Wednesday, June 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 24: Hundreds convene in Capitol in support of fair education funding

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 24, 2015:
Hundreds convene in Capitol in support of fair education funding

Hundreds convene in Capitol in support of fair education funding
Penn Live By Morganne Mallon | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 23, 2015 at 3:02 PM, updated June 23, 2015 at 3:39 PM
While Yale University sophomore Evie Cai, of Radnor Township, was attending high school, she began volunteering at a charter school in Chester, Pa.   She said it was there she realized a stark difference in quality of education between schools in Pennsylvania, the state with the widest gap in per-student funding between rich and poor districts.  Cai said she started a club at her high school that began a library at the charter school, but when she recently returned after beginning college, she saw the books weren't being kept because the charter school couldn't afford a single librarian, compared to the three or four she said she had at her own high school.  Cai was one of 15 speakers who spoke in front hundreds of parents, students, teachers and faith leaders crowded into the Rotunda of the Capitol building on Tuesday afternoon to urge legislators to increase education funding. 

Hundreds from Across Pennsylvania Rally in State Capitol for Full and Fair Education Funding
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Press Release June 23, 2015
Students, Parents, Teachers, School Administrators and Others Bring Message to Harrisburg: Adopt Equitable Funding Formula and Increase State Investment in Public Schools
HARRISBURG (JUNE 23, 2015) – Hundreds of parents, students, clergy, local community leaders, teachers and other educators from across Pennsylvania joined members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the State Capitol today to urge state lawmakers to create a basic education funding system to ensure that all students have access to a quality education no matter where they live. "The voices of these Pennsylvanians could not be clearer," said Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, one of 50 organizations that make up the Campaign. "A significant additional investment in education, coupled with a formula that will allocate dollars in a rational way, are both necessary in order for Pennsylvania to fully eliminate the current funding disparities in our public schools, so that all children in Pennsylvania, no matter where they live, will receive the educational opportunities they need to meet state standards."

Lancaster dad calls on Pa. lawmakers to adopt new school funding formula
By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer | Updated 17 hours ago
John McGrann, a Lancaster parent and former city school board member, wants lawmakers to change the way the state funds public schools.  He was one of 15 people who spoke at a rally for funding reform in the state Capitol Tuesday. Other speakers included teachers, administrators and public school students.  Participants called on lawmakers to adopt a new formula for distributing state money to public schools, according to a spokeswoman from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a statewide coalition that planned the event.  A bipartisan legislative commission unveiled their proposal for that new funding formula last week. On Monday, Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a West Lampeter Township Republican, introduced a bill that would turn the formula into law. The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved it Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for Smucker. The bill could now move to a floor vote or be referred to the appropriations committee.

"In short, districts that need the most state support will get the most state support.  The Commission is to be commended for the responsible, compassionate work they have done and the adept product they have created."
Education funding commission's report is a fair chance for Pa. kids: Joan Duvall-Flynn
PennLive Op-Ed  By Joan Duvall-Flynn on June 23, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Joan Duvall-Flynn is president of the Media Area Unit of the NAACP and serves as Education Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP.
On June 18 in Harrisburg, representative democracy functioned as it should for the citizens of Pennsylvania.  Working together under the leadership of state Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, and state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, legislators along with representatives from Gov. Tom Wolf's office, unanimously approved a framework for education funding in Pennsylvania.  This framework is based on the dynamic interests of a school district and the needs of its students.  In an effort to get basic education funding right, this body, the Basic Education Funding Commission, spent a year holding 15 hearings across the Commonwealth, where it heard from dozens and dozens of witnesses.  From their earnest intent emerged a formula for distributing state monies to school districts that is transparent, fair, and predictable; and that accommodates equity.  In short, districts that need the most state support will get the most state support.
The Commission is to be commended for the responsible, compassionate work they have done and the adept product they have created. 

Packed Pennsylvania Capitol leaves little room for agreement
Morning Call By Marc Levy Of The Associated Press JUne 23, 2015
HARRISBURG — The tension of budget season spilled over Tuesday into heated exchanges at back-to-back rallies at the Pennsylvania Capitol on the virtues of the state's Marcellus Shale industry and public schools.  The back-and-forth mirrored the battle over Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to increase taxes on natural gas production to boost public school aid.  Chants of "tax the shale" by public school boosters gathering for their rally began to drown out speakers at the shale industry rally, including Tim Schoen, a 2013 Penn State grad who now works for a civil engineering firm.  "I'm proud to be where I am today," Schoen loudly declared, winning over the chants and sparking applause from industry supporters.  Heated debate continued between participants in the two rallies as the industry supporters left their place in the Capitol Rotunda and began mixing with public school boosters who moved to take it.

PSBA weighs in on fair education funding campaign
Organization represents school boards across Pennsylvania Author: 69 News , follow: @69news, Published: Jun 23 2015 05:51:32 PM EDT HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania School Boards Association participated in a Campaign for Fair Education Funding rally at the state capitol Tuesday. Speaking on behalf of PSBA was Mike Yeager, school board president at Southern Columbia Area School District, In his prepared remarks, Yeager discussed how his rural district of 1,500 students has reduced art, music, physical education programs and family and consumer science programs as a result of tight finances over the past several years. QUICK CLICKS Reading bakery robbed at gunpoint Lehigh Street sinkhole repairs continue in Allentown Sunny from start to finish with less humidity Berks-based company stops making Confederate flags Reading Labor Day parade canceled "We, at Southern Columbia, need a funding formula that is equitable to the unique circumstances of small, rural school districts and backed by state funding at a level that is a win-win situation for all public schools," Yeager said. PSBA is one of more than 50 organizations that are members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.
Read more from at:

Among Advocates, A Subtle Divide Over PA School Funding
WESA 90.5 By MARY WILSON  June 23, 2015
Church groups seeking a radical solution to the large funding disparities among school districts are taking their message to the Capitol, even as other advocates continued to support an incremental approach to restoring education funding.  A new funding formula recommended by a legislative commission last weekintroduced a chance for advocates to refine their views on how to repair school funding inequities. The spending blueprint has bipartisan support, and it is widely considered to be a fairer method for distributing state aid to schools.  Demonstrators planning to protest in Harrisburg until the June 30 budget deadline say they want the formula to apply to all state spending for schools. But in the halls of the Capitol, they represent a minority.  Longtime education advocates who lobbied for a new funding formula say applying it to the entire education budget would leave about two-thirds of school districts with less money.   “That is just not politically possible to get anything through like that,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. “And it would also be a shock to those school districts. They would have to make massive cuts to their programs and staff, and those students in those districts would hurt.”  Buckheit and others support a phase-in of the new spending guidelines by applying it to any increase in education funding, or gradually applying it to the existing education budget.

Daily Item - Today's Editorial: Fair funding bill should move forward
Sunbury Daily Item Editorial Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 5:00 am
As Pennsylvania lawmakers settle in for what is expected to be a protracted clash over Gov. Tom Wolf’s first budget this month, a bipartisan movement offers a glimmer of hope for school leaders handcuffed in recent years.  Across the state, school directors have spent the past five years creatively managing budgets after reductions to education funding under Tom Corbett. Directors cut programs and staff, added fee programs for extra-curricular activities, raised taxes and asked for exceptions to increase taxes above the state-allowed limits, all to close budget deficits. Contract negotiations between districts and teachers’ unions, especially here in the Valley, have also grown contentious as directors try to slow rising costs in teacher pay and pensions to manage costs.  Funding decreases from Harrisburg obviously have led to concerns and cuts, yet the state’s own formula for administering funding for schools added to the financial woes. That may now be changing after the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission unanimously approved a new formula which may offer significant corrections to a history of wayward funding allocations.  Everything which should have gone into determining appropriate, equitable and reasonable funding from the beginning — current enrollment, number of low-income students, tax base, the ability to fund schools with local taxes, and geographic size — will potentially be part of a new equation to determine how much state money fills school’s coffers.

New school funding formula passes first hurdle in Senate
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 23, 2015 at 10:40 AM, updated June 23, 2015 at 11:55 AM
The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday unanimously voted to approvelegislation that provide for a new funding formula designed to more equitably distribute state dollars to school districts.  This positions it to be soon considered by the full Senate.  The formula crafted by the bi-partisan Basic Education Funding Commission gives weight to factors reflecting student and community differences including poverty, local wealth, ability to raise revenue to pay for schools, students who attend charter schools, and rural and small district conditions.  The House Education Committee is expected to take up similar legislation in the coming days.  Differences exist as to when this new formula should be implemented.  Republican leaders are pushing for the new funding formula to be used to distribute at least some of the additional dollars earmarked for basic education.  Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf would prefer to let any additional dollars be used to restore funding cut from basic education four years ago next year and then implement the formula for future funding for schools.  That is one of several education-related issues that are part of the ongoing state budget discussions.

Senate panel approves new education funding formula
Morning Call By Sam Janesch Call Harrisburg Bureau June 23, 2015
HARRISBURG — A bipartisan effort to make Pennsylvania's schools more equitable took its first step to becoming law Tuesday when a Senate committee unanimously voted in favor of a new school funding formula.  The formula would distribute more state aid to poorer school districts and less to wealthier districts by evaluating several student- and district-based factors.  Pennsylvania has the largest disparity nationwide in spending between wealthy and poor districts. The new method would provide more funding for areas with students living in poverty and students who speak English as a second language. It also would take into account enrollment levels, median household income, geographic size, charter school costs and the ability to raise local taxes.  "I think all of us share the same desire to make sure every child in this commonwealth has an equal opportunity to be educated because it's in the interests not only of the child, but it's in the interests of every citizen in the commonwealth," State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, said.

Impasse or progress? Budget negotiators spin status of talks
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Budget principals left Tuesday’s closed-door discussion calling the relatively short meeting a planning session to set the stage for the coming week’s negotiations.  However, the progress of the overall negotiations was cast in different shades by different negotiators.  Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) continued to say there remains a wide gulf on issues that should be on the table for discussion.  “If the governor is not willing to move, we are prepared to move on pension reform and liquor privatization,” he said. “The Senate leadership and the House leadership—the Republicans—are moving forward together on making sure we have a responsible budget done on time if the governor is not willing to move on important issues.”  He said that budget will be done by the June 30 deadline.

Senate Democratic leader shares view of budget talks, what happens if it's late
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 23, 2015 at 7:55 AM
With the June 30 deadline for a budget agreement fast approaching and no agreement in sight based on accounts from GOP legislative leaders, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa describes the situation as disappointing.  Yet, on Monday, when he sat down with Capitol reporters, he remained hopeful that some common ground can be found in the next few days, starting as soon as today when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf meets again with Republican leadership.  Still, having been in this situation before, he knows contingency planning needs to be made by non-profits that depend on state funding and he shared advice he is giving to them in the above video.

Pa. House Majority Leader Dave Reed: Liquor disagreements shouldn't hold up budget process
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 23, 2015 at 7:35 PM, updated June 23, 2015 at 7:36 PM
Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader David Reed seemed to soften the tone surrounding the state budget negotiations Tuesday when he declared disagreement over liquor policy shouldn't stop everything else in its tracks.  Reed, a Republican from Indiana County, spoke to reporters after the House session ended for the day.  "I'm saying liquor is not going to hold up this budget agreement. We believe it's $200 million (in recurring revenue) that is essential to put into our schools...

House leader: Phase-out of state stores being considered to generate education funds
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 7:03 p.m.
HARRISBURG – House and Senate negotiators are close to an agreement on legislation to phase out the state's retail liquor stores and lease the state-controlled wholesale system to provide an estimated $200 million a year in education funds, House Majority Leader Dave Reed said Tuesday.  Reed, R-Indiana, didn't provide details about the plan emerging from closed-door discussions. New liquor licenses would be part of the plan. Most people envision a privatized system as being able to buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store, he said. He mentioned “enhancing” restaurant licenses. Some grocery stores with eateries already sell beer.  
Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states controlling wholesale and retail sales.
But selling the state stores should not hold up the state budget due on June 30, Reed said. Reducing public pension costs is a cornerstone of the budget, Reed says, but liquor, if necessary, could be put aside for consideration later. The enticement for Wolf to support liquor changes, though, is clearly the $200 million annually for public schools.
PA Education funding: The battle of the beer head versus the well head
Morning Call By Steve Esack Call Harrisburg Bureau June 23, 2015
Republican lawmakers are working on a new plan to raise at least $200 million for public schools by letting more merchants sell alcohol and leasing part of the state-owned liquor store system, according to House Majority Leader Dave Reed.  That’s half of What Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed by putting a higher tax and fee on extracted natural gas.  The new alcohol plan, being discussed among House and Senate Republicans, calls for leasing the Liquor Control Board's wholesale operation to raise at least $120 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1, Reed said at a news conference late Tuesday afternoon. The plan also could generate another $80 million by selling additional licenses to sell beer, wine and spirits in more places or allowing existing licensed merchants to sell all products under one roof, he said. State-owned liquor stores eventually would be phased out, he said, with the goal of divesting the state of complete ownership of the stores and wholesale business over time.

PA House passes bill ending seniority-based teacher layoffs
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 23, 2015 at 6:15 PM, updated June 23, 2015 at 8:26 PM
The state House voted on Tuesday to end seniority-based teacher layoffs in Pennsylvania and tie those decisions to job performance evaluations.  By a narrow vote of 100-91 that drew no support from any Democratic member, the chamber approved a bill that its sponsor, Rep. Steve Bloom, R-North Middleton Twp., said ensures "the very best teachers remain in the classroom" in the event layoffs are necessary.  Pennsylvania is one of only six states in the nation that bases teacher layoffs strictly on seniority.  The bill also adds economic reasons as a permitted cause to suspend teachers. Currently, districts can only layoff teachers because of declining enrollment, program curtailment and school or school district consolidations.  The performance-based furlough provision would take effect after June 30, 2016, but it would not supersede seniority-based furlough protections granted in current teacher contracts.

Watkins out in Chester Upland
Delco Times Heron's Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Tuesday, June 23, 2015
The revolving door at the top of the Chester Upland School District is opening again. And that's district Receiver Joe Watkins exiting.  The district announced yesterday that Watkins will leave Chester Upland to take a position with a new social media company called Elected Face.  His resignation is effective June 30. You can get the details here.  Watkins was the latest in a line of state-appointed leaders for the perennially struggling school district. He was appointed as the districts chief recovery officer in December 2012. After the elected school board declined to adopt his recovery plan, he became the district receiver and assumed the board’s responsibilities for running the school district. He withstood a challenge that threatened to remove him from the job.

Joe Watkins quits as receiver of Chester Upland schools
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 10:31 AM
Joe Watkins - then-Gov. Tom Corbett's pick to oversee the Chester Upland schools, which the state said lacked the ability to address their financial disarray - said Tuesday that he is resigning to take a job with a new social-media company.  Watkins, who has been the district's chief recovery officer for 21/2 years, will leave Tuesday. He will become executive vice president for external affairs for ElectedFace, a website that aims to connect people to government officials in every political district in America.  Jeff Sheridan, a spokesman for Gov. Wolf, said state education officials will start looking for a replacement.

To fix Pa. school problems, go with what works Opinion By Vincent J. Hughes POSTED: Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 1:08 AM
State Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D.) represents the Seventh District in Philadelphia.
There's growing debate in Harrisburg about how to turn around troubled schools that have a long history of underperformance. As is typical when it comes to discussions about education, many experimental ideas have surfaced. In contrast, I suggest not a radical idea, but a plan that must be radical in its implementation:  Let's use proven practices that actually have a history of working in the classroom, as opposed to experiments with no documentation of positive impact. But let's be aggressive and truly committed to making the changes quickly. Act too slowly, and too many students miss out on the benefits of reform.  I am offering legislation that would invest in three proven tactics to improve student performance in struggling schools:

Bellefonte school board approves final budget
Centre Daily Times BY JEREMY HARTLEY jhartley@centredaily.comJune 23, 2015
BELLEFONTE — The Bellefonte Area school board approved the 2015-16 final budget Tuesday.
District fiscal affairs director Ken Bean said the budget will total $47.6 million with a 48.007 millage rate. The rate represents a 1.3 percent increase, down from 1.7 percent at the last meeting and well below the 2.4 percent adjusted index.  “For the average homeowner with an assessed value of $49,773,” he said, “at this rate gives you a $30.08 tax increase for the year.”  Revenues for the budget total $44,835,000, he said, with expenditures of $47.6 million. A total of $2,765,000 was used from the fund balance, leaving $3,329,919, which is within the 7 percent school board policy.

William Penn budget calls for 1.9 percent tax hike
Delco Times By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent POSTED: 06/23/15, 11:33 PM EDT
LANSDOWNE >> The William Penn School Board voted to adopt a $91,614,984 budget for the 2015-16 school year on Monday night.  The budget comes with a 1.9 percent property tax increase, and brings the school district’s property tax rate to 43.09 mills.  The tax increase, which affects Aldan, Colwyn, Darby, East Lansdowne and Yeadon, was down from last year’s 3 percent increase, and wasn’t met with nearly as much public scrutiny.

Southmoreland School District dips into fund balance for $28M budget
Trib Live By Paul Paterra Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 12:16 a.m.
The Southmoreland School District has a budget for the 2015-16 school year, and it does not include a tax increase.  School directors approved a final spending plan at a special meeting Monday that lists expenditures at $28,515,720 and revenues at $26,852,683. A deficit of $1,633,037 will be offset by the district's fund balance. The budget remained unchanged from the preliminary budget approved in May.
Mt. Pleasant Area School District approves tax increase
Trib Live By Rachel Basinger Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 12:16 a.m.
Property owners in the Mt. Pleasant Area School District will get a 2.1762-mill tax increase in the 2015-16 school year.  The board passed a final budget Monday night.  Director Denver Hudec was absent. Director George Hare was the only one to vote against the increase.  Board President Robert Gumbita said expenses outside the district's control include a $232,000 increase to the Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, efforts to update school safety and security, which includes the hiring of at least two armed police officers, and the cost of replacing a boiler at Donegal Elementary School last year for $170,000 and another this year for $150,000.
Jeannette school taxes will rise by 1.53 mills
Trib Live By Kristie Linden Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 11:27 p.m.
Taxpayers in the Jeannette City School District will pay 1.53 mills more in taxes next year.
A $600,000 increase in expenditures in the 2015-16 budget is largely the result of higher pension contributions and cyberschool costs, officials said.  The school board this week approved the budget in a 7-1 vote. The preliminary budget passed in May called for a 2-mill increase.
Education Inc. Documentary Follows the Money Corrupting Our Schools
Living in Dialogue Blog By Anthony Cody. June 2015
A new documentary will be released in community-based screenings across the country on August 14th. This film could provide a powerful boost to local efforts to organize resistance to the corporate takeover of public schools. It is called Education Inc, and it tells the tale all too familiar to many of us – that of the drive to privatize one of the few public institutions left in our withering democracy.  If you are frustrated by what you see happening in your local schools, if your school board is beset by billionaire-sponsored candidates, and charter schools are starving neighborhood schools of funding, this film might give you a much needed rallying point. The film’s creator is making it available for community showings, and is building for a one-day national release on August 14. A film showings can provide a focal point that brings people together and inspires further actions. Details for booking the film are here.

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen 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, charter school leaders, 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 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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Campaign for Fair Education Funding website
Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

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