Thursday, April 30, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 30: How is special education paid for in Pennsylvania public schools?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 30, 2015:
How is special education paid for in Pennsylvania public schools?

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania school funding panel recommendations expected in June, website reports
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 29, 2015 at 2:02 PM, updated April 29, 2015 at 2:36 PM
The panel tasked with developing a fair, equitable way to distribute state funding to Pennsylvania's 500 school districts is expected to finish its work in early June,Keystone Crossroads reports.  The Basic Education Funding Commission, co-chaired by Lehigh Valley Sen. Pat Brown, R-Lehigh, has spent the past year holding hearings, studying funding options and developing recommendations to fund the state's education system.
Pennsylvania is one of three states in the nation without a funding formula. The current system has the largest spending gap between rich and poor school districts seen anywhere in the country.  It's recommendations will come just ahead of a June 30 state budget deadline. And the details of the state budget, including detract funding, are far from hammered out.

"In the Multiple Choices podcast, Keystone Crossroads senior education writer Kevin McCorry joins with Paul Socolar, publisher and editor of the Public School Notebook, and Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa to explain and explore the history, complexities and controversies of public education funding in Pennsylvania."
How is special education paid for in Pennsylvania public schools?
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads APRIL 29, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 3
Third in an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers."
What is special education?
Special education consists of supplemental services designed for students who have special needs due to cognitive or physical disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA), a federal law enacted in 1990, guarantees a "free appropriate public education" to children, regardless of their disability. IDEA reauthorized and built upon a 1975 law that first created a federal mandate for public schools to educate children with disabilities at no cost to the family, in the least restrictive setting possible.

"The court ruling means students in poor districts will continue to receive a substandard education simply because of where they live. It means Pennsylvania will continue to fail to meet its duty to adequately and equitably fund its public schools."
Court punts on fair education funding in Pa. (YDR opinion)
York Daily Record editorial UPDATED:   04/28/2015 04:06:17 PM EDT
Kids and taxpayers in poor school districts who for years have been weighed down by an inherently unfair funding system got a hard civics lesson last week.   Their plea for the courts to fix what is clearly a broken system of school funding in Pennsylvania was ignored.  A lawsuit filed by officials in six financially struggling schools districts, along with seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and the NAACP Pennsylvania State conference was rejected by the Commonwealth Court.  The court ruled that education funding lies in the realm of the Legislature — which is nice and tidy, unless your child happens to live in, say, York city.

Roebuck: New national report spotlights Pa. charter school problems; Report says waste, fraud and abuse may total $1.4 billion nationwide
HARRISBURG, April 29 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said a new national report shows the need for strong charter school reforms in Pennsylvania like the legislation he plans to introduce soon.
The report by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is titled "The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, And Abuse." It covers more than $200 million in alleged or confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools. The report says standard forensic auditing methodologies suggest the real total is closer to $1.4 billion, but that much "will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud."  Roebuck said: "Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are unfortunately well-represented in this report. In Harrisburg, House Republicans have passed a charter school bill (H.B. 530) that falls short on needed reforms and oversight and would override local control to make it even easier to start charter schools – a dangerous combination for kids and taxpayers. House Democrats will continue to stand for greater accountability and transparency in these privately run, publicly funded schools. Fortunately, the Senate and Governor Tom Wolf still have the opportunity to do better, and the governor's budget proposes serious reforms for charter schools."

One speaker at SRC hearing on optimistic school budget
MARTHA WOODALL, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 8:57 PM
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission held a hearing Wednesday night to gather comments on its proposed $2.9 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But only one speaker - retired teacher Karel Kilimnik - weighed in at the sparsely attended session.  Kilimnik decried the fact that schools are forced to compete with each other for scarce resources. "It's become The Hunger Games again," she said.  As part of the budget presentation, two principals told the commission how they would spend the additional money at their schools if Gov. Wolf's proposed budget is enacted.

Another ASPIRA charter school seeks union vote
REGINA MEDINA, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5985
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 12:16 AM
OLNEY CHARTER HIGH School staffers will cast ballots today in a union election, and it appears that their organizing efforts have paved the way for another ASPIRA-run school to seek to unionize.  Employees from the John B. Stetson Charter School, on B Street near Ontario in Kensington, filed a petition Monday with the National Labor Relations Board asking the agency to hold a union vote at the school.  "Like the teachers at Olney, the Stetson staff wants a protected voice in laying the groundwork for the future of our schools," said Stetson teacher Jaimie Stevenson.  The new union would be part of the Alliance of Charter School Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. It's the same union that Olney staffers would join if they vote yes.

" But school budgets have to be passed before the state budget deadline, so districts won't know what they'll get until after their budgets are passed. Expecting too much from the state can leave a hole in a district's budget, but budgeting for less can result in unnecessary tax hikes and program reductions."
"… Total expenditures are up by 3.5 percent, mostly because of pension and charter school costs."
Bethlehem Area's budget calls for tax hike, no job cuts
The Bethlehem Area School District is looking at a budget that calls for a 2.9 percent tax hike
By Jacqueline PalochkoOf The Morning Call April 29, 2015
Bethlehem Area School District's budget calls for tax hike, no layoffs
The Bethlehem Area School District is considering a $245 million budget that calls for a 2.9 percent property tax hike and no job cuts.  At a Wednesday night budget workshop, the school board gave its support to a preliminary budget for 2015-16 that district officials are crafting.  Superintendent Joseph Roy called the budget "conservative." The district is budgeting an additional $1.5 million from the state, even though Gov. Tom Wolf proposed an extra $5.5 million in his budget.  While Wolf's proposed budget is promising to school districts, but it faces a tough road ahead because Republicans who control the Legislature have said they have no intention of approving the tax hikes in the budget

OJR, teachers agree on new contract a year early
By Laura Catalano, The Mercury  OSTED: 04/29/15, 11:06 AM EDT 
SOUTH COVENTRY >> The Owen J. Roberts School Board has unanimously approved an early-bird contract with the teachers’ union that agrees to an average net increase in salaries and benefits of 2.6 percent over the two-year contract period.  The agreement, which was ratified by the Owen J. Roberts Education Association on April 22, is an extension of a four-year contract that was set to expire June 30, 2016. The new two-year contract will go into effect at the expiration of the old contract, and last through June 30, 2018.  School Board President William LaCoff, reading from a prepared statement at a regularly scheduled board meeting Monday evening, noted that the contract “includes the addition of online learning opportunities for students.” It also keeps increases for supplemental positions and extracurricular activities within the state’s Act 1 index, based on the cost-of-living.

Pottsgrove school budget brings hard choices, fierce advocacy
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 04/29/15, 7:10 PM EDT |
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Reducing art, music and business teachers as a way to help close a pending budget gap of nearly $850,000 was met with stiff public resistance Tuesday night as speaker after speaker urged, chided and pleaded with the school board to find another way.  Nine speakers addressed the board and none of them agreed with a proposal to replace retiring choral teacher Cynthia Foust with a new half-time teacher; not replacing a retiring art teacher; eliminating one business teacher position and not replacing a retiring elementary school teacher as a way to help cost the gap.

Hatboro-Horsham 2015-16 budget shows $1.6 million deficit
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer April 29, 2015
With the budget deadline for its 2015-16 budget less than two months away, the Hatboro-Horsham School District is working to shrink a $1.6 million deficit.  That number could be sliced to $402,558 if the district raises taxes by 1.9 percent, the amount allowed by the Act 1 Index, the state’s property tax law. A 1.9 percent levy would generate $1.2 million.  That’s progress from January, when the next school year’s spending plan was $1.2 million in the red even after a 1.9 percent tax increase.  Bob Reichert, the district’s director of business affairs, recently told the Finance Committee that “in the past few weeks we continue to make reductions” to the budget. Reichert also said if the district does increase taxes, he hopes it will be below the Act 1 index.

North Penn School District refining budget figures, may dip into reserves to address $6.7 million deficit
North Penn Reporter By Jarreau Freeman @JarreauFreeman on Twitter Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Lansdale >> North Penn Business Administration Director Steve Skrocki said no personnel or programs will be cut from the 2015-16 budget, but the district is trimming some of its expenses to tackle the $6.7 million deficit they face next year.  “Administrators have their own department budgets and have submitted their initial requests, which showed up on the preliminary budget unchanged,” Skrocki said during an interview after April 23’s school board action meeting. “Now we are at the point where we are going back to the departments and challenging them to justify the expenses they have for [next year’s] budget.”

"The biggest cost increases for the district are state-mandated retirement contributions, which will increase by $900,000 going into the 2015-16 year, McHale-Small said. Health care benefits will see the next biggest increase, going up by about $375,000."
Will Saucon Valley be able to avoid a tax increase?
By Christina Tatu Of The Morning Call April 29, 2015
The Saucon Valley School District is facing a potential $850,000 budget deficit going into next school year.  District officials during Tuesday night's school board meeting discussed how they might reduce the deficit.  The discussion included talk of a possible tax increase, which would be the first for Saucon Valley in about six years, Superintendent Monica McHale-Small said.

Blogger's note: the Commonwealth Foundation has been a strong supporter of all things school choice: vouchers, charters, cybers, tax credit programs….
'Racist, homophobic, sexist, classist ... bigots.' Philly Rep. unloads on Commonwealth Foundation: Wednesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 29, 2015 at 8:20 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
It's no secret that Harrisburg's Commonwealth Foundation tilts to the right. The think-tank on State Street has helped lead the charge on such conservative cornerstone issues as Paycheck Protection and the amusingly misnamed "Right to Work," movement.  It's also been in the vanguard of opposition toGov. Tom Wolf's budget and the tax hike plans embedded within it. And if there's some liberal cause making the rounds, it can be reliably counted upon to oppose it.  
All of which apparently didn't sit well with stateRep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, who took to the Facebooks earlier this month to go all Old Testament prophet in the wildnerness on the Koch Bros.-linked think-tank.

'Incredible journey': Youth choirs shares music with all 67 PA counties
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 29, 2015 at 2:19 PM, updated April 29, 2015 at 2:41 PM
No one can accuse Hamilton-Gibson Children and Youth Choirs of not living up to their state House designation as "Pennsylvania's Singing Youth Ambassadors."
Hamilton-Gibson Children And Youth Choirs Complete A 67-County Tour Of PennsylvaniaAfter being designated "Pennsylvania's Singing Youth Ambassadors" in 2001, the Hamilton-Gibson choirs, a community youth choral program based in Tioga County, began a quest to sing in all 67 counties. It started out with performances in eight counties near their homes but then in 2008, they set out to sing in the remaining 59 counties. They achieved their goal on Tuesday with a performance in Chester County.  Since being dubbed with that distinction through the passage of resolution offered by Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, the fourth through 12th graders who have participated in this 20-year-old community choral program have performed in all 67 counties. They completed their "67 Initiative" on Tuesday with a performance in Chester County.
On Wednesday, the 48-member choir celebrated their goal with a performance in the state Capitol where its statewide tour began that often included a performance of the state song, "Pennsylvania."

Abington chess team wins national titles by Kathy Bocella LAST UPDATED: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 1:08 AM
ABINGTON The Abington High School chess team won three titles at the U.S. Chess Federation's national tournament in Columbus, Ohio, this month. The team also won three state titles in March.  More than 1,500 of the country's top high school chess players competed at the national tournament. Abington went up against 40 teams in its division and won three of the five national titles.

The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities To Waste, Fraud, And Abuse
Escalating Fraud Warrants Immediate Federal and State Action to Protect Public Dollars and Prevent Financial Mismanagement
The Center for Popular Democracy Apr 27, 2015
Executive Summary A year ago, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) issued a report demonstrating that charter schools in 15 states—about one-third of the states with charter schools—had experienced over $100 million in reported fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. This report offers further evidence that the money we know has been misused is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past 12 months, millions of dollars of new alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools have come to light, bringing the new total to over $200 million.  Despite the tremendous ongoing investment of public dollars to charter schools, government at all levels has failed to implement systems that proactively monitor charter schools for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. While charter schools are subject to significant reporting requirements by various public offices (including federal monitors, chartering entities, county superintendents, and state controllers and auditors), very few public offices regularly monitor for fraud.

Another Piece of Evidence That America's Students Know Little About Their Country
Eighth-graders continue to display far-from-sufficient knowledge about geography, civics, and history.
The Atlantic by EMILY RICHMOND  APR 29, 2015
American eighth-graders continue to demonstrate lackluster knowledge and skills when asked basic questions about U.S. history, geography, and civics. New data shows that only between 18 and 27 percent of students scored "proficient" or "higher."  The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is based on a representative sampling of more than 29,000 U.S. eighth-graders tested last year across the three subjects. (In history, for instance, it tested more than 11,200 students.)  Since 1998, scores have been inching upward in several topic areas, particularly for minority and low-income students. But overall there were no meaningful gains in student performance since the combined history, geography, and civics test was last given in 2010.

Beyond a New School Funding Formula: Lifting Student Achievement to Grow PA's Economy
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) Harrisburg, PA
7:30 am: Light breakfast fare and registration; 8:00 am: Program
Harrisburg University Auditorium, Strawberry Square 326 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
Opening Remarks by Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University

SESSION I: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ACHIEVEMENT GAPS IN PENNSYLVANIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS with introduction by Rob Wonderling, President, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Member, Center on Regional Politics Executive Committee.
Presentation by Lynn A. Karoly, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 

SESSION II: WHAT CAN PENNSYLVANIA LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING SCHOOL SYSTEMS? with introduction by David H. Monk, Dean, Pennsylvania State University College of Education
Presentation by Marc S. Tucker, President and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy 
Sessions to be followed by a response panel moderated by Francine Schertzer, Director of Programming, Pennsylvania Cable Network 
Program presented by the University Consortium to Improve Public School Finance and Promote Economic Growth

Common Core Forum: A Closer Look at the PA Core Standards
Thursday, May 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Radnor Middle School
150 Louella Avenue, Wayne, 3rd floor
Presented by the Leagues of Women Voters of Chester County, Haverford,  Lower Merion, Narberth and Radnor.  Supported by the Radnor School District
Panelists Include:
Fred Brown, K-12 Math Supervisor, School District of Haverford Township
Jon Cetel, Education Reform Agent, PennCAN
Mary Beth Hegeman, Middle School Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Cynthia Kruse, Delaware County Intermediate Unit
Susan Newitt, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lower Merion School District
Wendy Towle, Supervisor of Language Arts & Staff Development, T/E School District
Larry Wittig, Chairman of the State Board of Education

PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Wednesday, May 6
Dobbins High School2150 W. Lehigh Ave.
 Tuesday, May 12
South Philadelphia High School2101 S. Broad St.
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

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