Thursday, July 14, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 14: #Budget done; charter reform will have to wait

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 14, 2016:
#PABudget done; charter reform will have to wait

Thanks to those of you who contacted your state legislators regarding HB530/HB1606 charter reform legislation.  You were effective.

“A side issue involving loosening caps on charter school enrollment, which critics said would have hurt Philadelphia and other cash-strapped school districts, had threatened to derail negotiations. Officials removed it from the budget talks and said the issue would have to wait for resolution.  …That won't come until fall. After wrapping up their budget votes, lawmakers recessed for the summer. They are not due to return until late September, and then only for a short session, in part because it is an election year.”
Impasse over: Wolf, Pa. lawmakers strike budget deal
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JULY 14, 2016 1:07 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania has an annual budget - nearly nine months sooner than it took last year.  The Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday approved budget bills that use new taxes on tobacco and digital downloads, and changes to gambling and wine sales, to pay for the $31.5 billion spending plan it passed last month. Gov. Wolf pledged to sign them.  The swiftness of the deal, reached less than two weeks after the July 1 deadline, stood in contrast to the partisan divide that gridlocked the Capitol and overshadowed much of Wolf's first 18 months in office.  The agreement delivers more money for two of his priorities, public schools and opioid and heroin addiction prevention. But Wolf was forced to compromise on his demand to avoid one-time cash infusions to balance the books: The deal contains about $700 million in such maneuvers.  Republicans prevailed in their effort to block any broad-based taxes, and won changes to the state-run alcohol sales system that some have hailed as the first step toward privatization. Those changes could bring $149 million in new revenue, and legislators hope to yield more by expanding gaming.

“Everyone agrees a commission is needed to develop a matrix for charter funding, similar to recent ones that have created formulas to fund basic and special education.  But organizations like PSBA, the Keystone State Education Coalition and Public Citizens for Children and Youth put the pressure on lawmakers to kill the bill.  They feared local school boards and taxpayers would lose control to an independent state-level board authorized to charter school entities. There was also a clause allowing charters to add grades, which would increase their student body and require additional district funding.  Students would also be allowed to enroll in charters outside their home district, creating additional transportation costs.  "Any charter school legislation should maintain control locally so school boards and local taxpayers have control over governance of a charter school," said Frank Gallagher, the Souderton Area School District superintendent.”
Pennsylvania school officials turn against charter bill
Bucks County Courier Times By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Thursday, July 14, 2016 5:30 am
After pensions, school officials see mandated charter school funding as the next biggest obstacle to fiscal stability.  Many thought House Bill 530 would initiate relief from charter payments, because it would create a Charter School Funding Commission to recommend appropriate cost levels for charters.  But in the past two weeks, initial supporters of the measure fought to defeat it because changes to the bill would have ultimately cost districts more money.  "They took a bill that's been hanging around and started adding amendments to it that would really decimate public school districts," said Mark Miller, a Centennial school director and president-elect of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

“Charter schools receive their funding through local school districts. Without oversight authority, local school boards, elected by voters and managing taxpayers' dollars, could lose control over their own much less charter school budgets.  Local school boards bear the ultimate responsibility for all spending on public education. Charter schools shouldn't operate without input from those paying the bills.  Local, elected school boards deserve to retain their ability to evaluate and authorize how students receive education — in charter schools or in their own. The Senate should reject these bills.”
Editorial: State legislators should be wary of removing authority from local school boards regarding charter schools
Pocono Record Editorial Posted Jul. 13, 2016 at 5:43 PM
Many charter schools, including Monroe County's Evergreen School, are well run and well respected. Yet nearly all of them operate under the radar, with little public involvement or scrutiny in their decision-making and operations. By contrast, local school boards are elected by their constituents and operate openly. Love them or hate them, voters can hold them accountable in public meetings and through the ballot box. Without that control, school results can be devastating.  In 2005 the married couple who'd run the "Pocono School of Excellence" took the money and ran, leaving 230 students and their teachers without a word. Tonya and Kenneth Cabarrus later pleaded guilty to felony theft for embezzling taxpayer money through the school.  
Several years later, the erstwhile Pocono Mountain Charter School violated its own charter by failing to maintain fiscal management standards, failing to comply with academic performance and special education law and mingling church and school funds. In 2012 the state Auditor General's office alleged the school may have misused more than $3 million in tax dollars, partly through improper entanglement with its landlord, Shawnee Tabernacle Church.  Now the state Senate is considering two House bills that would make it harder for school boards to assess charter schools' performance and would let such schools open or expand with little or no public input or school board authorization.

Pa. tax package to fund its 2016-17 budget is now a done deal
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 13, 2016 at 4:27 PM, updated July 13, 2016 at 9:38 PM
 (Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed the tax package the General Assembly sent to him on Wednesday.)
Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed a nearly $1.3 billion tax and revenue package needed to balance the $31.5 billion state budget passed nearly two weeks ago.  The passage of the negotiated, conference committee report came on a strong bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, 116-75. The tax and revenue plan was supported by 68 Democrats and 48 Republicans.  That was quickly followed by a 28-22 vote in the Pennsylvania Senate, with 14 yes votes from both Republicans and Democrats.

Pa. House, Senate approve new, higher taxes in $1.3B revenue deal
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Wednesday, July 13, 2016, 2:15 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed a $1.3 billion revenue bill that completes the 2016-17 budget and imposes higher taxes on cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and, for the first time, on digital downloads for videos, books and music.  The Republican-controlled House approved the bill by a 116-75 margin. Without debate, the Senate — also controlled by the GOP — approved it 28-22. Wolf later tweeted that he “just signed the revenue package.”  The revenue bill is intended to provide enough funding to balance the $31.5 billion budget.  Given Republicans' staunch opposition to higher taxes last year and in previous sessions, 48 GOP House members supporting the tax package represented a “sea change,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College. The Republican House members joined 68 Democrats to vote for it. In the Senate, 14 Republican senators were among the 28 votes for the bill.

Lawmakers pass $1.3B budget bailout package, governor signs
Morning Call by Marc Levy, Mark Scolforo Of The Associated Press July 13, 2016 9:43 pm
Tax package funding Pa. budget includes 6% sales tax on digital downloads, including apps.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Lawmakers on Wednesday approved a $1.3 billion election year revenue package that hinges on a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase to balance the state's deficit-riddled budget and avert a lawsuit and a bond downgrade.  The hard-fought revenue package was split between tax increases and one-time infusions of cash, including a $200 million loan from a state medical malpractice insurance fund. A new sales tax on internet downloads will contribute money, as could an expansion of casino gambling.  It is perhaps the most significant election year tax increase in decades in Pennsylvania.  However, it is dramatically smaller than the $2.7 billion tax package that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had sought from the Republican-controlled Legislature in an effort to wipe out a long-term deficit and close huge disparities between poor and wealthy school districts.  And while it does not put to bed the state government's long-term deficit or do much to narrow school disparities, Wolf's numerous concessions helped avert a second straight prolonged and damaging partisan stalemate.

PA budget passes after fast-track negotiation
WITF Written by Katie Meyer | Jul 13, 2016 8:46 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- After two days with an underfunded state budget, lawmakers have approved a revenue plan to balance the $31.5 billion spending bill.  Governor Tom Wolf has signed it Wednesday evening, putting an end to the 2016/17 budget process.  Wolf said the action saved the commonwealth from a repeat of last year's budget debacle.  "Today's passage of a revenue package means we avoid another lengthy impasse," he said in an official statement. "Our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the budget's structural deficit."

This is what compromise looks like
Delco Times Heron’s Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Thursday, July 14, 2016
There's an odd word being bandied about in Harrisburg.  Compromise.
Yes, miracles do happen. And it doesn't always take nine months to put them in place.
In other words, our elected representatives signed off Wednesday on a new state budget - nine months before they were able to accomplish that seemingly routine task last year.  The $31 billion spending plan is not what everyone wanted. That's where the compromise part comes in.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf did not get all the spending - nor the tax hikes to pay for it - that he wanted.  But he is getting an additional $200 million in education spending.

Letters: DN editorial on charter-reform measure is misleading
Philly Daily News Letter by Tim Eller, executive director, Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools Updated: JULY 14, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
THE EDITORIAL, "Proposed charter reform - cloudy with a chance of crisis," does nothing more than distort the true nature of House Bill 530, while sidestepping the fact that most charter schools serve as the only viable public-school option for students served by low-performing school districts.  This legislation, which takes a giant step forward in accountability and transparency of charter schools, goes to the heart of what education is about: students, and their right to receive a high-quality education.  This bill doesn't "take control away from school districts"; it codifies existing law by requiring districts and charter schools to agree to enrollment caps or grade expansions through the amendment or renewal process.

Innovative Arts charter school nearing enrollment goal
Daryl Nerl Special to The Morning Call July 13, 2016
CATASAUQUA — With a little more than a month before schools are scheduled to open, officials at the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School say they are nearly three-quarters to their goal of enrolling 300 students to open their doors.  The public charter school scheduled to open next month in the former Lincoln School in Catasauqua — more recently the shuttered Medical Academy Charter School — has enrolled 220 students to date, according to Loraine Petrillo, the academy's chief executive officer, who reported to the school's board of directors on Wednesday night.  That's a significant increase over the enrollment of 68 reported in early June and charter school board President Kelly Bauer said she believes Innovative arts will hit its target.  "We have increased just in the last few weeks," Bauer said. "We are looking into the idea of hiring a marketing person to help us with us enrollment even past this enrollment period."

Families With Children Continue to Leave Philly, Pew Study Finds
A new Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative report says the migration patterns of households with children “appear to validate concerns about families leaving the city… due to the ongoing problems of the public school system.”
PhillyMag BY ESTHER YOON  |  JULY 13, 2016 AT 5:02 PM
More Philly families with school-age children are leaving the city than moving into it still, according to a new Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative analysis of migration patterns in Philadelphia.  At 45 percent of the total number of households moving out, families with children under 18 make up the largest single group of out-migrants. By contrast, only 28 percent of households moving into the city had children under 18. Households with children under 18 account for 48 percent of all households citywide.  While the census did not ask people why they came to or left Philadelphia, the report states that “these numbers appear to validate concerns about families leaving the city… due to the ongoing problems of the public school system.”  Among those arriving in Philadelphia and those leaving it, college graduates and non-Hispanic whites were overrepresented compared with their presence in the city as a whole. African-Americans were less likely than members of other groups to move in or out.

City's Office of Education releases findings from community school meetings
The office has compiled findings following months of meetings with the members of the community, students, parents, education officials and others.
BY HAYDEN MITMAN  PhillyVoice Staff JULY 13, 2016
Strengthen city support for schools.
Empower parents and community members.
Increase access to and opportunities for neighborhood resources. 
Those are the three most important things that Philadelphia residents want from Mayor Jim Kenney's community schools initiative, findings based on months of discussions with stakeholders and the Mayor's Office of Education.  On Wednesday the office released a report on its findings after 14 roundtable discussions with principals, teachers, students, parents and others, plus seven town hall forums, six group meetings with school principals, meetings with elected officials and more than 60 service providers. In addition, a survey gathered feedback on the community schools’ selection criteria and process.

Del Val Charter teacher to Philly School District: Failure to pay is hurting us
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER martha.woodall@ 215-854-2789 @marwooda Updated: JULY 14, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
A teacher at beleaguered Delaware Valley Charter High School has asked the Philadelphia School District's top financial official to reconsider withholding $820,000 in payments to the school this summer.  The district said the charter school in Logan owes the money for overbilling for students in past years and failing to make required pension payments for teachers.  But Matthew Black, 27, who has taught math at the school for two years, said it's the teachers and other staffers who were hurt when the charter could not make payroll last week.  School wages are paid over 12 months, and the checks that staffers count on during the summer are for work they performed during the 2015-16 school year.  "I understand the position the district is in," Black wrote in a letter to Uri Monson, the district's chief financial officer. "However, I had no part in any financial mismanagement. The people who did take part are long gone."

“In 2001, Neuman co-authored a study that found that in a middle-class community in Philadelphia, each child had access to 13 books. In a community of concentrated poverty in the same city, on the other hand, there was only a single age-appropriate book per 300 kids—or about 33 titles total, all of which were coloring books. Now, she’s out with a new study, published this month in the journal Urban Education, that helps paint a clearer picture of the nation’s “book deserts,” finding intense disparities in access to children’s reading resources in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.—even between a very poor neighborhood and a slightly-less-poor one within a given city.”
Where Books Are All But Nonexistent
The Atlantic by ALIA WONG  7:30 AM ET July 13, 2016
In many high-poverty urban neighborhoods, it’s nearly impossible for a poor child to find something to read in the summer.   Forty-five million. That’s how many words a typical child in a white-color familywill hear before age 4. The number is striking, not because it’s a lot of words for such a small human—the vast majority of a person’s neural connections, after all,are formed by age 3—but because of how it stacks up against a poor kid’s exposure to vocabulary. By the time she’s 4, a child on welfare might only have heard 13 million words.  This disparity is well-documented. It’s the subject of myriad news stories andgovernment programs, as well as the Clinton Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” initiative, all of which send the message that low-income parents should talk and read to their children more. But these efforts to close the “word gap” often overlook a fundamental problem. In high-poverty neighborhoods, books—the very things that could supply so many of those 30 million-plus words—are hard to come by. In many poor homes, they’re nonexistent.

Report: GOP Platform Rejects Publicly Funded Pre-K as Government Intrusion
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on July 13, 2016 9:56 AM Cross-posted from the Early Years blog By Christina A. Samuels
The Republican Party's platform committee has added language that opposes public prekindergarten, in preparation for the upcoming GOP convention in Cleveland, The Dallas Morning News is reporting.  One of the 112 members of the committee said the party's opposition comes because pre-K "inserts the state in the family relationship in the very early stages of a child's life."   The committee language would have to be approved by the full convention when it meets July 18-21.Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has not addressed early-childhood education on his campaign website or on Twitter, one of his primary methods for sharing his views. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has said she supports expanding Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships, and that she would provide federal money to help states increase enrollment in high-quality preschool.  The Republican Party platform adopted in 2012 did not mention early-childhood education, other than a brief reference to supporting children in pre-literacy skills so that they are not later referred for special education services. 

“We’ve heard supporters of charter schools claim over and over that they are public schools. Yet when the rubber meets the road, their supporters argue that they are not subject to public laws, just as they have contended in other states around financial transparency, first amendment rights and labor laws. You can’t have it both ways,” said Boston Public School parent, QUEST member, and former member of the State Board of Education Harneen Chernow.”
AG: Boston Compact not subject to Open Meeting law
Bay State Bannar 7/14/2016, 6 a.m.
The office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has ruled that the Boston Compact, a joint venture of the Boston Public Schools, charter and Catholic schools is not a public entity and therefore is not subject to the open meeting laws of the state. The ruling is in response to an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by the grassroots parent organization QUEST (Quality Education for Every Student).  The complaint, filed on November 12th, 2015, was initiated in an effort to bring transparency and accountability to the Boston Compact, a group that is developing public policy for the district public schools, including a plan to drastically change the student assignment system that was developed through open community conversations in 2012/13.

Suit alleges Mississippi’s charter school law violates state constitution
NSBA Legal Clips July 13, 2016
Mississippi Today reports that a group of parents in Jackson Public School District (JPSD), who are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have filed suit in Hinds County Chancery Court against Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Department of Education and JPSD challenging the state’s charter school law. The governor asserts charter schools give better options to students in Mississippi, a state that regularly ranks at the bottom in education.  The lawsuit points to two sections in the Mississippi constitution that indicate that a school district’s ad valorem taxes – or local funding – may only be used for the district to maintain schools it oversees. It also cites another section that says the state legislature must not appropriate any money to a school that is not a “free school.” The suit contends: “A ‘free school’ is not merely a school that charges no tuition; it must also be regulated by the State Superintendent of Education and the local school district superintendent. Charter schools … are not ‘free schools.’”

George F. Will: The travesty of teacher tenure
Job security for bad teachers hurts minority students most
Post Gazette OpEd By George F. Will July 14, 2016 12:00 AM
LOS ANGELES: The mills of justice grind slowly, but life plunges on, leaving lives blighted when justice, by being delayed, is irremediably denied. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of California might soon decide to hear — four years after litigation began — the 21st century’s most portentous civil rights case, which concerns an ongoing denial of equal protection under the law.  Every year, measurable injuries are inflicted on tens of thousands of already at-risk children by this state’s teacher tenure system, which is so politically entrenched that only the courts can protect the discrete and insular minority it victimizes. In 2012, nine Los Angeles students, recognizing the futility of expecting the Legislature to rectify a wrong it has perpetrated, asked California’s judiciary to continue its record of vindicating the rights of vulnerable minorities by requiring the state’s education system to conform to the state’s Constitution.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 6 - 12, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on July 12, 2016 - 1:18pm 
Grassroots pressure is leading many states and districts to re-evaluate their standardized testing requirements and start developing alternative, performance-based assessments, often seeking to use new flexibility under the recently adopted federal education law.  Keep the heat on!

Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting
PSBA Website June 27, 2016
The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.
Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:
1.     Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
2.     Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
3.     Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
4.     Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
5.     Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.
The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

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.

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:

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

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