrollment shifts and acknowledging that some districts must spend more to educate their children, the formula adds predictability to a system that's often been swayed by the political powers of the moment.  But lawmakers plan to use the formula to disperse only new increases in aid — locking in the disparities that were created through decades of non-formula-based distributions.  This year, of a $5.6 billion budget, the general assembly sent about $152 million through the formula — less than 3 percent.  The formula also does not calculate how much money it takes to ensure that all students can meet state academic standards. That "adequacy" question is one the creators of the formula specifically avoided.

Funding failures
Pennsylvania gets low marks on equity and adequacy in school spending. A new formula may help, but only slightly. Charters and districts are left elbowing each other.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa June 7, 2016 — 1:16pm
To put it bluntly, Pennsylvania has had the worst of all possible worlds when it comes to education funding.  For starters, the commonwealth contributes a smaller share of funds to education than most other states do, forcing local districts to carry more of the financial burden for schools. Partly as a result, it has one of the largest spending gaps between wealthy and poor districts in the country.  And the state has a flawed charter school law that has not been updated significantly since being passed nearly 20 years ago. The law’s mechanism for getting money to charters worsens the funding woes of the low-income districts where most charters are located.  Since the early 1990s, the commonwealth has operated without a predictable formula for distributing state education dollars. Such formulas, which most states have, are driven by enrollment, student need, and the overall wealth or poverty of each district.  Pennsylvania used to have such a formula, called Equalized Subsidy for Basic Education (ESBE). It was based on actual student enrollment, with weights for circumstances such as poverty and a district’s wealth and taxing capacity. When that method was jettisoned in 1991, rules dictated that no district could get less than it had the year before, regardless of demographic trends or loss of enrollment – the so-called “hold harmless” provision.  For most of the time since, Pennsylvania’s education funding distribution has been driven by politics.

Our view: Pa. budget must deliver relief for Erie schools
GoErie Opinion June 9, 2016 01:26 AM
Erie School District supporters filled the grand staircase at the state Capitol and ringed the rotunda balcony.  They raised signs proclaiming love for Erie's public schools and set up a responsorial chant, "Fund our schools! Please!"  For that moment, Harrisburg had no choice but to listen.  Gov. Tom Wolf's signing of fair funding formula legislation on June 2 is an important starting point for the restoration of equitable public school funding.  But distressed districts like Erie's -- faced with high poverty rates, a shrinking tax base, declining population, and high percentages of students in special education and learning English, -- won't fiscally survive the many years it will take the formula to balance funding inequities among districts. After five years of deep spending cuts, the Erie School Board in May unanimously passed a 2016-17 proposed final budget with a $4.3 million deficit, instead of cutting art, music, sports, extracurriculars and other costs to close that gap.  Without an infusion of cash, the grim prospects laid out by schools Superintendent Jay Badams -- including the shuttering of the city's four high schools -- seem inevitable.

“Chester-Upland School District, in Chester County, spends 46 percent of its budget on charters. The district was at one point required to pay $40,000 for each of the charters’ special education students. What that money is actually used for, nobody outside the charters knows.”
An unfortunate example of our significantly flawed charter school law
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board June 9, 2016
THE ISSUE: An application to open a charter school on West Liberty Street was denied in 2014 by the School District of Lancaster. Backers of the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School then submitted a petition with more than 2,000 signatures in support of the school. Lancaster County Judge Joseph Madenspacher on May 26 ruled that only 580 signatures were valid. The charter needed at least 1,000 signatures in order to send an appeal to the State Charter Appeals Board.
We are relieved to see that School District of Lancaster prevailed in its attempt to derail the ill-conceived Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School.  But it shouldn’t have been this hard.  There are some charter schools doing what charter schools ought to be doing, and that is offering students an education alternative in inventive — and sound — ways. One example is the La Academia Partnership Charter School, in the School District of Lancaster.  Then there are charter schools that have done little more than wreak havoc on financially susceptible school districts nationwide. Investigative reports and financial probes have found charter school board members buying goods and services from their own companies; schools donating millions of dollars to sway political elections; charters, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, investing in special interests, instead of education. In these cases, the charters’ investors — taxpayers — are essentially betrayed.

Wolf delaying lawmakers' 2015 grants as budget deadline looms
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Wednesday, June 8, 2016, 2:18 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's top aides told Senate Republican leaders he won't release economic development grants approved by lawmakers until he gets a state spending plan he favors, a Senate GOP spokeswoman said.   Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County, said Wolf is doing so for “political leverage.”  Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said, “The (Wolf) administration has indicated they do not want to engage in discussion about the 2015 grants — despite the fact there are shovel-ready projects that create jobs — until they have a budget they like.”  The $1.6 billion in proposed statewide projects includes projects valued in lawmakers' districts, including public works, university and transportation projects and hotel, office space and a pediatric care unit.  Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman, said it's negotiable.  “Given the difficult fiscal situation in Pennsylvania and looming budget deficit, the administration will carefully review 2015 projects to ensure that funding is distributed in a fair, fiscally responsible manner as we work with the Legislature to balance the 2016-2017 budget,” Sheridan said in an email. “We look forward to finalizing a bipartisan, balanced budget with the Legislature that ensures funding for economic development priorities,” he said.

Pa. liquor reforms: Done. Are state pension changes next for divided government's to-do list?
By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on June 08, 2016 at 8:45 AM, updated June 08, 2016 at 10:30 AM
Is this Pennsylvania's "But wait; there's more!" moment?
On Tuesday, the state House of Representatives sent Gov. Tom Wolf a liquor reform bill that, for the first time since Prohibition, would let adults buy a bottle of wine to go from grocery stores and restaurants.  It's not the only change to Pennsylvania's status quo getting fresh legs after years of trying.  Within the next week or so, we may see votes on another Holy Grail for the Republican majorities in the Legislature: making state pension systems for state workers and public school teachers look and work more like those now common in the private sector.  Behind-the-scenes negotiations are in the home stretch on a pension bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill County, that would see all new hires enter what's known as a "stacked-hybrid" plan.

Wagner & Grove: How to cut $3B of fat from Pa. gov't. (column)
York Daily Record Opinion by Rep. Seth Grove and Sen. Scott Wagner12:45 p.m. June 8, 2016
The Taxpayers’ Caucus found $300 million more in savings than Gov. Tom Wolf requested in tax hikes.
As we enter budget season for the second time during the Wolf administration, taxpayers are anxious to see if Harrisburg will finally end the practice of status quo governing.  Unfortunately, it appears the governor and his administration have failed to learn any of the lessons from their disastrous nine-month budget impasse, as Gov. Wolf is still seeking massive tax increases.  The $2.7 billion in new taxes that Gov. Wolf proposed in his 2016-17 budget tries to cover the cost to close the structural deficit, but Harrisburg should never resort to tax hikes before reviewing cost-saving measures.  Unfortunately, that is exactly what they are doing; the governor’s own administration — his own budget office — admits his budget will create a structural deficit next year despite his proposed tax increases.  This deficit would exist because the governor wants to spend even more money than he is proposing to raise in new taxes.  As a result of the tax and spend policies from the Wolf administration, taxpayers would be forced to continually pay more to cover the cost of new government spending, but now is the time to change Harrisburg’s culture to one that protects the taxpayers.

 “It has been found that children who are involved with the arts, in general, tend to have higher grades and are less likely to drop out of school, and that children who play musical instruments are likely to have higher self-esteem, confidence, discipline, concentration, and emotional intelligence.”
When cash gets tight - don't erase the arts from our schools: Stephen L. Broskoske
PennLive Op-Ed  By Stephen L. Broskoske on June 08, 2016 at 2:00 PM
Stephen L. Broskoske is an associate professor of teacher education at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., where he teaches an Integrating the Arts course. 
When a person goes to the doctor, it is good to be examined by a professional who can creatively approach diagnosing and developing solutions to physical ailments.  When a jetliner is facing a challenging flight situation, it is comforting to know your plane is being piloted by a creative team that will find a way to guide you gently and safely to the ground.   These are but a few examples of how music and the arts have been recognized historically as being an important part of an effective education with the power to foster creative thinkers and better scholars.  In our modern society, why then are music and the arts among the first elements to be cut from school curriculum?

Gov. Wolf is trying to have it both ways on school funding: Dennis Roddy
PennLive Op-Ed  By Dennis Roddy on June 08, 2016 at 11:00 AM
Dennis Roddy, of Pittsburgh, is a Republican consultant and former Corbett administration speechwriter.
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf all but dislocated his shoulder while patting himself on the back after signing a fair funding formula for the state's public schools, only months after he had to be forced to honor that same formula.  Fair funding, in its most recent iteration, requires that state revenues be distributed according to a formula that weighs a district's needs on everything from family income levels to student demographics.  This was part of a system developed a year ago by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission.  The general idea is to make certain that school funds are handed out with an eye toward district need and general equity.  Democrats talk a great deal about one's "fair share," and this is the theory in practice.  Wolf threw this idea down on the floor and stomped on it in April, when he arbitrarily imposed what he fancifully called his "restoration formula" which shorted 423 of the state's 500 districts, while handing a disproportionate share to Democrat-rich Philadelphia.

Letters: Pre-K is critical to a child's future
Inquirer Letter by Gloria C. Endres, Philadelphia Updated: JUNE 9, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
ISSUE | PRE-K - Early start is key
As a retired educator, I agree with three pediatricians concerning early schooling ("Failure to adequately fund pre-K hurts Pa. children," Wednesday). I am especially pleased that they endorsed state funding of structured pre-K programs such as Head Start and Pre-K Counts.
I have observed Head Start classrooms while supervising teachers in training and can testify that they provide enriched, holistic environments for children starting at age 3. Besides school readiness, they provide nutrition, training in good health practices, and parental involvement. These are all antidotes to the toxic stress that can damage children's developing brains and create lifelong problems. Funding quality preschool is investing in the future growth and stability of our community.

Philadelphia could become 1st major US city with soda tax
The Associated Press/ The Morning Call June 8, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia City Council committee has voted to approve an amended version of a soda tax proposal that would set a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet drinks.  Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney's initial proposal was for a 3-cent tax on sugary beverages only, but he lacked the votes to secure it. He wants the tax to pay for universal prekindergarten, community schools and park improvements.  A council vote is scheduled for Thursday. A final vote is expected next week.  Opponents at a public hearing before Wednesday's vote shouted “No new tax!” Supporters countered with “Kids can't wait.”  The soda industry has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to stop Philadelphia from becoming the first major U.S. city with a sugary-drinks tax.  Berkeley, California, is the only U.S. city to approve such a tax.

Council gives initial approval to a 1.5-cent beverage tax
Inquirer by Tricia L. Nadolny and Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITERS JUNE 9, 2016 1:08 AM EDT
City Council gave its initial stamp of approval to a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks and diet beverages Wednesday night, paving the way for Philadelphia to become the first big city in the country to impose a soda tax.  After months of negotiations and a turbulent day that stretched into the evening, Council President Darrell L. Clarke said members backed a proposal Council had twice before rejected because of the programs it will fund - including the sweeping expansion of prekindergarten Mayor Kenney has pitched as an antipoverty initiative.  "We hope that the outcome is one that will obviously benefit pretty much every citizen in the city of Philadelphia," Clarke said just before the vote was taken. "The action that we will take will probably have some people with a sour taste in their mouths."  If the tax gets final approval by the full Council next week, as anticipated, it co

“On May 27—for the second time this year—the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the legislature's funding formula on the grounds that it does not equitably distribute state aid among its school districts.  The legislature, which officially ended its session last June 1, will have until the end of the month to figure out a new finance formula or the state supreme court says it will prohibit any state aid from being distributed.”
Kansas Districts Gird for Funding Shutdown
Education Week By Daarel Burnette II Published Online: June 7, 2016
In order to avoid a school-funding shutdown looming at the end of the month, Kansas politicians will hold a special session to attempt to address a state supreme court order to more equitably fund their schools.  Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's June 7 call for a special session came a week after several top Kansas Republican lawmakers threatened to defy yet another court order to provide poor districts more money or not be allowed to distribute any state aid. Over the last few weeks, local district officials have been writing contingency plans on how they would proceed without $4 billion in state aid.

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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