Saturday, July 12, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 12: Ed Secretary Duncan: Philly school funding 'unacceptable'

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 12, 2014:
Ed Secretary Duncan: Philly school funding 'unacceptable'

EPLC Education Notebook July 11, 2014
Education Policy and Leadership Center

"The children of Philly deserve better than what they have. The lack of funding, the lack of commitment at the state level is simply unacceptable," Duncan said.
"This is a system that is desperately underfunded, that is starved for resources, and there is simply no upside there. And to see the personnel cuts, to see the after-school programs go away, the counselors, I just have a simple question: How is that good for children? How is that good for the city, or for the state, or for our nation?" he added.  Duncan said the decision for state lawmakers to do more, not just for students in the city, but across the state, should be a "no-brainer.
Ed Secretary Duncan: Philly school funding 'unacceptable'
PRESIDENT Obama's education secretary said Philadelphia schools are "starved for resources" and strongly urged state lawmakers to step up investment in education during a visit to the city yesterday.  Arne Duncan's comments followed a roundtable discussion at Community College of Philadelphia with Mayor Nutter and a dozen young men of color about their challenges in education.

Gov. Corbett says he will take pension reform to the public
By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith and Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 11, 2014 8:17 PM
After more than a day of criticism from fellow state Republicans who accused him of failing to show leadership, Gov. Tom Corbett said Friday that he has worked behind the scenes long enough and will take his cause of pension reform to the public.  State legislators failed to address an overhaul of public pensions in the 2014-15 state budget they presented to Mr. Corbett this week. On Thursday, the governor signed the $29.1 billion budget bill but struck more than $72 million from the fiscal plan because the Legislature increased its own funding while declining his call to overhaul the retirement system for future state and school workers. The state faces a $1.5 billion deficit, in part because of those pension obligations.  Unless the Legislature creates a new pension system that the state can afford, the state’s residents -- and in particular, retirees and others on fixed incomes -- will feel the pain, Mr. Corbett said. Under the current system, taxes would have to increase to pay for the additional obligations, he said.

Turzai calls on Gov. Corbett to take a greater leadership role
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 11, 2014 12:48 PM
State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, this morning reiterated his call for Gov. Tom Corbett to "use the bully pulpit" and take a greater leadership role to get reforms such as state liquor store privatization, reduction in the size of the Legislature and pension reform.
Mr. Turzai said the Republican leadership in the House has been able to work in a bi-partisan way to pass legislation in key areas only to have it stall in the Senate. Rather than criticizing the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans, Mr. Turzai pushed for more leadership from the Republican governor.

Turzai calls on Corbett to take on pension reform, liquor store privatization
Trib Live By Melissa Daniels Friday, July 11, 2014, 2:24 p.m.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, on Friday called on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to take the lead on public pension reform and other issues.
“The House has led from the front,” Turzai said during a news conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown. “We are looking for the governor to help us with these agenda items.”
Corbett's Last Stand
Politically Uncorrected Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young July 11, 2014
It’s a trite but true political aphorism: “where you stand depends on where you sit,” meaning we tend to see things differently depending on what perspective we see them from.
If you're a Pennsylvania Republican, no matter where you “sit,” it’s hard to see what Gov. Corbett did with the 2014-15 budget as anything but a divisive, last-gasp effort to change perceptions of his leadership.  In case you missed it, Corbett, using most of his 10 days to sign or veto the 2014-15, state budget finally decided to do both. He signed it, but excluded about $72 million mostly earmarked for the legislature. This he excised with his line-item veto popularly known as “blue lining.” (A Pennsylvania governor cannot add appropriations to a budget passed by the legislature, but can selectively delete them.)
Corbett wiped out about 20 percent of the money intended to support the General Assembly plus some pet projects. (Before shedding a tear for the legislature be informed that it currently holds some $150 million in “reserve,” more than enough to get it through the year.

With pension staredown, some Grand Old Dysfunction: Friday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | on July 11, 2014 at 7:57 AM, updated July 11, 2014 at 8:30 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
As Gov. Tom Corbett went to war with the state Legislature on Thursday by line-item vetoing a goodly sized chunk of the 253-member institution's budget appropriation, one teeny little fact seemed lost in the shuffle.  Even as he denounced them as obstructionist and hostage to special interest, Corbett was talking not about an institution controlled by Democrats -- but by members of his own party.
It was, at once, a glaring omission, but also a vivid illustration of the rocky relations between the GOP-controlled executive and Republicans in the state House and Senate.

The governor should call a special session of the Legislature to deal only with pension reform. It should begin with the lawmakers reducing their own pension benefit, going forward but not for the last 13 years, to the generous level it was at before they and their predecessors got greedy in 2001. That, in turn, would be prelude to negotiations for returning the other public employees’ benefits — going forward — to the 2001 level.
Call session on pensions
Scranton Times-Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: July 11, 2014
State legislators have skipped town without dealing with the state government’s most pressing financial problem.  Thursday, in response to the Legislature’s refusal to reform pension plans, Gov. Tom Corbett vetoed $65 million in General Assembly spending — an unprecedented act for a period when the governor’s office and both legislative houses are controlled by the same party.
It isn’t clear whether the line-item veto will prompt lawmakers to tackle responsible reform, since they also have hoarded about $150 million of the taxpayers’ money to use as they choose — more than enough to cover the spending disallowed by the governor.
The state’s two huge pension plans are underfunded due to a double whammy of greed and incompetence by the Legislature. Although many lawmakers were not yet in office when the Legislature lowered the boom on taxpayers in 2001, they are equally as culpable as their predecessors because they have declined to repair the damage — which grows by the day.
In 2001 lawmakers granted themselves a 50 percent pension increase and spread the largess to public school and state government employees, with 25 percent increases. Then, they made it all retroactive and increased benefits for people who already had retired. That’s the greed.
Incompetence lay in their assertion that pension investment would cover the greed

State Department of Education secures private funding for governor's schools
By Madeline R. Conway / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has secured private funding to support each of the state's three existing governor's schools next summer, spokesman Tim Eller said Friday, suggesting that the recently revived programming will survive at least another year.
Each of the three summer residential programs for talented high school students — held at Carnegie Mellon, Lehigh, and Penn State universities — will receive $150,000 through a partnership between the state Department of Education and a private funding source or sources, Mr. Eller said.  The confirmation that the governor's schools will receive outside funding for another year comes after a period of uncertainty surrounding their futures. The schools had been slated to receive $350,000 collectively in state funding under Gov. Tom Corbett's originally proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, but that line item was not included in the version he signed on Thursday.

Justin Amann: Charter school growth siphons resources from public schools
Morning Call Opinion by Justin Amann 5:53 a.m. EDT, July 11, 2014
Justin Amann, a graduate of Liberty High School, is a senior at East Stroudsburg University. He was president of his class at Liberty and is president of the Student Senate at East Stroudsburg.
Being a student leader has been both a blessing and a curse during my tenure in both the K-12 system as well as the post-secondary education world. It has opened my eyes to public education's balancing act of maintaining high-quality programs, paying the bills, and competing with nonpublic entities that claim to do it better.  As the president of the student body, I was entrenched in East Stroudsburg University's financial woes, but I couldn't help but to notice the struggles that the Bethlehem Area School District (I'm a proud 2011 Liberty High School alumnus) was facing — namely, a $16.9 million deficit.  The breakdown of this deficit is what alarmed me. There's no secret that employee pension plans are costly as the district sees those costs rising more than $4 million. The scariest of statistics is the rise of charter schools; the Bethlehem Area School District will see those costs jump about $6.5 million this fiscal year.
Conditions tied to public school funding
Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER, STAFF WRITER Published: July 11, 2014
Wilkes-Barre Area School District Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak said he’s pleased the state budget includes an increase in public education funding but added there’s an application process to get additional funding.  “We appreciate this during these difficult financial times and welcome any increase in possible funds,” Prevuznak said. “But understand that this is tied to the governor’s ‘Ready to Learn Block Grant’ that deals with an application process and a funding formula. This money that we are allotted has to be earmarked for certain new educational programs.”
Prevuznak noted “restrictions are in place in using this funding,”adding the state will only help fund “new costs.”

Corbett wins...the enmity of the General Assembly
Philly Daily News by CHRIS BRENNAN POSTED: Friday, July 11, 2014, 3:01 AM
GOV. CORBETT has discovered the one thing Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature can agree on: Their mutual dislike for him.
Corbett yesterday signed into law the $29.1 billion 2014-15 state budget approved by legislators 10 days ago, but used his line-item veto power to carve out $65 million - 19.7 percent - from the Legislature's $330 million budget and another $7.2 million in other legislative spending.
Corbett is using that combined $72.2 million cut as leverage to force the state House and Senate to return from summer break to work on pension reform.
Five times in a news conference yesterday Corbett complained about lobbying by public-sector unions that oppose his pension plans. At no point did Corbett note that the Republicans, his own political party, control both legislative chambers and have not rallied to his side on the issue.

Philly delegation seeks meeting with Big Tobacco
By the notebook on Jul 11, 2014 01:16 PM
The Pennsylvania Senate's Philadelphia delegation has asked to meet with representatives from Big Tobacco after hearing that its lobbyists had a hand in altering, and thus stalling, legislation for a Philadelphia-only cigarette tax to fund the city's schools.  Senate Democrats Shirley Kitchen and Anthony Williams sent a letter Friday to the chief executives of the country's two largest tobacco companies, Altria Group and R.J. Reynolds, expressing frustration that their lobbyists had met with state legislators "without involving the Philadelphia Delegation members." They also released the letter to local media.
The letter reiterates the loss of potential millions in revenue each week that goes by without the bill's passage -- money that the School District is counting on to help close a $93 million gap in its budget and avoid another round of mass layoffs, severe cuts and the possibility of not opening schools on time.
Read the letter to Martin Barrington of Altria and Susan Cameron of R.J. Reynolds below.

DN Editorial: Funding for dummies
Philadelphia Daily News July 10, 2014 3:01 AM
IT'S TEMPTING to slam the state Legislature for failing to accomplish one simple task - pass a $2-per-pack cigarette tax in Philadelphia to help fund the schools.
But, in our estimation, the Legislature has failed to accomplish not one but five simple tasks, any one of which would have helped the city's schools open on time, with more than bare-bones staffing. And that turns a single glitchy bill into a sweeping and utter failure of leadership.
Because of last-minute tinkering with the cigarette-tax bill, the law that was on its way to Gov. Corbett's desk must now go back to the House, where success is iffy. (The House says that it will come back in August to deal with the bill.)
The cigarette tax itself - which had been projected to bring in $45 million in its first year - represents a desperate move on the part of the city, which came up with the tax in the absence of any productive ideas in Harrisburg. The whopping tax will have a few good outcomes - reduced health risks from smoking, for one - but will add especially high financial burdens to people who can least afford it. The city is one of the "smokingest" big cities in the country, and many of those that would be hit by the higher tax are low income. We'll put aside the lectures on "if you can't afford to smoke, you shouldn't smoke anyway," especially considering some of the other options for raising money or making the schools whole:

Coatesville school district denies Daily Local copy of internal probe (Documents)
By Kristina Scala, Daily Local News POSTED: 07/10/14, 6:50 PM EDT
CALN – The Daily Local News was denied a copy of the internal investigation performed by the Coatesville Area School District’s special legal counsel, Conrad O’Brien.  An information request for the document was filed on June 3. Conrad O’Brien responded Wednesday with a letter denying the request.  Conrad O’Brien, a Philadelphia-based law firm, was hired in October to represent the school district in the Chester County District Attorney’s ongoing criminal investigation. The law firm was also tasked to perform an internal investigation into the possibility of obstruction by school board members, solicitor James Ellison and Rhoads & Sinon in the DA’s criminal investigation.

Issue Brief — The National Perspective: How Pre-K in PA Compares to Other Competing States
Pre-K for PA July 10, 2014
Pre-K for PA released a new issue brief: “The National Perspective: How Pre-K in PA Compares to Other Competing States, first in a series of three policy documents outlining the path to achieve our campaign vision in Pennsylvania.

Who Should Pay For Schools? Answer Remains Unclear As Cigarette Tax Boost On Hold
Forbes by Kelly Phillips Erb 7/10/2014 @ 12:12PM 420 views
There are a few facts that everyone can agree on with respect to the Philadelphia School District budget wars:
·         The school district is operating at a deficit.
·         The school district can’t open its doors without staff.
·         Nobody likes to pay taxes.
What everyone can’t agree on, however, are how those facts are going to intersect.
The budget crisis in Philadelphia is nothing new: I’ve been writing about it for years. Despite the dire warnings every year, there has been no real movement to move the discussions forward. Each year, the District screams about the lack of funding and a band-aid gets slapped on, the school year goes on, summer starts and the screaming starts again. Somewhere in the middle, there’s a lot of finger pointing, accusations and promises. But the result is always the same.
And before you click onto another story, thinking that this is simply a local matter, don’t be fooled. The Philadelphia School District is the 8th largest school district in the country. It’s budgetary woes are legendary: last year, they even got a mention onSaturday Night Live. But perhaps more important, the debate that is happening in Philadelphia is one that is happening all over the country: how do you best fund schools?

Where Are the Nation's 'Most Productive' School Districts?
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Evie Blad on July 9, 2014 7:01 PM
By guest blogger Evie Blad.
Is your school district spending its likely tight budget on the right things? New reports suggest many aren't.
Three reports released today by the Center for American Progress, a  progressive think tank, examine whether districts are properly targetting their budgets to areas that will most effectively address academic success for students.The reports are a follow-up to a similar assessment the group completed in 2011. In Return on Investment 2014, the organization assessed the "educational productivity" of more than 7,000 districts by measuring "the achievement that a school district produces relative to its spending, while controlling for factors outside a district's control, such as the cost of living and students living in poverty."
How did they do that? The report uses a metric that factors in the most recent data available—spending information from 2010-11 and the results of 2010-11 state reading and math assessments in elementary, middle, and high school—to determine how much return on its investment a district gets relative to other districts in its state. "To avoid penalizing districts where education costs are higher, we adjusted for a variety of factors, including cost-of-living differences and higher concentrations of low-income, non-English-speaking, and special education students," the report says. This color-coded matrix then shows how districts are graded.

How Microsoft will make money from Common Core (despite what Bill Gates said)
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 12 at 4:00 AM  
Microsoft founder Bill Gates got somewhat indignant when my Post colleague Lyndsey Layton asked him in an interview this past spring about concerns  of some opponents of the Common Core State Standards  that his important support for the initiative has been driven by business interests. The interview was part of the extensive reporting Layton did over two months to write an important story about Gates’s vital involvement in the Core initiative, which you can read here. (You can see the full interview here and an excerpted video here. )Here is how part of the interview went:

FCC Approves E-rate Modernization Along Partisan Lines
Education Week Digital Education Blog By Sean Cavanagh on July 11, 2014 1:56 PM
By Sean Cavanagh and Michele Molnar
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday approved a broad series of changes to the E-rate program meant to boost support for Wi-Fi technology and create more efficiency, though Republicans on the panel strongly criticized the plan as bloated and bureaucratic. The plan passed on a 3-2 party-line vote.  The approved order, as described by the FCC, would boost Wi-Fi funding for schools and libraries by $1 billion a year over the next two years, and set an annual "funding target" of that amount for years after that. 

School boards encouraged by E-Rate modernization plan, but further improvements are vital
NSBA School Board News Today by Alexis Rice July 11, 2014
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomes the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve the long oversubscribed E-rate program, while also noting remaining funding gaps. This was reinforced by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who announced that the FCC will consider added funding for E-rate in a future call for public input.
“The FCC made key revisions to its E-rate modernization proposal,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Though we must solve for remaining funding gaps, NSBA is very pleased with the FCC’s commitment to advance WiFi and broadband in America’s public schools and libraries and its willingness to seek public input for future E-rate funding.”

PA school boards should select voting delegates for PSBA Delegate Assembly meeting
PSBA Website 7/10/2014
PSBA has mailed to all school board secretaries a memo and response form for the appointment of their voting delegates to the Delegate Assembly. The Delegate Assembly will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 21, prior to the beginning of the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey.

Teaching in Pennsylvania -
EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - July 13 at 3:00 p.m. 
The next EPLC "Focus on Education" episode will air this coming Sunday, July 13 at 3:00 p.m. on PCN television.  This July 13 panel will discuss the status of the teaching profession in Pennsylvania; what it takes to become a teacher in the state; teacher preparation programs; whether there are efforts to attract more minority students to the teaching profession; why we lose a high percentage of new teachers after only a few years; the status of the new teacher evaluation system in Pennsylvania; and much more.
The panel will include: 
·         Ron Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and Host of the "Focus on Education" programs;  
·         Dr. Theresa Barnaby, Director, Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality;
·         Ryan Devlin, 2013 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and Brockway Area High School English and Technology Teacher;
·         Dolores McCracken, PSEA Treasurer, Council Rock Education Foundation Treasurer, and parent education advocate; and
·         Dr. Sally A. Winterton, President, Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators.

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 16, 5-7pm
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This award may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

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