Thursday, March 31, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 31: “If the governor and General Assembly think schools can weather another eight-month budget impasse, they are sorely mistaken.”

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 31, 2016:
“If the governor and General Assembly think schools can weather another eight-month budget impasse, they are sorely mistaken.”



PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. 

Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Rally for Public Education
Save the date: May 2nd at the Capitol



Thanks to all the school board members, superintendents and administrators who attended last evening’s PSBA Region 15 meeting held jointly in Delaware and Chester Counties and heard updates on the budget, the Campaign for Fair Education Funding and advocacy efforts.

“If the governor and General Assembly think schools can weather another eight-month budget impasse, they are sorely mistaken.”
Pa's school funding crisis had no winners, but a few heroes: Nathan Mains
PennLive Op-Ed  By Nathan Mains on March 30, 2016 at 11:00 AM
Nathan Mains is the executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. 
There was a collective sigh of relief and some celebration last week when Gov. Tom Wolf let what's left of the 2015-16 state budget lapse into law without his signature.  The impending crisis for schools and other social service agencies has passed for the moment, but there is no time for prolonged jubilation as we are less than 100 days away from the June 30 deadline for the 2016-17 state budget, and there couldn't be more to do.  Schools will be entering the 2016 academic year in a wounded state after months of funding delays requiring them to borrow money, delay payments and purchases, and cut programs. 

“Start with this: Even under the pressure of an election year, put the unaccomplished items back on the table for the 2016-17 budget. Pension reform. Privatization of the state liquor monopoly. Move ahead with constitutional efforts to downsize the state legislature and enact a fairer system of redistricting.  Legislators should take a tip from the credit rating services, Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investor Services, which recently said Pennsylvania is joining New Jersey in a descent toward junk-bond status. S&P observed that Pennsylvania lacks the political courage to correct its snowballing budget deficits.  Something has to be done. A repeat of the brinkmanship of the last nine months — essentially buying time while the ship of state keeps taking on water — is unacceptable.
Pa. budget just a temporary relief valve | Editorial
Lehigh Valley Live By Express-Times opinion staff on March 31, 2016 at 6:00 AM, updated March 31, 2016 at 6:08 AM
After enduring 38 weeks without a state budget, Pennsylvania is now one week into a "new" budget year. Did we learn anything from that standoff?  Only this: The partisan divide in state government looks like it's going to dictate the budget course for at least a few more years. And that's a political belly-flop  on several levels. The best we can expect is a series of budgets put together with continuing gimmicks and one-shot revenues, pushing off a recurring structural deficit projected at $2 billion for the budget year that begins in three months.  If you thought last year was complicated, the budget stakes are now higher for the same cast of characters with the same agendas.

Letter to the Editor: Courts must enforce state constitution on education
Delco Times Letter by C├ęcile Lefebvre-Burgert, Haverford POSTED: 03/29/16, 9:49 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
To the Times: Finally a new state budget is passed but with continued unequal funding and underfunding for our public schools.  It is time to support the school funding lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania for failing to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education” as mandated by section 14 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Here in Pennsylvania, we have an unfair school funding formula resulting in fewer resources in low wealth and minority rural and urban school districts.  It is clear that our elected officials are not making the necessary efforts to correct the problems and ensure equal chances for all our children regardless of income or race. It is time for the courts to intervene and ensure fair funding for public schools and equal opportunities for all children.

The budget impasse is over, but schools are still in the dark over funds
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer March 30, 2016
School leaders in Pennsylvania waited almost nine months for a state budget.
Now a $30 billion spending plan is in place, but they are still waiting.
"It's a step forward but I wouldn't call it a full step," said Bob Hollister, superintendent at Eastern Lancaster County School District, which serves about 3,300 students.  "Until we know what kind of money we're talking about, everything's the same."  Gov. Tom Wolf allowed a budget to pass this week without his signature. It delivers a $200 million boost to public school aid, half of what Wolf originally sought, according to The Associated Press.  But the governor vetoed accompanying legislation — the fiscal code — that indicates how portions of the budget will be distributed, including among K-12 schools.  That veto keeps schools in a waiting game for this year's funds even as they plan next year's budgets.

School officials: Budget passage sigh of relief, and warning of possible repeat next time
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By David Hurst dhurst@tribdem.com March 30, 2016
Last week’s passage of the belated 2015-16 budget will be directing dollars to local public schools in the coming weeks.  Or, for many of the area’s school administrators, just in time.  “It’s a huge weight off our shoulders,” Greater Johnstown schools Assistant Superintendent Amy Arcurio said, noting that school officials already borrowed $3 million to get the district through the year.  “After Governor Wolf announced he wasn’t going to veto that budget, it was honestly the best night sleep I’ve had since January,” said Portage Area Superintendent Eric Zelanko said. “It saved us from having to make some very difficult decisions.”  But Zelanko and fellow school leaders across the state are hardly celebrating the fact a historic nine-month budget impasse has come to an end.  The 2015-16 budget’s passage, which frees up $3 billion in basic education funding, comes as local public schools are already preparing budgets for the 2016-17 school year – one superintendents predict could be a repeat of this year, given that little progress was made on a host of issues that deadlocked Wolf and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for nine months.

Financial uncertainty still lingers for area school districts
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter a.davis@bradfordera.com Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 10:00 am
Local school officials are suffering from yet another financial headache caused by the state — and this time it deals with getting reimbursed for school construction and renovation projects.  Gov. Tom Wolf recently vetoed the state's fiscal code that serves as a guide for spending state funds, which Senate Republicans say eliminates $289 million that would have been earmarked for reimbursements for school construction and renovation projects. What’s more, Wolf’s move puts a hold on $150 million in additional school funding, Republican lawmakers say.  “The conversation needs to be about funds that directly benefit our students,” Otto-Eldred School District Superintendent Matt Splain told The Era on Tuesday. “Otto-Eldred is already owed well over a half-million dollars in PlanCon (Planning and Construction Workbook) reimbursement. We have facility repairs that need to be made.”

School districts brace for next round of budget fights
Hazelton Standard Speaker by MARIA JACKETTI Published: March 30, 2016
Cuts in personnel, athletic programs and tax increases — possibly large ones — loom for area school districts as July 1, the due date for the upconing state budget, gets closer.  On Monday, Hazleton Area School District superintendent Craig Butler said that it would constitute “erroneous thinking” not to plan ahead for additional potential fiscal struggles.  “We need to make cuts,” he said, “and put money away and into our reserve.”  To do this, Butler said that staff reductions are inevitable.  He said the district cannot consider a budget which would stay the course of current spending.  Hazleton Area School District Director Tony Bonomo agrees.  “There are going to be cuts in personnel,” Bonomo said. “There is no doubt about it.”

Board OKs cutting 43 teachers in Pennsylvania district
Inquirer by The Associated Press Updated: MARCH 30, 2016 — 8:43 AM EDT
PENN HILLS, Pa. (AP) - The board of a cash-strapped western Pennsylvania school district has approved furloughing 43 teachers - including 23 special education instructors - at the end of this school year.  The Penn Hills School Board voted 7-2 to cut the teacher positions Tuesday night. The teachers' union says that violates an agreement to not cut any teaching jobs until the current teachers' contract expires in 2018.  The district has nearly $30 million in various kinds of debt. It borrowed $18 million in October to cover continued operating expenses and finished last school year with a nearly $11 million deficit.  The district is blaming falling enrollment and increasing payments to charter schools in the district just east of Pittsburgh.

Once again, the budget's main driver is the $10 million combined increase in state-mandated employee pension contributions and tuition payments to charter schools. They account for 21 percent of district spending.  Charter schools are privately operated public schools that are funded by tax dollars funneled from a student's home district. Bethlehem projects spending almost $26 million to educate 2,068 students in charter and cyber schools.  It would cost the district about $7 million to educate all of those students if they returned. There would be no budget deficit, Roy said.  "I think it is important for the public to know there is a cost for school choice," Roy said, adding there are some legislative fixes that politicians refuse to address.
No good scenarios, with $11.6M hole in Bethlehem school budget
Bethlehem taxpayers will be seeing another school tax hike.The question is just how much.
Lehigh Valley Live By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 30, 2016 at 9:11 PM, updated March 31, 2016 at 1:11 AM
The Bethlehem Area School District is weighing a 4.6 percent tax hike, increasing class sizes and cutting jobs through attrition to close its $11.6 million budget hole.  Wednesday night the administration updated the school board on its efforts to reduce the $15.2 million deficit the district began the 2016-17 budget process with in January.  It looks as if the school board is again pushing for a mix of spending cuts, raising taxes and using district savings to balance the $263 million budget by June 30.  "None of the scenarios are good," school board President Mike Faccinetto said. "Certainly we don't want to tax to the max if we don't have to."  Faccinetto knows another tax hike won't sit well with the community but with such political gridlock in Harrisburg it seems inevitable, he said. The district's current budget raised taxes by 2.9 percent.
"Is this really the best we can do in Pennsylvania?," Superintendent Joseph Roy asked. "We can't pass a budget and we can't support public education appropriately. It's embarrassing."

The Sound of Silence: Where was our voice in Pennsylvania’s Budget Battle?
Blog Post Posted on March 31, 2016 by thesecondhalf61 Charlene M. Brennan, D.Ed., Opinions are my own
“Thinking he had a voters’ mandate when he was elected, Wolf played a strong hand out of the box, expecting that the Republicans would cave after a while when residents and the educational community would put pressure on them to pass a budget with significant funding increases for education. The pressure never came, at least not to the degree to sway the GOP leadership. They calculated — correctly — that residents had no stomach for major tax increases.” (Emphasis mine) From: PA Budget Battle: Gov. Wolf blinked; Editorial by Bruce Fassinelli, Times News, (tnonline.com), March 30, 2016   The pressure never came. So true.  I heard from several legislators that their phone seldom if ever rang about the battle for a state budget.  Although I don’t know the Governor, reliable sources told me he was surprised about the silence from Pennsylvania’s citizens. The silence was deafening.

Plancon: Schools looking at Pennsylvania IOU on construction costs
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MARCH 31, 2016
Pennsylvania's budget gridlock is over, but school districts are focusing on another piece of unwelcome news: After years of delayed reimbursements for state-approved construction and building maintenance, they'll go without any state funding for such projects.  About $306 million in construction reimbursements was nixed when Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a budget-related piece of legislation known as the fiscal code last week.  Schools desperate for their state aid were the single largest source of pressure on lawmakers and Wolf to end the nearly nine-month budget impasse. Will the holdup of state money for construction costs prompt a similar outcry?

OPED: Wolf's 2016-17 budget plan would close 160 charter schools
York Dispatch Opinion by TIM ELLER, Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools10:47 a.m. EDT March 30, 2016
Supporters of public school choice next year will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law. Since 1997, the number of brick-and-mortar charter schools has grown to 160 and enroll nearly 100,000 students, with tens of thousands more on waiting lists.  At a time when the charter school sector should be gearing up to celebrate this significant milestone, instead, it is preparing to battle anti-school choice advocates’ efforts to close down charter schools and force students back into the very schools they fled that failed them year after year.  Governor Wolf in February proposed a 2016-17 spending plan that calls for cutting nearly $500 million in funding to charter schools, which would result in the shutting down of virtually every charter school across the state.

Blogger note: Mr. Eller’s hyperbole above notwithstanding, here’s a 2014 piece by Dan Hardy detailing how the state’s charters are overpaid for special ed services….
“Last year, the state association of school business officials said state data showed that Pennsylvania charters received close to $200 million for special education students that was not spent on services for them. Charter proponents hotly disputed that analysis while arguing that many charters are reliant on excess special ed dollars to stay afloat.”
Reprise 2014: State's special education funding rules are slow to change
The notebook by Dan Hardy October 20, 2014 — 12:36pm
Pennsylvania’s special education funding system is complicated and in flux. But it has generally discouraged districts from identifying too many special education students while rewarding charters that do so.  Until this year, state special education funding for school districts assumed that 16 percent of their students had special needs, allocating money based on that percentage of total enrollment.  A legislative special education funding commission late last year recommended that districts get funding based on the actual numbers, with three tiers of payments based on the severity of a student’s disability. That concept was applied only to the small amount of new special education funding in the 2014-15 state budget.  Charters, however, continue to receive the same amount for each special education student – the District’s average per-student cost – regardless of the actual cost to the charter of services. And they are not required to spend the special education funds on those students.

Amended recovery plan shifts focus to York City district structure
York Dispatch by  Sean Philip Cotter, 505-5437/@SPCotterYD4:13 p.m. EDT March 30, 2016
Carol Saylor's recovery plan for the York City School District focuses on working within the current system — reform instead of the revolution the previous plan sought.  Saylor, the district's chief recovery officer, authored a revised plan, which the district's school board passed earlier this month. The district administration, school board and union broadly support her approach over that of her predecessor, David Meckley.  Formerly a superintendent in Adams and Lancaster counties, Saylor was appointed to her current position in April 2015 by then newly elected Gov. Tom Wolf, a York County Democrat. Meckley, the previous chief recovery officer, resigned the month before that; appointed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, the local businessman had set the district on a path toward full conversion to charter schools, which drew strong community opposition.

Northwestern Lehigh School Board to vote on fact finder's report in teacher negotiations
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call mARCH 30, 2016
Northwestern Lehigh School Board to vote on fact finder's report in teacher negotiations
LYNN TOWNSHIP — The Northwestern Lehigh School District will vote next week on a fact finder's report that the district and teachers union hope will carve out common ground on unresolved issues for a contract that's 10 months overdue.  District teachers have been working without a contract since July 1. Both sides have been meeting at the bargaining table since January 2015. According to the district, the average salary in the district for the 2014-15 school year was $60,637.  On Feb. 17, the district and the Northwestern Lehigh Education Association mutually agreed to enter the fact-finding process, according to the district. That report was delivered to the district around midnight Monday, but won't be made public until it's voted upon.  A fact finder is an independent, state-appointed investigator brought into the bargaining process to sift through the specifics from both sides and come up with a way to resolve the remaining sticking points.

“Thanks to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United, campaign cash has flowed into national politics at unprecedented levels.  The decision gave birth to, among other things, so-called "dark money," where the identity of donors are shielded from public view.  At the state level, Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that allows for limitless contributions to political candidates. The only prohibition is on direct corporate contributions to candidates.  Apart from that, it's a free-for-all.  And incumbents who benefit from this atmosphere, and from a redistricting system that only shores up their re-election chances, have shown little inclination to upset their very lucrative apple cart.  Proposals that would reform Pennsylvania's campaign finance laws come and go with each legislative session.
Most never escape from committee for a vote on the floor of the state House and Senate.”
A prescription to crash the millionaires' party in Pa. politics: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board  on March 30, 2016 at 4:15 PM, updated March 30, 2016 at 9:36 PM
In 2007, Philadelphia-area philanthropist Ronald Krancer  donated $600,000 to support his son, Michael Krancer's, Republican bid for a seat on the state Supreme Court.  In 2014, Louis Appell Jr., of York, a former head of Pfaltzgraff Co., contributed $725,000 to now-Gov. Tom Wolf and now-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack's successful effort to capture the state's top spot.  In 2010, charter school magnate Vaughan Guereghian dumped $325,714 into Republican Tom Corbett's ultimately successful campaign for the Governor's Office.  And in 2006, Christine Toretti, an Indiana County resident, head of S.W. Jack Drilling Co., and a longtime Republican activist, contributed $114,089 to former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann's Republican campaign for governor.   What do they all have in common?  They are among the 13 men and women who have donated $1 million or more to political campaigns across Pennsylvania over the last 16 years.

Support an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
Join Us in Ensuring Fair Districts & Fair Elections for Every PA Voter
Fair Districts PA website
When we vote, we want our elections to be fair. We want our votes to count and we want our voices to be heard.  Partisan redistricting allows politicians to choose voters instead of allowing voters to choose politicians. The process happens behind closed doors, with no transparency and no accountability to voters.  Fortunately, a bipartisan group of legislators from both the Pennsylvania Senate and House wants to change that and put real power back into the hands of voters.  Companion bills SB 484 and HB 1835 would create an impartial, independent citizens redistricting commission with rules ensuring fairness and transparency.
Join Fair Districts PA in asking our legislators to pass these constitutional amendments to restore accountable government that is of, by and for the people.
For more information, visit www.fairdistrictspa.com.

Who Gave Millions?
Penn Live by Candy Woodall March 30, 2015
Individual donors have poured nearly $515 million into Pennsylvania political campaigns over the past 16 years.

State Sen. Scott Wagner: 'We’re purging Senate members out'
York Daily Record by  Ed Mahon, emahon@ydr.com8:38 p.m. EDT March 30, 2016
State Sen. Scott Wagner said lawmakers don’t follow directions from legislative leaders as much as they used to.  “There was a time when leadership in the House and Senate told their members what to do,” Wagner told a crowd at The Yorktowne Hotel on Wednesday. “They went down the hall, they cut a deal with the governor or whatever … and they came back and told their members: You vote for this.”  Wagner, of Spring Garden Township, said most members listened. But now, he said, that day is gone.  “It’s truly over. And I can tell you, we’re purging Senate members out, and there’s a large purge out in the House,” Wagner said. “...There is a movement taking place.”

“The stakes are high this year: Results from the 2015 PSSAs were not included in schools’ 2014-15 School Performance Profile score, the state’s measure of academic performance and growth, because it was the first year the test had been aligned with the more rigorous Pennsylvania Core Standards. This year, the results will be included. To see your school’s SPP score, click here.”
If it’s spring, it must be standardized test time
GoErie.com by Erica Erwin     March 30, 2016 8:00 am
Birds chirping.  Motorcycles roaring.  Pencil sharpeners whirring, prepping a batch of No. 2s to tackle the next stack of standardized tests.  Such are the sounds of spring.
The Erie School District will administer the 2016 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, in reading and math to students in grades three through eight, and in science to students in grades four and eight, in April. Also coming up: Keystone exams to students taking Algebra I, Literature and Biology.  The district recently sent home letters to parents informing them of the tests and some basic rules (no cell phones allowed, please), along with a testing schedule.  “Please encourage your child to try their very best on these tests and be sure they come to school well-rested and ready to demonstrate all that they have learned this year,” Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams wrote.

Philly releases charter school profiles
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: MARCH 31, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
For the first time, the Philadelphia School District has created profiles that provide key information for every charter school in the city.  The one-page descriptions - posted on the district's website - provide application deadlines, grades taught, school hours, and information about enrollment, racial demographics, attendance, academic offerings, and extracurriculars.  The summaries also show the college-bound rates for high school charters and break down the percentages of grads who enroll in two- and four-year colleges and whether they are public or private institutions.  The pages for each of the 83 charters also tell when the school opened and when its operating charter is up for renewal.  "The idea is for parents to have charter information in one simple format," Fernando Gallard, district spokesman, said Wednesday.  He said similar information had been available for district schools.  The link for the profiles can be found on the left at www.philasd.org/charter_schools

West Chester approves full-day kindergarten to start in 2017-18
Daily Local By Candice Monhollan, cmonhollan@ 21st-centurymedia.com, @CMonhollanDLN on Twitter POSTED: 03/30/16, 3:33 PM EDT | UPDATED: 10 HRS AGO
WEST GOSHEN >> Superintendent Jim Scanlon said voting to implement full-day kindergarten in the West Chester Area School District was the most important decision in his seven years.  After Tuesday night’s school board meeting approved the implementation to begin in 2017-18 with an 8-1 vote, Scanlon, the board and the district will now leave a lasting legacy in the community.  “This is my ninth year on the board … and even over all those times, I don’t think anything came before the board that is more important and more critical to the future of the children and this community than this right here,” said Ricky Swalm, president of the board. “This is powerful. (This) sets this community and district apart from others.”  As has been mentioned during informational meetings with parents and community members, full-day kindergarten has been in discussion in the district for at least 20 years.


Education in Crisis and the Threat of Privatization
Huffington Post by Diane Ravitch Research Professor of Education, New York University; Author, ‘Reign of Error’ 03/29/2016 12:59 pm ET | Updated 1 day ago
It has become conventional wisdom that “education is in crisis.” I have been asked about this question by many interviewers. They say something like: “Do you think American education is in crisis? What is the cause of the crisis?” And I answer, “Yes, there is a crisis, but it is not the one you have read about. The crisis in education today is an existential threat to the survival of public education. The threat comes from those who unfairly blame the school for social conditions, and then create a false narrative of failure. The real threat is privatization and the loss of a fundamental democratic institution.”  As we have seen again and again, the corporate education industry is eager to break into U.S. public education and turn it into a free marketplace, where they can monetize the schools and be assured of government subsidization. On the whole, these privatized institutions do not produce higher test scores than regular public schools, except for those that cherry-pick their students and exclude the neediest and lowest performing students. The promotion of privatization by philanthropies, by the U.S. Department of Education, by right-wing governors (and a few Democratic governors like Cuomo of New York and Malloy of Connecticut), by the hedge fund industry, and by a burgeoning education equities industry poses a danger to our democracy. In some communities, public schools verge on bankruptcy as charters drain their resources and their best students. Nationwide, charter schools have paved the way for vouchers by making “school choice” non-controversial.

“Several large, diverse states still maintain state school finance systems in which the highest need districts receive substantially less state and local revenue per pupil than the lowest need districts. These states include Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, among others.”
Is School Funding Fair?   America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts  - March 2016
By: Bruce Baker, Theresa Luhm, Danielle Farrie and David G. Sciarra; Education Law Center and Rutgers University
This report identifies the most fiscally disadvantaged school districts in the country — those with higher than average student needs in their labor‐market location and lower than average resources when state and local revenues are combined.  This report is a companion to Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card (NRC), in which we evaluate and compare the extent to which state finance systems ensure equality of educational opportunity for all children, regardless of background, family income, place of residence, or school location. The NRC shows that both the overall level of state funding and the extent to which states provide additional resources to districts with higher concentrations of children in poverty vary widely.  

ESSA May Offer Megaphone for Parent, Community Voices
Advocates See Chance for Greater Impact Under New K-12 Law
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa & Sarah Tully Published Online: March 22, 2016
Advocates for parent and community engagement see the newly revised federal K-12 law as an opportunity to expand their impact on states' academic goals, plans for school improvement, and other areas of policy.  Requirements in federal education law for parental involvement in public schools are nothing new. But because the new Every Student Succeeds Act shifts significant responsibility over accountability and other matters to states and districts, there's renewed hope that parent, community, civil rights, and other groups will have more sway over what has been, in many cases, a narrower decisionmaking process.  There are some caveats, however.  Since ESSA deals only with authorizations for programs, federal funding for some of these engagement efforts is not guaranteed. And various groups say that it's up to all sides—including policymakers, advocates, and community members—to become more active so that the promise ESSA holds for them is fulfilled.


Electing PSBA Officers – Applications Due by April 30th
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee during the month of April, an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than two and no more than four letters of recommendation, some or all of which preferably should be from school districts in different PSBA regions as well as from community groups and other sources that can provide a description of the candidate’s involvement with and effectiveness in leadership positions. PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill April 4th
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) 2016 Education Congress April 6-7, 2016
professional development program for school administrators
Focus: "The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas"  Featured Presenter: Dr. David Burkus
April 6-7, 2016 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill
The program will focus on how school leaders can develop and utilize creativity in education management, operations, curriculum and leadership goals. The second day will allow participants to select from multiple discussion/work sessions focusing on concepts presented by Dr. Burkus and facilitated by school leaders who have demonstrated success in creative thinking and leadership in schools across the commonwealth.
Deadline for hotel accommodations: March 15
See the PASA website for more information at: www.pasa-net.org/2016edcongress.

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
TUE, APR 12 AT 8:30 AM, PHILADELPHIA, PA
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT)
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at clapper@paprincipals.org by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 30: Requests to opt out of PSSA tests increase

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 30, 2016:
Requests to opt out of PSSA tests increase



PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill 
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. 

Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Rally for Public Education
Save the date: May 2nd at the Capitol



BLOG: Financial Institutions Agree – PA is Facing a Fiscal Cliff (ROUND-UP)
Governor Wolf’s Blog March 29, 2016 By: Eryn Spangler
Governor Wolf announced last week that he would allow the general appropriations and non-preferred appropriations bills sent to him by Republicans to become law, as is, without his signature. However, we still face enormous problems that this budget does not even pretend to address. The math in the Republican budget still does not work and the massive multi-billion dollar deficit is left unaddressed.  One day after Governor Wolf’s announcement, PNC released a statement warning of a potential credit downgrade due to the deficit the budget failed to begin fixing. “We do not expect the budget to come close to solving Pennsylvania’s fiscal pressures, including its structural budget gap, which is sizable and growing,” PNC stated.  The following day, S&P and Moody’s also provided statements stating their concerns that Pennsylvania is on track for a fiscal catastrophe. In their statement, Moody’s said the looming deficit “only brings to the fore a likely new stalemate over the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 and ongoing questions over the state’s progress toward structural balance over the long term.”  “The outlook is negative,” S&P’s statement read. “By failing to address long-term structural balance in fiscal 2016, lawmakers have pushed difficult fiscal decisions to the fiscal 2017 budget…Our negative outlook rather reflects our view that the state’s fiscal issues lie in lack of political will to solve them in a timely manner.”  Take a look at the additional coverage below:

BLOG: You Support These Issues. Why Doesn’t Your State Representative?
Governor Wolf’s Blog March 29, 2016 By: Sarah Galbally, Secretary of Policy and Planning
What do education funding, the minimum wage, a severance tax, and medical marijuana all have in common?
They all have the support of the majority of Pennsylvanians. Take a look at the stats:
We know what Pennsylvanians highlight as their priorities. And we know almost nothing is accomplished in Harrisburg.  Governor Wolf came to Harrisburg to change the status quo, bring a fresh start, and fight for what Pennsylvanians actually care about each and every day.  The only way we can bring change to Harrisburg is to change how it works. And changing how Harrisburg works starts with reforming the influence special interests have on government.  Special interests still wield too much power and influence in Harrisburg, which is one of the reasons why it has been, and continues to be, broken.

“The bulk of the affected school funding in the fiscal code, $289 million, stems from Wolf's veto of promised state reimbursements for school construction projects (commonly referred to as "PlanCon" in legislative circles).  …Republicans also took aim at what they said what was the freezing of $150 million in additional school funding that would have been distributed according to recommendations put together by the state's Basic Education Funding Commission.”
As Wolf's fiscal code veto takes full effect, Republicans spoil for a fight: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 29, 2016 at 8:31 AM, updated March 29, 2016 at 8:32 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
As you've probably heard by now, Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed the "Fiscal Code," a piece of legislation that pretty much provides the formal instructions on how to spend the money appropriated by the General Fund budget.  On Monday, as the effects of the veto officially set in, Senate Republicans released a statement blistering Wolf for running his veto pen across what they said was more than $400 million in funding for public education.  As a reminder, the $6 billion appropriation bill approved by the House and Senate lapsed into law on Sunday night without Wolf's signature, a rare executive action that came in the face of escalating tensions between the York County Democrat and the Republican-controlled House and Senate. 

Pa. Budget Battle: Gov. Wolf blinked
Times News Monday, March 28, 2016 by Bruce Frassinelli 
After being a record 271 days late, Pennsylvania finally has a 2015-16 budget, now that Gov. Tom Wolf blinked.  While the freshman Democratic governor from York believed he had right on his side throughout this nasty nine-month stalemate, the Republicans prevailed by showing that they had might on theirs. With commanding leads in both houses, Republicans refused to yield to Wolf’s call for an increase in the state income tax and an extraction tax on drillers in the Marcellus Shale area.  In the end, Wolf was caught between a rock and a hard place. His threat to veto the latest GOP budget was likely to be overridden with support from weary Democrats who were hearing the cries of angry school officials. Schools, welfare agencies and other institution desperately need the money to, in some cases, keep their doors open.  Wolf did not sign the budget; instead, he tried to save as much face as possible — and it wasn’t much — by letting the budget measure take effect at 12:01 a.m. today,10 days after arriving on his desk.  The Democratic leadership told Wolf it could no longer hold party members in line in the face of enormous pressure. In the process, they laid out the facts of political life for Wolf: If Wolf vetoed this part of the budget again, it is likely that enough Democrats would vote to override the veto.

Education secretary: There is always concern another budget impasse may be in the offing
Matthew Ulmer is worried history may repeat itself and saddle school districts across Pennsylvania with yet another state budget crisis.  “I’m a first-year business manager,” he told Pedro Rivera before asking the state secretary of education. “Are you concerned there may be just as long of an impasse next year?”  “It’s always a concern,” Rivera responded, adding how the 2015-2016 budget stalemate was about as bad as it gets. That crisis was only recently resolved after funding shortfalls reached the point where some school districts were looking to close their doors.

On "Schools that Teach" Tour, Secretary Rivera Discusses the Future of Education in Pennsylvania
PR Newswire Mar 29, 2016, 16:09 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Education
BOILING SPRINGS, Pa., March 29, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today during a "Schools That Teach" tour stop, Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera met with officials at Boiling Springs High School to talk about the need for a robust state investment for Pennsylvania's 500 school districts and other educational institutions.  "Chronic underfunding for several years continues to have a negative impact on classrooms across the commonwealth," Rivera said. "In order to meet their critical mission of educating our students, schools need a significant investment. Pennsylvania is facing two paths: fund our schools and fix the deficit or see additional damaging cuts to education. We can't leave our schools behind; we must choose the path that provides the needed resources for schools without the reliance on property tax increases."

Requests to opt out of PSSA tests increase
Republican Herald BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: March 27, 2016
When more than 750,000 students take state exams next month, Zachary and Connor MacBain will not be filling in any answer sheets.  Like thousands of other parents, the Tunkhannock Area students’ mother is opting her children out of the test.  With concerns that schools have become too focused on testing, a growing number of parents statewide are attempting to prompt change by keeping their children from taking standardized exams.  Requests to “opt out” of taking Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests nearly tripled from 2014 to 2015, and is expected to climb even higher for the tests that will begin in April. Just in five years, parental requests grew from 624 in 2011 to 7,890 in 2015.  Using a three-step process to opt out, the parents claim the PSSA is against their religious beliefs, which forces the school to excuse their child from the test.  “Something is broken here,” said Holly Arnold, the mother of the Wyoming County students — and a member of the district’s school board. “We’re over testing and have gotten away from inspiring kids to learn. We’re more focused on coaching kids to perform.”

“Every one of these politicians from Obama to Duncan to Emanuel to King have had their children enrolled in schools outside the wrath of their own education policies. These progressive institutions have resolutely rejected corporate school reforms. We have politicians who lobby for high-stakes standardized testing, the busting of teachers unions, school closures, value-added teacher evaluations, drill-kill-bubble-fill instruction, and authoritarian classrooms, yet would never send their own kids to a school with such practices. In their worldview, small class sizes, play, experiential, hands-on learning opportunities, qualified, unionized teachers, lavish resources and facilities, and little to no standardized testing are only appropriate for the offspring of the rich and powerful.”
These Politicians Think Your Kids Need High-Stakes Testing—but Not Theirs
These politicians send their own kids to progressive schools that eschew rote learning.
The Nation By Nikhil Goyal March 29, 2016
President Obama’s two daughters attend Sidwell Friends School, a private elite Quaker school in Washington. Vice President Biden’s grandchildren are also students there. And Chelsea Clinton and former vice president Al Gore’s son Albert Gore are alumni of the institution. Tuition is $37,750 for the lower, middle, and upper schools and a hot lunch is even included in the price. Class sizes are small and the student-teacher ratio is 10-12 students for each teacher. The educational philosophy of the school is progressive and child-centered: “We are committed to the joys of exploration and discovery.” Students neither sit for any standardized tests nor are teachers’ evaluations tied to test scores. In the upper school, the school’s site explains, “The curriculum provides a broad foundation in the humanities and sciences, develops critical and creative thinking, stresses competence in oral and written communication and quantitative operations, and stimulates intellectual curiosity.”

Testing Resistance & Reform News: Mach 23 - 29, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 29, 2016 - 1:56pm 
As the standardized exam season gets underway in many states, this week's "Testing Resistance & Reform News" includes many excellent examples of testing resistance campaign materials from across the nation. Also, be sure to check-out and use FairTest's tools for getting involved in assessment reform -- http://fairtest.org/get_involved/tools

Sen. Scott Wagner wants Senate GOP to do more than hold on to the seats it has: Election 2016
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 29, 2016 at 11:48 AM, updated March 29, 2016 at 11:49 AM
As Senate Republican Campaign Committee chairman, Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York County, is not looking just to keep the 13 Republican-held seats up for election this year in the GOP's hands. He wants more.  "I'm working on getting more [Republican] senators. We're going to get a supermajority," Wagner told PennLive.  The GOP will have to flip at least four Democratic seats to achieve that 34-seat goal and Wagner knows which four he wants.  "I'm focused on the Teplitz seat," referring to the 15th state senatorial district representing parts of Dauphin and Perry counties held by Sen. Rob Teplitz, who was elected in 2012 and was the first Democrat to win that seat in 76 years.  He also has his eye on getting Republicans elected to the 19th senatorial district seat representing part of Chester County held by Sen. Andy Dinniman for the past 10 years; the 49th senatorial district seat held by Sen. Sean Wiley who is completing his first four-year term representing part of Erie County; and the 35thsenatorial district seat representing Bedford, Cambria and part of Clearfield counties held by five-term incumbent Sen. John Wozniak.

Penn Hills school board approves furloughs for 43 teachers
Of the 43 positions, 23 are special education teachers
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 29, 2016 10:54 PM
In a 7-2 vote, the board of the Penn Hills School District on Tuesday approved furloughing 43 teachers at the end of the school year.  What was bound to be an already tense meeting was made worse when Penn Hills police turned away several people -- including three special education teachers -- at the door over capacity concerns.  More than 175 people crammed into the Linton Middle School music room, and nearly 20 listened outside through cracked windows for the first 20 minutes before they were allowed in.  Parents, students, alumni and others addressed the board in a sometimes-emotional public comment period on the plan, which also will cut more than 20 classes. Of the 43 teachers to be furloughed, 23 are in the district's special education department.  The changes follow a series of financial struggles at the district. Leaders had to borrow $20 million last year and expect a nearly $9 million cumulative deficit by the end of this school year.

Bethlehem school's water 'safe for use,' district says
By Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 29, 2016 at 8:08 PM, updated March 30, 2016 at 12:40 AM
The Bethlehem Area School District on Tuesday declared the tap water safe for use at Northeast Middle School.  District officials on Monday closed off the building's water fountains and said the water there would not be used for cooking following a media report about a purportedly high lead reading.  Working with a Lehigh University professor known for his work on water purity, WFMZ-TV 69 published a report alleging lead levels above acceptable federal levels in the water at Northeast and two Allentown schools: Allen High and Union Terrace Elementary.

"I have no problem with charter schools. I have friends who send their kids there and I've known people who graduated from charter schools. I believe parents should have choices, however my issue is with charter school funding," Pintabone said. "The state is allowing public schools to be decimated to fund charter schools and it's not right."
Charter school proposed for former newspaper building in Easton
Christina Tatu Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call March 29, 2016
Charter school for the arts proposed for former Express-Times building in Easton.
EASTON – An elementary charter school for the arts has been proposed for the former Express-Times building on North Fourth Street in Easton.  The kindergarten-through-fifth-grade charter school would occupy all three floors of the former newspaper office, said Thomas Lubben, who has shepherded arts charter schools in Bethlehem, Allentown and Salisbury Township. He hopes to open the Easton site by September 2017.  The property is owned by developer Lou Pektor, who plans to build the city's new, 29,765-square-foot police station next door. Lubben said he is under agreement to lease the building from Pektor. As of Tuesday, plans for the charter school have yet to be submitted to the city, Lubben said.

“A recent study, conducted by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, part of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, found that Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter and Esperanza Academy Charter School were among the nation’s 10 public charter schools with the largest discipline gaps when it comes to suspending students with learning disabilities.”
2 Philly charters cited for disproportionately suspending students with learning disabilities
The notebook by Greg Windle March 29, 2016 — 1:39pm
Two Philadelphia charter schools have been cited in a national report for suspending students with disabilities at a far higher rate than those without disabilities.  A recent study, conducted by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, part of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, found that Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter and Esperanza Academy Charter School were among the nation’s 10 public charter schools with the largest discipline gaps when it comes to suspending students with learning disabilities.  Looking at the country’s more than 95,000 public schools and 5,250 charter schools, researchers analyzed disciplinary data for disparities in how charter schools suspend students. Overall, they found that charters suspended students at a slightly higher rate than traditional public schools.  The data focused on out-of-school suspensions during the 2011-12 school year, when all schools were required to report that information. The data included more than 70 charter schools in Philadelphia.

Local charter school network approves 2 Muslim holidays
PhillyTrib by Wilford Shamlin III Tribune Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 12:00 am
Mastery Charter Schools, one of the region’s largest charter school operators with 20 schools in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., has voted to permanently add two Muslim holidays of Eid to the academic calendar, starting in September 2016. Those two days are considered to be among the most holy for Muslims.  City Councilman Curtis Jones has been a strong advocate for adding the holy days to all Philadelphia public schools. Josh Cohen, a spokesperson for the councilman, said Jones introduced a nonbinding resolution to recognize the Eid holidays, which was approved by the Council earlier this year. Negotiations must take place between the unions and the school district before the Eid becomes an official holiday for city employees and school district employees.

“The charter has been led by new administrators and a new board after the school's founding CEO and board president were indicted on federal fraud charges.  Ina Walker, the founding CEO, and Hugh Clark, the founding board president, went to federal prison in 2012 after admitting they stole $522,000 in taxpayer money to prop up a restaurant, a health-food store, and a private school they controlled, and for defrauding a bank.”
New Media Technology Charter to close in June
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER Updated: MARCH 29, 2016 — 12:57 PM EDT
New Media Technology Charter School, which has had a troubled history, has announced that it will close in June rather than continue to fight to remain open in the face of allegations of poor test scores and financial problems.  The school, located at 8034 Thouron Ave., enrolls 481 students from sixth through 12th grades.  The board that oversees the school had voted at its most recent meeting to dissolve the school as of June 30th and surrender its operating charter.  A notice posted on the school's website informs parents of the transition plan that the district's charter school office had developed with New Media officials to help students find new placements for the fall.  The school's top administrator did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


Supreme Court deadlocks over public employee union case; Calif. teachers must pay dues
Washington Post By Robert Barnes March 29 at 11:45 AM  
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was unable to resolve a major challenge to organized labor, and the result was a defeat for a group of California teachers who claim their free speech rights are violated when they are forced to pay dues to the state’s teachers union.  The court said it was split 4 to 4 on the issue, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It was the most important case yet in which the eight-member court was unable to reach a decision.  At oral argument, the court’s conservatives appeared ready to junk a decades-old precedent that allows unions to collect an “agency fee” from nonmembers to support collective-bargaining activities for members and nonmembers alike.  Organized labor considered it the most vital Supreme Court case of the year, and one of a clutch of politically charged cases that puts the justices in the spotlight as the nation turns its attention to the elections of 2016.

Tied 4-4 after Scalia's death, high court gives unions a win
Inquirer by SAM HANANEL, The Associated Press Updated: MARCH 29, 2016 — 1:40 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) - In the clearest sign yet of the impact of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, U.S. labor unions scored a major victory Tuesday with a tie vote in a high-profile Supreme Court case they had once seemed all but certain to lose.  The 4-4 split, in a case that sharply divided the court's liberal union supporters and their conservative opponents, demonstrated how much is riding on President Barack Obama's effort to replace Scalia with a judge who could tilt the balance on the high court for years to come. Senate Republicans say they won't consider any nomination until a new president takes office.  The vacancy helped the liberals this time. The deadlocked vote came in a case that considered whether unions representing government employees can collect fees from workers who choose not to join. California teachers backed by a conservative group said being forced to pay union fees violated the free-speech rights of nonmembers who disagree with the union's policy positions.  The split vote left in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the collection of "fair share" fees from nonmembers.

New Education Secretary: Bold Agenda. Just 10 Months To Get It Done
NPR by ERIC WESTERVELT March 26, 201610:00 AM ET
John B. King Jr was recently confirmed by the Senate as the new U.S. Secretary of Education for the remainder of President Obama's term, succeeding Arne Duncan.  With a slew of pressing issues from pre-K to college debt, I wanted to find out what King thinks he can get done in such a short window of time. Here's our conversation.
You've got just 10 months left in President Obama's term to help close the equity and achievement gaps, promote access and opportunity, and implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. Good luck with that! 
We definitely have an ambitious agenda for the next 10 months. But, you know, the president often tells us big things happen in the fourth quarter. I think that's exactly right. So we expect to get a lot done over the next 10 months.

 “Preparing students for today's entry-level careers and freshman-level college courses is among the goals of the new Every Student Succeeds Act. The role education needs to play in making for a functioning democracy, one Thomas Jefferson saw as crucial, is not mentioned. The Common Core State Standards appear silent on the skills and knowledge needed to have informed views on issues such as economic policy, global warming, the clash of civilizations, globalization, immigration, technological change, and the risks of terrorism.”
Creating Informed Citizens Should Be Education's Goal
Education Week COMMENTARY By Arnold Packer Published Online: March 15, 2016
In his final State of the Union speech earlier this year, President Barack Obama told the audience: "[F]ix our politics ... uphold your duties as a citizen ... vote ... speak out." Halt our "downward spiral," former Senate majority leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle urge in a recent Washington Post op-ed. "Democracy requires active engagement, mindfulness, and tolerance," they write. Active engagement surely includes voting, even in nonpresidential years and on local matters. It may include serving in public roles. It also includes staying abreast of local, national, and international issues and, perhaps, communicating with elected officials.  Many observers, here and abroad, warn that the United States cannot meet its domestic and international responsibilities unless more Americans are better informed on the issues and exercise their right to vote.

Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst will merge with education advocacy group 50Can
Los Angeles Times Joy Resmovits Contact Reporter March 29, 2016
Just several years after its glitzy launch, StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based education group started by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is merging with another education advocacy organization, 50Can.  Some of StudentsFirst's remaining chapters will be absorbed into 50Can, which has similar goals. The most well-known objective of Rhee's group was to become a counterweight to teachers unions. StudentsFirst expects to cut its staff significantly but will maintain a small presence in its national office. Jim Blew, the group's president, confirmed the news Tuesday morning.    “The cause goes on, we are moving ahead and we have a lot to do in the next several years,” Blew said.   Blew will step aside from the national organization, and the merged group will be called 50Can, though each group's local offices will retain their own names. Blew will lead StudentsFirst California, the merged group's state presence, and will focus on litigation and issues such as school accountability. The combined group will be led by 50Can Chief Executive Marc Porter Magee.

News! Michelle Rhee is Merging StudentsFirst with 50CAN
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch March 29, 2016 //
The world of rightwing corporate reform is ever-changing. It seems like only yesterday that Michelle Rhee announced her intention to challenge teachers’ unions, destroy tenure, and take away due process from teachers across the nation. She said she would raise $1 billion in a year and gather 1 million members for her new organization, which she called StudentsFirst, because (she said) teachers don’t care about students, only billionaires really care. She did raise some money–only $7 million or so, far from $1 billion–and she spent it trying to elect Tea Party Republicans and others who support charters and vouchers. Her organization turned into the public voice of anti-teacher, anti-public school activism. But in 2014, she stepped back from the national stage to help her husband Kevin Johnson, the Mayor of Sacramento (whom she married in 2011), and joined the board of Scott’s Miracle-Gro. She also assumed the chairmanship of her husband’s charter chain, St. Hope.

"Portfolio" approach shifts decision-making away from local leaders
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice March 29, 2016
EAST LANSING, Mich. (Mar. 29, 2016) — A new concise policy brief considers the research evidence of "portfolio" districts. According to the brief, the approach shifts decision-making away from local school district leaders. Despite concerns, the approach is now being used in several large urban districts across the country.  The brief, The "Portfolio" Approach to School District Governance, is part of a series of short policy briefs produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. William J. Mathis and Kevin Welner, University of Colorado Boulder, author the brief.  According to Mathis and Welner, there exists a very limited body of generally accepted research about the impact of "portfolio" district reform. However, they do find that research evidence does exist for four reform strategies associated with the model: (1) school-level decentralization of management decisions; (2) reconstitution or closing "failing" schools; (3) expansion of school choice, primarily through charter schools; and (4) performance- or test-based accountability.  After investigating the available research on these portfolio-related strategies, the authors concluded that there is little promise of meaningful benefits associated with the governance changes.

“In sum, the schools subject to the state’s turnaround program exhibit worse or no better student outcomes than comparable untreated schools,” the researchers said.”
Some NC schools in ‘turnaround’ program declined, study finds
The program was funded by a federal Race to the Top grant
Research co-author was Helen Ladd of Duke
In a separate study, a researcher concluded that the program worked overall
The News & Observer BY LYNN BONNER lbonner@newsobserver.com March 26, 2016
An effort to improve struggling schools in North Carolina – funded by a federal Race to the Top grant – did not work in some of them, two researchers have concluded.  Jennifer A. Heissel of Northwestern University and Helen F. Ladd of Duke University analyzed results from some of the schools in the state’s “turnaround” program under Race to the Top. The state assigned schools that were in the bottom 5 percent to the program.  The analysis concluded that the schools in the turnaround program ended up worse than comparable schools that weren’t in it, the researchers wrote. The study looked at the best elementary and middle schools that were in the turnaround program and at comparable schools that were just above the cutoff point for entry.  Reading and math test scores for the schools in the turnaround program declined, the researchers wrote. They also found evidence that student suspensions increased in the turnaround schools in 2012. The analysis looked at results from 2012 to 2014.

Trump (Possibly, for a Moment) Names Education as a Top Federal Priority
Education Week Politics K-12 By Andrew Ujifusa on March 29, 2016 11:32 PM
Remember when several education policy advocates said that they were largely uncertain about how Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would handle federal education policy? During a GOP town hall event in Milwaukee on Tuesday hosted by CNN, Trump threw what many people might think is a real K-12 curveball.   The real estate developer was asked by a voter what he thinks are the top three functions of the federal government. After naming national security, Trump also cited education and health care as the top priorities.   When CNN moderator Anderson Cooper subsequently reminded Trump that he'd previously expressed opposition to the federal government's role in education (more on that in the moment), Trump seemed to shift his position. He said that he wants education policy power to devolve to the states, and added that he saw education as a top issue for the nation.
So what's the broader context for Trump's statements at the town hall?


PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill April 4th
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) 2016 Education Congress April 6-7, 2016
professional development program for school administrators
Focus: "The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas"  Featured Presenter: Dr. David Burkus
April 6-7, 2016 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill
The program will focus on how school leaders can develop and utilize creativity in education management, operations, curriculum and leadership goals. The second day will allow participants to select from multiple discussion/work sessions focusing on concepts presented by Dr. Burkus and facilitated by school leaders who have demonstrated success in creative thinking and leadership in schools across the commonwealth.
Deadline for hotel accommodations: March 15
See the PASA website for more information at: www.pasa-net.org/2016edcongress.

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
TUE, APR 12 AT 8:30 AM, PHILADELPHIA, PA
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT)
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at clapper@paprincipals.org by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377