Friday, August 29, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 29: F&M Poll: Education continues to be the most important issue for PA voters in the Governor's race

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 29, 2014:
F&M Poll: Education continues to be the most important issue for PA voters in the Governor's race

What Pennsylvania Can Learn From Other States’ Education Funding Formulas
Education Law Center Report February 2013

When asked "What issue will be most important to you when considering which candidate for governor you support?"
The top answers were:
22% Education
19% Taxes
12% Economy/Job Market
The Franklin & Marshall College Poll August 2014
The August 2014 Franklin & Marshall College Poll of Pennsylvania registered voters shows little has changed in the Governor's race since June. A majority of voters (61% versus 59% in June) continues to believe that the state is “off on the wrong track,” and only one in four (26% in both surveys) believes Governor Tom Corbett has performed sufficiently well to deserve re-election. The survey finds Governor Corbett trailing his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, 49% to 24%, compared to 47% to 25% in June.
View the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll:

School Leaders ‘Ride’ Through State To Fix Funding System
90.5 WESA NPR Pittsburgh By JULIAN ROUTH
Eleven school directors and former superintendents set off across Pennsylvania Wednesday to educate school administrators about the broken education funding system.  The group, deemed “regional circuit riders,” will spend the next year advocating for better distributed basic education funding. They completed a two-day training Tuesday.  The state will distribute more than $5.5 billion among 500 school districts this fiscal year. Each district will receive the same amount it was awarded last year.    Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Superintendents Association (PSA), said Pennsylvania hasn’t evolved the formula since 1991.
“Since that time, districts have been held harmless, meaning they got the same amount they got the previous year,” Buckheit said. “Then, whatever the general assembly appropriated in terms of additional dollars, would be driven out through these supplements.”
To fairly distribute the funding, the state needs a “reasonable, equitable and adequate formula,” according to director for the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials Jay Himes.

Editorial: Let's address school funding problem now
Main Line Times Editorial Published: Thursday, August 28, 2014
We applaud — skeptically — the recent efforts in Harrisburg to build consensus and momentum for changing the state's broken method of funding public schools.  A group of former school executives — dubbed education circuit riders — plans to travel the state for a year to mobilize local school officials to advocate in their communities for reform. Meanwhile a new state commission charged with recommending a new school funding formula by June 2015 is beginning work.  In a nutshell, the systems of both generating and distributing funds to school districts no longer work. The new commission is focused on coming up with a means to distribute state funds fairly and adequately. A legislative effort has focused on shifting local reliance from property taxes to sales and personal income taxes.

Former LIU director, others to promote fair school funding formula
York Daily Record Updated:   08/28/2014 10:06:30 AM EDT
Michael Thew, former executive director of the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, will be one of 11 "circuit riders" who will travel the state to promote creation of a fair basic education funding formula, according to a news release.
The former superintendents and other school officials attended training earlier this week. They are expected to provide education and training about past and current funding systems, principles and models of good funding systems and effective advocacy strategies, the release says.
The effort is led by five statewide groups representing school administrators, school boards, school business officials, rural and small schools and intermediate units.

Next meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 9th in the Lehigh Valley
Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission Website
The 15-member commission is tasked with developing and recommending to the General Assembly a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania school districts. The new formula will take into account relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support as well as other factors.  The Basic Education Funding Commission was created with the passage of House Bill 1738, sponsored by Representative Bernie O’Neill, which was signed into law by the Governor on June 10, 2014, as Act 51 of 2014.  The commission will hold hearings around the state, gathering testimony and information from a wide-range of advocates and experts in the education field, before making its recommendations to the legislature. The recommendations of the commission will not go into effect, however, without legislative approval by the General Assembly and the signature of the Governor.  We encourage you to follow the work of the commission through the upcoming hearings and meetings. This website will be updated periodically as new information is available. If you wish to contact the Basic Education Funding Commission directly, click on the contact link on the right side of this page.

"The case grew out the Legislature's cutting $5.4 billion from public education in 2011, prompting more than 600 school districts responsible for educating three quarters of Texas' 5 million-plus public school students to sue."
Judge again declares Texas' 'Robin Hood' school finance system unconstitutional
State District Judge John Dietz's written ruling reaffirms a verbal decision he issued from the bench in February 2013.
Dallas News By WILL WEISSERT The Associated Press Published: 28 August 2014 02:40 PM
AUSTIN — A judge declared Texas' school finance system unconstitutional again Thursday, finding that even though the Legislature pumped an extra $3 billion-plus into classrooms last summer the state still fails to provide adequate funding or distribute it fairly among school districts in wealthy and poor areas.  State District Judge John Dietz's written ruling reaffirms a verbal decision he issued from the bench in February 2013. He declared then that the state's so-called "Robin Hood" funding formula fails to meet the Texas Constitution's requirements for a fair and efficient system that provides a "general diffusion of knowledge." He also found then that the system levies local property taxes in a way tantamount to a state income tax, which is also constitutionally prohibited.  Dietz's ruling will almost certainly be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court by state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office — a process that should take months. If the high court again rules against the state, it will be up to the Legislature to design a new funding method. But the appeals process may not be over until well after the 2015 session has ended.

Hurting the Poor
Yinzercation Blog August 28, 2014
I don’t know how Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, can keep a straight face when he talks to reporters. Again and again he declares that Governor Corbett “has increased state funding for public schools by $1.5 billion” over the past four years. [Post-Gazette, 8-28-14]   Anyone with half a brain or with a school age child can tell you that’s a load of hogwash. Sometimes having school age children makes us parents operate with only half a brain, but we can still tell you that Pennsylvania kids are sitting in larger classes, with fewer of their teachers, and missing critical books, supplies, academic courses, and programs.
Of course, what Mr. Eller means is that Gov. Corbett collapsed a bunch of line items into the Basic Education Funding portion of the budget, so that he could say that this single line item increased. Meanwhile, he decimated overall state funding for public schools. Gov. Corbett also likes to tout the additional dollars he put into pension payments (as required by state law) when he calculates that $1.5 billion figure, but will not account for the fact that he slashed charter school tuition reimbursements for districts, Accountability Block Grants, School Improvement Grants, or other programs such as the Education Assistant and High School Reform programs.
As the following graph clearly illustrates, even allowing for increased state contributions to pension payments, our schools are still not receiving the level of preK-12 funding that they were back in 2008-09! (In this chart the federal stimulus dollars are in yellow and pension dollars in light blue: check out the dark blue columns to see how our schools have been set back more than six years in budget cuts.)

Florida School Choice Program Faces a Second Lawsuit
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on August 28, 2014 12:00 PM
A statewide Florida teachers' union is backing a second lawsuit in two months against the state's education tax-credit scholarship program, this one arguing that the program is unconstitutional because it funnels money into religious institutions.
"Florida's voucher programs are a risky experiment that gambles taxpayers' money and children's lives," Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall said in a statement sent out in conjunction with a press conference in Tallahassee. "Florida's voucher schools are largely unregulated, don't have to follow the state's academic standards, don't have to hire qualified teachers and don't have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely."
Tax-credit scholarship programs allow businesses or individuals to claim tax credits for donations made to state-approved organizations, which then give money to eligible students to use toward tuition at private schools—many of which are religious private schools. But tax-credit scholarships differ from traditional school voucher programs where the state directly provides money to families to use toward private school tuition.

Florida county opts out of all state-mandated testing in ‘act of civil disobedience’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss August 28 at 7:46 AM  
Florida’s Lee County became  on Wednesday night the first school district in the state to vote to opt out of all state-mandated testing, including exams that are being designed to assess student knowledge of new state standards based on the Common Core.  The Board of Education voted 3 to 2 in favor of opting out — despite the fact that the state can penalize the county for the decision — as anti-testing activists in the audience cheered. Board member Don Armstrong, who supported the testing boycott, said the vote was meant to send “a strong message” to state education officials in Tallahassee that county officials are tired of being told how to run their school system. He said:  “It’s an act of civil disobedience. We stood up for what we thought was right.”

Read: Florida School Boards Group Outlines Consequences Of Skipping State Tests
State Impact BY JOHN O'CONNOR AUGUST 28, 2014 | 11:33 AM
The Florida School Boards Association has outlined the consequences of districts skipping state tests, and most of them have to do with money.
Last night, the Lee County school board became the first district to refuse state testing entirely. Other Florida school districts are also considering saying no to state exams.
The Florida School Boards Association is meeting next week and has posted an outline of the consequences for not complying state law.

Critics Question High Ratings on New York State Teacher Evaluations Amid Poor Test Scores
New York Times By ELIZABETH A. HARRISAUG. 28, 2014
New York State released teacher and principal evaluations on Thursday that for the first time allow parents and administrators to assess the effectiveness of local teachers at the county, district and, in some cases, the school level.  The evaluations, which cover the 2012-13 school year, are an expanded version of aggregate statewide results that were released in October. Those figures showed that 91.5 percent of New York State teachers were rated either highly effective or effective. On Thursday, that percentage was even higher, with 94 percent of teachers and 92 percent of principals rated in those top two tiers.
The results have prompted an outcry from critics who question how so many of the state’s teachers could be regarded so highly while so many of their students are performing poorly.

PSBA Members - Register to Join the PSBA, PASA, PASBO Listening Tour as BEF Funding Commission begins work; Monday, Sept. 8th 4-6 pm in Bethlehem
The bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission established under Act 51 of 2014 has begun a series of hearings across the state, and you’re invited to join the Listening Tour hosted by PSBA, the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) as it follows the panel to each location this fall.
The first tour stop will be on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 from 4-6 p.m., at the Broughal Middle School, 114 W. Morton St, Bethlehem, PA 18015.  Click here to register for the free event.  Other tour dates will be announced as the BEF Commission finalizes the dates and locations for its hearings. The comments and suggestions from the Listening Tour will be compiled and submitted to the Commission early next year.

Research for Action Fall 2014 Internships
Fall internships run from September – December.  Exact start and end dates are based on the needs of the project and the availability of the student.  Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resumé to  In your email, please include the two projects you’d most like to work on selected from the list below.
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until all positions have been filled. Research for Action qualifies for work study and PHEAA and interns may also be eligible for course credit.

Education Law Center Celebrating Education Champions 2014
On September 17, 2014 the Education Law Center will hold its annual event at the Crystal Tea Room in the Wanamaker Building to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Education Champions. This year, the event will honor William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, Education Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches; and the Stoneleigh Foundation, a Philadelphia regional leader on at-risk youth issues.

Pennsylvania Arts Education Network 2014 Arts and Education Symposium
The 2014 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on Thursday, October 2 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA.  Join us for a daylong convening of arts education policy leaders and practitioners for lively discussions about the latest news from the field.
The Symposium registration fee is $45 per person. To register, click here or follow the prompts at the bottom of the page.  The Symposium will include the following:

Register Now – 2014 PAESSP State Conference – October 19-21, 2014
Please join us for the 2014 PAESSP State Conference, “PRINCIPAL EFFECTIVENESS: Leading Schools in a New Age of Accountability,” to be held October 19-21 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa.  Featuring Keynote Speakers: Alan November, Michael Fullan & Dr. Ray Jorgensen.  This year’s conference will provided PIL Act 45 hours, numerous workshops, exhibits, multiple resources and an opportunity to network with fellow principals from across the state.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference (Oct. 21-24) registration forms now available online
PSBA Website
Make plans today to attend the most talked about education conference of the year. This year's PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference promises to be one of the best with new ideas, innovations, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers. More details are being added every day. Online registration will be available in the next few weeks. If you just can't wait, registration forms are available online now. Other important links are available with more details on:
·         Hotel registration (reservation deadline extended to Sept. 26)
·         Educational Publications Contest (deadline Aug. 6)
·         Student Celebration Showcase (deadline Sept. 19)
·         Poster and Essay Contest (deadline Sept. 19)

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online -- bios/videos now live
PSBA Website August 5, 2014

The slate of candidates for 2015 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online. Photos, bios and videos also have been posted for each candidate. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openSept. 9 and closes Oct. 6. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to cast the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in September. Each person authorized to cast the school entity's votes will be receiving an email in the coming weeks to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to cast the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

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