Wednesday, August 2, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 2: Pension relief for school districts nearly two decades away

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 2, 2017:

September 19 @ 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM Hilton Reading
Berks County Community Foundation

Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer August 2, 2017
Basic education funding for 2017-18 is increasing by $100 million statewide. Meanwhile, pension payments for districts are rising by $144 million.  That imbalance, which ultimately shrinks money for the classroom, wasn't fixed by the pension reform that state officials have described as "historic" and "meaningful."  It's not until 2034-35 when funds needed for the Public School Employees' Retirement System, expected to approach 40 percent of payroll, "are projected to begin to decline," according to an actuarial note by the Independent Fiscal Office on Act 5 of 2017. The result of Senate Bill 1, which was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, the legislation shrinks the defined benefit and combines it with a 401(k)-type plan for school employees hired after July 1, 2019.  "It's controlling every single thing we do," Stephen Pirritano, of the Neshaminy school board, said of growing retirement costs. "The amount of stress that's being put on our district is forcing us to make educational choices. There's no relief from collective bargaining. There's no relief from state mandates.  "Payroll and benefits are 72 percent of our budget. We continue to squeeze that other 28 percent. I don't know where the relief is going to come from."  Locally, Pirritano's words have been echoed by school directors from the Bristol Borough to Quakertown Community districts in Bucks and the Upper Moreland to Souderton Area districts in Montgomery County.

 “For now, the House remains on six-hour call. The Senate is in recess awaiting the House to respond to the legislation it sent over.”
Progress is slow in finalizing a revenue plan to fund Pa.'s 2017-18 state budget
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated on August 1, 2017 at 5:27 PM Posted on August 1, 2017 at 5:07 PM
Make no assumption that the radio silence surrounding the efforts to produce a revenue plan to fully fund the $32 billion enacted spending plan means secret negotiations are going on behind closed doors.  According to House Republican officials, House members, staff and leaders are spending these days looking over the Senate tax packageand related budget code bills that it passed last week.  "We were not party to the formation of any of the code bills including the tax code bill," said House GOP Appropriations Committee spokesman John O'Brien. "So right now, we're in the process of reviewing the legislation to see what's in them and to see what the impact is on the residents of Pennsylvania."  House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin added: "When that's done, we're going to move discussions forward and we're going to come back when we feel it's appropriate."

“The House is on a six-hour call, meaning they could be summoned to Harrisburg at any time to address the revenue package. They are not scheduled back, however, until Sept. 11.”
Local midstate reps in Taxpayer Caucus give thumbs down to Senate revenue plan
ABC27 By Dennis Owens Published: August 1, 2017, 6:19 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania House leaders have been eerily quiet since the Senate passed a budget revenue bill last week, but rank-and-file members of the so-called Taxpayer Caucus, which is dominated by Midstaters, spoke up and spoke out for the first time Tuesday afternoon.  They held a hearing on the upper chamber’s budget bill at the Fairview Township Fire Department in York County. It’s a mostly conservative county and it was mostly conservative testimony and it was mostly critical of the plan that would slap an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale drillers and a gross receipts tax on natural gas customers and hike taxes on electricity and telephone bills.

Who will Pay? Roses & thorns on tax plan (editorial)
York Daily Record by YDR Editorial Board Published 1:09 p.m. ET July 31, 2017 | Updated 4:54 p.m. ET July 31, 2017
Last week, the state Senate passed a revenue bill that would fund the unbalanced budget lawmakers approved previously, which became law without Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature.
No word on when the House might take up the measure – or how it will fare in that chamber.
Two York County legislative leaders, senator/GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner and Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, blasted the measure, saying they couldn’t support higher taxes, and calling for state spending cuts.  Here’s a special edition of roses and thorns on some of the revenue bill’s provisions:

Fund transfer to balance Pa. budget runs into second year of problems
A fund transfer lawmakers are proposing to help balance Pennsylvania's budget is causing some legal headaches.  The Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association — a group created in 1976 to insure health care providers — has said the state is not authorized to take $200 million from its account.  It's a conflict that first cropped up last year, when the cash-strapped Legislature decided to move $200 million from the JUA's surplus to the general fund.  The group said it was inappropriate, and filed suit.  Susan Sersha, association president, said the state never invested in the JUA after it was established. As far as she is concerned, its current funds are private.  "All of the money that we have received, we have collected via premiums," she said. "These are predominantly individuals who paid this money in to receive insurance, and we don't think the state has a right to those funds."

“The state Independent Fiscal Office twice has examined property tax elimination, and twice has concluded that revenue from the tax shift would be inadequate. That doesn’t trouble those who don’t care about public schools, but the state’s obligation to provide adequate education is not just constitutional, it’s moral.”
Editorial: Robin Hoods, in reverse
Fewer ideas sound more appealing than eliminating school property taxes. That is especially true in Pennsylvania, where legislators for decades have shirked their responsibility to equitably fund schools, leaving too much of the burden to local school districts with vastly disparate resources and tax bases.  The system inevitably creates “haves” and “have-nots” among school districts, ensuring that the commonwealth can’t meet its constitutional obligation to provide “adequate” public education. And it ensures that property taxes rise faster than incomes, particularly burdening older homeowners with limited incomes.  But instead of addressing school cost-drivers, especially the out-of control public pension system, and creating a broad-based, diverse school funding system, some legislators favor a nostrum — elimination of school property taxes.
The idea is rooted in false premises. One is that shifting the burden completely from property taxes to several higher state taxes adequately will fund schools. Another is the false notion that people who don’t own property don’t pay property taxes. A third is that a shift to other taxes will more fairly distribute the tax burden.

A Mastery charter school principal calls out his anti-charter friends for denying choice—but only for black students
Philadelphia Citizen Opinion BY SHARIF EL-MEKKI AUG. 01, 2017
I have many friends who are staunchly “anti-choice” when it comes to educating  black children. They are awesome people, folks you would trust with your children or money, but I find their hypocrisy alarming.  They can be broken up into different categories. However, one trait they all share is that they consistently exercise choice for their children, yet they expect black families to only exercise patience.  While there are some moves to disenfranchise black people further through fake voting fraud investigations that several states, including Pennsylvania, are rejecting, there are other, more pervasive ways that Black folks continue to be marginalized and their enfranchisement wholly and consistently undermined—namely, denial of access to quality of schools.  Schools that educate our black children, in particular, in our own neighborhoods have always been undermined through the restriction of funds, quality staff, and other resources. And, the resistance to educational justice for all, one of the most basic human rights that include clean water, clean air, wholesome food, comes from all angles—even from our so called liberal friends.

Greencastle teacher labor talks continue as school start looms
Herald Mail Media by Joyce Nowell Aug 1, 2017
GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Classes will begin in the Greencastle-Antrim School District on Aug. 21 with just two weeks remaining in the current teacher labor contract.  Negotiations on a new contract began in January, but they haven't yet netted a new pact.  Representatives of the school board and the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association have been meeting almost monthly, with the most recent session on July 24.  Eric Holtzman, who is leading the negotiating committee for the school board, said the current contract will remain in effect until a new agreement is approved by both parties.

Pennsylvania district settles transgender bathroom lawsuit
Inquirer by JOE MANDAK, The Associated Press Updated: AUGUST 1, 2017 — 12:08 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Pennsylvania school district will allow students to use restrooms that correspond to their "consistently and uniformly asserted gender identity" in settling a federal lawsuit brought last year by three transgender students.  Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced the settlement Tuesday in Pittsburgh with the Pine-Richland School District in the city's North Hills suburbs.  A federal judge in February blocked the Pine-Richland School District from enforcing interim rules that made bathroom use conditional upon a student's biological gender only. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak said then that the district had not demonstrated its policy advances an important governmental interest. Nor was there evidence that personal privacy was being threatened save for a complaint by a parent whose child reported a "boy in the girl's bathroom" in October 2015, according to the judge.  Two students born anatomically male who now identify as female and one born anatomically female who identifies as male sued in October to overturn the policy.  The school district confirmed the settlement, which Lambda called "a victory for transgender students everywhere" and a "clear warning to school districts with anti-transgender bathroom policies."

Court settlement finalized with Pine-Richland regarding transgender bathrooms
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11:17 AM AUG 1, 2017
When Elissa Ridenour reflects on her senior year of high school, she’ll look back with satisfaction. Engaging in a discrimination lawsuit with the school district wasn’t something she wanted to do, but now that it’s over, she’s happy she did it.  “While it was happening it was horrible and I didn’t want to spend my senior year doing that, but now that I look back at it I kind of feel relieved I was able to be a part of something that is going to be so groundbreaking within my community and really spread the voice of the trans community,” she said.  Ms. Ridenour, 19, was one of three transgender students who sued the Pine-Richland School District after the school board adopted a policy last fall that restricted students to using either unisex bathrooms or bathrooms that match their biological gender.  Lambda Legal, the advocacy group representing Ms. Ridenour, Juliet Evancho and a third student, who wasn’t identified because he was a minor, announced a finalized settlement deal with the school district Tuesday.  The Pine-Richland school board voted July 17 to overturn to rescind the policy. Also as part of the settlement, the students received an undisclosed monetary sum and the school district agreed to update its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity.

Pennsylvania school immunization changes go into effect this year
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5:45 PM JUL 31, 2017
School districts in Pennsylvania are urging parents to add an important item to their child's back-to-school checklist: Immunizations  A new policy requires that public school students in Pennsylvania be up to date with their vaccinations by the first day of school or risk being prohibited from attending.  “Hopefully that doesn’t happen because obviously we want kids in school,” said Vicki Flotta, director of public relations for the Bethel Park School District. 
Students with a provisional waiver can have up to five extra days to get a required dose of a vaccine, compared to the eight months allowed previously.   Per the policy, schools cannot admit students who have not received all the doses of a multiple-dose vaccines, unless the five-day rule can be met or if their doctor provides a medical plan outlining the dates for the next vaccines. If they haven’t received a required single-dose vaccine on the first day, they may not be admitted.

John Updike's Pennsylvania childhood home to become museum
Morning Call August 1, 2017
SHILLINGTON, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania childhood home of author John Updike is nearing its transformation into a museum and literary center.  The future of the Shillington home had been uncertain until The John Updike Society purchased it in 2012. Since then, the society has worked to re-create the 1930's vibe of the late Pulitzer Prize winner's home, based on old photographs and Updike's writings.  Updike spent the first 13 years of his life in the Shillington house, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. The Reading Eagle reports ( ) Updike's daughter is donating furniture from his childhood to the museum.  The Updike Society says restoration should be finished by the end of summer.  Updike won Pulitzers for the novels “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest.” He died in 2009 at age 76.

How to get tickets to the National Museum of African American History
Lancaster Online by ERIN NEGLEY | Staff Writer August 1, 2017
Since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September in Washington D.C., more than a million people have visited. Demand has been so high, free tickets have been snapped up hours after they were released.  A few months ago, a block of 110,000 tickets for June visits were gone in hours, the Smithsonian said.  “The level of interest in our museum and the powerful impact of this history and culture on our visitors are unparalleled,” said Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the museum in a statement. “We are honored by the commitment and desire to visit and participate in this historic endeavor. We ask for the public’s patience as we move to accommodate the increasing number of requests. The demand for timed passes simply exceeds the number of people that we can safely accommodate.” Here's how to get tickets:  The next advanced tickets will be released online Wednesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. for visits in November. Up to six tickets can be ordered at a time and tickets go quickly. Timed passes will be released on the first Wednesday of each month.  A limited number of same-day timed passes are available online beginning at 6:30 a.m. daily until they run out.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 26 - August 1, 2017
Submitted by fairtest on August 1, 2017 - 1:30pm 
Disputes between states and the U.S. Department of Education over Every Student Succeeds Act testing and score reporting requirements under state are accelerating.  Assessment reformers are seeking inclusion of provisions that fulfill the new law's promised flexibility without federal micromanagement. In jurisdictions still working on compliance plans, there are still opportunities to press for fewer standardized exams and a reduction of high-stakes.  

PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA Website August 2017
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2017, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 17 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person's name with an asterisk (*).

The deadline to submit cover letter, resume and application is August 25, 2017.
PSBA seeking experienced education leaders: Become an Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for six Advocacy Ambassadors who have been involved in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be an active leader in an assigned section of the state, and is kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA position based on PSBA priorities to accomplish advocacy goals.  PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA, and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local and federal elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities.  This is a 9-month independent contractor position with a monthly stipend and potential renewal for a second year. Successful candidates must commit to the full 9-month contract, agree to fulfill assigned Advocacy Ambassador duties and responsibilities, and actively participate in conference calls and in-person meetings

September 19 @ 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM Hilton Reading
Berks County Community Foundation
Carol Corbett Burris: Executive Director of the Network for Public Education
Alyson Miles: Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the American Federation for Children
James Paul: Senior Policy Analyst at the Commonwealth Foundation
Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig: Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University Sacramento
Karin Mallett: The WFMZ TV anchor and reporter returns as the moderator
School choice has been a hot topic in Berks County, in part due to a lengthy and costly dispute between the Reading School District and I-LEAD Charter School. The topic has also been in the national spotlight as President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have focused on expanding education choice.  With this in mind, a discussion on school choice is being organized as part of Berks County Community Foundation’s Consider It initiative. State Sen. Judy Schwank and Berks County Commissioners Chairman Christian Leinbach are co-chairs of this nonpartisan program, which is designed to promote thoughtful discussion of divisive local and national issues while maintaining a level of civility among participants.  The next Consider It Dinner will take place Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading, 701 Penn St., Reading, Pa. Tickets are available here.  For $10 each, tickets include dinner, the panel discussion, reading material, and an opportunity to participate in the conversation.

Apply Now for EPLC's 2017-2018 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Applications are available now for the 2017-2018 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Click here for the program calendar of sessions.  With more than 500 graduates in its first eighteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants. Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 14-15, 2017 and continues to graduation in June 2018.

Using Minecraft to Imagine a Better World and Build It Together.
Saturday, September 16, 2017 or Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the University of the Sciences, 43rd & Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia
PCCY, the region’s most influential advocacy organization for children, leverages the world’s greatest video game for the year’s most engaging fundraising event for kids. Join us on Saturday, September 16, 2017 or Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the University of the Sciences, 43rd & Woodland Avenue for a fun, creative and unique gaming opportunity.

Education Law Center’s 2017 Annual Celebration
ELC invites you to join us for our Annual Celebration on September 27 in Philadelphia.
The Annual Celebration will take place this year on September 27, 2017 at The Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. The event begins at 5:30 PM. We anticipate more than 300 legal, corporate, and community supporters joining us for a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner presentation.  Our annual celebrations honor outstanding champions of public education. This proud tradition continues at this year’s event, when together we will salute these deserving honorees:
·         PNC Bank: for the signature philanthropic cause of the PNC Foundation, PNC Grow Up Great, a bilingual $350 million, multi-year early education initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life; and its support of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship, which enables new lawyers to pursue careers in public interest law;
·         Joan Mazzotti: for her 16 years of outstanding leadership as the Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures, a college access and success program serving Philadelphia’s low-income, first-generation-to-college students;
·         Dr. Bruce Campbell Jr., PhD: for his invaluable service to ELC, as he rotates out of the chairman position on our Board of Directors. Dr. Campbell is an Arcadia University Associate Professor in the School of Education; and
·         ELC Pro Bono Awardee Richard Shephard of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP: for his exceptional work as pro bono counsel, making lasting contributions to the lives of many vulnerable families.Questions? Contact Tracy Callahan or 215-238-6970 ext. 308.

STAY WOKE: THE INAUGURAL NATIONAL BLACK MALE EDUCATORS CONVENING; Philadelphia Fri, Oct 13, 2017 4:00 pm  Sun, Oct 15, 2017 7:00pm
TEACHER DIVERSITY WORKS. Increasing the number of Black male educators in our nation’s teacher corps will improve education for all our students, especially for African-American boys.  Today Black men represent only two percent of teachers nationwide. This is a national problem that demands a national response.  Come participate in the inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening to advance policy solutions, learn from one another, and fight for social justice. All are welcome.

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017 Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township, PA

Save the Date: PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference October 18-20, Hershey PA

Registration now open for the 67th Annual PASCD Conference  Nov. 12-13 Harrisburg: Sparking Innovation: Personalized Learning, STEM, 4C's
This year's conference will begin on Sunday, November 12th and end on Monday, November 13th. There will also be a free pre-conference on Saturday, November 11th.  You can register for this year's conference online with a credit card payment or have an invoice sent to you.  Click here to register for the conference.

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